Fight Back Against Hackers During the Smart Home Revolution!

 

Thanks to engineers and innovators, there are new ways to make our lives at home less demanding, more efficient, and more secure every day. Smart home devices have created a new market that is accelerating as you read this. Today, the average household has 10 connected smart devices, but in five years, experts believe the average household will use 50 connected smart devices.

Advancements in data bandwidth and technology have created obvious benefits, such as allowing homeowners to manage their house from anywhere on the planet. By using a video doorbell camera and smart door lock, users can open, lock, and answer their front door all from a remote device, wherever they may be.

However, this also opens the door for unwanted intruders. More devices mean more opportunities for hackers to enter a home. Each smart home gadget in a household functions as new door or window that can be broken into. Growth in the market of smart home devices has outpaced growth in the market of home security, creating a gap that thieves and intruders can squeeze into before the market catches up.

Security specialists showed during a demonstration at an exhibit that they could take control of the lights of an entire office complex by hacking into a smart lightbulb in a single room of the building. It shows that the threat can come from anywhere. That same video doorbell and smart lock used to let in guests can also be used by hackers to monitor activity in the house and break in while you’re away.

But there are simple ways to protect your home. While the security industry catches up with the advancements in smart home devices, you can use low-tech but effective methods to secure your home, family, and gadgets. View the accompanying infographic to see how you can protect yourself. If you want to take it to the next level of security, we recommend installing a hardware home network firewall which will make your home safer than a bank.

This is a guest post and infographic is by Joseph Mack from smarthomeSAGE, a blog that analyzes the impact that smart home technology has on home life.

Protect your Smart Home Infographic (2)

 

Facts To Know About Buying an Above Ground Pool

above groung pool

Thinking about buying an above ground pool?  Go for it I say!

If you have a family and want to keep them entertained all summer long in the comfort of your backyard, an above ground swimming pool will be a great addition.

Now, inground or fiberglass pool are better, but they also cost about 15 times what an above ground pool costs.  They also take up a lot more space, so if you have a smaller backyard, along with your budget, an above ground pool is a great choice.

Here are some of my tips when it comes to buying an above ground pool, from personal experience.

Decide how big you need the pool to be

The size really depends on your guard and what use it will get.  If you have a large family, then a bigger pool will be needed.  A 21″ round pool is a great size for a family pool.  It’s big enough for lots of people to be in it at the same time and big enough to play some fun games.  If you have a smaller yard, then 18′ is a good size.  I would get a round over oval sized pool, it’s less expensive and easier to clean.  An oval pool is also harder to stabilize as it has uneven sides, so sometimes you will need a buttress system to support it.

Decide on how long you will have your pool

If this is going to be a long term, 10+ year purchase, then I would go for an aluminum or composite type pool.  They will last longer and resist rust longer than a steel pool.  They are also more dent resistant.

If you only plan on having the pool for a few years until you upgrade to a fiberglass pool, then go with steel.  It’s a lot cheaper and you’ll be getting rid of it long before it shows signs of rusting.  The only downside is that a steel pool is heavy, so it’s harder to put together.

Decide on your accessories

If you live up north or have a shaded backyard, you may be springing for a pool heater, which will run you about $600-1200 bucks.  You’ll also need a pool cleaner, a pump and lots of chemicals.  Your accessories to get the pool up and running will go for about $1200 – $2000, depending if you get the heater or not.  We purchased our pool from a pool supply store in Ottawa and had everything shipped to us online.  Yes, you can order a complete pool online, it’s actually not that hard to put together.

Whatever you decide to do for your above ground pool, you’re going to have a blast all summer long and be happy that you made the purchase.  Yes, it’s not cheap to run and maintain a pool, but it’s cheaper than going on a vacation.

Facts about buying pool

Bathroom Suite Ideas for Small Spaces

Milano small bathroom

Just because you have a small bathroom suite it doesn’t mean that you can’t create a space that’s both stylish and functional. If planned and designed well, a small bathroom can be transformed into a cosy, spa-like retreat where you can leave the stresses of the day behind. These top tips for small bathroom suites will help you to make the best use of a compact space.

Clever use of light

If you have a window in your small bathroom, then make sure to take advantage of it and let in as much natural light as possible by leaving it unadorned with frosted glass. Natural light helps to enhance a sense of space and it creates an open, airy feel, which is ideal for any compact bathroom suite.

