Renovation & Design

Renovation & Design

Coat cabinet hinges in clear lacquer to prevent rust

Question: The hinge from one of my kitchen cabinets has made a sizeable carbon stain on my cream coloured wall. I’m hesitant to try anything for fear it will smear and become worse. Would you know how to clean this? Thanks, Roberta

Answer: You should be able to remove the wall stain by scrubbing lightly with a green scrubby pad and dish soap. Rinse and scrub, until the stain is gone. Next remove the door hinges and coat them with a light coating of clear lacquer, so that the hinges do not stain your wall in the future.


Question: I am invited to a fondue dinner party, next week, with about 10 other friends. The menu will include oil, chocolate, and beer fondue pots. I am concerned about sharing fondue food with other guests during COVID-19, and with the current restrictions. Do you think that I should attend? Anonymous

Answer: No, you may need to prepare fondue, at home, for one instead. Please refer to the current government restrictions regarding COVID-19.


Question: I have cloth covered dining room chairs. They are cleaning code S. Is there any way to clean the fabric at home? Thanks, Robyn

Answer: The S refers to spot clean, without water, using a dry clean only product. This is a message guiding you to avoid liquid, but it is sometimes different for upholstery then it is for fabrics. For clothing, the manufacturer is saying the fabric may be ruined when in contact with liquid. For upholstery, some of the time, the fabric will be ruined and other times the textile cannot be washed because of the placement and adhesion to the furniture in which it cannot be removed. One option, and your safest bet, is to purchase a mild, water and free solvent from a retailer. Another option which is a little riskier, is to wipe the upholstery with shaving cream and scrub gently with a soft, clean cloth. Be sure to test on an inconspicuous area first. 


Question: I lost your solution using Dawn dish detergent and some other things to remove peanut butter oil from a T-shirt. Could I please have it again?

Thank you so much, Leslie

Answer: Cover the stain with half teaspoon Dawn dish soap, half a teaspoon of three per cent hydrogen peroxide and one teaspoon cornstarch. Leave for three hours. Wash the shirt in hot water and air dry. Repeat process until stain is gone. Test on an inconspicuous area first.


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:

Reena Nerbas
April 17


Renovation & Design

Skirting an issue brings new concerns

Question: I have a 40-year-old cottage that was skirted, is a three-season-use dwelling, and has no problems to complain about. When we visit in the winter we just bring in water, I heat the main drain pipe for the toilet, and dump in water manually. This seems to work fine for us.

However, a few summers ago I decided to support the cottage with Groundhog anchors. After having 28 installed and the cottage levelled, hopefully for the last time, I started to re-skirt the cottage. I didn’t complete the job before the snow flew. But what I found the following spring worries me. The skirting boards had buckled. This was never an issue before, as the skirting moved with the cottage. Now, I would like to reframe, skirt and add siding, but I am worried about what will happen the following winter.

How should I proceed to minimize buckling?

Thanks for the help.

John Hoffman, Riverton.


Answer: Closing in the crawlspace under a seasonal use building can provide some unique challenges due to changes in seasonal temperatures, soil moisture, and weather variations. The best course of action is to construct the skirting strong enough to resist these issues, or leave enough ground clearance to allow for seasonal movement.

At this time of year, as the snow rapidly disappears and the weather gradually warms, we start to think about addressing issues with our seasonal summer homes. Especially partially completed items, like the skirting below the floor of your cottage, need to be dealt with. The complete change in the foundation structure of your building will necessitate a completely different mindset, which should be adopted as your first course of action.

It sounds like you may have had only a partially enclosed skirting, previously, which may not have completely enclosed the area under the cottage floor. That type of structure will allow good airflow under the cottage and should prevent serious differences in the soil composition between that area and the exterior. Since it was not well sealed, it may also have had a small clearance between the bottom and the soil. Even if that was not the case, the former foundation structure, likely posts and pads, would have moved slightly up and down depending on the seasons. The old skirting would have mirrored that movement, which is why you didn’t notice any buckling. Also, there may have been little difference in temperature and snow accumulation on either side of the skirting, if it was not a complete barrier.

Now that you have the crawlspace partially enclosed and the floor structure sitting on multiple screw-piles, there may be some differential movement between the area in the middle of the floor and the perimeter. Since your soil may expand and contract with changes in moisture content and temperature, there could be significant differences between these areas. Also, the screw-piles may not go deep enough to resist frost movement in some areas, but perhaps in others. The solution to that is to install adjustable brackets on the top of the screw-piles, which can be manipulated seasonally to compensate for this differential movement. That should be much more significant a concern than some buckled skirting boards, and should help you maintain a straighter and more level cottage floor.

There may be two different approaches to prevention of your current problem, which will depend on your desire for a sealed and heated crawlspace, or to remain with a partially open area. If you do want a completely sealed area around the crawlspace, it will allow potential heating of the area in the winter and more practical use all year round. If that is your plan, constructing a much more durable and permanent knee-wall for the skirting will be required. That will require framing the knee-wall with 2x4 or 2x6 lumber prior to sheathing the exterior. That should be done with pressure treated wood, at least on the bottom plate but preferably the entire area. The short studs should be spaced close enough together to resist pressure from the soil beneath. These short walls should fill the entire space between the floor perimeter and the ground to prevent snow and pest intrusion into the newly enclosed crawlspace.

