Newcomers to Buying Canadian Real Estate

Newcomers to Canada face many choices including one of the most important—where to live.  Buying a home, whether it is a suburban house, an apartment, a farmhouse, a townhouse or cooperative housing, can be a different experience from other countries.  For example, zoning regulations, fees, taxes, mortgage requirements and even customs can vary.  Understanding these differences before entering the real estate market can help to ensure a positive experience.

Real estate transactions have certain customs that may be strange to first-time buyers in Canada.  A good example involves show suites in new strata complexes.  These suites are likely to have the best flooring, cabinets and countertops, high-end appliances, decorator paint colours and even special lighting fixtures.  When buyers move into their own unit, the designer pizzazz has vanished, typically taking the custom features and even the appliances with it!  When buying a home under construction, find out exactly what is included and be sure that the items are listed in the offer and purchase contracts.  A refrigerator, stove, washer, dryer and dishwasher will cost approximately $4,500.  When buying an older home, appliances are usually included but again, be sure everything agreed upon is in the contract.

In some parts of the world, homes are sold complete with furniture and even some decorative accents such as lamps and artwork.  This is not typically the custom in Canada although some people may be willing to selling them.  

Another uniquely Canadian aspect of real estate is the Goods and Services Tax (GST).   Buyers of new homes are required to pay the GST.  This is a one-time tax.  Buyers must budget for GST, land transfer taxes and annual property taxes.  Property taxes vary greatly across the country.

Any buyer who intends to have a home connected to a business such as a farm, an apartment above a store or restaurant, or a home office for professional services should make their intentions clear to their REALTOR®.  Zoning restrictions are in place in almost every Canadian municipality and a real estate professional can help to find suitable options.  Properties that combine home and business functions may also be taxed differently.  In the case of farming, there are often tax benefits.  For details, contact an accountant, the local municipality and/or Canada Revenue.

Canadian banks have strict mortgage lending guidelines.  Everyone who applies for a mortgage in Canada, regardless of their place of birth, will undergo a credit check and must provide lenders with several documents including identification, proof of income (e.g., T-4 slips from employers, investment income, personal holdings and rental income) and details of assets and liabilities.  A high-ratio mortgage (a mortgage with a down payment of less than 20% of the home’s value) requires mortgage insurance.  Lenders obtain this insurance from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) or other organizations then typically pass the costs onto homebuyers.  For condominium purchases, lenders may require a copy of the strata association’s financial statements. Lenders also protect their investments by requiring buyers to pay for professional home appraisals and inspections.

In Canada, mortgage interest rates can be fixed, variable or protected variable. A fixed rate does not change during the life of the mortgage.  A variable rate changes along with the prevailing market rate.  Although the monthly payment may stay more or less constant as rates fluctuate, the variability will be reflected in the amount of a payment that goes to the principal and the amount to interest.  A protected (or capped) variable rate sets a limit on how high a homeowner’s interest rate will rise; lenders often charge a premium for this protection.   The length of a mortgage can be from six months to 25 years.  At the end of the term, a buyer can pay off or renew the mortgage.  When renewing, new terms and conditions can be negotiated.  As CMHC notes, generally, the longer the term of the mortgage, the higher the interest rate.

Newcomers may also find Canadian neighbourhoods to be quite different.  In this young and geographically large country, many cities and towns developed over vast areas requiring transportation to get around.  Explore a potential neighbourhood to check out the public transit and road systems.  Proximity to grocery stores, sports facilities, parks and cultural attractions may also be important considerations.  Some communities can have restrictions such as a noise limit at certain hours, rules about dogs and exotic pets, lawn watering times, etc.

Something all first-time buyers have in common is their tendency to overlook moving costs.  Along with mortgage payments, taxes and fees, buyers should set aside approximately $150 per hour for movers when relocating within the same community.  Moving from another province will cost at least $3,000.  Transporting belongings from another country will be much more.  Always get quotes from at least three movers before making a decision.

Buying a new home can be confusing; a REALTOR® will provide valuable expertise.


