Archive for April, 2013

Aging in Place

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

If the phrase “aging in place” is new to you, it probably won’t be for long!  I predict in the next few years, we’ll be hearing this phrase a lot.  How does it apply to those of us living in the Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and Edmonton areas of Alberta?   

Aging in place means stayinAging in Place | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynamg in our homes as we get older, and adapting the home to meet our needs as we age.  For most of us, aging will bring about certain predictable physical changes, such as diminished eyesight and hearing or decreased mobility.  Some people will elect to move to accommodate these changes, whether to a one-level apartment-style condo or to some kind of retirement lodging.  But most of us want to stay in the familiar surroundings of our well-loved homes as long as we possibly can.  And that may mean renovating our homes to make them as functional as possible.  Other terms often used for homes that have been modified to accommodate special needs are “universal design” and “barrier-free  homes”. 

Many of the features of a typical modern home (such as an open floor plan, especially one where the main living areas – kitchen, living room, master suite, laundry room – are on the main floor) work well with the concept of aging in place.  Other features, such as hardwood flooring instead of wall-to-wall carpeting, and venetian blinds instead of draperies, are less successful.  Those hard surfaces often don’t help a home’s acoustics, and a hard and slippery floor can be treacherous for people who are unsteady on their feet. 

When we think about accommodations for seniors, things such as grab bars in the bathroom, walk-in bathtubs, stair lifts or even elevators may come to mind.  But there are many other simpler and cheaper changes that can have a huge effect on our comfort and safety.    

Eyesight and Lighting.  Adding more lamps and upping the wattage of light bulbs throughout one’s home can make a big difference in improving visual perception.  The most important areas needing better lighting are hallways and stairs.  Consider also changing the contrast between light and dark areas in a room in order to make things easier to see.  A monochromatic bathroom may be artistically beautiful, but if there isn’t a clear demarcation between the white tub and the light-colored floor, someone might have trouble judging where one ends and the other begins, resulting in a nasty fall.   

Furniture.  Consider replacing hard-edged glass coffee tables with dual-purpose softer-edged ottomans.  Consider also replacing squishy upholstered pieces with those that provide more support, making them easier to get into and out of.  Rearrange furniture so that there is plenty of room to maneuver around individual pieces (especially if wheelchairs and walkers will be used), but also place furniture in such a way that people will be sitting closer together and/or directly facing each other to aid hearing. 

FlooringCarpet is easy to walk on and safer if falling may be an issue.  But carpet may not be the best choice if walkers or wheelchairs will be used.  The best multi-purpose flooring may be non-slip tile throughout the home.  If tripping isn’t a concern, area rugs can add soft support as well as visual interest and contrast between dark and light.  Just be sure that the edges are well taped down. 

Monitoring and Assistance.  If you live alone, you probably have a support network of people to call in an emergency and you no doubt have a telephone or cell phone in easy reach at all times.  You may have an arrangement with family, friends or neighbors to check on you each day.  Perhaps you’ve considered a service such as Lifeline that connects you to 24-hour emergency monitoring via a bracelet or necklace style communicator.  While none of these things relate directly to home modifications, all of them contribute to keeping you in your home. 

The website SeniorResource.com contains a wealth of information about aging in place.  Particularly helpful is a Home Assessment chart that matches home modifications with a specific physical infirmity.  Most of the suggestions below are from that chart: 

Limited vision:

  • Edge of counters a different color than the top
  • Edge of each step is a color that stands out
  • Contrast colors between floor and walls
  • Stairs are well-lit
  • Increased wattage of light bulbs
  • Lights in all closets
  • Outside walkways and entrances are all well-lit
  • Stove controls clearly marked and easy to see
  • Stove has big numbers that can be seen from across the room
  • Stove uses different colors to tell which parts are hot
  • Under-cabinet lighting over kitchen counter

Hearing impairment:

  • Increased volume on phones
  • Smoke detectors have strobe lights
  • Furniture arranged to facilitate hearing
  • Soft surfaces to improve acoustics
  • Ultra-quiet dishwasher to reduce background noise

Balance and coordination problems:

