Category Archives: Home Maintenance & Upgrades

Fire safety check list for Ladysmith homes for sale

Fire Safety Check-Up

Fire safety is an important part of home maintenance but is sometimes overlooked. Twice-annual checks of the important safety systems in your home will catch anything that needs attention before it fails. Contact your local Ladysmith insurance agent for information on saving money on your policy with fire prevention upgrades.

Kitchen appliances are a common source of fires in the home. Electricity from old or worn appliances can ignite grease or oil to cause a fire. Keep ovens and stovetops clean with a good degreaser. Don’t forget to clean the range hood filter as it can hold grease that will fuel a stovetop fire.

Worn out plugs from much loved appliances can fray and even separate from the wire. Older appliances that have cloth insulation on the wires should be replaced with new ones for safety. Keep those vintage appliances on a shelf to look at but not to actually use.

In Canada, all electrical devices must comply with CSA regulations. CSA sets the standard for devices by specifying how they should be assembled for maximum safety. Not all devices are CSA-approved. Goods purchased from overseas vendors may not have been approved for use in Canada. This can put your family at risk from short circuits. Look for the CSA label attached or embossed into the bottom of the appliance to see if it can be used safely. Non-CSA appliances that cause fires may invalidate your home insurance.

Power bars and extension cords are useful when there isn’t a nearby plug or when there are too many things to plug in. Having too many things plugged into a power bar can overload it. Choose one that has a built-in circuit breaker as an extra layer of protection. Be sure that these helpers are in good repair. Replace when a plug socket becomes loose or the cord shows signs of wear or damage.

If you have a circuit breaker that keeps resetting, or a fuse that keeps burning out, it’s best to call an electrician to have a look. Both of these are serious indicators that there is a fault in the wiring. Never replace a fuse with one that has a higher rating or insert a metal cheater to by-pass the fuse altogether. Both of these ‘fixes’ are dangerous and could invalidate your home insurance.

Flammable liquids and used rags can experience something called ‘spontaneous combustion’. This is caused by a chemical reaction that causes self-heating and thermal runaway. For this reason, used rags should be kept in a covered metal container or discarded. Liquids should be kept in a metal cabinet or outside.

Fabrics near heat, space heaters near furniture, drapes in the kitchen, rugs in front of fireplaces, and halogen floor laps near window coverings are all known to cause fires. If it’s combustible, it should be six feet away from an open flame or element. Space heaters should have a tip-over safety feature. Place them on a hard surface if possible, such as a hearth or tile floor. Oil-filled space heaters have no element to cause a contact fire.

Have a plan and know how to fight fires when they happen. Start with an evacuation plan so that everyone can get out safely when the smoke detector goes off in the middle of the night. Place fire extinguishers throughout the home and teach everyone how to use one. Use a refillable one for practice in the back yard then have it refilled immediately. Make sure all household members know how to handle an extinguisher to put out an electrical or grease fire. Quick action with the right extinguisher will prevent a fire from spreading.

Questions or comments? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne Gait and Morgan Fisher today for a personal appointment.

Dryer vent cleaning services in Ladysmith, BC

Summer Home Improvements

Here are a few simple home improvement tasks that can be done on an August weekend. You’ll need some basic tools such as a basic toolkit, a vacuum, and some mineral oil for lubrication. Some items apply to both houses and condos in the Cowichan Valley.

The garage door opener is a great place to start. Quiet a noisy garage door by lubricating the chain and all the hinges. You can also lubricate the extension spring so there is less friction when it tightens. This will make it easier for the motor to raise and lower the door. The small wheels in the tracks that guide the door can be replaced easily with a premium synthetic roller wheel. These are made from a flexible material and have quality bearings that make them almost silent. Check the side and bottom seals for a good, tight fit that will save energy in the winter.

Clean lint from in and around the dryer. About 25% of dryer fires are caused by lint build-up that is ignited by the heat from the gas or electric elements. After each use, clean the lint trap at the front of the machine. This will help speed clothes drying and increase energy efficiency. However, this filter is only intended to catch most, not all, of the lint from clothes. The rest is carried through the machine to where it can build-up in the vent path and the exhaust hose. Pull the dryer out from the wall and remove the hose. Use the vacuum wand to reach inside the dryer to remove lint. The best exhaust hose is a solid metal duct or a flexible metal duct. These are fire resistant and allow lint to travel freely to the outside. Replace the plastic duct with one of these, if necessary. Have the vent hose to the outside professionally cleaned every two years.

Clean the kitchen exhaust fan filter in the dishwasher. Some exhaust fans have a charcoal filter to remove odours and particulates. This should be replaced every six months. The hood can be cleaned with a quality degreaser such as 409 or Fantastic but you can also use hot water with dish detergent and some bleach. It’s easier to clean them before they’re dirty rather than try to clean one that has been neglected. If it’s particularly dirty, the best solution is to replace it rather than try to clean it.

Clean the refrigerator, freezer coils, and drip trays. A good vacuum is helpful to clean the mechanical parts underneath. Roll it out from the wall, clean around the fridge and the floor. Watch for grease from the motor that might have dropped onto the floor. You’ll probably see a motor and some coils that are clogged with dust. Vacuum everything thoroughly. If you have an icemaker, replace the plastic hose that connects to the water supply with a braided metal hose. Replace the ice-maker water filter.

Check dishwasher for leaks by removing the access panel at the front under the door. It is held on by screws that are easy to find. Using a flashlight, inspect the space under the dishwasher for stains caused by leaking water. There are two connectors for water: in and out. Both should be dry. You can try tightening the connectors but it’s much better to replace them with a braided steel hose. The hose kit will have the new connectors and washers in the box. This will prevent catastrophic water leaks and a potential insurance claim.

Continuing with the theme of leaks and gaskets, check under the kitchen and bathroom sinks for water stains. Do all your taps shut off completely? A dripping faucet can add to your hot water bill. Look at the base of toilets for obvious stains from leaks or discoloured vinyl flooring, which indicates a damp problem. Unless you have experience with plumbing, it might be a good idea to call a plumber. He can show you what the problem is, take care of it, and provide a warranty if a leak should develop in the future.

Questions or comments? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne Gait and Morgan Fisher today.

Free home staging consultation when you list your home for sale in the Cowichan Valley

Budget Curb Appeal Ideas

A lot of articles have been written about improving curb appeal, especially for sellers who want to maximize their selling price. You may not be thinking about selling your Cowichan Valley home this year or even next year. Consider curb appeal as an on-going process of slowly improving and beautifying the exterior of your home. It takes time to make a plan and choose which improvements you want to do.

Once you begin thinking about the process, you might want to engage the services of an architect or a designer if it looks like it’s going to be a big project. For most people, though, improving curb appeal is a series of edits and adjustments to the overall look. This approach is also the most cost-effective because much of the work can be done by the homeowner.

A popular starting point is to paint the front door. This is affordable and allows the homeowner to make an update with a popular colour that matches the trim and siding. Wooden screen doors can be replaced with vintage-look models. Storm doors can be removed and cleaned so they look like new again. Replace any screens that are loose or have holes in them.

A porch light does more than let you see where you’re going. It’s also a welcoming beacon for visitors and deliveries. Match the fixture to the architectural style of your home. It should be a simple remove-and-replace update that you can do yourself. A complimentary fixture in the period style with the same finish as the door hardware will increase your property value.

Much of the impact of curb appeal comes from the landscaping. Homeowners are sometimes reluctant to remove shrubs and trees, especially if they have been there a long time. However, by removing old plantings, the front yard becomes a clean palette for your own ideas. Plant anything that can be reused into pots until you’re ready to put them back in the ground. At this point, it can be cost effective to hire a landscaping company to prepare the new beds and make suggestions.

It’s been said that a healthy green lawn has sold many homes. Begin by removing the broadleaf weeds using a shovel or an organic weed control spray. Next, fertilize with a slow-release formula that will keep your lawn green all season. A sharp lawnmower blade will prevent the tips from turning brown after cutting.

An exterior cleaning with a pressure washer or pole and brush will brighten the paint or vinyl. Wash the windows to make them sparkle, too. Concrete can be made to look new again with a pressure washer. If you have an asphalt driveway, use caution when cleaning with a pressure wand as it can remove the aggregate stones. A light cleaning and a quality blacktop sealant will make it look new again.

If you’re improving the curb appeal of your home to sell it, you might want to consider a thematic update. Properties that are heavily themed will sell for more than an identical property with a generic presentation. For example, an Arts & Crafts style home with planters and outdoor furniture in the same architectural style would be considered a themed property. A beach house with an old rowboat as a planter in the front yard would also be considered to be themed. With this approach, more is more and campy accessories are the order of the day.

Interested in a free curb appeal consultation with your home listing? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne Gait and Morgan Fisher today.

Cowichan Valley homes with natural gas barbeque connections

Summer Grilling: Gas or Coals?

Known for imparting a smoky richness that pairs perfectly with charred fat and meat, barbeque is one of the most popular cooking techniques. Summer is barbeque season and with its arrival the debate over charcoal or gas is revisited by friends and neighbours across Canada. One great feature of gas grills is the option to use natural gas from the house and forget about running out of propane. Many newer homes in the NAME OF area feature natural gas connections for a grill. Let us know if this is a priority for you when looking for a new home in the Cowichan Valley.

But which fuel produces the best cooking results? The answer is this: it depends on what you’re cooking. Both fuels provide an even, dry heat that is ideal for grilling. Do you want to easily sear a protective layer to retain juices? Are you cooking large cuts or a whole chicken? Perhaps you are slow roasting and want a heavy smoke taste? Both types of barbeques will produce smoke which is mostly caused by fat dripping on the element cover or the charcoal.

The speed at which you intend to cook is an important factor. Quick meals such as hot dogs or burgers are done before smoke can penetrate the meat. A gas grill is perfect for quick meals that require only a short time on a hot grill. They heat up quickly and, when you’re done, shut off completely. That’s exactly what the chef needs when steaks or burgers are the main course. They’re also good for grilling vegetables and pizzas because the cooking surface can be easily adjusted with dual gas controls. Simple, quick, and easy with good smokiness when required. That is what you get with a quality gas grill.

Charcoal grills are a different way of cooking that is similar to smoking. They’re ideal for a slow barbeque style such as a whole ‘beer can’ chicken or thick steaks that need more time to cook. Charcoal is made from hardwood that is burned in an oxygen-free environment which produces carbonized wood. Because the briquettes are made from wood, the resulting burn will taste and smell a little like the tree the charcoal was made from. Some chefs will supplement the natural taste with a little wood of their own, perhaps from an apple branch or some driftwood. An electric charcoal starter helps to light the briquettes. Once the coals are an evenly lit, you can begin grilling.

If you have a charcoal grill, you might want to experiment with wood or wood pellets. Both will produce a wonderfully flavoured smoke. Plus, the fuel is basically free if you live anywhere near a forest or wood lot. Experiment with different types of wood, by itself or with charcoal, and see which species impart a flavour that you think makes perfect barbeque.

Questions or comments? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact a Ladysmith REALTOR® today.

Soundproofing solutions for your Cowichan Valley condominium

Soundproofing for Cowichan Valley Condos

It’s important to note that noise is a two-way annoyance: If you can hear your neighbours talk on the phone or watch a movie that means they can hear you too. In this context, soundproofing could also be considered privacy-proofing your conversations from adjoining units. Soundproofing is a valuable upgrade to your Cowichan Valley condo unit.

There are two concepts for soundproofing that fit almost all circumstances: mass and air gap. Ideally, they work together in a system that stops a wide range of frequencies. There are two basic ways to soundproof a wall that is between two dwellings. The first is reconstruction of the wall with a system to reduce noise. This option can be expensive depending on the length of the wall and how much soundproofing is desired. The other way is to use some clever materials and strategies that will dampen noise. This is helpful if you’re a renter or need sound suppression for a condo.

Let’s start with the free solutions and work toward the more premium fixes. Common sense would dictate that quiet stuff shouldn’t be placed near a shared wall. Your reading chair might look better on the other side of the room anyway. Do you own an armoire or wardrobe? Put that on the shared wall so it will absorb some sound.

The next step is to use a curtain effect to block sound. This might be a piece of art, a large mirror, or a rug purchased specifically to use as a wall hanging. IKEA makes inexpensive area rugs with beautiful designs and low pile that are perfect for this application. Mass loaded vinyl is a heavy (2lb/sqft) sheet product that is intended for floors and walls. It can be cut to size for extra weight behind a wall hanging. Condos usually have steel studs so, unless you’re using a self-tapping screw, attach sound curtains with the proper size and type of drywall anchors.

Moving beyond decorating with soundproofing, we arrive at reconstruction approaches. Simply adding another layer of gypsum to the wall help because its mass stops sound waves. This requires adjusting (and soundproofing) the receptacles and possibly the baseboard trim. Newer gypsum designed for this has a layer of lead on one side. Another alternative is to use mass loaded vinyl between the gypsum sheets. This is a job for a professional unless you’re comfortable with drywall installation.

If you have plaster walls, then replacing them with drywall and installing a sound control system at the same time may be practical. Depending on where the wall is, you may want to install a second set of staggered studs. This eliminates direct transmission of sound by vibration by creating an air gap. Spray foam insulation has a very good sound rating and can fill the void completely. Finish the wall with double drywall and acoustic sealant along the edges. Again, this is a job for qualified trades, but the result will reflect the effort put into it.

