Hydronic heat systems spread warmth more effectively

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Radiant hydronic heating may be the stylish solution to this, especially in frigid family rooms or brisk basements. Instead of forced air, hydronic heating uses water, which has a very high capacity for transferring heat to deliver consistent warmth throughout your house. According to the Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating, a not-for-profit trade association representing Canada’s manufacturers and wholesaler-distributors of plumbing and hydronic heating products, there are other advantages of this kind of heating:

  • Distributed by wall-to-wall pipes, under-floor radiant heating delivers consistent, even warmth that reaches all corners of a home, not just where there’s a vent or duct with good airflow
  • Using water as the heat-transfer medium reduces the need to move around air with its dirt, dust, pollutants and allergens, improving indoor air quality when the windows are closed to keep winter weather out
  • Floor and wall radiant heating delivers consistent and even warming over a greater surface area. This is known as the radiant effect and it allows you to heat your home at a lower thermostat setting, requiring less energy for lower bills
  • The main heating conduit is pipe, which means less duct work, so it can be installed almost anywhere, including lower levels, basements, and garages. Use it to heat your whole home or just the new addition;
  • Hydronic heating allows you to use your whole living space without the worry of obstructing vents and intakes. And with fewer unsightly grills, hydronic heating contributes to the esthetic appeal of your house
  • Hydronic heating uses boilers, not a furnace. One boiler can be used for both hydronic heating and producing hot water;

Hydronic heating is easy to install and not expensive.

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Quick fixes for a swift home sale

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First impressions are everything when it comes to selling a home, and peeling paint, stained carpets and unpleasant odors can be an instant turn-off for buyers. Fortunately, you can take simple and inexpensive steps to prep your home for a quick, top-dollar sale.

Freshen up:

Paint is an easy, cost-effective way to improve any interior, and a new coat can make all the difference in selling your home. Cracked or peeling paint will repel potential buyers, and faded or boring walls can create a lackluster overall appearance.

Make your home stand out with a fresh coat in a vibrant color, such as those found in Dutch Boy’s Crayola palette. Perfect for showcasing a finished basement, kids’ room or accent wall anywhere in the home, these bright shades will make any space pop. With 96 colors to choose from – from Marshmallow and Ice Pop, to Wild Strawberry and Inch Worm – you’re sure to find a shade to help make your home memorable. And as you are updating walls with new color, use a paint that not only adds beauty but also reduces odors. Along with the exceptional coverage Dutch Boy is known for, Refresh features Arm & Hammer Odor Eliminating Technology to rid your home of unwanted odors, leaving your home smelling clean and inviting. Available for walls, trim and ceilings, use Refresh throughout the home to create a pleasant walk-through experience. Add a few scented candles or potpourri to make the home even more appealing to buyers’ noses.

Little fixes:

The little things can make a big difference when it comes to the appearance of your home. Many buyers are looking to make as few improvements as possible, and even tiny cosmetic repairs can seem like a huge project. The more move-in-ready your house appears, the faster it will sell, and more likely buyers will be willing to pay the asking price. Some easy fixes include replacing broken counter and floor tiles, patching holes in any surfaces, making sure all lights work properly and doors open and close smoothly.

Organize and de-personalize:

To give your home a spacious showroom feel, take time to remove any superfluous stuff. Show off your kitchen countertops by storing unnecessary appliances, clear the sink and dishwashing machine, and organize refrigerator contents. Keep the bathroom vanity clear of personal items, neatly fold or hang clean towels, and clear or cover clothing hampers. Organize your cupboards, closets and drawers to maximize the appearance of your home’s storage capabilities.

Clearing your home of visible clutter will not only make it seem more spacious but also make it easier for potential buyers to picture it as their own. Minimize family photos and personal items to help visitors more easily see themselves – and their things – in your home.

Curb appeal:

First impressions can make a world of difference, so don’t neglect your home’s exterior as you prepare to sell. The mailbox should be in good condition and the house number easily visible from the street. Keep exterior doors, including garage doors, free of flaking or fading paint and freshen the trim around windows and shutters. A fresh coat of paint on the front door can add to your home’s curb appeal and affixing a seasonal display of flowers or a festive wreath on the front door also makes a warm, welcoming statement.

A few simple projects can vastly improve your home’s overall appearance, and with these tips, your home will be sold in no time.

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Managing the financial challenges of a separation

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Hot, sunny summer weekends are picture-perfect for tying the knot. Churches, community halls and public gardens are full of happy bridal parties posing for group shot after group shot. But sometimes when the wedding bells stop, an irreversible distance grows between the couple, which sometimes leads to divorce or separation.


