Sunday, 29 March 2015

Get the skinny on household workouts

(NC) If your resolution to get fit this year is not yet on the road to success, real hope is on the horizon. Don't worry, for example, if your year-to-date gym attendance has more holes in it than a slice of Swiss cheese. The vigorous workouts you're going to get from spring cleaning will more than make up for it.
Did you know that cleaning can expend the same amount of calories as doing lunges or light calisthenics? I bet that will get you to rethink cleaning!
The cleaning experts at Hoover are making this kind of workout much easier––and more fun––by introducing light weight and maneuverable vacuums like the Hoover Air Cordless.
Excited to get started? Here's a list of common household cleaning tasks and the calories they burn:
• Mopping: 15 minutes will burn 43 calories, and one hour use up 170 calories.
• Sweeping Floors: 15 minutes will burn 39 calories, and one hour will burn 156.
• Vacuuming: 15 minutes will burn 43 calories, and one hour will have you burning 170.
• Window Washing: 15 minutes will burn 34 calories, and one hour will use up 136.
• Carpet Cleaning: 15 minutes will burn 39 calories, and one hour will burn 156 calories.
Be sure to crank up the tunes to intensify your workout routine and maximize your results. Not only will you have fun, you'll have a spotless home in no time. You can't get that at the gym.

Monday, 23 March 2015

How to revitalize your home with quick, high-impact results

(NC) Spring is the time of year when we breathe a collective sigh of relief that winter has finally released its icy grip. That is, until we realize it's time to tackle a full season (or two) of collective grime. While some of us might consider crocuses and red-bellied robins to be a sure sign of spring, unofficially, it can just as well be heralded in by the run on cleaning supplies and the steady hum of a vacuum cleaner.
So, when everything in a home looks like it's ready for a refresh, where does one start? If you want to make the greatest dent, tackle these high-impact areas first:
Dusting: Dust settles everywhere, and cleaning every surface and object can get really tedious. So why not save some time and energy? Your secret weapon—your vacuum and its trusty soft dusting tool––will help you to tackle just about any surface and get the job done in half the time.
Baseboards & Door Frames: If you've been pretty good about upkeep, your baseboards and door frames may just need a quick swipe with your vacuum's dusting or crevice tool. But if you're like many of us, a deeper clean is in order to remove dirt and smudges. Using warm water with your favorite soap or cleaner can make removing grime much easier or try a magic cleaning sponge.
Walls: Move obstacles. Then, dust the walls from top to bottom. Use a flat mop with warm water and soap or a mild cleaner. Start at the top of the wall, cleaning a small section at a time. Move the mop left to right, while working your way to the bottom of the section. Dry the wall with a clean towel. Repeat, completing one section at a time, until you reach the end of the wall.
Carpet/Hardwood Floors: Winter is hard on flooring, but so is the spring melt. Even with the greatest care, somehow the outdoors has made its way indoors. A deep clean is the simplest way to revitalize tired flooring. Experts like Hoover suggest using a vacuum that can get the job done effortlessly. At the top of the list this year is the Hoover Air Cordless. It offers constant, powerful suction with the ability to tackle multiple surfaces. This expert also recommends making multiple passes for the most effective clean. Washing floors thoroughly and regularly with a multi-surface deep cleaner will extend the life of your floors and help your home shine. In fact, you can simplify the job with a versatile unit like the Hoover Max Extract, which can wash hard and soft floors, as well as upholstery.
Now with the big stuff out of the way, you can focus on the little things—like a mani-pedi to reward all that hard work.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Top spring maintenance tips for every home

(NC) No home comes maintenance free. Even a brand new house requires regular upkeep to ensure its internal environment stays healthy. If you live in a house that is less than seven years old, home maintenance is also essential for preserving your warranty rights.
Almost all new homes in Ontario come with a warranty that lasts seven years from the date of the first possession, and it is guaranteed by Tarion Warranty Corporation. The warranty protects homeowners from certain defects, violations of the Ontario Building Code, and major structural damage, among other problems. But to make sure your home stays covered, you are advised to perform regular seasonal maintenance. Here are some tips to ensure it remains in good shape:
• Clear eaves troughs of debris regularly and extend downspouts so that water is directed away from your home. Water that flows around the foundation could eventually find its way into the basement.
• Have your roof inspected regularly to ensure shingles, flashing and chimney caps are in place and sealed properly.
• Fix the caulking around windows and doors and on the roof if it becomes cracked or separated.
• Clean or replace your furnace filter.
• Check air ducts, remove covers and vacuum dust from vents.
• Investigate and identify any musty smells and odors. They are often an indicator that there is a hidden moisture problem.
• In the winter, shut off the exterior water supply and drain water lines.
• Install a winter cover for the air conditioning unit.
• Check roofing and flashing for signs of wear or damage.
• Check/clean the heat recovery ventilator (HRV); wash or replace the filter.
• Clean the mechanisms of the humidifiers.
• Check for condensation and proper humidity levels.
By following an annual maintenance routine, you can keep your new home in top shape. Information about warranty coverage, including videos on year-round maintenance and moisture control, is available online at Ongoing maintenance helps to ensure that your home stays healthy and that your statutory warranty is protected.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Tips from the pros on growing the greenest lawn

