Category: For The Home

Prevent A Holiday Nightmare: 8 Safe Holiday Decorating Tips

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“And the stockings were hung by the chimney with care.” Care being the key word.

To prevent your holiday from going up in flames, we highly recommend considering these 8 safe holiday decorating tips, so that your family can enjoy the season free from harm.


Not taking us seriously? Here are some stats from the National Fire Protection Association that may surprise you:

  • U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 840 decoration fires each year—not including 200 average fires cause by Christmas trees alone.
  • Altogether, these fires lead to an average of 8 deaths and 52 injuries per year.
  • Holiday fires lead to an average of $11.4 million in property damage.
  • Candles started more than 1/3 of home decoration fires.
  • Christmas Day is the second highest day for holiday-related cooking fires (coming second to Thanksgiving).


If this piqued your interest like it did ours, you’ll be interested in these tips and reminders below to ensure you keep your family and home safe this holiday season.

1. Keep the Christmas tree away from fireplaces and heaters

Enjoy picking out the annual Christmas tree each year? Just beware, Christmas trees (especially dry trees), are flammable. Be smart about tree placement and avoid fireplaces, heaters, and candles. Also be sure to water regularly; the drier the tree, the more flammable.

2. Place your glass ornaments and decorations out of kid’s reach

In order to prevent injuries and to keep your adored Christmas ornaments safe, hang these up higher and in a stable area, where little hands can’t get a hold.

3. Beware of poinsettias

Poinsettias are extremely toxic to pets—keep these out of reach by placing on tables or mantles (or opting for a fake alternative).

4. Set a lights timer

With timers, not only do you save on the electric bill, but you also don’t let your beautiful lights burn all night—potentially leading to a fire hazard.

5. Remove nearby flammable objects from candles

Candle displays can be gorgeous for the holiday season, but be sure to remove any nearby objects that could catch fire. For instance, if you’re lighting a Menorah, placing it near the drapes is not the best idea!

6. Consider using LED candles

Better yet, consider replacing candles with an LED version—recently, there have been a variety of LED candles that give off a surprisingly similar glow to a wax candle.

7. Be careful when using a ladder

This is a no-brainer, but always use precaution when using a ladder for Christmas lights and décor. Never stand on the very top of a ladder, ensure the ladders feet are stable and secure, and never carry a load that could make you lose your balance.

8. Don’t leave the stovetop and oven unattended

With the holiday season comes delicious cooking! However, this is the reason Christmas Day leads to an unfortunate number of fires each year. It’s easy to get distracted with the celebrations, but avoid leaving the stovetop or oven unattended.

Looking to enjoy the holidays in a new home next year?

Check out these Ashdon Builders New Home Communities.

Organization Tips for your Garage

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If you are like many, the garage is the place for hobbies and storage. From working on furniture and cars to storing tools, toys, sports equipment, lawn care items and many other things besides, the garage is the place to put things that have no place elsewhere in the home. This is as it should be because garages are meant for all those things, but it’s easy for the catchall garage to become a disorganized, cluttered mess of pathways and poorly labeled boxes. This can really throw off your inner neat freak, not to mention make it a frustrating space to function in. Such is life. We have “stuff” and we need to keep it somewhere! So, let’s talk about how we can really make the most of our garage space for the purposes which we need.


Clean it up

First things first. Cleaning time. Take a nice day (or a weekend), open up the garage and move everything out into the driveway. The garage is at best a little dirty, but it is easy for dirt, dust, pollen, leaves, sawdust, pet dander, dead bugs, and other debris to collect here. With everything out of the garage, use a leaf blower or a broom to clear any dirt or mess. If you have pets or work on cars, you may need to clean the floor.

For grease or oil stains, cover the spot with sawdust or cat litter. Try to leave it there for a day if possible then sweep it all up with a firm bristled push broom. If that doesn’t work all the way or you are limited in time, try pouring dry dish detergent powder on the stains. Leave it for about an hour, then pour boiling water on it and use a scrub brush or the broom and a little elbow grease to clean it up.

You may also find some cracks in the concrete as you are cleaning and these can simply be filled with an epoxy paste. Once dry, you may need to run over the filled cracks with a little sandpaper to smooth it out. If time permits, one proactive step you can take to make future cleaning easier is to seal the floor. See the references for more information about how to do this.