Analyzing the financial consequences of separation or divorce

The most recent divorce indicator – which does not measure the break-up of common-law unions – predicted that more than one in three marriages would end in divorce before the 25th year of marriage, according to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Currently, the divorce rate in Canada is 40%. And the typical time it takes to settle a divorce or separation is 1.5 to 2.5 years, at a cost of $5,000 to $100,000. It’s for this reason that the experts at Desjardins Financial Security suggest that you should be prepared financially and legally.

Here’s how:


• Consult a financial advisor or accountant: Similar to getting marriage, divorce or separation results in major changes in a couple’s financial situation. But with some help from a financial advisor, you should be able to analyze the financial consequences of your new situation and make some decisions. Be frank and honest about your finances. You will need to make a new budget to cover your various expenses like rent, groceries, etc. You and your partner will also have to split up the once shared expenses, such as mortgage payments, personal loans, etc. Joint bank accounts, credit cards, investments, etc., will have to be separated and property split up fairly between you. And then there’s the Canada Pension Plan and employer pension plans to consider. Also check your credit rating to ensure you’re not hit with any debt surprises.


• Get legal advice: A lawyer or notary can help you prepare a divorce agreement to legally end your marriage. Do you have a will? If not, have one drawn up. If you already have one, is it up to date and do you have a power of attorney? This might be a morbid topic for some people, but clearly defining your final wishes and naming the person who will act on your behalf is a vital part of your financial plan. This information should be updated every five years.


• Taking care of yourself and your family: Protecting and maintaining your standard of living is important at every life stage. Do you have a plan for how you’ll manage your obligations if you become ill or injured? Your financial advisor can help you to review your insurance coverage and will make suggestions if your portfolio needs updating. Consider also changing your insurance policies and retirement savings plan beneficiaries. Look over your marriage contract or common-law agreement to determine what clauses apply in this situation.


To find more information about dealing with a separation or divorce, visit the Getting divorced or separated section at www.desjardinslifeinsurance.com.

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How to freshen your home with a touch of style and glamour

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Each time you open a kitchen cabinet or reach for a towel in the bathroom you’ll give yourself a nice surprise. It’s all so simple – and not at all expensive – saying goodbye to old cabinet hardware and indulging yourself in new shapes, new styles and new colours.


With major makeovers and renovations put on hold, homeowners are focusing on decorative hardware for the small, low-cost, changes that mean so much. And manufacturers are responding, with new shapes, new styles, and especially new colours.


Take Amerock, for example. A familiar name, over 80 years in business, but still with its finger on the pulse and developing complete answers to homeowners’ needs. Fall in love with a style, and you’ll find it’s available in all the shapes, sizes and colours you need – even hard-to-find, oversize items.


Looking for glamour? Reach for Abernathy – combining jewel-like clear crystal with a choice of metallic finishes -antique silver, oil-rubbed bronze and satinnickel. How could a simple knob be quite so elegant? And how could such an elegant accessory cost so little?


New from Amerock are two gorgeous finishes, both variations on the increasingly-popular theme of bronze.


The company’s designers describe the new caramel bronze as a “decadent” finish. It has a glow all its own, rich and coppery. It’s available in the sleek and modern Candler Collection of pulls and knobs, and in the even sleeker Extensity Collection.


The other new finish -brushed bronze – plays up the silver and gold tones, and can be seen at its most elegant in the Essential’Z cabinet collection and the Arroni bath collection.


You can browse the complete offering online at amerock.com. Local sources include Home Depot, Home Hardware and Rona.

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Decoding personal financial planning

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Can you name the leading cause of stress, family arguments – and, in worst cases – divorce? According to Associate Manager Gregory Brown of Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network (www.dfsin.ca/gregorybrown) in Surrey, British Columbia, it’s money. In fact, Brown feels that it’s one of the last taboo topics that is preventing important conversations about financial planning.


“When financial conversations don’t take place between spouses, parents and their children – or vise-versa – positive net worth becomes associated with positive self-worth,” says Brown. “In other words, money begins to develop many emotional attachments and deeper meanings like power, love and control. The only way to remove these misconceptions and barriers is to just start talking.”


Failing to plan is planning to fail


Brown suggests that the most important part of the conversation is setting goals and developing a plan to reach those goals. In fact, you may need to create three different plans that address your financial, retirement and estate distribution goals. So where does one start? “It’s not surprising that people are overwhelmed by the vast choice of financial advisors these days. So many of them use the vague title of ‘planner’, which does very little to identify their expertise,” says Brown.


Important differences


While financial, estate and retirement planning each focus on money management, they each address different issues and objectives. Financial planning is the most comprehensive of the three. It helps to determine how you can best meet your life goals through the proper management of your financial affairs. Everyone’s goals are different based on their age, values and objectives. And these goals change over time as your life circumstances change. The key is to take into account all relevant aspects of your financial situation – The Big Picture – and to find the best way to help you succeed.