(NC) Whether you're the defending champion of the greenest lawn or looking to step up your game this season, making your neighbors green with envy couldn't be easier.
Michelle Sordi from Husqvarna, a world leader in outdoor power products advises, “With the right practices, tools and materials, anyone can achieve a great looking lawn. It just takes a little time and effort to really see it flourish.”
Check out the following tips from the pros that will set you up for nothing but success:
∙ Stay hydrated: From when the lawn is first planted until the shoots start to show, keep the top half inch of the soil moist.
∙ Don't be blunt: Make sure your lawn mower blades are sharp so you get a clean cut every time. You can stop by your local dealer to ensure your blades are ready for cutting.
∙ Keep some length: Remember not to cut the grass too short. With a grass level from 5 to 9 cm you will have a fine, sustainable lawn.
∙ Less is more: Don't remove more than a third of the top growth in a single cutting.
∙ Keep the mulch: Leaving the clippings not only eliminates your time spent bagging, but it actually fertilizes the soil and lawn. Just be sure to have a mower with an easily adjustable cutting height as longer clippings smother the grass.
∙ Avoid watering at night: Be sure to let the grass dry out before the dew falls, since extended moisture invites disease. The best time to water is pre-dawn or early morning.
∙ Cut it out: Get rid of any weeds as early as possible. The best defense against pests, weeds and diseases is to grow thick, vigorous turf.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Install advanced and worry-free alarms in your home

Photo caption: Changing alarm batteries can be a thing of the past now because Kidde's "worry-free" models have sealed lithium batteries that last 10 years from activation.

(NC) Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms don't take rocket science to operate but homeowners do say they want simplicity. Most of us just want to install the alarms and then rely on them to protect our families. The problem is: these life-saving devices do require a minimum of attention to function at peak performance so that the alarm sounds anytime danger presents itself.
One Canadian company says it has used research to make it easier for families to stay safe with its new line of aptly called “worry-free” smoke and CO alarms. New models from Kidde Canada include CO alarms, smoke alarms and combination smoke/CO alarms in battery powered, plug-in and hardwired configurations.
“Looking at fire investigation statistics it was clear that many homeowners still have issues with two things: false alarms and replacing batteries,” says Carol Heller, a Kidde vice-president. “In more than two-thirds of fatal fires, alarms have either been removed or the batteries are dead or have been taken out. So our research and development division set to work, figuring if we could reduce false alarms caused by cooking and eliminate the need to change batteries every year consumers would appreciate it and stay safer too.”
It seems to be working. The company's “worry-free” alarms are proving a hit with consumers as well as fire prevention educators, a key audience group.
Central to the success of the new alarms are intelligent photoelectric sensors that do a much better job differentiating between a real fire and kitchen smoke or shower steam. But the biggest raves are coming for the new batteries found in the alarms.
“Changing alarm batteries can be a thing of the past now because our worry-free models have sealed lithium batteries that last 10 years from the time you install the alarm,” Heller explains. “Since the alarms themselves also last 10 years, that's a decade of protection and the only thing a homeowner has to do is push the test button once a month to ensure the circuits are working as they should. It saves about $40 on batteries over the life of the alarm, but the best outcome is that people are safer. They no longer need to tamper with the devices they installed to save their lives in the first place.”
On the packaging, this newest generation of alarms recommends the ideal installation location for each model, taking the guesswork out of replacing worn out alarms. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that smoke alarms be replaced every 10 years. For carbon monoxide alarms, the rule of thumb is to replace any models manufactured before 2008. Heller says that all Kidde smoke and CO alarms now last a full 10 years.
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Sunday, 15 March 2015

