Renovation & Design


Renovation & Design

Pet-friendly designs to make your house a home

Animal lovers know your pet is truly your family.

One way to integrate the furry companion into your life is to make your home seamlessly incorporate their needs.

From easy-to-clean sofas to wash stations, the steps you take to create your perfect oasis will also help make your house a home for your pet.

"Just as great design seamlessly melds fashion and function, the best pet-friendly kitchens create stylish, integrated spaces that allow your pets to be part of the family, without adding clutter or creating safety hazards for paws and tails," HouseBeautiful noted.

Of course, you’ll want to take flooring into account, especially if you have a puppy or kitten. Flooring Inc. counts cork, bamboo, laminate, tile and vinyl among the best flooring for pets. These surfaces provide easy cleanup and are mostly scratch-resistant, or they hide nail marks more easily.

But your four-legged friend likely won’t always be on the floor. For those ever-special cuddle sessions, you’ll likely want them to snuggle up next to you on the couch.

In that case, Apartment Therapy advises you skip the velvet, chenille or silk. Instead, stick to fabrics with a tight weave.

"In terms of other fabrics, you can’t go wrong with microfibre or canvas. These materials are made to withstand all sorts of use, and are typically easy to clean and take care of," the website said.

All those belly rubs are bound to work up an appetite, however. When that happens, you’ll want your pet to have a place where they can eat comfortably while not taking away from the esthetics of your home. Feeding stations such as a build-out in the hallway or a buffet-style feeding station tucked into the kitchen island, as shown on Houzz, make for functional designs.

And how about bath time?

One of the most challenging moments for pet owners comes when you have to give them a good cleaning after a romp in the park.

Wash stations in the mudroom or laundry area can provide an easy spot for pet owners to freshen up their furry friends.

"A deep tub that is easy for your pet to access will allow you to keep your dog clean, no matter what it discovers in the backyard. You can even create a built-in crate in this room for your dog, giving it a safe and comfortable space to dry after a nice bath," South Carolina-based Donald A. Gardner Architects said on its blog.


Kiersten Willis
June 5

Renovation & Design

Repairing storm windows a sensible option

Question: My husband and I live in a character home built around 1930. Most of our single-pane, downstairs windows are made of leaded glass.

In the 30+ years we have lived in our home we have never removed our original storm windows, except for regular cleaning and painting. Some windows have had aluminium storms, with screens, installed to replace the older wood ones.

Although the storm windows have done a good job of protecting the leaded glass inside, my husband and I are contemplating replacing these storm windows with something sleeker, less bulky, and with UV protection.

We are looking for window options that look good but we are, first and foremost, concerned about preserving and protecting our leaded glass windows.

What do we need to be thinking about before replacing the storm windows that are currently in place? Is there a product on the market that might suit the job we want done? If so, what are the issues to be considered prior to making this change?

Thank you for your attention to this request. -Irene B.

Answer: Upgrading older windows without removing the inside sashes poses some serious challenges. Leaving the original storms in place, with some repairs and painting, may be the most sensible thing if you want to preserve the inside leaded glass sashes.

Most homeowners have long ago removed and discarded their older wood storm windows and summer screens. When older homes were built, prior to the sixties, the original vertical sliding wood windows were the norm. These had interior sashes with single-pane glass, with the bottom unit typically sliding inside the upper one to allow for ventilation. Once lifted up, the two sashes almost lined up with a large airspace below. The outside portion of the window had a wooden-framed screen, which was removable. In the heating season, this screen was typically removed and replaced with a fixed single-pane sash, known as a storm window.

The purpose of the storm window was to increase the thermal resistance of the entire window by adding an extra pane of glass between the exterior and interior of the home. This definitely helps keep the cold winter wind from blowing through the window, but only to a limited degree. Because there was usually no weatherstripping installed, either on the inside sashes or the storm window, cold air could still penetrate the living space inside the poorly sealed widow. To improve upon this, and prevent the necessity of changing the outside window components twice a year, aluminum storm windows were developed.

The aluminium storm was installed to replace both the wood storm and screen. Because these permanently secured add-ons had thin, metal frames around the glass, they could easily fit both components in one unit. The inside wooden sash would have to be in the open position to access the bottom sash of the storm window, to raise it up for ventilation. The fixed screen was on the outside of the glazing and was often removable for cleaning. The major benefit of this new storm unit was the lack of storage required for the off-season component of the old window and the need to switch them spring and fall. The downside of the aluminium storm is that the metal conducts heat much better than wood, so these did not do much for warming up the window units. They did, however, often have a better seal than the old wood storm as weatherstripping was often integral in the design.

To replace either of these storm windows in your current home, in an effort to preserve the inside leaded-glass sashes, may be difficult. Any new window installed will have a dual- or triple-paned sealed unit, making it much more airtight and warmer. Unfortunately, it will also have to be fixed in place, like most of your leaded units, making the space in between it and the old sashes inaccessible. This may lead to condensation, from warm house air leaking through the leaded glass portions.

While this may be no different than with the current storms, they can easily be removed to clear any moisture, dirt, and cobwebs that may accumulate in this area. With a new window, that will not be possible. The only end-around for this situation would be to get new wooden storm windows made with dual-paned sealed units and a proper weather strip. That would be very costly and would only be feasible if the original storm windows are deteriorated.

If the original storm windows, and the corresponding screen units, are not in too bad condition it may make more sense to keep them despite the added work of yearly removal and replacement.

