Baking Soda and Vinegar Aren't Your Only Natural Cleaning Solutions

Whether you're out of your usual cleaning products or prefer a more eco-friendly home improvement alternative to chemical-based cleaners, the natural cleaning solutions found in your kitchen might surprise you. And we're not just talking about home improvement standards baking soda and vinegar! You can clean almost every part of your home with these supplies and get great results.

Lemons for Cleaning and Brighter Whites

The natural acidity and pleasant scent of lemons make them ideal for a variety of home improvement purposes, and you can also use lemons to brighten white clothes. Put a few sliced lemons into a pot of simmering water, then add any clothes you want to whiten and let the mixture simmer. When you remove the clothing items, they should have a lighter look.

Clean Tough Grease Buildup with Coffee

Scrubbing your grill grate can be a tough home improvement task no matter what cleaner you use, but one of the best grill cleaners is likely already sitting on your kitchen counter. Make a large pot of coffee, pour it into a large pan, and let your grill grate soak for at least 30 minutes. After you remove the grate from the coffee, it should be much easier to scrub away stubborn grease buildup.

Coarse Salt Is Great for Cleaning Cooking Surfaces

If you're looking for a natural way to clean cooking surfaces — especially anything made from cast iron — then coarse salt is an excellent candidate. Coarse salt absorbs grease, so it's useful for scouring kitchenware, stove-tops, and any surface where grease builds up.

Natural Wood Polish with Olive Oil and Lemon

Mix olive oil with a splash of fresh lemon juice for a natural wood polish that brings the best out of wood surfaces without leaving behind chemical residue. This combination is excellent for polishing wood floors, but you should always polish a small, out-of-the-way area first to ensure that the mixture works for the type of wood in your home.

Club Soda for Stain Removal

Whether you use it on carpets or clothing, club soda is one of the best stain removers you can have in your home. The carbonation of club soda helps lift stains to the surface, making them easier to remove. Just pour some club soda on the stain, allow it to soak, then give it a thorough cleaning.

Cream of Tartar Cleans and Refreshes Stainless Steel

Cream of tartar is mildly acidic but still gentle enough to use for cleaning and home improvement projects. It's especially useful for stainless steel surfaces, including your ink. Just mix the cream of tartar with a small amount of water to create a paste, spread the paste on the surface you want to clean, and wash it off with warm water.

Freshen Your Microwave with Lemon Juice and Water

Any leftover used lemons can be put to work cleaning your microwave. Just place the used lemons into a bowl of water, place the bowl in the microwave, heat it until it boils, then remove it. The steam adds a fresh scent and makes it easy to wipe away messes with minimal effort.

While natural cleaners may sometimes require more elbow grease than their store-bought counterparts, the results are more than worth it. Using natural cleaners is an easy way to save money on home improvement, embrace green living, and tackle tough messes.


Nail Down New Flooring

When it comes to renovating a home for sale, many people look up — to a new roof. However, it's a good idea not to overlook what's beneath your feet: flooring and carpet. New flooring can make your home much more attractive to prospective buyers.

 Choosing the right new flooring can be tougher than it seems. In addition to getting the perfect look and feel, you also have to consider factors like moisture, durability, and cost.

Although there are many kinds of flooring out there, most homes will sport one out of just five options. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each type will help you make the right selection to add value to your property.

 Let's take a closer look:


Vinyl is made from synthetic polymers with added colour and is the most budget-conscious choice. It's easy to clean, and it resists water damage, so it tends to be the best selection for areas like kitchens and laundry rooms where other floors show age fast.

 Things to Remember:

 A broom, mop, and soapy water will usually clean stains from vinyl very easily.

  • Vinyl can be tough to repair when damaged, so avoid cracks and harsh chemicals.
  • Vinyl comes in large, cost-effective sheets.


Tile is made from ceramic or porcelain. It combines the strong water resistance of vinyl with a premium appearance most associated with bathrooms. It can also be an excellent choice for kitchens since it won't fade with repeated cleaning. Faux finishes can enhance its appearance.

