Renovation & Design

Renovation & Design

Growing panes

Marc LaBossiere
February 29

Renovation & Design

Denture tablets a versatile cleaner

Question: I purchased an antique set of coffee cups to use at my daughter’s wedding. However, I noticed that the inside of each cup is stained. What is the easiest way to clean brown stains on the inside of a coffee cup? -Louise

Answer: Denture tablets are fantastic at cleaning coffee stained mugs. Drop one tablet into the ceramic and/or glass cups. Fill with hot water; leave overnight and wipe with a non-scratching abrasive pad.

The combination of one teaspoon of baking soda and one cup of vinegar are also effective at cleaning coffee stains.

Effervescent denture tablets are a good cleaner for fingers or fingernails yellowed by smoking. Soak fingers in a dish with one denture tablet dissolved in one cup of water.

Denture tablets are also great for cleaning combs, jewelry, white linens and removing clothing stains.


Question: Some people have complained that I have terrible foot odour. Do you have a solution for a homemade foot powder? -Corey

Answer: Begin by consulting with your physician, as you may require medical attention. For a home remedy, combine 50/50 cornstarch and baking soda and rub it onto your feet.

For a bonus, reduce foot odour by soaking your feet in warm tea. In other words, make a cup of tea to drink and another one for your feet.


Question: After a few too many, my fridge ended up with a big dent. Can the dents in my stainless-steel fridge be fixed? -Casey

Answer: There is a theory that if you heat the dents with a hair dryer or press dry ice onto the area and then blast it with cold air, the dents should release and vanish.

After researching this theory, I have found it unsuccessful. The safest and least noticeable solution is to leave the dent or dents as is or call a professional dent repair company.


Question: While away this winter, my dishwasher leaked onto our vinyl floor leaving rust stains from the screws on the subfloor. How can I remove the stains? Thanks, JB

Answer: Pour one tespoon of household ammonia and one teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide and one drop of dish soap onto the area. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for three hours. Scrub the area with a green scrubby pad (test on an inconspicuous area first).


Question: What do the words ‘al-dente" mean when cooking noodles? -Hank the Bachelor

Answer: Great question! This Italian phrase means, "to the tooth" and refers to the cooking time. In other words, the pasta should be cooked so that it remains slightly firm and chewy instead of soft.


Give garlic a chance 

— I noticed several people sending in tips, and I wanted to share my best tip. It’s an old one; twice a month, I drop a clove of garlic into my toilet bowl. I always do this at night when the toilet is less likely to be used. In the morning I flush the toilet, and the garlic actually helps keep the bowl smelling fresher. — Mike

— Wasps don’t like garlic. Spray the following mixture on your skin to deter wasps as well as mosquitoes: In a spray bottle combine one teaspoon of dish soap and one or two cups water, drop in two or three cloves of garlic. Leave overnight. Spray clothes with the repellent mixture. — Emmanuel

— To remove the peel from garlic cloves. I have the following tip – microwave a clove or two on high for about five seconds, then cut off the end and the peel will just slide off. — Jessica


Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products on an inconspicuous area first. 



Reena Nerbas 
February 29


Renovation & Design

Securing subfloor the solution to squeaky floors

Question: Our house was built in 1960. The floors have squeaked since we bought it 11 years ago. They are the original hardwood floors.

I am wondering, if we hired a professional to adjust the teleposts downstairs, could that help with the squeaking, or is it mainly the age of the floor.

Our neighbours have told us that different owners before us made structural changes in the kitchen and living room. I wonder if that could be a cause.

Thanks, Judy Tait.

Answer: Noisy, squeaking floors in older homes are typically due to movement between the wooden flooring and the subfloor, or the subfloor and the joists. Refastening the subfloor will usually eliminate the noise, which may be easily accomplished at the time of flooring replacement.

Anyone who has lived in a home built before common use of modern subfloor adhesives and flooring screws knows about the annoying noises that can occur when walking over the floor. This can happen with any type of flooring, but is more common with older hardwood floors, like yours. Because the older subfloors were nailed to the joists, often with smooth nails, loosening of the plywood or planks is inevitable. Once the boards pull slightly apart, movement occurs between the two when a load is applied. This is normally only heard when occupants walk over the problem areas.

