Your garage space can be put to many uses, from a study space or a home office, to a gym or an art studio, but as the colder weather hits, it’s not always ideal to be hanging out in an uninsulated concrete room. During these chilly months, cold air can seep into your garage from the doorway, windows, and even from exterior walls. An improperly insulated garage can even lead to damage of your storage items and heat loss from your home, resulting in rising heating costs during the winter. Luckily, there are garage renovations you can do to winterize your space for all seasons.

Seal your Windows and Garage Doors

Seal your windows and garage door to prevent air leaks

Checking for air leaks

Check if air is leaking around your garage door or any of your windows. For windows, use your hands to slowly feel around the frame for an air draft or a change in temperature. If you feel cold air, you need to add sealant. To check your garage door, shut off any lights inside. See if you can spot any light coming in around the door. If you do, there are air leaks that need to be addressed. 

Sealing air leaks

While you can always upgrade the windows in your garage to modern, energy efficient ones with storm protection, there are alternative, more affordable options to prevent freezing temperatures from getting in. To seal air leaks around your windows, place caulking around the frame. There are window caulking kits you can buy for around $15 at many major home improvement stores.  

While you have the caulking, it’s a good idea to also seal any cracks in your exterior garage walls and any openings you spot around electrical outlets that are letting in cold air. It might seem like a lot of work for little reward, but sealing in these small spaces will help combat any chances of frigid temperatures entering your space. 

Fixing leaks around your garage door is a little more complicated. Weatherstripping is material that creates a seal between your garage door and the garage door opening. Over time, as you continuously open and close your garage door, weatherstripping wears down, becoming brittle and cracked, resulting in leaks that allow cold air to make its way inside and warm air to escape. Luckily, weatherstripping is easy to replace with a toolkit that can range anywhere from $30 to $60, depending on the brand and where you buy it.

While replacing the weatherstripping will help you prevent drafts, an uninsulated garage door will still let in cold air. DIY insulation kits at home improvement stores come in a variety of materials such as fibreglass, reflective barriers, and foam boards and average around $200. If you’re not confident about insulating your garage door on your own, hiring a professional is the way to go.

Insulating Exterior Walls

Insulating exterior walls

If your garage has very little insulation within its walls, heat loss will occur even if your door and windows are insulated. This is especially true if your garage is unfinished with exposed wall framing and ceilings. For an easy fix, apply fibreglass insulation to the walls and ceiling. For an extra layer of protection, staple weather-resistant plastic over the insulation and seal everything in with drywall. This will help keep your garage’s temperature warmer all winter long. Once the insulation is up, you can look into adding drywall to make things look more finished, especially if you want the space to be more of a gathering place or work studio.

 Invest in a Garage Floor renovation this winter

Renovate your garage floor

If you’ve parked your car in your garage during the winter before, you’ve likely noticed chips, scrapes, and even pockets develop on your flooring as a result of degradation from road salt. To prevent this, apply sealant to fill in the holes and epoxy coating to your garage floor. Not only will your garage flooring look nicer, it will provide an extra layer of coverage from the cold. 

Protect your pipes

If you have water pipes running through your garage, keeping them warm is critical to prevent them from freezing and bursting, resulting in plumbing issues and potentially damaging anything you have stored in the space. Insulating your garage, replacing weatherstripping, and sealing your windows and any cracks are a start. To further ensure you don’t run into pipe issues, it’s a good idea to cover your pipes with insulation blankets. Taking these steps are also an inexpensive way to prevent damages and insurance claims.

Heating the space

If you’re taking the time to make your garage a usable space, you’ll likely need some type of heating element as well. Insulation will stop drafts from getting in, but it doesn’t change the temperature outside! Wall-mounted heaters save space and are relatively easy to install, but they can run up your electricity bill, depending on how often you use them. A portable heat pump could be a good investment as well, as they’re easy to set up and can be moved around depending on where you need the most heat. However, they do produce noise and take up precious floor space, so keep that in mind. 

One thing you’ll want to be cautious of is any heater that uses propane, kerosene, or other gases to run. Since you’re in an enclosed space, the fumes can be harmful without ventilation, not to mention they pose a fire hazard. If you’re worried about the type of heat source you’re using in your garage, your local fire department can provide guidance as to what works and what doesn’t.

 Garage Workouts

Whether you’re looking for a new space to hang out, to park your car, or even exercise, your garage will benefit from extra protection and insulation all year round.

If you’re doing major renovations or changes, such as converting your garage into a living space, a permit may be required. However, if you’re simply taking steps to winterize your garage and protect the inside from cold temperatures, a permit is not needed. The same policy is followed by home insurance companies. Major renovations need to be discussed with your insurance company as they can alter the overall rebuild value of your home. Depending on the extent of your renovations, your coverage could be voided if the insurance company is not informed. For small garage renovations you are not required to inform your home insurance representative. If you are unclear about what constitutes a small or large renovation, it’s best to review your home insurance policy for clarification. 


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No one wants to say goodbye to their cottage for the winter, but as the days get shorter, the air gets crisper and the leaves continue to blanket the ground, it’s the ideal time to do just that. While some cottages can be used year-round, many are three-season only. These are the ones that need to be prepped for the winter months so you can head back without issue once the warm weather returns!

Just like your home, your cottage requires proper care and maintenance to ensure it can be used and enjoyed for many years to come. This is why it’s well worth the time and effort to shut it down properly, so you can hopefully mitigate any issues by the time you return in the spring. 

If you’re a cottage owner, be sure to check these 10 tasks off your list as you prepare to leave your home-away-from-home for the winter months.

Winterizing Cottage Water Lines

1. Ensure your pipes are ready for the cold

To keep your pipes from freezing, and potentially bursting, be sure to turn off your main water supply and ensure your pipes are drained. Once the water supply has been turned off, simply turn on a faucet to see if water comes out—if no water flows out, you’re good to go.

To further prevent pipes from freezing and potentially bursting, turn your heat down to 10 C. This helps keep frost from building up and can help prevent issues with your pipes. If you’re not wanting to pay the energy costs in the months you’re not at the cottage, you can turn the heat off completely as long as your pipes are properly winterized. Call in a plumber to look at your pipe systems, and they’ll let you know the best way to protect them.

