Renovation & Design

Renovation & Design

Up on the roof

Colleen Zacharias
August 8

Renovation & Design

Fix small gaps in counters and cabinets with silicone sealant

Question: Our kitchen peninsula tile countertop has been pulling away from an exterior wall progressively for the 20 years since we’ve owned the home. I need to find out why.

We have a two-story home built in 1989. It’s on a slab. We have re-caulked the gap several times over the years. The countertop has an overhang of 13-inches and the gap widens to 1/4-inch as it gets to the edge of the overhang. The cabinets below are not pulling away from the wall. The movement may have slowed down a bit, but there is still a small crack in the caulking, which was replaced three years ago.

I want to update the countertop but need to resolve the problem first.

Thank you, Mrs. John Prohs.


Answer: Movement in certain building materials or fixtures is quite normal and may be due to several factors. The key to preventing a larger issue is keeping up with normal maintenance or small repairs.

It is quite often that I see evidence of cabinets or countertops that are no longer in the exact position as originally installed. There may be one or more causes of this relocation and we will discuss these and possible solutions. But the overriding solution to this issue is keeping up with regular maintenance, or small adjustments, which may completely or partially negate any further problems.

In newer homes I often see a small gap at the backsplash of the kitchen countertop. This may be in any location and I always recommend installation or replacement of the silicone caulking to cover the space to prevent moisture intrusion from the faucet. The counter may never have been caulked, which is often the case with tile counters and backsplashes, which only have grout filling the space along the wall. Tile contractors often leave out the flexible caulking to allow the grout to set, which can lead to small cracks or shrinkage. After several months, this inside corner should be covered with a good bead of colour coordinated silicone caulking. This very flexible sealant should bridge any small gaps, while maintaining its elasticity for several years.

Since your gap is likely larger than what is typically filled with normal caulking, additional steps may be required before completing that task. The first thing to try and ascertain is whether the variable movement is due to the cabinets moving or some other components in the area. Since you have stated that the cabinets have not pulled away from the wall, this may be the first area to verify. Looking under the counter, after removing stored items, should alert you to any imperfections. Since most modern cabinets are modular, they are typically secured to the wall behind with wood screws fastened through a nailing strip at the back, just under the counter. If the fasteners have become loose, or the nailing strip damaged or relocated, then re-securing the cabinets to the wall may solve future movement issues. Contrary to your thinking, this may not be visible as cabinet movement from the outside and may only be properly identified by looking underneath and re-securing the screws with a cordless drill.

Because kitchen cabinets are comprised of wood-based products there is always the possibility of shrinkage or warping of the cabinet components. Since the doors are secured to the sides or gables of the cabinets, and shelving inside is also supported on these components, there is the possibility of movement. It may be as simple as overloading the shelving or drawers, which may move slightly when the heavy contents are moved. Again, this may be cured by re-fastening the cabinets to the walls or adding additional supports.

One area that is often overlooked in thinking about cabinet movement is the floor below the cabinets. Since they are normally well secured to the studs in the wall behind, the surface that they sit on top of may be neglected. To prevent bowing, twisting, or sagging of the cabinets, the bottoms should be properly supported on the floor below, as well. This is typically done by driving small wooden shims underneath the cabinet sides at the same time as the backs are secured to the wall. These shims can slip or move over time and may no longer be properly supporting the base cabinets. This can also be caused by seasonal movement in the footings below the teleposts, which support the beams, which support the floor joists, which support the floor sheathing that that the cabinets sit upon. In new homes this may also be due to shrinkage of the joists or beams, which is normally only seen in the first few years.

The way to diagnose these later issues is to inspect the entire cabinet system with a good level and tape measure. Check to see if the individual cabinets are still plumb and level and from corner to corner with the tape to ensure they are square. If either of these parameters are substantially off, further repairs are required. These may include driving additional shims under the cabinets at various points. In more extreme cases, fasteners holding the individual modules together may have to be removed and reinstalled once the units are plumb and square. These final repairs can certainly wait until it is time to install the new counter, which should be more easily accomplished immediately after removing the old tile top.

Periodically installing new silicone sealant to fill the small gap between your kitchen countertop and wall may be enough to minimize problems due to typical seasonal movement. If more movement is seen, further securing or repairs to the cabinets may be required before installing a new top.