Sell your home sooner with these effortless landscaping tips

(NC) Curb appeal is essential when selling a house. A well maintained lawn, for example, proves you care about all the details of your property and provides onlookers confidence that the house is well preserved.
“A big percentage of home buyers decide whether or not to look inside a house based on what it looks like from the outside,” says Michelle Sordi at Husqvarna, a world leader in outdoor power products. “Proper maintenance and investing in the right tools will make sure your house and lawn looks great at first glance and demonstrates to potential buyers how much you care for your home.”
Sordi supplies some additional tips from the pros:
∙ Great yards begin in the spring, not the summer: Start the spring-cleaning when the snow has melted and the soil has dried up a bit. Remove layers of leaves that can lead to the grass molding or decaying by using a leaf blower or a rake. However, don't rake the lawn until it has started to grow.
∙ Would you buy it? Walk around your entire home's exterior with a critical eye. Take notes on what needs repairing, replacing or cleaning.
∙ Add color. Replace overgrown bushes with leafy plants and colorful annuals. Surround bushes and trees with dark or reddish-brown bark mulch; this will give a rich feel to the yard. Potted plants are another way to add a splash of color and can be taken with you when you move.
∙ Mow the lawn. Remember not to cut the grass too short. With a grass level of 5 to 9 cm you will have a fine, sustainable lawn.
∙ Trim the hedges. The way to get a good-looking hedge always starts with the right tool. With an ergonomically balanced and lightweight hedge trimmer, creating clean cuts and a smooth line will be easy.
∙ Get out of the weeds: Get rid of any weeds as early as possible. Also be sure to cut away withered leaves and grass from cultivated parts of the garden bed.
∙ Shape and edge your lawn. If you want your lawn to look really great, don't forget to trim the edges.
∙ Bright idea. Landscape lighting makes a huge impact on your home's curb appeal while also providing safety and security. It isn't unusual for potential buyers to drive by homes in the evening and lighting can provide an attractive view of your house at night.
More lawn tips and information about tool options for proper maintenance can be found online at

Prepare your home for spring

(NC) Winter weather can wreak havoc on homes and gardens across Canada. Complete this home maintenance checklist from The Home Depot Canada before the warm weather breaks to ensure your outdoor space is ready for spring enjoyment.
1. If your home experienced any leaking or flooding, you must first dry out the area. Use towels, a mop and bucket or a wet/dry vacuum to remove the water that entered your home. Ensure you replace any affected drywall and clean carpets or upholstery thoroughly to prevent mould growth.
2. Your roof takes quite a beating through the winter months. Once the warmer weather hits, take a look for any shingles that blew away or were damaged. Replace them to ensure your roof is waterproof ahead of spring showers.
3. Remove debris from your gutters using your hand or a leaf blower and run water from a garden hose down the eaves troughs. This will keep drainage running smoothly away from your home as rainfall increases in the spring.
4. In early spring, clean your deck with a power washer to remove stains and dirt build-up. On a dry day, apply a new coat of sealant to protect the deck from moisture damage, fungus growth and ultraviolet light in the summer ahead.
5. Get your yard ready for growing season by raking your lawn to remove winter debris, and pruning your perennials and trees ahead of their new growth.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

5 tips for buying a new condo

(NC) It's no secret that there's an ongoing condos boom in Ontario – just look around you. Our cities are going up vertically, and that means more and more people are enjoying high rise living. So if you are joining the crowd and thinking of buying a condo, here are some tips to make your purchase a smooth one:
1. Delays happen. It could be two or three years between the date you sign your purchase agreement and the date you take occupancy of your unit. If construction runs over schedule, it could be even longer. Read the statement of critical dates, outlined in the Addendum attached to the Agreement of Purchase and Sale to get a sense of how long it may take for your condo to be ready for occupancy.
2. Know your rights when it comes to delayed closings. Builders are entitled to extend the occupancy date specified in a purchase agreement as long as they provide proper notice. (When proper notice is not given, buyers are eligible for delayed occupancy compensation.) It's a good idea to read up on your rights and responsibilities in delayed occupancy situations, which you can do online at If a builder fails to close the sale or substantially complete construction, deposits are protected up to a maximum of $20,000 with any excess deposit amounts being protected by the trust provisions of the Condominium Act.
3. Hire a lawyer. A condominium lawyer will help you interpret your purchase agreement. It's to your benefit to understand both your own and your builder's responsibilities. For example, the Condominium Act entitles you to a 10-day "cooling off" period that begins on the day you receive the purchase agreement or a document called the disclosure statement, whichever comes later. During this time, your lawyer can negotiate changes to the offer, like capping adjustments to the purchase price, restricting amendments to the size, design or dimensions of the unit or even getting out of the contract.
4. Be prepared to move into a construction zone. Condo projects are different from single family homes in that the purchase is usually completed in two steps. Step one is interim occupancy. Many buyers find out the hard way that they're required to take possession of their completed unit before common element features like front reception, landscaping and the swimming pool are finished. This means you could live for many months without the anticipated amenities.
5. Know what's yours, and what's shared. A new condo unit comes with a seven-year warranty from your builder that is backed by Tarion Warranty Corporation. The shared areas in your condo, such as the roofing, parking structures, exterior cladding and any shared amenities, are covered under the common element warranty. This is a separate warranty from your unit's warranty. Condo owners are responsible to submit warranty claims for their units only, whereas the condo board handles the warranty for the common elements.
More information is available online at or toll-free at 1-877-982-7466. Information about the Condominium Act can be found through the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Add CO alarm safety to your home by April 15 deadline