2. Seal up any soft furniture

Mattresses, couches, and any other soft furniture around the cottage is susceptible to rodents during the colder months. Mice love to create nests in the cushioning, so you’ll want to wrap these items in thick plastic—something they can’t chew through. You can also add some scented dryer sheets, as the strong smell can deter unwanted critters.

Protect Cottage Doors and Windows from Winter

3. Secure all windows and doors

Make sure to close and lock all your windows and doors properly.. While you’re doing this, if you notice any drafts or leaks around the w frames, be sure to caulk them. This is a cost-effective way to reduce your heating bills over winter. Also make sure all blinds or curtains are closed.

4. Clear gutters

Gutters full of leaves and debris can lead to serious problems. Clogged gutters can trap excess water when it rains or snows, causing water to back up and potentially leak through the roof. Or, when the temperature drops, the excess water can freeze and cause gutters to pull away from the house and create overhead hazards.  

Check the safety of your fireplace

5. Secure the fireplace

If your cottage has a wood burning fireplace, be sure to clean it out thoroughly at the end of the season and close the damper vent. Get rid of all the ash and check for any damages while you’re in there. Even if you clean your chimney regularly, you should still have it inspected by a qualified chimney sweep once a year. Certified chimney sweeps are trained to recognize chimney deterioration and venting problems and can assess your fireplace chimney’s condition. If you have yet to get your fireplace professionally cleaned, before you shut your cottage down for the winter is the perfect time to do so.

6. Check septic tank doesn’t require maintenance

Many cottages have a septic tank. If yours is one of them, follow the service recommendations and timelines set out by your manufacturer, which is generally to service the tank every three to five years. If it’s time for yours to be serviced, contact a professional to ensure your septic system is running properly before shutting down your cottage for the season.

Clean up the kitchen

7. Clean out the kitchen

To deter any unwanted guests, like insects and animals, from settling into your cottage while you’re away, be sure to clear out all your cupboards and remove all food, including cans and dry food. You’ll also want to defrost the freezer, clean out the fridge, and bring everything home with you. 

8. Remove all valuables and personal belongings

Make sure items such as outboard motors, fishing equipment, water skis, canoes and kayaks, chainsaws, generators, ATVs, and electronics are securely locked. It’s also good to make sure your property is free from alcohol, firearms, or weapons—better to be safe than sorry. You can add an extra layer of security by installing a motion-sensored light and camera system. Most systems can be operated through your phone or computer, meaning you can get real-time alerts if something happens on your property. 

9. Unplug all appliances as needed

While it’s important to keep some things running, such as a sump pump to prevent any flooding, help prevent electrical fires and other issues while you’re away from the cottage by unplugging larger appliances like the fridge, freezer, microwave, washing machine, and dryer.

Take pictures before you leave so you can see any damage when you get back

10. Take pictures before you leave to identify any damages when you return

Be sure to take photos of everything before you leave so you’ll have evidence to show your insurance provider should any damage happen while you’re away. This will help make for an easier process in case you have to submit a claim.

11. Outside duties

Finally, take one last look at the outside of your cottage and complete any outdoor duties. Perhaps this includes bringing your dock inside, cleaning and storing boats, dock ornaments, ladders, life jackets, ski equipment, or BBQ equipment like propane tanks.

With the unpredictability of weather events and other natural hazards, it’s best to follow the above precautions to avoid any unwanted surprises. It’s also recommended to notify your insurer when you’ll be leaving your cottage unattended. 

Your cottage is your summer sanctuary, not to mention a big investment, so make sure to take proper care of it! 


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If you’ve spent the last few years binge watching your favourite home renovation shows and looking for #DIYInspo projects all over social media, you’ve probably considered making a few tweaks around your home. 

However, when it comes to home renos, knowing when to hire a professional is essential.

recent survey conducted by Leger examined how Canadians changed their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey found of the 17% of people who had improved their homes, only one third hired professional help—the rest opting to tackle the jobs themselves.

While it may be tempting to take on home renovation and home improvement projects that don’t appear to present any risks on the surface, there are several instances when the expertise of a professional should be employed to ensure mistakes are avoided

“It’s always better to use a professional to help you steer clear of avoidable big-ticket mistakes down the road,” says Jessica Kee, REALTOR® and sales representative with Right At Home Realty in Toronto, Ontario. “Perhaps something that’s not so obvious is how it could affect a future sale. In markets where buyers can bargain, they’ll certainly notice cut corners and try to bargain the price even more.”

From electrical work and plumbing changes, to structural changes and work requiring specialized equipment, we’re going to delve into why it’s best to leave these types of projects to the professionals.

Electrical repair

Electrical work

The rise of online resources can often give you the confidence to try tasks that would otherwise be left to the professionals. However, just because you’ve seen how to do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should attempt to—and this is particularly relevant when it comes to electrical work.

It goes without saying electricity is dangerous. Regardless of whether the job is major or minor, unless you’re a trained professional, attempting to do electrical work yourself runs a much higher risk of injury, or even death, as well as significant damage to your home. While it may seem thrifty to do the work yourself, the best course of action is to reach out to a certified professional who has the skills and adheres to the latest electrical standards. This will also give you peace of mind when it comes time to sell your home, as you’ll know the work is up to par and will pass a home inspection.

A woman sitting on the floor next to the kitchen sink calling a professional plumber

Plumbing work

Major plumbing work should be done by a licensed professional who has the knowledge and experience to assess the full extent of the issues and react quickly to resolve anything unexpected in an effective and efficient manner. 

“For many homeowners, taking the DIY route is all about those quick and easy ways to save money,” says Loloa Alkasawat, architect at Retouche Inc. “Skip a permit here, skip the architect or contractor there, but the simple truth is there are costs to cutting corners and it’s going to cost you much more in the long run.” 

Hiring a reliable, licensed plumber will give a more holistic view of potential plumbing issues an untrained eye would likely overlook, not to mention the access to tools, parts, and plumbing materials the average DIYer won’t have at hand.

