Renovation & Design



Renovation & Design

Entomological excitement

Colleen Zacharias
December 29

Renovation & Design

Flying into the new year with giveaway

’Twas a couple of nights before New Year’s, and all through the house, there was no room for anything, not even a mouse.

Let’s talk about clutter, shall we? And downsizing. And, as we head into 2019, working on the ability to let go of the unused stuff we stack around us.

As you probably know by now, I love preserving the past. It’s our heritage. So I rescue stuff, save stuff, give it a safe place to be until I find someone else who appreciates these artifacts as I do, and is willing to give it a home worthy of its true value.

I’m not necessarily talking cash value here, sometimes just respect, as opposed to the cold heartless disregard of those who would send such treasures to the dump.

A pox on them.

The other end of the "disrespect for our heritage" scale rests solidly on the hoarders out there. There is a huge difference between those who hoard and those who collect and may have a house and three sheds full of stuff, but it’s organized, protected, preserved and you know where everything is. You have no problem selling it, or letting it go to someone who appreciates it and values it as much as you do if not more.

Now, before I tell you how you can "win" what I’m giving away, which is a Thimble Drome P-40 Flying Tiger model airplane (check its value range on eBay), I want to make a very important point about "stuff."

The comfort level for the number of belongings you want around you in your home goes from minimalist to maximalist.

Both are right, neither is wrong. It’s all about individuality.

I like having lots of interesting stuff around, both old, new, and everything in between, because I get enjoyment out of looking at and messing with lots of different interesting things. It’s candy to my brain. Not junk, not clutter, not mess, just cool stuff that triggers creative thoughts. I have instant access to belongings and treasures that make me feel good.

And I get why some people — the opposite of people like me — get total satisfaction and enjoyment from living in Kulag ambience mode. Individuality.

However, Dr. Mustard would like to make a point here, which is, if those two lifestyles coexist within the same household, neither partner, roommate, whatever, should disapprove and dump on the other for being who they are.

My humble suggestion is that you each agree upon designated areas that totally offer you a space to be you, then blend both styles in a larger neutral living space that you can both enjoy and be happy together in.

If you let stuff wreck your love life, you’ve got some serious "thinnin’" to do baby. Just a little something to ponder heading into the new year.

Sometimes I get so serious!!!

Here’s a neat plane in my collection of cool stuff I’d like to give away... to you!

The nifty old P-40 — still in its original box — is missing its motor, because the nice man I got it from couldn’t remember where he put it, and apparently still hasn’t found it.

No doubt some P-40 aficionado out there has one, or will just buy one of those available on eBay.

This precious P-40 will go to the person who emails me and makes the best case for becoming the new owner, no dealers allowed thanks.

I mean, if anyone’s going to make money on it, it’s going to be ME!

I am honoured to launch this token downsizing gesture heading into 2019 and wish you the happiest New Year’s possible.

Oh yeah. That ’59 Buick convertible you’re thinking of chucking? I’ll take it.

Comments or feedback, love to hear from you at

Laurie MustardMustard on Everything! 
December 29

Renovation & Design

Hair dryer and dandruff shampoo can lift stain

Question: How can I get black scuff marks off a painted ceramic piece, without taking the paint off? Also, I have a large area of melted red wax crayon in the back seat of my car. It is not possible to scrape any of it off, as it has soaked into the fabric.

Answer: To remove scuff marks on ceramic pieces, rub with an art eraser and wipe with a damp cloth.

To remove wax on upholstery, heat the wax using a hair dryer and scrape as much of the wax as possible. Spray WD-40 onto the area, leave for 10 minutes and wipe.

Scrub the area with Head and Shoulders Dandruff Shampoo and water. Rinse with water and let air dry (test all products on an inconspicuous area first).

Feedback from readers:

Re: Coconut oil

I have discovered the magic of coconut oil. Face-painting booths are popular for kids. The paint is difficult to wash off. If you put coconut oil on the skin before applying makeup, however, the face paint is easy to remove — it just wipes off without bother.

I am also a hairstylist and have found that just before rinsing dark-coloured dye out of hair, I can put coconut oil around the client’s face to prevent the staining that sometimes happens on the forehead and neck.

— Elizabeth

Re: Water spots on wood floor

Dear Reena: Marianne had a problem with water spots on her hardwood floors.

Not sure if this will work for her, but I have laminate flooring in my dining room and could not clean it without getting water spots.

