Understanding Algae in our Muskoka Lakes

Lake Vernon - Karen ActonHave you noticed there is a lot more talk about algae blooms on our lovely Muskoka Lakes even though the conditions this season have not been conducive to the development of blooms! Over the past 10 years throughout Muskoka there has been an increase in the number of algae blooms reported.

Something I have learned and think you may want to know is that the relationship between algae, algal blooms and water quality is complicated but that the presence of algae in your lake does not necessarily indicate reduced water quality.

What are Algae?

Algae are tiny floating organisms (phytoplankton) or attached (periphyton) plants found in lakes and rivers. They contain chlorophyll and carry out photosynthesis.

Algae are the base component of the aquatic food chain and are a critical component of a healthy aquatic environment. There are many different types of algae found in Muskoka that include diatoms, green algae, pigmented flagellates, and blue-green algae.

Like all life forms algae require a food source and they require sunlight for growth.  It is the amount of nutrients available (especially phosphorus and nitrogen) that will limit the amount of growth of algae in a lake.

There are several other factors that affect the growth of algae in our lakes. Environmental factors that determine the type and number of algae in your lake are:

  • Water temperature;
  • The physical removal of algae as it is flushed downstream;
  • Grazing on the algal populations by microscopic organisms and fish;
  • Parasitism by bacteria and fungi; and
  • Competition from aquatic plants for nutrients and sunlight.

 Phosphorus and Algae

Phosphorus in reasonable amounts is required to help drive aquatic systems. It is a valuable nutrient that promotes plant growth and forms the base of food chains in ponds, streams, lakes and rivers.

Unfortunately, when lakes become nutrient rich it can lead to algae blooms and eutrophication. Algal overgrowth can destroy the appearance of water, make water taste unpleasant and smell, reduce clarity, and change the colour of the lake to a vivid green, brown or yellow.

Natural sources of phosphorus include wetlands and the atmosphere, while man-made sources include:

  • Urban and agricultural runoff
  • Sewage discharges and septic tank seepage
  • Eroded streambanks
  • Fertilizer runoff and detergent wastes.

Nothing can or perhaps even should be done to reduce the nutrients entering your lake from natural sources however reducing the nutrients from man-made sources should be minimized and can hopefully prevent excessive algae growth in the future.

What are Algal Blooms

When there is excessive growth of one or more species of algae, it is called a “bloom”.  Algal blooms can happen at any time of the year but are most common in summer.  Algal blooms usually occur after calm, hot weather when the water gets warm. Blooms are caused by several factors but an increase in nutrients and the right weather conditions often result in the formation of a bloom; just as fertilizing a lawn makes the grass grow faster. In other instances, something may change in the environment to favour one species of algae over another, leading to a population explosion.

One of the most serious consequences of an algae bloom occurs when the bloom dies off. As algae die, they sink to the bottom of the lake and decompose, depleting oxygen levels. The depletion of oxygen in the bottom layer of the lake can free phosphorus trapped in the sediments and reduce the amount of oxygen available for the survival of other aquatic organisms, including fish.

Algal Blooms can occur sporadically in lakes that don’t have elevated levels of nutrients. Therefore, increased levels of phosphorus cannot be relied on as the sole rationale for sporadic or individual algal blooms, and the presence of an algae bloom does NOT necessarily indicate nutrient enrichment.

Blue-green Algae

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, are photosynthesizing bacteria, not plants. Blue-green algae are commonly found in lakes and ponds. Some types of blue-green algae produce toxins while others do not.

The only way to determine if a sample of blue-green algae contains species capable of producing toxins is to analyze the sample in the lab.

Blue-green algae blooms are likely to occur during sunny, calm weather when high concentrations of nutrients are present in water. Fresh blooms may smell like fresh-cut grass, while older blooms may smell like garbage. When the algae die and decompose, toxins may be released in those species that produce them. Symptoms from drinking water contaminated with blue-green algae include headaches, fever, dizziness, diarrhea, abdominal pain or stomach cramps, sore throat, nausea and/or vomiting.

Blue-green algae have several characteristics that enable them to out-compete other species of algae, including:

  • The ability to adjust their buoyancy so they can float or sink depending on light conditions and nutrient supply
  • Using nitrogen fixation to maintain high rates of growth when other forms of nitrogen are depleted
  • They are less favoured by predators than green algae because they produce chemicals that make them ‘taste bad’.