Squeaky floors may be partially caused by settlement of the foundation and house movement, but telepost adjustments may do little to alleviate the problem. Since settlement will often cause additional stress on the floor system, bowing or twisting of wooden floor components can be the result. This will exacerbate the movement between the individual layers, which will not necessarily be corrected when the telepost’s threaded sections are turned. Because these slow modifications are only attempting to return the beams and joists to their original positions, they may do nothing to close the spaces between them and the floorboards. In fact, the gaps may even increase in size if the sheathing or flooring maintain their position once the joists are straightened.

Other contributing factors to noisy floors are dirt, sawdust, and other debris that may fill up the small gaps that form over time. Some of this may be the result of poor cleaning or lazy workmanship during original construction, if excessive debris is not cleared off the joists or subfloor before the next layer is installed. This material may not cause initial problems, but may increase the flooring movement as it becomes loose or crushed, over time. This can also happen after the fact, as junk accumulates inside the small spaces as the older nails loosen their hold. It may be possible to scrape or vacuum some of this from beneath the floor, but that should only be attempted shortly before flooring replacement, to be most effective.

Even if it does not help with noisy floors, should you be adjusting your teleposts? Despite my earlier comments about not eliminating the squeaks, straightening the floor beams and joists is a good idea, prior to flooring upgrades. This only makes sense if you have noticeable bumps in the floor above the teleposts, cracks in your walls, or interior door frames that are out of square. Those are all telltale signs that the teleposts are overdue for adjustment, normally downward. If you don’t see these issues in your home, you may not require that type of maintenance prior to fixing the noisy floor.

Once the telepost adjustments are complete, and the floor is left to adapt for several weeks afterward, replacement of the older flooring can be contemplated. This will require removal of the actual flooring, whether it is carpeting, wood, vinyl, ceramic tile, or more modern laminates. While the flooring must be pulled up to get to the next step, the subflooring may not require removal, even if there is more than one layer. Often, additional layers of plywood, particleboard, OSB, or other subfloor materials are installed prior to new flooring. This is most common with vinyl or tiles, but may also be done to lay a smoother surface for any type of new flooring. The condition of these layers will dictate your next step.

If the subfloor sheathing or wood planks are not moisture damaged or worn from mechanical damage, re-securing may be started. This may even be possible with multiple layers. The test for this is to try fastening the layers with a few hardened floor screws in the most worn areas. Making sure to pre-drill pilot holes, sinking a few screws just below the top surface of the sheathing with a screw gun or cordless drill should dictate further action. If you can sink the screw heads just below the surface of the sheathing without it crushing too badly, you may be set to proceed. If the subfloor gets damaged during this test, or the screws pull through the entire thickness of the subfloor with moderate pressure applied, then removal of that layer may be warranted. If the original nails pop up through the old floorboards after re-fastening, they should be countersunk, or removed, to prevent causing damage to the newer flooring. Ensuring that the flooring screws are long enough to properly secure the entire thickness of the older subfloor is the final piece of the puzzle, to prevent a return of the noisy squeaks after the upgrades are complete.

While telepost adjustment may help straighten your floor and prevent future movement, securing the older subfloor in your home is the only answer to fixing your squeaky floors. This will require removal and replacement of the existing flooring, but that will ensure that proper hardened wood screws can be used to prevent a reoccurrence.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and the past president of the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors — Manitoba ( Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at

February 29

Renovation & Design

Homeowner is reading the signs

Story and photos by Colleen Zacharias
February 29

Renovation & Design

Freeze those frames

Laurie Mustard
February 29

Renovation & Design

Bountiful bales

Colleen Zacharias
February 22

Renovation & Design

No breach required

Marc LaBossiere 
February 22

Renovation & Design

How to avoid freezer burn

Reena NerbasSolutions
February 22

Renovation & Design

Extreme cold likely cause of water line woes

We live in a two and a half story home in River Heights built in 1923. A few years ago we had our foundation dug up, repaired and the walls sealed down to the footing. Our foundation drainage was upgraded, the gap used for doing the repairs backfilled with gravel and then soil. Due to the dry summers, I water the soil around the foundation and the trees on our property in the fall, including last year. However, as we have had such cold winters these past few years, we have ended up with a frozen water supply line to our home, which I believe is occurring at the entry of the supply line at the footing.

