Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Renovating Home Offices in Toronto

On Renovating Home Offices for Work from Home Professionals

By Rob C.

This author was there when Laura Bilotta from Single in the City walked a renovator around her Toronto area townhouse and laid down plans for a new perfect home office. “Rip out the wall cabinets and put up vision boards,’ was how she started her fix list. "Bookshelves are so last century."

The contractor agreed, and he nodded his head like he was expecting it. Keith Travers, home renovations expert in Toronto has years of experience and his own ideas about transforming living rooms, basements and guest bedrooms into cost efficient modern home offices. "What Laura asked for is what every work from home professional wants, a clean modern home office."

Clear the walls and ‘desks’

In Laura’s vision for tomorrow there are no desks and no shelves, but rather tables stuck to bare walls with nothing underneath to bang her knees on when swivel-chairing around the room. By having clear walls and desk surfaces she can do three jobs at once in three or more separate work stations in her office, or on busy days, she can bring in support staff and easily scale her operations.

By having white boards and cork boards on the walls instead of shelves, Laura can effectively organize tasks for staff using pins and post-it notes. This makes it easy for interns to pick-up and go forward with initiatives laid out literally right in front of their eyes. