Archive for the ‘Do It Yourself’ Category

House Painting 101

Monday, July 25th, 2011

House Painting 101 | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamSummer in the Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or Edmonton areas of Alberta is a great time to tackle projects to refresh your home or acreage.  Painting is one of the best things you can do because it adds value to your home without costing much money and is relatively easy to do.  This is especially important if you are looking to sell your home.   A fresh coat of paint is one of the few renovations where you have a chance to recover all of your investment.

If you’re a beginner, where do you start?  With so many brands, types and colors of paint to choose from, and so many books, articles and internet sites giving all kinds of advice, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

An article that’s been sitting in my clipping file for awhile now is one of the best I’ve seen for a quick introduction to the mysteries of painting a room.  “How to paint like a pro” was published in the March 13, 2010 edition of the Edmonton JournalIf you are a novice painter, I advise you to study every word of this article before you ever start thinking about finishes and colors!    

Then you may want to learn a little more about painting:

  • One way is to check out the self-help section in a quality paint store or a large hardware store like the Home Depot.  Don’t be shy about asking the people working in these places for advice.
  • A Google search on “How to paint a room” turned up a number of YouTube videos.
  • Some other practical websites:

Bob Vila: How to Paint a Room

How to do IT: Painting a Room!

How to Paint a Room [from the series of websites]

How to Paint a Room Like a Pro – Fine Homebuilding [series of videos]

Painting & Wallpapering – for Dummies [many articles from estimating how much paint to buy, to the proper use of a paint roller, and much more]

TLC Home “How to Paint a Room: Tips and Guidelines”

  • The best way to learn to paint?  Just get in there and do it!

Comments or questions about this article, or any aspect of home buying and selling?  Call me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here

Smartphone Apps for Do-It-Yourselfers

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

If you’re a smartphone user in Stony Plain, Spruce Grove, Parkland County or the Edmonton area, you know how handy these gadgets can be.  Add some of the apps below for even greater usefulness as you go about creating your perfect living environment.  Check your apps store to see about availability for your device.  (See also the blog article entitled “Smartphone Apps for Home Buyers”).

Smartphone Apps for Do-It-Yourselfers | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamHOME IMPROVEMENT

Dream Home  [iPhone & iPad; 99¢]   Interior decorating app with lots to offer:  large photo collection of “amazing rooms from stunning looking houses”, every type of room and style imaginable, plenty of hints, tips and ideas, information on the latest design trends and fads, all to inspire you to create similar effects in your own home.

Home Interior Layout Designer – Mark On Call  [iPhone & iPad; $2.99].    Helps plan a space and determine if furnishings will fit.

Houzz  [iPhone & iPad; free]   More than 110,000 photos in 21 categories of “ideabooks” from both professional and amateur designers.

Remodelista  [iPhone & iPad; $2.99]   Online sourcebook of decorating ideas, updated daily, includes inspiring architecture, stylish DIY projects, 10 Easy Pieces product roundups, and Steal This Look.

Paint matching apps [iPhone & iPad; free]:  Benjamin Moore Color Capture  from Benjamin Moore and ColorSnap  from Sherwin-Williams both allow you to take a photo with your phone and then use the app to analyze the color to provide the closest matches within the company’s paint palette.  ColorSnap (available too for Blackberry) also displays secondary and complementary colors.

iHandy Carpenter  [iPhone & iPad; $1.99]    Turns your iPhone into a ruler, protractor, bubble level, surface level or plumb bob, making hanging pictures or mirrors a breeze.  If you need just a level, pick up the free app for both iPhone  and Android.

HandyMan Sidekick  [iPhone & iPad; $1.99]    Calculate exactly how much material you need for any project.  Input a room’s dimensions, including how many windows and doors, and this app will tell you how many gallons of paint or rolls of wallpaper you need.  Similar calculations can be done for flooring or gardening projects.  Bonus:  a feature that displays a bright fluorescent bulb on your phone’s screen to use as a flashlight!

App Box Pro [iPhone, iPod, iPad; $1.99]   Two dozen tools in one app!  Even if you don’t use all of them, it’s still a bargain.  Tools include:  Secure Wallet, Alarm Clock with Music Play, Currency, Event Diary, Flashlight, Holidays, Mirror, Ruler, Translator, Unit Convertor, Battery Life Indicator, Date Calculator, Surface Level, Bubble Level, Loan Calculator, Price Grab, Sale Price Calculator, Tip Calculator, and more.