Floor plan & zones

Once you’ve gotten the space clean – and don’t forget any cobwebs in the corners – then you are ready to start organizing. First, you’ll want to create a floor plan and define the zones of the garage. Designate sections of the room for whatever you need – lawn tools, chemicals, automotive, pantry items, toys/sports equipment, etc. Then pull back in any furniture, appliances, or shelving you plan to keep and place them where they fit in the plan. The idea is to keep the floor space as open as possible so that you can use the garage space efficiently and be able to reach anything you need quickly. Now, let’s take a look at some cool ideas to best organize your space and your gear.

Organization & storage

Containers – Plastic bins are infinitely better for garage storage than cardboard boxes. They can be clear, so you can see what is inside, take a beating without falling apart, keep moisture out, and bugs (eg. Cockroaches) don’t care about plastic. Store your camping equipment, or holiday decorations in these to keep them clean and in good condition. Jars of all sizes can be used to store small items too. Wash out your sauce and spice jars to use for screws, nuts and bolts.

Cabinets –Typically open shelving is better for the garage, but a locking cabinet is great solution for storing chemicals and other hazardous items, especially when you have little ones around. They are also good when you need to keep items free of dust and dirt.

Shelving – Use that wall space! Both free-standing and wall mounted shelving are a must for the garage and there are plenty of options out there. These are the perfect place to put your plastic bins and jars.

Other wall mounted storage – Magnetic strips can be used to hold drill bits. Hanging jars or cans that are open can be used to drop in brushes, pencils, screwdrivers, etc. Paper towel holders can also be used as garbage and lawn bag dispensers. Pegboard is great because you can always move things around to fit what you need.

Tubes and pool noodles – PVC pipe mounted on a wood base is great for vertical storage of your long handled tools like shovels and rakes. Got fishing poles? Use a pool noodle mounted on the wall to secure them.

Workbenches – If you don’t need to use a workbench very often, consider installing a simple fold-down style. You can also consider a mobile workbench, to help make space where you need it or to work where you need to in the garage. A simple table with casters would do the job and you can add pegboard to the sides to hang tools and items within easy reach. Don’t forget to get a stool for your bench!

Overhead – Don’t forget your ceiling space. If you have a lot of items that you don’t use very often, the ceiling is nice place for them! Mount some racks and slide plastic bins in to stay out of the way until needed. You can add labels to the bottoms so it’s easy to remember what you have inside the bins.

Space for the car – if you like to park the car in the garage (who doesn’t?) and have the space for it, add some scrap carpeting to the walls where you pull in to protect your cars finish. You can also hang a tennis ball on a string from the ceiling to tap the windshield when you are in the right spot.


Check out these great references for more in-depth and creative ideas on how to organize your garage and keep it that way!



A Short History of Useful Home Features

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home features

For thousands of years humans have toiled with cooking over open fires, going outside in the cold to answer nature’s call, and dealing with less than ideal use of space in their homes. Over the past couple hundred years, spurred by the industrial revolution in the 1800’s, we have experienced a snowball effect of improved and modernized home features. But all things come from humble beginnings. Here’s a look at some useful home features, and how they have evolved over time.



Ancient people first began cooking with open fires on the ground or in firepits. The Greeks used simple ovens for baking breads, and in ancient China, people developed clay stoves with holes in the tops for pots to set down in. It was not until the middle ages, that the first real oven was recorded as being created. In the 1700’s improvements were made to wood burning ovens, one design worth noting is the Castrol oven invented in 1735 by French architect François Cuvilliés, which allowed the fire in the oven to be completely contained and reduced smoke and heat from escaping. Throughout 1700’s and into the 1800’s, iron stoves were becoming more popular and ever improving. The Rumford stove invented around 1800 was a large stove for big working kitchens and though it had one fire as the source of heat, it allowed the temperature to be regulated for each pot individually. During the 1800’s, there were also coal and kerosene ovens, and in 1826, the first successful gas oven became available. By the 1920’s most households had gas ovens and stovetops. Though they were around as early as the 1890’s it wasn’t until the 1930’s that electric ovens started to compete with gas.