If your bathroom doesn’t have a window, it’s important to choose a light fixture that will illuminate the space effectively. Avoid heavy or domineering light fixtures, and instead choose sleek, minimal designs that don’t take up much space. It’s a good idea to fit lights around the mirror, or you could opt for an illuminated mirror to create task lighting, Spotlights are a good option for lighting up the entire space.

Colour choices

Whites, neutrals and pastels are all great colour choices for small bathroom suites as they will help to brighten the room up and create a sense of space. Dark colours can make the space feel cramped, but if used in the right way, can in fact, make the room feel inviting and cosy.

Fit a large mirror

A large mirror provides one of the best ways to enhance a sense of space in a small bathroom suite. To make a statement you could fit a large decorative mirror above the basin, which will bounce the light around the room. You could even mirror the entire wall from halfway up behind the toilet and basin for a luxury hotel feel. But if space is really limited, you could use small mirrors dotted around the bathroom or fit a mirrored cabinet to create a similar effect. Glossy finishes will also help to bounce the light around.

Ditch the shower curtain

A shower curtain can make a small bathroom suite feel more enclosed, so replace it with a glass screen to help open the room up. If you find that you never use the bath, why not replace it with a wet room glass panel for a sleek, designer look? Wet room glass panels are becoming an increasingly popular choice as they help to create a more spacious look, and they are easy to clean too.

Space saving fixtures

When it comes to choosing fixtures for your small bathroom, look out for clever space saving designs. Wall mounted basins and toilets are perfect for bathroom suites with limited room as they appear to float above the floor helping to maximise space. Short projection toilets are a great option too, and some measure just 600mm in depth. You could make use of an awkward shaped bathroom with a corner toilet and sink.

Storage solutions

It’s essential to incorporate storage into a small bathroom as any clutter will only make the room feel smaller. Vanity units provide a fantastic storage solution as they combine a sink and a cupboard underneath for all your essentials. Other storage solutions include shelving and wall cabinets. You could even incorporate recess shelving into one of the walls so you can keep toiletries close to hand or display decorative objects.

Create a feature floor

Large floor tiles combined with a similar colour grout is another way to create the illusion of a bigger bathroom. It’s a good idea to avoid mosaic patterns and small, fussy designs, as they draw the eye in and create a closed in feel. Large glossy tiles really help to open the room up.

 

 

The Many Health Benefits of Owning a Hot Tub

Swim Spa

Ever think about buying a hot tub?  Not only can a hot tub be a great place to relax or to spend time with the family, it can also give you and your family many health benefits.

Hydrotherapy has been used in healing for thousands of years.  People have been using natural hot springs for relaxation and therapy for thousands of years.  The ancient Romans had public hot pools where people could gather and enjoy the many benefits of hydrotherapy.

Hot water on your skin can help clear harmful toxins from your body.  Your body sweats out these toxins and also warms and helps to heal tired, strained and sore muscles.

Physical therapists also use hydrotherapy as part of their healing regime.  Same goes for massage, many use hydrotherapy as part of their massage practice.

So wouldn’t it be a good idea to have your very own hot tub so you can enjoy the benefits of hydrotherapy every day of the year?  Yes, hot tubs can be costly, but over the years, you’ll see that it can be well worth the investment, both in terms of your health as well as for relaxation and enjoyment.

We purchased a swim spa for our home in Ontario last year.  A swim spa is a sort of hybrid hot tub and swimming pool.  It allows you to enjoy the benefits of a hot tub but also is long enough to use as a lap pool for exercise.  So you if you don’t have both right now, consider getting a swim spa to get the best of both worlds.  It is also ideal for small spaces and yards where a full-size pool won’t cut it.

Below is an inforgraphic that expands on the reasons to get a hot tub for your health.  So what are you waiting for, go get your hot tub today and start enjoying your won backyard hydrotherapy.

 

Wellness Spa Benefits Health

Saving the family home from foreclosure

During time of financial difficulties you have to prioritize what to pay first. Naturally food tops the list as you can’t give it up, then come perhaps the utility bills as no one wants to end up without water or electricity and we kind of postpone the mortgage instalment. Just for a couple of days, then 1-2 weeks, which unnoticeably become a month. You are still fine but all of a sudden you get a letter from your bank – you are served with a foreclosure due to failure to pay and you realize it has been a couple of months already and the home you took for granted might be lost to the bank. Don’t panic but search professional help and find a reliable foreclosure attorney who can help you out of the situation. The attorney will analyze your personal situation and will give you proper advice what you should do. There are basically two options in such a case – to save your home or to surrender it. Below you will find a few facts why it is better to choose one over the other.