Homeownership for Young People

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Looking Ahead
No one likes to think they will get old but we all seem to. Equally, no one likes to think that they will be living in their parents' basement until they're thirty-something! While saving for a mortgage may be the last thing on young minds preoccupied with sports, dating, or academics, it's never too early to plan for the future. A few small steps can become giant leaps towards financial security!

Every dollar counts!
If there are two key words every young adult and teenager should know they are "compound interest". A simple mathematical calculation demonstrates how savings can build. If the initial investment is $100 at a conservative interest rate of 5% per year, by the end of that year the investment will be $105. If the money remains invested through the next year, the investment will grow to $110.25 ($105 x 5% = $110.25). The following year it would be $110.25 x 5% = $115.76. So it is easy to see how quickly an investment can grow. It's a great habit to get into setting aside a certain amount from every paycheck. Regular "payments" to your investment not only result in greater savings, they can help even out the ups and downs of the marketplace. There is nothing worse than investing one large sum of money and immediately afterwards seeing the stock market or interest rates plummet. Also try to think of invested money as being out of reach and avoid dipping into those savings.

Elephants aren't the only ones with good memories…
A credit history can go as far back as the first loan (even those co-signed by a parent) or the first credit card. A bad credit rating can make it hard to lease a car, get a mortgage, or any type of loan. Always pay at least your minimum monthly credit card payment and pay it on time. Of course, the best plan is to never carry a balance. The lure of credit, however, can be too hard for anyone to resist especially for a young adult on a limited budget. If you can establish good habits early, think of how much you will save by avoiding years of paying 18-20% credit card interest. (That's compound interest too, by the way.)

A poor credit rating can haunt you for years but a good rating can help you get a loan or mortgage in the future. Most lenders need to see that a borrower is financially responsible. Credit cards can be a great beginning. Most credit card companies will give accounts to students in their last year of university or most applicants over the age of 21.

Research the area where you would like to live.
No one can predict where the future will take him or her. Society is more mobile than ever. Educational pursuits or new jobs often force people to leave their hometowns and relocate in other cities or provinces. Wherever a person decides to put down roots, it's important to research the market. Talk to local real estate agents. Most will be happy to share their knowledge and experience. Some important questions to ask include How much will I expect to spend in order to purchase a house with a certain number of bedrooms or a certain square footage? What sort of features should I look for in a home? Is there a strong resale market in this area? Also check out the local real estate companies on the Internet to get an idea of local home prices and sizes.

Mortgage Calculators
The best place to start is a mortgage calculator on the Internet. You can simply type in "mortgage calculator" and several options come up. (Ensure that you are using a Canadian mortgage calculator since rules differ between countries. A good calculator can be found at (www.canadamortgage.com.) A mortgage calculator is a quick, easy way to see what you can afford. If you enter an approximate home value and current interest rates, the calculator will show the required monthly payments and the value of the mortgage. By changing the amount of your down payment or the length of the mortgage payment period (amortization period) you can see how monthly payments change. Remember that this calculator only provides general information. When an individual applies for a mortgage the lender will take numerous factors into account including income, length of employment, and of course that omnipresent credit rating!

The tortoise and the hare…
Even if buying a home is years away it's a good idea to start planning today! The slow steady building of your investments pays off richly in the end. Save a specific percentage of your income on a regular basis starting from your very first part-time job. Also try to make payments to your credit card on time and don't carry a balance. Eventually we all get to the finish line but it's nice to get there in style!

 


Costs and Considerations when Buying a Home

"Home is an invention on which no one has yet improved."
- Ann Douglas

In the excitement of beginning a search for a home, many people jump right in without considering all of the elements that make a home truly right for them. It is a complicated and personal process. An unsuitable choice can be costly in many ways - you could lose money, waste time and effort relocating, or even put your family's health in danger. The following are some things to consider when identifying your ideal home and planning a successful purchase.