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 
August 8


Renovation & Design

Moving day coming for angry wasp nest

August 8

Renovation & Design

Everything is better when you add a little butter

Question: Many of my recipes call for unsalted butter, but often when I am at the grocery store I notice only salted butter is available in no-name brands and therefore less expensive. What is the difference between using salted and unsalted butter in cookie recipes? Brittney

Answer: Most people would not recognize the difference between cookies baked with salted or unsalted butter. Salt is added to butter to extend its shelf life and therefore stores tend to carry a larger variety of salted butter. If you decide to use salted butter when baking cookies, simply skip the salt called for in the recipe. Unsalted butter is typically listed in cookie recipes so that the baker can control the amount of salt going into the cookie.

If you ever notice that your home baked cookies (baked with butter) flatten and spread way too much while baking, consider using half butter and half margarine in the recipe instead of all butter, this will give you a really nice texture and cut down on some of the cholesterol. Experiment to find the best non-hydrogenated margarine for your recipes.

Question: Three pack Romaine lettuce keeps well in the original package in the crisper, but after it is washed and kept in a container in the refrigerator, the ribs and some of the leaves turn brown. What is the reason for this? Sergio

Answer: Browning lettuce edges is caused by enzymes and polyphenols, and when they combine, they oxidize, which turns many fruits and veggies brown. When lettuce is cut or torn the cell walls are damaged and the edges quickly turn brown. To sustain the life of your lettuce once you have purchased it remove leaves from the core, wash and spin. Wrap leaves in paper towels and tuck them inside of a sealable plastic bag. Romaine lettuce turns brown faster than iceberg lettuce.

Question: The sliding doors in my closets glide smoothly until just before they are completely closed. Is there anything we can use so they will close without sticking? Thanking you in advance, David

Answer: A closet door that won’t properly close is often the result of a misaligned door track. Using a screwdriver, tighten the door tracks. If the door still sticks, replace worn roller wheels. If necessary adjust the height of the door using the screws or plane the door. Lastly, replace the guides and the door should easily close.

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 is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups, check out her website at:

August 8

Renovation & Design

Building better echinacea

Colleen Zacharias 
August 1

Renovation & Design

Sodium reduced gravy will still float your boat

Question: I bought a package of gravy mix but found it salty, is there anything I can do so it's not as salty? Ashir

Answer: Next time you purchase store bought gravy, look for sodium reduced packages. If the gravy is already cooking in the pot, add a potato to the gravy to absorb some of the saltiness. Another option is to add milk, sodium reduced broth or water to dilute the flavour. If this is the case combine flour or cornstarch with the liquid while it is still cold before adding it to the gravy, so that the gravy thickens.

Question: I have a tricky, sticky situation and as I read your column regularly, I thought you might be able to help. I had a tenant in my suite for the past year and he has now passed on. My problem is that he left the sink in such a state that I had to replace it. It was completely coated in tar, as are the pipes below. I have replaced the sink, but the pipes still reek of tar and I cannot have anyone back in the suite until I get rid of the smell. Have you any ideas of how I might clean the residual tar out of the pipes and get rid of the smell of tobacco? Thanking you in advance, Tammy

Answer: Begin with this easy method of cleaning the drain: Pour one-cup vinegar into the drain, chase with one-cup baking soda. Plug the drain and fill the sink with hot water (do not leave water in sink if small children are in the home). Leave overnight and in the morning, drain and pour hot water down the sinkhole. If the odor remains; clean the drain with a commercial product such as Drano, use according to the directions. If you still notice an odor; turn off the water and place a pail under the U-shaped pipe under the sink. Remove the pipe from the drain. Using a baby bottle brush, thoroughly scrub with vinegar, dish soap and water. Replace the pipe and turn the water back on.

Question: Often a recipe calls for a half teaspoon of lemon zest. The rest of the lemon goes into the garbage. If I was to zest the whole lemon and juice, can lemon zest and lemon juice be frozen? What is the best way to do that? Katharina

Answer: You never need to throw fresh lemon into the garbage. Either grate the entire lemon rind (excluding the stem) and place the zest into a sealable container and freeze (the juice also freezes well). Or zest as much as you require and put the remainder of the whole washed lemon into a sealable freezer bag or container. Close the seal and place the container with the lemon, inside the freezer. Whenever you require zest, take the lemon out and use your grater to zest as much as you need of the frozen lemon. Place the remainder back inside the container/bag and into the freezer for next time.


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
August 1

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