 

So here is the bottom line as a cottage owner or renter. Algae are a normal part of the ecology of aquatic life. They usually pose no risk to us. They need specific conditions to “bloom” some of which we can help mitigate by being aware of our phosphate loading from our septic system. This can be done by selecting our detergents and fertilizers with care.  Most algae are not harmful to humans but blue-green algae can cause sickness and in extreme cases serious illness. Water that has a blue-green bloom should be avoided.

I AM NOT AN EXPERT ON ALGAE but I do feel that good stewardship of our lakes is vital and the Muskoka Watershed Council and Muskoka Water Web have great resources to assist us in doing that.

Algal bloom sightings can be reported to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Changes Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060.

Make the Most of May in Muskoka with some Tidy-up Tips!

Kwiatkowski003May is here and it is the month we celebrate both Mothers’ Day and our Cottage kick off weekend with Victoria Day. This means that we need to get our outdoor spaces ready to enjoy and entertain. There is plenty to do from some “touch up” painting to replacing or preparing your outdoor cooking tools and BBQ station. So here is my list of things to put on your honey-do list to help you get things all ship shape and ready to enjoy the coming celebrations.

Repaint or stain your home or cottage’s exterior.  Take advantage of the longer days and warmer weather in May and schedule a paint party. Re-paint or touch up siding and trim. Replace and repair siding and shingles as required before painting.

Inspect your exterior lighting.  Ensure all outdoor lights are in working order. Don’t forget porch lights, landscape lighting, and motion-sensing security lights. Consider replacing bulbs with energy efficient bulbs or choose a lamp that will not attract moths or bugs. If you find loose electrical connections make repairs as needed.

Get ready for BBQ season.  While it is not a fun job giving your grill a deep clean before the start of the out-door cooking season, doing so will ensure it works more efficiently and can prevent flare-ups. Clean the grates and interior with a grill brush and wash the exterior with warm, soapy water. Don’t forget to clean your grill tools (tongs, spatula, skewers) or replace them – they make a nice gift to yourself or for Mom.  Stock up on charcoal or propane if needed. If you have a gas grill, be sure to check the fuel line for cracks, and clean out any clogged burner holes. You can easily replace a burner if it is corroded or too clogged up.

Inspect kitchen and bath fixtures.  By doing regular upkeep on these areas you will help prevent costly water damage and repairs later.  Re-grout or caulk around your counter tops and tile if needed.  Check your taps for corrosion or slow leaks, and have these repaired as well. Remember the pH of the water in Muskoka is typically low and this will corrode the chrome and the washers over time so regular inspection will help you prevent bigger issues.

Check safety devices. Test your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Remember that they need to be replaced after a specified number of years so check each device to see if it needs to be updated. Replace batteries as needed. Don’t forget to check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher and replace it if necessary.

Dust your walls and touch up paint. Use a broom with a microfiber cloth, and specialty telescopic duster or the dusting attachment on your vacuum to clean away dust from walls. Pay special attention to corners and baseboards. If you need a deeper clean, wipe down walls with warm, soapy water after dusting. Rinse with clean water, using a lint-free cloth. Touch up paint as needed on interior walls and trim.

Spruce-up your bedrooms.  This is a wonderful time to rotate the mattresses on all beds and flip over if they are not pillow top.  Change the heavy winter bedding for lighter weight bedding for the summer months.  Once you have done all this you will need to dust nightstands, lamps, headboard, blinds and décor as you will have stirred up some motes with all this activity.

Deep clean the laundry room.  Run your washing machine on the clean cycle with specialty tub cleaner or with vinegar for a natural solution using the hot water cycle. Front loading washing machines need this in particular and can get smelly if not done regularly. Wipe the rubber rim inside the door of the washer and dryer. Remove lint from the dryer vent. Open the panel of your dryer on the front below the door or from the back if necessary and with a vent brush or vacuum attachment clean out the acuminated lint and dust to prevent fires. Clean counter-tops, mop floors and restock supplies.

Prepare picnic supplies.  Here comes the season for alfresco feasts so be ready! Sort through your outdoor dining supplies at the start of the season and keeping a basket of essentials within easy reach. Resupply as needed and have fun choosing bright decorative napkins and utensils.  A few basics should be in your kit: a cheese knife, small cutting board, bottle opener and blanket, plus a few outdoor dishes and cups should see you through many a picnic.