A man inspects insulation for a home renovationPhoto by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

Structural changes

While it might be incredibly satisfying to tear down walls and create an open-concept floor plan, you just don’t know what could be lurking behind the walls or what those walls could be supporting so, when in doubt, hire a contractor. If there’s a reno that’ll impact the structure of your home, the only option should be to hire a professional—structural changes require a permit, and for good reason. 

Though it may sound dramatic to suggest a catastrophe could take place if structural modifications aren’t carried out by a trained professional, the truth is it’s a very realistic outcome. As highlighted by Alkasawat, “when you cut out the experts, you cut out the expert work.”

A professional uses a power drill on a drywall

Anything that requires specialized equipment 

It’s not only a case of considering whether you have the required expertise, it’s whether you have the tools to effectively complete the home improvement job at hand. Many jobs require specific gear and may need specialized equipment to ensure a properly completed project.

Certain projects will also contain hazardous waste, which needs to be disposed of safely. This includes: 

  • high-intensity light bulbs (HID bulbs), which can contain mercury;
  • certain thermostats;
  • types of caulking which contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBS);
  • older windows which contain lead; and
  • many other materials or components required for certain renovations. 

The bottom line is, while many products are designed with the modern-day DIYer in mind and online tutorials make everything seem doable, there are no-go zones that should be left to the pros. When in doubt, get in touch with your REALTOR® to ask for a list of professionals they trust to help get the job done.


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Condos are often attractive to buyers, not only because they can be in a more favourable price range than single family homes, they can provide easier access to amenities and a low-maintenance lifestyle. 

However, these benefits don’t come without a cost. In addition to your mortgage, you’ll need to plan for the maintenance fees, also known as condo fees. This article will look at what condo fees are, when they can be reassessed, and what they mean for your mortgage, specifically related to an apartment-style condominium building.

Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

What are condo fees?

To put it simply, condo fees are monthly contributions made by unit owners to a condo corporation (the organization that runs the condo building). This money is then pooled together and goes toward funding maintenance and general upkeep of the building. Every condo has a condo board, made up of people from the building, who manage the property on behalf of residents and owners. They’re responsible for making decisions in the best interest of all parties. 

While every building is different, the most common costs included in the monthly fees are:

  • Utilities—A condo corporation may pay some or all of a building’s utilities. For example, it may pay for water and electricity, but not heat.
  • The reserve fund—A portion of condo fees will go toward maintaining the building’s reserve fund, which is essentially a sum of money set aside for unexpected repairs. For example, if the roof or boiler in a building needs to be replaced, the condo board can use some of this cash to pay for it. Before you buy into a building, knowing how much money is in its reserve fund can also help you understand the building’s financial health.
  • Common area maintenance—Condo fees can also go toward paying for garbage pick up, snow removal, and the upkeep of common spaces in the building or property including hallways, lobbies, elevators, and the grounds around the building or buildings.
  • Amenities—The more amenities your condo building has to offer, the higher your condo fees will usually end up being. Pools, reception services, saunas, shared rooftop patios, and parking all add to the cost of your condo fees, while admittedly offering a lot in return.

The size of the condo building can also be a factor in your overall condo fees. A building with 20 units will likely not have the same fees as a building with 200 units, as the required maintenance and utilities will be different. 

Do townhomes have condo fees?

Not all townhomes have condo fees—owning a freehold townhome is the same as owning a freehold single family home. That being said, certain townhome communities will have condo fees as well which can cover gardening, fences, garbage pickup, shared amenities, and other general maintenance fees as laid out by the condo board. When looking at homes with your REALTOR®, they’ll tell you whether or not the townhome is a condominium or freehold.

When can your condo board reassess your fees?

When you’re looking at condos for sale, it’s definitely easy to gravitate towards ones with lower condo fees. However, lower fees could come with a catch. If the fees are too low, the condo corporation may not have enough cash flow to pay for larger repairs which, in turn, may lead to a special assessment. Your REALTOR® can help provide a more clear picture of the building’s history as they know the area well. They can also recommend properties with better track records to help make you feel more comfortable with your choice.

A special assessment is a payment unit owners must make to the condo corporation, on top of their regular monthly condo fees and mortgage payment. The terms around special assessments will vary based on provincial legislation, so it’s always important to understand what your board can and cannot do. 

As an example, the Condo Authority of Ontario (CAO)—an organization that aims to improve condominium living by providing services and resources for condo owners, residents, and directors—indicates special assessments can occur for various reasons, but the most common include: 

  • Unforeseen expenses—A major expense may arise unexpectedly, such as the roof needs to be replaced. The CAO says this might happen during a critical year for the reserve fund, which is when the condominium board has depleted its reserve fund to complete major projects. As a result, the remaining balance is too low to cover the unexpected expenses and the special assessment has to be paid.
  • Under-budgeting—A special assessment can also be paid if an expense or major repair ends up costing more than expected.
  • Losing a lawsuit—Finally, the CAO says unit owners must “bear any judgment against the condominium,” which means if the condominium can’t pay the judgment from the operating fund, the board must turn to a special assessment to cover the costs.
Image via Vladyslava Andriyenko on Unsplash

Do condo fees affect your mortgage?

When you’re looking for a condo, it’s always a good idea to double check your monthly spend—mortgage payment, property tax, insurance, utilities, and condo fees—and ensure you can afford everything before applying with your lender. 

In short, Alex Obradovich, a REALTOR® and sales representative with Chestnut Park® Real Estate Limited Brokerage in Toronto, says condo fees can affect your mortgage.

“When applying for a mortgage or a pre-approval, the lender will most definitely account for condo fees when looking at how much debt they are willing to supply to a client,” he explained. “Condo fees are just one of many factors taken into consideration when determining the amount of debt a lender is willing to supply.”

Furthermore, when it comes to condo fees, Obradovich says they may also have an impact on an owner’s condo insurance.

“Not all condo fees are created equal. Each property may have different costs associated with it. Some condo fees may cover some sort of insurance and the type of home insurance policy you may want to secure may change,” he explained. “Conversely, the home insurance may or may not take into consideration what is provided by the condo or maintenance fees.”

