Archive for the ‘Home Design’ Category

Your Pet-Friendly Home

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Your Pet-Friendly Home | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamIs there a dog or cat living in your Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or Edmonton area home?  According to a 2008 Ipsos-Reid survey as reported in the Canadian Veterinary Journal, roughly 56% of Canadian households have a dog or a cat as a pet.

Animals make their presence known in your home, and not in a good way, through scratches on walls, floors and furniture, stains on carpets, dander and allergens in the air, and various unsavory odors.  But there are ways to keep your house in good shape and all residents happy with a few smart and relatively inexpensive adjustments.  The most important advice is to choose the right materials and work with your animal’s natural instincts and needs.

Keep it clean!  Home and pet, that is.

  • First, vacuum often.  It’s a basic fact of life that dogs and cats shed.  Invest in a decent vacuum cleaner, preferably with HEPA filter, and plan on going over carpets and upholstery about twice a week or more.
  • Reduce the amount of clutter in your rooms.  Each object you remove from a room means one less object that gets covered in dust, dander and pet hair.
  • An item that is well worth the cost is a HEPA furnace filter which removes huge quantities of dust, dander and allergens from the air.
  • Use enzyme cleaners such as Nature’s Miracle Stain and Odour Remover when dealing with pet messes.
  • You might also want to purchase some special furniture covers designed with pets in mind.  (See these Pet Protector Covers available from Sears Canada).  Easier to wash these than to shampoo the furniture.
  • Keep your pet clean and well-groomed.  This means regular brushing, nail-clipping, bathing and the like.  If you can remove some of the hair and the oil and dirt it holds before it ends up on your floors and furniture, your house will be cleaner.  Trimmed nails are less likely to scratch floors or snag upholstery. 

It’s the nature of the beast!  Work with your pets’ natural inclinations to mold their behavior to what’s acceptable.  Your dog, for example, wants to please you so will tell you when he wants out and will also adapt readily to his own bed or crate.  Supply a clean litter box and a scratching post for your cat and watch her take to them.  If you find your animal jumping on the couch to look out the window, consider moving that couch away from the window and possibly installing a platform that bolts to the window sill to accommodate your pet’s preference.

Choose the right fabrics.  If you have pets, you already know to stay away from silk and velvet.  If you’re shopping for new furniture, consider something like Crypton or UltraSuede, which are wonderfully stain-resistant and durable.  Leather will scratch, but it is easy to clean and long-lasting.  Forget the dry-clean-only bedding and opt for washable everything because you know your pet will end up on your bed at some point.

Get rid of fabric altogether, where you can.  Replace draperies with wood blinds, for example.

Choose the right flooring.  Carpet and pets are a bad combination.  Carpet soaks up “accidents”, absorbs odors, and traps hair and dander – yuck!  If possible, consider replacing wall-to-wall carpeting in your home with any of the variety of hard-surface flooring on the market today, and bonus! these choices are very fashionable at the moment.  The best option for a pet-proof home is ceramic tile because it’s pretty much impervious to anything your pet can do!  Other easy to clean and durable alternatives include painted concrete, brick, high-end linoleum, or hardwood (but be aware that big dogs can scratch wood).

Neutrals work best.  Dramatic color schemes will show dirt, hair, and wear and tear more than colors such as gray, taupe and cream.  Luckily, neutrals are in style now for everything from paint on the walls to furniture, carpets and counter tops.  If you’re planning to re-paint, remember to choose a washable satin finish, and look for low or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints.  Both you and your pet will benefit from not breathing toxic fumes.

Consider some of these specialty products and home renovations:

  • Disguised litter box, partially covered and resembling furniture.  Keep the odor down by placing in a well-ventilated area if you can, and by cleaning it frequently.  The litter box might even be located in a separate room, such as a garage or utility space, with access through a secret cat door hidden inside a cabinet.
  • Built-in bench with removable cover next to an outside door:  Provides convenient seating for people to put on and remove shoes, and the inside provides storage for pet toys, balls, leashes, etc.
  • Indoor pet retreat or special mudroom could be a corner or even a whole room located by an outside back door.  Automatic feeders and drinking fountains and even doggy showers are often features of these spaces.  Some have lockable exterior access doors designed for your pet to go inside and out.  Most have specialty storage for all pet-related items such as food, chew toys, towels, etc.
  • Heated floors.  Good for animals and people!
  • Cat ramps are a series of shelves resembling stairs running up a wall to just below the ceiling where they meet a longer shelf where cats can run or recline.
  • Portable pet stairs to help small animals access furniture.
  • A doggy overlook is a square opening on the second floor allowing your dog to stick his head through to keep watch on his owners below.
  • Outdoor dog and cat runs.
  • For more ideas like these, see my Pinterest board “Pets and Your Home”.

What special things do you do in your home to accommodate your pets while keeping your home clean and stylish?  I’d love to hear from you.  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow!

