Planting a Vegetable Garden at your Muskoka Home

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We all know that fresh produce is the best kind and locally grown is a wonderful way to get it. How local do you want? How about home grown! Planting and growing your own vegetables is good for your body and your mind.  It will not only provide great fresh food for your family but while working in your garden you get exercise and reduce stress.

If you are new to vegetable gardening, it’s not difficult. Here are a few important things you should consider.  A little planning before you start to dig will save frustration and give you a better chance of success.

The right location

A good vegetable garden should be in a spot that gets plenty of sun, about six to eight hours each day. To figure out the sunny spot watch the sun and shade patterns in your yard on a bright day. This will guide you to the best location. The sun is highest in the sky in late June, so early in the year, like now, the days might be a bit shadier. Choose a level place as gardening on a hill is much more challenging, however if you need to, you can create terraces.

Size matters

Do not be too ambitious your first year. Keep your small garden as it will be easier to manage. You can always make it bigger next year. A 10’ x 10’ space can produce a good amount of fresh and tasty produce if it is well managed. Rows can be anywhere from 2’ to 4’ feet wide.  Remember that wide rows will need to have paths on both sides.

Prepare your soil

The earth you plant in is undoubtedly the most important ingredient in successful vegetable garden.  You should till or break up the top soil (your existing soil) at least eight inches deep, if not more. Once you have this layer all well cleared of weeds and aerated it is time to fortify it.  Get some compost  (the District of Muskoka offers it free each year) or you can buy it from a garden supply centre. You can also use a manure or a similar soil amendment with organic matter also available from your local landscape or garden centre. Mix thoroughly with your existing soil at a bout a 40% compost to 60% soil ratio. If you are building raised beds, you may need to buy some additional topsoil.

Choosing what to plant

The region of Ontario has a comparatively short growing season. You can plant cool weather veggies such as peas, spinach, broccoli and kale starting in late April or early May. Start lettuce in early to mid May. Warm weather plants like tomatoes, beans, peppers and squash can be planted in June. Though seeds are the most economical way to plant, for tomatoes, peppers and broccoli, it is best to buy small sets of seedlings from a garden centre.

For a small garden plot, choose compact varieties of plants. Bush beans and peas will be a better choice than vines. Some vegetable varieties are ready for harvest faster than others; pick the quick growing varieties if you can. You should be able to plant a second round of cool season vegetables in August.

After planting

Moisture is the key. A good mulch layer and water are the final ingredients. The mulch helps to keep the soil moist while adding organic matter to your soil over time. Seeds will need frequent water and moist soil to germinate. You can cut back on watering frequency as plants get larger, however water thoroughly so that more than the surface layer of soil gets wet.

The planting dates suggested here are approximate and a long Muskoka winter followed by a very wet early spring will require oblivious adjustments. A surprise late frost or an early summer can change things too for better or for worse! That is part of the fun of vegetable gardening. Don’t loose heart as when one crop has a bad year, another may do well. You never know exactly what to expect, but with good soil, water and some determination, you’ll be enjoying fresh vegetables grown at your Muskoka home throughout the summer.

Green Spring Cleaning Your Muskoka Home

Sprin Clean GreenAfter enduring an extra long winter it’s finally time to fling open the windows of your Muskoka home and let in the fresh spring air . It is also time to tackle the dreaded spring cleaning. Conventional cleaning products can be more dangerous than the dirt they’re intended to clean so what are your options? The way we clean (with lots of disposable paper towels) isn’t always earth-friendly either. However, there are many available alternatives that can help you make your home squeaky clean—and green too!

Green Cleaning Products

The last thing you want to do is dump toxic chemicals into our beautiful environment as you clean. These days, you don’t have to make a special trip to a speciality store to seek out environmentally friendly cleaning products. Green Works products available in many stores including Walmart and the Green line from Independent Grocers are just a couple of the many products available that both protect the environment and work as well as the more traditional brands.  Or, if you’re up for a DIY challenge, you can make your own natural homemade cleaners yourself. It’s easier than you might think! The basic supplies you’ll need to make your own green cleaners include:

Distilled white vinegar (sold in most supermarkets)

Baking soda

Olive oil

Borax (sold in a box in the laundry aisle)

Liquid castile soap (a natural soap base made from saponified organic oils of coconut and sunflower. found in most health foods stores)

Essential oils (super concentrated natural plant oils found in health foods stores, usually in the cosmetics section)

Microfiber cleaning cloths

Newspaper

Here are a few basic “recipes” and techniques to get you started:

Glass: Mix 1/4 cup vinegar with one quart of water in a spray bottle. Spray on glass and wipe clean with old newspaper or a lint-free cloth.