 Things to Remember:

  • Tile is easy to clean, but grout is a notorious dirt magnet; replace it every 5-10 years.
  • Tile usually requires pro installation.


Composite or Engineered Wood

Processed wood flooring can look similar to hardwood but is made by compressing multiple layers of plywood with a single hardwood layer on top. It is very versatile, with easy installation over any subfloor, and is good in any moisture-free environment.

 Things to Remember:

  • Sweeping and mopping will keep processed wood looking like new for many years.
  • Beware of footwear! Heels, cleats, and any heavy, dragging object can harm the wood.
  • Handy homeowners can handle the installation.


Hardwood is considered the "gold standard" and adds value to almost any home. It tends to last for about a century but will require more maintenance than other floors. It can be sanded and re-finished to extend its lifespan and will work in any moisture-free area.

 Things to Remember:

  • Weekly broom cleaning and monthly mopping will meet most of this floor's needs.
  • As scratches and dullness set in after a while, the floor can be restored by buffing it.
  • Hardwood can vary in price but tends to be among the most expensive options.


Carpet is the go-to flooring in bedrooms, living areas, and many playrooms because of its comfort. It can be made from polyester, nylon, or polypropylene, with plenty of colours and styles to choose from. For the most part, it will last throughout the life of the home, but it can show wear in high-traffic areas.

 Things to Remember:

  • Spills must be cleaned immediately to prevent staining.
  • Vacuuming a few times a week will keep the carpet clean.
  • A carpet usually needs professional installation but costs less than other options.

Just like a fresh coat of paint, new flooring can refresh a home's look before going to market. Your real estate agent can advise you about flooring trends that match buyers' tastes.


What Every Homeowner Should Have In Case Of Emergencies

Storms, fires, floods, and power outages all have the power to disrupt your life. You can't stop emergencies from happening, but you can gather all the things you'll need to be prepared should a crisis arise.

If you have a messy closet or basement storage area in need of attention, your home improvement project can serve a dual purpose. Remove the junk, add inexpensive shelving, and stock them with emergency provisions. Add a tight-sealing storage container to protect your food from water and contaminants. In no time, you'll have a home emergency resource center that would make any survivalist proud.

Here are ten things to include:

Even if you have a reliable water system, storms, animals, and bacteria can contaminate your supply. Water in bottles or pouches is an easy fix for water potability issues. You should also keep water purification tablets to treat water from questionable sources.

Even if a fire or storm doesn't destroy your home, it might still contaminate your food. So you don't go hungry, stock up on cans or pouches of fruits, veggies, tuna, chicken, and other items. For variety, add granola and protein bars, peanut butter, dried beans, rice, and beef jerky. And don't forget the coffee and the can opener.

Paper Goods
So don't forget to add toilet paper and paper towels to your list. Store them in a waterproof container.

Light Source
Fortunately, there are several alternatives to battery-operated flashlights. One cool flashlight has water-powered cells. Another option available lets you hand-crank the flashlight. If you prefer the old-fashioned kind, don't forget the batteries.

Waterproof Matches
If the power is out, you'll still need to cook. That might mean firing up your grill or making a campfire. Either way, you'll need a waterproof lighter or waterproof matches. Both will light up even if they get wet.

First-aid Kit
Minor cuts and abrasions can be a real pain. Be sure to store an emergency kit to care for minor dings.

Fire Extinguisher
A fire extinguisher can keep a minor emergency from becoming a major catastrophe. Keep one upstairs and downstairs to manage not-so-friendly flames before they burn out of control.

Extra Clothes
You never know how long an emergency will last. Store extra clothes in a waterproof container, just in case.

Basic Tools
Add a few tools to your emergency stash: a hammer, pliers, screwdrivers, and a small hatchet so you can cut wood for a campfire. You might also want to add an extra set of house and car keys.