The sheathing, and/or siding, on the exterior of this knee-wall could be installed with a small gap between it and grade, which would allow a buffer to prevent it buckling from upward pressure. The treated framing on grade should still keep the crawlspace area enclosed and should be strong enough to prevent damage from swelled soil. Ensuring that you install several large vents in the new knee-walls will help dry any moisture that accumulates inside the crawlspace over winter. These should be covered with rigid foam insulation for the heating season, which will prevent excessive heat loss, should you decide to heat the crawlspace in the future, rather than just the drain pipes.

The other alternative is to continue with the status quo and not attempt to fully enclose the skirting. Leave gaps not only between the skirting boards themselves, but also at the bottom of the entire assembly. That will allow some snow, debris, and rodents to gain partial access to the crawlspace, but the gap at the bottom will prevent any upward soil pressure from damaging the skirting. The partially open skirting will also not need additional ventilation, as the gaps will allow for more than adequate drying of any accumulated moisture over the winter.

Changes made to the foundation of your summer home will also necessitate modifications to the skirting, depending on your future use of the crawlspace below the floor. It will either have to be constructed rigidly enough to prevent seasonal soil movement, or left partially open and above grade to prevent a reoccurrence of the buckling.

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
April 10

Renovation & Design

Blank deck

Marc LaBossiere
April 10

Renovation & Design

Buff kitchen sink to remove fine scratches

Question: A year ago, I had my kitchen remodelled and I bought a new, expensive double stainless-steel sink. Despite being careful cleaning and using this sink, it has developed many small scratches. I had my old sink for 34 years and it looked better than my new one when it was removed. Any suggestions for hiding the scratches? Rose

Answer: There are multiple commercial products available at hardware stores designed to remove scratches on stainless steel, including all appliances, even the kitchen sink. You can also buff out scratches yourself, using a sand pad for intense scratches or a scuff pad (number one for heavier scratches) or 000 for finer scratches. Spray the stainless steel with 50/50 white vinegar and water. Buff out scratches with the pad. Make sure to use long, even strokes and pull the pad along the grain. Using short strokes will result in a patchy finish. Polish with a soft cloth.


Question: My friends and I have a similar problem. After many washes, our towels are no longer soft. We don’t want to use dryer sheets/additives in the dryer. Is there a way to make them soft again? Many thanks! Judy

Answer: Towels often lose their softness when they are full of fabric softener and/or detergent. In order to strip the residue in the textiles, soak them in a full-strength solution of white vinegar. Leave for one hour, and wash as usual, using only a small amount of detergent and a half cup baking soda. Dry in the dryer and remove them as soon as they are dry.


Question: What is the best and easiest way to clean a hairbrush? Jessica

Answer: For a new hairbrush, cut pieces of old pantyhose into squares. Push the pantyhose down into the bristles; as the brush collects hair, remove the nylon, and shake the hair into the garbage or compost bin. Replace the nylon onto the bristles. For used hairbrushes, find an old fork to pry the hair out of the bristles. Using shampoo and water, clean the bristles and air dry the brush.


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
April 10

Renovation & Design

Caution must always prevail when working with asbestos

Question: I’ve been asked to demolish a building with some two-foot by eight-foot asbestos siding.What do I need to know about such removal?

Thank you, Larry.


Answer: Limiting damage to the older siding when removing it may minimize most of the health concerns related to this type of work. But due to recent findings of asbestos content in many building products, determining what the local municipality requires for the removal and disposal of asbestos-containing materials, prior to commencement, is critical.

When dealing with building materials in existing homes that contain asbestos, caution should be taken primarily when that product is removed or damaged. When such a material is present, and we are discovering more of these every year, it may be benign if left alone. Because most of the asbestos fibres are encapsulated by the products themselves, or other applied coatings, they have very little chance of being set free to cause problems. When the fibres become loose, or friable, they can enter the air in our living space and be inhaled by the occupants. If asbestos fibres are breathed in, in significant quantities, they can remain embedded in the lungs permanently. Over several decades that situation can lead to a potentially fatal type of cancer called Mesothelioma, or other health issues.

The main concern with demolition of any older building, or portions, is releasing embedded asbestos fibres into an enclosed space that will later be occupied. Most major renovations or demolitions will cause some of this to occur, but preventing anyone from inhaling this material is the ultimate goal. The initial concern is for the workers doing the demo. Taking precautions for you and other workers, with use of proper respirators, goggles, gloves, and disposable coveralls, is imperative. The next concern is to properly contain this material within a controlled environment. That may require completely or partially enclosing the work site with plastic sheathing, tarps, or other items to prevent friable asbestos from contaminating the surrounding area. Finally, cleaning up and proper disposal of any hazardous materials will be required.

Because you are working outside of a building to be demolished, there should be no chance of contaminating any current living space. Regardless, there may be local health and safety requirements to prevent releasing asbestos into the area, and the landfill or waste facility. Checking with the municipality when a demolition permit is obtained should answer these questions.