 

Save your home

The decision to keep your home is usually an emotional one, however it should be more financially-based. Review it as a deal and put down pros and cons of keeping the home. If it meets all your family needs, the interest rate you need to pay is reasonable and the property is worth more than the mortgage then you should fight for it. How does the procedure go? When you are served with a foreclosure letter you have 20 days to take the relevant action. In the event that you want to save your home, you should file for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. This will allow you to catch up with the payments. An important note to observe is that the sooner you file the Chapter 13, the more affordable the payments will be and you will also save from piling up of attorney fees and charges. A good foreclosure attorney will prepare all the necessary paperwork and will also counsel you on how to proceed after the bankruptcy is filed. The process is not that complicated though it might sound a bit of unpleasant, however it is the best way to save your family home in such cases.

 

Surrender your home

As already mentioned the decision to keep or surrender the property must be financially based and void of feelings, if possible. Keeping the home is either a good deal or not. If the mortgage you have to pay is much hire than the property itself then it is best not to fight for it. In such case the step to take is file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy just before selling the house. This will not only ensure that there is no deficiency balance to pay back after the sale but will also give you additional six months in the property, so that you can get ready to move out.

 

There are times in life when we are faced with the tough decision whether we shall keep fighting for something or just make a step forward. If you are faced with a foreclosure, then you are in one such situation. But don’t waste time feeling sorry for what happened, find a good foreclosure attorney and follow their advice to save or surrender your home and resume your life.

Design your dream kitchen using natural stone tiles

If you like spending time in the kitchen as much as I do, then you deserve to have it designed and equipped as per your desire. The electric or gas appliances are of great importance but so is the overall atmosphere. Using natural stone tiles can help you design your dream kitchen with minimum efforts and investments. Sometimes, all it takes is just to get a new kitchen top, backsplash tiles or flooring to change the entire outlook of a room. Natural stone tiles are a perfect solution both for renovation and for building a completely new kitchen.

Marble, travertine, granite, slate and limestone can be used and combined to create sophisticated, modern or rustic look for your kitchen. Stone is material that can be used for different purposes. The good thing is that you can have the natural stone tiles with different finishes for different surfaces. You can have polished granite or marble for your kitchen top since it will shine and bring more light but as this finishing makes the tiles more slippery when wet, it is better to use honed stone for the floor. Choose your tiles carefully as they will serve you for life and double check with the manufacturer/seller which ones are more appropriate for countertops and which for walls and floors. Then pick up your favourite design and hire the best professional you know to turn it into reality. Below you can find an example of how a new slate floor and some bricks on the wall can turn your old kitchen into a completely new room.

Create a farmhouse kitchen in 3 simple steps

If you have a look at these before and after pictures your first impression will be that it is a completely different kitchen.

Before

After

But if you take a closer look you will notice that the cupboards and the kitchen appliances are the same. The significant difference comes from the slate floor and the brick wall. The kitchen tops are also replaced with lighter ones to match the entire setting of the room. So, here are the 3 steps to follow if you want to have a farmhouse kitchen of yourself:

Change the floor

Choose the most appropriate natural stone for the kitchen floor. Opt for material that can withstand the wear and tear and an occasional food or liquor spill. The floor above is covered with farmhouse riven slate tiles but another option are the gold, yellow or grey granite tiles, as they also carry the same rustic feeling. Besides slate and granite are quite easily cleaned and maintained.

Install new wall tiles

In this particular case the owner chose a brick mosaic wall to add value to the rustic look. It is indeed a good combination with the modern kitchen appliances and the slate floor. Another good suggestion is to use natural stone tiles for the wall or only for the backsplash area around your sink. You can pick some honed or tumbled travertine tiles since they will match the entire atmosphere of the kitchen.

Replace the kitchen top

Install a new countertop to finish the new look of your kitchen. You can opt for natural stone as well – granite or marble tops are quite popular and durable but you can choose a wooden worktop as well. The wood will bring warmth to the entire design of the room and also serve as a highlight in your farmhouse kitchen.

Follow these three simple steps when renovating your kitchen and it will surely become the room you have always dreamt of.

Fireplace Safety Tips You Should Know

Fireplace safety

Who doesn’t love a nice warm fireplace on a winter’s evening?  Fireplaces in the home represent warmth, family, and a feeling of coziness.

Whether it’s a gas fireplace, wood, coal or electric, there are some safety tips you should be aware of when installing and maintaining one in your home.

