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.


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

Mould Removal & Remediation | Restoration 1 Muskoka

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


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.

Keep Your Holidays Safe and Happy –Review Your Muskoka Home Emergency Checklist


Holiday Fire Safety - Karen Acton Royal LePage Lakes of MuskokaMost of us don’t think about emergencies especially now that the Holiday season is upon us. And living in Muskoka we are blessed not to be subject to too many natural disasters. However, have you made a plan for what you need to do to protect your family in case of fire, flood, winter storm or any type of possible disaster? When disaster strikes, you may not have much time to act. Take a look at the home safety plan that I have put together with help from many internet resources and revise it to fit your family’s needs.

Have an Emergency Plan

  • Meet with household members. Discuss with children the dangers of floods, fire, severe weather like tornados and other emergencies.
  • Discuss how to respond to each disaster that could occur.
  • Discuss what to do about power outages and personal injuries.
  • Learn how to turn off the water, gas/propane and electricity at main switches.
  • Post emergency telephone numbers near telephones or make sure they are programmed into cell phones. Teach children how and when to call 911, police and fire.
  • Instruct household members to turn on the radio for emergency information. Make sure you have a battery operated radio – and a supply of batteries for it. (Your cell phone charge will not last long if you are using it for everything).
  • Develop a Home Escape Plan with your family and post it where each person has access. Everyone should be aware of at least two ways out of the house and know where a pre-arranged meeting place is outside.
  • Take a basic first aid and CPR class.
  • Keep family records in a water and fire-proof container.

Prepare an Emergency Supplies Kit

Prepare an Emergency Supplies Kit for each member of your family. Store in a convenient place, known to all family members, near an exit. Keep the kit in a backpack or bag that can be easily carried. Check periodically and replace products whose “best before” dates that have expired. Regardless of the additional needs your family may have, the bare essentials for an Emergency Supplies Kit include:

  • Water. In almost any scenario, having enough drinking water for at least 3 days is essential. You will need a minimum of one gallon per person per day and more if it’s hot. Keep at least one gallon of water in your car at all times; rotate through your supply to maintain freshness.
  • Food. Store non-perishable, ready to eat food, including individual special needs for each family member and for pets if you have any. Be as simple or extravagant as you have time and money to be. If you will be staying at home through an event, start by eating the contents of the fridge first, then the contents of the freezer. Many foods can be prepared over a camp stove, barbecue grill, or open fire. And remember to keep a manual can opener in your emergency kit.
  • Flashlight and spare batteries. Candles and oil lamps are fine, but can pose a fire hazard. Batteries should be replaced regularly.
  • Swiss Army knife. Get a good one for your emergency kit. Even if you don’t get any other tools, the Swiss Army knife has enough basic tools to be useful.
  • Vital personal needs such as diapers and formula for babies, medication for health conditions, spare eyeglasses.

You may also decide to include some or all of the following items:

  • A change of clothing, rain gear, jackets and sturdy shoes.
  • Blankets or outdoor sleeping bags.
  •  Matches in a waterproof container.
  • Whistle (in case need to attract attention).
  • First aid kit to include several sizes of adhesive bandages, gauze, breathable tape, hand sanitizer, antiseptic wipes, an anti-bacterial ointment, tweezers, and small scissors. Add more items as you deem necessary.
  • Toilet paper and other hygiene items.
  • Copies of important documents such as personal ID, insurance and home inventory, etc. Scan, digitize, and add a CD of other important records to your Emergency Supplies Kit. Revise at least once a year.
  • Books or games (it will be important to keep your children occupied if you have a long wait before things start to be restored).

Store your Emergency Supplies Kit in a place known to everyone in the family. If you need to leave in a hurry, you should be able to pick up your Emergency Kit and head out the door. Keep your vehicle gas tank at least half full in case you have to evacuate and gas is not available.

