Renovation & Design


Renovation & Design

Halloween perfect time for ghost tales

Laurie Mustard MUSTARD on everything!
October 26

Renovation & Design

Wearing shoes inside? Here's why you shouldn't

Mom always said to leave your shoes at the door — and for good reason. Although you may love your footwear, it’s usually best to take your shoes off when you walk inside your home. Otherwise, you risk damaging your floors and tracking in bacteria and toxins.

Need more convincing? Here are a few reasons why it’s really bad to wear shoes in the house.

The floors get dirty quickly. Even if the bottoms of your shoes don’t look dirty, they’re probably tracking in more debris than you realize. Wearing shoes in the house can mean more frequent sweeping, vacuuming and mopping.

Avoid tracking in things better left outdoors by simply leaving your shoes in the mud room or by the door. If you just can’t stand being barefoot inside, a maid service might be able to help you with the extra cleanup.

Like, really dirty. Aside from carrying in visible debris, your shoes are experts at picking up microscopic bacteria and toxins. Studies show that germs linger long after you’ve taken your last step of the day — including nasty bugs like E. coli.

Toxins like motor oil, pesticides and antifreeze can also be tracked through your home.

Shoes wear out your carpet. If you want your carpet to last as long as possible, avoid wearing shoes indoors. The soles of your shoes are often harsher than the bottoms of your feet and can cause carpet fibres to break and wear down prematurely.

Over time, you may notice that you’ve worn paths into your floors in frequently walked areas. Carpet installation professionals can help you figure out if there’s still hope of saving your shag!

Tip: Beware DIY deep cleaners. While some blogs sing the praises of white vinegar as a carpet cleaner, there’s still a bit of debate as to whether or not it’s an effective solution for cleaning out dirt and soil. To protect your carpet from discolouration or damage, most pros recommend consulting with an expert before doing any deep cleaning.

Footwear can cause dents, scratches and scuffs. Hardwood floors are particularly susceptible to shoe damage — especially when it comes to high heels and stilettos.

The pressure of a pointed heel can create dents in wood that are difficult to repair without professional help. Sportswear like cleats and tap shoes are also common culprits.

Softer soles like those on sandals and sneakers probably won’t dent the floor, but they can cause scratches and scuff marks if you’re not careful.

Tip: Use a walnut to fill in scratches. If you’re noticing small scratches in your hardwood floor, don’t panic! You can fix them fairly easily using a walnut. Just break open the nut and rub the inside on the marred floor. Rub the nutty oils into the scratch with your finger and watch how it disguises the damage.


Jenna Schuster
October 26

Renovation & Design

Retailer could help with mortar repair

Question: I have an old Wolseley home, built in 1911, with a stone foundation that appears to be a limestone/Tyndall stone type. There are a couple of small areas that I am looking to repoint on the exterior above grade. It’s probably too small to be worth a contractor’s time, so I think this is something I could do. For this type of application, I was wondering what type of mortar do you use, as I assume that a Portland cement-based product would be too hard and may damage the stone itself? Do you use a hydraulic lime mortar, or is there a design mix that would be more appropriate?

Where could I source these materials in Winnipeg?

— Regards, Phil Slota


Answer: Choosing specific building material types for certain jobs requires technical knowledge that is beyond the scope of most home inspectors, unless they have specialized training or background in that area. For do-it-yourself advice, contacting a supplier that sells the particular products you require should be your best bet.

While I like to think I have personal knowledge about all things in homes, in many cases that is not reality. Home inspectors have varying backgrounds and come from many different previous areas of employment and expertise, but are rarely ever experts in all phases of house construction. The best inspectors almost always have a construction or design background, often as a specific trade, architectural technologist or engineer.

Those inspectors who have years of direct construction-related experience, particularly with houses and commercial buildings, will find it easier to understand building systems and explain issues related to those systems to their clients. As well, modern building science can be quite complex, especially in relation to building enclosures and air and moisture migration. Having some background in the sciences can also be a distinct advantage in doing this multi-faceted job.

My own background includes post-secondary education in the sciences, followed by more than 15 years in renovations and construction. This has provided me with a very good base to identify, evaluate and understand defects found in homes, but is not enough to continue to provide effective service for more than two decades.