StudFinder Professional  [iPhone; $3.99]    Uses the iPhone’s magnetometer to find studs by locating the magnetic fields emitted by metal screws and nails.  If you are an Android user, get their Magnetic Stud Finder  free.

HomeSizer  [iPhone; $2.99]  Lets you map out square footage and construction costs.  The app also breaks down mortgage costs so you can make size adjustments, along with changes to your loan term in line with your budget.

@Home app from Good Housekeeping magazine [iPhone; free]   Provides stain removal and cleaning advice, as well as decorating ideas and a searchable list of the 5,000-plus products that have earned a Good Housekeeping seal.

Smartphone Apps for Do-It-Yourselfers | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamGARDENING

Landscaper’s Companion [iPhone; $4.99]   Reference guide to trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials; contains information on over 5000 plants with 6000 pictures.  Great resource for anyone from the casual gardener to professional landscapers, allowing you to search based on your garden’s sun exposure and garden zone.

Garden Buddy  [iPhone; $2.99]   With Google Local Search and your phone’s GPS, find local suppliers for your gardening needs after you’ve used this app to calculate how much mulch, topsoil and sod to use, what types of fertilizers to add, what to plant where, and how long before you can harvest your garden bounty.

Garden Insects  [iPhone; 99¢]   Identify common garden pests and learn environmentally friendly ways to control them.

Have you found a great app that should be added to this list?  I’d love to hear from you.  Call me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.

Top 10 Reasons to Grow a Garden This Year

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to Grow a Garden This Year | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamNever grown a vegetable garden in the back yard of your Stony Plain or Spruce Grove home?  This article, reprinted in its entirety with the permission of the fine folks at the Brazeau 100 km Kitchen Party, may make you decide this is the year to do it!  The article was found on page 26 of the publication Eat Local Goodness 2011.

Get Growing and Reap the Rewards

Here are the top 10 reasons to grow a garden this year: 

  1.  Save money.  The average family can save an average of $500 per year on groceries by planting and maintaining an average garden.  Preserve some of the produce and watch your grocery bills plummet, even in the middle of winter!
  2. Fresh produce tastes better Ever notice the difference in taste between a fresh home-grown tomato and a tomato bought at the supermarket?
  3. Stay fit All the bending and lifting involved in maintaining a garden, from planting seeds to pulling weeds to harvesting fresh produce can really have an impact on overall health.
  4. Get more nutrients.  From the time produce is picked off the plant to the time it is eaten, nutrients are lost.  The fresher fruits or vegetables are, the more nutrients they provide.
  5. Save time A few minutes a day can go a long way toward producing an amazing amount of fruits and vegetables.  Compare a few minutes a day to the time it would take to get in the car, go to the supermarket, select produce, pay for it, and bring it home, and you’ll see you’ll actually save time by growing a garden.
  6. Teach children with the garden.  Children love to know where things come from, especially food.  What easier way to show a child where green beans come from than to show them the plant the green beans are growing on?
  7. Keep children healthy.  Children are more apt to eat something when they are given the opportunity to prepare the food.  Preparing food from seed is about as close as you can get to the basic fundamentals of food.  Encourage children to come outside and help in the garden and they will  not only be spending time outdoors and learning where their food comes from, but also helping you to save some time in the garden by pulling weeds, planting seeds, and harvesting produce.
  8. Help save the environment.  Most produce found in a supermarket is not naturally grown and many chemicals, including pesticides, are used to help the food grow.  Semi trucks are used to transport the food from the farm to the grocery store.  Most people drive a car to the grocery store to pick up the food.  Now picture how much better for the environment it would be to walk outside the back door into the naturally-grown garden and pick some fruit or vegetables for the family.
  9. Increase your home’s value.  Certain well-established perennials can actually increase the value of a home.  Blueberry bushes and grape vines are excellent examples of edible perennials that actually add value to the home.
  10. It’s easy.  Growing a garden is not as difficult as some might lead you to believe.  With proper planning, an amazingly productive garden can sustain a family with very little actual work done.  Gardening is not back-breaking labour, but instead a fun activity the whole family can enjoy!


Comments or questions about this article, or anything connected with real estate?  I would love to hear from you.  Phone me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.

Spring Cleaning the Natural Way

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Spring Cleaning the Natural Way |Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamAfter the long hard winter we’ve had, most of us can’t wait to open all the windows in our Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and Edmonton area homes and acreages to let in that great spring air and clean out the mustiness of winter.  But before you rush off to the store to stock up on the latest expensive chemical cleaners that promise to make your home cleaner and fresher than last year’s products, consider going green this spring, just in time for Earth Day on April 22.

