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Outdoor Rooms and Granny Flats: How to Choose

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If you have a big backyard but you’re not quite sure what’s the best way to use all that space, there are a couple of things to consider. First, try to figure out just how much room you actually have. This won’t be particularly difficult, as if nothing else, you can measure the space. Next, if you have enough room, consider adding a new structure to your backyard. The two most interesting choices come in the form of either outdoor rooms or granny flats. Both of these options have some unique advantages, so we’ll try to present them in the following text.

Outdoor rooms

Building an outdoor room requires less construction work than building a granny flat. On the other hand, an outdoor room is significantly smaller and not as versatile function-wise as a granny flat. The outdoor rooms usually consist of three walls plus a ceiling, and the fourth wall is made so that it can be opened completely, most commonly using glass sliding doors. Also, you can either decide to make your outdoor room work as an extension of your home (in this case, it’s almost always attached to the house) or you can decide to build a separate, independent structure.

outdoor room

Design-wise, an outdoor room can literally work as the extension of your home, and if that’s the case, it is usually decorated with a toned-down version of your home’s interior design. However, if you decide to make it a separate structure, the design of your outdoor room doesn’t have to match anything. This will allow you to go crazy, but keep in mind that the room should be functional, cozy and relaxing, above all else. Boho chic, shabby chic, Moroccan, modern-rustic, modern-eclectic, etc. – literally any design will work gorgeous in this room.

Granny flats

Granny flats are a rising trend during the last couple of years, especially in well-developed countries such as Australia. These structures are usually made as separate objects, and they are most commonly equipped just like the regular house, only scaled down. Since building such a structure requires professional help, ask around and see if there are any experts in your area that can help you out. For example, experienced granny flat builders from Sydney even help you design your granny flat and offer various other consultations, seeing the entire project through from start to finish.

wooden granny flat

When talking about the design, you should really treat styling-up this area as you did your own house. The important thing to keep in mind is that there is no room for clutter in a granny flat, so it’s best you design it with minimalism in mind. Some of the favorites include the infamous Scandi style, Wabi Sabi or the good ol’ minimalist style. Do note that granny flats also contain the kitchen and the bathroom, which means that you’ll basically have to design and decorate a whole new house, which is perfect for any interior design lover.

Important notice

Now that you know what’s what, choosing which one to build should be significantly easier. An outdoor room is the area where you can relax and enjoy some peace and quiet, while a granny flat can accommodate either your elderly relative (hence the name) or you can even choose to rent it out for some additional budget boost.

outdoor living space

Another important thing to mention is that, before you decide to build either one of these, you must go to your local authorities and inquire about the rules and regulations. Know that you will most likely have to obtain a couple of licenses and permits, so take care of this in time to avoid having to pay hefty fines.

Finally, if you decide to rent your granny flat, know that you will be getting only one set of utility bills for your entire property (granny flat included) so you must figure out how you will be charging the rent. Of course, check out the local laws regarding this as well.

As you can see, there are a few ways you can use the extra space in your backyard either for your personal pleasure or as a means of boosting your home budget. Whichever you choose to build, do it right – check the local laws, obtain all the necessary paperwork and make sure you hire reliable contractors so that you know everything is done by the book.

 

Derek Lotts is a Sydney based writer and researcher, a regular contributor at Smooth Decorator blog. He writes about décor, gardening, recycling, ecology and business. He thinks all of these topics fall under the self-improvement category. He believes in the power of sharing ideas and communicating via the internet to achieve betterment.

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Home Improvement

7 Tips for Eco-Friendly Living That’ll Help You Save Electricity

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There are so many reasons why you should turn on your energy-saving mode. Being more energy-savvy will not only reduce your bills but also allow our aching planet to catch a break and recover. So, if you want to improve your eco-friendliness, here are a few tips that will help you save electricity in your home. 

Turn off lights

This is probably the easiest and one of the most effective ways to save electricity. If your parents didn’t teach you to turn off the lights when leaving the room, your energy bill will definitely make you develop this habit. Every time you leave the room or your house, make sure all your lights are off. This will minimize unnecessary energy loss and reduce your utility bill. However, there’s another benefit! Artificial lighting can also boost the temperature in your home, which means you’ll blast your AC without any reason. By keeping your lights off, you’ll have a much more pleasant environment that requires less cooling. 