Choosing a Neighbourhood
Remember that you can renovate a house but neighbourhoods take years to change and there's no guarantee they'll change for the better! On the other hand, if you really love a certain part of town but it's out of your price range you may want to consider buying a less-than-perfect home then doing renovations. They can be quite expensive so try to make improvements that will be reflected in the value when you sell. These renovations have been found to have the greatest payback: kitchen 70%, bathroom 68%, interior painting 65%, exterior painting 62%.

Tips on choosing a suitable neighbourhood:

  • When you find a locale you like, walk around it. See what it's like from street level.
  • Are the people friendly?
  • Are there stores and recreation facilities nearby?
  • Contact the local school board if you have children. Do local schools provide good education opportunities? If applicable are there private/religious schools?

Figure out what you can afford:
Consider how much you currently need to live on and how much you actually have leftover every month. People have a tendency to create budgets that look nothing like reality - when we should have $400 left over, for some reason we only have half that.

Consider these basic costs of buying a new home:

  • Most homes require a down payment of several thousand dollars.

  • Monthly mortgage payments can be 1/3 of the average person's annual net income.
  • You may want to pay for a home inspection. Consider more than just the structure. Ask the inspector to check for asbestos, radon, animal infestation and lead.
  • Moving costs can be from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the distance of your move and the quantity of belongings.

Financing
The sort of home you can afford depends on several things:

  • How much you have saved

  • How much you earn

  • Past earnings
  • Your credit rating

The past has a way of haunting new homebuyers. If you are concerned about your credit rating you can usually get a free copy of your rating report from your local credit bureau. Normally all that's required is a couple pieces of photo identification. Remember, a few late payments or disputed bills can besmirch your record. Try to pay everything on time and don't have more than two credit cards. A bad rating can spell trouble getting a mortgage or you end up paying more for your mortgage as a form of insurance to the lender.

Pre-Qualification
This refers to documents from a bank or other lender indicating that you have the financing to back up your offer on a house. Pre-qualification is free and most lenders are happy to sit down with prospective buyers and figure how much they can afford. Having an accurate idea of price range will save time in the bidding process. If there are several people making offers on your dream home, being pre-qualified can make your offer more attractive since financing is not in question. It is important to note, however, that lending institutions will base their final decision about a mortgage on ability of the buyer to service the debt as well as the property. Most lenders state that the two components go hand in hand - the buyer with the ability to repay a mortgage and the property as security in the event of default on payment.

By taking all these points into consideration, you can worry less about the process of buying and get busy finding your ideal home!


Mold In Our Homes: A Comprehensive Guide

Mold is pervasive in our environment; it occurs indoors and outdoors. In nature, various molds work to decay leaves and trees, returning essential nutrients back into the soil. Mold has also served humankind through some very inventive applications. Experiments in the 1920s revealed that a species of mold, called Penicillium, when added to a sweet solution, released a chemical as part of its metabolic processes. That chemical became known as penicillin, a live-saving antibiotic. Molds also have a long history of use in cooking: they are essential to production of some cheeses such as blue cheese. Airborne molds and yeasts provide the leavening agent and distinctive flavour of sourdough bread. Inside our homes, however, mold can cause serious health problems and damage building structures.

Molds are microscopic fungi, a group of organisms that include mushrooms and yeasts. These organisms grow rapidly in the proper conditions and spread quickly through the release of spores into the air. Over 270 different types of molds have been identified in Canadian homes according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

Health Concerns

Molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances known as mycotoxins. Inhaling spores or touching mold may cause allergic reactions such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, asthma attacks in sensitive individuals, and skin rash.

Exposure to mold can be more severe for infants and children, elderly people, pregnant women, individuals with allergies or respiratory conditions such as asthma, and people with weakened immune systems. Long-term exposure to indoor molds can eventually become dangerous for anyone.