If you’re unsure how to interpret what the condo fees represent, you can request for the condo board to share their status certificate with you. This report contains all the details about the current financial state of the condo maintenance corporation, as well as mention any details of the existing size of their reserve fund and if there are any ongoing lawsuits.

Regardless of whether you’re a first-time home buyer or not, it’s all about asking questions and keeping informed. Your REALTOR® can help navigate condo fees, status certificates, and every other aspect of your condo buying journey. 

The information above is for informational purposes only and should not be used as investment or financial advice.


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Putting in a new bathroom isn’t cheap, so you’ll want to be sure that it delivers. Although that striking freestanding tub or statement tile may make your heart beat a little faster, it’s the layout that largely determines how well the space works. Houzz Australia asked four experts to share the layout mistakes they regularly see inexperienced bathroom renovators make — and how you can steer clear of them.

We also scoured Houzz photos for designs that successfully avoided these 10 missteps to achieve bathrooms that look great and function beautifully.
The Design Gallery
1. Fixtures That Are Too Big

“Too often I see [60-inch-long] freestanding baths in rooms that are only [70 inches] in length,” says Frances Cosway, an interior designer and principal at White Pebble Interiors, and the author of Your Forever Home. “These bathtubs are simply too big for the space. I also see vanities and showers that are the wrong scale.”

Solution: “Ensure that the bath, vanity and shower are the right scale for your bathroom,” she says. If you are specifying a freestanding tub, make sure there is space around it for cleaning.

“Freestanding baths, while fashionable, are not always the best option — particularly in a small bathroom,” Cosway says. “A [60-inch] freestanding bath is very small, and if this is your only option, a larger inset bath would be a much better use of space.

“Likewise with vanities — having a super large vanity that butts right up to the shower does not look good and is awkward to clean. Instead, choose a smaller vanity and allow some space between the shower or bath,” she says.

Tip: A freestanding tub should be about 8 inches from the wall, with at least a foot of space at both ends to allow for cleaning access, Cosway says.
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Bone Made
2. Having the Door Open to a View of the Toilet

Having the bathroom door open to directly face the toilet is neither stylish nor necessary, Cosway says.

Solution: “Tuck the loo behind the door or place it to the side where it’s not in full view when you open the bathroom door. Even more important, ensure that your main bathroom has a separate toilet so people do not have to wait for the loo when someone is using the shower,” she says.

If lines are forming outside your bathroom every morning, Cosway suggests upgrading your powder room so that family members can use it to get ready. You can do this by making sure it has an adequate sink, storage cabinetry and a mirror.

Tip: When planning the position of your toilet, allow at least 8 inches on both sides for elbow room, Cosway says.

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Alison Kandler Interior Design
3. Insufficient Storage

Focusing too much on aesthetics and not enough on function often leads to insufficient storage, Cosway says.

Solution: “Eye-level storage is critical in a bathroom. Rather than having a mirror adhered to the wall, choose a mirror cabinet recessed into the wall that incorporates storage for everyday essentials, such as your toothbrush, shaver and makeup,” she says.

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Karen B Wolf Interiors, Associate ASID
Here are some of Cosway’s key measurements for medicine cabinets and vanities.
  • A medicine cabinet above a vanity should be the same width as the vanity or slightly smaller — never larger.
  • Recessing a medicine cabinet into the wall will give your bathroom a more streamlined look.
  • The right length for a vanity countertop depends on the size of the room. For a family bathroom or en suite, 36 inches is considered a standard minimum length, but 48 inches is a little more practical.
  • A double sink will need a countertop that’s at least 60 to 72 inches long.
  • The ideal depth for a vanity is 21 inches, although it will depend on the depth of your sink.
  • If you have a semirecessed sink, you may be able to make your vanity less than 21 inches deep.
  • When specifying your vanity depth, make sure you include enough room so that you can clean the sink and faucets.

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Pure Salt Interiors
4. Confining Storage to the Vanity

“Rookie renovators often don’t consider storage options beyond vanity drawers and cabinets,” says Maria Roussos, principal at interior design firm
Schemes & Spaces. “This often means the vanity ends up too clunky and dominating. As a result, the bathroom feels small and crowded.”

Solution: Roussos suggests thinking of alternative places to house bathing products, toiletries and toilet paper: “Can you work some custom [cabinetry] into the floor plan to store larger items? What about vertical wall-hung cabinets?” She points out that you also can use these to incorporate mirrors, lighting and towel bars, saving even more space in the bathroom and giving it a more purposeful feel.
Left Coast Architecture
5. Poor Lighting

Roussos says inexperienced renovators often simply resort to downlights over the vanity, shower or toilet instead of putting in a proper layered lighting design. “As a result, the bathroom is often too bright and lacks ambiance, which makes it far from a relaxing space to spend time in,” she says. “Plus, the bright overhead lighting creates shadowing when you look in the vanity mirror —dreadful when you’re putting on makeup or shaving.”

Solution: Roussos suggests planning a layered design that includes several lighting sources. “It should feature lighting for ambiance; concealed LED strips are a great option, as they don’t consume much energy and can be left on to create a low-key mood. Put them under vanities and shaving cabinets, behind mirrors and in shower niches,” she says.
Curated by Claire
“Then add in lighting for other purposes,” Roussos says. “For example, incorporate task lighting to assist with grooming or putting on makeup, such as a pair of wall lights on either side of the mirror. These will illuminate your face from the front, which is the most effective and flattering direction.”

Tip: Ask your electrician to wire lights so that they can be turned on independently. This will let you adjust the lighting levels and mood, Roussos says.

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Jennifer Wundrow Interior Design, Inc.
6. Not Creating Separate Zones

“When space is plentiful, I often see uninspiring and empty-looking bathrooms, with all the fixtures around the perimeter of the room and an empty space in the middle. Creating zones would have made these bathrooms far more functional and welcoming,” Roussos says.