Countertops and bathroom tile: Mix two parts vinegar and one-part baking soda with four parts water. Apply with a sponge, scour and wipe away.

Floors: Mix four cups of white distilled vinegar with about a gallon of hot water. If desired, add a few drops of pure peppermint or lemon oil for a pleasant scent. After damp mopping the floors, the smell of vinegar will dissipate quickly, leaving behind only the scent of the oil.

Wood furniture: Mix equal parts lemon juice and olive and oil. Apply a small amount to a cloth and rub onto the furniture in long, even strokes.

Toilet bowl cleaner: Sprinkle a toilet brush with baking soda and scrub away! Occasionally disinfect your toilet by scrubbing with borax instead. Wipe the outside of the toilet with straight vinegar.

Disinfectant: Mix two teaspoons borax, four tablespoons vinegar, three cups hot water and 1/4 teaspoon liquid castile soap. Wipe on with dampened cloth or use a spray bottle. Wipe clean.

Mold and mildew: Wipe with straight vinegar.

Air freshener: Sprinkle essential oil on a cotton ball and stash it in a corner of the room. If you have kids, make sure it’s out of their reach, as essential oils are very strong and could irritate their skin. Lavender is a relaxing scent that is great for bedrooms, while cinnamon, clove and citrus oils are great for the rest of the house. You can stash a few in the car, too—try peppermint, which may help you stay alert.

Green Cleaning Tips

Hang dry your laundry. Drying your clothes in an electric or gas dryer isn’t just hard on your clothes, but it’s also hard on the environment. Don’t stop with natural laundry detergent—to truly stay green, install a clothesline in your backyard. If space (or aesthetics) is an issue, look for a retractable clothesline, which takes up almost no space when not in use. Weather permitting, line-dry your clothes outside to reduce pollution, while also cutting your energy bill, getting more exercise, enjoying the fresh air and extending the life of your clothes. Plus, they’ll smell like a clean breeze (the real kind, not the chemical kind).

  • Add a little greenery. Install a living air filter—houseplants! Some of the most efficient air-cleaning houseplants include spider plants, English ivy, rubber plants and peace lilies. You’ll need 15 to 18 medium-size (six- to eight-inch diameter container) houseplants for the average 1,800-square-foot house. If that sounds like a lot, place a few plants in the room where you spend the most time.
  • De-clutter your wardrobe. Donate gently worn items to charity, where they’ll get a second life, and donate torn and stained items (if they’re made of an absorbent fabric) to your rag collection, where they’ll replace wasteful paper towels. And as you’re packing up your winter sweaters, replace stinky mothballs with a natural and better-smelling version: Stuff a lonely unpaired sock with cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and whole cloves and tie it at the end.
  • Paint your walls green. If spring cleaning at your house involves a fresh coat of paint, consider the VOC content when choosing your paint. VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, are chemicals that form vapors at room temperature. Some VOCs, like the ones in many paints, contribute to smog and indoor air pollution, and can cause a host of short- and long-term health problems. The good news is that many paint manufacturers have started making low- or no-VOC paints. The bad news is that many of those manufacturers have simply substituted VOCs with other non-VOC (yet still toxic) chemicals. For truly eco-conscious safe paint, check out these products: Homestead House Paint Co., Benjamin Moore Natura and Sherwin Williams Harmony.
  • Swap out your Swiffer. Instead of continually buying expensive single-use mop pads, invest in a reusable mop or cloth head. There are many brands available and Walmart even has some that will fit over an existing Swiffer type mop. These mop heads can be washed in your washing machine, hung dry and used again and again—well worth their moderate price tag.
  • Stop using paper towels. Save trees, cash and landfill waste when you buy specially-made, washable cleaning and dusting cloths, available in all types of fabrics, from cotton to microfiber. Better yet, use what you already have and give an old piece of cloth (stained towels, ratty sheets and pillowcases, too-small t-shirts, etc.) a new life. Simply cut or tear your old item into smaller squares (if you want to get fancy, finish the edges with a sewing machine), and voila! Pop them in the washing machine with your laundry to clean and use them again and again.

Cleaning up your Muskoka home for spring doesn’t have to be dirty work. By implementing some of these ideas and products, you will benefit your body, your home and the planet. Many of these changes are small ones, but their impact on your health and the environment can really add up over time.

