Tips to protect your home from water damage

Did you know that water is the leading cause of home damage in most provinces? Just this past May, communities across the country had to cope with flooding as heavy rainfalls hit various regions over many days.

What can you do to protect your home? Here, Marc Barbeau, property claims manager of Intact Insurance shares his top four tips:

1. Water-resistant décor. The next time you're renovating your home, explore installing cement board instead of drywall in your basement. It's typically used in showers and tubs and is less likely to absorb water. Cement boards are extremely moisture resistant and dry quickly when wet. For base moulding, consider a formed, paintable plastic material instead of wood. This way, even if water gets in, your home may be able to withstand excess water and mould damage.

2. Install backflow valves and sump pumps. A sump pump may help keep your basement safe and dry by collecting and disposing the water from your home. Already have a sump pump? Think about adding battery backup for times where the power is out.

When there's a heavy rainstorm, it may become too much for the sewers to handle, and waste can back up through floor drains, toilets and sinks. A backwater valve is a one-way valve that is installed on the main drain of your home. In the event of a backup, the valve closes to stop sewage from coming in.

3. Consider overland flood insurance. It's estimated that only 10 to 15 per cent of Canadians have insurance for overland flooding. New insurance products can help cover this. For example, Intact Insurance's enhanced water damage package consists of up to four components: sewer back-up, water and sewer lines, overland water and ground water. It's best that you talk to a broker to ensure you're getting the coverage you need.

4. Keep valuable items on higher floors. Store sentimental and valuable items on the upper floors of your home, away from the basement as many of these items may never be replaced if your basement floods.

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Celebrate Canada's 150th on your family's dinner plate

Canada turns 150 this year and families can feel fortunate for the many healthy and delicious local foods that inspire gatherings with great friends. In fact, more than eight out of 10 Canadians want to cook with more fresh, local or regional ingredients according to a recent study. Fortunately, celebrated Canadian chefs, like Toronto's Cory Vitiello, make it easy with delicious recipes for any kind of family gathering.

For an easy-to-share reunion winner made with wholesome ancient grains pasta, try this effortless dish Cory created for Catelli Pasta's 150th anniversary recipe collection in honour of its shared birthday with Canada.

Fresh Halibut, Pistachio & Cherry Tomato Fusilli

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:

• 1 pkg. (340 g) Catelli Ancient Grains Fusilli

• 10 oz. Pacific halibut fillet (cut into one-inch cubes)

• 1/2 cup (125 mL) pistachios, shelled and chopped

• 2 cups (500 mL) cherry tomatoes

• 2 handfuls of washed baby arugula

• 10 slices pancetta

• 12 Brussels sprouts

• 1 clove of garlic

• 1/4 cup (60 mL) extra virgin olive oil

• 1/3 cup (83 mL) flat leaf parsley, chopped

• Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2. Slice pancetta into half-inch pieces. Over medium heat, cook pancetta in large sauté pan until it begins to brown and tender. Add garlic, cherry tomatoes and olive oil and cook until tomatoes begin to blister and burst.

3. Add pasta to boiling water and cook fusilli according to package instructions.

4. Add halibut to pan; lightly season with salt and sauté over medium heat, turning pieces over for 3 to 4 minutes until lightly browned and just cooked. Fish should be flaky and fork tender.

5. Roughly chop pistachios and thinly slice Brussels sprouts, removing root ends.

6. Add pistachios, Brussels sprouts and arugula to sauté pan and stir on medium heat until greens are wilted — no more than two minutes.

7. Drain cooked pasta and add to sauté pan; gently stir in chopped parsley and a pinch of salt. Add pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with extra parsley leaves.

Find more recipes at www.catelli.ca.

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Ninety per cent of Canadians agree: Nothing brings people together like eating together

New research reveals that many of us struggle to actually sit down and enjoy a meal with others — and the key to more meal gatherings could lie in the food we serve.

Although a whopping 83 per cent of Canadians agree that families should eat together every night, only one in three are able to do so. Reasons for this include competing calendars of family members, busy work schedules and technology. These reasons are even more prevalent among the younger generation, indicating that the speed and complexity of modern life may be inhibiting family and community moments.

“We know that when people eat together, good things happen,” says Tom Fillipou, executive chef from President's Choice. “But in a world where fast-paced technologies and busy lifestyles can easily take over, it can be difficult to carve out time to enjoy meals with family and friends.”