Windows are such a common feature, it’s easy to take for granted how good we have it. Homes were not always so bright, open, and well-insulated. In Roman times, glassmaking was fairly advanced, and many homes had windows. But as with many of the wonders of Rome, this craft was lost and during the “dark ages” windows were much smaller with no glass. As such, homes were much darker, with fires being the main source of light. People would use shutters to keep out the cold, and sometimes would use parchment or animal skins to cover window openings and protect from drafts but still allow some light to enter. Glassmaking began to make a comeback during the middle ages in Europe. In 14th century France, windows began to have what was called crown glass which came in small circles or could be cut into diamond shapes and put together in lead panes.  By the 1500’s glassmaking was much more common, but glass was still a luxury for most. Only the wealthiest people could afford to have glass in their windows, and many only had it in the most important rooms. By the late 1600’s it was common to see glass window panes in a lattice style – the lattice was lead, thus giving these the name “leaded windows”. Wood framed, sash-style windows were also becoming more popular and it was around this time at the turn of the century that the weighted sash was developed which allowed the window to stay open without sliding. Over time, glassmaking was refined to produce clearer glass and the frameworks lightened and improved leading to a wide variety of styles and sizes seen in modern homes.

Pocket doors

This space-saving home feature was used in the late 1700’s in the famous home of Thomas Jefferson – Monticello. Tour guests can see the double pocket doors that slide out to separate the dining room and the tea room. This feature became quite common during the 19th century in Victorian homes as a practical way to save space as well as to close off rooms that were not in use or for privacy. Today, they are seeing a resurgence in popularity in townhomes and condos as they work well in smaller spaces. A new style of pocket door, an “open pocket door” is also being seen more and more in new homes. Also known as a sliding track door, you can see this option in many styles such as industrial/modern or barn/rustic.

Indoor Plumbing

Modern indoor plumbing, became popular during the late 19th century and has advanced leaps and bounds throughout the 20th century. But plumbing in general has a long and fascinating past. Around 1500-1000 B.C., the people of Crete (Greece) had created sewage disposal and underground drainage systems. The Roman Empire, during the period of 500-455 B.C. developed very advanced aqueducts, underground sewers, public baths, and marble fixtures. In 1596, the Godson of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir John Harrington, developed the flushing toilet with a seat, a bowl, and a water cistern – though it is said that the queen was afraid to use it. In 1829, the Tremont Hotel in Boston was the first of its kind to offer indoor plumbing for guests and in 1833, the White House added running water to the first floor. Then, in 1891, Thomas Crapper (yes, that is where the name came from!) patented his toilet design and revolutionized the modern concept of plumbing.

Medicine Cabinets

With the adoption of indoor plumbing, bathrooms became an essential part of the home. Bathrooms in the early 20th century were viewed as the center of personal cleanliness and good health, and it stood to reason that this would be the place to store medical and cosmetic supplies. This specialized cabinet hung on the wall in the bathroom and was the first type of storage in modern bathrooms.


Although humans have known about the existence of electricity for a very long time, we have only been harnessing its power for about 250 years now. Everyone knows the story of Benjamin Franklin and his famous kite experiment, and it is his experiments that created a foundation for future scientists and inventors. Before we had electricity to light our homes and power our appliances, people salted and smoked meats to preserve them, washed laundry by hand, read books by candlelight, and used the fireplace to stay warm in the winter. Between the end of the 1800’s and the first decades of the 1900’s, cities and towns slowly became connected to electricity. The electric vacuum cleaner and washing machine were both invented in 1908 and the first refrigerator came along in 1913. Homes of wealthier folks had electricity before rural farms of course, but by the late 1930’s most everyone had electricity in the home.

Kitchen Islands

Oh, how we love our counter space! The idea of a kitchen island probably started in the late 19th century as a simple table in the kitchen used as a workspace. They really took off during the 1950’s however when open plan homes were becoming a thing. It was a great way to add extra storage and workspace in the kitchen while being connected to the rest of the house; mom could watch the kids in the living room, while preparing dinner.


A mudroom is essentially a second entryway to a home, typically on the side or the back of the house and connected to the kitchen. The term emerged in the 1950’s with the appearance of secondary, less formal entryways, but in past centuries these spaces were found in rural area homes where the roads were unpaved, people were out on the farm or working in gardens, and footwear was perennially muddy. Today, these wonderful spaces act as a buffer from the elements and help us keep our homes cleaner and neater.