 

Buying a Muskoka Fixer-Upper Home Yes or No?

Have you been thinking about buying a Muskoka home to fix up and live in? There is a certain romance to the thought of taking on a home that needs a lot of work and making it yours with your own blood, sweat and tears.  Maybe you’re on the other side and thoughts of Tom Hanks and Shelly Long throwing their money into a “money pit” have you saying “No way, not for me!”.

A traditional fixer-upper is a property that will require significant renovations, reconstruction or redesign to be habitable or saleable at market value. They typically list and sell below the market value of homes of equal size and vintage in similar neighbourhoods.

So, you need to ask yourself if a fixer-upper is a bargain brimming with potential OR should it be avoided like the plague? The answer to this perplexing question will depend on several factors, including you!

One of the best reasons to buy a fixer-up home or cottage is for the location &/or lot. If you are determined to live in a particular part of Muskoka it may mean you have to “snap up” what is available and then fix up the home or cottage to suit your needs.  If the size and structure of the property are right for you, it likely makes more sense to renovate as opposed to a complete demolition and rebuild which can be more time-consuming and in most cases more expensive.

Renovating a fixer-upper is expensive, and you can’t often finance a renovation.  Typically it is not a project for a first-time buyer as usually all available funds are directed to the actual purchase.  Remember that a fixer-upper is a large project, not the usual renovation projects most of us plan to do over time after we move into new home.  So, to tackle a fixer-upper you need to have some capital tucked away to fund the project. Typically, it is a second or third-time home buyer who has a little DIY experience who takes on a fixer-upper home.

A buyer for a fixer-upper is sometimes someone looking for their “forever home” or they may be an investor seeking poorly-maintained properties to fix and flip. In both cases they have usually had several home purchase experiences under their belts and can rely on this to help them through tackling a large project like this.

As a buyer you need to consider your time, money and knowledge when taking on a fixer-upper. Will the time and money involved in fixing up a home or cottage be worth it in the end? If your full-time job is contracting, will the time spent on your own project be as valuable in the end as working on paid contracts?

Be prepared for surprises.  Buyers for this type of property often don’t spend money on a Home Inspection. Without a thorough inspection of the property you could miss costly remediation issues like mold, asbestos, or faulty foundations.

Also be sure to include time for due diligence to explore municipal regulations, zoning and permitting.  And, allow adequate time to carefully cost out the renovation – small things add up. Doing so could save a lot of heart ache or even financial loss.

A final consideration is whether you will need to hire a project manager or do it alone.  Will you hire a contractor for the entire project, or manage contractors and trades for the different jobs yourself? Hiring trades for everything can be a challenge to coordinate if you’ve never done it before especially if you don’t know the local trades people.  And remember, the good ones are often booked several months out.

As a local Realtor with many years of experience I am happy to help you find a perfect project home or cottage.  And, if you have your heart set on a “fixer- upper” with my contacts in the region I may be able to suggest trades people you will need to be successful in your venture.

The Pros and Cons of Listing your Muskoka Home During Holiday Season

Holiday TreeIt’s tinsel time but don’t worry if you are thinking of selling your Muskoka home. While there are some challenges at this time of year, there are also some little-known advantages to selling through the Holiday Season!

The Challenges

  • Some salespeople close-up shop and take a break rather than take on new business.
  • People in general are distracted by friends, family, presents and parties. To be honest it can be an exhausting season and the prospect of attempting to sell you home may be overwhelming.
  • The condition of your property, roof, septic system (if you have one), and landscaping are difficult for buyers to assess in the winter. Pictures from other seasons and receipts/permits are helpful.

The Advantages  

So, let me show you where the advantages lie.

Buyers with Time to Look

Although it is a busy time of year, many people have time away from work during this season. If they are looking to purchase a home, they will gladly use this time to look at a new listing.

A Lot Less Competition

When you are selling at the height of the spring or summer seasons, you need to work hard to stand out from the crowd, especially in busy markets like we have seen recently in Muskoka.  During the winter there are often far fewer properties available and very few “new” ones, giving motivated buyers fewer prospects to consider.

You can take of this opportunity to be one of a special few!

It is an Emotional Season

It is the season of less work and more play. Folks are full of merriment and generally feeling happier and more relaxed. When buyers are happy, they are often in a better mood to negotiate and more likely to act. This definitely means that the process can be easier on all parties.