Add a relaxing porch, patio or dock feature. Make your porch, patio or dock an inviting place to relax and hang out with the addition of a porch swing, rocking chairs or a glider.  If you get too much sun you could add crisp white outdoor curtains to provide shade and look chic.

Look forward to spring in Muskoka as you work some of these ideas to make your Muskoka home or cottage a wonderful place to enjoy!

Curb Appeal 101 for your Muskoka Property

Front Door EntranceSpring seems to have arrived at last and maybe you’re thinking about selling your home or cottage so here are some of my tips to enhance that ever important “Curb Appeal”.

  1. Have a front door that pops!Your front door should be an exterior focal point so ramp up the appeal by giving it a fresh look. Try painting it a rich colour and consider updating the hardware or adding a new knocker. Depending on the style of your home or cottage you may want to add a seasonal touch. Hang a spring wreath or craft item that shows your visitors a little of your creativeness but do not be tempted to make it too cluttered. Pots of bright and fragrant flowers are always a great addition if your entrance way has room but don’t make it difficult to enter and exit.
  1. Add some bright flowers or plants to the entrance side. Remember, in Muskoka curb appeal does not always mean there is a curb, but the exterior is the very first impression a potential buyer will have of your property—I suggest planting perennials and spring bulbs around your home especially on the entrance side. The extra layer of foliage and colour will create a sense of depth, making your front yard appear larger.
  1. Road numbers should be easy to see. If you live in a rural area make sure you can clearly see the 911 number as you approach from both directions. If you are in town, walk across the street from your home to get a better idea of how easy it is to find your house numbers. Pick large numbers in a clear font that are the easy to read from a distance. Try to install them where they are not blocked by trees, foliage or verandas and position the numbers horizontally rather than vertically as they are easier to read that way. If possible consider lighting your street number to make it easy to find when it is dark.
  1. Consider a front garden sitting area. If you have a large front yard and find you rarely use it, consider whether it would be a suitable location to put a sitting area that can work as a fun and functional hangout zone. A bench curved around an outdoor water feature or fireplace is sure to become a favorite gathering place for friends and family!
  1. Keep it neat and tidy. If you’re planning to sell, remember that an untended garden screams “work” to a potential buyer. If you have a lawn, early spring is a good time to reseed or add sod where it’s coming back patchy. Cover flower beds with a natural mulch to help retain moisture and give the beds a finished look.
  1. Look up! Make sure the roof is in good repair.If the shingles are curling at the edges or have crumbling bits, it is time to investigate further. Have a professional roofer take a look. If you need a new roof covering, check references and get at least three competing estimates before hiring someone for the job.
  1. Clean windows and siding. Give your siding a fresh start this spring by washing off the dirt, road salt and cobwebs using a power washer or a regular hose with washing attachment.  The latter can get windows shiny and clean but remember to clean inside windows as well for the most sparkle. 
  1. Remember the garage and driveway. If you can see it, it should look as good as the home. The garage and driveway often take up a lot of visual real estate, so if they don’t look good they can seriously detract from curb appeal. Have any driveway cracks repaired or the gravel graded and topped up. Freshen up the garage with a coat of paint and consider matching the door to the front door of the home. Don’t forget the finishing touches and add some sconce lighting and flower boxes.
  1. Make the garden path a feature. If your home’s walkway is a straight line from the sidewalk to the front door, you may be missing out on an easy curb appeal enhancement; the curving path. Even a slight curve in a front walk helps move the eye through the landscape, making the front yard seem more spacious and welcoming.
  1. Keep it in the spotlight.A well-lit porch is a welcoming sight to come home to and more fun to hang out on. It can also make the space look bigger. If your porch has a single light, consider installing one or two additional lights. If you have a long pathway leading to your door, consider adding landscape lighting as well — your guests will thank you.

In this current, highly competitive market, details matter.  The first time most prospective buyers see your property is when it is listed on www.realtor.ca Ensure that the exterior photo your Muskoka property makes a great first impression!

 

 

8 Tips for a Successful Muskoka Home Renovation

Karen Acton - Renovating your Muskoka HomeIn my role as a Muskoka REALTOR® I am frequently invited into homes and cottages to give an opinion of value. These properties are in various states of maintenance and repair and often have been renovated by the home owner. These renovations span the whole gamut, from elegant and value-enhancing to lamentable and wasteful. So here are some tips that I believe will be helpful if you plan to renovate your Muskoka Home.