Carbon monoxide has gained a significant profile in the past few years as accidental fatalities and near misses make headlines. Now, as the April 15 compliance period arrives for Ontario's new law that says homes with any potential sources of the deadly gas must have a working carbon monoxide alarm installed outside all sleeping areas, here is a refresher on the 'silent killer.'
CO alarms monitor airborne concentration levels of carbon monoxide in parts per million (ppm). They are designed to sense low concentrations over a long period of time as well as high concentrations over a short period of time. Per CSA requirements, all CO alarms will sound when concentrations of 70 ppm are detected. Some alarm models feature a digital display which helps you see if lower levels are present so corrective action can be taken.
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of “incomplete combustion” of fossil fuels burned for energy or heat, such as natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, charcoal, gasoline and wood.
The usual suspects in most homes are wood or gas fireplaces and wood stoves; gas, oil or propane furnaces; gas water heaters or portable generators; and gas stoves and clothes dryers. Vehicles are also prime CO producers, so leaving them running in attached garages is a no-no.
Proper venting is key to ensuring deadly CO does not accumulate in your home. Cracked or blocked chimney flues (carbon, bird's nests), appliance vents and other ductwork are often the cause seepage back into a home. A yearly inspection of all devices by a licensed technician is the first step to CO safety.
Other than an emergency, most recent alarm models chirp to tell you that their battery is low or that it has reached the end of its lifespan.
Alarm location is key. Never install a CO alarm in a furnace room or near windows. Install them outside all sleeping areas so that people will be awakened at night.
It is a small investment for safety. On average, CO alarms cost between $30 and $60, depending on features. New “worry-free” models from manufacturer Kidde Canada have a 10-year lifespan and a sealed lithium battery that also lasts 10 years without needing to be changed.
More CO and fire safety tips can be found at

Monday, 9 March 2015

Home ownership builds strong communities: Toronto Real Estate Board


TREB: Home ownership builds strong communities 


If like thousands of people throughout the Greater Toronto Area you have worked with a REALTOR® in recent years, you probably have an appreciation of the many variables that can occur in a transaction. 
While working in the real estate profession demands a considerable knowledge base, throughout my 30 years as a REALTOR® I have found that one of the most important aspects of the job has remained the same: the simple act of bringing people together. It is immensely gratifying to see the enthusiasm in buyers’ eyes as they envision their new lifestyle and the sense of achievement that sellers experience when an agreement is reached. 
It has been said that when people come together we can accomplish great things and this extends beyond the context of a real estate transaction to the communities that each of us calls home.
According to a 2012 study by Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area, homeowners play an important role in strengthening communities throughout our city.  The organization, which develops affordable housing communities throughout the GTA, undertook the study in 2012 in order to gauge the experiences of people transitioning from rental housing to home ownership, and a number of significant findings were reported. 
Homeowners noted improved health, better academic scores among their children, and even increased recycling efforts. Equally notable however were the study’s findings regarding community involvement. Half of respondents reported feeling safer walking outside their homes and 72 per cent of those surveyed reported being friendly with five or more neighbors — a 25 per cent increase. Connecting with others in the community even applied to the youngest members of the household, with 81 per cent of respondents reporting an improvement in their children’s social life. Another finding suggests these homeowners are likely to deepen their engagement in the community in the long term, with 93 per cent indicating they don’t plan to move for a very long time, or never at all.
   A report published in the same year by the National Association of REALTORS® in the United States illustrates similar findings. It indicated that since homeowners tend to remain in their homes longer, their residential stability lends itself to home improvement efforts and civic participation, showing that home ownership builds strong communities.
One of the many reasons home ownership is vital to our city’s future is that it gives people the confidence to offer a hand up to others, generating a cascade of prosperity. The Habitat for Humanity GTA report findings support this theory, indicating that 66 per cent of respondents feel hugely better about themselves as homeowners and showing a 135 per cent increase in respondents extending invitations to visitors.
In the interest of your family’s well being and your financial future it’s wise to make the transition to home ownership at the earliest opportunity. 
  Greater Toronto REALTORS® can advise you as to neighborhoods and housing types to fit almost any budget, and they can also offer insight into government programs that can help with taking this important step. To learn more visit