Retirement Planning is the process of ensuring you have the means to maintain your lifestyle when you decide to retire. This plan helps you visualize what retirement will look like and helps determine what you’ll need to save.


Estate Planning focuses on creating legacies. In other words, it identifies tax efficient ways to preserve your wealth for your family, business, charities or whatever you value most.


The most important part of these three methods of financial planning is allowing yourself to dream big. What do you want to be and what do you want to achieve? Anything is possible with a solid plan. To learn more about personal financial planning and to find an advisor, visit the Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network website at www.dfsin.ca.

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Plan, don’t panic, for life’s unexpected events

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(NC)-One thing in life is certain – and it is that there will always be unexpected things that pop up. They can be positive (marriage, new child, promotion, inheritance from a long-lost relative) or negative (job loss, death, divorce) and often have significant financial implications. Women are often the most impacted by life’s unexpected events. According to research conducted for TD’s Women Investor Strategy, nine out of 10 Canadian women will be the sole decision-maker concerning their finances at some point in their lives.


Although such life events may be unavoidable, there are steps women can take so they’re prepared financially and more equipped to manage any surprises.


“While you can’t predict the future, and the unexpected is – unexpected – being proactive can help you prepare yourself financially for unforeseen events,” says Sandy Cimoroni, President, TD Mutual Funds and head of TD’s Women Investor Strategy. “The best way to be prepared is to have a written, comprehensive financial plan that includes an emergency savings fund.”


According to a recent poll by TD Waterhouse, more than half (53%) of Canadian women agree that there are differences in the way women and men approach investing and working with an advisor. Cimoroni provides tips for some things for women to keep in mind when thinking about their financial plan:


• Understand your family finances – it’s essential for women, whether married, single, a parent, grandparent or otherwise, to understand their family finances (bank accounts and approximate balances, investments, financial strategy, etc.) so that if necessary, they can continue to manage, or take control, of their family’s finances.


• Plan for the unexpected – ensure that if something happens, such as an unexpected expense (car repair, home renovation), significant illness or job loss, you have an emergency savings fund to cover your expenses (a general rule is to have the value of three to six months’ of regular expenses set aside).


• Work with an advisor – compared to men, women often seek more education and market information when making financial decisions. Pros can help you better navigate your life and financial goals, and they should also be committed to investing time to educate you about the options available.


“What’s most important is feeling confident that your future is financially secure,” Cimoroni adds.

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Is kitchen remodeling cost-effective?

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So, you have made the decision to remodel your home. Kitchen remodeling is one of the first rooms that homeowners explore with regard to renovations. The kitchen is the main gathering place in the home for families and friends. It is the area where socialization happens frequently, so it makes perfect sense to choose to remodel this room in your home first. The project can be extremely fun and should be looked upon as such. There are so many small changes that can be made to completely transform this room that it is mind boggling. Let us talk a bit about whether this remodeling project is a sound financial decision.

First, you should look at the long-term picture. Are you remodeling the kitchen for your own preferences, or will you be selling the home at any point in the future? In either case, renovations to the kitchen can help save money in the future, however,  if you are planning to stay in the home, your choices can help save on your monthly utility bills. You can opt for new energy efficient windows that can save you on your monthly electric payments. You can also install low flow faucets to save on water consumption. Buying appliances that are more energy efficient is a great investment and you will also experience personal satisfaction that your new kitchen is more operational and updated.

If you are planning on selling your home in the future, you can expect a very significant return on your investment. If you ask any realtor, they will tell you that one of the first things a potential buyer is interested in is the kitchen. If your kitchen is fresh and updated with contemporary finishes (counters, cabinets, flooring) it will make your home stand out against homes that have a more dated kitchen. You can expect to get a return of at least 40% of your remodeling investment when you go to list your home. 

A home kitchen makeover is a very prudent choice, especially if you can only remodel one room. The kitchen is central to the home and you spend a lot of time there cooking, eating and socializing. The benefits of new and updated appliances, and other elements far outweigh the costs you may incur. You will be surprised at how far you can get on your proposed budget, and you’ll be left with the feeling that it was money well spent.

by: Leonard Simmons

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It’s high time to upgrade your faucets and toilets

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When considering your home’s plumbing, you might be thinking of that old adage “why fix something if it ain’t broke?” But did you know that old and inefficient plumbing might actually mean that you are literally pouring your money down the drain every month? A call to your plumber might really save you money in the end if you upgrade the plumbing in your home.

When were your current plumbing fixtures installed? Did they come with the house when you bought it? Old toilets use up a lot of water with each flush, which is bad for both the environment and for your wallet. Are you putting off having that leaky faucet repaired because you just don’t want to spend the money right now? The average faucet leak can waste hundreds of gallons of water per year. If it’s a hot water faucet that’s leaking, you are losing money both with the wasted water and with the wasted electricity or gas that is heating that water. 

