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Author: Richard C. Dusome


March 30, 2016



Just how bad does a structural defect have to be before the building is considered unmarketable so as to permit recovery under a title insurance policy?

In MacDonald1, the Ontario Court of Appeal offered some important guidance on this point and on the interpretation of standard title insurance policies generally.  Although this action for a declaration of coverage was brought by the owner of the home in question, the interpretation principles set down by the Court are equally important for lenders financing such land owners.

The appellant homeowners in MacDonald inadvertently purchased a home where the previous owner had removed some load bearing walls without a building permit or other municipal approvals.  These actions rendered the second floor unsafe, and the municipality upon its discovery of the problem issued a work order requiring the homeowners to remedy the unsafe building.  The homeowners made a claim under their title insurance policy for reimbursement of the repair costs.  When the title insurer denied coverage, the homeowners brought a court application seeking a confirmation of coverage.  The motions judge however dismissed the homeowners’ motion for summary judgment and a declaration of coverage saying that the property remained marketable despite the defect.  

In overturning the motion judge’s decision, the Court of Appeal reconfirmed the appropriate principles for the interpretation of title insurance policies as follows:

  • The court must search for an interpretation from the whole of the contract and any relevant surrounding circumstances that promotes the true intent and reasonable expectations of the parties at the time of entry into the contract
  • Where words are capable of two or more meanings, the meaning that is more reasonable in promoting the intention of the parties will be selected
  • Ambiguities will be construed against the insurer having regard to the reasonable expectations of the parties
  • An interpretation that will result in either a windfall to the insurer or an unanticipated recovery to the insured is to be avoided
  • Coverage provisions are to be construed broadly, while exclusion clauses are to be construed narrowly
  • The contract of insurance should be interpreted to promote a reasonable commercial result
  • A clause should not be given effect if to do so would nullify the coverage provided by the policy.2

In MacDonald, the homeowners’ claim for coverage was primarily based upon Section 11 of their policy which provided for coverage in circumstances where:

11. Your title is unmarketable, which allows another person to refuse to perform a contract to purchase, to lease, or to make a mortgage loan.

The Court determined, in interpreting the coverage provisions broadly, that the building saddled with this structural defect, was not marketable as contemplated by the policy.  The fact that someone might be willing to purchase a dangerous defective building at a lower price does not mean that it is marketable.  The standard was simply can a potential purchase refuse to close an agreement of purchase and sale upon learning of the defect.3

It was further confirmed by the Court that there was no applicable exclusion to the coverage as stated above.  Specifically, the fact that the unauthorized construction was only discovered many years after the policy date did not trigger the exclusion related to “Title risks: … that first affect your Title after the policy date”4, and the Court refused to introduce the discoverability concept. In the Court’s view, the homeowners’ title was unmarketable within the meaning of the title policy from the moment they acquired the property, even if they were not yet aware of that fact.5

At the end of the day, the homeowners were able to claim for the future costs to complete the remedial work, and they did not have to pay for the repairs out of their own pocket and then seek reimbursement from the title insurer.  If that were the case, the Court found that only insureds with financial resources to cover the cost of their loss could seek compensation.6  

MacDonald offers lenders and their counsel important guidance on the interpretation of title insurance policies generally, and a useful sample application of those principles to a specific fact situation.

1 MacDonald et al. v. Chicago Title Insurance Company of Canada, 2015 ONCA 842 [MacDonald].

2 MacDonald, at para. 66.

3 MacDonald, at para. 71.

4 MacDonald, at para. 77.

5 MacDonald, at para. 79.

6 MacDonald, at para. 83.

NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. Gowling WLG professionals will be pleased to discuss resolutions to specific legal concerns you may have.

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A record number of office and retail sales kept the Lower Mainland’s commercial real estate market trending above long-term averages in the second quarter of 2015, according to data from Commercial Edge, a commercial real estate system operated by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV).

The total dollar value of commercial sales in the region was $1.9 billion in the second quarter (Q2) of 2015, a 41.2 per cent increase from Q2 2014.

There were 591 commercial real estate sales in the Lower Mainland in Q2 2015, according to Commercial Edge. This is a 16.1 per cent increase compared to the 509 sales recorded in Q2 2014, a 25.7 per cent increase from the 470 sales recorded in Q2 2013, and a 9 per cent increase from the 542 sales recorded over the same period in 2012.

“This has been the busiest quarter in terms of commercial sales in the last five years,” Darcy McLeod, REBGV president said.

Q2 2015 activity by category

Land: There were 191 commercial land sales registered with the Land Title and Survey Authority of BC (LTSA) in the Lower Mainland in Q2 2015, a 13.7 per cent increase from the 168 land sales in Q2 2014. The dollar value of land sales in Q2 2015 was $937 million, up 47.7 per cent from $634 million in Q2 2014.

Office and Retail: There were 235 office and retail sales in the Lower Mainland in Q2 2015, a 21.1 per cent increase from the 194 office and retail sales in Q2 2014. The dollar value of office and retail sales in Q2 2015 was $575 million, a 74.2 per cent increase from $330 million in Q2 2014.

Industrial: There were 135 industrial land sales in the Lower Mainland in Q2 2015, which is a 13.4 per cent increase compared to the 119 industrial land sales in Q2 2014. The dollar value of industrial sales in Q2 2015 was $226 million, a 69.8 per cent increase from $133 million in Q2 2014.

Multi-Family: There were 30 multi-family sales in the Lower Mainland in Q2 2015, which is up 7.1 per cent from the 28 sales in Q2 2014. The dollar value of multi-family sales in Q2 2015 was $162 million, a 34.5 per cent decline from $247 million in Q2 2014.


Gearing up for summer? Now is a great time to get your home in top shape for the months ahead. Whatever your weather, caring for your home now will help to ensure a worry-free, comfortable summer. Follow a few of these tips each week and you'll be done in no time.


  • Inspect siding for cracks and make any needed repairs.
  • If paint is peeling, cracking, or chipped, repair and repaint now to limit damage to the underlying materials.
  • Remove window screens and clean with a soft brush and soapy water. Repair any holes or tears or replace the screen material before reinstalling.
  • Have air conditioning units serviced to ensure good operation. Promote air circulation around the unit by keeping surrounding shrubs and plants trimmed.
  • Clear debris from gutters and eaves to allow rainwater to drain properly.
  • Seal cracks in the driveway and keep walkways clear of debris and overgrown plants.
  • Test irrigation/sprinkler systems and replace any broken sprinkler heads or emitters. Check for proper water coverage and adjust if necessary.
  • Power wash decks and patios and seal surfaces as appropriate.


  • Vacuum or brush off refrigerator coils to help maintain energy efficiency.
  • Empty dehumidifier pans and clean hoses according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • If possible, take area rugs outside and hang them over a deck or porch rail to air out.
  • Adjust ceiling fans for proper balance and change the rotation to the summer setting. While you're at it, give the unit a good dusting.
  • Switch heavy bedding out for lightweight summer fabrics. Have the winter bedding cleaned before storing it away for the season.
  • Close the chimney flue to prevent insects from entering and to help keep cool air in.
  • Repot houseplants to give their roots a fresh start for the summer.
  • Check door and cabinet hinges and lubricate any that stick or squeak.

Open windows on cooler days to keep fresh air flowing throughout the home.


Courtesy of:  

Roger Rygg, RHI, Pillar To Post® Home Inspection Team
Maple Ridge: 604-462-7020


by Olivia D'Orazio11 Dec 2014

While the Bank of Canada said it’s worried about a potentially overvalued housing market, the country is not about to host the kind of crash that plagued many cities in the United States.


In its biannual Financial System Review, the BoC said Canada’s housing market could be overvalued by 10 to 30 per cent, but said we’re not currently seeing the kind of spike in housing prices that preceded corrections in the early 1980s and early 1990s.