Rely on sunlight

home interior
Try to boost the use of the natural light coming through your windows, skylights and doors instead of relying solely on electricity. Sunlight can also keep your home warmer during the chilly months. When the weather outside is sunny, make sure to let the warmth inside and turn down your thermostat. This will reduce the amount of energy you spend on heating and make your home pleasant and showered in relaxing lighting. It’s a win-win situation!  

Insulate your home

If you want to easily maintain the ideal temperature in your home, boost your insulation. A proper envelope will keep heat loss in the winter at a minimum and reduce the need for excessive cooling the summer. This is especially visible in hot climates where people use air conditioning almost all year long like Australia. Many homes that are not properly insulated tend to overwork their HVAC system and waste a lot of energy in the process. So, make sure to boost insulation in your home and reduce your need for heating and cooling. However, arm yourself with experts when tackling big projects like insulation. Have everyone from builders to decorators at hand. Having an experienced electrician in Sydney will ensure you can battle any sort of electrical emergency as well. Later, they can even do a small audit of your installation and ensure your property complies with current Australian Standards. 

Invest in energy-efficient doors and windows

room windows
Your home insulation can be additionally improved with energy-efficient doors and windows. It’s amazing how much energy you can lose in the winter if your windows and doors aren’t properly sealed! On the other hand, these openings can provide you with natural ventilation. Instead of relying too much on your AC, you can open the windows and allow a natural stream of air to cool your space. 

Unplug

You might think that it’s enough to just turn off your appliances and gadgets when you leave the house, but they can still draw energy. These so-called “vampire devices” constantly use electricity unless they are unplugged. So, all those devices you don’t use all the time (think DVD players, video game consoles, printers, lamps, kitchen gadgets) should be unplugged from the wall to ensure no energy is wasted. 

Maintain your appliances

kitchen
There are only so many places in the world that can go without heating or cooling. If you don’t live in one of them, you’ll need your HVAC system to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. However, if you don’t maintain your system properly and follow the repair schedule, you could be wasting more energy than necessary. And that’s not all! If your systems are not well-maintained, you won’t get even cooling and heating throughout your space or you can risk a malfunction. So, keeping your appliances in top-shape will save you electricity and money and ensure much more pleasant living. 

Consider going solar

Solar panels are more popular, available and efficient than ever before, so you can try going solar. The clean and usable energy you’ll get will reduce your reliance on the grid and save you money. Sure, installing solar panels is a big investment, but the energy and the money you can save in the long run are worth it. Plus, some places also offer tax credits if you use solar! 

If you want to save electricity, you must change some of your habits and improve your home. However, once you get used to it and once your home is properly equipped, you’ll notice results right away. Your wallet, your planet and the future generations will be more than grateful for your sacrifices.

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Home Improvement

Trendy Outdoor Decorating Tips & Ideas to Try This Summer

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A house with a nice yard

Is your outdoor space just not vibing with you anymore? Would you rather stay inside than spend time in your garden even when it’s warm and sunny outside? These are all signs that you need to try out some of these trendy outdoor decorating ideas and turn your garden into a summer retreat this year. 

Create a vertical garden

Are you one of those people who are constantly complaining that they don’t grow greenery because they have no space? You don’t need a lot of square footage to have a garden—just go vertical! A well-designed vertical garden will take up minimal space yet provide you with precious aesthetic appeal. Pick a bare wall or an empty piece of fence and go to work. Choose your pots and planters carefully so that they fit your overall design. If you wish, you can even opt for edible plants or spice herbs so you can always have fresh ingredients for your tasty dishes. 

Gravel road

Change your footing

Are you tired of constantly having to mow your lawn, fertilize it and water it in the summer? Ditch the wasteful grass and opt for something low-maintenance like decorative gravel. This new trend requires no water, no fertilizer and no mowing and will look great both in the summer and in the winter. 