Solution: Consider dividing a large bathroom into separate zones for the bath, shower, vanity and toilet. “This may be as simple as putting a stud wall into the center of the room,” she says. “Creating zones will enhance your experience of the bathroom and make it feel more luxurious.”
7. Not Considering Existing Infrastructure

“What’s behind the wall is a big deal when you’re renovating or changing a bathroom layout,” says Daniela Santilli, bathroom marketing leader for Reece, an Australian supplier of plumbing and bathroom products.

Solution: Make sure you work with your plumber to figure out if the new layout will work with current plumbing points and infrastructure,” she says. “You might need to rethink your layout if you don’t want to move these existing points. Remember, while changing plumbing points can give you the layout you really want, it can also blow out the budget.”
Portland building and remodeling
8. Measuring Incorrectly

Santilli warns that inaccurate measurements can end up being costly when you need to work multiple elements into your layout. “It’s a common mistake not to take account of the little things, such as the way a door will swing or the gap between the toilet and the vanity,” she says.

Solution: “Always measure twice before you select fittings and fixtures for your bathroom to make sure they’ll fit. Think how doors and drawers will open and how you will move through the space. Your builder, plumber or project manager should also be able to help you with this process,” Santilli says.
Lion Builder Construction Inc
9. Storage That Lacks Function

Jenefer Gordon, principal at interior design firm Eat Bathe Live, says failing to consider exactly how you use your bathroom means that the items you keep there often don’t have a proper home. “They end up being left out on the vanity, creating a cluttered look, or stored far from where you actually use them,” she says.

Solution: Consider how you use the bathroom and exactly which items need to be stored there, and then measure them and give them a dedicated spot, Gordon says. “For example, electric toothbrushes and shavers can be stored in a recessed mirrored cabinet with power inside, shallow drawers with dividers are great for makeup, and towels and standing toiletries can be placed in deep drawers,” she says.
Emily Pueringer Design Studio
10. Not Considering the Location of Accessories

Not giving enough thought to the location of accessories, such as towel bars and shower storage, will affect how the whole space functions, Gordon says. “It can mean frequently used items have to be positioned out of reach, or wall-mounted accessories end up in the way of drawers or cabinetry doors.

“You also need to plan where accessories will go, so you can install enough secure fixing points,” she says. After all, nobody wants to have a wobbly towel bar or the toilet paper holder to fall off the wall — “which is what can happen when they’ve only been screwed into a plaster sheet,” she says.
TVL Creative Ltd.
Solution: “Think how you’ll use and move through the space when planning where to position accessories on your bathroom layout,” Gordon says. Put towel bars within easy reach of the shower, bath and vanity. Put hand towel bars where they won’t prevent vanity drawers and doors from opening.

Also ensure that structural supports are in place before the walls are finished so that accessories have something to attach to, she says.
Tip: Consider a recessed tiled niche in the shower instead of a shelf affixed to the wall to give the area a more open feel, Gordon says.
Source: Houzz
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With the days lengthening and weather warming, spring is a good time to get outdoors and tackle some larger home projects. With the threat of winter storms past, you can look for damage and make any needed repairs, as well as prep your home and garden for summer. We spoke with an expert to get some tips on what to watch for this season, from proper irrigation to mosquitoes and termites (oh my!).
Mierop Design, FAPLD
Tasks to Check Off Your List in an Hour or Less

Inspect driveways and paths. Freezing and thawing are rough on concrete, asphalt and other hardscape materials. Take a walk around your property to look for damage to walkways, paths and driveways, then schedule repairs as needed. Asphalt can often be patched, but damaged concrete may need to be replaced entirely.

Keep an eye out for termites. Beginning in March and going through May or June, be on the lookout for these winged insects. “Termites swarm in the spring,” says Victor Sedinger, certified home inspector and owner of House Exam Inspection and Consulting. “If there’s a bunch of winged insects flying out of a hole in the woodwork, that’s probably termites. Call a licensed professional pest-control company. You’ll save money and trouble in the long run.”
Margie Grace - Grace Design Associates
Prevent mosquitoes. In recent years, we’ve become more aware of the potential danger mosquitos can pose to our health. “West Nile virus and Zika virus are just the latest diseases caused by these winged pests,” Sedinger says.

The best way to prevent mosquitos around your home is simply to get rid of any standing water. “Walk around your property [and peek at your neighbors’]. If you see anything or any area where water stands, fix it, tip it, get rid of it or maintain it regularly,” Sedinger says.

Find pest control specialists on Houzz
Chase & Arnold, Inc.
Tackle These To-Dos Over a Weekend

Wash windows. 
Clean the grime off glass inside and out for a lighter, brighter home indoors and increased curb appeal outdoors. Wash the exterior windows yourself by using a hose attachment, or hire a pro to get the job done.

Clean gutters and downspouts. After the last frost has passed, it’s important to have your gutters and downspouts cleaned and repaired. “Clogged gutters and downspouts can cause the wood trim at the eaves to rot, and that can invite all kinds of critters into your attic space,” Sedinger says.

Having your gutters and downspouts cleaned early in the season can also help prevent damage from spring rains. “Gutters and downspouts should be clean and running free,” Sedinger says. “If your downspouts are installed properly, water is diverted away from the house so that no water collects around your foundation.”

How to Clean Your Gutters and Downspouts
Omnia Construction
Clean your fireplace. If your home has a working wood-burning fireplace, the end of winter is a good time to give it a fresh start. Protect your hands with gloves and cover the area around the fireplace with a tarp. Carefully remove the (completely cool) remains of any charred logs and ash using fireplace tools. Then gently clean the fireplace surround. Do not attempt to clean inside the chimney — that job should be left to a professional chimney sweep.

How to Clean Your Fireplace Surround
Pacific Lawn Sprinklers
Check sprinkler and irrigation systems. Checking your sprinklers or irrigation systems in the spring can save water — and your plants. Sedinger shares these tips for checking your watering system:
  • Run the system through all the zones manually and walk the property.
  • Make sure none of the sprinkler heads are broken or damaged.
  • Adjust any heads that are spraying the house, especially windows, as this can cause moisture problems.
  • Adjust heads that are spraying the street, sidewalk or porches to avoid wasting water.
  • If you don’t know how to maintain your system, call a professional. You’ll save money on your water bill and protect one of our most valuable natural resources.
Houzz guides to saving water at home

Find a landscape contractor to help with your irrigation project
Che Bella Interiors
Check screen doors and windows. Screens are designed to let the breeze flow in and keep the bugs out, but they can only do their job if they’re free from holes and tears.