“Highly-indebted households would have [difficulty] servicing their debt if they were to face a sharp decline in their incomes or a sharp rise in interest rates,” said Governor Stephen Poloz in a press release. “This situation raises the risk that a shock to the economy could trigger a correction in house prices. The probability of this risk materializing is low, but if it did occur, the effect on the economy would be severe.”


For now, the national economy – and by extension, the housing market – is benefitting from rising immigration and the continued strengthening of the U.S. economy. House prices are still rising, mainly due to still-low mortgage rates.


“The further decline in mortgage rates over 2014 has supported housing activity,” the BoC said in its report. “Sales of existing homes have picked up noticeably from the weather-related weakness at the beginning of the year and now exceed their 10-year average. Housing starts have been broadly in-line with demographic demand.”


For these reasons, according to the BoC, Canadian agents don’t need to duck and cover just yet.

“None of those conditions is present today,” Poloz said. “The rise in house prices has been much more gradual and, in the context of a broadening recovery, the unwinding of household imbalances should be gradual as well. 


“That is why we continue to expect a soft landing in the housing market, but it is conditional on continued strengthening in the economy.”


Demographic Growth & Change


The Vancouver CMA’s population grew by 36 percent between 1996 and 2013, going from 1.79 to 2.44 million residents (651,511 additional residents). On the heels of a period of rapid growth in the early-1990s, annual rates of population growth fell into the 1.7 to 2.0 percent range through 2008. The rate of population growth continued to rise through the recent recession, reaching 2.5 percent by 2009. Since this peak, however, Vancouver’ population growth has declined each year, falling to 1.4 percent by 2013. As with other metropolitan regions, this pattern of population growth rates closely follows trends in provincial economic growth.

Accounting for the age-specific patterns of fertility, mortality, and migration and the aging of the region’s current residents, the Vancouver CMA is projected to grow by 1.05 million people over the next 28 years, from 2.44 million people today to 2.83 million by 2023, 3.22 million by 2033, and 3.48 million by 2041. In the medium-term, annual growth rates are projected to increase slightly (into the 1.5 percent range) before slowing through the latter stages of the projection period. This pattern will be driven, in large part, by a general demographic shift of the region’s population out of the childbearing age groups and into the higher mortality stages of the lifecycle. 


While the annual rate of population growth will moderate over time, the age composition of the Vancouver CMA’s population will continue to change significantly as the region grows. In particular, the aging of the region’s post-war baby boom generation will see the greatest growth come to the older segments of the population. All groups under the age of 45 will grow more slowly than the CMA-wide average, while those 45 and older will grow at, or well above, the rate of total population growth. Accounting for 42 percent of total population growth to 2041, the 65-plus age groups will comprise 23 percent of the Vancouver CMA’s population by 2041, up from 14 percent in 2013. 

While growth in these older age groups will be important, the aging of the region’s current residents will have a significant influence on the pattern of tomorrow’s demographic change: 85 percent of 2013’s residents are projected to be alive in 2033 (and potentially still living in the region), and 77 percent would still be around by 2041.

Housing Occupancy Demand by Structure Type


The age-specific patterns of maintaining households in the Vancouver CMA show significant increases in both ground oriented and apartment maintainer rates through the younger stages of the lifecycle. For apartments, rates peak at 25 percent in the 30 to 34 year old age group, while for ground oriented accommodation they are only 20 percent for this same age group—but increase into each successively older group as apartment rates decline. The declines in apartment rates, which are more than offset by increases in ground oriented rates, highlight the prominence of the apartment market for housing entry and the ground oriented market through the family formation and family rearing stages of the lifecycle. More specifically, ground oriented rates climb from 20 percent for those in their early-30s to between 38 and 39 percent through the early-50s and 60s age groups, before declining toward 26 percent for those aged 85-plus. 

Apartment rates remain steady in the range of 18 percent for people in their late-40s and 50s, after which point they increase, peaking at 26 percent of residents aged 80 to 84 maintaining a household in an apartment. It is important to note that outside of Montreal, the Vancouver CMA generally exhibits some of the highest apartment maintainer rates amongst Canada’s major CMA’s.
Combining trends in the lifecycle patterns of household maintainer rates with the pattern of demographic change projected for the Vancouver CMA to 2041 would see household occupancy demand grow by 497,320 units over the next 28 years. High maintainer rates among the rapidly-growing older age groups will see total housing occupancy demand outpace population growth over this period: 43 percent growth in total population would generate a 53 percent increase in total housing occupancy demand in the region between 2013 and 2041. 


When considered in absolute terms Future additional demand would be slightly more weighted towards ground oriented housing. For example, over the next 28 years, an additional 282,188 ground oriented units would need to be added to the region to accommodate projected occupancy demand by 2041; as such, ground oriented housing would represent 57 percent of the region’s 497,320 total net additional units over this period. 

Net additional demand for apartments would account for the remaining 43 percent of the region’s net housing additions to 2041, with 215,131 new apartments required to accommodate projected demand. Given the relative prominence of apartment maintainer rates when compared to other major CMAs, the roles that ground oriented and apartment housing will play in accommodating Vancouver’s growing and changing population will be much more evenly matched than in other metropolitan regions. 

Housing Occupancy Demand by Tenure Type


As with the structure type lifecycle patterns of housing, the age-related pattern of household maintainer rates described by tenure correspond with major life milestones. Owned household maintainer rates in the Vancouver CMA increase rapidly through the family formation and the family rearing stages of the lifecycle, going from a low of only one percent of people in the 15 to 19 age group owning a dwelling to between 41 and 47 percent of households between the ages of 50 and 84 owning their dwelling unit. Owner-occupied maintainer rates peak at 47 percent for the 80 to 84 segment of the population before declining to 38 percent for the 85-plus age group, as some seniors either move in with family members, move out of private accommodation and into collective care  environments, or shift from owned to rental accommodations.

Rental maintainer rates in the Vancouver CMA increase from one percent for 15 to 19 year olds to 22 percent for the 25 to 34 age groups. From this 22 percent peak rental rates experience a steady decline into the 13 and 14 percent range for all 55-plus age groups. 


Over the next 28 years demand for owned units in the Vancouver CMA would outpace that for rented dwellings, both in absolute and relative terms. Between 2013 and 2041, the owned segment of Vancouver’s market is projected increase by 67 percent, from 621,060 units to over 1.03 million occupied units by 2041. Occupancy demand for rented units is expected to increase by 26 percent over the same period, growing from 321,997 dwellings today to 405,315 occupied units by 2041. Hence, an additional 414,001 owned units and 83,318 new rental units would be required to meet projected occupancy demand over the next twenty eight years.




Click here to download a PDF version of a summary for Canada and selected CMAs, including this one.


Click here to download a PDF version of our full report.


by Olivia D'Orazio  08 Dec 2014
Housing starts across Canada remained flat year over year in November, although seasonally-adjusted numbers point to growing momentum in British Columbia and Quebec as developers ramp up to meet immigration demands.
“The trend essentially held steady for a third consecutive month in November,” said Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist, in releasing November numbers Monday. “This is in line with our expectations for 2014, of a stable national picture with new home building concentrated in multiple starts, particularly in Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario.”
Seasonally adjusted starts in November climbed 6.5 per cent month-over-month to 195,620 units. More than half of those starts were multi-unit properties in urban centres, led largely by Ontario and Quebec, though British Columbia posted the largest gains – 26.7 per cent – from October.
It’s important to note, say analysts, that starts were flat from the year-ago period.
While reports suggested overbuilding would become a problem for Canada’s major urban centres, CMHC said more housing is needed to fill the demand created by healthy immigration.
“Ask any real estate developer in any of Canada's major cities about the risk of overbuilding, and the first line of defense would be immigration and its critical role in supporting demand,” said Benjamin Tal, CIBC’s deputy chief economist. “It turns out that, at least for now, this claim is more valid than widely believed.”
New immigrants account for 70 per cent of the increase in Canada’s population. Half of these new immigrants are aged between 25 and 44, representing the country’s economic engine, according to CMHC’s 2014 Canadian Housing Observer.