Other emergency supplies in case you have to stay at home during a power outage include:

  • Alternate power source such as portable generators. However, this must never be operated indoors or in an attached garage.
  • Alternate heat sources such as portable space heaters and recommended fuel, wood for fireplace/wood burning stove.
  • Clean fireplace/wood burning stove. If it has not been used for a long time, have the chimney and appliance checked by a professional technician to ensure the unit is not a hazard.
  • Alternate cooking methods – candle warmers, chafing dishes and fondue pots; barbeque and fuel, stored in approved container and used outdoors only. Use propane or charcoal barbeques outside only.

During an Emergency

  • Use 9-1-1 for life-threatening emergencies only.
  • Use non-emergency telephone numbers only as required keeping your calls short.
  • Listen to the radio or television (if you have power) for emergency updates, location of emergency shelters and instructions, including emergency routes.
  • Check on neighbours, especially the elderly or disabled.
  • In case of fire or other home threatening occurrence, follow your Home Escape Plan. Get everyone out of the house immediately. Do not re-enter for any reason until it has been declared safe.
  •  In the case of a power failure, turn the thermostat down to minimum and turn off all appliances, electronic equipment and tools. Power can be restored more easily when the system is not overloaded. As well, this will help to prevent injury, damage to equipment and fire.
  • Avoid opening the refrigerator or freezer unnecessarily. To minimize the number of times, post a list of the contents on the door and remove all the items you need at once. Use perishables and food from the refrigerator first, then from the freezer and lastly use non-perishable supplies.
  • Use only recommended fuel in portable space heaters, keep at least one meter (three feet) away from combustibles. Never refuel appliances indoors or when hot.
  • Spend time outdoors each day in fresh air or keep windows open to provide necessary ventilation.
  • Use flashlights sparingly to extend battery life during power outage.
  • Secure candles in solid protective containers. Keep away from all combustible materials. Never leave candles unattended. Don’t let young children carry or play with them. Never carry candles throughout the home, use flashlights for portability.
  • Check every room before going to bed to make sure candles are extinguished and portable heaters are turned off.

If You Need to Evacuate

  • Make sure you have a reliable source of information. Listen to the radio for the location of emergency shelters and follow the instructions of local officials.
  • Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.
  • Take your Emergency Supplies Kit.
  • Lock your house.
  • Use travel routes specified by local officials.
  • Leave notification for additional family members.
  • When you get to the shelter sign up there so you can be located                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                If you are sure you have time … 
  • Shut off water, gas and electricity, if instructed to do so.
  • Let others know when you left and where you are going.
  • Make arrangements for pets. Animals may not be allowed in public shelters.

After an Emergency

  • Stay calm and help the injured.
  • Check on neighbours, especially elderly or disabled.
  • Don’t use the telephone unless absolutely necessary.
  • Before returning home, make sure your home is structurally safe and hazard free. Check for fire risk, gas leak, unsafe electrical wiring, damaged utilities and make sure that the water supply is clean.

Preparation is the key to minimizing the adverse effects of any kind of emergency situation. I hope that you never need this check list but protecting your family and your Muskoka home is important. The holiday season is a time when fire emergencies are more frequent, so please make extra sure you have a safe and happy season filled with love, peace, joy and safety.

Holiday Fire Safety Tips for Your Bracebridge Home

Holiday Fire Safety - Karen Acton Royal LePage Lakes of MuskokaWith the holidays just around the corner our homes will become the hub of family celebrations and activities. Add to this, the fact that many of us decorate our homes to make things festive and joyful and you have a recipe for great fun and potential disaster.

Sadly there is a 12% increase in residential fires in December most likely caused by the increased levels of activity in our homes around the holidays. We cook more, entertain more, need more heat and hydro and have more things around our homes that are combustible like Christmas trees covered in tinsel!

