Planting a Vegetable Garden at your Muskoka Home

carrots-dirty-fresh-vegetables-1268101

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.

Advertisements

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.

 

Renovation Do’s and Don’ts for Your Muskoka Home Resale

Karen Acton - Renovating your Muskoka HomeWhen you decide it’s time to sell your home, you may consider making some changes before listing.  A wise investment of time and money can drastically improve your potential resale value; however, a good plan is vital.

You may believe you are the master of your own renovation, but that may not be the case. Reno’s can develop their own inertia. Things often grind to a halt as each decision can lead to new a dilemma, an unintended consequence or an unexpected outcome. This can result in delays getting listed and missing out on a great market.

Here are a few renovations that I believe make good financial sense, providing a nice return on your investment at the time of resale — and a few that don’t.

Good Resale Value Projects for Muskoka Homes

Kitchens.Updating a tired old kitchen is one of the wisest methods of increasing the value of your home. Keep in mind when planning a kitchen reno, making design decisions, or selecting plumbing fixtures, appliances, cabinets and countertop materials that your choices should appeal to the largest segment of the market and not personal preferences.

Remember, using the existing kitchen layout and affordable cosmetic materials is a sure way to keep the cost of your kitchen reno manageable. When you start tearing out walls, bumping out the exterior home footprint to gain a few feet, and moving plumbing fixtures and appliances, the cost of the job will jump and your return on investment dollars will diminished.

Bathrooms.Home buyers notice bathrooms, and although all the bathrooms are important, a priority should be placed on the master bath, followed by the guest bathroom/powder room and any other secondary bathrooms.

The same rules apply to a bathroom remodel as to the kitchen. Cosmetic changes are safer from an investment standpoint than modifications involving changing layouts. Again keep the permanent pieces neutral so they appeal to a wider audience.

Master suites.As home buying decisions are in the hands of adults, and adults care about the environment where they sleep, updating a master bedroom or remodeling and adding a new master ensuite can be money well spent. Buyers will picture themselves living in their private space especially if they have children living at home or plan to have a family.

Curb appeal.Very often this is the best project for a return on investment. You have heard not to judge a book by its cover, but smart money recognizes the cover’s value. Your front elevation (unless you are on the water) is more than just a first impression. It’s the only impression available to just about all your home’s potential buyers.

The good news is that there are numerous affordable projects that can improve curb appeal. One of the first things buyers look at is the roof.  If it’s in poor condition, it can be perceived as an indication of the overall maintenance of the home. It may cost less to have it done before listing than what you might lose in the negotiating process of an offer.

Repainting is another low-cost, high-impact improvement.  Even a professional cleaning of the exterior siding can make a considerable difference.

Cleaning out overgrown brush and making a few new planting additions to your landscape can go a long way toward improving curb appeal at a very low cost.

Costlier changes such as replacing old windows or an aged entry door are things that potential buyers will notice and value too.

Poor Resale Value

Garages. Adding a garage or insulating an existing one are great ideas, but only if you plan to stay put. Unless you are a great handyman and have access to inexpensive materials and labour, these changes won’t generally pay for themselves if you plan to sell soon.

Pools. Backyard pools are loved by many, and while this appreciation is well founded, they should be constructed for their many virtues that are NOT investment related. Here in Muskoka, it is unlikely to pay for itself in resale value. Many buyers perceive a pool as a negative maintenance expense.

Home theaters/kids’ spaces. No, I am not trying to be the Grinch but there is no assurance your home buyer will be ‘into’ movies or have children living at home. Adding that rock-climbing wall or screens, projectors & speakers might represent unwanted expense to buyers who see this space better used for something more suited to their family.

Removing features.Do not remove features for investment reasons unless they are truly an eyesore or a safety hazard. If you never use the fireplace in your basement, removing it might make perfect sense to you, but the next homeowner might wish it were still there, and the money you spent demolishing and reworking the space will not be reclaimed.

Wine rooms.These are definitely trendy and will almost be expected in large high-end homes however; in a typical Muskoka home they will not add value to the resale.

I am always happy to answer questions and help with recommendations. If you are thinking of reselling your Muakok home and would like some advice on the best ways to improve your resale value, just give me a call!

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.

Getting Your Home Winter Ready in Muskoka

Eavestrough-Cleaning-Karen ActonOK, so the snow fell, the thermostat dropped, and you still have not done any winter prep around your Muskoka home or cottage. All is not lost; the weather man says that it will be gone in a day or two, so you still have time to get things done. Let this little dive into winter be a great reminder that you still have a few unfinished home maintenance tasks left to check off the list.

Here are some helpful lists I have put together for you from the many great resources on-line. Hope you find them helpful.

Windows and Doors

  1. Check the weather stripping around windows and doorframes for leaks to prevent heat loss. Replace weather stripping, if necessary.
  2. Replace all screen doors with storm doors if you have them.
  3. Replace all window screenswith storm windows if you have this type of window system.
  4. Examine wooden window frames for signs of rot or decay and repair if required.
  5. Check for drafts around windows and doors. Caulk inside and out, where necessary, to keep heat from escaping.

Lawn, Garden, and Deck

  1. Trim overgrown branches back from the house and electrical wires to prevent iced-over or wind-swept branches from causing property damage or a power problem.
  2. Aerate the lawn, reseed, and apply a winterizing fertilizer to promote deep-root growth come spring.
  3. Ensure rain or snow drains away from the house to avoid foundation problems. Make sure the ground slopes away from the house. Add extra soil to low areas, as necessary.
  4. Clean and dry patio furniture. Cover with a heavy tarp or store inside a shed or garage to protect it from the elements.
  5. Clean soil from planters. Bring pots made of clay or other fragile materials indoors.
  6. Dig up flower bulbs, brush off soil, and label. Store bulbs in a bag or box with peat moss in a cool, dry place for spring replanting.
  7. Remove any attached hoses and store them away for the winter to prevent cracks, preserve their shapes, and prolong their life.
  8. Shut off exterior faucets. Drain water from outdoor pipes, valves, and sprinkler heads to protect against pipe bursts.
  9. Inspect decks for splintering, decay, or insect damageand treat, if needed, to prevent further deterioration over the winter. Clean leaves, dirt, and pine needles between the boards of wooden decks to thwart mold and mildew growth.
  10. Inspect outdoor lighting around the property. Good illumination will help minimize the chance of accidents on icy walkways at night.
  11. Check handrails on exterior stairs to make sure they’re well secured.

Tools and Machinery

  1. Bring all seasonal tools inside and spray them with a coating of lightweight oil to prevent rust.
  2. Weatherize your lawn mower by cleaning off mud, leaves, grass, and debris.
  3. Move your snow blower and shovels to the front of the garageor shed for easy access.
  4. Prepare the snow blower for the first snowfall by changing the oil and replacing the spark plug.
  5. Sharpen ice chopper and inspect snow shovels to make sure they’re ready for another season of work.
  6. Make sure you have an ample supply of ice melt or sand on hand for steps, walkways, and the driveway.

Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning

  1. Inspect the firebox and flue system to ensure that they’re clean of any soot or creosote and that there aren’t any cracks or voids that could cause a fire hazard.
  2. Check fireplace for drafts. If it’s cold despite the damper being closed, the damper itself may be warped, worn, or rusted. Consider installing a Chimney Balloon into the flue to air seal the area tightly.
  3. Clean or replace the air filter in your furnace for maximum efficiency and improved indoor air quality.
  4. Clean your whole house humidifier and replace the evaporator pad.
  5. Bleed valves on any hot-water radiators to increase heating efficiency by releasing air that may be trapped inside.
  6. Check that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.
  7. Remove air conditioners from windows or cover them with insulated liners, to prevent drafts.
  8. If you have an older thermostat, consider replacing it with a programmable unit to save on heating costs.
  9. Install foam-insulating sheets behind outlets and switch plates on exterior walls to reduce outside airflow.
  10. Make sure fans are switched to the reverse or clockwise position, which will blow warm air down to the floor for enhanced energy efficiency and comfort.
  11. Flush hot water heater tank to remove sediment, and check the pressure relief valve to make sure it’s in proper working order.
  12. Examine exposed ducts in the attic, basement, and crawl spaces, and use a sealant to plug up any leaks.