In many living and family room designs, it might seem like the best place to install the flat screen television is above the fireplace. But before you do that, the Chimney Safety Institute of America advises you to take a few precautions.

  • Review the fireplace and chimney venting system. Some natural gas log units are designed to be vent-free, which means high levels of heat can be radiating out from the appliance. Heat and TVs don’t mix.
  • Check the fireplace opening for discoloration. Discoloration means that some potentially hazardous by-products of combustion are entering the home and are rising above the fireplace opening, putting them in direct contact with the homeowners and the TV.
  • Consider industry safety standards when hiding cables. National building codes recommend a minimum 2-inch clearance between combustible electrical wires and a fireplace or chimney appliance. Carefully review mounting instructions when hanging the flat screen to reduce risk. If needed, consult a CSIA-certified chimney sweep.

Consider the Options

Rob Sabin, editor-in-chief of Home Theater Magazine/, suggests using an electronic thermometer with an outdoor probe and taping the probe to the wall above the fireplace, then setting the fireplace at its highest setting and checking the temperature. “Anything over 85 to 90 degrees or so should be considered less than ideal for electronics, whether it’s inside a cabinet or on a wall,” Sabin says. “Over time, a TV that is repeatedly exposed to rising hot air over 100 degrees could see its life unexpectedly shortened and possibly even experience some misshaping of its plastic cabinetry. If you’re using the television and have the display panel and circuitry active while the fire is going in that type of installation, you’re asking for extra trouble, particularly so with plasma TVs that tend to run hotter than the LED LCD models.”

Credit: Courtesy Design Build Pros

Sabin offers some tips and suggestions:

  • If you can’t find a suitable alternative location for the TV, try altering the mantel or hearth to allow for a different heat flow pattern. He recommends consulting a fireplace professional.
  • Another issue with fireplace installs is that the height of the TV can create uncomfortable neck-craning in situations where the viewers’ seating isn’t far enough back from that wall. Explore an alternative room design that allows the TV to be mounted away from heat at a more reasonable height.
  • If the room has space on either side of the fireplace, consider setting the TV back into custom wall cabinetry or shelving to the right or left of the fireplace and then mounting the TV on an arm mount that allows it to be pulled out from the cabinet and swiveled toward the seating area. Consider installing doors to hide the TV when it’s not in use and add matching shelves or cabinetry to the other side of the fireplace to balance the look.
  • If installing the TV above the fireplace is the only option, Sabin recommends using a motorized mount, such as the ComfortVu, that pulls the TV both out and down from its resting place. This type of mount will pull the TV out about 24 inches from the wall and can lower it by as much as 38 inches from its above-the-fireplace height, and it will clear a 12-inch-deep mantel with the TV mounted just 3 inches above it. The mount costs about $1,995. However, Sabin adds, keep in mind that this might place the TV even more directly in the heat of a working fireplace, which is not recommended. 

  • —Nina Patel is a senior editor at REMODELING. Find her on Twitter at @SilverNina or@RemodelingMag.




Summer's gone and autumn's knocking at the door. The month of October brings colorful leaves, cool breezes, and Halloween trick-or-treaters. It's also the perfect time to finish outdoor maintenance projects, brush up on your fire safety knowledge, and winterize your lawn before the cold temperatures really set in. Click through to take a look at my ten must do projects for this month.!1 





Four deck builders share their favorite site-built railing designs

Many deck builders have told me that they rarely build wood rails anymore. Their customers are opting for low-maintenance finishes, and they're installing manufactured rail kits and components made from vinyl or composites. As Matt Breyer ofBreyer Construction and Landscape, in Reading, Pa., explains, "Of the 100+ decks we build each year, we might do five that have wood railings." Breyer says that even when installing a standard PT deck with a wood railing, he prefers to use Deckorators metal balusters, simply for ease of maintenance.

But plenty of customers and deck builders still prefer site-built wood railings. They may take longer to build and require a little extra maintenance, but in return they offer more design options and a chance to stamp your projects with a signature look. Take a look at the railings featured here and see if you don't agree that it's a fair exchange.

California Style

This railing was built with redwood and has a paint finish, though the same design could be built with reinforced composite balusters.


This railing was built with redwood and has a paint finish, though the same design could be built with reinforced composite balusters.


Credit: Gary Cherene

While I think it would be expensive to build and maintain and wouldn't be a good choice in a freeze/thaw climate, like in New England or the Midwest, one of my favorite designs is this elegant painted rail byGary Cherene of Redondo Beach, Calif. Cherene says he can assemble the balustrade using hollow Trex composite balusters reinforced with wood, though the one shown here was built with redwood. He cuts the vertical balusters and horizontal crosspieces from S4S 1 3/8-inch by 1 3/8-inch stock, and uses standard 2x4 and 2x6 stock for the rails. He profiles the edges of the 2x6 cap rail using either an ogee or a classical bit.

According to Cherene, the trickiest part is installing the crosspieces so that they're perfectly aligned. He does this by first fastening the vertical balusters to the top and bottom 2x4 rails, then snapping a pair of chalklines to mark the locations for the crosspieces. As he fastens them along his marks to the balusters with 3-inch-long stainless steel toe screws, he continually checks their alignment by eye.

Cherene typically contracts with a professional painter to spray the completed rails in place with a primer coat and three finish coats of high-quality exterior latex paint.

Built for Lighting

Even though these posts and rails are wood, they're designed to accommodate the electrical wiring needed for deck lighting.


Even though these posts and rails are wood, they're designed to accommodate the electrical wiring needed for deck lighting.


Credit: John Paulin

John Paulin's railing system is designed to accommodate deck lighting and various types of balusters as well as cable infill. The key is his two-part upper rail assembly, which he has custom-fabricated from clear, vertical-grain pressure-treated southern yellow pine.

The lower, 2x4 subrail has a 1/2-inch-deep by 1-inch-wide wiring chase routed into its upper surface. A corresponding 1/4-inch-deep chase is routed into the underside of a 2x6 cap rail that fits on top of the subrail, allowing the wiring to run unseen over the rail posts. The underside of the cap rail also has a 1/8-inch-deep by 3 1/2-inch-wide channel that creates a keyway for the subrail. To accommodate wiring that leads below deck or to a post-mounted fixture, he rips his posts into two pieces and routs 1/4-inch-deep channels into the center of each cut edge.

Most of Paulin's customers prefer his double top-rail design, in which a 4-inch gap separates the lower balustrade from the upper handrail. He typically builds the rail sections using standard 26-inch-high metal or wood balusters and 36 1/2-inch-high railing posts. Once the 2x6 cap rails are added to the assembly, the top of the railing is about 38 inches above the decking.

Post spacing is typically no more than 4 feet on-center, though Paulin says he'll increase that to 4 feet 6 inches when using stronger, vertical-grain PT pine material. To prevent sagging, he supports the middle of the longer rail section with a block.

Tile Rail

  • The tile inlay in this cedar rail was installed using offcuts from the deck's travertine tile sitting area (shown in the background), mixed in with pieces from other tile projects.

    Credit: Bruce Zaretsky

    The tile inlay in this cedar rail was installed using offcuts from the deck's travertine tile sitting area (shown in the background), mixed in with pieces from other tile projects.

Credit: Bruce Zaretsky

The tile inlay in this cedar rail was installed using offcuts from the deck's travertine tile sitting area (shown in the background), mixed in with pieces from other tile projects.

According to landscape designerBruce Zaretsky, the tile inlay shown here was a spontaneous design by his crew, and a surprise for his client. Following the installation of a travertine inlay "carpet" in a deck project, his carpentry foreman had some leftover blue floor tile on hand, and his crew decided to combine it with leftover travertine offcuts to create the inlay in the deck's 2x6 cedar cap rail.

Later, the client sealed the cedar and tile with a coat of polyurethane to keep it waterproof. This proved to be a mistake, as the sealer eventually yellowed and flaked off. Now, sealer is applied just to the wood and not to the tile, which has a silicone bead run over the grout lines to help keep water out.