Long before commercial cleaning products were available, people cleaned their homes with a few simple but effective ingredients.  These products are readily available, much less toxic to people and the environment, and easy on the wallet too!  A little caution though:  These products may be (mostly) “natural” but that doesn’t mean you can go nuts with them!  Vinegar and lemon juice, for example, being acidic, will not be kind to marble; use plain water instead.

A couple of dirty little secrets about cleaning that the makers of chemical cleaning products don’t want you to know:

  1. There is no magic formula or product that will make things clean.  Most cleaning comes from friction; that is, the application of good old elbow grease.
  2. If you clean as you go, wiping up spills as they occur, washing off grime before it has a chance to build up, you can leave those expensive and toxic chemical cleaners on the store shelves.

Here is what you’ll need to clean green:

Baking Soda

White Vinegar



Lemon Juice

Club soda

Olive oil


Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol

Castile Soap [a plant-based soap, containing olive, palm and/or coconut oils; available from natural foods stores.  Look for Dr. Bronner’s brand.]

Microfiber cleaning cloths, sponges, lint-free rags

Glass and mirrors:

  • Slightly dampened microfiber cloths work better than the blue stuff!
  • Or, mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle.  Wipe with clean, lint-free rag.  (Some eco-cleaners suggest using newspaper for wiping but our experience says this just makes a mess!)
  • Or, spray windows with club soda; wipe with clean, lint-free rag.

All-purpose cleaning:

  • Mix vinegar with salt; scrub with sponge
  • Or, pour some baking soda and vinegar on a damp sponge to clean and deodorize kitchen and bathroom surfaces.
  • Plain full-strength vinegar is a great defense against mildew and its odors.  Works well on grease too.
  • Another recipe:  Combine ½ cup of pure soap, such as Castile, with one gallon of hot water and ¼  cup of lemon juice
  • Or try this:  Combine 1 tbsp Borax, 2 tbsp lemon juice and 1 cup hot water in a spray bottle to clean bathroom and kitchen surfaces.

Furniture polish:

Combine ½ cup olive oil, ¼ cup vinegar and 2 tsp lemon juice in a spray bottle.  Spray liberally on wood surfaces and wipe dry with a soft cloth.

Sinks and bathtubs, including tile:

  • Combine equal amounts of salt and baking soda; scrub with sponge.
  • Rust and other stains on porcelain can be handled by rubbing with a mixture of lemon juice and salt.
  • Spray vinegar full strength on soap scum and crusted scale from hard water.  Let soak and scrub off.


  • Clean with toothpaste and an old toothbrush.  Rinse and wipe dry.
  • Or, spray with full-strength vinegar to remove soap scum and hard water stains.

Drain cleaning:

Pour ¼ cup baking soda down the drain, followed by ½ cup vinegar.  Cover immediately, or close drain, and let sit 15 minutes.  Flush with hot water.

Toilet bowl cleaner:

  • Pour 1 cup vinegar into the toilet bowl; let stand for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle baking soda onto toilet brush and scour.  Flush.
  • To keep the bowl fresh, pour 1 cup of vinegar (or 1 cup of Borax) into the toilet bowl once or twice a month and let stand overnight.

Floors of all types:

Add ½ cup vinegar to a gallon of hot water.  Dirty floors may need to be scrubbed with a brush; most will only need to be mopped or wiped with a rag dampened in the mixture.  If cleaning hardwood or laminate floors, make sure your mop or rag is only slightly damp, as these types of floors don’t love excess moisture.

Hardwood floor cleaner:

Mix ½ cup lemon juice, ½ cup rubbing alcohol and ½ cup olive oil into a gallon of warm water; wipe with slightly dampened mop or rag.  This mixture also works great on wood furniture and kitchen cabinets.

Laminate floor cleaner:

Combine 1 cup vinegar, ½ cup lemon juice, 1 tbsp. mild dishwashing liquid and 1 gallon hot water; wipe with slightly dampened mop or rag.