Set a Realistic Budget

If you plan to do a home renovation you really should have a clear idea of what you can afford before you start looking in magazines and picking fixtures and countertops etc. Talk to a contractor about realistic costs. Even if you plan to do the work yourself be sure to have a contingency fund built into the budget to allow for the unexpected. In my experience, there is nearly always a “surprise” element to every project.

Things to make sure you budget for include:

  • cost of preparing the space before you start the actual work (disposal of old materials)
  • relocating plumbing and electrical
  • light fixtures
  • paint and PRIMER – often skipped but will save time and money if done right!
  • flooring – will the existing floor be damaged in the process and need replacing or refinishing?
  • Permits – most renos WILL need permits and skipping them means that you could have issues when reselling and in some cases, void your insurance.
  • HELP – can you do it all yourself or will you hire out some parts?

Will Your Reno Suit Your Neighbourhood?

While most renos are interior and you may think immaterial to the neighbourhood you do need to consider the investment you are about to make. If your dream is to install an ensuite bath with a steam room that is wonderful but none of the homes in your area have this kind of luxury feature, you should understand that it is purely for your enjoyment while you own your home. You will not likely get any return on the investment. In fact, in some cases over improvements can devalue a home.

Remember not to ignore your home’s style when renovating especially if the renovation includes an addition. If you have a traditional Muskoka waterfront property, then a modern addition with walls of glass may not look esthetically appealing and will not generally improve value. While it may be your dream to own, it may not be the dream of many protentional future buyers. Work with your builder and architect to come up with a design that gives you the features you want but still fits the rest of the home or cottage.

Avoid Going Too Trendy

People sometimes make the mistake of wanting to be too hip and trendy in their new home by picking the latest, hottest, coolest things. I would encourage you to consider that trendy often means short term. While some of the hottest and latest trends will turn out to be timeless many will burn out fast and not only will you stop loving them quickly but the next buyer of your home or cottage will see them as “dated”.

To keep any room “trendy” pick accent items you can add rather than physical and structural ones. That way when the trend is over you can replace them with something new.  A good example of this is shag carpeting.  Rather than doing wall to wall, do a more standard floor finish and add a shag area carpet  and perhaps some shag accent pillows.  When shag goes out of style, and it will, replace these accents with whatever is the next trend.

Buy the Right Materials

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make when it comes to home renovation is to try to be frugal when choosing materials. The bottom line is, you’re going to get what you pay for.  Inexpensive and cheap are definitely not the same thing. Price check and be wise but being cheap will often lead to having to spend more in the long run. Cheap fixtures and products end up looking that way and invariably you will be disappointed and probably choose to replace then with the product you wanted in the first place.

Remember that if you’re going to do it, do it right. If you can’t afford to do it right, wait and do it later!

Do the Prep Work

Do it the right way the first time. Whatever the job get yourself ready before you start. Gather the right tools and prepare the space before you dip a brush in the paint or hammer in the first nail. You will be so glad you did.  I know it is the tedious part of any project big or small but if you fail to be prepared you will end up taking longer than needed and perhaps compromising on the quality of the finished job simply because you were too eager to get started.

One of the most important prep steps is the measuring. The old adage “measure twice, cut once” is the mantra of the great contractor and you should make it yours.  You can burn through a budget quickly by making cutting mistakes in your lumber or trim work and if ordering flooring, buying too much or too little will lead to total frustration. If you are not sure how to measure properly ask someone who knows. A quick lesson will save you time money and frustration.

Paint and Light

People often make the mistake of picking the wrong paint for whatever particular project they may be working on. It is important to use the correct type of paint for the surface. The best advice will come from the professional at the paint store but choose better quality paints with the right finish for the job.

Remember that your lighting needs to complement the colour palate you use and that typically most people gravitate to light and warm colours rather than dark and bold.

Get the Right Tools

If you are planning on doing the renovation yourself make sure you have all the tools you need to do it properly. This means that you may have to borrow or rent what you don’t have. Do not try to make the wrong tool do the job. This can lead to expensive mistakes and sadly even to injury to yourself or damage to the tool you are trying to make do the job. Knives are not screw drivers and chop saws are not miter saws so please be careful and make sure you have the right equipment to do the job safely.

You may even need to rent stand lights so you can properly see what you are working on and space heaters to keep you warm in the addition until the new heating is connected.

Embrace the Chaos

Once you have done the budget, designed and purchased the materials, sit down in and enjoy your last moment of calm for a while. Then take a big breath and embrace the chaos. While it is always best to try working in a clean and tidy space you need to accept that a clean and tidy work space is not a clean and tidy home. You will have disrupted meal times, dusty surfaces and hard to find possessions for the duration of the project. So embrace it, find humor in it and don’t get mad at each other or the kids over things that cannot change until the job is done.

 

I hope these tips will be useful and not too negative. Renovating your Muskoka home or cottage can be an exciting and worthwhile endeavor and if done well, will bring you many years of enjoyment and a good return on your investment when the time is right to sell.

Keeping Your Muskoka Home Mould Free

mould-in-bathroomCan you safely and permanently clean up mould and mildew in your Muskoka Home? We have all heard about how some moulds are toxic so how do you know what you can tackle and what you should leave to a professional?

As a Realtor, I see all types of homes and cottages, from elaborate and grand to small and cozy and I can assure you, that any one of them can be prone to mould. It is not a question of cleanliness but more one of ventilation.  When you find mould in your home it is better to take care of it sooner rather than later. Mould can cause health problems and damage what it grows on. The spores of mould fungi commonly float through the air and when they adhere to damp surfaces and start to grow, they can gradually consume the surface. The key to keeping your Muskoka home in great shape is to get the cleanup done before any damage happens.

There are lots of different types of mould which are more accurately called fungi. Many produce allergens that can cause health related reactions in some people

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Coughing and phlegm build-up
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Symptoms of asthma
  • Allergic reactions

Health Canada has a great web page with helpful video segments and lots of tips and recommendations.

Moulds cannot grow without moisture so controlling moisture is the key to preventing and or eliminating mould growth. Moulds are very fast growing organisms and can take hold in a very short time. Add a little heat to the mix and in just a few hours mould can have a real grip on your home. In warm Southern climates, if you leave your laundry in the washing machine for just a few hours after the cycle has finished, you could have mould all over the laundry.

Where is Mould Most Common

A leaky roof or plumbing, flood damage, or indoor humidity that’s too high and without proper ventilation can all lead to mould problems. Anyplace that remains damp and unventilated is a potential mould-forming zone. “Anywhere water travels” in a structure is vulnerable to mould. That includes areas where major plumbing arteries are located, crawl spaces with drains, walls plumbed from bathroom to bathroom and between floors. Incorrectly sealed tubs and faulty construction can cause water to seep into crevices and create big problems over time.  Buildings that are tightly sealed may lack adequate ventilation, which can lead to moisture buildup.

Most Mould-Prone Areas

  • Basements or cellars
  • Under kitchen and bathroom sinks
  • Under or behind refrigerators
  • Behind walls that house plumbing
  • Around air-conditioning units
  • Baseboards or around windowsills
  • Under carpeting

Mildew is another fungi-produced coating that can form on damp surfaces. Mildew usually grows in a flat pattern and appears powdery and white or gray. Moulds are darker in color, usually black or green but can be almost any colour. Moulds penetrate the surface of what it’s growing on. You may follow the same cleaning steps below to remove mould and mildew.

Mould Removal

Here are some options I’ve seen on a variety of websites for simple surface mould removal.

Bleach: Mix 1 cup bleach with enough water to make 1 gallon. Put the solution in a spray bottle, or spread it with a sponge or cloth. There’s no need to rinse.

Borax: Mix 1 cup borax with enough water to make 1 gallon. Borax is less harsh-smelling and corrosive than bleach. Apply the solution to the surface and scrub with a brush; don’t rinse. Wipe the surface dry.

Vinegar: Use full-strength vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the affected area and wipe off.

Ammonia: This is suitable for killing mould on smooth, nonporous surfaces. NEVER USE IT WITH BLEACH. Treat the area with a solution of equal parts ammonia and water, leave on for 10 minutes, and rinse with water.

Hydrogen peroxide: Spray full-strength (3%)hydrogen peroxide on the mouldy surface and let it sit for 10 minutes to loosen the mould. Wipe the surface and don’t rinse.

Baking soda: Mix ½ teaspoon baking soda in 1 gallon water and scrub the mouldy surface, then rinse with water. This is particularly useful for killing mould on upholstery.