  • Bath seat in tub or shower, or walk-in shower with pull-down seat
  • Bath tub with transfer bench
  • Temperature controlled shower and tub fixtures
  • Rounded counter edges
  • Grab bars near bath and toilet
  • Handrails extend beyond top and bottom of stairs
  • Stairway handrails on both sides
  • No stairs to bedroom or bathroom
  • Phone in bathroom

Limited reach:

  • Hand-held shower in bathroom
  • Electrical outlets are 27” above floor
  • Light switches at 42” instead of 48”
  • Cabinet shelves no more than 10” deep
  • Closet organizer or Lazy Susan to reach belongings
  • Closet rods pull down to comfortable level
  • Kitchen and closets have pull-down or pull-out shelving
  • Upper kitchen cabinets 48” from floor
  • Cook top has easy-to-reach controls at front
  • Microwave oven no higher than 48” above floor
  • Oven doors swing to the side
  • Side-by-side refrigerator
  • Lowered kitchen counter tops
  • Sink controls on the side
  • Front-loading washer and dryer

Poor hand and arm strength:

  • Automatic garage door opener
  • Easy to open and lock doors and screens
  • Cabinets and drawers have D-shape handles
  • Doors have lever handles
  • Counter tops smooth so heavy pans can slide across them
  • Heat resistant counter near microwave oven
  • Push button controls on appliances
  • Garbage disposal or trash compactor to reduce trash
  • Rocker light switches
  • Sinks with lever faucet handles
  • Special hardware to make drawers slide easily
  • Spray hose to fill pots on the stove
  • Dishwasher 8” from floor

Trouble bending:

  • Elevated toilet or toilet seat
  • Lower kitchen cabinets 6” above floor
  • Sink no more than 6” deep
  • Carpet is low pile and firm pad
  • Clutter and electric cords are out of pathways
  • Counter top that can be used while sitting
  • Doors are wide enough for a walker to get through

Trouble walking and climbing stairs:

  • Driveway smooth but not slippery
  • Floors are smooth and slip-resistant
  • Knee space under sinks; can sit while washing
  • Knee space under stove; can sit while cooking
  • No area rugs
  • Ramp to front door with handrails on both sides
  • Stairs have slip-resistant surface
  • Thresholds on entry doors no higher than ¼ inch.

Uses wheelchair:

  • Peep hole at low  height
  • Lower window sills especially for windows on the street
  • Hallways, doorways and closets wide enough for wheelchair.  Doorways 36″ wide with off-set hinges on doors
  • Appliances have controls at the front
  • Can use counters, sinks, stove top while sitting
  • Can wheel from car to front door and then inside; no steps
  • Ramp to front door with landings at top and bottom
  • Can wheel to bedroom, bathroom, kitchen
  • Pathways clutter-free
  • Enough floor space near doors to move wheelchair
  • Roll-in shower with multiple showerheads and/or way to transfer to tub
  • Space to transfer from wheelchair to toilet
  • See all above sections 

If you decide to remodel your current home, remember that you probably won’t have to make all of the modifications listed here.  Instead, focus on those of most benefit to your individual situation and make other changes as the need arises.  

Other resources:

See also this article by Mike Holmes:  “Renovate now so that you can live well later“.

Are you looking for a “universal design” home that will allow you to age in place?  I would be happy to help you find such a home!  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

 

Should Your Home Have a Fire Sprinkler System?

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Should Your Home Have a Fire Sprinkler System? | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamHow protected from fire is your home in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton area?  You have smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms and fire extinguishers but should you do more? 

I recently watched a disturbing YouTube video entitled The Co-operators and the Guelph Fire Department Sprinkler Demonstration sponsored by The Co-Operators Insurance company and the Guelph Fire Department.  In the video I learned that deaths from fire occur most often in the home and usually when people are sleeping.  Those most affected are likely to be small children under the age of 5 and adults over the age of 60.  It’s one thing to read in the video that fire departments typically respond in as little as 10 minutes but that conditions during a fire can become unsurvivable in under 2 minutes.   It’s a very different impression to watch the video and see the destruction and horror caused by a fire, how quickly it can spread, filling a home with toxic fumes and smoke, and how devastating the damage can be.   