If you want to bring your loved ones to the table, it's clear that the menu plays an essential role. In fact, 92 per cent of survey respondents agreed that food is a common thread that ties people together.

The food itself varies by region, as Canadians embrace diverse flavours and ingredients. For example, nearly half of Ontarians believe that pancakes and maple syrup bring people together, while people from Nova Scotia are more inclined to enjoy seafood like lobster and chowder with others. In Quebec, Canadians believe tourtière, a dish steeped in history, has the power to unite. Along the west coast, BC residents enjoy eating Pacific salmon at a communal table.

“Food has a unique ability to create common ground and facilitate shared experiences,” says Fillipou. “When we acknowledge that fact and consciously select ingredients and dishes that we like to eat together, it becomes much easier to reap all the benefits associated with sharing a meal with others.”

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Looking for a new home? Top tips before you sign

You've found the newly built home you've been looking for and are ready to make one of the biggest purchases of your life. But do you know how to protect your new home?

Before you sign an Agreement of Purchase and Sale, consider these tips:

• Review the APS with a real estate lawyer to ensure you understand exactly what is included in the price of the home. If you are buying a condominium, review the disclosure statement to understand which items are part of your unit and which are considered common elements. Make sure everything that is agreed upon is reflected in writing.

• If construction has not started on the home or condominium, find out when the builder will begin and how you will be notified if there is a delay. Be sure that you and your lawyer document all details regarding deposits and delayed closings or occupancy.

A standard Addendum is required to be included in the purchase agreement. It provides additional information, as well as your rights concerning delays in construction. It is important to review this document with your lawyer.

• At the signing of the purchase agreement, you will likely be required to provide a deposit for your home. Understand that deposits on freehold homes are protected up to a maximum of $40,000 by Tarion, the administrator of Ontario's new home warranty program. Condominium deposits are covered for up to $20,000 by Tarion. Deposits over $20,000 are protected by the trust and excess deposit insurance provisions of the Condominium Act, 1998.

• Ask when you will be contacted to make selections for interior and exterior finishes. Each builder has a different policy for finalizing selections.

• Ask your builder who to contact about scheduling your pre-delivery inspection and when it will take place.

• Ask about the builder's after sales service policy and who to contact should an issue arise. Ask who to contact in emergencies, too.

• Read about the warranty that comes with your new home and understand what to do if you think you have a claim.

Sign up for the MyHome, the portal where you can manage your warranty online at www.tarion.com.


What's yours and what's shared in a condo?

There's no doubt that condominiums are an increasingly popular choice for new homeowners. In 2016 alone, more than 22,600 new units became homes for Ontarians who are looking for the condo lifestyle and amenities. If you're thinking of joining them, a good first step is to understand the difference in responsibility between what you own and what all the building's unit owners share.

A benefit of purchasing a new condominium is the mandatory warranty that is provided by your builder and backed by Tarion, the warranty's administrator. There's a separate warranty for your individual unit and another for the building's common elements.

Your unit's warranty provides coverage for deposit protection and delayed closing before you move in. After you take occupancy, it covers defective materials, building code violations and unauthorized substitutions of items agreed to in the purchase agreement.

Your builder is required to provide you with a homeowner information package, explaining what is and isn't covered in your individual unit, how to make a claim and when to involve Tarion. As owner, you are responsible for understanding and managing the warranty that comes with your unit and to submit warranty claims on a timely basis.

All condos come with some common elements — like roofing, parking, exterior cladding and some mechanical systems. The homeowner package should clearly outline which are considered common elements. For example, electrical, heating and plumbing systems may be considered part of the common elements and not your individual unit.

The common element warranty is managed by your condo's board of directors or delegated to a property manager. The board is made up of a group of unit owners who are elected to run the condominium corporation on behalf of all owners.

The board must arrange for a post-construction performance audit, which will determine if there are any major deficiencies in the common elements. If there are, the board should report them to the builder and to Tarion.

Any warranty claims relating to the condominium's common elements must be dealt with by the board of directors, but as a unit owner you should report any common element issues to the board in writing.

If a warranty claim must be made, some boards will identify a designate who will act as the condo's representative; others may choose to have a property management company fulfill this role. Once a claim is submitted, the builder has 18 months to complete the required repairs.

Find more information online at www.tarion.com

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5 ways to make your older home feel new

Dreaming of improving your home, but a major remodel isn't necessarily in the budget? It may seem basic, but a fresh coat of paint is an easy trick to give your home a new look. Try some of these simple, inexpensive paint projects that make for quick updates and keep the old-home charm.

Paint kitchen cabinets. This is an economical way to transform an outdated kitchen into something timeless. Select a primer that is recommended for the type of surface you have, then remove the cabinet doors and hardware and label them for easier reassembly. Use painter's tape to protect the wall or backsplash tile and cover the countertop with plastic or poly-sheeting. Instead of the typical two-step process to apply poly-sheeting, try using Painter's Mate double-sided poly-hanging tape to make prep time a breeze.

Revamp drawer pulls and door handles. Give your home a small but impactful refresh by updating worn door handles, drawer knobs and pulls. Instead of replacing everything, try repainting — all you need is a screwdriver to remove knobs and handles and a metal spray paint. Before painting, clean the hardware and lightly sand to ensure that paint adheres easily. Add a layer of clear lacquer after the paint dries to help prevent scratches.

Create an accent wall. This focal point can be a powerful design move, breaking up the traditional look of having four same-coloured walls. Plus, it's an easy way to play with colour in a new way without committing to painting a whole room. When selecting the colour, the accent wall should complement the adjacent wall colour. When in doubt, paint your statement wall two shades darker than the rest.

Paint your ceiling. If your home already has a fresh coat of paint, then look to other areas that could use a touch-up, such as the ceilings. When repainting the ceiling, don't be afraid to add a pop of colour. Whether dramatic or subtle, adding colour to the fifth wall can alter the geometry of a room, tricking the eye and changing the feel of a space.

Pro tip: use a roller with extended reach to tackle high ceilings.

Refresh trim. Details such as moulding, trim and baseboards can seem relatively minor but create a significant impact. As these accents are the visual foundation for a space, you can change the look of any room by simply playing them up with a crisp white colour.

Find more painting projects and tips online at www.paintersmategreen.com.

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Buying a property with a rental unit? Read this first

As housing prices rise, homeowners may look to income from a rented suite to help carry a mortgage. This can be a great strategy if you follow the rules and are well-prepared for being a landlord. Here are five key things to know.

1. There are new rules. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation now allows homeowners to count 100 per cent of the expected rent from a tenant suite towards their income for a mortgage approval. However, there are strict conditions. The owner must live on the premises; there can be no more than two units, including the rental unit, which must be self-contained and have a separate entrance; and the rental unit must either be legal or “legal non-conforming.”

2. Rental units must be legal. Provincial and municipal laws determine whether an apartment is legal. Considerations include what the unit is to be used for, whether there is legal parking, minimum square footage, number of units allowed by zoning, legality of the rent charged, and the fire and safety condition of the property. The best way to confirm the legality of a rental unit is to consult a real estate lawyer before making an offer on the property.

3. Condos and boarding houses have special rules. A lawyer can also inform you about condominium corporation rules that apply to owners renting to tenants. Houses that include rooms for rent with a shared kitchen and bathroom are often considered boarding houses and may fall under different laws and requirements. Also, renting part of your home may affect the tax treatment of your principal residence.

4. There are rules for rent increases. Although rent can usually be increased once a year, the amount of any increase may be limited by law. Existing tenants may already have leases that limit when and how you can raise the rent. If repairs are needed, a landlord may not be able to increase the rent for a tenant until they are complete. If tenants stop paying rent, the eviction process takes time and you may never fully recover missed payments.

5. Talk to a real estate lawyer. A lawyer can answer many of your questions and help with a lease agreement that clearly sets out both the landlord and the tenant's rights and responsibilities.

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3 tools to rent for a green and healthy lawn

Whether you're working on your own yard or you're a professional with clients to serve, the arrival of warm weather is the perfect time to build a healthy lawn that will make the neighbours green with envy.

“A well-kept lawn is about more than just looks. It also creates oxygen, reduces noise pollution and removes emissions from the air,” explains Jamal Hamad, who leads the pro and tool rental departments at The Home Depot Canada.

Tool rentals are popular for lawn maintenance because both homeowners and professionals can get high quality equipment for the short term without having to worry about upkeep or storage. The service works with your schedule and budget because you only pay for what you need, when you need it.