Classic Hybrid

In this railing design, the upper and lower rails were milled to match the mahogany decking. The balusters are painted fir, and attached with screws and nails to PVC subrails.


In this railing design, the upper and lower rails were milled to match the mahogany decking. The balusters are painted fir, and attached with screws and nails to PVC subrails.


Credit: Emanuel Silva

Emanuel Silva of Silva Lightning Builders in North Andover, Mass., has been tweaking his classic rail design for years to continually improve its ability to stand up to the Boston area's harsh climate. It can be built with either wood or composite materials; in the version shown here, the upper and lower rails were made of 2x4 mahogany to match the decking, while the 1 3/8-inch by 1 3/8-inch balusters were painted fir. Silva cut the 1/2-inch by 1 1/2-inch subrails from PVC sheet goods, along with the column and post wraps and porch trim.

First to be installed were the upper and lower mahogany rails, which Silva had dressed up with a beaded profile and prefinished with a couple of coats of Penofin. He fastened the rails to the posts with pairs of 2 1/2-inch-long Kreg HD heavy-duty coated pocket screws, locating the holes so they would be hidden by the subrails once the railing inserts were installed. Silva notes that the screws must be long enough to penetrate both the PVC trim and the structural PT posts. He likes to wrap the posts with Grace Ice & Watershield SAF membrane, because it self-seals around the screws and helps keep moisture out of the posts.

Silva primed the balusters—including the ends—and cut the PVC subrails to length, then assembled the railing inserts on a flat work table. To speed assembly, he used a spacer block to position the balusters and pinned them to the subrails, using pairs of 16-gauge galvanized finish nails driven through the subrails and into the ends of each baluster. Then he drove coated 1 1/4-inch deck screws through the subrails and into the ends of the balusters.

When he installed the rail inserts, he fastened them to the top and bottom rails with stainless steel screws about 8 inches on-center. Silva says he occasionally predrills holes for the screws and plugs the holes, but usually he just overdrives the screws a little and uses filler to conceal the holes. One thing he doesn't do is the finish painting; he subs that out.

Copper Top

This rail design features a double top rail made of cedar and short upper balusters made from 3/4-inch diameter copper plumbing pipe.


This rail design features a double top rail made of cedar and short upper balusters made from 3/4-inch diameter copper plumbing pipe.


Credit: John MacDonald

One way to dress up a standard PT rail system is to add copper. Oregon deck builder Mac MacDonald cut Type M 3/4-inch diameter copper tubing (typically used for domestic water systems and widely available at hardware and building supply stores) into 4 1/2-inch lengths and inserted them into holes bored into the upper surface of a 32-inch-high guardrail. He then installed the upper caprail, which has corresponding 1/4-inch-deep holes cut into its underside. Unlike the posts, subrails, and balusters, the lower, intermediate, and upper rails were made of red cedar, and were prefinished with an exterior polyurethane varnish. A horizontal blocking detail let into the balustrade adds an interesting visual element to the rail. Carefully cut lap joints were required to avoid weakening the balusters.

Andrew Wormer is the editor of PDB.


In his new book, Slim by Design, eating-behavior expert Brian Wansink shows us how to get our kitchens working better

Houzz Editorial Staff; writer, musician, father, husband.

Use this handy home maintenance checklist to keep your house—and property—in peak condition this winter.



Fall is just around the corner: time to get your house in shape for the cooler months ahead. Although autumn can be one of the busiest seasons for homeowners preparing for winter, it’s also the best time to take advantage of the moderate weather to repair any damages before the first frost sets in. Here are some home maintenance ideas that will keep your home running in peak condition all winter long.


Check foundation for cracks and caulk around the areas where masonry meets siding, where pipes or wires enter the house, and around the windows and door frames to prevent heat from escaping. “Caulking and sealing openings is one of the least expensive maintenance jobs,” says Michael Hydeck, Hydeck Design Build, Inc., Telford, PA, and National President, National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). “Openings in the structure can cause water to get in and freeze, resulting in cracks and mold build up,” he says. “Regardless of whether you live in a cold or warm climate, winter can bring very harsh conditions resulting in water or ice damage. A careful check of the outside structure combined with inexpensive maintenance can save you money in the long run.”


Install storm windows and doors and remove screens. Before storing, clean and repair screens, spray with a protective coating and place in a dry area of the basement or garage.


Inspect exterior walls to see if any paint is peeling or blistering on the house or outbuildings. According to Carl Minchew, Director,Benjamin Moore Paints, “Peeling paint is a sign that the existing paint film is failing and can no longer protect the siding of the building. Left uncorrected, the siding itself will deteriorate, leading to expensive repairs in the future.”


Make sure the roof is in good shape. Inspect for missing and loose shingles. “Ice, rain, snow and wind combined with rapidly changing temperatures and humidity wreak havoc on roofs,” says Jay Butch, Director, Contractor programs for CertainTeed Roofing. “Your roof is your first defense in protecting your home. Without it functioning properly, water damage can occur. This causes deterioration to insulation, wood and drywall, making electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems vulnerable. It’s better to proactively deal with repairs in the fall than to discover a leaky roof during a snowstorm. For safety’s sake, have a licensed, certified roofing professional check the condition of your roof.”


After leaves have fallen, clean out the gutters and downspouts, flush them with water, inspect joints, and tighten brackets if necessary. Clogged gutters are one of the major causes of ice dams. Replace old or damaged gutters with new ones that have built-in leaf guards.


Examine your pool cover for damage and replace if necessary.


Weather-strip your garage door. Make sure the seal between your garage door and the ground is tight to prevent drafts and keep out small animals.


Inspect your driveway for cracks. Clean out and repair any damage with driveway filler, then coat with a commercial sealer.


“Heating and cooling amount to 47% of the energy costs in your home. Proper sealing and insulation can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs, or up to 10% on your total annual energy bill,” says Katie Cody, spokeswoman for Lowe’s. “Air leaks from windows and doors are easy to find by moving your hand around the frame. Applying weather stripping and caulk to these areas will help cut down on drafts.”


Have your heating system checked by a licensed heating contractor. Heating systems will use fuel more efficiently, last longer and have fewer problems if properly serviced. 


Get your woodstove and fireplace in working order. Gary Webster, Creative Director of Travis Industries, suggests that you examine your wood stove or fireplace insert’s door gasket for a tight seal. Also clean and inspect the glass door for cracks and have the chimney cleaned by a licensed chimney sweep. “A clogged chimney poses the risk of a chimney fire, which can be ignited by burning creosote—a combination of wood tar, organic vapors and moisture buildup,” says Webster.


Change the direction of your ceiling fan to create an upward draft that redistributes warm air from the ceiling.


Test and change the batteries in your smoke and carbon dioxide detectors and keep extra household batteries on hand.


Check basement windows for drafts, loose frames or cracked panes.


Vacuum internal parts of air conditioners. Remove units from windows or wrap outside box with an approved tarp or plastic air conditioner cover in order to prevent rusting of vital parts.  


Clean your humidifiers regularly during the heating season. Bacteria and spores can develop in a dirty water tank resulting in unclean moisture misting out into your room.


Organize your garage. Clean and store summer garden tools.


Clear leaves from lawn, reseed patchy areas, and plant spring flowering bulbs. If deer are a problem, start deer-proofing by covering plants with netting and chicken wire.


Prepare your yard equipment for storage. This includes draining fuel from all gas-operated equipment such as lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and chain saws. 


Check to see that all of your snow equipment is up and running before the first flurry falls. Organize your snow clearing gear. When snow arrives you’ll want to have shovels, roof rakes and snow blowers where you can get to them. “Be careful where you store equipment,” says Travis Poore, The Lawn Ranger, a Home Depot Community Expert. “An outbuilding may not be as well insulated as a garage incorporated into a house. Equipment that is stored out in the elements, exposed to heat and cold extremes, can develop problems when the gasoline can no longer vaporize and flow into the combustion chamber of the engine.”


Drain garden hoses and store them inside. Also shut off outdoor water valves in cold weather. Any water left in exterior pipes and faucets can freeze and expand breaking the pipes.

Inspect and fill bird feeders. Keep in mind that once you start feeding birds you should continue on a regular basis throughout the winter months.


Fertilize the lawn with a high phosphorous mix to ensure healthy grass in the spring.


Check the supports, stairs, and railings on porches and decks. Make sure the handrails can support someone slipping on snow or ice. 


Clean porch and deck furniture, and look for any needed repairs. Cover and store outdoor furniture and barbecues in a protected area.


Make sure all soil is emptied from pots and planters. Dirt left in clay pots will freeze and cause the pots to crack if left outside.


View our Fall Home Maintenance Tips slideshow.  

Slideshow: 10 Fall Home Maintenance Tips
For a printable PDF Home Maintenance Checklist, click here.




Household allergens can cause a variety of symptoms in many people, including sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, and shortness of breath. Allergens may also be a contributing cause of asthma, especially in children. However, it is possible to minimize the effects of such allergens by taking steps to control their presence and dispersal in the home.

The most common household allergens include dust mites, mold, mildew, pollen, and pet dander (dried flakes of skin shed by pets, particularly cats and dogs). Effective control relies on a combination of measures that, when used properly, will reduce the levels of allergens.

Increase ventilation to the home. Opening windows whenever possible promotes good air exchange and will reduce the concentration of airborne allergens, especially pet dander.

Wash bedding and stuffed toys once a week in hot water to control dust mites and cat allergens in particular.

Keep pets clean and well groomed to control dander.

Use mite-resistant mattress covers and pillow covers and wash them frequently.

Dust and vacuum regularly, and use microfiltration or HEPA filter vacuum bags. The jury is still out on whether bagless vacuum cleaners are more effective in removing allergens than those that require bags; some studies indicate that many bagless vacuums are not sealed tightly enough and can actually exacerbate the problem. Wearing a dust mask while dusting and vacuuming is also a good idea.

Consider removing wall-to-wall carpeting and use easy-to-clean area rugs instead, particularly in bedrooms.

Make sure bathrooms, especially those with showers, are well ventilated. Open the window and use exhaust fans that vent to the outdoors to prevent a buildup of moisture, which can encourage growth of mold and mildew. It's a good idea to keep the fan running and the door open for at least ten minutes after showering.

If possible, reduce indoor humidity to 50% or less by using room dehumidifiers or the dehumidifier feature available with many central air conditioning systems.

Clean or replace furnace and central air conditioner filters on a regular basis. Make sure that air conditioner drain pans are clean and allow the water to drain properly.

For more information on allergens in the home, please contact your local Pillar To Post office.     Maple Ridge: 604-462-7020 

Read (© Rogers Digital Media 2014, All Rights Reserved.)

Updated: Fri, 22 Aug 2014 09:00:00 GMT | By Mark Anderson



Project 1

If life can be described as an endless cycle of decay and renewal, the same can be said for houses. The decay part happens when the windows start leaking, the doors no longer fit right, the drywall bulges, the carpet disintegrates, the tiles crack, the fence falls down-you get the picture.

The renewal part? That's you fixing everything broken, tainted, tarnished, outmoded, outdated, or out-of-kilter. The question, as always, is whether to attempt to do the work yourself, or bring in experts to do it for you. It's a deceptively difficult question to answer, and it's one you're going to want to get right.

The first and most obvious reason to tackle your own home renovations is money: you can save thousands of dollars on many home improvement projects by handling the labour yourself. Before you start hammering apart the bathroom tiles or clawing up the carpet, however, there are a few additional things to consider. First off, are you physically up to the challenge? Drywall is heavy; sinking fence posts in solid clay can feel like a labour of Hercules. And you, who sit in a cubicle all day tapping away at a keyboard, are you fit enough for long days in the construction game? You'd better be sure before you pick up that hammer.

Self-knowledge is even more important. Robert Koci, publisher of Canadian Contractor magazine, points to the executive who pulls in $500,000 a year but still does his own home renovations because he enjoys the challenge and change of pace. "There's something eminently satisfying about working with materials instead of people," says Koci, who's spent his life in and around the building trades. "Materials don't lie. Materials are subject to understandable laws that don't change. For some people, that's a welcome diversion from managing people for a living."

The converse, of course, is that inexperience and a lack of professional-calibre tools can quickly drive one to screaming fits of frustration. "Do-it-yourself challenges who you are and what you're about," says Koci. "If you're impatient, disorganized or easily stressed, DIY might not be for you. If you're the kind of person who enjoys learning and is intrigued by new experiences, yes, DIY is definitely for you."

Some jobs, of course, are harder than others. "Start small," suggests Koci. "Choose projects you think you can handle. Work your way in gently, and build up to bigger, more complex renos."

And what exactly are these small, easily undertaken DIY renos that can save you big bucks over hiring a contractor? Some of the most common include installing a hardwood floor, trimming a room with baseboard and crown moulding, tiling a bathroom, hanging drywall and building a wooden yard fence. Each involves unique skill sets, tools and materials, as well as cost savings versus hiring a contractor. Best of all, they're projects a typical homeowner can undertake with limited experience, and still be proud of the results.


Installing a hardwood floor


When RBC account manager Dale Conrod moved into a 30-year-old townhouse with his young family a few years ago, he knew he had some reno work ahead of him, especially when it came to the flooring. "We had old, ugly carpets throughout the living room and dining room, and the choice was to replace the carpet or go with something a little nicer," he recalls. "We decided to go with hardwood, and since my wife had a co-worker whose husband was really handy and volunteered to help me, I decided we could do the installation ourselves."

A good call, because as he soon discovered it really wasn't that hard. "We went to Rona, looked around, and they had red oak on sale for $6.25 a square foot, so we went with it." The hardwood came pre-varnished and pre-cut into various lengths from one to four feet, with tongue and groove joints for easy installation. "It fit together like a jigsaw puzzle," he says. "Once you put your first line down it really goes very quickly. One guy throws the boards down, the other uses the nailer, and you just start trucking along. When you get to the end of a row you make a cut with the circular saw so it's flush against the wall, and then you start on the next row."

The key to making it look good, he says, is to pre-sort the wood by length and grain. "Some of the boards have a lot of straight grain and some have kind of a swirly grain, so you want to mix it up so you have the different grains throughout the floor. Also, you have to vary the lengths so your joints are staggered instead of lining up."

The last row usually has to be ripped to make it fit snug against the wall, which is where the table saw comes in. Since Conrod already owned a table saw, he was all set. "Otherwise I probably would have tried to borrow one from a buddy, or rent, because there's no point buying such an expensive piece of equipment for one job."

Working steadily, the two men were able to finish four rooms-kitchen, living room, dining room and hallway-in a single weekend, saving more than $2,000 in labour versus having the work contracted out. So, would he do it all again? "Probably not," laughs Conrod. "We have more money now, and I'm a bit older and lazier. But at the time it was definitely the right decision."

DON'T MESS THIS UP! Especially during the dry winter months, you don't want to make the mistake of installing your floor immediately upon delivery. "Leave it for a couple weeks to let it get to the same level of heat and humidity as the rest of the house," advises Conrod. "If you don't it'll shrink and you're going to get gaps."

Install hardwood floors in three rooms and a hallway (total 700 sq ft)

  • Hardwood flooring: $4,375
  • Compressor, nail gun, nails: $200
  • Table saw (rental): $100
  • Total: $4,675
  • Contractor price: $6,855
  • Save: $2,180
  • Circular saw/chop saw: $100
  • Tape measure: $25


Project 2


Crown moulding and trim


Of all the renovations you can undertake, nothing beautifies a home quicker and easier than crown moulding and baseboard trim, says Chris Dore, a long-time contractor, woodworker and installer with Ottawa Community Housing. "It makes an immediate impact on the look and resale value of a home, and it's something most homeowners who are reasonably handy should be able to do themselves."