As long as the wood is not rotting or coming apart, and the glass and glazing material is in good condition, keeping them may be the most practical solution to having your precious leaded windows intact. If the paint, wood, or glazing is deteriorated then immediate repairs before this coming winter are warranted. Installation of modern weather strips on the inside of the window frame that the storm window stops up against, will be an inexpensive method to minimize drafts.

While it may make it somewhat warmer and less drafty to replace your current storm windows with modern, fixed, sealed units, getting access to the space between the two will be a major challenge. It makes more sense to put a smaller amount of money and labour into repairs and maintenance of the old storms, and maintain the status quo, if you are determined to keep the aesthetics of the original leaded glass windows.


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 Marantz
June 5

Renovation & Design

Kill moss dead with vinegar, soap and salt

Question: Can you please give me a few tips on the best way to clean the moss from between the pavers in our driveway? Is there a solution I can use? -Sammie

Answer: My favourite solution is to make your own weed killer by combining four cups pickling vinegar, half cup salt and two tablespoons dish soap. Spray on unwanted plants in driveway cracks. Be careful not to spray adjacent plants.

Leftover boiled potato water also makes an excellent weed killer for patios, driveways, and paths.


Question: What is the best way to clean and disinfect a cotton facemask? Thank you, Bernie

Answer: To properly disinfect a fabric facemask, begin by washing your hands. Put the mask into the washing machine and wash hands immediately.

Use the hottest water possible and dry using the highest heat possible, or air dry the mask.

To disinfect your mask, soak it in a bleach solution containing four teaspoons of household bleach per each quart of water for five minutes. If this could discolour the mask, opt for fabric-safe bleach.


Question: I have taken on the daunting task of removing carpeting from my basement floor. The carpet came up like a dream, but the foam underneath is stuck to the concrete.

I have been on my knees for two days with a putty knife trying to get this stuff off. Do you have any tips to make this mind numbingly frustrating task easier? -Emerald

Answer: Pour hot water onto the foam. Let the water soak for 10 minutes. Scrape with a long-handled ice scraper and remove all the foam.

The job will be so simple that you will be smiling all the way to the kitchen as you make your "pat on the back 10-layer chocolate cake," because that’s what everyone does when they are proud of themselves, right?


Question: I am very fed up with my dishwasher. After running a cycle, the bottom and insides of the cups are caked with baked-on food. The cutlery ends up with food hardened onto each piece.

The dishwasher was expensive, and it is only two years old. What can I do to fix this problem? -Albert

Answer: New dishwashers are made to be water efficient and use less energy, but because of this, some dishwashers don’t clean as well as they once did.

Appliances use less water and basins tends to clog up, requiring regular cleaning, because the debris in the bottom of the dishwasher prevents the water from circulating properly.

Either hire a handy person or take the dishwasher apart on your own. Begin by unsnapping and removing dishwasher racks. Remove the top sprayer arm by. Remove the lower spray arm, this is a little trickier because you will need to unscrew all the screws and some of them might be hidden.

After the dishwasher basin is disassembled, you will see all kinds of debris such as: toothpicks, chicken bones, pieces of garlic etc. Clean and reassemble the dishwasher.

Hopefully with regular maintenance, your dishwasher will run well from now on.


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.

Have a great suggestion or tip? Please send an email at: Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website:


Reena Nerbas
June 5

Renovation & Design

Got buttermilk? It's the secret to making delicious corn bread

Question: I made cornbread and it was very crumbly. What did I do wrong? I used one egg; should I use two next time? Carolyn

Answer: Here are a few hints for making delicious cornbread: the first is to use buttermilk instead of milk or water. While you do not want to add excess moisture, the following are a few options to try: Add half a cup of sour cream to your recipe. The extra egg is a good idea, and some people like to add a can of cream corn to the recipe to add moisture.

Question: I am packing a picnic and would like to keep the food hot as long as possible. What is the best way to package the food? Jeff

Answer: Using an insulated bag or cooler is the first step in keeping food hot. Wrap the containers tightly in foil, newspapers and towels. Include one or several hot water bottles. Pack food into an insulated container, if possible. If you need to transfer the food to a container, other than the pot or pan you cooked the food in, heat the casserole dish in the oven first. Some people use thermal bags, or buckwheat bags, heated in the microwave, to insulate the cooler.

Question: What is the easiest way to remove ticks from skin? Karina

Answer: To remove ticks, apply a glob of liquid hand soap to a cotton ball. Cover the tick for 20 seconds; apparently the tick sticks to the cotton ball. If, however, you do have to remove the tick, turn it counterclockwise.

Tick Trivia: Tick season is here, and those hardy critters can live as long as 200 days without consuming food or water. Tuck those pants into your socks and stay covered as much as possible. Some stores carry tick-repellent clothing, I haven’t put them to the test, but it’s tempting.

Question: My children love to eat chicken wings. I make them by battering them with flour and spices, but when I deep-fry the wings, the coating falls off, making a big mess of skinless chicken wings. What am I doing wrong? Thanks, Jennifer

Answer: After rolling chicken wings in batter, cover the bowl of wings with plastic wrap and place the bowl in the fridge for about 90 minutes. As the flour adheres to the meat, the wings become sticky and the batter holds to the meat during frying. Also, make sure the oil is very hot before dropping meat into the pot. To test proper deep-frying temperature, drop a bite-sized piece of bread into the oil. If the oil bubbles around the bread and turns light brown within 60 seconds, the oil is ready to use. Or put the handle end of a wooden spoon into the oil, when bubbles form along the handle a little, the oil is ready. Or drop a popcorn kernel into the oil, the kernel pops when oil reaches approximately 350 F, which is perfect for deep frying.

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.

Have a great suggestion or tip? Please send an email at: Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website:

Reena Nerbas
May 29

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