Tips for appliances:

  • Run an empty dishwasher with a cup of white vinegar to remove food residue, limescale, built up detergent and grease.
  • Equal parts water and white vinegar boiled in a kettle or run through a coffee maker will remove limescale build-up.  Run another cycle using plain water to remove any trace of the vinegar.
  • Burned on food, whether on pots and pans or on the floor of an oven, can be removed with baking soda.  Make a paste of baking soda and water, spread it liberally over the area to be cleaned, let sit for at least 30 minutes.  Scour and rinse.  Or, try mixing 1 part cinnamon with 6 parts salt; pour on oven spill as soon as it occurs.  Wipe clean when oven is cool.
  • Oven cleaningMix together 2 tsp. Borax, 4 tbsp. white vinegar, 2 cups water and 2 tbsp. castile soap in a spray bottle.  Spray all over the oven walls and floor.  Cover the wet surface with baking soda.  Follow with a second layer of your homemade cleaner.  Let sit overnight and wipe clean in the morning.
  • Spills on glass stove-tops can be scoured off using baking soda and a slightly dampened sponge or non-scratching plastic scouring pad.
  • Clean your microwave by combining 2 tbsp baking soda or lemon juice or vinegar with a cup of water in a bowl.  Microwave for 5 minutes or until mixture boils and condensation builds up onside the microwave.  Wipe down.
  • Freshen the inside of your refrigerator by wiping it down with a mixture of equal parts vinegar and warm water.

Comments or questions about this article?  Please phone me at 780-910-9669, email me at or contact me here.

“Location, Location, Location”: What Does It Mean in Real Estate?

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Whether you live in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, the Edmonton region or elsewhere, you have probably heard the phrase “location, location, location” used in real estate and wondered why the need to state it three times.  It is repeated to emphasize its importance.  It is one of those things in real estate that just is, and when you ignore its importance you will likely regret it.

As a buyer myself, I ignored it twice in the last 30 years.  One of those times was when I remustered to a Structural Technician (changed trades) while serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.  My first posting was to Wainwright, Alberta where housing was pretty pricey, so we decided to purchase a major fixer upper in Czar, Alberta (200 people, 10,000 head of cattle), 50 km south of Wainwright.  My thinking was twofold:  we could buy a house a lot cheaper in Czar, and this would be good practical experience to experiment with my new construction trade.  We could add sweat equity to this house, making a really nice home and still be competitive with the Wainwright market.

My wife Paulette and I spent the next 3 ½ years gutting the house, including the interior walls, kitchen, basement, lighting, electrical…  In the end the house turned out beautiful.  But when we got posted to the north end of Vancouver Island, no one wanted to buy the house, because we could not compete with the buyers’ desire to live in Wainwright.  To make a long story short, we rented the house to the only person who applied, and that person trashed the house.  I took time off, came back to Czar, fixed the house up for sale and put it back on the market, selling it for what the market would bear. The lesson here:  Buyers will pay a premium to live where they want to live. 

"Location, Location, Location": What Does It Mean in Real Estate? |Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam“Location, location, location” usually means attractive neighbourhoods close to schools, hospitals, and facilities for entertainment, recreation and shopping.  It can mean proximity to a lake or backing onto a park, green space or golf course.  Homes in undesirable locations might be next to commercial/industrial buildings, beside railway lines, under flight paths, or in neighbourhoods with high crime rates.  Also included are economically depressed areas, where neighbours show zero pride of ownership in maintaining their homes and yards.

Although you will pay a premium to buy in a desirable location, the payback is well worth the extra cost.  Desirable locations sell quicker, usually appreciate at a greater rate, and are likely to sell before less desirable locations even when the market is slow.

From my past experiences, if budget is an issue (and when isn’t it?), I would settle for a smaller home located in a desirable location, later moving up to a larger home when I could afford it.

Looking for a great home in a great location?  Let me help!  Call me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.

Maintain the Value of Your Home by Doing It Yourself

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

The single most valuable item most of us will ever own is our home, whether in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, the Edmonton area, or elsewhere.  It makes sense – and money, when it comes time to sell our property – to keep it up to date and in good repair.

Every home repair and maintenance job could be hired out to a professional tradesman.  Most of us don’t have the expertise or tools to tackle a job like replacing eavestroughs or reshingling the roof or repairing the springs on an automatic garage door opener.

Maintain the Value of Your Home by Doing It Yourself |Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

But the average homeowner doesn’t always have to go to the trouble and expense of locating and employing a professional.  A little instruction and practice make many home improvement and repair jobs fairly easy and even fun to do.  One word of caution however:  If you do decide to do the job yourself, the finished product must look as though it was done by a pro!

Where do you go to get the information and help you need so you can do it yourself?

Did we miss anything?  Do you know of a source of good information or website that we should include in this article?

Comments or questions are always welcome!  Phone me at 780-910-9669, email me at, 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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