Gas, wood, and coal are all fossil fuel burning fireplaces, which means they can give off carbon monoxide in the home if not vented properly.  Electric on the other hand does not give off any carbon monoxide, though you still need to be careful of the electrical wiring involved and proper voltage is in place to power it.

We purchased a beautiful linear fireplace in Toronto last year for our condo and absolutely love it!  It’s an electric fireplace that matches our modern decor and provides lots of heat and ambiance for our home.

But whatever kind of fireplace you decide to purchase, just be away of some common safety tips first.

If you will be installing it in your existing chimney, be sure your flu vent is working properly and the chimney shoot is cleaned properly before use.

When using fossil fuel burning fireplaces, always be sure that the room is properly vented, even leaving a window slightly open or at least doors to other rooms open.  Not only can carbon monoxide build up in the home if not vented, but the fire could consume the oxygen in the room if it is an enclosed area.  Proper ventilation is important!

For safety, always be sure that combustibles are clear of your fireplace and that you have a proper screen or glass door in place when using it.  Kids can get burned and fire could light nearby paper, etc if you are not careful.

And never leave a fireplace lit unattended, always put it out before going to bed or leaving your home.

Hope these tips helped and did not scare you, having a fireplace in the home is a wonderful thing and can bring the family together on a cold winter’s evening.

Firpelace Safety Tips Infographic

How To Avoid Common Sports Injuries

Sports Injuries and How To Treat Them

Have you ever been injured while playing sports?

Unless you only play ping pong, or don’t try very hard, the answer is yes.

Everyone gets injured at some point playing sports.  It doesn’t matter is it’s basketball, football, swimming, or tennis, every sport has common injuries attached to them.

Any kind of repetition is going to bring some sort of strain over time, same goes with sitting in front of a computer all day.

The key is knowing what the common injuries are and preparing your body and mind so that you can lessen your likelihood of getting injured.

When I hurt my shoulder last year playing hockey, I went to Spectrum Physio, a sports injury clinic in Newmarket Ontario for help.  They explained how common certain injuries are for each sport and they usually know exactly the problem as soon as they say what sport it was.  Jason, a physio at the clinic says that not warming up, stretching and preparing before playing can often lead to injuries as your muscles work too hard too fast and it usually causes strain to the body.

One of the sports with the most injuries is football.  I used to play football and still remember feeling bruised and batters after each game, and I was only 18 at the time.  It’s very important to make sure your body is up for the sport you are playing and that you train, stretch and prepare for the sport you will be playing.

Injuries are inevitable, but you can minimize them if you plan and prep instead of just trying to jump into the action without proper prep.

Below is an infographic that shows some common injuries related to football.

Common Sports Injury Infographic

HVAC Troubleshooting Tips

HVAC Tips For Winter Home

Nothing is worse than you HVAC system crapping out on your in the middle of winter.  Actually, crappy out in the middle of summer may be worse.

Your HVAC system is something you take for granted when it is working fine, but like your car, you regret taking better care of it when it stops working for you.

One of the best ways to save money and headaches is to do routine maintenance on your system to ensure it is working properly as you head into spring and fall each year.

While some things are better left to the pros, especially when it comes to gas and electrical, there are many things the novice homeowner can do on their own to ensure a properly working system.

One of the most common and easiest fixes is being sure to replace your filter each month.  Poor air circulation leads to your system having to work overtime to compensate for poor air flow which leads to an overworked system that can eventually fail.  It is also leads to higher energy costs as your system needs to work even harder to produce the same amount of heat or cooling in the home.

Another thing is to check your HVAC ductwork.  If you have metal ductwork, having it cleaned is simple and affordable.  If you have fiberglass or fiberboard ductwork installed, they can be more difficult to clean and may need replacing if they are very old or in bad overall shape.  We had our HVAC ductwork replaced in Toronto last year by Lloyd HVAC and will be saving a few hundred dollars a year on our energy bill as well as cleaner and healthier air in our home.

And if you system is more than 10 years old, you should call an HVAC company to come out and do a full inspection as there are probably numerous things that need to be checked, repaired and possibly replaced.  A few hundred dollars can save you a few thousand later on down the line.

If you’re not that handy around the house, you’ll save a lot of money down the road if you learn some basic home maintenance.  You can learn alot from sites like HGTV or the DIY Network.

Check out the infographic below for additional things to consider when troubleshooting your HVAC system.

 

HVAC Infographic