For specifics related to older cement-asbestos siding, careful removal may minimize any or all the major concerns. Especially if the siding has multiple layers of paint, the asbestos will be well encapsulated within the material, itself. If it is not physically cracked, crushed, broken, sanded, or scraped, there is little chance of friability. This thin siding was typically nailed along the top edges and lapped over the lower section, so minimal fasteners were used. If entire sections can be pried off without damage, and the nails pulled out, then disposal should be fairly simple. If it is in generally poor condition, with broken edges or missing sections, then more care must be taken during removal. Since this material is very rigid and thin it can be quite brittle and may easily break if handled roughly during demolition.

While you are certainly correct in enquiring about this type of siding removal, it is not the only building material that should be a concern during the proposed demolition. Any wall or ceiling covering that contains plaster, older drywall, or drywall compound may have a certain amount of asbestos content. Since all or most of the interior walls and ceilings will fall into this category, you may be in for a much more time-consuming job than anticipated. If the building is an older commercial or industrial one, especially with a T-bar ceiling, there may be even more asbestos-laden stuff to remove. Older ceiling tiles are also a potential source of this hazardous material. Finally, many older flooring products, especially vinyl tiles or sheet flooring, have an asbestos component but may be less of a concern. Especially with solid vinyl-asbestos floor tiles, the fibres are well embedded within the plastic, so removing them with minimal damage and as whole as possible should help. There still may be an added cost for disposal, so factoring that in to your budget will be required.

What you need to know before agreeing to demolition of an older building begins with finding out what materials in the building do, or may, contain asbestos. Following that up with use of proper personal protective equipment for all people involved in the work is the next step. Determining the requirements for precautionary measures, and added costs of disposal, is the last concern and should be investigated ahead of time with the local building officials in the municipality where the building is located.

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
April 3

Renovation & Design

Salt bland pretzels and toss them in the oven

QUESTION – I purchased low sodium pretzels and they taste bland. Is there a way to add saltiness to my store-bought pretzels? Abby

ANSWER – Yes, here is an easy fix. Drop the pretzels onto a baking sheet and lightly spritz them with water. Sprinkle the desired amount of salt onto the pretzels. Bake at 375 degrees for about seven minutes.


QUESTION – How can I remove old glue from concrete and smooth driveway surfaces? Willy

ANSWER – This is not an easy task, as some strong glues are stuck for good, but the following suggestions are worth a try. Heat the area with a hair dryer or heat gun. Apply a contact cement solvent, rinse with hot water. A second option is to pour boiling water over the surface and scrape.


QUESTION – My friends and I are having an online debate. Which is healthier butter or margarine? Verna and Sharon

ANSWER – Ohh… this is a very controversial topic, but at the risk of offending, let’s examine what we know. Both butter and margarine should be used in small amounts. Margarine was originally manufactured to fatten turkeys, at first most brands contained trans-fats, and so at the time butter would have been a healthier option. Butter is a natural product made from milk, like other products, butter contains saturated fat which can raise blood cholesterol. If you are watching your cholesterol, like I am, choose margarine for regular consumption, and butter for a treat. If cholesterol is not an issue, the choice comes down to flavor, price and whether a more natural product is important to you.


QUESTION – I live in the country, and notice that my windows end up with watermarks on them after I run the sprinkler. I am ready to start Spring cleaning and would like a less toxic option for cleaning my windows, so that they don’t streak.

ANSWER – Wash your windows with vinegar and water, add a few drops of rubbing alcohol for an even better result. Clean windows on cloudy days or in the morning. Spray or wipe them using a good quality microfiber cloth. Dry with a squeegee or newspaper. Work quickly so that the water does not have time to dry.

Squeaky Clean Window Recipe: In a 500 mL spray bottle, combine 1 tsp. dish soap, one-quarter cup rubbing alcohol and fill the remainder of the bottle with white vinegar. Spray and wipe.


QUESTION – As a joke, my daughter cracked an egg on my head. The egg dropped onto my new blouse, and I don’t know what to do to clean the cotton fabric. Audrey

ANSWER – Let’s see if we can crack this case! Scrape away as much egg as possible. Sponge with cold water. Never use hot water, as heat sets protein. If this does not succeed, spread a paste of cream of tarter and water onto the area. Leave for 30 minutes. Rinse well with warm or cold water.


The World’s Easiest Homemade Ice Cream

No ice cream maker? No problem!

Into a mixer combine 2-cups whipping cream, 2 tsp. vanilla extract and 10-ounces sweetened condensed milk. Mix for 4 minutes. Pour contents into a freezable, lidded container. Freeze for at least 5 hours, enjoy. Ice cream flavor ideas: Smarties, pecans, Oreo cookie crumbs and sprinkles may be added before freezing. Eat as is, or top with chocolate or caramel sauce, chocolate chips, Reese’s pieces, potato chips, or fruit.

Mennonite Sundae Topping: Vanilla ice cream topped with shelled sunflower seeds and maple syrup.

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
April 3

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