Mold in Our Homes

Our homes can present the ideal habitat for molds to thrive. High indoor humidity (over 70%) is the main culprit in the overgrowth of mold. The following are a few noticeable signs of excess moisture in your home:

  • Condensation on the inside of windowpanes
  • A musty smell
  • Discoloration on furniture *
  • Rust on water pipes

Reducing Moisture

If you find your home has a moisture problem, it is essential to your health and the quality of your home to correct the problem as soon as possible. Because mold can spread rapidly, small problems should be taken care of before they become serious. Mold can discolour carpets, walls, furniture and curtains. Eventually, a mold problem left unchecked can lead to wood rot and structural damage. The following are recommended methods of reducing moisture:

  • Indoor water leaks or spills should be completely dry within 24 hours to prevent the growth of molds. Open windows and use fans if necessary.
  • Vent appliances that produce moisture, such as dishwashers, clothes dryers, stoves, and kerosene heaters to the outside where possible. (Combustion appliances such as stoves and kerosene heaters produce water vapor and will increase the humidity unless vented to the outside.)
  • Run the bathroom fan or open the window when showering. Use exhaust fans or open windows whenever cooking, running the dishwasher or dishwashing, etc.
  • Increase ventilation or air movement by opening doors and/or windows, when practical. Use fans as needed.
  • Use de-humidifiers when needed.
  • Insulate cold water pipes where condensation is likely to occur.
  • Consult a professional if you suspect you have rainwater penetration in your home. Any such problems should be corrected immediately.

Removing Mold

It is possible to correct small mold problems by removing the existing mold and implementing some of the previously mentioned methods to reduce moisture. CMHC recommends the following procedure for removing mold.

You can clean small areas on your own. A small area is defined as a maximum of three patches each less than a square metre in size. Clean using a detergent solution, safety goggles, household rubber gloves and a disposable dust mask (3M 8210 or equivalent) for protection. You may also use a few drops of bleach in a litre of water however, never mix bleach and detergent.

If mold is present on more than three square metres of your home's interior, assessment by a professional is recommended. The process of cleaning may result in a significant amount of airborne spores; a dust mask may not provide adequate protection. Consider consulting a professional to determine why the mold is there in the first place and correct it.

Considering how quickly mold organisms can reproduce, rapid action is the best approach. Correcting the problem will ensure you have a healthy and sound home for years to come


Real vs. Personal Property

The last thing you need on moving day is a battle over that wonderful antique mirror in the master bathroom! Yet most buyers take very little time to look at the "extras" in a home before they make an offer. As a result, they may discover that the beautiful fixtures or high-tech stove they thought came with the house have been loaded on the moving van heading to a new home.

Both buyers and sellers should make a detailed list of items to be included in the sale of the property and reach an agreement on disputed items before closing. The most difficult part of a sale, however, can be reaching an agreement on the definition of property. Everyone has a slightly different concept of what should or should not be included. Many items can fall into dispute particularly if they were specially ordered, custom-made, expensive or have some personal significance.

To avoid confusion, general rules of real vs. personal property have been established. Real property refers to all the items which are part of the property and cannot be removed without causing damage, anything which is immovable by law, or anything which is incidental or appurtenant to the land. Personal property is simply anything which belongs to, and leaves with, the homeowner such as tables or sofas.

Legally, the intention inherent in the manner in which an article, fixture, or piece of equipment is attached to the property is used to determine if the item is real or personal property. (You may be familiar with rule of thumb that anything screwed in can be removed but items which are nailed in place cannot.) Since the intention of the owner at the time of installation is almost impossible to determine, it is important that everything is in writing. The easiest way to avoid misunderstandings is for the seller to make a list of their personal property. 

Once you have completed the checklist and decided which items will stay and which will go these should be noted in sale documents. Give a list of all personal property items which will remain in the home such as chandeliers, built-in bookshelf, or appliances to the closing agent. The Bill of Sale will then be signed at close of escrow by the seller to avoid confusion.

It's also a good idea for the buyer to make his or her own checklist. House hunters can save time by taking inventory of fixtures and all property which might fall into dispute on second viewing of a home or even at open houses.

Remember that both buyers and sellers can negotiate on property transfer. A seller may be happy to leave an ornate light fixture if the style is unsuitable for their new home. Buyers who have their heart set on item are free to try to work in into the asking price or condition or sale. Now who wants the Elvis lawn ornaments?