In its earliest form, the garage was a carriage house, where horses were stabled, and the carriages and tack were stored. As automobiles started to become more popular in the 1920’s, the more modern version of a garage took shape. At first, they still looked like carriage houses, but eventually started to integrate with the home more, both in style and functionality.


Here are some great references for further reading:

Color Trends For 2018

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color 2018

Bold. Bright. Eye Catching.

Move over neutrals, there are some new kids in town and they are ready to turn up the fun! If you love bright colors, 2018 is going to be your year to go crazy.

First, Pantone has announced its color of the year for 2018, the aptly named “Ultra Violet” – a contemplative color that is intriguing, inspiring, and pushes boundaries.


“The Pantone Color of the Year has come to mean so much more than ‘what’s trending’ in the world of design; it’s truly a reflection of what’s needed in our world today.” – Laurie Pressman, Vice President of the Pantone Color Institute.


If you find the violet hues to be a challenge to work into your décor, or maybe purple just isn’t your thing, there are plenty more fresh options to choose from this year. Think fun, think colorful, think audacious. Pantone also revealed 8 palettes for home and interior at the International Home & Housewares Show, with color choices for just about any taste.

There are loads of great options for changing up your look, and though the theme this year is certainly colorful, not ALL of them are super bright.


Resourceful: A complementary palette of blues and oranges, bringing together warm and cool tones that just feel good.

Verdure: Earthy, nature-inspired hues like celery green, robin’s egg blue, and a lovely violet is characteristic of health and new growth.

Playful: Bright yellow, lime popsicle, and all things fun come together in this palette. Perfect for a kid’s playroom, or if you are daring, a sunroom? It’s a sunny, happy mashup of color that you can’t help but smile at.

Discretion: Subtle, desaturated hues such as Elderberry and Hawthorne Rose offer an alternative to bold and bright. It’s a strong and positive palette.

Far-fetched: Warm and vibrant, this palette creates a feeling of happiness, comfort and vitality.

Intricacy: Neutral metallics (AKA, the “new neutrals”) create a foundation for bringing out dramatic red and bold yellow, for a truly unique statement.


How to Pick Your Perfect Palette

If you love many of colors like we do, it can be hard to decide where to start when considering an update to your look. Here are few tips to get the creative juices flowing.

  • Base your color palette on the largest things in the room. If you have a large piece of furniture, a large area rug, a fireplace, etc. look at those elements and start choosing colors from there.
  • Decorating with color from dark to light and from bottom to top, is a great way to get a solid look that you love without much risk. Interior rooms that go from darker to lighter mimic nature – as the earth is dark under our feet and the sky light and bright – which feels “right”.
  • To tie rooms together, start with a formal room first, then take the dominant color from that room, tone it down and use that toned-down version in the next. For example, if using a dark, bold blue in your dining room, it can be toned down to a medium, sky blue for a sunroom or den.
  • Use the color wheel to easily discover the right contrasting or complementary color combinations.
  • Take a look through your closet. What colors are your favorite clothes? Colors that flatter you, can also flatter your home!
  • Use the 60-30-10 rule of design. Your dominant color would be 60% of the room such as walls, your secondary color would be 30% percent of the room, so furniture or carpet, and the 10% is for accent colors.
  • Use neutrals. Yes, we know this is all about the bright, bold colors of 2018, but neutrals are perfect to compliment any vibrant, rich color.

Go Forth and Fall in Love with Colors

No matter your taste or style, there are so many great ideas for colors this year. From shutters, to walls, to clothing, 2018 is looking bright!



A Home Maintenance Checklist

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Home ownership is likely the biggest financial investment most people make in their lifetime. So it stands to reason that we want to take care of, and protect our investment.  After all, this is our home, our refuge, and the place we make memories. One of the biggest challenges of homeownership is keeping up with maintenance. Renters can always call the landlord, but when you are the landlord, it’s up to you to take care of all the fixes and repairs that are needed throughout a home’s lifetime.  One thing you can do to make such a large responsibility a little easier to handle, is to break up the tasks into a calendar and make them part of your routine.  Here is a list to help get you started.