Hamad recommends the following equipment to prepare your lawn for the season:

Turf rake: Too much thatch is one of the most common yard problems. More than half an inch of this dead build-up will start to damage roots and block nutrients. Rent a power turf rake to quickly and easily clear excess thatch.

Aerator: Almost every yard can benefit from aeration. An aerator removes thin cores of dirt so that air, water, fertilizer and new grass seed can penetrate. This lets the roots grow deeper and stops too much thatch from building up. Rent a power aerator to get this job done faster and to make sure the holes are deep enough to be effective.

Seeder: Over-seeding is a great way to fill in bare spots and enhance a tired-looking lawn. But it's important to seed correctly or you'll be throwing your money away. A power seeder makes slits in the ground to embed your seeds, giving them the best chance at germinating. 

Find more information at www.homedepot.ca/toolrental.

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How to make the most of your renovation

As renovation season once again roars into full swing, I'm often asked what can be done to achieve the best renovation possible. My top advice is to be prepared. Here are a few steadfast tips that can lay the groundwork for success:

1. Have a clearly defined plan. Consider hiring an experienced designer to help bring your vision to life.

2. Choose a reliable contractor. Ask for references and proof of license, insurance, bonding and participation in a workman's compensation program.

3. Insist on a detailed contract. It should include a description of the work to be done, a schedule of anticipated completion dates, a cost estimate for the entire job, a reasonable payment schedule, an itemized list of materials and who will select them, an outline of the change-order process, termination clauses, penalty/holdback clauses and warranty details. It sounds like a lot, but this will help avoid issues along the way.

4. Cover your bases. Your contract should also state if sub-contractors will be used and who will be responsible for hiring them, paying them, and ensuring the work is completed properly. Request a receipt with each payment outlining the work and materials it covered. I also recommend getting a written change order for any modifications to a specified job.

5. Be accessible and decisive. This will keep things moving along as smoothly as possible.

6. Visit the site regularly. Inspect all work. Create a 'punch list' of any identified issues. Discuss progress or concerns as they happen.

7. Keep a renovation journal. Record headway. Note questions. Jot down ideas. Keep track of key dates, and document any changes.

8. Do your research and discuss preferred materials with your contractor. Not all building materials are created equal. For example, did you know that some insulation materials can grow harmful mould when exposed to moisture or slump in the wall cavity, reducing effectiveness? Consider opting for quality over price when it counts most. In the case of insulation, Roxul Comfortbatt and Safe 'n' Sound offer greater protection against fire and moisture, while also providing excellent sound resistance and/or thermal comfort. Ultimately, it doesn't make sense to save on cost, if you have to compromise on performance or safety.

9. Be prepared for the unexpected. Set aside a contingency fund representing 10 to 15 per cent of the total budget.

10. Inspect to protect. Before you sign off on the job, consider hiring a professional inspector who may find problems you wouldn't know to look for. After all that you've invested in your renovation, it's a small cost to incur for peace of mind.

Renovating can be stressful, but if you do your due diligence, you're more likely to enjoy a smoother process and greater satisfaction with the end result.

Scott McGillivray is host and executive producer of the hit HGTV series Income Property and Moving the McGillivrays, a real estate investor, contractor, author, and educator. Follow Scott on Twitter @smcgillivray.

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Welcome back grilling season with a steak sandwich

The snow has melted and grilling season is around the corner. It may not be summer just yet, but you do not have to wait to enjoy that perfectly charred steak fresh off the grill.

Open-faced Steak Sandwich

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

• 1 10oz New York Strip Steak, 1” thick
• 2 red, green or orange peppers
• 1 sweet onion
• 1 bottle (341 mL) Rickard's Red
• 1 lime
• 1 baguette
• Cilantro

Directions

1. Thinly slice peppers and onion. Place in a deep pan, pour in the beer and cover. Simmer in pan until the beer has reduced and peppers and onions are soft.

2. Fire up the grill until hot. In the meantime, pre-oil the steak and coat with coarse salt and pepper.

3. Grill the steak until medium rare.

4. Slice the baguette in half and lightly toast on the grill.

5. Cover toasted baguette with chipotle mayonnaise.

6. Thinly slice the steak and pile on the bun.

7. Top the steak with the reduced beer, onions, and peppers.

8. Top with cilantro and lime zest.

9. Serve open faced and cut sandwich into desired portions.

Find more grilling recipes online at www.Rickards.ca.

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