Affordable Home Style

Redecorating our living spaces has never been more popular. Turn on the television these days and chances are you'll come across one of numerous programs featuring a team of designers who transform a home in just a few days. Astonishing before and after photos demonstrate what can be achieved with some paint, a few furniture upgrades and a good layout. What we don't see, of course, are the hours of planning and preparation that have led up to the televised decorating frenzy.

Unfortunately, most of us don't have a large budget, much less a team of designers working for us. So where do you start and how will you afford it? The following ideas will help you add comfort and beauty to any space without breaking the bank.

Decorating With Color

Start with colour. Paint is one of the most important tools for decorators; paint is a relatively inexpensive way to dramatically change the look of a room. You can open up a small space with light tones. You can warm a room with red, orange or yellow. Shades of blue and green can be soothing. A powerful accent colour, such as rust red, painted on one wall can create a focal point. Consider your personal preferences. Redecorating is an opportunity to create the home you've always wanted. Keep in mind, however, that dark tones will require several coats to cover if you want to change them later.

Another consideration when selecting paint is your existing furniture. Ask yourself which pieces you like and which ones you plan to recover or replace. For example, if you have a sofa and chair that you like, study the fabric for clues to a good colour scheme for the entire room. Take close-up photos of the fabrics and bring the photos with you to the paint store. There you can easily test out several combinations of colours. Before you buy any paint, be sure to bring the swatches home and put them against the walls and the furniture. Swatches can look far different under the fluorescent lighting at the store than they will in your home.

If your furniture doesn't inspire you, visit a paint store and check out the colour schemes that professional designers have assembled. Paint manufacturers often provide catalogues of coordinated colours to help take the guesswork out of decorating. You may find some surprising yet delightful combinations such as chocolate brown, silvery grey and baby blue or a rich warm combination of burgundy, cinnamon and gold. Of course, there are also more subdued options to choose from such as shades of beige, taupe and brown. You may decide to utilize an entire palette of recommended paints or simply use it as a starting point in creating your own unique style.

Style Your Home With Lighting

Colour is also closely linked to lighting. Both artificial and natural light affect how the eye perceives colours. Full spectrum natural light is warmer than florescent light but often cooler than incandescent light. Under florescent bulbs, colours may appear slightly blue or green. Regular incandescent bulbs often cast a yellowish light. If you have few windows and want to add more natural light to a room, try blue incandescent light bulbs also known as grow lights. The pale blue colour of these bulbs filters out the yellow rays produced by regular incandescent bulbs. The result is a whiter-looking light similar to natural light.

Remember that the placement of lights will also have a major impact on the atmosphere of a room. A single overhead light that illuminates an entire room can obliterate relaxed ambience at the flick of a switch. Floor and table lamps are a good solution. They provide soft light where it's needed most rather than trying to light a large area. Take a look around your home for areas that may benefit from illumination. Try a soft spotlight on a display case or a piece of artwork. Use 'uplighters' to create the illusion of a high ceiling and to brighten dark corridors. Think of applying light as an artist would apply paint to a canvas; light brings colours to life by allowing them to emerge from the dark recesses. Today, there are a great variety of lighting fixtures available that can provide functionality with style.

Save With Homemade Furniture

Consider building your own tables and shelves. With a little practice, some basic instruction and a few tools such as a drill, a saw, screwdrivers and a carpenter's square you can create your own simple furniture. Aside from saving money, homemade furniture can also be healthier than some commercial products made from plywood, particleboard or medium density fiberboard (MDF). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that the adhesives used in these products contain urea-formaldehyde resins which emit varying levels of formaldehyde, a toxin. By choosing solid wood and low-emission paints and varnishes, you can be assured your furniture is as safe as possible. Home renovation stores now offer numerous products for 'do-it-yourselfers' including ornate moldings and carved legs for chairs and tables.

Affordable Accents

Simple sewing skills are all that's required to make unique accent pillows for couches and beds. Most fabric stores have 'end of the roll' bins with small pieces of fabric at discounted prices. Most pieces are a square metre in size-large enough to make a standard pillow. For added versatility, you may want to use a different type of fabric on each side of the pillow. You can even add beads or stencil on a design in fabric paint for added interest.

