Renovation & Design



Brandi Johnson:

Seal up your home

Renovation & Design

Milk will last for as long as two hours at room temperature

Question: How long can milk sit out before it needs to be refrigerated? — Grace

Answer: Milk can sit out at room temperature for two hours and still be safe. After two hours, dump the milk out, wash the cup and refill.


Question: I hate the thought of wasting half an egg by throwing the yolk in the garbage. What can I do with the egg yolk besides throwing it out? — Orlin

Answer: Leftover egg yolks can be refrigerated for a few days or you can also freeze them. To use them, thaw in refrigerator and then beat well. They will keep in the freezer for as long as three months. Use egg yolks to add to meatloaf or homemade mayonnaise, custard or pudding.

If you would rather not eat egg yolks, use them in homemade hair conditioners because of their ability to improve the softness of hair and to reduce the occurrence of frizz. Many people also use egg-yolk hair conditioners to reduce hair loss.

As well, egg yolks contain vitamin A, which is used in many skincare products, designed to target acne. To use egg yolks as a mask, simply break up the yolks with a fork and spread it over your face and neck (avoid eyes). Leave to dry and then rinse with cool water.

Or feed egg yolks to your outdoor friends. Simply boil the yolks in water and throw them outside for birds, squirrels and chipmunks. Or mix yolks with nuts or berries and zap them in the microwave for a few seconds before tossing them out the door.


Question: I have a problem with several doors that I painted sticking in their door frames. They were originally stained wood doors and I painted them all a lighter colour. I used one coat of good primer and then two coats of higher-end paint on the doors and frames. I let them dry for several days before re-hanging them in their frames.

Since then, the doors stick slightly when being opened, which is noisy and annoying if others are sleeping when an early riser tries to quietly exit in the morning. Is there any solution that doesn’t involve extensive sanding (or replacement)? It’s not just at the very top of the door and it has been a year since I painted them. — Dee

Answer: In some cases, as the weather becomes colder, the doors will stop sticking on their own. But since you have dealt with squeaky doors for a year, you can try to tighten the hinges and use a cotton swab to apply petroleum jelly to the hinges. Next, rub paraffin or paste wax onto the door jambs.

If that doesn’t fix the sticking, secure transparent tape inside the door jambs. If all else fails, lightly sand the areas — not to remove the paint, but just to add roughness to the sticky areas.


Have a great suggestion or tip? Please send an email at: 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


Reena NerbasSOLUTIONS 
September 7

Renovation & Design

Fuel your busy fall

Amanda Bibeau
September 3

Renovation & Design

Form-tie-opening leakage common... but shouldn't be in a home this new

Question: Recently, I was checking the basement in our six-year-old home for water during a thunderstorm. We’ve had it happen once before, during a really bad storm, where the water came in through the window wells somehow, so I was concerned. Water wasn’t coming in through the windows this time, but instead through small slots in the wall. They look like they are there from the form, not cracks.

I didn’t really know who to ask, but you were so knowledgeable during our home inspection a few years ago, I figured I would shoot you an email to get your thoughts. I’m not sure where to start or who to call, or if this is something I can fix myself.

Any advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

— Kris Lanoway


Answer: Small leaks through rusted form ties are a common occurrence, but not normally on homes that new. Exterior excavation and re-waterproofing would be the ideal repair, but there are likely much easier and less costly fixes to attempt first.

What you are experiencing is a common defect inherent in the process of pouring a concrete foundation. Before a typical concrete foundation is poured, plywood forms are installed that hold the wet material in place until it is hardened. Because of the height of these forms, and the weight of the wet concrete mix, braces holding the top and bottom of the forms are often not strong enough to stop the plywood from bowing. To prevent this, and ensure the finished concrete walls are straight and plumb, small metal wires or bars are installed in various locations. These are inserted through small holes in both sides of the forms and bent or tied off to maintain consistent distance throughout their entire height and length. Once the concrete walls have solidified, the form ties are cut off to allow removal of the forms.

Since these metal objects can often protrude slightly beyond the exterior surface of the new foundation walls, even after being snapped off, additional measures are often taken. 

Unfortunately, after several decades, the damp-proofing can become worn and ineffective, allowing the metal ties embedded in the concrete to rust. This can occur even if the damp-proofing is still in place, but may not be problematic until the bitumen-based material on the outside deteriorates.

Once both issues occur, a small hole or slot is created through the entire thickness of the concrete and moisture intrusion is a certainty. This may only be seen during a heavy rain, as you have observed, or during the spring thaw when the soil outside the foundation becomes saturated.

The unusual thing about the issue in your home is the form ties have very rapidly corroded, allowing for premature leakage. This is undoubtedly due to poor workmanship or materials from the builder or subtrades.