The new year is also a time of reflections and fresh starts. Many buyers will want to have that fresh start in a new home just like you would like to sell the one you are currently in and have your own fresh start.

A Special Kind of Romance

A home can have a unique appeal during the Holiday season especially here in Muskoka with beautiful snow as our backdrop. If your target market is families, you can tastefully decorate so it lives and breathes the perfect family Christmas. If you have a great starter home, then dress it with the cozy warmth of a romantic home for two.

Buyers can get more emotional over the holidays, so appealing to the heart strings isn’t taboo. Embrace the season and try to connect with others who love it.

Leftover Fall Demand

The Fall selling season is over, and some people who recently sold their homes are still looking for their next home. Additionally, there are still buyers who missed out in competition during the busier summer months who are still looking to purchase their dream home.

Rental Market Opportunities

The rental market is often in flux at this time of year. Leases are up, and people are working out their next steps. Will it be a new place to rent or is it time to buy? You could be one of the few good choices they have.

Money, Money, Money

The end of the year often heralds financial changes. Taxation requirements, investment maturities and annual bonuses are often calculated, and people’s thoughts turn to where to invest. Real Estate is always a popular choice.

There are many reasons buyers might want or need to purchase a new home before Auld Lang Syne kicks in. Make it a smooth proposition for them and bundle your property as the solution to their problems.

However you choose to celebrate or even if you celebrate the holidays, this is a great season to consider listing you Muskoka Home with a hard working Realtor. Call me today and let me help you have a Happy New Year.

 

Tips and Tricks for the Muskoka Home Owner Snowbird to Prepare for Departure!

Palm Tree Matalach FLIf you are a Muskoka snowbird heading to the sunny south for the winter, here are some important things you can do to help protect your vacant home. Taking these steps can help protect your home from winter damage drawing the attention of those who would seek to steal things or damage your home while you are away for an extended period of time.

Make Your Home Appear as Though It Is Continuously Occupied

  • Forward your mail, stop newspaper delivery, and ask a friend or relative to collect flyers or other items that may be left at your door or on your driveway.
  • Arrange for someone to remove snow after storms.
  • Install motion-sensitive exterior lights and put interior lights on timers and set them to come on at varying times to discourage prowlers.

Take Steps to Protect Your Home from Thieves

  • Confirm that your alarm systems are in working order and have been activated.
  • Secure external doors and windows with deadbolt locks, security-type hinges and sturdy door frames that cannot be spread apart. Install slide locks or other equivalent security locks on sliding glass doors or French doors.
  • Store valuables that you are not taking with you in a safe deposit box or other secure offsite location.
  • Do not post your vacation or travel plans on social media sites, as potential thieves can use that information to learn that your house is vacant.

Protect Your Pipes to Avoid Water Damage by Turning Off Your Water Supply

  • If a pipe bursts or leaks while you are away, it could cause significant damage. Consider completely turning off the water supply if no one will be in the home for an extended period of time. REMEMBER, if your home is protected by a fire sprinkler system, do not turn off the water to this system.
  • Drain your pipes of all water by opening the faucets and flush your toilet to clear the water from the tank and bowl, then consider pouring antifreeze in toilet tanks and bowls to prevent any remaining water from freezing. Do not use auto antifreeze, rather use non-toxic antifreeze rated for plumbing systems.
  • To help confirm that the pipes have been drained, consider having a plumber blow compressed air through the pipes.

Keep Your Home and Plumbing Warm if Your Water Supply Stays On

  • If you decide against draining your water pipes, keep the furnace running to help ensure the home stays warm and the pipes do not freeze.
  • Set the temperature at 10°C or higher to help keep the interior of the floor and wall cavities where the water piping is likely located above freezing temperatures. Keeping room and cabinet doors open also helps the heat circulate and warm the areas where pipes are located.
  • Shut off the water to washing machines and dishwashers where possible, to avoid any leaks or broken hoses while you are away.
  • Turn off the heat source and water supply to hot water heaters (if separate from your boiler).
  • Shut off and drain outdoor water faucets to prevent freezing damage.
  • If you have water treatment systems don’t forget they need to be winterized too. YouTube has lots of videos on how to do this or call a local expert if you need help.
  • Consider having a water flow sensor and low temperature sensor installed on your main water supply pipe and hooked into a constantly monitored alarm system or your smart phone.