  • Inspect fire extinguisher – see this video:
  • Change air filters
  • Clean heat/air vents and registers
  • Clean garbage disposal – vinegar ice cubes are a good option.
  • Clean range hood filter

Every 3 months

  • Clean tub drain and bathroom sink drains
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Test garage door auto-reverse feature.
  • Run water and flush toilets in unused spaces such as a guest bathroom.

Every 6 months

  • Washer – check all hoses for leaks and clean water inlet filters – see this video:
  • Clean dryer vent, duct and surrounding areas. You can even open the dryer up to vacuum out the interior if needed – see your specific model instructions for cleaning details.
  • Check dishwasher for leaks
  • Give your house a deep clean (spring and fall cleaning).
  • Replace batteries in smoke/carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Vacuum your refrigerator coils.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts
  • Inspect roof
  • Clean windows and window sills



  • Have your septic tank system inspected and serviced
  • Have your furnace cleaned and serviced
  • Have your water heater checked for sediment build up and leaks.
  • Have a professional inspect and clean out your main cleanout drain line, especially if there are trees in your area that may have cracked a pipe.




  • Take some time and look over the exterior of your home. Check for damage (especially water damage) to brick or siding, signs of leaks, cracks, and also for pest issues.
  • Now is a great time to get your air conditioning system ready for summer by having it serviced.
  • Repair/replace damaged window screens.
  • Check trees for interference with electric lines and have them pruned if needed.
  • Inspect roof surface, flashing, eaves, and soffits; repair if needed.
  • Clean out your gutters and downspouts. Check for proper drainage and make repairs if needed.
  • Exterior Caulking: Inspect caulking and replace any that is deteriorating.
  • Windowsills, Doorsills, Thresholds: Fill cracks, caulk edges, repaint; replace if needed.
  • Window and Door Screens: Clean screens and repair or replace as needed; tighten or repair any loose or damaged frames and repaint; replace broken, worn, or missing hardware; tighten and lubricate door hinges and closers.


  • Clean and paint any areas on the house or garage that need it, especially any bare wood.
  • Wash the exterior of your home. That doesn’t always mean pressure washing – some exteriors, such as brick are better washed by hand and a garden hose. Here is a great article on how to do it –
  • Look for signs of carpenter ants, termites, or any other destructive insects and take action as needed.
  • Check for mortar that needs repair, including chimney mortar and inside fireplace.
  • Clean and repair concrete drive, sidewalks, patios, and decks.
  • Clean and organize your garage and shed.
  • Inspect your plumbing systems for leaks.


  • Inspect roof surface, flashing, eaves, and soffits; repair if needed.
  • After leaves are done falling, take a nice day and clean out the gutters and downspouts. Look for and repair any leaks or weak areas.
  • In early fall, it’s a good time to have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned for the coming cold weather.
  • Check over your exterior caulking to ensure everything will be sealed up nice and tight before the cold weather hits.
  • Storm Windows and Doors: Replace any cracked or broken glass; tighten or repair any loose or damaged frames and repaint if needed. Replace damaged hardware; tighten and lubricate door hinges and closers.
  • Inspect and repair or replace window and door weather stripping if it is deteriorating or if it does not seal.
  • Thermostat: Clean heat sensor, contact points, and contacts; check accuracy and replace thermostat if it is not functioning properly.
  • If you have a well, now is the time to properly winterize your water pump.


  • Aside from winterizing your home, this is also a good time to look at repairs and maintenance needed on the inside of your home.
  • Around the start of winter, shut off interior valves to outdoor water pipes to prevent them from freezing, open the spigots to drain them and store your hoses away for the season.
  • Change furnace filters monthly.
  • Repair any interior wall damage; touch up or repaint as needed.
  • Check and re-grout tile in all bath and kitchen areas, as needed, and apply a silicone sealer.
  • Create a plan for next summer’s home improvement projects.
  • At winter’s end, re-open interior valves supplying outdoor water pipes.

While this list is detailed, it is certainly not all-encompassing and we would encourage you to create a relevant checklist for your specific home needs and location.  Keeping up with the maintenance of your home will not only protect the value of your property and preserve it for years to come, but more importantly, help keep bigger and often unexpected repairs from sneaking up on you.  Here’s to a happy, well-maintained, home!


Additional References: