Renovation & Design

Renovation & Design

Use air conditioner to reduce humidity in home and crawlspace

Question: I built a 1,500 square-foot home at the lake on a rock. I used ICF (insulated concrete forms) blocks for the crawlspace foundation, setting them on the rock and filling with concrete. Even though no leaks occur under the ICF walls, the crawl space is extremely damp and the relative humidity (RH) in the home is very high in the summer. The home is very well insulated, has electric forced-air heat, air conditioning (A/C) and a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). We never use A/C because the building is extremely cool in the summer. I am going to put heavy poly on the rock floor to see if this will help lower the RH, but was also thinking spray foam. Any suggestions?

Thanks, Bill.

Answer: High relative humidity, condensation, and moisture issues are common to many homes with crawlspaces, but especially in lake country. Improved ventilation and use of the air conditioning should be the two most effective methods of managing this issue, while sealing the bedrock floor inside may not make much of a difference.

Seeing signs of moisture in a crawlspace on grade, at different times of the year, is quite normal but still should be managed. Excessive humidity can cause premature rot, mould growth, rusting metal components, and other issues inside the confined space. Sweating water supply and drain pipes can also lead to small puddles, but the most serious problems normally occur due to accumulations of water from the surrounding soil. Since you don’t have that issue, as you are ideally situated on bedrock, the main concern is how to prevent or remove moisture from the crawlspace air.

There are two main approaches to dealing with humidity-related issues in an enclosed space, like the crawlspace below the floor in your lakefront home. The simplest and most effective way to prevent excessive moisture buildup in this area is by adequate ventilation. This method also has two main possibilities, passive vs. mechanical means. The passive ventilation approach is the easiest, by installation of several screened vents on each side of the crawlspace grade beam foundation. If you have included these in the insulated concrete forms used for your foundation, it may simply be a matter of installing insulated covers for the winter and replacing them with screens for use when the weather is warmer. The screens should be made durable enough to prevent rodents chewing through the mesh, to stop them from gaining easy access to the crawlspace. If you have not done this at the time of construction, it may require hiring professional concrete cutting contractors to install these openings after the fact. Either way, ensuring good air movement through the vents will really help prevent condensation related problems, even with very high humidity in the summer months.

The second way to improve ventilation in the crawlspace will be to use the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems already in the home. The initial checklist should include ensuring there are enough duct openings or registers in the crawlspace from the furnace and HRV. If these have been omitted, or minimally installed, the mechanical systems may not be able to adequately help. There should be at least one intake for the HRV and two or more heating registers/open ducts. If there are areas where the floor joists are closer to grade than others, or multiple foundation angles, more duct openings will be required to increase the air movement and prevent stagnant air pockets.

Once enough duct openings are ensured, running the furnace fan continuously on low speed, from a control on the thermostat, should be done. This will use the blower to continuously move the air through the crawlspace, as well as the rest of the home. The second key to the success of this will be to use your air conditioner in hot weather, which will significantly reduce the RH in the entire building and crawlspace. While you may not think this is necessary for temperature control, the A/C system substantially reduces air moisture during operation. One caveat, if you have adequate passive vents in the crawlspace and open windows in the home, mechanical summer ventilation may not be necessary. Especially if you have a consistent breeze off the lake, using this to your advantage may make using the furnace in the summer a non-starter.

Finally, ensuring your HRV is properly set up, with the dehumidistat function operating properly, will help dry out the crawlspace. This should not necessarily be used in the summer, but will be crucial for use in the heating season, when the crawlspace is fully enclosed. While this will only dehumidify the area in the winter, preventing condensation at that time of year will minimize the chances of significant moisture damage to the wooden components, even if some does occur in the hot summer months. This influx of dryer winter air will help remove any residual moisture that may be trapped in the crawlspace from the previous summer months.

Having high RH in your crawlspace in a home located adjacent to a lake is not in itself a problem, unless the area is poorly ventilated and prone to condensation. Ensuring it has enough passive ventilation, or using the air conditioning system to mechanically dry out the air, are the two approaches to prevention of serious moisture-related issues and damage in that area. Installation of 6MIL polyethylene sheathing over the bedrock floor is a good idea, but may not help much with your high RH issue.

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
May 29


Renovation & Design

Solutions for a functional and stylish bathroom

Mariella Cruzado has always understood the importance of a comfortable and organized space, but the founder and lead designer of Splendor Styling in the D.C. area said that idea came into sharp relief during the pandemic, with so much time spent at home.

"I realized how important it is to have a home that we truly love and enjoy," Cruzado said in a phone interview. "I knew that before. It’s been my job for a long time, but it turned into a more meaningful thing."

That’s even true in the bathroom, where crisp white towels and co-ordinating marble accessories can create a sense of calm and order as you start your day, Cruzado said.

"If you go to your bathroom and everything is on the floor and the colours don’t match, or there’s dingy brown or blue towels, it’s going to create a sensation of mess and put you in a mood before you even realize it," she said. "That’s why it’s so important to keep personal spaces clean and organized."

We asked Cruzado to suggest items that can enhance storage and organization in any bathroom, while also being visually appealing.

She says trays can help corral the items you use every day, while natural materials add an organic feeling to any room. She also likes to add metallic finishes, particularly gold tones, to any room she designs. A hamper with a lid will also help keep your bathroom looking neat and tidy.