Since it appears to only have happened in a few isolated areas, defects in original construction may be limited. This is probably due to improper patching and damp-proofing at the form-tie areas, or leaving excessive material protruding through the exterior of the foundation walls. Either could cause the metal ties to prematurely rust, leaving a small pathway for rainwater to enter your basement.

The most effective solution would be to excavate the soil outside the areas of leakage, inspect the foundation wall and properly patch and waterproof the concrete. This could be quite costly if more than a single area is affected, as the excavation is normally done manually. If you suspect that there are more areas that will leak in the near future due to sloppy overall damp-proofing methods, then calling a foundation contractor for a quote may be warranted. Fortunately, there may be a couple of other things to try, first.

Often, when tiny trickles of water are first detected at the ties, patching the small openings on the inside of the foundation with hydraulic cement can help. This may require drilling or gouging out the hole to remove the rusted metal, and to allow better adherence of the patching material. This repair is normally within the means of most homeowners, as long as you have a hammer drill and proper masonry bits and tools. It may not be a permanent fix, but will often last several years until hydrostatic pressure from outside deteriorates the patch. Alternatively, enlarging the openings and injecting epoxy can be quite effective, but will likely require professional installation at a moderate cost.

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 31

Renovation & Design

Eliminating cold room could go one of two ways

Question: I just read an excellent older article of yours online about eliminating a cold room.

We purchased our home four years ago.

It has a 6x18 cold room we have no intention of using.

There are two round vents to the outside.

After reading your article, we decided to eliminate the cold room, as it’s causing a musty smell and there’s mould appearing on the floor near the cold room’s interior door in our family room.

Should we use a frame, vapour barrier and Gyproc to replace the cold room’s interior door?

Should we seal the two vents with spray foam as well?

Many thanks for any advice you might share.

— Christina and Sheldon MacLean, Tara, Ont.

Answer: Isolated cold rooms are a bad idea, no matter what age of home, due to the potential for condensation, moisture and mould issues.

Decommissioning them can be done by several methods, which will partially depend on the location and construction of this room in your home.

As you have stated, I have written many articles on the negative features of cold rooms in homes in our climate.

The main concern is that they do not have proper heating, ventilation or airflow, which will ultimately lead to condensation, moisture damage and mould growth.

Current construction methods all strive to eliminate these issues, so why would anyone build something on their home that would be a magnet for these defects?

In older times, when electric freezers and refrigerators were not integral to all homes, cold rooms may have had their place.

In the 21st century, with modern appliances that do a much better job with minimal energy consumption and no inherent moisture problems, there is no need for a root cellar.

So, how do you go about eliminating this problem area?

First, you have to figure out where this room is in connection to the rest of the home and foundation.

If the cold room is simply installed with partition walls in a standard rectangular basement, then remediation may be simple.

The interior walls and ceiling may currently be insulated to keep out warm air, while the foundation walls remain bare.

The cold-air vents you mentioned are likely connected directly to the outside of the home to provide additional cold air in the winter months.

If that is the configuration in your home, warming up the room should be simple.

First, remove the door and all of the insulation from the ceiling and interior walls of the former cold room.

Next, as you suggest, buy a few cans of spray-on expanding polyurethane foam to fill and seal the vents to the exterior.

These should then be sealed from the inside and outside afterward to prevent deterioration over time.

Finally, insulate the bare foundation wall, preferably with extruded polystyrene or spray-on polyurethane foam.

Prior to insulating, this wall should be checked for any mould growth, which could be removed or washed off beforehand.

Finally, extending a heat duct from your existing forced-air system, or installing a small electric baseboard heater, will complete the transformation.

If your cold room is constructed from an extension outward from the main foundation, as many in your area are, then remediation may be much more complex.

It may not be feasible to use this as additional living space, especially if this extra room is installed under an open concrete step, porch or patio.

The reason is because this type of room is much more prone to moisture intrusion through the exterior ceiling or walls unless covered by an overhanging roof.

If the foundation of this room is concrete block, all the more reason to beware.

The decision now becomes whether to seal off the room from the rest of the home or eliminate the room altogether.

Sealing it may require installation of an exterior, moisture-resistant door, complete with good-quality weather stripping and threshold seals.

This first method would allow periodic access for inspection, but would not fully prevent mould growth from some warm-air leakage or moisture intrusion from outside.

The alternative choice for this style of cold room is to eliminate it altogether by filling it in.

It could be done from the exterior with simple soil, sand or other granular fill.

That could be accomplished after removal, replacement and waterproofing of the interior-door opening with proper foundation materials.

This would require hiring professional contractors, often with heavy equipment, to patch the main foundation wall, cut an opening in the cold room’s foundation walls or ceiling and add the backfill to the void.

The benefit of this choice should be the complete peace of mind in knowing no moisture or mould issue will develop in the future.

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 24

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