Or what if your problem is slow drains? You might decide to take the easy step of pouring liquid corrosives down the drain to clear out the blockage. This is actually a bad idea. The corrosive chemicals in drain cleaner will harm your sewer pipes, perhaps necessitating an extremely expensive repair in the future. In addition, the environmental impact of pouring such chemicals down the drain and into the water supply can have serious ramifications for the future of our planet.

If you’ve been putting off plumbing repairs or upgrades, you really might want to consider having a professional technician visit your home. Plumbers can let you know if repairs are needed or if there are upgrades available to your current plumbing that can actually save you money. There are many options, such as low flow or dual flush toilets that can help you stop wasting water and upgrade your home.

Having your new toilet installed by a plumber will ensure that your system is up to code and works efficiently and properly. A plumber can also help you to repair your leaky faucets, or assist you by installing water saving devices such as low flow faucets or aerators on your sinks. They can also help by providing professional sewer cleaning that will fix your slow drains without causing serious corrosion to the pipes in your home and damage to the environment.

These days, everyone is looking to save money where they can. By having a professional plumber inspect your pipes and see what upgrades and repairs can be done in your home, you can save yourself money on wasted water and utility bills. In addition you’ll be adding to the value of one of your most important investments, your home.

by: Nick Messe 


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Find comfort in collections for the bathroom

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(NC) Just like the fixtures and furnishings they select to express their personal look, homeowners come in different styles. There’s the eclectic, who like a bit of everything; the cutting edge, who find comfort in being different than everyone else, but most could be called collection fans, because they value interiors that are comfortably coordinated in a single style.

That’s why collections are so popular. Selecting from a collection allows you to create that look in any room. A pedestal sink with exactly the right faucet in a powder room; a practical but still on-style undermount sink for the family bathroom; a show-piece shower install in the ensuite bathroom; and toilets that offer high performance – but still with that special coordinated style.

A good collection will have something of everything, plus consistent characteristics that work in a variety of situations. Simone Abele, the vice president of marketing at American Standard in Canada, knows a good collection when she sees one;she recommends Boulevard.

“The main reason for the line’s popularity is its good looks, that adapt beautifully to many different settings. We label Boulevard as “transitional” in style. Transitional can quickly become classic, or 1930s Bauhaus, or mid-century modern. The comfort level remains the same, whether in a luxurious master bathroom or a petite powder room.”

The look can be found in a range of fixtures: pedestal sinks, under and over the counter basins, one and two-piece toilets, faucets, shower systems, and more.

“It’s a great choice,” says Abele. “A collection that will stand the test of time, I would say.”

More information is available at www.americanstandard.ca.

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Life insurance for kids: Long term benefits come from early investment

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Being protective goes hand-in-hand with being a parent. From hand sanitizer gel to bike helmets to high-tech car seats, moms and dads will go to the ends of the earth to keep their little ones safe, sound and happy. But eventually, the scrapes and bruises no longer need a healing kiss, the training wheels come off the bike and the day comes when they’re driving to school – not just high school, but college. You might be surprised, but there are actions you can take now that will protect them then – and even beyond.

It’s not uncommon for new parents to consider adding life insurance coverage to the other policies that they carry, like car and health insurance. It can be a difficult thing to think about, but it’s an added protection that will ensure that kids and the surviving spouse will be taken care of in the event that one parent dies. However, there are other ways in which a life insurance policy can make a difference for your child.


It might not be something that immediately comes to mind, but taking out a life insurance policy for your children could have lasting benefits for their financial future. However,  doing so when they are still young could not only add up to cost savings over the long term, but better protection of their assets as they themselves get to an age at which they’ll consider a family of their own.

In practical terms, giving your children the gift of a life insurance policy protects them from medical underwriting and high costs. You’ll be establishing the coverage early enough that costs will be lower, particularly in the initial stage, and it can help to keep them manageable further down the road, depending on the plan. 

Over the years, a life insurance policy can become an important part of your children’s financial protection. And once they’re at the right age to have the discussion about how to be financially responsible, it can be a helpful example, among other lessons like establishing good credit and smart spending habits.

Some insurance plans will allow your child to make changes as their life progresses, giving them the chance to increase coverage as they go through life’s milestone events, like getting married, taking out a mortgage to buy a house and having children of their own. Premiums will naturally increase with added coverage, but the added costs associated with medical underwriting will be eliminated.

Looking out for your kids is an instinct that will never fade. As they grow, you’ll help guide them on the right path in life, but at some point, they’ll be off on their own. Giving them long-term protection when they’re young will ensure that you’re helping to watch out for them, long after they’ve left the nest.
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