Before setting up your screens for the warm months ahead, be sure to carefully check each one and repair any holes or tears, no matter how small. You can find repair kits at most hardware and home-improvement stores.
CH Architects
Maintenance and Extras to Budget for This Season

Inspect the roof. Winter storms can take quite a toll on a roof. When spring arrives, start by making a simple visual inspection of yours. “It doesn’t require a ladder, and you certainly don’t have to get on a roof to look,” Sedinger says. “Use binoculars or a camera or smartphone with a telephoto feature if you need to.” Look for missing shingles, metal pipes that are damaged or missing or anything that simply doesn’t look right. If you notice anything that needs closer inspection or repair, call a roofer.

Paint exterior. If you’re planning to repaint your home’s exterior this year, spring is a good time to set it up. Want to paint but can’t decide on a color? Explore your town and snap pictures of house colors you like, browse photos on Houzz or work with a color consultant to get that just-right hue.

Houzz guides to exterior paint colors

How to Find and Hire a Painting Contractor
B. Jane Gardens
Reseal exterior woodwork. Wood decks, fences, railings, trellises, pergolas and other outdoor structures will last longer if they’re stained or resealed every year or two.

Take this opportunity to make any needed repairs to woodwork as well.
Colossus Mfg.
Schedule air-conditioning service. “Home inspectors see a lot of air-conditioning systems that are just not taken care of,” Sedinger says. “Just because it gets cool doesn’t mean it’s working efficiently.” To get the longest life out of your cooling system and keep it running as efficiently as possible, change the filters at least once each season, and hire a licensed professional to service the equipment before the start of summer.
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Source: Houzz
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Deciding whether or not it’s time to move—either across the country, province, or within the same city—is a difficult decision to make. Are you ready to uproot your life and leave your friends, family, and job behind? Are you ready to either sell your homeend your lease, or move out of your parents’ home for the first time? Regardless of your situation, deciding to move is a momentous life event and one that doesn’t often come easy.

If you’re unsure whether or not moving is the right call right now, read on to learn about some of the different reasons why people often choose to move to a new home.

Photo by Dillon Kydd on Unsplash

Common reasons people choose to move  

There are, of course, the obvious reasons why you might consider moving. Perhaps you’re starting a family and you need a bigger home with a fenced-in backyard where the kiddos can play. Or, maybe all of your children have moved out and you’re ready to downsize

But other common reasons could be:

  • you’re growing tired of your commute to and from work; 
  • you have safety concerns in your neighbourhood;
  • you aren’t getting along with your neighbours; or 
  • you’ve received a job offer in a new city.  

To get a better understanding of why some homeowners have recently decided to move, we spoke to James Strathy Warren, a REALTOR® and salesperson for Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd. Brokerage, who revealed some of the frequent themes he’s seen from his clients. 

Future planning

Warren says a change in interest rates can be a factor. When people find out interest rates are going up, they’ll look at moving beforehand to lock in on a competitive mortgage to save money in the long run. Not everyone moves when the interest rates change, but it’s something that can trigger people to start assessing the market and whether they’re happy where they are. 

Bang for your buck

Finding a renovated house in a “move-up” market can be a big deciding factor for many people. Warren suggests this can be less expensive than finding a home that requires a substantial renovation, which is appealing to those who don’t want to go through the process.

“There’s also the time factor of a lengthy renovation as well as the associated costs,” he explained. “So, essentially you’re buying your new home at a slight discount.”

Market trends

For those looking to move up, Warren explained sometimes in a market that tends to pull back in price increases, the spread can be less between the sale price of their existing home and the one they’re purchasing. For people scaling down, such as empty nesters, when the market is moving up, it can be a great time to sell.

“It’s always good to try and time the market, this is very important for people moving up,” said Warren.

Time of year

When moving out of a home, Warren said historically, the best months to sell for the highest sale price are usually February and May.  

“February, because January is usually hit with snow and there is so little [on the market], so appetite gets pent up,” he explained. “May, because everything is geared to the school year and people want to settle prior to summer vacation and the beginning of the school year. Sometimes we do see a good market in late September and early October when there is generally less supply.”

How can a REALTOR® help you make your decision?

Ultimately, when it comes to deciding if you should move, it’s up to you and your family to make the call. A REALTOR® can guide you through the decision process to ensure you’re making the move for all the right reasons, providing current market trends and conditions, and asking the right questions to help you feel informed in your choice.

A REALTOR® can also share properties available in your price range and desired location; answer any questions you have about different local neighbourhoods and property values; and they can help you decide whether or not it’s the right time to buy based on the market. 

Warren says being aware of the market and how homes are performing in the areas you’re considering is very important when it comes time to decide whether or not you should sell your home. 

“I think to be successful in a purchase, or when you’re selling your home, you should view houses first and get an idea of the houses available to you and watch their movement—their days on market and their sale prices. If you’re comfortable, then jump in and buy first, but make sure your home is looking its best and well-priced before putting it on the market,” said Warren. 

Working with a REALTOR® also gives you a better understanding of what’s happening in the market and if it’s the right time to make moves.

“It’s all about ‘reading the market’ and hopefully connecting the pieces of the puzzle,” added Warren.

While the prospect of moving might be daunting, there are different factors and indicators to help make your decision. If you’re thinking about embarking on a home buying journey, be sure to speak with a REALTOR® today.

The article above is for information purposes and is not legal or financial advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

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Well, it’s finally time. That dingy, worn-out carpet—the one that prompts cringy expectations of runs and pulls every time you get out the vacuum—has got to go. If you’re lucky, and your home was built before the 1980s, there’s potentially gorgeous hardwood flooring hiding under it. Even if you plan to replace the carpet or install a floating laminate floor, read on as a DIY carpet removal is fairly easy and can save you money if you plan to go with a new floor install.