The key to a great-looking job, he says, is matching the size of the moulding to the height of the room. "For a standard eight-ft ceiling you can go with a four-inch wide crown. Anything lower you can drop down to three or 3.5 inches, and for high, cathedral ceilings you can use the largest crown available."

Moulding can be purchased at big-box stores like Rona and Home Depot at pre-cut lengths of up to 16 feet, or by the linear foot from custom wood shops. "Buying by the linear foot is usually better because you're almost guaranteed less waste, and can also avoid having to make extra joints halfway along a run," says Dore.

There are also a variety of materials from which to choose, from MDF, or medium density fiberboard, to pine, to beautiful hardwoods like oak or cherry. Of these, the hardwoods are the most expensive and least forgiving to work with, in part because you can't cover your mistakes. "Say you have a fancy library room and you want to trim it in solid cherry or oak," says Dore. "The material costs triple, and if you cut a 12-ft piece a quarter-inch short and you're using a clear finish it's very difficult to disguise that, whereas if you're painting a piece of pine or MDF you can hide those joints with caulking and paint."

Once you've decided on a material, the installation is pretty straightforward. You'll need a good quality compound mitre saw and either a compressor and brad nailer, or one of the new butane-powered nailers on the market. "Butane guns are better because you can shoot about 1,000 nails with a single canister, and you're not dragging a compressor hose around," says Dore.

Measure your pieces carefully and use the miter to make perfect 45-degree cuts for the corners. Glue both sides of any joint and nail the rest of the run to the wall. With a little practice you should be able to install lengths of up to eight feet by yourself; longer runs are better installed with a helper. "Get your family to help," suggests Dore. "Anyone can hold up a piece of wood." Then caulk the top and bottom to cover any gaps in an undulating wall or ceiling, paint (unless you're using hardwood) and you're done.

DON'T MESS THIS UP! Hardwood should be limited to rooms with relatively level ceilings and flush walls. "If your ceiling or walls are out of alignment you might want to go with a material like MDF, which you can bend and manipulate a little," says Dore. "If you're using a solid-wood material like a big piece of oak, you're not going to be able to bend that even an eighth of an inch. Stick it up and it will just highlight how bad your walls and ceiling are."

Install crown moulding and trim in four rooms (12 x 12 ft each)

  • 200 linear feet of 4-inch $600pine moulding
  • Compressor, nail gun, nails: $200
  • Compound mitre saw: $150
  • Four-foot level: $30
  • Caulk: $20
  • Total: $1,000
  • Contractor price: $1,700
  • Save: $700
  • Tape measure: $25
  • Set square: $20


Project 3

Tiling a bathroom


Working with wood is one thing, but what about tile? Surely tiling is too intricate and fiddly for the average homeowner…or is it? Dale Hollingsworth, a professional garage door installer and all-around handyman, says that despite misgivings on the part of some homeowners, there's no reason to fear the square, ceramic stuff. To date Hollingsworth has tiled a pair of bathrooms-the first in his Ottawa home, the second in his country home on Sharbot Lake near Kingston, Ont.-and each time the job has turned out beautifully, while saving him a bundle on labour.

One of the keys, he says, is buying tiles that are easy to work with. "Smaller tiles come in one-ft sheets held together by plastic or fibreglass backing, so they're pre-spaced and held in a perfect square. If you're going with larger, three- to six-inch tiles, buy the ones with protruding edges on them so when you push them together they're automatically spaced. It avoids the use of those little plastic spacers, and it's a real time-saver."

Once you've decided on the tiles you want to install, mix your mortar (cement) and apply it to the wall with a special v-groove trowel. "Cement these days is extremely bondable," says Hollingsworth. "It holds the tiles in place even on a vertical wall, and they won't sag or anything. Just push them against the cement and you're done. It's fairly quick."

When you get to the edges and corners you may have to cut tiles to make them fit: use a special tile saw, otherwise known as a wet saw, to prevent chipping or cracking. Wait a day for the cement to dry, then apply your grout with a rubber tile float, making sure you fill the joints completely.

Wait an hour or so until the grout sets a bit, then clean off the excess, first with the tile float and then with a damp grout sponge. "Start by cleaning the joints, and then go over the face of the tiles to get the fog off. If you do it at the right time and with the right amount of water, it goes easily."

DON'T MESS THIS UP! Cleaning grout can be tricky, because you have to let it set long enough to become firm, but not so hard that you can't remove the excess with a grout sponge. "Timing is critical, and it all depends on the temperature and humidity levels in the house," says Hollingsworth. "If it's really warm out, it'll dry fast, and once it hardens it's extremely difficult to remove. You have to scrub and scrub. It's horrible."

Tile a three-wall bath and shower stall (total 100 sq ft)

  • Tile: $500
  • Cement: $15
  • Grout: $15
  • Tile saw (rental”): $40
  • Tile float: $5
  • Grout sponge: $5
  • V-trowel: $10
  • Total: $590
  • Contractor: $1,090 price
  • Save: $500
  • Tape measure: $25


Project 4

Drywall a room


Whether you're finishing a basement, subdividing a room or repairing water damage, hanging drywall is one of the most common home reno jobs, and one most homeowners should be able to handle themselves. Both Chris Dore and Dale Hollingsworth recently drywalled basement rooms in their respective homes, and pass on the following tips.

"If you're not used to lifting heavy materials, consider purchasing lightweight drywall," says Hollingsworth. "It's made with Styrofoam beads and reduces the weight of the sheets by about a third, making them easier to work with."

Start by laying the drywall on the floor and marking the location of the joists with a pencil. Then hold the sheets up and screw them to the joists starting at the top of the wall and with the long end of the panel parallel to the floor, using an 18-volt cordless drill and inch-and-a-quarter drywall screws. "Make sure you set the clutch on the drill so the screws stop just below the surface of the drywall and don't go too deep," says Hollingsworth.

Centre the short end of the panels on the joists so you have something to attach the next panel to, and keep going until you've covered the wall. When you have to cut panels to make them fit, use a utility knife to score the paper on one side, snap the sheet in two, and then turn the sheet over and cut the other side of the paper. "Whatever you do, don't cut into the drywall with your knife or you won't get a nice clean break," says Dore. "Just score the paper and the drywall will snap off nice and straight. Use a sharp blade, and be careful. A lot of people cut themselves drywalling."

Once you get your sheets up you have to tape and "mud" the joints with drywall compound. Both Dore and Hollingsworth say they prefer the more expensive but stronger fibreglass tape to paper tape, which can bubble. "I've seen many, many taped joints that have little wobbles and air pockets in them," says Dore. "That doesn't happen with the fibreglass tape."

The taping and mudding of the joints is the most tedious part of drywalling. Start by applying a thin layer of mud to the joints, then press the strips of paper or fibreglass tape into the damp compound. Let it dry, then apply a second layer about eight inches wide, and finally third layer about 20 inches wide, sanding after each application.

"The key is to apply the first layer of mud extremely thin, just enough to wet the tape and hold it in place," says Hollingsworth. "Put it on too thick, and you create hours of extra and unnecessary work sanding."

DON'T MESS THIS UP! Never put joints above doors or windows, says Dore. "If you do, the joints are almost guaranteed to crack because of movement over time and changes in temperature and humidity. Instead, use a whole piece of drywall and cut it so it fits around the doors and windows."

Drywall one room (total 12 x 12 ft)

  • Drywall: $192
  • Fibreglass tape: $20
  • Mud: $100
  • Trowel: $20
  • Pole sander: $30
  • Drywall screws: $6
  • Four-foot level: $30
  • Drywall saw: $20
  • Utility knife: $10
  • Total: $428
  • Contractor price: $1,600
  • Save: $1,172
  • Cordless drill:$150
  • Tape measure: $25


Project 5


Building a fence


Perhaps the easiest job-and the one that will potentially save you the most money versus hiring a contractor -is building and installing a wooden yard fence. "Deck and fence contractors are specialists, and hence have a relatively high markup for their work," says Koci. "At the same time, because the tolerances are much greater for outdoor fence work -a quarter of an inch, say, versus a 32nd of an inch for crown moulding-it's something homeowners can do even if they're not that precise with their measurements and cuts."