Tea tree oil: Use 1 teaspoon tea tree oil per cup of water and spray on the surface. Leave it on for a few minutes and then wipe off.

Note: Health Canada suggests that before beginning any mould clean-up, take steps to ensure that you do not expose yourself or others to mould spores. It is recommended that you wear an adequate breathing mask (N95 or better respirator), safety glasses or goggles and rubber gloves.

Even with adequate precautions, mould spores may become airborne. As a precaution during clean-up, children, the elderly and sensitive people such as those with asthma, allergies or other health problems should leave the house. Consult your physician if in doubt.

To Clean or Throw Away?

If the mould is on a porous surface, such as carpeting, ceiling tiles, drywall or wallpaper, the items might have to be thrown away since the mould may be impossible to remove.

When Should You Call a Professional?

Wiping down mildew in damp areas is always a good idea, but how do you know when it’s time to bring in a professional? Health Canada advises using a mould remediation expert if there is

  • One or more patches of mould larger than 1 square metre
  • More than three patches of mould less than 1 square metre
  • Patches of mould that keep coming back after cleaning
  • A mould problem that you cannot solve on your own

 

Testing for Mould

Chronic allergy-type health problems or mildew odors mean it’s time to consider more extensive mould treatment. Start by using a mould testing company, which will take samples, send them to a lab, and obtain a report on mould levels and species. Use a company that does testing only, to avoid a conflict of interest. Once the mould species are identified you can determine if a remediation specialist is indicated.

Mould Remediation

There is no doubt that some types of mould are toxigenic meaning they produce substances toxic to humans. They are rare in this region but it you have a lot of mould or several different looking moulds you really should call a professional to take care of the situation. Below are several companies that service this area and should be able to assist you.

Mold Removal | Mold Remediation | Muskoka, Huntsville, Bracebridge

www.svmmuskoka.ca/services.php?s=mold

Mould Removal & Remediation | Restoration 1 Muskoka

muskoka.restoration1.ca/moldremoval/

Mould Removal & Remediation ON | R&F Construction | R&F …

www.rfconstruction.com/mould-asbestos/mould/

 

How to Prevent Mould

Just like granny always said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” so the very best way to deal with mould and mildew is to prevent it from growing in the first place.  Controlling moisture inside your Muskoka home is the key to avoiding mould. Consider an annual inspection of roofing, plumbing, exterior drainage and interior ventilation to verify that there are no repairs required. Check for leaks under sinks and in crawl spaces. Always use ventilation in a bathroom to remove condensation from showers.

It’s Spring Time in Muskoka and It’s a Great Time To Clean The Garage

messy-abandoned-garage-full-stuff-10168084Ah…. Spring in Muskoka. After the snow is gone we seem to get the urge to bring out our summer toys and perhaps access our lawn mowers. This means we need to get into our garages. That’s where all the tools, toys, bikes, sporting and camping equipment are, right? Too bad all those things you need are spread out all over the garage with no rhyme or reason. Well here are 7 steps to help guide you through the mess to create a garage that’s orderly and easy to access.

1. Analyze and prioritize. One of the biggest problems with garages is that generally there is no plan for the space. Many of us fail to take time to analyze and visualize the space to figure out how we want it to look. What is your priority for your garage? Do you want to park your car or have your own work space? Do you need to store seasonal items and sporting equipment? Maybe you need all of the above. Pick your priorities and plan with that in mind.

2. Clear the space. You’ll need to start with a clean slate. Get a couple of tarps and blankets to place your items on and lay them in an open area like the driveway or lawn. This is a great time of year in Muskoka when the weather is still a bit cooler than it will be in the summer.

3. Start purging! Try to commit to getting rid of half the stuff in your garage. Even if you don’t get rid of that much, making the effort will go a long way. To purge, start by making four piles: keep, donate, discard and recycle. As you purge, place each item into its respective category. Get rid of anything that is broken or things you haven’t used in over a year. Return items that don’t belong to you or belong somewhere else other than the garage. Get rid of duplicates.

4. Sort by putting like items that you are going to keep with like items. As you pull things out of the garage, group together all your sporting equipment in one spot, then your tools, lawn gear, camping gear, decorations and so on. You can even get down to the itty bitty nails and screws…sort these out as well.