Image via Curtis Adams, Pexels

Buried treasure?

The older your home is, the more likely the possibility of hidden hardwood under the carpeting. Due to how expensive repairing, restoring, or removing hardwood floors can be, previous homeowners may have opted to install carpeting—or even a floating laminate floor—over top.

Checking for hardwood floors

There are a few ways to check under carpet without causing undue distress or damage to the carpet installation in case you’re not quite ready to make the change.

Since the carpet is stretched across the room and held in place at the borders using tack strips (thin strips of wood with tacks sticking up from the underside, nailed to the floor), check in spots where the carpet is not tacked down. 

Two ideal places for this investigation are:

  • Around floor vents —This is the simplest place to check because you can lift the vent cover and likely see the flooring and subfloor layers, then all you need to do is pull up or peel back the carpet and padding to see what’s underneath;
  • In doorways — You can check here by carefully removing the transition strip from the floor to peel back the carpet and carpet padding to get a look at the flooring material underneath.
Image via jan_photo, Pixabay

Is the hardwood salvageable?

Discovering a hidden hardwood gem under your carpet is one thing, but the thousand dollar question is whether or not it’s suitable for restoration. Even if the hardwood looks decent where you initially check, this may not be the case for portions where excessive wear, chips, splits, or deep stains are present. Stains are an inevitable discovery after removing all the carpet since it’s difficult to prevent liquids from seeping through carpet and padding to the underfloor.

Preparing to rip up the carpet

Before you begin ripping, you’ll need to equip yourself. Make sure you have the following on hand:

  • safety goggles;
  • dust mask;
  • work gloves;
  • knee pads or a kneeling pad
  • floor scraper;
  • utility knife;
  • claw hammer or pry bar; 
  • broom and dust pan, or vacuum; and
  • twine.

Once your gear is assembled, you’re ready to roll—pun intended!

1. Relocate your furniture

You’ll want to remove all furniture from the room to make this job easier. If storage is an issue, consider temporary options like a storage container or a self-storage facility.

2. Detach the baseboards

Before removing the baseboards, you may need to run a utility knife along the top edge if the seam has been painted. If you plan to reuse your baseboards, delicately pry the boards free of the drywall from behind (not from above!) using your claw hammer or pry bar. Label the boards and mark their locations so you can replace them when finished.

Image via, Giphy

3. Rip and roll

It’s time to don your mask, goggles, gloves, and knee pads to get ripping! Pull the carpet up from the tack strips around the perimeter of the room. Depending on the size of the room, you might want to cut the carpet into strips before rolling it for ease of removal. Be sure to lift the material as you cut to avoid marking the floor underneath. Do this for both the carpet and the padding, then secure the rolls using twine.

Be prepared for some dust and dirt, and in rare cases, mould or rodent feces. In the case of mould or feces, stop immediately and call a professional for remediation.

4. Remove staples and tack strips

After you remove the carpet and padding, the floor will look like a wasteland of staples, bordered by some gnarly-looking tack strips. Use the floor scraper to loosen any staples, and the claw hammer or pry bar to carefully lift and remove the tack strips.

Pro Tip: If you encounter stubborn staples, a blade (slot) screwdriver makes for easy removal.

Image via La Miko, Pexels

5. Cleanup

Once all the staples have been lifted and the tack strips removed for disposal, give your floor a good pass with a broom or shop vac to collect any loose debris, staples, and dirt.

Now your floor should be clear and ready for the next steps, whether that’s renewing your newly reclaimed hardwood floor, or installing new flooring or carpet. Stay tuned for part two, as we’ll get into what’s involved with restoring hardwood floors.


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If you live in an older home—or even some modern builds—there’s a good chance popcorn ceilings are commanding the overhead views. If you’re getting tired of this feature and plan to remove it, then you’ve come to the right place. Let’s find out what you need to know about removing popcorn ceilings from your home.

Image via Denis Agati, Unsplash

What is a popcorn ceiling?

Popcorn ceilings—also known as stucco, stipple or Artex—are marked by their bumpy texture, though they can be characterized by swirling designs, or peaks that look like the top of a meringue pie. The plaster-based material was originally called Artex, after the UK-based company that developed the textured finishing technique as a way to hide imperfections and seams in ceilings. The application also provided a minor sound-dampening effect.

Image via StockSnap, Pixabay

From 1945 until the 1980s, popcorn ceilings were a popular feature in the construction of most North American homes. Popularity peaked in the 1970s with a varying range of designs and textures gracing ceilings across the continent.

Asbestos fibers were originally incorporated into the plaster for added strength, while also acting as a fire retardant. Due to the severe health effects of air-born asbestos and the associated risks involved with building or renovating when it is present, it was eventually removed from production in the 1980s.

Testing for asbestos

Before attempting any kind of removal, make sure the material used for your popcorn ceiling is asbestos-free, especially if your home was built before 1986. While DIY asbestos test kits are available, they can sometimes be inaccurate. Although hiring a professional may cost more, it’s worth the extra peace of mind when this carcinogenic material is involved.

In the event asbestos is present, you’ll need to make a judgment call on moving forward with smoothing out your ceilings. It’s recommended to use an asbestos abatement professional to execute a safe removal. This may not be the ideal outcome for die-hard DIYers, but your household’s long-term health and safety–not to mention you and your family’s health and safety–always comes first.

Tools and supplies

You’ll want to pick up a few things at your local hardware store and be prepared for a messy undertaking. Here’s what you need:

  • dust mask or respirator;
  • safety goggles;
  • plastic sheeting (to cover furniture, floors, and walls);
  • painter’s masking tape;
  • popcorn ceiling scraper or floor scraper;
  • a wide, flexible putty/plaster knife;
  • spray bottle (a pump pressure sprayer is ideal);
  • garbage bags;
  • mud pan (to catch the wet plaster);
  • drywall sander;
  • drywall tape; and
  • a joint compound.