Chris Dore has installed several fences over the years including, most recently, one for his parents. "You really only have two choices of material," he explains, "cedar or pressure-treated wood, with PT being a little cheaper and offering longer life."

Start by sinking post holes three or four feet deep at either end of your fence run using a rented post-hole bore, and shovel a couple inches of gravel in the bottom of each to aid drainage. Drop the posts in the centre and fill the holes with concrete, using shims and a level to ensure the posts are perfectly straight. Run a string line between the posts and sink the rest of your holes along the line at eight-ft intervals; these middle holes can be backfilled with tamped earth instead of concrete to save money.

Use a cordless drill and inch-long screws to centre a pair of galvanized mounting brackets on each post, top and bottom, at the desired heights. "You can't use regular screws or they'll rust," Dore warns. "You have to use special screws designed for either pressure-treated wood or cedar."

Drop your top and bottom two-by-fours into the mounting brackets between the posts, and the skeleton of your fence is done. All that remains is to add the vertical slats, or pickets: most people stagger the pickets on either side of the two-by-fours.

Use a chalk line and circular saw to cut the top of the posts off at the desired height, nail decorative caps over each for protection, and you're done.

DON'T MESS THIS UP! The ground is never perfectly even, and you never want your fence touching the ground at any point, so measure from the highest point in the yard when installing your bottom brackets and two-by-fours. Keep the ground around the fence free of weeds, bushes and plants. "Any plant material touching the fence will shorten its lifespan by half," warns Dore. "The moisture will rot the wood out over time."

Build a 60-ft fence

  • 8 12-ft PT 4 x 4 posts: $118
  • 14 8-ft PT 2 x 4 boards: $75
  • 28 8-ft PT 1 x 1 mouldings: $30
  • 110 6-ft PT 1 x 6 planks: $165
  • 8 post caps: $80
  • 28 galvanized hanging brackets: $10
  • PT screws: $10
  • Concrete: $40
  • Post-hole auger (rental): $20
  • Compressor, nail gun, nails: $200
  • Chalk line: $10
  • Total: $758
  • Contractor price: $2,980
  • Save: $2,222
  • Circular saw: $100
  • Cordless drill: $100
  • Level: $30
  • Tape measure: $25

Additional DIY reno instructions and resources

More stories from MoneySense


This August is the inaugural National Curb Appeal Month, created by Fypon to educate homeowners about ways to add beauty and value to their home’s exterior. To mark the occasion, here are some new products designed to improve the appearance and increase the functionality of your home’s outdoor space, ensuring your house makes a favorable first impression.

A Room with a View
The newest addition from Integrity Windows and Doors, Wood-Ultrex Insert Casement and Awning windows combine the durability of high-strength fiberglass with the appeal of natural wood interiors. Special sizing is available, and the windows include opportunities for customization to fit any home’s style, including six exterior finish colors or the use of exterior trim; multiple divided lite patterns and grille options; various glass selections; and optional accessories such as jamb extensions or a window-opening control device. Integrity windows are energy-efficient, too, featuring LoE coatings that reduce window heat loss.


Doorway Designer
Thinking about replacing or revamping your front door, but unsure where to start? Therma-Tru’sDoorWays app, available for free on iOS, lets you try before you buy by allowing users to visualize different front-door configurations. Users can take a picture of their house to preview various entry choices on their own home. Photos can be shared through text and social media, and multiple options can be saved for later reference, along with the product information. Ready to buy? Use the app to locate the nearest Therma-Tru dealer and send them product information requests directly.


Tidy Trim
CertainTeed’s new InvisiPro products utilize a hidden fastening system to provide a clean finishing touch for exterior trim. Made from Restoration Millwork cellular PVC, the new offerings feature precision-fit concealed flanges that secure directly to the wall. The One-Piece Corner System and the Three-Piece Trimboard system for windows and doors are both available in a variety of woodgrain and smooth finishes and in multiple sizes. Restoration Millwork, the only PVC exterior trim to be covered by an independent life cycle assessment, offers high durability and uses 21 percent recycled content.


Light My Fire
File this one under “yard appeal.” The Great Outdoor Room Company recently announced an update to their Colonial Collection Gas Fire Pit Tables, introducing the dining height (30 inches tall) and pub height (43 inches tall) versions. Perfect for those looking to elevate their outdoor living space and showcase their home’s potential for open-air entertaining, the tables feature a 48-inch round top that is available in granite and in two different Supercast concrete color options. The tables store a 20-pound LP tank out of sight in the base and include an optional glass wind guard.


Siding into Place
Boral’s new TruExterior Siding Craftsman Collection is the first poly-ash siding product on the market, combining durability with a traditional wood appearance. The five new full-thickness profiles are all available in six-, eight-, and 10-inch widths and offer distinct and bold shapes, such as the V-Rustic option (pictured) with a deep groove to create a shadow line effect. The siding comes already primed and can be painted any color to suit any taste. Plus, the product’s high moisture-resistance and imperviousness to termites make it a low-maintenance and long-lasting choice.

Tue Aug 19, 2014 8:50am PST


The Economist has released its annual ranking of the world’s most livable cities and although Vancouver hasn’t topped the list since 2011, the city is still considered one of the best places in the world in which to live.



Vancouver takes top spot in North America and is the third-most livable city in the world. The city received an overall rating of 97.3 out of 100, getting full marks for healthcare, which looks at quality and availability of both private and public healthcare. The city also got top marks for education and culture and environment.

The city’s lowest score, 92.9, was for infrastructure, which looks at the quality of road networks, public transport, energy provision, telecommunications and water provision, among other factors.

Melbourne, Australia was found to be the world’s most livable city, which received full marks for infrastructure. Vienna in Austria came in second place.

Two other Canadian cities, Toronto and Calgary, made the top 10, coming in fourth and sixth, respectively. Both cities received perfect scores for stability, which measures prevalence of crime and threat of terror. Vancouver received a score of 95 in this category.

The Economist’s rankings don’t take affordability into account directly. When considering this factor, calling Vancouver the most livable city in North America may leave some scratching their heads. For example, in Mercer’s annual cost of living survey released in July, Vancouver was ranked as the most expensive city in Canada in terms of how expensive it was for expats to live there.

As well, while the sale price of homes in Vancouver in July was over $824,000 – more than double the Canadian average – British Columbians still earn less, on average, than workers across the country.

Using The Economist’s criteria, overall worldwide livability has declined, according to the report.

“When a five-year view is taken, global livability has declined by 0.68 percentage points, highlighting the fact that the last five years have been characterized by heightened unrest in the wake of the global economic crisis, which has undermined many of the developmental gains that cities may have experienced through public policy and investment,” reads the report.

According to the ranking, Damascus in Syria is the world’s least livable city, scoring a total 30.5 out of 100. It received its lowest score, 15, in the stability category.



Written by  Grainne Burns

Tenants profit from unsuspecting landlords

Landlords are being urged to check their properties are not being sublet by tenants capitalizing on the tourism market.

An increasing number of tenants are cashing in on booming tourism markets and the ease of sub-letting on third party rental websites, including airbnb.

Tenants can generate as much as $150 per night by renting out a room or entire unit to unsuspecting short-term renters.
With the threat of the unit being occupied by squatters and violation of condo laws, landlords are being urged to be more vigilant and proactive when and during the rental process.

The Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO) is advising landlords to actively monitor websites on weekend dates, and particularly when there are big events and peak tourism seasons. “Specific addresses are not listed, but most listings have detailed photos and descriptions that will quickly confirm if your property is being used as a vacation business by your tenant.”

A Montreal-based landlord last week revealed last week that upon inspecting her property, she found a party of strangers and that her tenant was making almost double the rent she was charged.

While sub-letting is allowed in Quebec, this process falls into the grey legal area of commercial renting. Many condo tenants, says the board, are advertising their units as hotel rooms, which is being done in contravention of the condominium corporation’s by-laws and so placing an additional legal risk on the landlord.