Gutters, Roof, and Drains

  1. Check for missing, damaged or warped shingles and replace, as necessary before you get stuck with a leak.
  2. Check for deteriorated flashing at the chimney, walls, and skylights and around vent pipes. Seal joints where water could penetrate using roofing cement and a caulking gun.
  3. Check the gutters and downspouts for proper fastening, and re-secure if loose or sagging. The weight of snow and icecan pull gutters off the house.
  4. Clean gutters of any debris. Make sure downspouts extend away from the house by at least 5 feet to prevent flooding of the foundation and water damage from snowmelt.
  5. Ensure all vents and openings are covered to prevent insects, birds, and rodents from getting inside to nest in a warm place.

It is always a challenge to get started with a long list of chores but by taking care of your property you prolong the life of it and you will enjoy a safe and warm winter in this beautiful winter wonderland we call home.

Planning a New Kitchen in Your Muskoka Home?

Sargeant49 important questions before you start

We all want a dream kitchen so before you start here are some tips experts have developed to help you get one. Start with a clear view of what you intend. Focus on the things you want and those you need. This will help you see where you can compromise if necessary and where to stick to your goals.

A kitchen renovation can seem overwhelming when you start the process. There are lots of elements to get right. It is not simply the design but all the other factors from appliances to how will it fit the style and décor of the rest of your home or cottage.

1.Define the vision. Ask the big questions before you do anything. You need to establish how you want your kitchen to function. Do you have a large family and want your new kitchen to be the place where you all spend time, eat meals do home work? Do you love to entertain and envision a stunning space to show off your culinary skills? Ask yourself some clear questions to help build your vision, do you love to cook or is it a necessary function? Will you need a desk or work space here?
By asking yourself questions before you start making decisions you identify exactly what you want and what you need out of your available space. By knowing what you want at the beginning you are less likely to get off track once you have started.

2.What are my needs? After you’ve defined the vision or theme of your new kitchen, you need to identify the nonnegotiable things that are at the top of your wants and needs list. Your needs are the things you cannot do without. Things like an eating area or a large window – the important things that will control your joy level when being in the new kitchen. Don’t over focus on things that will go out of fashion over time like paint colours or even appliances as they can all be changed. Hopefully, you won’t need to make compromises on these needed items.

3. Making a compromise or two. Once you have defined the vision and made sure the needs are in place it is time to look at your want list and perhaps some of the compromises that may be required. You may want a new gas range but it is not in the budget! The solution is simple, make sure the space for the dream stove is created now but buy it next year and use your existing one for now. Some compromises are a bit harder to make. You may have wanted a feature that the space available simply cannot accommodate and that is a tougher compromise to come to terms with.

4.Creating an efficient layout? The layout of your kitchen is a big decision, and you may need professional advice. It is best to sketch it carefully and note where the gas and electrical outlets are going to be for each appliance, and of course drainage for plumbed items. Kitchen designers like to create zones for cooking, washing and prepping which is a great tip for creating good flow.

Consider the space between cooktops and windows or tower cabinets, and between electrical outlets and sinks. Think about which appliances can sit near others, and remember to make sure doors can open safely. Don’t put islands too close to a run of cabinets as you will want to be sure to have a comfortable walkway. Many cabinet retailers will have software that can draw a plan for you and some will even visit your home or cottage to measure and check the positions of things.

5.Don’t forget the lighting and heating? It is very important that while you are still in the planning stage you consider the accompanying elements of your new kitchen design. The lighting and heating are important and it is vital to get it right, not only to create a welcoming atmosphere, but also to see clearly while you’re cooking! Decide whether you need direct lighting over the work surfaces and pot lights in the ceiling. Lighting has come a long way and there are some very glamorous options that can have a significant impact without a huge cost.

The heating system is like the kitchen cabinets and appliances, it’s best to decide on positions for these at the outset so that you can get services installed at the correct locations before the kitchen goes in. Once you’ve decided on the layout of your heating and lighting, as well as the position of your appliances and cabinets, try not to make any huge changes as it can be costly to reposition or divert your utilities once you’re at the installation stage.

6.Don’t forget about building permits? If you’re having structural, electrical or plumbing work done as part of the job, you may need to obtain a building permit before you start work. If you’re undertaking this level of work you may have an architect or a building contractor who will be able to tell you how to go about applying for the right sort of permission for the job.

7.What’s my style?Once you have determined all the practical aspects of your reno you can start to think about the fun stuff! You most likely have browsed the internet or the pages of decorating magazines but now with your vision, wants and needs list you can zoom in on the final “look” you want. Perhaps it’s a farmhouse kitchen with a huge harvest table or perhaps a sleek minimalist block with hidden appliances? Whatever you seek, with careful planning you should be able to achieve it and  stay within budget.

8.Hiring a contractor? Perhaps the weightiest decision you will have to make when undertaking a kitchen reno, is choosing the right people to do the work. Many builders will be happy to take on your whole project, with responsibility for the building work, cabinetry, electrical and plumbing considerations too. However, if you are not making any structural changes you may not need a building contractor. You can act as your own general contractor and coordinate the tradesmen you need to do your project. You may need to employ a cabinetmaker, a certified plumber or electrician, tilers and drywall and plaster experts as well as flooring and heating trades. Remember to ask for estimates and get references.

9.Choosing the finishes. Before the work has started finalize as many things as possible like sinks and faucets, countertops, and appliances as well as the tile and flooring. Don’t wait until your contractor needs the items and you rush to obtain them, rather get ahead of the time line so that you won’t be rushed at installation stage. This will ensure that you do not make snap decisions that you may later regret.

These 9 steps are a great guide to a successful kitchen renovation. No matter the reason for the reno, getting it right will bring you a great deal of pleasure and add value to your Muskoka home or cottage.

How to Choose a Great Muskoka Handy Man

Karen Acton - Muskoka Handy Man

We all know how busy the skilled handy man in Muskoka is and how hard it is to find one when you need one. The temptation is always there to go the route of letting the friend of a friend fix or renovate for you. But when things go wrong you are left in a difficult position. Whether it’s a big project such as a bathroom remodel, something small like putting up shelves, or just simple repairs and routine maintenance, many busy home and cottage owners need to turn to a capable handy man to get the job done. Finding a qualified, professional, and reliable handy man can be a real challenge.

Here are some tips for you to help ensure that you find the right person for the job:

ARE THEY QUALIFIED FOR THE WORK

Unfortunately, all handy men are not created equally! If your project requires specific skills make sure that the handy man you hire has the qualifications and experience to do the job. Don’t forget that in Ontario some jobs require that a person, other than the home owner, performing certain work must be licensed; electrical and plumbing often fall into this category.

GET REFERENCES

Request at least two local references from previous customers. Any good handy man should be willing to do this without hesitation as his reputation is his stock in trade. Don’t just ask for them, check them! Inquire about the quality of the work, timeliness, professionalism, and how the handy man handled any changes that may have occurred during the project.  I find it good to ask if they would hire him or her again.

PUT IT IN WRITING WITH A PROPER ESTIMATE AND A CONTRACT

If you can find 2 or 3 handy men with good references then you should ask them for written estimates for the work you have in mind. Be sure that each estimate contains enough detail that you can make a comparison between them, after all it is not fair to compare apples with cabbages. For example, are the specified materials of the same quality? Does the cost include cleanup and hauling away any debris or old/broken items? Read all contracts carefully and be sure to ask about anything that you are unsure of.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT INSURANCE COVERAGE

Liability insurance is always important. If the handy man or maybe an employee of his/hers is injured while working on your property, you may be held liable for their medical costs and other expenses. Ask for evidence of their WSIB coverage before agreeing to any work. If they only work directly for home owners they do not have to have WSIB and may be depending on your policy for protection. They should also have insurance against their errors and omissions so you are protected if they do damage to your home or cottage accidently when working on the project. Uninsured handy men often charge less for their services because they lack the overhead expense of insurance, but using them could cost you in the long run.

BE CLEAR ABOUT THE PAYMENT SCHEDULE BEFORE YOU SIGN

Be cautious if you are asked to pay for the entire job up front – this is not an accepted business practice and could leave you open to fraud. Handy men will often ask for 50% up front to allow for the purchase of materials. You may have agreed to a “Time and Materials” contract with a weekly invoice being submitted or you may have even set up an account at the supply store so the materials can be billed directly to you and only need pay the handy man his weekly labour cost. Whatever the details are, be sure you are all clear on them and request receipts for all payments.

Whatever your project once you have found that great Muskoka Handy Man you will keep him or her close to your heart! A capable honest and dependable handy person is golden – someone you will recommend to friends being confident they will not let you down.