Sunday, 8 March 2015

A fire in your dryer is more common than you think

(NC) Did you know that laundry room clothes dryers are the cause of around 15,000 house fires across North America every year? It is essential, therefore, to put this hard-working appliance on your springtime to-do list. “The reality is that dryer fires are fairly preventable with proper maintenance and safety precautions,” says Ryan Michel, senior vice president and chief risk officer at Allstate Canada.
Most people know you should clean the lint trap after every dryer use and shouldn't overload your machine. However, here are six other tips you can follow to ensure it is operating safely:
1. Don't leave your dryer running if you're not a home.
2. Make sure there's proper ventilation for dryers located in closets or enclosed rooms.
3. Never operate your dryer with a damaged or missing lint filter.
4. Keep the area around the dryer free of combustible items.
5. Never dry fabrics that have been saturated by oils, gasoline or chemicals. And don't put rubber coated or foam items in your dryer either.
6. Always refer to the owner's manual for proper operating instructions.
And once a year be sure to:
• Hire a professional to service your dyer.
• Check that the dryer duct is clear of lint and connected to a vent outdoors. This can also help to reduce energy costs.
• Replace plastic venting pipes with flexible aluminum or steel material to sustain proper airflow and avoid crimping.
“Every family should have a fire prevention plan in place,” Michel adds, “and dryer maintenance and proper use of it should be a key component.”
Spring is also the perfect time of year to check the batteries in your smoke alarms and CO detectors, and to ensure that you have one on each floor of your home. Also be sure to have an exit plan in place for emergency evacuation during a fire and make sure every member of your family is aware of the plan. Additional information on fire prevention is available at

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Reduce Your Home Ownership Expenses With These Tips

Reduce Your Home Ownership Expenses With These Tips

(By Anne

Homes cost money.
Not just the mortgage and the taxes, or even the down payment, but all the myriad things—from the heating to the gutters—that sap your savings.
Aside from careful money management, how can you reduce your daily home expenses?

Think Big

Your biggest regular expense is likely your mortgage. You may be able to shrink it, with and without the bank’s help.
  • Refinance to take advantage of low interest rates
  • Cut the time left on your mortgage. Consider taking on a 15-year option. You’ll save on interest over the long term.
  • Pay half of your monthly mortgage every two weeks. Doing so will also help you save on interest.
  • Reduce your private mortgage insurance. If you made only a small down payment, you may be able to drop some (or all) of the insurance after you pay down your mortgage to about 80%  of the principal, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Save On Utilities

Your parents might have nagged you to turn off the lights when you weren't using them. Now that you’re paying the bills, you get it. You don’t have to replace every appliance in your home to cut the bill, though—a few simple steps can help.
  • Keep the thermostat level, and make sure it works properly. If your house feels cold but you've jacked up the thermostat, you’ll want to figure out why quickly.
  • Set the thermostat no higher than 68 degrees in winter and no lower than 78 in summer.
  • Consider high-tech solutions. Some thermostats can be programmed to lower during times when no one is home. Set your lights on timers.
  • Close blinds in summer, and weatherproof windows in winter.
  • Monitor your fridge—keep your freezer full and clean the appliance’s coils regularly.
  • Run loads back-to-back in your clothes dryer so that the dryer will remain warm from the previous cycle.

Save On Water

  • Bathroom: Fix any leaking toilets or faucets and install flow-restricting showerheads.
  • Kitchen: Run full loads in your dishwasher and let the dishes air-dry.
  • Laundry: Wash full loads as they use less water than multiple small loads.
Elsewhere, lower the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees. While most are factory-set to 140 degrees, you could lower the setting on yours and save up to 5% on your electricity bill.

Learn To DIY

Many large hardware stores, including chains such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, offer free home improvement courses such as repairing drywall or updating a dimmer switch—projects that would typically cost $50 an hour if done by a pro.
Some other projects you could learn to do yourself:
  • Curtains: They’re simple to sew if their design involves straight lines.
  • Cabinets: If you aren't looking to replace your cabinets but want a simple update, try refinishing or repainting them yourself.
  • Gutters: If your gutters are easy to reach, it takes only a small amount of time to clear them of debris. Do this regularly, and you could spare yourself a significant headache down the road.
When times become flush for you, you could hire professionals to tackle these chores. But if your priority is keeping costs down, investing a little time now can pay off in the long run.

Updated from an earlier version by Ben Apple

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