Personal Documents
The thing about emergencies is that you never know what might happen. Make copies of documents (driver's license, birth certificates, marriage license, passports) and store them in a waterproof container. You'll have backup copies if you lose the originals.

No homeowner wants to see an emergency situation in their home. But with the right prep, you can ensure your family and belongings will be safe in the event of a potentially serious emergency.


Painting Tips for Getting the Job Done Faster

Unless painting a room is a passion, you probably want to finish the task as soon as possible — while still doing a quality job. Here are some tips for doing just that:

• One-coat paints. Having to do a second coat is time-consuming. Fortunately, there are several “one coat” paints that can get the job done, well, in one coat! They don’t work for every type of project. But, if your walls are in good condition and you’re not dramatically changing the underlying colour, a one-coat paint is worth considering.

• Leverage various-sized rollers. Most people use rollers for the main wall surface and switch to brushes for the tight areas. Instead of a brush, try a smaller roller. That can speed up the painting considerably.

• Use quality brushes and rollers. Cheap brushes tend to not hold paint evenly and can also shed fibres – which you then have to pick off the painted surface. Good quality brushes and rollers may cost a little more, but the paint will be applied more smoothly and evenly — saving you time.

• Wear your painter’s tape. When running painter’s tape to prep a room, wear the roll on your wrist. That way, you won’t constantly be reaching for it.

• Wrap rollers and brushes in plastic. For longer painting jobs, wrap rollers and brushes that are not in use in plastic wrap or baggies (the kind you use in the kitchen.) That will keep the brushes and rollers wet while you take a break.

• Start in the middle. Most people start at the end of a wall and work their way to the center. You’ll paint faster if you do the opposite. In addition, you’ll avoid applying too much paint in the corners (which people are apt to do when they start there).

Want more tips for preparing your home for sale? Call me.


Get your Spring Cleaning Done in Half the Time
Spring cleaning can seem like a great idea until you actually get started. Then it often turns out to be more work than expected!

The good news is, there are proven techniques to make the job easier so you can get it done faster.

• Before you begin the project, make sure you have everything you need: hammer, boxes, tape, garbage bags, etc. Think of the supplies you’ll need on hand and the tools that will make tasks easier. You don’t want to have to waste time on frequent trips to the store.

• Consider renting a small moving trolley (AKA hand truck.) That will make it much easier to move heavy objects, such as furniture, as you’re cleaning. Most local home improvement centres rent these.

• Plan how you’re going to dispose of waste and unwanted stuff. Find out where you can donate clothes, toys, furniture, and other items. Note the location of your local garbage disposal site and its hours of operation.

• Divide tasks into “Heavy work” and “Light work” and then do the heavy work first, such as moving furniture, reorganizing rooms, etc. Only after completing the heavy work should you dive into the “light work”, such as packing boxes and sweeping.

• Consider getting help. There are many services available that will assist with cleaning, painting, junk removal, repairs, and more. You can even hire a student to assist you for a weekend.

Spring cleaning can be a big project, but these tips can help make it a lot easier. And, keep in mind that if you’re thinking of selling this year, getting the spring cleaning done will be a big plus.

Is it really possible to improve your kitchen’s look for about the cost of a takeout gourmet dinner with the family?

Obviously you’re not going to be able to do anything major, such as replace the cabinets within that budget. But, there are many surprisingly low-budget ways to spruce up the kitchen. Here are a few ideas:

• Do you have old cabinets? You’d be surprised how much newer they can look simply by replacing the knobs and/or handles. Pick a colour that blends, rather than contrasts, with the cabinets.

• Does your sink have a few stains? That’s not unusual! There are special cleaning products available to get out the toughest stains without damaging or scratching the sink’s finish.

• Lighting can have an enormous impact on the look and feel of a space, particularly the kitchen. Experiment with new lighting ideas. Try different bulb wattages. Consider a new lighting fixture that looks good and distributes the light more pleasantly.