Rearrange To Redecorate

Sometimes the best solutions are free. Rearranging furniture can instantly create a fresh new look for your home. Before you start moving your furniture, take some measurements and sketch out the new design on paper. Furniture that is arranged in a curve rather than at right angles generally seems more inviting. Try positioning some pieces at intriguing angles. There is no need to stop at rearranging furniture-try rearranging your framed artwork as well. Create unique groupings of different sized frames. For sleek style, create a row of identically sized and framed pieces of art.

Redecorating can be a wonderful opportunity to infuse your living space with your own personal style. By incorporating some of these ideas and planning ahead, your redecorating experience can also be cost-effective.


Assessing Property Values

Of course what most of us tout is location, location, location. It is important to understand how price and location fit together. When it comes to selling, the importance of pricing a home is superior to everything else. A simple illustration is to picture a home for sale in the best location you can imagine. Then put a price on it that is too high by market comparison. The result will be that the home may be admired by many but no offers will come since the price is attracting the wrong crowd. To further illustrate, take a less popular location and market-price it, the buyers will be lined up with offers. Location factors in to correct pricing the way other important features do when assessing the likely sale price of a home. Correct pricing then, when it comes to selling, plays the leading role followed by strategic marketing and negotiating in order to obtain optimum value.

Location is paramount on the other hand when assessing where the highest rate of appreciation might be expected over a period of time. Locations that are superior for neighbourhood, proximity to schools and shopping, receive a steady demand on the part of buyers and usually produce a higher increase in value and of course a quicker sale when that time comes.

When buying, there is a trade-off for location. A home for sale on a main street for example will usually have more features for the price, than the same home on the nearby crescent. So a main street may be just what a consumer prefers knowing that they are getting more of the features they want for their money. On the other hand, a buyer may prefer to take the "crescent" home with less features for the money preferring the added safety that accrues to that location, where small children may be a concern.

It is by and large a matter of choice and most folks whether buying or selling want to come away from the process feeling they were well informed and pay or receive a fair price.


Tips on Buying a New Home

Home buying is an important personal decision and a big financial investment. You want to find the home that's right for you and the builder who provides the best value and service. Here are some tips to help make the buying process enjoyable and successful.

Do Your Research

Know what you want, what's available and how the buying process works before you start thinking seriously about signing a contract. Browse through newspapers and magazines. Consult with family, friends and co-workers. Attend a seminar for first-time home buyers. Check the Internet. Visit model homes and talk with builders and their sales agents.

Pre-arrange your mortgage

If you are like most of us, you will borrow funds to finance your home purchase. Talk to your lender about mortgages early in the process. Knowing in advance how much you can spend comfortably and getting pre-approval for a mortgage means you can proceed from "just looking" to a signed contract with confidence.

Check the builder's qualifications

There are many reputable builders who provide exceptional service and build great homes - both lowrise and highrise. As you talk with builders or their salespeople, ask questions: How long has the company been in business? Is it a member of the local home builders association? Will the builder give you references of previous new home projects? What after-sales service is offered? Does the builder offer an independent third-party warranty and, if so, what does it cover? "Personal fit" is also important: Does the builder or salesperson listen to you, understand your needs, and offer useful advice?

Check the home carefully

Whether a builder has a model home, a sales office or sells directly from plans, you'll have an opportunity to look closely at the quality of the home and what's included. The builder's specifications list will detail the construction materials and finishing products. Ask to see a description and samples of the standard features included in the base price of the house, along with the description and cost of options the builder offers. When viewing a model home, don't hesitate to try out windows, open drawers, look into every nook and cranny, and inspect the home's mechanical system.

Understand the total cost of buying

Get detailed prices and estimates on everything involved in buying a home. Your builder and lender can advise you on the costs of securing a mortgage, taxes and so on. Ask your lawyer to give you a detailed breakdown of closing costs. Call movers for estimates. Determine if you need to buy new appliance, window coverings or furnishings.

Consult with a lawyer

Before you hire a lawyer, it's a good idea to ask for a detailed estimate of fees for service.