Last year we again had a frozen water supply line at the entry point to our home and the most likely culprit is the soil pulling away from our foundation. This was pointed out by the city, they thought the cold air going down the foundation wall was freezing the water pipe quicker. Prior to the foundation repairs, we didn’t get a frozen water line.

So, even though precautions were taken, by watering the soil and trees in the fall, the soil still pulled back from the foundation.

What in your opinion can be done to minimize this issue in the future? Currently we are having to run our water during the cold months to prevent the line from freezing again. Thank-you for your assistance in this matter.

– Dave Mainprize

Answer: Dealing with shrinking soil around your foundation by hydrating it is the correct approach, but it may not be the only cause of your freezing water pipes. Determining that may be beyond your capacity and leaving the water dripping, or installing a heat trace cable to the pipe, may be the only solutions to prevent a reoccurrence.

Two phenomena that have been happening to homes in our area in the last few years are common, but may be unrelated. Freezing underground water pipes and shrinking soil have plagued many homes and unfortunately yours has been affected by both issues. The shrinking soil is due to recent dry summer weather the last half decade or more, which causes our expansive soil to pull away from foundation walls. This may leave a small crevice between the two, which can allow rainwater and pests to penetrate along the foundation, but rarely does it cause much other concern.

The two-prong solution to preventing or closing this gap is to water continuously along the outside of your home, and add new topsoil and seed after the gap disappears. While autumn watering is prudent before the big freeze, that is not sufficient. Regular watering from early summer until Halloween may be required if there is not sufficient rain to partially saturate the soil. The goal is to prevent the soil shrinking enough to actually pull away from the foundation in the first place, rather than trying to hydrate the dirt once it is bone dry and shrunken. My rule of thumb is to watch the grass or vegetation in this area and if it begins to wither, or lose its lush green colouring, then it is time to take out the hose. Also, most homes will require adding topsoil around the foundation every few years, due to shrinkage and erosion, especially with the recent dry weather. Since your home has newly installed drainage stone outside, ensuring you have a good depth to the soil cap on top should be a priority.

So, if you can manage to keep enough moisture in the soil in this area to prevent a gap from forming, you may be able to determine if this may be a factor, if your water line does not freeze next winter. Otherwise, piling up a bit of snow in areas where the soil has shrunk may be another item to consider. This snow should have the dual effect of helping to insulate the cold soil below while adding instant moisture to the area when it melts. Care should be taken not to pile the snow too high, and with a slope away from the foundation, to prevent excessive wetting of the concrete in the spring thaw.

Without seeing your issue first hand it is difficult for me to draw a firm conclusion, but I am sceptical that the recent foundation repairs have much to do with the frozen water pipes. The city representatives may have an interest in blaming something other than their system for the defect, especially when it is difficult to remediate. It is more likely that the extreme cold weather in recent years is the more reasonable explanation for the unusual frozen pipes. Regardless of the cause, allowing your water to slowly drip into a sink may be a waste of money and valuable water resources, but may be the simplest solution to prevent blocked water lines.

Another alternative item that may help keep the water flowing is installation of a heat-trace cable to the water supply piping entering your home. This may require chipping away a small portion of the basement floor slab around the pipe, if it is not protruding enough to wrap the heating cable around. The cable may be set for a specific temperature before it heats up, so make sure yours can be adjusted to a higher temperature, since it can only be installed inside the basement.

Keeping the soil around your foundation moist and built up to provide a slope away from the house is definitely the correct approach to preventing excessive shrinkage in dry summer weather, but it may do little to stop your water pipes from freezing. Leaving your water dripping or installing a heating cable to the pipe after it enters your home, may be the only ways to ensure you have constant water supply all winter long.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and the past president of the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors — Manitoba ( Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at

Ari MarantzAsk THe inspector
February 22

Renovation & Design

Simply the best

Colleen Zacharias
February 15

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