A friend told me she always cleans her floors with a spray bottle of Windex and a microfibre cloth. I have been using Windex ever since and no longer have trouble with water spots.

— Ellen

Life’s Little Tricks:

• Clean your iron by running it over a sheet of aluminum foil sprinkled with salt, while on hot (no steam).

• Tired of mixing up the shampoo with the conditioner? Secure a rubber band around the conditioner to differentiate the two.

• Reuse old sponges. Rinse well and place in the bottom of a plant pot to hold water longer.

• Studies show that after 20 minutes inside a grocery store, shoppers are more susceptible to buying impulse items. Stick to the list and avoid lingering.

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: Ask a question or share a tip at

Reena NerbasSolutions
December 29

Renovation & Design

Improved insulation for older home begins in attic, basement

Question: I live in a River Heights bungalow built in 1952 with three stucco exterior walls, and the front has vinyl over wood. The interior walls are plaster. I am considering insulating the exterior walls.

I am not enthusiastic about removing the stucco for this job, as it is in quite good shape. The basement is partially insulated with fibre batts in one area and rigid foam in other areas.

I have heard about closed foam insulation but I am not clear if drilling holes into the exterior stucco is effective.

A popular TV show handyman recommended the benefits of the closed-cell foam method, but he also suggested tearing out all the plaster walls to the studs and applying the foam. This is far more work and cost than I would want, seeing as there is nothing wrong with my plaster.

Is this a good idea or should I concentrate on re-insulating the basement? Can you comment on this or lead me into a better direction? Thanks.

— Al C.

Answer: While insulating the exterior walls of an older home should not be the first priority for energy efficiency retrofits, doing it from the exterior is often a viable option. There are two main choices and choosing which one to go with will depend on your budget and availability of good contractors in your area.

Improving the energy efficiency and comfort of a ’50s-era home often begins in two main areas, the attic and basement. It appears you have partially completed the basement upgrades, and I can safely assume that there has been additional insulation installed in your attic over time. Either way those two areas, especially the attic, should be initially checked and have upgrades to insulation, and particularly air sealing, done as needed. Air sealing is critical to prevent warm air intrusion and minimize condensation in both those areas. Using enough good-quality insulation and proper ventilation should be sufficient in the attic, while the basement walls may require installation of or upgrades to the polyethylene air/vapour barrier, as well as the thermal insulation.

After those two easiest areas are addressed, the next step should be one component of the exterior walls. While it may seem that the poorly insulated walls are a major contributor to lousy thermal performance, older windows are much more of a concern. In my opinion, no homeowner should think about adding insulation to the wall cavities before upgrading their windows.

Replacing windows with modern ones will not only lower heating costs, but will also make all the rooms in the home more comfortable. Not only do the older wooden sliders let the warm air escape the living space, they may also let a large amount of cold air leak into the home.

Now, once you have stopped heat and warm air from pouring out your basement walls, attic and windows, the final area to consider is the walls. Since they likely have wood or plaster lath, covered by plaster and multiple coats of paint on the inside, air leakage may be minimal through the middle of the wall areas. Most of the problem is at the corners, junctions between floors, and protrusions. Gaps between the framing in the walls and ceilings, inside corners, and electrical boxes may be the primary areas of concern. While the receptacle and light switch boxes could be sealed with spray-in-foam from a can, or a gasket weatherstrip behind the plates, the corners are more difficult to deal with.

The two main types of blown-in, retrofit insulation for exterior walls are plastic foam or cellulose fibre. Making the often-confusing choice between these will depend on several factors. Overall cost, ease of access for application and experienced insulation contractors may be the overriding variables affecting your decision. How easily a contractor can get good access to all the exterior areas of the home for drilling holes, dragging hoses and general work may help with this decision. If foam is your choice, higher-density polyurethane will be preferable to less-costly, lower-density products, due to the better air permeability ratings. As with any renovation job, asking the contractors about years of service with the particular product, references from previous customers and any workmanship warranties is critical.

Removing wall coverings and baseboards from interior walls, just to add insulation, does not make sense when better-quality insulation can be installed from the exterior, with only minimal damage to the finish. Choosing the right material and contractor for your home and bank account should ensure a more comfortable and energy-efficient home is the ultimate result.

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
December 29

Renovation & Design

Festive favourites

Colleen Zacharias
December 22

Renovation & Design

New home may have coverage for shallow stair fix

QUESTION: I hope you can help shed some light on the required building code standards for stairs in private dwellings in Manitoba.