Be realistic

Quality, solidity, good products, service - these are the things that add up to real value for the long term. Your objective is to find the home that provides the best overall value within your budget. A professional builder will work with you to find the right balance of features that will work well for you.


Avoid Common 'Do-It-Yourself' Downfalls

Not everyone who buys a home has experience doing their own repairs and small renovation projects. Yet homeowners quickly discover that by tackling some of these projects on their own, they can save money. Before you start work, be aware of common do-it-yourself downfalls, some of which can result in larger, more expensive problems, or even injury.

DIY Woodworking

Eventually, most homeowners end up doing repairs or renovation projects which require some woodworking. It may be when a new puppy gnaws through the molding or when an odd-sized closet requires custom-designed shelves. Before you begin any woodworking project, consider the following tips:

  1. Make sure there is no water on the floor where you will be working and relocate the dog's dish, plant watering can, etc. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity. In the event that electrical current from a power tool comes in contact with a wet surface, it can deliver a dangerous, even deadly, jolt of electricity. If you are using power tools outdoors, move inside at the first sign of rain.
  2. Due to the possibility of sparks when using power tools, it is important to ensure that the room has adequate ventilation, particularly if you are working in a garage where combustible gas or propane vapours may accumulate. Remove rags used for paint thinner or gasoline. Position your work area well away from vehicles and gas-powered lawnmowers.
  3. Choose an area where children and pets will not be underfoot.
  4. If you only need to do woodworking projects occasionally, you may wish to rent equipment rather than purchasing it. Doing so may save you money and there are other benefits as well. Stores that rent equipment carry a wide selection of tools, the equipment is typically well maintained, and if you require instruction on how to use a certain tool, the store clerk can provide a quick demonstration including safety tips.
  5. The following are some inexpensive do-it-yourself essentials: a carpenter's square, a tape measure, a laser pointer for a straight edge, a 'stud-finder' (to locate studs behind drywall), work gloves, and safety goggles.

Replacing a Broken, Single-Glazed Window

An old adage says that there will be a broken window to mark every decade in a home. If you happen to live near a baseball diamond, you can expect a broken window even more often!

If you wish to avoid the expense of having a window repair company make a house call, you have two choices: 1) remove the sash (the frame that holds the glass) from the window and take it in for a repair or 2) buy a new pane and have it cut to size and make the repair yourself. Option 2 is usually the easiest choice. If you've never had to replace a windowpane on your own, here are a few pointers that can make the repair job a bit easier:

Start by removing all the broken glass. Spread and tape down a large plastic sheet to cover indoor carpet, counters, etc. Wearing heavy work gloves, carefully remove the broken glass from the frame.

Next, scrape away the old putty down to the bare wood or metal. As you remove the putty, you should notice small triangular pieces of metal sticking into the frame. These are called glazier's points, and they hold the glass in place. Remove the glazier's points with a set of pliers and note their location on the frame with a pencil.

Repaint the inside of the frame to seal the surface. This will help prevent the glazing compound from drying out too quickly. Once the paint has dried, measure the space for the glass from the inside edges. Measure the distance horizontally and vertically at several locations along the frame; the frame may not be perfectly straight. From these dimensions, subtract 1/3 of a centimetre (1/8 of an inch) to make the installation easier and to allow room for the frame to expand and contract with the weather.

When it comes to cutting the replacement glass, it's usually best to leave it to the experts. Most people who try to cut their own glass end up buying more than one pane!

Once your glass has been cut, apply a thin layer of glazing compound to the inside edges of the frame. Insert the glass and replace the glazier's points near their original holes. Next, you'll want to cover up the glazier's points and seal the glass to the frame with glazing compound. Take a look at your other windows to see how they were finished and do the same on this window. Once the compound has dried completely in a day or two, you can paint the frame and the putty.

Repairing a Large Hole In Drywall

Accidents happen and when they happen to be a hole in the wall, it can be disconcerting. If you've never had such an accident, you may imagine that the entire wall would need to be replaced at significant expense and inconvenience. Fortunately, drywall is one of the least expensive and most forgiving types of wall material. Brick, wood, and panelling are much more complicated to repair.