5. Now that you’ve cut down, take inventory of what you have. That way you’ll have a better of idea of what organizational items you can work with or what you’ll need to purchase. Don’t purchase organizational products before you’ve purged…it will save you time, money and frustration. Next, map out the space. Draw it out on paper or use masking tape in the garage to outline the different spaces/work zones. You can mark off the spot for your car, heavy duty shelving, paint and hazardous materials cabinet, lawn care supplies, tools or workbench, and sports/recreational equipment.

6. Determine your organizational supplies. Now that you’ve mapped out your zones, gather your supplies. Use large trash cans to store rakes, shovels and brooms upright. You can also use a large trash can to store sporting equipment like, skateboards, balls, bats and gloves. Use pegboards to hang tools. Use large hooks mounted to studs in the wall or ceiling to hang bicycles and extension cords. And get a label maker!

7. Put everything away in its proper zone and label everything you can! This is the fun part because the finish line is in sight! Start putting things away in their designated zone and start labeling. It just makes it easier to find and put things away. Label makers are great for labeling cords, containers, drawers, boxes and shelves. If you don’t have a label maker, use masking tape or duct tape and a permanent marker. Be sure to label the front and sides of storage bins so you’ll be able to read them no matter which way you face them.

By getting the chore done sooner rather than later you will find you can enjoy your summer much more. And if you are planning to sell your Muskoka home, a well organized garage is a great feature and will make packing to move much easier!

Spring in to Action Muskoka With My April Check List

Spring Clean Your Muskoka DeckThe days are getting longer, the temperatures are supposed to be milder and April is a wonderful time to freshen up your Muskoka home both inside and out. From windows that sparkle, to a clutter-free garage, here is my list of to do’s to make the most of early spring.

Clean gutters and downspouts. Having your home’s eaves troughs and downspouts cleaned and repaired is one of the most important tasks to do this season. Muskoka winters can be hard on eaves troughs, so keeping them in good repair is important. Clogged gutters during a rainy spring can cause water to pool, potentially damaging the roof and siding and can also cause wet basements.

Wash siding. Use your garden hose and a light scrubbing to clear away winter grime from your home’s siding.

Spruce up the front porch. Clean the porch floor, exterior windows, windowsills and front door. Wipe cobwebs from the ceiling and high corners. Lay down a fresh doormat and plant a pot of flowers. If you have porch furniture, clean it off and wash the cushions.

Inspect paths and driveway. Repeated freezing and thawing can take a toll on asphalt and concrete if you have it, so check your driveway and paths for cracks and schedule repairs as needed. If you have a gravel driveway, take a walk up and down it to see if it’s time to top it up and even out the bumps.

Boost curb appeal. Spring is a wonderful time to make upgrades to your home’s exterior, like putting up bold house numbers and a shiny new mailbox. If you’re planning to put your house on the market this spring, boosting curb appeal can help attract potential buyers.

Wash windows. Welcome the spring sunshine by clearing dirt and grime from windows inside and out. Don’t forget to wipe the sills too!

Check screen doors and windows for tears. Even small tears can let in mosquitoes, so take the time to inspect your screens carefully. If you find any holes, pick up a screen patch kit, available at most hardware stores. Repairs are usually easy and if you do not know how you can always watch a Youtube video on how to repair them.

Schedule cooling-system maintenance. If you have central air conditioning, be sure to schedule professional maintenance before the start of summer. A properly maintained system cools better, uses less energy and lasts longer.

Test sprinklers and irrigation system. Don’t let the first sign you have a malfunctioning irrigation system be your drooping garden. Take the time this month to test each part and adjust or repair as needed. Even if you do not have sprinklers, now is a great time to check your outside tap and hose to make sure the Muskoka winter did not damage anything.

Keep mosquitoes at bay. Having warmer weather and longer days means we’re entering bug season. Take preventative measures by regularly checking your property for standing water and emptying it. Any open containers (empty flowerpots, saucers, a wheelbarrow) can become mosquito-breeding grounds when filled with rainwater, so store items like these upside down or in a shed.

Maintain wood decks and fences. Keep outdoor woodwork in top shape by staining or resealing each spring. Check gates, fencing, decks, railings, gazebos and other outdoor structures, and make repairs as needed.
Living in Muskoka has many wonderful blessings but our winters mean spring clean-up can be a chore. Get a start on it now so you can enjoy a spectacular summer of relaxation.