Perform Routine Maintenance Before You Leave

  • Have your heating system inspected and serviced before winter. Have your fuel tanks filled before you leave and ask someone to check on heat and fuel levels regularly while you are gone.
  • Have your roof inspected before you leave and clean your gutters to help prevent ice from building up.
  • Remove dead trees or large overhanging limbs that could damage your house.
  • Unplug all unnecessary appliances before you leave.
  • If you have a landline phone make sure you can retrieve messages from the answering machine or voicemail so it does not indicate FULL or unattended when someone calls.

Make Your Home Unattractive to Pests

  • Clean your home thoroughly to help discourage new “residents” from moving in.
  • Clean, defrost and unplug refrigerators and freezers, wiping them dry and leaving doors propped open to prevent mildew. Also clean the oven.
  • Inspect your home for openings that animals could use to enter. For example, make sure your fireplace flue is closed, as bats, birds and squirrels are known to get inside this way.
  • Check weather-stripping, insulation and exterior doors and windows to ensure no major deficiencies are present. Water and insects can enter through these openings.
  • Chimneys should be inspected by a chimney service and, if necessary, cleaned to ensure that they are free from obstructions such as nesting birds. Install chimney guard screen-caps to help prevent any infestation.

Be Ready for Emergencies

  • Notify the police department that the property will be vacant and provide emergency notification numbers.
  • Install smoke detectors on at least every floor (preferably tied to a constantly monitored fire alarm system so the fire department will automatically be notified in case of alarm) and confirm that the sensors and system are tested regularly.
  • Ask a trusted friend, neighbor or relative to keep an eye on your home and be available in emergency situations. Give them access to your home so they can regularly monitor heating, electrical and water systems. This may be a requirement of your insurance and a minimum frequency of visits may be stipulated to prevent voiding your policy. Make sure you understand the requirements of your insurer.
  • Have them also check the roof for ice dams and inspect for leaks inside. Make sure they have your contact information and a list of local contractors they can reach if repairs or service are needed.

 

As your Muskoka Realtor I am always happy to help you find the resources you need to get your self ready for your winter away.

Legal Cannabis and your Muskoka Home

October 17, 2018 is a big day for many Canadians who have wanted to see the use of recreational marijuana made legal. But what will the impact be on your Muskoka home and its future resale value? Will you choose to legally grow cannabis plants in your home? Will a home you wish to purchase in the future have been used as a “home grow” that may have caused hidden issues? Will being close to a legal commercial “grow op” impact value? Is being close to a retail outlet a pro or a con? These are important questions to think about.

What the New Law Says

  • 4 Cannabis plants may be grown in each residence-includes apartment/condominium units
  • No growth height restrictions
  • Could include outside garden, but may be determined by province but Ontario has made no specification at this time
  • No regulation on safe growing.

Risks to Consider

  • Mould and moisture damage
  • High-voltage lights pose a potential fire hazard

In a CBC interview the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) said the government’s plan to allow so-called “home grow” could lead to the spread of mould and other fungi in residences across the country — which could result in some costly surprises for home buyers.

“There’s absolutely no question it impacts the value of the home,” Michael Bourque, chief executive officer of CREA, told senators, adding the physical effects of a grow op can often go undetected during a home inspection.

The new law will limit home marijuana growers to four plants per household. The government initially intended to limit plants to 100 centimeters in height, but the House of Commons approved an amendment that removed such a restriction.

“On the surface [four plants] sounds moderate, but the legislation doesn’t limit the number of crops or the size of each plant. Four plants could yield over five kilograms a year, which has the potential to cause structural damage to dwellings and comes with associated health consequences,” Bourque said, noting the use of fertilizers and pesticides in the growing process could exacerbate environmental health risks in a home or a multi-unit dwelling that shares air circulation.

The question of buying a home that has been used to grow cannabis or trying to sell one that has, may be of less significance that the proximity of home to retail and commercial grow facilities. In a recent Zoocasa story this was the data they discovered.

In the journal “Real Estate Economics,” James Conklin and co-authors studied the conversion of medical marijuana stores to recreational marijuana, and the subsequent effect on housing prices in Denver, Colorado after legalization in 2014.

Their research showed that homes located near converted stores experienced appreciation at 8% higher than homes further away.

Realtor.com also reported on American cities having undergone a year of experience with recreational marijuana sales. Their data showed a significant increase in home prices — well above the national median price.

The same data shows that while proximity to a pot shop tends to increase home value, Colorado homes close to grow-ops have lost value. Evidently, the pungent odor of pot is a sticking point for many American buyers.