Boost comfort with new seating

Outdoor spaces are perfect for summer entertaining, so make sure to provide your space with some cozy seating. If your old chairs are not working for you anymore, donate them or try to give them a new life. Sometimes, all you need to do to bring style to your space is put a fresh bold coat of paint on them and some new cushions and you’ll make a tremendous change. 

Garden lighting

Go hi-tech with lighting

Nations that are very into remodeling like Americans and Australians are massively tackling outdoor lighting. Australians are known to be especially outdoorsy and want to spend as much time as possible in their gardens, so it’s not a surprise that they choose to pay such big attention to outdoor lighting. With a good setup, you can use your space both during the day and long after the sun sets. So, if you’re looking to add some modern sleekness into your outdoor space, check out well-equipped lighting shops in Castle Hill and you’ll find all sorts of gorgeous lighting options. From minimalist sconces to LED path lights, you can find everything you need in a very modern, clean and classy design. These lights will give your backyard that trendy hi-tech vibe even if you didn’t change much in your space.

Add softness with outdoor rugs

Rugs are a great way to anchor a room and create separate zones. If they can do that in your living room, they can also do that on your patio. Look for outdoor rugs with a lot of summer colors and patterns to create a focal point of the space. Go especially crazy if your cushions are monochrome. 

Upgrade your planters

If you still have those flimsy pots, you and your plants deserve better. Large and eye-catching planters are super trendy today and they will not only have a real presence but also provide your plants with a better house. 

Arbor style entrance

Add an arbor to your entrance

If you want to wow everything stepping into your backyard, start with your entrance. Romance is alive and well in 2019, so add a touch of classic style to your space with an arbor. These structures are small enough to fit into any backyard yet create a huge effect, especially if you allow some flowering vines to climb all over it. 

Create a relaxing waterfall

Water features will always be trendy, but today’s fashion requires more than just standing water. Opt for a feature that will create relaxing water sounds and provide you with a beautiful backdrop for your meditation, yoga or mindfulness practices. If you have a small space, choose a hanging fountain, but if you have a lot of space to work with, you can go all out with a gorgeous waterfall. 

Pick any of these outdoor design projects and you’ll instantly change the whole vibe of your backyard. Even if you don’t feel any of these trends, they will certainly inspire you to find something you like and go for it.

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Interior Design

Spruce up Your Home Using These 6 Decor Tricks

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Thinking about updating your home decor but not sure where to start? Don’t call your remodeling contractor just yet. Check out these six interesting ways to spruce up your home on a budget! 

Add new curtains or drapes for a fresh, new look

A set of new curtains or drapes can make a world of difference in your living space. Other than protecting you from the sun during the day and providing your home with privacy when the sun goes down, they are a great decorating tool that will transform your room in a quick and inexpensive way. If you have short curtains, be sure to swap them for longer ones. Curtains hung just an inch above the ground can create the illusion of a higher ceiling and give your room a grander feel.

Repaint your walls for a complete makeover

wall paint
Covering your walls with a fresh coat of paint is the fastest way to breathe new life into your living space. Colors affect how we feel, so think about the functions of your rooms and base your choices on that – for your home office, choose a color that suits the nature of your job. Blue is great for sharpening your focus, green works wonders when it comes to productivity, while yellow will get your creative juices flowing. For your bedroom, it’s best to stick with neutral tones for their calming effects, while bathrooms and kitchens look great when painted in white since it symbolizes cleanliness and sophistication. As for your living room, consider adding a bold, accent wall – it’s a great way to elevate the look of your room and create a focal point.

Add scented candles to bring calmness into your home

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to elevate your living space, scented candles are the way to go. Candles bring a sense of calmness wherever they’re placed, and do an excellent job of making you relax and unwind after a long day at work. They come in a variety of sizes, colors, and fragrances, so you are sure to find ones that will match the aesthetic of your home perfectly. Look for quality candle supplies online – they will provide your home with a cozy and warm feel and make a big difference in the overall atmosphere of your living space. 

Introduce plants for a breath of fresh air

living room plants
Nothing will refresh your home more than introducing greenery into your living space. Indoor plants serve as natural air purifiers, absorbing the pollutants from the air and in turn, providing your home with oxygen. Although there are great, real-looking artificial plants many homeowners use clearly for aesthetic reasons, it’s best to choose real ones since they bring so many benefits with them. There are many low-maintenance houseplants that can elevate your living space for cheap – choose those that best fit the style of your home as well as your personal preferences.

Add a cozy, fluffy rug to boost the visual appeal

A rug is one element that can make the whole room look more cohesive. They act as a base for every section of your living space, so it’s important to choose rugs that work best for your home. They are often used to define areas and create a warm, cozy vibe. In order to choose the right rug, you need to think about your room as a whole. Think about the color scheme – you can never go wrong with a rug in neutral hues, but if your room is already a mix of neutral colors, choose a rug in a bold, bright color. Also, think about the shapes of your room – modern furniture is characterized by clean lines, corners, and edges, and to prevent your room from looking boxy, opt for a round rug and add accessories that have soft, feminine curves and shapes.

Add throw pillows in various shapes and textures

bedroom pillows
An inexpensive way to update your home is to swap out your throw pillows. They are one of the decor elements that you can easily change according to the seasons of the year or your personal preferences without spending much. They are often used to increase the visual interest of the living space and tie in the existing colors in the room. Consider replacing your old throw pillows and style them by following certain rules. First, choose the color scheme for your pillows – pick three colors you’d like to use. Then, select the patterns for your pillows, making sure they contain colors from the same family. Last, but not least, choose the pattern sizes for your pillows. They shouldn’t compete, so it’s best to allow one pattern to dominate while the rest act as supporting elements. 

Use these-budget friendly tips to update your home decor and turn it into a more pleasant place to be.

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Health

Asbestos, Hidden Danger in Your Home

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Asbestos is what we call a number of naturally occurring silicate minerals that used to be used in construction due to their thermal stability, insulation properties, and durability. However, when asbestos is disturbed and tiny fibers of it become airborne, it becomes very dangerous. It may cause a range of health issues, from asbestosis to lung cancer. This is why you should be aware of it, especially if you happen to live in an older home. With that in mind, here’s what you should know about asbestos.

Asbestos, Hidden Danger in Your Home

Where can it be found?

Many homes that were built before 1980 have asbestos in ceiling tiles, resilient floor tiles as well as adhesives used for installing floor tiles, walls, and roof shingles. Insulation around boilers, pipes, ducts, furnaces, and fireplaces may also include asbestos. Additionally, soundproofing material that is usually sprayed on walls and ceiling could also contain asbestos.

Now, asbestos on its own is not dangerous when it’s in a stable and isolated form. However, if you ever decide to remodel your home, or even if you clean the asbestos-containing area improperly, you could disturb the material and become exposed to the harmful fibers. This means that if you’ve bought an old house for its antique charm, and you want to remodel it to suit your needs, you need to first make sure it’s safe.

Asbestos, Hidden Danger in Your Home

How to check for asbestos

Keep in mind that even though it’s mostly found in older homes, some newer houses may contain asbestos as well, as it wasn’t banned everywhere at the same time. This is especially true if you happen to live in Australia, as a large number of older houses there do contain asbestos. For example, asbestos and all products containing it were only completely banned in 2003. That being said, this doesn’t mean that you should go around looking for it – you don’t really want to find it. You can’t detect it visually, and if you go around poking holes in walls and floors, you also risk inhaling the fibers and suffering the consequences. Instead, you should call certified professionals to get samples, and then they can analyze those samples in a laboratory to determine whether there is any asbestos in your home. This way, you and your family are less likely to get exposed to asbestos fibers. Fortunately, you can easily find a laboratory that does asbestos testing in Sidney. So, if you suspect that you might be living with asbestos, getting your home tested should not be a problem.

Asbestos, Hidden Danger in Your Home

Health risks

As mentioned, inhaling asbestos can lead to some serious health issues. It mostly happens to people whose profession required them to work near asbestos fibers and thus, breathe them in. This includes construction workers who didn’t use safe practices. Sometimes, they also carried that asbestos home on their clothes, shoes, skin, and hair, which means that they unknowingly infected their families as well.

In some cases, teachers who worked in old school buildings and pupils who went to those schools got exposed as well. Some of them are yet to develop health issues, as most asbestos-related diseases can take up to 20-30 years to manifest themselves.