If the rental unit is being used by tenants in this way, the board advises landlords to consult a licensed legal profession and if applicable, an N5 notice should be served.


Written by  Grainne Burns

Grow-op case stirs anger amongst landlords

The ruling in favour of a tenant that had a grow-op operation and did not pay rent fuels further resentment towards the landlord board.

Investor anger at the leniency and favouritism towards tenants has reached peak levels following another high-profile case in favour of a "bad" tenant.

A B.C. landlord went public this week with her story after the provincial Residential Tenancy Branch ruled in favour of a tenant, despite not paying rent and having a grow-op on-site.

The arbitrator said the landlord, in this case, had failed to provide sufficient evidence that the tenant jeopardized the health and safety or lawful right or interest of the landlord by having the grow-op on site.

“Enough is enough, investors need to fight back,” says Kayla Andrade from Ontario Landlord’s Watch. “Almost every province is dealing with a Residential Tenancy Act that is geared to protecting the tenants. In this case even criminals.”

Ottawa investor Tracy Ma tells CREW that this incident would not put her off from buying more rental properties, but it re-enforces the importance of doing more due diligence on tenants.

“Unfortunately, the justice system is a very convoluted system and when the process is not followed by the book, in accordance with the Residential Tenancy Act,  the outcome is often in favour of the tenants,” she says.

“Having an illegal grow-up is a landlord's nightmare, but if you do all your due diligence, you can lower your chances of getting such a tenant, or at least mitigate the impact when you do get one.”

Ma recommends that coupled with a rigorous application, investors should carry out periodic inspections and study the local residential tenancy acts.

"Like any high pressure sales pitch, if the applicant is pushing hard to get into the place as soon as possible, this might be a red flag.  If they are organized, and looking for a place in 2 months because they have to give their current landlord adequate notice, this is usually a good sign," she says.  “I always use Google and a People-Search Engine (like to check the person out.”


OTTAWA — The Canadian Press

Published Monday, Aug. 11 2014, 5:53 AM EDT

Last updated Monday, Aug. 11 2014, 10:48 AM EDT


A tricky rule keeps tripping up thousands of Canadians who make withdrawals from their tax-free savings accounts, and replace the money too early.


Some 54,700 taxpayers got warning packages from the Canada Revenue Agency earlier this year about the problem affecting the 2013 taxation year, and were told they face a penalty.

The number has been dropping steadily from a peak of 103,000 in 2010, but still represents a persistent misunderstanding of TFSA rules even as the agency and financial institutions step up education measures.

The regulations say that account holders can put back the amounts they withdraw from a TFSA only in a later calendar year. Doing so in the same calendar year exposes them to a tax hit for overcontributions, even though they’re only replacing the withdrawn funds.

By the end of 2013, some 10.7 million Canadians had opened a TFSA, a savings vehicle introduced by the Conservative government in 2009 that allows money to grow inside tax-free with no income-tax hit on withdrawal.

The popular savings tool cost the federal treasury some $410-million in forgone taxes in 2013, or more than a billion dollars over its first five years.

Some taxpayers are apparently slow to absorb the finicky withdrawal rule: this year 11,260 of them got the same warning package from the Canada Revenue Agency last year as well, figures provided by CRA show.

As of the end of last month, the agency had waived penalties for more than 17,000 Canadians who broke the rule in 2012. The average penalty waived was $516, or a total of almost $9-million.

And for the 2013 taxation year, more than 20,000 Canadians have already paid their penalties.

Taxpayers who received a TFSA warning package in the mail this summer were given 60 days to respond. Those who don’t respond get a notice of assessment, imposing a penalty.

A spokesman for the agency said the onus is on Canada’s banks and other financial institutions to make sure their customers know the rules.

“As with any financial or investment product, financial institutions have a responsibility to inform their clients of the details and restrictions relating to TFSAs,” said Philippe Brideau.

“The CRA continues to work very closely with the financial institutions to ensure that CRA information related to TFSA is well understood and known by the Canadian financial sector.”

Brideau noted that fewer than half a per cent of TFSA holders ran afoul of the rules in 2013.

The current maximum annual contribution to a tax-free savings account is $5,500, though Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised to double the maximum once the federal books are balanced, expected next year in advance of the scheduled 2015 federal election.

A special analysis in 2012 by the Finance Department found that the savings vehicle is more popular among higher income and older Canadians.

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July 26, 2014 8:17 p.m. ET

In June, existing-home sales rose 2.6% from May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of five million, according to the National Association of Realtors. As usual, a majority of buyers took out a mortgage. The hefty loan involved fundamentally alters the finances of these families -- and opens up some intriguing opportunities.

Recently bought a house? Here are nine ways to think about that debt you just took on.

1. It's your cheapest way to borrow.

I'm not crazy about carrying debt. But if you need to borrow, a mortgage is the way to go. The interest incurred is typically tax-deductible and the rate should be low, in part because the loan is secured by your home. If you have other debt, you probably could lower your borrowing costs by paying off those loans and instead carrying a larger mortgage.

2. It's a negative bond.

Got a $200,000 mortgage and $200,000 in bonds? One is costing you interest while the other is earning you interest, so arguably your net bond position is zero. In fact, the rate on your mortgage is likely higher than the yield on your bonds, so it might make sense to sell bonds to pay down your mortgage.

3. It leverages your entire financial life.

We all engage in mental accounting, thinking of our home and mortgage in a different bucket from, say, our brokerage account. But once we have that mortgage, it effectively leverages our financial life, allowing control of more assets than if we didn't have the loan.

Suppose you own a $400,000 home with a $300,000 mortgage. Your only other significant asset is $200,000 in stocks. In effect, what you have is a $600,000 real estate-and-stock portfolio, half of which is bought with borrowed money.

That leverage magnifies gains and exaggerates losses, in the same way you can magnify gains and losses in a brokerage account by buying on margin. But a mortgage is the safer way to borrow.

While a brokerage firm can force you to repay a margin loan if your investments plunge in value, your mortgage lender can't demand its money back if your home tumbles in price.

4. It's a backup source of emergency money.

If you've built up some home equity, consider setting up a home-equity line of credit. That way, if you suddenly get hit with large medical bills or house repairs, you can borrow against your home's value.

5. It makes inflation your friend.

Like other hard assets, real estate tends to hold its value when inflation picks up. Also got a mortgage? You could be doubly protected against inflation.

The payments on a fixed-rate mortgage stay the same even as inflation rises, which means you can repay the loan with dollars that are less valuable. Adjustable-rate mortgage borrowers don't benefit to the same degree, because their interest rate will likely rise with inflation, though there are typically caps on how much and how fast the rate on an ARM can climb.

6. It lets you profit from falling interest rates.

If you have a fixed-rate mortgage and rates rise, you can sit tight with your low-cost mortgage. But if rates fall, you can refinance at the lower rate. Indeed, with 30-year mortgages still available at less than 4½%, this remains a great time to refinance.

7. It's an effective way to build wealth.

Despite the recent property slump, many folks still say their home is the best investment they ever made. It isn't because homes have enjoyed great long-run price appreciation. Over the past 30 years, prices nationally are up 3.6% a year, as measured by theFreddie Mac FMCC -0.26% House Price Index. That's barely ahead of the 2.8% inflation rate.

Instead, homes build wealth by forcing folks to save. With every monthly mortgage payment, you trim the loan's principal balance—and eventually you should own a valuable asset free and clear.

8. It's your default investment.

If you're worried about today's lofty stock valuations and lowly bond yields, you could always pay down your mortgage instead. Suppose your mortgage is costing you 5%. That's the effective pretax rate of return you earn by making extra-principal payments.

9. Paying it off can drastically reduce your cost of living.

Indeed, making that last mortgage payment is often the signal that retirement is finally affordable. Want to retire early? You might make extra-principal payments, with a view to getting your mortgage paid off ahead of schedule.

Write to Jonathan Clements at

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