Visit your local home renovation store with the following shopping list: a piece of drywall twice the size of the hole (ask the store clerk if they have any scraps in good condition), thin wooden board twice the size of the hole, drywall screws and joint compound.

Measure the maximum vertical and horizontal size of the hole in your wall then add a few centimetres to the measurements. Use these measurements to calculate the size of the patch. Cut out the patch then place it over the hole. Using a pencil, lightly trace the patch. Cut along the exact outline of the patch. Now you're ready to work on the supporting board.

Cut out a piece of wooden board that is several centimetres longer than the patch. The overlap will allow you to screw the board into place behind the drywall. Drill a hole in the middle of the board wide enough for you to slip your index finger inside. Tilt the board and slide it through the hole then position it directly behind the drywall. Holding onto the board tightly with your finger, screw it into place with the drywall screws. Now you have a support for the drywall patch.

Next slide the drywall patch into place. Apply the joint compound to fill in the cracks. When the compound is dry, sand and paint the patched area to match the rest of the wall.

While at times, doing home repairs can be challenging, they can also be rewarding in terms of personal satisfaction and money saved!


Measuring Up Your Home Renovations

It's a homeowner's renovation nightmare: when it comes time to install the beautiful custom-made kitchen cabinets they're a few inches too long for the wall. Or perhaps you've discovered that both tubs and doors have a right- and left-hand side and you've bought the wrong ones. Hopefully you noticed before applying caulking on the tub or screwing in the last hinge on the door! Expensive or long-awaited purchases, which are the wrong fit, mean extra cost and lost time.

Fortunately, most material mistakes are easy to avoid. The trick for homeowners is to know where errors commonly occur before you place an order. That way, you can learn from the mistakes of others instead of your own!

The Rules of Ordering

No matter which product you're ordering, these six crucial steps can help you avoid getting the wrong item:

  1. Measure carefully. Incorrect measurements are the culprit behind many ordering problems. Measure two or three or until you're sure that the numbers are accurate. Although some product purchases require you to do all the measuring, others require a professional to measure. It may be a good idea to have the store or the contractor make the final measurements shifting responsible for any errors onto them. The fee should be minimal or nothing.
  2. Provide visual aids. When ordering items or simply scouting for them, give salespeople floor plans, sketches and-best of all-snapshots.
  3. Bring samples home. This is the only way to know for sure how a product will look. Many products that look perfect in the store mysteriously change colour at home. Different lighting conditions as well as contrast with other colours in the room change our perception of the original colour.
  4. Tap into salesperson experience. When it comes to measuring mistakes, home centre employees have seen them all-from cabinets, plumbing fixtures, flooring, to doors and windows. Visit a few stores on a "dry run" and read up on specific products so you can ask salespeople pertinent questions.
  5. Buy matching items from the same batch. This is especially important with tile, which often varies noticeably in colour from batch to batch. Mismatches often occur when insufficient quantities are of a product are ordered the first time.

    You'll find lot or batch numbers stamped on the item or packaging. Make sure everything you order is from the same batch. Then write down the numbers or keep the packaging in case you need more. This is especially important if there is a long time lapse between your purchase and insulation-you may have to contact the manufacturer directly if you need additional tile.
  6. Double-check paperwork. It's better to scrutinize the packing list before you lug your purchase home and unwrap it. Ensure the product names, model numbers, grades, sizes, prices and quantities are correct. Keep a copy of the receipts in a safe place in case any problems arise.

Are wrong products refundable?

If you receive the wrong product through manufacturer/supplier error then it should be relatively simple to get a refund.

If you measured incorrectly or made an error in placing your order, chances are you will pay, at least partially. You may be charged a 15% to 25% restocking fee to return regularly stocked products. If the item is custom-made there will likely be no refund.

Doors that open into a wall or bathtubs that have the tap on one end the drain on the other, might be novel for a moment but returning to the store and exchanging items can be a waste of your valuable time and money! Remember to measure up first!