An excellent home inspection training course was necessary for me to complete before starting out, but continuing education is also critical. Over the past 20 years, I have attended numerous seminars on all aspects related to building systems, health-related issues, building enclosures, defect recognition and other topics related to home inspections. Despite all this direct experience and education, there are numerous specific aspects of house construction and renovation that are beyond my scope of knowledge. Some of these are due to constant changes in building practices, but many are only understood by tradespeople in specific aspects of construction. Also, there is often more than one accepted practice or style for various jobs or systems, depending on the preference of the specialist involved. So, it would be impossible to keep up on all facets of modern home construction.

You have identified one area, masonry repair, which may easily fall into the category of "beyond the scope of the inspector." Unless you find a home inspector that was trained in masonry application or is a Red Seal mason, it is doubtful your question could be answered.

Even though the information may be available through research on the internet, or well illustrated in a YouTube video, it may not be reliable. It is hard to know who to trust when specific aspects, which may even be trade secrets, are desired. While I empathize with your dilemma, I can only give general advice rather than a specific answer to your question, in this case.

I am skeptical that you would cause any serious damage to your stone foundation, even if you used the wrong type of mortar. But I admire your desire to do the repairs properly.

Since the stone in the foundation has lasted more than a century, likely with several repointing repairs of the mortar joints at the exterior above grade, I doubt you could do that much harm if you used the wrong type of material. Nevertheless, the answer to your questions may be quite simple to obtain.

I would recommend contacting a local masonry supply company that services the wholesale industry and sells directly to the trades. They would likely supply bricks, stone, tile, concrete and cement mixes, and other masonry tools and supplies. Most companies of this type now have a website and retail sales counter, as well as one to service the industry professionals. They would certainly have sales staff that would easily be able to provide the proper advice and products necessary for you to repair your small areas of foundation mortar.

Asking a home inspector, like myself, for advice on the exact composition of materials for various home repairs may yield poor results, unless they had direct experience in that area of expertise.

Unless you are prepared to find and hire a professional mason interested in your small job, contacting a supplier that provides the materials that mason would use should give you all the answers you desire.

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 
October 26

Renovation & Design

Vinegar, water and dish soap can help unplug sink drain

QUESTION: What can I do for a kitchen sink that keeps plugging up? I use the plunger to unplug it, but my husband does not want me using Drano. What natural products can I use?

— Dale

Answer: If possible, remove the trap and clean it well with vinegar, water and dish soap. Also, clean 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. Leave overnight and drain in the morning. Snaking the drain is another step in keeping it clear and odour-free. Note: do not leave water in the sink if small children are in the house.



In your column, someone asked how to clean smooth-top stoves. Bar Keepers Friend was recommended to us many years ago.

Works great, but still needs a little elbow grease. It is non abrasive, and won’t scratch the surface.

— Don


In our house, we went from the old-style ring burners to an induction stove. My wife did not want a glass-top stove because of the cleaning issue, but the ring-top stoves had already gone down in the market (i.e. they did not offer many features).

Thus, we discovered induction stoves. They clean easily and we rarely have boil-overs or burned food at the bottom of the pot because of the instant control of cooking temperatures.

— Rob


I just read your column about cleaning a smooth-top stove. When I first purchased my stove top, I, too, tried many different cleaners and methods. Now I use a wet Norwex EnviroCloth (on a cold surface) for cleaning, followed with a Norwex Polishing Cloth — no chemicals needed, just water. Even after frying a pound of bacon with all the greasy splatters, cleanup is a breeze. For any tough spots, I use the Norwex Cleaning Paste, as this is environmentally friendly.

— Delores


Helpful tips

I have changed the way I eat breakfast oatmeal in the morning. Instead of sprinkling the surface with sugar, I now add a dollop of butter onto the surface, it tastes so good.

— Peter


When oven spills occur, quickly pour a generous amount of salt onto the area. Wait about an hour and wipe up. The salt will absorb the spill and make cleanup a snap.

— Lynda


To prevent broom handles or metal vacuum wands from marking walls, put old socks over the ends.

— Kathy


I use the powdered laundry detergent that is sold in plastic pails. It is such a struggle to get the lid off with each use, so now I just rest the lid on top of the pail. This allows moisture in, causing a problem with clumping. I decided to toss in a couple of packages of the silica gel that comes with new shoes. It keeps the laundry detergent dry and works amazingly well.

— Kendrick

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
October 26

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