1. Test a small area first

Once you’re ready to dive into smoothing out your popcorn ceilings, start by testing out a small section. Mist a small inconspicuous area with water, allow the moisture to absorb for about 15 minutes, then use a flexible putty knife at a low angle to scrape the texture free. 

Pro tip: closets make the perfect test subjects as they will often have the same ceiling texture as the room they are in.

If the stipple comes off easily, then you’re looking at smooth sailing with this project. However, if you encounter a lot of resistance, or the water does not soak into the texture at all, this means it’s either been painted over or paint was mixed in with the material when it was applied—a serious wrench-in-gears situation.

What if there’s paint or asbestos?

If paint was mixed into the popcorn ceiling texture, if it’s been painted over, or if there’s asbestos present, it may just be simpler to cover over the ceiling with fresh drywall panels. This achieves your goal without disturbing any asbestos, dealing with the high costs of abatement, or heavily involved removal in the event of paint.

2. Cover everything

To save yourself a clean-up nightmare, remove large furniture pieces and cover the floor with plastic sheeting. Use painter’s tape and sheeting to line the walls, then cover all electrical outlets and light fixtures (remove any lights or chandeliers first).

Safety tip: Because you’re spraying water near electrical outlets and fixtures, it’s recommended to turn off the breakers for the room.

3. Spray, wait, scrape, repeat

Working in sections, use your spray bottle to moisten the stipple. As with your earlier test, wait 15 minutes and then use your scraper to remove the texture while holding the mud pan underneath to catch it. Repeat the process and as you near the edges and corners, switch to the smaller putty knife to avoid damaging your walls.

Pro tip: If you use a popcorn ceiling scraper, you can attach a bag to it to catch the material, negating the need for a mud pan.

Image via Ksenia Chernaya, Pexels

4. Sanding

Some rough patches or gouges are inevitable, and you can repair these easily with a drywall sander. If you wish to avoid excessive dust, aim for a sander that attaches to a vacuum or has a built-in vacuum assembly. Don’t forget to wear a dust mask or respirator!

Image via La Miko, Pexels

5. Touch-ups

If the underlying drywall tape gets damaged or if the seams become visible in the drywall, apply fresh drywall tape to affected areas and apply joint compound with your putty knife. If necessary, sand the areas smooth again.

Image via StuBaileyPhoto, Pixabay

At this point you’re ready to paint, clean up, replace the furniture and fixtures, and enjoy the smooth fruits of your labour. If you don’t mind getting a little dirty and incorporating some elbow grease into your efforts, this is a great project to handle on your own. Just don’t hesitate to reach out to the professionals if needed, because safety always comes first.

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It’s happening! The seasonal section at most stores is swimming in holiday décor, and your holiday plans are probably coming together nicely. Over the past 20 months, we’ve all had to get pretty creative at celebrating with loved ones far and near while still staying safe and respectful of everyone’s comfort. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we can connect with each other in all sorts of ways, and maybe even open our eyes to new traditions we’d like to maintain in the years to come. 

For some of us it’s been a long while since we’ve been able to enjoy the bustling holiday celebrations we remember. However, the eagerness we’re feeling to get back to our traditions might be matched with a level of anxiety about doing so safely. Remember, if you’re going to be gathering, follow all public health guidelines to ensure you’re doing as much as you can to keep everyone safe. 

Here’s some inspiration on how to gather for this year’s holiday season, with tips on keeping all your merrymaking safe, sound, and fun!

Enjoy the fresh air 

Especially if you’re in areas that don’t see extreme cold during the winter months, an outdoor gathering could be the perfect choice for your holiday celebrations this year. Let your guests know to dress warmly, then set up some heaters or a firepit (be sure to check with bylaw to know what’s allowed in your area). With a few blankets, some chairs, a slow cooker of warm drinks, and some great food, you can create a winter wonderland in your backyard where people can feel more comfortable about gathering again. Consider renting a tent where the food and drinks can sit covered, or even use your garage. You can also find fun winter games for all ages to keep people moving—and warm!

Throw a mixed-attendance mixer 

For events with both virtual and in-real-life guests, your goal should be to make sure everyone feels heard and seen, especially the people joining from afar. Lots of fun and user-friendly online games have gained popularity in the last couple of years and can make a great addition to your party. Bear in mind when setting up for a game to keep the game’s audio and the sound coming from your guests separate, so nobody’s fighting to be heard. If possible, have more than one camera set up so virtual guests can still see people’s faces up close. You can also set up your own game, like family-specific trivia for example, as a fun way for everyone to contribute and feel a part of the celebration.

Do some good in the neighbourhood 

Let your neighbours know you and your party will be coming around to collect non-perishables or warm clothing for charity. Then, gather your party, bundle up, and grab something to carry your goods. If you want to sing carols, great! If none of your party can carry a tune, maybe your neighbours will give generously to get you to stop singing. Either way, it’s a feel-good way to celebrate outdoors. Plus, you come out of it with donations to give to those in need. Win-win!

Bring in an expert, virtually

It may feel a little counterintuitive, but having a little structure to your virtual social event can help it flow, avoid awkward pauses, or accidental interrupting. Having your family prepare funny slideshows to catch each other up on their lives is a surprisingly fun option, with a little creativity on the topics (e.g. “top 10 jokes Dad told this year” or “My kids’ year in homeschool outfits”). Another great option is to enlist the help of a local baker, chef, mixologist, or other type of maker to lead you and your guests through a virtual class. Besides being a cool way to feel connected in doing something hands-on, this is also an opportunity to support a local business around the holidays!

Stagger attendance

If you’re looking to host a lot of people, like with a festive open house, you may not be able to accommodate everyone all at once. However, you can stagger your invitations so there’s a constant stream of people coming in and out without too much overlap. Set up chunks of time for people to stop in, and be sure you set aside food for each time frame! You might also find people are more willing to stop in for a bit rather than committing to a full event. 

Wherever and however you choose to celebrate this holiday, there’s no shortage of options to keep everyone feeling connected. With a little creativity, the parameters we have to contend with can be an opportunity to explore traditions you’ll grow to cherish. Happy holidaying!


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