• Often you don’t need to upgrade anything – you just need to do a little redecorating. Consider new window coverings. Declutter to create a greater sense of space. Play with such design touches as placing trendy cookbooks on the counter, adding a plant, or putting an attractive fruit basket on the counter.

Sure, depending on your choices, some of these ideas may cost you more than $100. However, any of these low-budget improvements can make your kitchen look considerably more attractive.

You’ll notice the difference. And, if you’re selling, so will buyers.


Keeping Mice Out of your Home

There’s no doubt about it. Preventing mice from entering your home is much easier than evicting them once they’ve moved in. If you take just a few simple precautions, you can avoid the trip to the store to buy traps or the call to the exterminator.

Here’s what the experts recommend:

-  Install mouse-mesh in the drainage slots of exterior brick or siding. There are many types available on the market. (Note: make sure you don’t block water drainage!)

- Trim back tree branches that are within two feet of the siding or roof. Mice can jump horizontally as far as 15 inches.

- Make sure weather-stripping on doors and windows seal tightly. Mice can easily squeeze through weak spots and gaps, especially where stripping meets at a corner.

- Don’t leave open packages of any type of food — birdseed, apples, etc. — in the garage. That’s like telling the mice, “The buffet’s open!”

- Inspect the outside of your home and look for evidence of mice near walls, doors and windows. Look for mice droppings, which look like black rice.

- If you see a mouse outside your home, don’t shoo it away. Instead, watch where it goes. The mouse might show you how it’s getting in.

Taking these precautions will significantly reduce the chances of micebecoming unwanted guests in your home.


How to Fix Common Floor Cracks and Stains

When you’re selling your home, you want it to look its best to buyers. Unfortunately, buyers are likely to notice any cracks or stains on your floor.

Luckily, there are many do-it-yourself solutions to help make your floors look significantly better.

Let’s start with stains.

If you have carpeting, there are a number of spot cleaning products on the market. But before you try one of those, consider this simple remedy. Sprinkle a little baking soda on the stain and then add just enough drops of white vinegar to make it bubble. Wait two minutes. Then, dab carefully with a paper towel and vacuum the residual. This method often works.

For hard floors, gentle rubbing with warm water will take care of most stains. If you have hardwood floors, don’t let the area remain wet. Dry it completely.

Ceramic tile floors often have old, discoloured grout that is an eyesore. Of course, there are products available to clean grout. But try using an old toothbrush and water before investing in those products. Scrub the grout gently. Then mop the entire area.

If you have minor damage to a section of hardwood floor or floor tiles — for example, a chip or crack — the best solution is replacement. Unfortunately, this isn’t a DIY-friendly job, so unless you’ve done it successfully before, consider hiring a contractor.

If the crack is minor and you don’t want to replace the piece, there are sealing products available, which will camouflage the crack — to some extent — and prevent it from getting worse.

If you have a flooring crack or stain you’re concerned about, try these tips. Also, check out your local home improvement centre for more ideas.


Fire Safety Checks You Should Do At Least Once a Year

Chances are, you know that you should change the batteries in your smoke detectors at least once a year — even if you suspect the batteries are still good.

But that isn't the only fire safety check you should do annually. Here are some other recommended tips to help keep you and your family safe.

• Clean your stove burners and oven regularly. Hard grease build-up can become combustible.

• Check your cupboard for cleaning products, paints and other liquids that are flammable. Read each label carefully. Use and store each product only as recommended.

• If you keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen — and you should —confirm that it is still good. Extinguishers are like food. They have expiry dates!

• Go over your fire escape plan with your family. Make sure everyone knows exactly what to do if a smoke detector goes off or if there's a fire. (Don't have a fire escape plan? Make one!)

• Check that all windows open easily, especially upper floor windows.

• Check appliances you use often, such as hair dryers, for worn or frayed cords.

• Regularly clear away lint build-up in the clothes dryer. Check the outside dryer vent annually to make sure it's clear and working correctly.

• If you have a wood-burning fireplace or stove, get it cleaned and inspected by a licensed technician once a year.