My son recently purchased a new house and moved in about two weeks ago. I went over, once they moved in, and noticed that the main staircase going from their main floor level to the upper level had very narrow stair treads.

I was a little surprised at this and thought I would measure my own home’s stairs. My house was built in 1986, and the main staircase has stair treads that measure 10½ inches deep. My son’s stairs measure 8 5/8 inches tread depth.

I searched the internet on building code standards and then phoned the Winnipeg permits office to get information on building code standards. The Winnipeg permits office sent me some information on the 2010 National Building Code (NBC) standards. These standards indicate that the minimum tread depth for stairs in a private dwelling have to be 235 mm or 9¼ inches.

According to the 2010 NBC, my son’s stairs do not meet the minimum tread depth. Do houses in Manitoba follow different building code standards for stairs than those set out in the 2010 NBC? If the stairs in my son’s house do not meet the building code standards, what options do home owners have to get these types of issues corrected? Thanks, — Gary White

Answer: Building code adherence and enforcement is the responsibility of the local municipality in which a home is built. Regardless, older homes do not have to conform to current building codes.

If the home is newly built, then there should be protection for your son through a new home warranty program or title insurance, but contacting the city for a record of permits and inspections should answer which way you go.

Despite several articles touching on the subject over the years, many readers do not understand the difference between a home inspector, like me, and a municipal building inspector. Registered home inspectors (RHI) are unlicensed private individuals, often business owner/operators, who primarily inspect houses for perspective buyers.

The majority of these homes are not new, but more and more clients are hiring us for inspections prior to possession of brand-new homes. No matter what age of home, adherence to building codes is beyond the scope of the inspection and the RHI is doing a performance-based assessment. That is not to say some concerns identified will be code issues, but these are normally items that are identified for safety concerns. Building officials are trained inspectors who are typically employed by a city or municipality and are tasked with ensuring new construction, or renovations on existing buildings, are meeting the applicable building codes at the time they are built.

So, the answer to your inquiry will solely depend on the age of the home your son has recently purchased. You state he has bought a "new house," but often people use this term when someone buys and moves into an older dwelling that is new for them. If I approach your question assuming it was built within the past couple of years, never occupied and sold as new by a builder, then I can state that your concerns are valid. If it is a resale home that is not covered under any sort of warranty, then my answer is simple. The older home does not have to comply with current codes or standards, unless the stairs have been recently replaced or a major renovation of the entire home has recently been undertaken.

In a newly built home, there is definitely some culpability for the improperly constructed stairway. Before a construction of a new house begins, permits must be obtained from the city or municipality in which it is built. A detailed plan must be submitted, and often a survey certificate or other document showing the location of the structure on the lot. Once submitted, an employee, or several individuals, will review the plan and application forms and either approve it or ask for revisions or additional information. Once approved, construction can begin at the desire of the builder or contractor.

This is where the grey area begins, as far as most people’s understanding goes. It is up to the builder or contractor to contact the municipality to perform phased inspections, as the construction progresses.

The number and point of completion of these inspections is at the discretion of the building official, but it is generally up to the builder to contact the inspector when the home is ready to have each phase checked out. If the builder does not arrange for an inspection at the appropriate times, or the inspection does not proceed for any of a number of reasons, then building code violations may occur. Sometimes, these are noticed after the fact, or upon final inspection of the property, but may also be missed if they are covered by further construction.

If the inspector is familiar with the various trades or contractors, and trusts their abilities and knowledge, they may choose to inspect only certain aspects of the construction.

If the home is newly built, it will likely have a new home warranty of some kind, which should cover defects in workmanship or code violations for the first year or longer after completion. Unless there has been a special exemption granted by the building official to allow the narrow treads on the stairway, which is possible, then the warranty provider should require the builder to correct the defective stairs. If there is no warranty, then it is more complicated to get this resolved. You may be successful in getting the city to force the contractor to comply after the fact if proper permits applications and inspections were never done. Otherwise, if you purchased title insurance when you bought the home, a claim with the insurance provider may get the stairs repaired.

Buying a previously occupied home will provide your son with little to no protection for items done wrong or in violation of current codes. If it is indeed a new home with this error, which was somehow overlooked, contacting the local municipality or city responsible for enforcement, or the title insurance provider, should yield a solution.

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 Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at



Ari MarantzAsk the Inspector 
December 22

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