The purpose of the video was to point out the difference sprinklers can make in saving lives and protecting property.  According to the video, damage in a sprinkler-protected home is generally 71% less.  Insurance claims in sprinkler-protected homes run around $1000 compared to $15,000 in those without.  Even more important than the decreased property damage is the life-saving aspect:  an 80% reduction in injury and death in a home with sprinklers. 

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition’s website  has similar information:  “Most people don’t realize that 8 out of 10 fire deaths occur in the home.  They usually happen at night when people are asleep.  People also do not understand how fast fires spread and how they can go from a tiny flame to total destruction in as little as three minutes.  Fire sprinklers can suppress and often extinguish a fire before the fire department arrives, giving people time to escape.” 

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, based in the US but with Canadian partners, reports statistics similar to those in the video.  The website also contains a wealth of other information and answers to questions people might have about home sprinkler systems:

  • Fires kill more people in the US every year than all natural disasters combined.  And 80% of those fire deaths occur in the home.  When combined with smoke alarms, residential fire sprinklers cut the risk of dying by 82%.
  • Fire sprinklers can save money for developers, builders, homeowners and communities.
  • Only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate, spraying water directly on the fire.  Sprinklers cause much less water damage than fire hoses.
  • Sprinklers are activated by high heat so sprinklers throughout a home are unlikely to go off.  The website notes that 90% of all home fires are contained with a single sprinkler.
  • Accidental discharge of sprinklers due to defective equipment is extremely unlikely.
  • Homeowners need not worry about the aesthetics of a sprinkler system as the hardware in a home system is small and easily concealed.
  • If installed in a new home, the cost may be about the same as an upgraded carpet, or about 1 to 1.5% of the building cost.  This cost may be offset over a number of years through lower insurance premiums.
  • Home fire sprinkler systems can be retrofitted into existing homes. 

In light of recent house fires in our province that caused tremendous damage and loss of life due to current new homes being built very close together and with flammable materials, the cost of installing a sprinkler system (running about $1.65 per square foot in the US for new home construction) seems well worth it.  I urge you to view the Co-Operators video  to get a feel for the true calamity of a fire in the home, and visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition website for more information about home sprinklers.  You can never be too safe! 

See also my blog articleFire Safety in Your Home”.   

Comments or questions about this article?  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

 

 

Carpet or Hardwood?

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Carpet or Hardwood? | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamIf you are thinking of replacing the flooring in your Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or Edmonton area home, you’re not alone!  Should you make the leap from your old wall-to-wall broadloom to the currently popular hardwood?  Should you replace all the carpeting or keep some in selected areas of your home?  Here are some points that might help you decide.

 

Carpet Pros

  • Warm, comfortable and insulating
  • Sound-absorbing (might therefore be a better choice in high-density living situations such as condos and the like)
  • Easier on the feet
  • Often less expensive to purchase, and easier, faster and cheaper to install
  • Can be installed anywhere in the home.
  • Many choices in colors, textures, fabrics

 Carpet Cons

  • Feels “dated” to many people.  Home buyers today are looking for modern finishing.
  • Carpet is seen as negative to indoor air quality.  Even frequent vacuuming doesn’t remove dust, dander, allergens. 
  • Professional carpet cleaning and shampooing can be expensive and disruptive.
  • Standard life is about 12 years before replacement needed.
  • Generally less accessible for wheelchairs and walkers, if aging in place or disabled family members are a consideration.

Hardwood Pros

  • Hard-surface flooring is currently popular and trendy.  Current thinking is that hardwood adds character and value to a home.  Seen as better for re-sale. 
  • Good for the planet:  wood is natural, sustainable, renewable.
  • When properly chosen, installed and maintained, will last a lifetime
  • Easily cleaned and maintained with vacuum and dust mop.  With felt protectors on the bottom of furniture pieces, easy for one person to move furniture for cleaning.
  • Excellent for those with allergies
  • Versatile decorative option; goes with everything.
  • Can be used “as is” or with an area rug on top to change the decorating or to add warmth and sound-absorption
  • Future flexibility: easy to install carpet or tile on top of hardwood (although why on earth would you?!)