Here are some great tips to protect your family, home and peace of mind:

  • First and foremost make sure you have working smoke detectors on every level of your home.  Test them as you put up your decorations to make sure they are fully operational, especially if they are battery dependent and not wired into the main hydro system.
  • Do not overload outlets during the holiday season. If you need more outlets, buy a good power bar not a wobbly outlet splitter.
  • Inspect all cords before using. Look for loose connections or frayed or exposed wire especially on tree lights as they spend a whole year coiled up between uses.
  • Insert plugs fully into outlets. Poor contact may cause overheating or shock.
  • To avoid possible overheating, do not coil or bunch an extension cord or run it under carpets or rugs.
  • Never burn gift wrappings, boxes, cartons, or other types of packing. These materials burn far too rapidly and often release harmful gasses.
  • Always use a screen in front of the fireplace to protect against flying sparks.
  • Use only seasoned and dried wood. Wet wood will pop and splutter and can send sparks out to grab your decorations!
  • Never leave the fire unattended or smouldering.
  • Clean the ashes regularly. Place the ashes in a metal container and store outside but NOT in your garage near flammable items until you are sure they are completely out.
  • When decorating make sure that you leave clear pathways around trees and large ornaments.
  • If hanging wreaths over fireplace or stockings on the mantel, make sure they are well attached and cannot fall in.
  • If you have a real Christmas tree remember to keep it watered as, once dry, it will burn very quickly.
  • In the kitchen many hands may make light work but if your helpers do not know your kitchen well make sure they are working safely.
  • Lots of cooking can mean more grease so keep a pot lid ready and some baking soda too. You can smother a grease fire quickly:

1. Turn off the heat source immediately

2. Smother flames with a lid

3. Use baking soda to smother flames that will not fit under a lid

4. Turn off the exhaust fan to prevent the fire spreading.

NEVER throw water on a grease fire as it will dilute the grease and spread the fire!

NEVER throw flour on a fire as it can explode.

Let`s make our Bracebridge homes safe and secure this holiday season by taking a few extra minutes to make sure all is prepared properly.

Canada Day! Yet Another Reason to Buy Property in Bracebridge

ImageSituated in the middle of Muskoka, Bracebridge is a fantastic location to live all year round. With homes on and off our many waterways and easy access to Barrie and Toronto for shopping and the international airport less than 1.5 hours away for that mid-winter get away, you can have the best of everything right here.

There is perhaps no better example of that than the many fun celebrations that occur around Canada Day. The festivities are all launched from Bracebridge Bay Park and Kelvin Grove Park located on both sides of the river, just below the Silver Bridge over the falls on Ecclestone Rd.  Events include cardboard boat races, rubber duck derby and of course fireworks! There will be a beer tent, sponsored by Muskoka Brewery and live music sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce which start at 6:00 p.m. Rest assured there will be food vendors too so plan on being there for some dinner. Activities begin at 8:00 p.m. with the boat races, followed at 9:00 p.m. by the duck race, culminating at 10:00 p.m. with the fireworks.

Find more details here

If you are planning some home based family events in the evening then why not drop into the Bracebridge Visitor Information Centre (1 Manitoba St.) for some Canada Day Cake which is being served starting at 2:00 p.m.  Cake is free while supplies last.

Bracebridge is a lovely place to live in or cottage around so if you are planning fireworks at your home or cottage please check with the fire department to ensure you can and follow these simple safety tips to protect your family, your property and our beautiful Muskoka!

  • Appoint a responsible person to be in charge. Only adults who are aware of the hazards and   essential safety precautions should handle and discharge fireworks.
  • Carefully read and follow the label directions on fireworks packaging.
  • Always keep a water hose or pail of water close by when discharging fireworks.
  • Discharge fireworks well away from combustible materials like buildings, trees and dry grass.
  • Keep onlookers a safe distance away, upwind from the area where fireworks are discharged.
  • Light only one firework at a time and only when they are on the ground. Never try to light a firework in your hand or re-light dud fireworks. For dud fireworks, it is best to wait 30 minutes and soak them in a bucket of water. Dispose of them in a metal container.
  • Discharge fireworks only if wind conditions do not create a safety hazard.
  • Keep sparklers away from children. Sparklers burn extremely hot (1200oF – which is hotter than the temperature required to melt glass!) and can ignite clothing, cause blindness and result in severe burns. As the sparkler wire remains hot for some minutes after burnout, it should be immediately soaked in water to avoid injury.

Enjoy your Canada Day and remember that I am always available to assist your with all your Real Estate needs. Whether you intend to buy or sell property in Bracebridge or surrounding area or just want some advice on a renovation project or an opinion of your property’s current market value, I am happy to help.