"Decorative items don’t have to be complicated," Cruzado says. "In a small space, you have to make every piece count, even your trash can."

To squeeze in some extra storage, Cruzado suggests using a small shelf in a corner for everyday items or a grouping of shelves on the wall or above the toilet for towels and washcloths.

For a clean, uncluttered look, Cruzado suggests ditching the cardboard box that tissues come in and using a clear acrylic container instead.

— The Washington Post

Mari-Jane Williams
May 22

Renovation & Design

Cut the bitterness right out of cucumbers

Question: As gardening season approaches, I am thinking ahead to previous challenges. The problem is that my garden cucumbers always taste bitter. Do you have any solutions to get rid of the bitter flavour? Thanks, Meg

Answer: This old trick works on bitter garden and store-bought cucumbers. Cut the end off the cucumber. Use the detached piece to rub the exposed cucumber end. The cucumber releases a white foam. Repeat the process at the other end of the cucumber. Peel and cut as usual, and no more bitter taste. Another option is to select a different type of cucumber seed or produce.

Extra cucumber tip: Make a refreshing summer facial spa mask. Blend together in a food processor one peeled and chopped cucumber, half a cup plain yogurt and one tablespoon milk powder. Smooth this mixture over your face to cleanse and close skin pores. Leave for 10 minutes and rinse with cool water.

Question: I wear rubber gloves for doing dishes. I buy them at the dollar store. Over the years I have accumulated dozens of gloves for the right hand and thrown away dozens of gloves for the left hand. I’m left-handed and find it’s that hand that gets the pokes and holes from knives and other sharp items during dishwashing. I’ve tried to think of how I can repair the small hole in the rubber glove, to no avail. Thanks, Bethany

Answer: Although there is no effective way to fix torn rubber gloves, if you always wear out one rubber glove, start saving all the good gloves and by turning half of them inside out you will gain a few extra pairs, or cut good fingertips off one pair of torn rubber gloves and put them into torn glove fingertips to reinforce them.

Also, consider alternative uses for rubber gloves.

Cut them into circles — they make great non-slip grips for everything such as a stuck jar lid.

Cut the fingers off a torn rubber glove and slip them over your mop and broom handles — that way when you lean them against the wall, they don’t slide or create marks on the wall.

Cover chair feet with the finger of rubber gloves to protect floors.

Cut off the index finger piece from the torn rubber glove to create an ideal sheath for your finger to sort through a stack of papers.


Cornstarch is a star

Sparkling windows: Clean windows as normal, then put cornstarch in a pail with water (enough to soak a cloth), wipe the windows and dry with a clean cloth. It really works — I’ve tried it myself.

Avoid athlete’s foot: Sprinkle cornstarch on feet and in your shoes to absorb moisture, deodorize and reduce friction.

Water-free dog bath: Sprinkle cornstarch onto fur and rub vigorously. Brush your dog. The cornstarch will absorb dirt and oils from your dog’s fur. This works on human hair as well.

Grease remover: Sprinkle cornstarch onto fabric and leave for a few hours. Wash with heavy-duty detergent and water. Make sure grease spot is gone before transferring fabric to the dryer.

Body powder: Put a couple of drops of perfume into a sealable bag with two cups cornstarch. Shake and apply to face or body.


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 22

Renovation & Design

Don't cry: Use peanut butter to clean up spilled milk

Question: I have frosted glass in my pantry door. The one side is plain glass but, on the inside, it is frosted. I can’t seem to get kid spills off the inside of the door (chocolate milk, for instance). Any suggestions? Alex

Answer: I apply a small amount of smooth peanut butter onto the chocolate milk, leave it for five minutes and scrape it off easily with a plastic putty knife or a green abrasive pad (not an SOS pad). Then clean the glass in the usual manner with either my Squeaky-Clean window recipe or a super-duper solution that works best for you. (Squeaky-Clean window recipe: In a spray bottle, combine one teaspoon (5 ml) of inexpensive shampoo, 1/4 cup (60 ml) rubbing alcohol and fill remaining portion of the bottle with white vinegar. Spray and wipe. For extra shine, make a paste of cornstarch and water, wipe mirrors and wipe with a clean cloth.


Question: What can I use to clean the non-removable rubber seal on my garbage disposal? David

Answer: The best tools that I am aware of for tackling this job are either a narrow toilet brush or a bottle brush. The bristles won’t damage the seal, and either brush is perfect for scrubbing away old food particles.


Question: What can I use to clean the floor in my acrylic shower stall? Nothing seems to work. Thank you, Timothy

Answer: Into a spray bottle combine two cups of white vinegar and one tablespoon of Dawn dish soap. Use the steam from a hot shower to your advantage and clean the shower floor shortly after use. Choose a non-scratching abrasive pad (this is key to making the job easier) and spray the floor with a liberal amount of the solution.


Question: I can’t seem to solve the problem of gravies and sauces separating after being frozen. I have tried cornstarch as the thickener instead of flour with no luck. Any suggestions? Maryanna

Answer: Gravy may be frozen for several months. To prevent "skin" from forming on the top, lay a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap directly on the surface of the gravy before covering the container. If you know you will be freezing gravy, try to use as little fat and milk as possible, so that it does not separate when thawed. You can reduce the chances of separation greatly if you run the gravy through a blender or food processor before freezing.


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 15

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