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Sometimes the descriptions of homes for sale in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton region make you wonder what kind of building you’ll see on a property.  Bungalow with a bonus room?  How is that different from a 1 ½-storey house?  Raised bungalow?  How does that differ from a bi-level?  Searching Google to define house styles doesn’t help much because the same term might have very different meanings elsewhere in Canada or the US. 

So, let’s take a look at a few phrases commonly used to describe homes in the Edmonton region.  Note that the descriptions below assume that the homes have basements since that is generally the norm in Alberta. 

Bungalow:  A one-storey home whose basement has the same square footage as the main level.  Basement is reached from a full flight of stairs leading “below grade”; that is, dug into the ground.  Entry into the home is usually at ground level or up a few steps.  May have attached garage that leads directly into main level of the home, or sometimes into the basement.

Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

  • Raised Bungalow:  Same description as above (one-storey home, full basement reached via full flight of stairs, entry into home up a few steps from the ground), but these homes are built higher up on the land, allowing for larger basement windows and making them better for nanny or mother-in-law suites.  They are also less likely to take on water in the basement.Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam
  • Hillside or Walkout Bungalow:  From the front this home looks like a standard bungalow.  From the back it resembles a 2-storey house – because it is literally built into a hillside, or a steeply sloped yard.  Very popular because the basement appears to be at, rather than below, ground level.  The basement therefore has much larger windows, and residents can access the outdoors without climbing stairs to the main level. Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam
  • Bungalow with Bonus Room:  Basic bungalow format with a single large room above an attached garage, reached via a full flight of stairs.

Bi-level:  Sits higher up on the land, like a raised bungalow, and has the same advantages as a raised bungalow.  Unlike a raised bungalow, the stairs inside a bi-level are split.  From the front entrance, a half-flight of stairs leads up to the living area, and a half-flight of stairs leads down to the basement.  The depth of the basement below the ground is less than that of a standard bungalow, allowing for bigger windows and less of a cellar-like feel.  The home’s back door often exits onto a high deck with a full flight of stairs outside leading down to the yard.  This style has fallen out of fashion with builders, except in areas where digging a deeper basement would be problematic due to soil type. Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

One and a half-storey:  Full flight of stairs goes up to bedroom area which has a steeply slanted roof with dormers, resulting in reduced head space in the slanted areas – thus, the “half-storey”.  (Two and a half-storey homes exist as well.  Same principle but with two full levels having standard head room and the third with a slanted roof). 

Two-storey:  Main level has a full flight of stairs leading up to the second level and a full flight of stairs down to the basement.  Often built with bonus room above an attached garage.  The most common home being built these days for several reasons:

1) A home’s square footage is determined by the amount of space above grade, and this home style puts more living space above ground on a smaller footprint than a bungalow of equal square footage;

2) Larger homes, ones with greater square footage but a smaller footprint, can be built on today’s smaller lots;

3) Given today’s high heating costs and concern for the environment, a 2-storey home is more energy- and cost-efficient. 

Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

Split-level:  This home style was very popular around the 1970s.  Many people these days would say the reason it fell out of favor was that residents were always running up and down stairs to get to different rooms in the house!

  • Two-storey split:  One side of this home looks like a bungalow, while the other side looks like a standard 2-storey.  A full flight of stairs accesses the upper portion of the home, and often a living room or family room will be sunken.  There may be less head room in the basement under the sunken areas – a common complaint in split-level homes in general.  Some people mistakenly label this home style as 1 ½-storey (see that description above).

Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

  • Three- or four-level side split:  From the front, looks like a bungalow on one side, bi-level on the other.  Half flights of stairs lead up and down between levels.  Bedrooms are usually above, family room below.  Some split-level homes have a regular basement under the bungalow-style portion only, and a crawl space under the lowest above-ground level.  This crawl space may have a ceiling height as low as 4 feet.  Other houses will have a basement that is itself two different levels, resulting in homes that have four or even five different levels, all joined by half-flights of stairs. 

Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

  • Back split:  Same as the previous description but oriented on the lot so that the home looks like a standard bungalow from the front, taller portions behind. 

Duplex:  The true definition of this term is a home that looks like a standard bi-level with one dwelling on the upper level and another on the lower level.  But many people use the term to refer to what is technically a side by side duplex:  two homes above grade (with basements) joined by a common wall. 

Honey, Our Bi-level is a Raised Bungalow! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

A couple of other things to note when house-shopping by style:

  • Townhouses may allow first-time buyers to enter the home market since they are generally less expensive than stand-alone or detached homes.  Usually a 2-storey home with basement, sometimes with attached garage, joined to similar neighboring homes in a row.
  • While many people think of apartments when they hear the word “condo”, a condominium is not really a style but rather a type of ownership that allows people to own their space to the walls and share common property (buildings and land) with other condo owners.  (See my blog article “Is Condo Living For You?”)
  • A villa is a condominium style that may be a detached home or perhaps half of a side by side duplex.   Often located in “gated communities” where summer and winter outdoor chores, such as lawn mowing and snow removal, are provided to the residents. 

Need more information about this topic?  I’m happy to help.  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

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.

 

 

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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