Hardwood Cons

  • Noisy; not sound-deadening like carpet so sounds may echo.
  • Chilly on the feet, especially in winter.
  • New finishes do make hardwood more resistant to damage but not indestructible.  Care will still be required to prevent damage from dropped and dragged items, as well as from spilled liquids.  Most hardwoods can be re-finished and cost is comparable to replacing a carpet, but re-finishing usually takes longer than a carpet replacement.
  • Humidity levels need to be closely monitored.  In high humidity, improperly installed wood can expand and buckle.  Low humidity can result in splintering and breakage.
  • Can be expensive to purchase and install, especially if sub-floor required.
  • Can be slippery and therefore less safe for small children and seniors
  • Shows dirt readily.  Needs to be cleaned (vacuumed or swept and mopped) more often than carpet; at least every other day in high-use areas
  • May not be suitable for below-grade installation

A good article that compares the characteristics of carpet and hardwood is “Carpet vs. Hardwood – The Great Showdown”. 

A few other things to consider:

  • Many people are mixing up their flooring choices:  tile in kitchens and bathrooms for durability and ease of cleaning, hardwood in main-floor living areas for beauty, carpet in bedrooms for comfort.
  • Think about your lifestyle and how you use the spaces in your home.  Are shoes removed at the door, food consumed only in non-carpeted areas, pets house-trained?  If no, then carpets, which tend to get dirty faster and hold on to the dirt, might not be the best option for you.  Highly visible, high-traffic areas benefit from flooring that is durable and easy to clean and maintain.
  • Consider the kind of feel you want underfoot:  firm, glossy, sophisticated, or cozy, casual, barefoot-friendly.
  • When you replace the flooring, do it for your own use and pleasure but keep in mind that eventually you will leave your home.  Be aware that every change you make to your home will have an impact on its ultimate resale value and ease of selling, even if that sale is years in the future.

Let me help!  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

 

Housing Market Boom or Bust in Alberta?

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

 | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamHousing Market Boom or Bust in Alberta?My clients in the Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and Edmonton area often ask me if “now” is a good time to buy a new home.  My answer to that question usually involves telling them that the best time to buy is when they feel ready to do so, no matter what the market is doing.  That may sound like a weasel answer but I believe people’s own finances and their needs and wants in housing are better for decision-making than any attempts to time or predict the market.

But “now” is an interesting time to be dealing in real estate in Alberta.  You’ve probably seen the gloomy news reports that the Canadian housing market is due for a major correction with house prices set to fall by about 20%.  That is not the case here!

In a recent article in the Edmonton Journal entitled “Alberta’s housing market still hot, whatever the media say”, Gary Lamphier reports on a conversation with Don Campbell, senior analyst and founding partner with the Real Estate Investment Network (REIN).  Mr. Campbell advises would-be sellers and buyers to “chill out”, suggesting that there is no such thing as a Canadian real estate market, but rather that each locality has its own unique market and conditions.  He goes even further when commenting about the Alberta market, saying that economic and demographic factors here are ripe for another housing boom, not bust.  He notes Alberta’s population continues to grow as workers come into the province while apartment vacancy rates shrink.  Many of these workers will decide to make Alberta their permanent home and that means they’ll be buying houses sometime in the next 2 to 7 years, fueling demand for houses and the subsequent rise in prices.

You may have heard or read that prices in Alberta have flat-lined so how can the dream of a new housing boom be true?  Mr. Campbell says Alberta’s boom-bust economy and the accompanying anxiety in people’s minds is to blame for this skepticism, along with tougher mortgage qualification rules and the negative national news.  He points out that Alberta’s population growth in 2012 was nearly triple the national average, putting a strain on housing capacity.  This situation tends to cause prices to rise.  While the average price of a house in Edmonton (about $401,000 in February) is still not as high as the peak prices in 2007, prices are definitely on the rise, according to another article entitled “Home prices flirt with record highs of ‘07”.

All of this suggests to me that now is indeed a good time to buy!

Let me help you find the home that’s just right for you.  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

Barry Twynam, Realty Executives Leading
#1 14 McLeod Avenue, Spruce Grove, Alberta, T7X 3X3
Tel: 780-962-9696 Cell: 780-910-9669 Fax: 780-962-9699
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