Speaking of asbestos-related diseases, they include pleural plaques (thick patches of scar tissue on the lining of the lungs), asbestosis (progressive scar tissue inside the lungs, which can make breathing difficult), lung cancer, and mesothelioma, which is also a type of cancer that affects the diaphragm, the lining of the chest wall, and the covering of the lungs. As mentioned, most of them can take years, even decades, to develop, which is why it’s almost impossible to know whether you’ve been exposed to asbestos before the symptoms start showing. Moreover, the risk of the two mentioned types of cancer increases if you are a smoker, and it also increases if you’ve been exposed to asbestos for a long time.

As you can see, asbestos is not something you should take lightly, as the consequences of being exposed to it can be very serious and very long-term. Therefore, be mindful of your own environment. If you suspect that your home might have some asbestos in it, don’t hesitate to call professionals that would test it, and if necessary, remove all the asbestos safely.

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Home Improvement

6 Important Home Maintenance Tasks You Should Tackle Before Summer

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Since summer is almost here, we’re all getting ready to spend some more time outside instead trapped indoors in front of screens. So, if you want to give your family the best and most comfortable summer experience (both outdoors and indoors) here are some home maintenance tasks you should take care of.

Take care of your lawn

After a cold winter and wet spring, your lawn might look a little neglected. But, nature will always give you a lush and green lawn after plenty of rain, all you need to do is nurture what nature gave you. Add some fertilizer with nitrogen to feed your lawn and kill weeds. Regular mowing is also a must—it will make your lawn a perfect place for outdoor games. Another thing you might want to do is take a look at your sprinklers. They need to be in perfect shape in order to reduce water waste, prevent standing water and damage to your plants.

Repair your fences

Cold and wet weather can be very damaging to wood and cause it to warp, twist and crack. This process will make your gates and fences all wonky, loose and ugly. So, give your fences and gates a little inspection and search for all loose pickets and sagging gates. Luckily, if you see any imperfections, first use some handy tools to measure them, and then fix them with a nail gun (remember to use galvanized nails for any outdoor fixes). Loose screws all need to be tightened as well.

Check your drains

During winter and fall, many things can get into your drains and cause clogs that will prevent your water from flowing off of your property. While these clogs are easier to handle, most of the time, the real culprit are tree roots that grow into the pipe and create thick blockages and cracks. Luckily, you don’t have to grab a sledgehammer and go to town on your driveway to unblock or replace your pipes. The best way to handle blocked drains is to contact professionals who will remove your blockage quickly and effectively and reline your old pipe. At the end of this process, you’ll have clean drains and perfectly healthy pipes without any damage to your property!

Fix your walkways

If you live in an area with freezing temperatures, ice can really destroy your pathways, especially if they are made of unmortared brick or stone. So, if you notice any loose and wobbly pavers, make sure to remove this hazard and secure them safely. You can repair your surfaces with a few buckets of sand and a sturdy gardening tool. Remove the wobbly paver, add some sand to the hole, smooth it out and replace the paver. A few stomps will ensure your bricks or stones are all leveled and secure for walking!

Whip out your furniture

In order to be completely comfortable in your backyard, you need a place to relax. So, make sure to whip out your outdoor furniture and give them a light inspection. While in storage, your pieces can get a bit shabby, so make sure to repair any imperfections before you let your kids lounge on them. Rattan can get damaged and cause nasty scratches, so trim all spiky edges. Iron furniture can get rusty, so grab a paint can and give them a new life with some color! These are all fun projects you can do with your kids and spend some quality time together.

Clean your grill

Summer is the perfect time for grilling, but no one wants to eat your patties with last year’s gunk on them ruining the taste! So, before you fire up your machine, make sure to clean your grill thoroughly and make sure all your gas connections and hoses are in good condition. A good grill brush works on almost every model of the grill and it will remove most dirt. Remove your grates and metal plates, soak them in soapy water and then scrub until clean. This will give you the best grilling experience and zero funky aftertaste to your food.

With an outdoor space like this, you and your family will get to enjoy your summer more than ever. You won’t even want to waste precious time in front of screens when you have a garden in a perfect condition for relaxation, games and parties!

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