Sound control, soundproofing, privacy-proofing are part of a healthy home environment. Having control of our space and a quiet space to relax and work contributes to a sense of well-being. It also increases your property value. You might be able to tolerate the sound of your neighbour’s home theatre system or snoring but imagine how much more comfortable you and your family will be with the sound of silence.

Questions or comments about soundproofing your condo? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne Gait and Morgan Fisher today for a personal appointment.

Plant an edible perennial garden to increase the market value of your Cowichan Valley home

Easy, Edible Perennial Gardens

One of the best uses for perennials plantings is edibles, especially here in the Cowichan Valley. Perennials go dormant in the winter and return each spring. Many vegetables and herbs are perennial which means you can enjoy bigger and bigger harvests from one plant as the years go by. They’re ideal for plant-once gardening that will grow and produce for many years. You can choose perennial vegetable and herb varieties from an extensive list of these amazing plants.

Asparagus is one of the most expensive grocery store vegetables. Planting just a couple square feet of this delicacy will keep it on the menu all year. Artichokes are another pricey vegetable that are perennials. Potatoes, garlic, and onions will grow each year by themselves if given minimal care.

Herbs such as chives, shallots, thyme, fennel, and spearmint are wonderful staples for a homestead-style garden. Put them in salads of sorrel and radicchio, also perennials, for free green salads through the spring and summer months. Fruit such as rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries (and many more types of berries) are easy to grow. With some informed pruning, they will produce baskets of sweet, organic berry treats.

Perennials may need a little help to get established. Choose the right spot for them based on their needs for light and soil. For example, full sun means six to eight hours of direct sunlight. For the first few years, make sure to monitor their progress and make adjustments, if necessary. Give them water regularly, keep weeds down, and fertilize according to best practices. You many need to wait two or three years before a perennial feels at home and begins to produce.

Perennials are low maintenance with deeper root systems resistant to drought. They may blossom for only a few weeks but make wonderful shrubs. Some may bloom again in the fall when the weather signals them to produce seeds or fruit. Perennials may come from seeds or bulbs.

The next time you’re at the plant nursery, check the labels to see if the plants you like are annuals or perennials. Consider how much time you spend in the garden and the space you have. Maybe there is room for some of these recurring wonders in your backyard and on your menu!

Questions or comments? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne Gait and Morgan Fisher today.

Garage organizers for Cowichan Valley homes

Organizing the Garage

Garages are usually low priority when it comes to cleaning and organizing. After all, it’s a room for the car and trash pails, isn’t it supposed to be a little bit rough? As a storage room, garages get low marks due to the humidity and dirt that can infiltrate boxes causing damage to the contents. As a car park, it’s often a crowded space with mixed priorities that can take over. If you’re ready to organize your garage of your Cowichan Valley house, read on.

Organizing is really about making decisions on what to do with stuff you haven’t used in a long time. Thankfully, there are a number of places that will take your junk, no questions asked. ReStore, created by Habitat for Humanity, is a retail outlet for recycled building materials. They will take a half-box of nails, that old brass chandelier, and whatever else you can find that tends to cause instant procrastination when you don’t know what to do with something. Value Village is another place that will take household items no matter how awful you may think they are. The only rule for donating garage junk is that it should be clean and in working order. Everything else can go to the curb for scavengers or in a dumpster.

Once you have removed the junk, the next step is to figure out where the remaining stuff will go. For this, you’ll need shelving. Ironically, the previously mentioned ReStore may have some nice used shelves. If you’re installing bracket shelves, make sure they’re wide enough for the boxes of decorations and large toys. The idea is to move everything off the floor. Build or install right up to the ceiling if you can. Closed metal cabinets are a nice safety upgrade if you store flammables in the garage. They can be locked to keep children from playing with paint remover or insecticides. You can never have too much storage space.

When hanging shelves, be sure to use the right hardware for installation. Screwing brackets directly into studs is the safest method. If you must use drywall anchors in some spots, be sure to use the correct size and style for the amount of weight the shelf must bear.

Designate areas for certain things such as the mower, recycling, kids’ toys, etc. Use big, friendly labels so everyone knows where to put things away. Making labels is a fun rainy-day activity and will solicit organizational buy-in from young artists. Sparkle letters? Why not?

When everything is up off the floor, and you’re happy with the overall effect, you might want to consider taking it to the next level. Epoxy floor paint with mica chips is every man’s dream garage floor. Easy to clean, dust-free, and professional-looking, this high impact finish can only increase the value of your home and neighbour envy.