Many local fire departments offer homeowners free tips and even in-home advice and inspections at no cost. Contact your fire department and ask about programs available to you.


Is it Time to Re-Shingle Your Roof?

No matter what you think of snakes, you must agree that they have a unique way of dealing with worn-out skin. When the time comes, they simply shed it — like an old jacket — revealing a fresh new skin underneath.

Your home's roof doesn't have that advantage! So, when the shingles wear out or become damaged, you need to have them replaced.

Unfortunately, it's not always easy to determine whether your shingles need replacement right away, or whether you can hold off for another year. Assuming your home has the most common type of shingles — asphalt —here's what to look for:

• Corners upturned on some shingles.

• Missing shingles.

• Shingles lifting during high winds and not settling back into place (flat) within a day or two.

• Heavy accumulation of shingle debris (particles) in the gutters.

• Shingle bits and pieces found on the ground around your home.

• Spots on your roof that still look wet a day or two after a rainfall. (This

could be a sign of water infiltration into the felt or even the roof deck.)

If you have any of these signs, be sure to have a roofing contractor take a closer look.

Before investing in a new roof, be sure to check with the retailer or contractor who supplied the original materials. Your shingles might still be under warranty.

Bottomline: Don't delay. You don't want to wait until you hear drip drip drip before taking action!


Getting a DIY Renovation Done On time and On Budget

Two of the biggest stressors for DIYers are projects that cost too much or take too long. Unfortunately, there’s no sure way to guarantee that one or the other (or both) won’t happen. But there is a lot you can do to minimize the probability.

When budgeting, a big mistake DIYers make is not considering the little things. For example, you might budget for drywall panels but neglect to include the cost of nails, tape and plaster. It's easy to overlook these small items thinking they won't add up to much of an expense. But often they do. In fact, for many renovation projects, the little things account for up to 20% of the cost.

Another expense that is often overlooked is taxes. When you find a bathtub you like for $399, be sure to budget for what you'll actually pay out-of-pocket. Also, don't forget possible delivery expenses.

A budgeting tip many experts recommend is to price everything you need and then add 10%. That gives you a buffer.

Regarding scheduling, consider whether or not you've done this type of project before. If you're laying hardwood floors for the first time, there's a learning curve. You'll likely take two or three times longer than you would if you were more experienced.

Even if you have experience with the type of project you’re undertaking, it's human nature to underestimate how long it will take. So, if you feel confident you can install that sink in an hour, give yourself two.

A lot of this, of course, is common sense. But if you take a common sense — rather than an optimistic — approach to budgeting and scheduling, you'll stand a much better chance of your DIY project going smoothly.


Cutting Renovation Costs without Cutting Quality

As you probably know, it's easy to lower the costs of a renovation. Just hire
an inexpensive, fly-by-night contractor — and hope for the best!

Chances are, you won't want to take that risk. So how do you ensure you get
quality work while keeping your budget in check?

Here are some tips:

• Get estimates from at least three contractors. Often prices can vary
widely, even amongst contractors with similar reputations and

• Narrow the project focus. If you're getting a bathroom renovated, for
example, decide whether you need the contractor to paint the new
walls. Can you do that yourself?

• Shop around for the building materials. Yes, contractors often have
access to wholesale prices. Still, you might be able to find a bathtub
and vanity at a lower cost or at least avoid any markup the contractor
may charge.

• Negotiate. Sometimes a contractor is willing to lower the price for
concessions, such as quick payments or more time to complete the job.

• Schedule the renovation during a low-demand season. For example,
deck contractors charge more in the spring than the fall. It's supply and
demand. More people want their decks done in the spring.

Keep in mind that spending a little more for a skilled and reputable contractor
can save you money in the long run. The renovation will have fewer, if any,
"issues" (that may require an expensive fix) and will last longer.

MLS® property information is provided under copyright© by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board and Victoria Real Estate Board. The information is from sources deemed reliable, but should not be relied upon without independent verification.