There is no Canadian data available yet, but it is something for us to watch.

Will it be a “big deal” in the “big picture”?  In a CBC interview Jonathan Page, a botanist who has studied cannabis extensively and serves as the CEO of Anandia Labs, said he doesn’t expect a new flood of grow ops to result from the bill and predicts most Canadians will simply opt to buy the product from a licensed provider.

“I think this is an exaggeration. Canadians can produce their own beer and wine at home, grow tobacco for personal use, and yet the vast majority buy these products from stores,” he said.

No matter what the future holds as a Muskoka home owner you need to be informed. Your choice to grow cannabis while legal may have more ramifications than you think. As a Muskoka Realtor you can rest assured I will be talking to my Sellers about stigmas, defects and disclosure; and ensuring my Buyers conduct independent research into properties they wish to purchase.

For more information about marijuana legalization in Ontario, please refer to the Ontario Governments web site.

 

 

 

It’s time to get your Muskoka Home ready for the cold weather!

Fruit Flies - Karen Acton Muskoka RealtorIt’s finally here the first nip in the air that signals a change of season. From the first days of September, which probably still feel like summer, to the last, when you will be able to notice a chill in the air and even a frost or two. September is a time of transition. Get your home ready for the season ahead by choosing some of the tips from my “to do” list, from adding cozy layers to scheduling necessary maintenance.

Make things cozy. With the first few chilly nights under our belts think about swapping out lighter-weight bedding for flannel sheets and fluffy duvets. This will allow you to keep the furnace turned off for a week or two more!  Bring added warmth to your living room with throws and pillows in rich fabrics and deep colours. Remember that area rugs and curtains not only make a room feel cozier, but they also can help your home feel warmer and can help reduce your energy bills.

Order in your winter fuel. Get a jump start on the local demand by calling the fuel oil or propane supplier your use and getting your tanks topped up. If you use a wood stove for actual warmth or just for coziness, now is a good time to order a delivery of firewood. Remember, don’t store large quantities of wood directly against your home or cottage as it can encourage pests, but do keep it protected from rain and snow.

Vacuum radiators, baseboard heaters and heating grates. Prepare for the heating season by vacuuming up dust from radiators, baseboard heaters and heating grates. If you have radiators with covers, remove the covers and vacuum beneath them before replacing.

Check safety devices.  Take a few minutes to do one of the most important tasks you can for your family…test the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries as needed. Don’t forget to check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher and replace if needed.

Clean and store your AC units. If you use window air-conditioning units, now is the time to either remove them or cover them outside with protective insulation. Removing the units is better as it allows, you to close the windows and this will minimize winter heat loss. Use a shop vac to clean the dust and debris out of the vents before covering them for storage.

Cover or store outdoor furniture and BBQ. If you plan to leave your patio furniture or BBQ outside through the fall and winter, cover them well and stow them beneath an overhang that will protect them from rain and snow.

Add weather-stripping. Newer windows may not need weather-stripping, but it will help most older windows retain heat and stop drafts. Doors, including the patio doors you will not use too often during winter, also need to be sealed if they are older.  Check areas with previously applied weather-stripping and remove or replace as needed.

Inspect the roof and gutters. This one may need to be done at the end of the month or even next month if the leaves are late changing this year!  Clean out the gutters and downspouts, pull out any sticks or other debris blocking the gutters, and make note of any worn-out seals around vent pipes and chimneys. If you do not feel comfortable on a ladder, or have a home of two or more stories, hire someone to do a quick inspection for you. Schedule any needed repairs now so that your home will be ready for winter.

Schedule chimney and furnace maintenance. Make sure your fireplace and heating system are clean, safe and ready to go by having a professional look at them now. Having your chimney cleaned will also ensure that you don’t try to start a fire when an animal nest or creosote build up is inside. If you don’t have a chimney cap yet, speak with your chimney sweep about adding a one. The metal cap with screened sides can prevent critters from getting in and helps protect your roof from burning embers.

Maintain the washer and dryer. Cleaning out the dryer vents can be a DIY job, but if you don’t feel comfortable doing so (or if you’ve been putting it off), you may want to hire a pro to do washer and dryer maintenance for you. Washing-machine hoses need to be replaced from time to time, and a cracked hose can cause a leak — which can mean costly damage to your home. Clean dryer vents and hoses will help your machine work more efficiently and reduce the risk of fire.

With these important things looked after, you can look forward to the change of seasons knowing that you’ll be safe and warm in your Muskoka home.