Questions or comments? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne and Morgan, your Cowichan Valley Royal Lepage REALTORS®, today.

Cowichan Valley homes for sale with open concept

Construction Trends in the Cowichan Valley

Each generation of design takes cues from the past and incorporates them into visions for the present. Sometimes the result is brilliant. Other times it can be a mashup of incompatible theories. Today, the trend for new homes in the Cowichan Valley is reverting back to traditional with contemporary influences. People are looking for liveable spaces designed for real life families. Sustainable materials, flex-spaces, and eco-friendly elements are in vogue.

Kitchens that double as entertainment spaces have evolved from the family room-kitchen combo. The space is becoming more formal, less playroom. The bathroom is becoming a spa and a retreat for rejuvenation. Look for quirky features like a “king’s attic,” a room only accessible through the master bathroom closet. A true hideout for tired parents.

Technology is now omni-present in our lives, and it has begun to permeate the home, as well. Voice-activated helpers turn on lights, order pizza, and help us manage schedules. We can expect to see more connections between devices with the coming wave of “Internet of Things.” Your fridge will be able to order directly from the grocery store when supplies are low. When a storm knocks out the power, your car will reverse the flow of electrons from its charger to keep everything running. An electronic cocoon is the next big trend.

Decor will continue to evolve with more white decor. It never goes out of style and works with every decor. Pure, soft, cool, and warm are a few ways paint makers describe their favourite blends. There is a tone of white that is perfect for your walls. A white canvas allows the homeowner to decorate with colour accessories. White walls are a potential gallery for your inner art curator.

White-on-white is also synonymous with minimalistic spaces. It might inspire some to shed unused belongings, a trend that picked up speed in the 2010s. The catchphrases are living with less, less is more, and minimalist lifestyles for a better focus on appreciation. In these types of spaces, lighting is the main feature. Create shadows and pools of gathering light to separate spaces and give the illusion of rooms within rooms. LED lights make it possible to keep one or two on all the time for plants or safe navigation at night. Brighten a dark foyer to encourage good feng shui energy to enter the home. Consider small helper lights for dark corners and halls such as a salt lamp or an LED string in a plant.

Another welcome trend is quietude, a trend that points to sensible priorities. Separation of space begins with the visual and is complete with control of the audible environment. Wall units against common walls are helpful. Some print on demand art websites will include a sound-proof dampener. Mass loaded vinyl under an extra layer of drywall will silence a bedroom for sleep. Although this is a slightly more expensive option, it works well and when professionally done, will increase the value of your condo or townhouse.

Questions about new home construction in the Cowichan Valley? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne Gait and Morgan Fisher today to receive the newest listings by email.

Home water filtration systems in the Cowichan Valley

Water is a Cooking Ingredient

Water absorbs tastes from the pipes and conduits in the water system. Additives like chlorine can also affect the taste of this most basic of all ingredients. You wouldn’t use flour or milk that smelled like copper or chlorine so why use less than pristine water in your cooking? Cooking with filtered water can make everything from coffee to pasta taste better not to mention reconstituted juice and homemade pop. Purified water is better for people, makes better infant formula, and is healthier for pets, too. Use in fish tanks, to water plants, and to make cleaning solutions that won’t leave mineral deposits.

Here in the Cowichan Valley, we are blessed with an abundant supply of clean, fresh water. However, that water must pass through miles of pipes, new and old, before it reaches your home or business.

A water filter removes lead and other heavy metals that may be present from pipes. In apartment blocks, water can become stagnant when fewer people are drawing it from taps. If it’s a large building, the water may have been in the internal plumbing for a day or two. Modern conduits are made of plastic which can leach chemicals into the water, and even if harmless, can affect the taste. A good quality water filter is your defence against water contaminants.

Until recently, water purification options were fairly limited. Bottled water and jug-size filters were the two main choices. As purified water has become more popular, filter makers have responded with a range of under-counter appliances that will cleanse thousands of litres of water before a filter replacement is necessary. The result is tap water that has no contaminants, necessary for good health.

You can take the taste test before purchasing a filter. Buy a bottle of good quality water. Brew two cups of tea, coffee, or cocoa. Use bottled water for one and tap water for the other. Which tastes better? It’s almost certain that the drink made with purified water will taste fresher and more satisfying. You can try the same experiment with any food that has water added for a better tasting meal.

Adding an under-the-counter filter will make such a difference you’ll wonder how you lived without it.

Questions or comments? Want to talk about your next real estate transaction? Contact Lorne Gait and Morgan Fisher today to learn more about increasing your property value with a purified water system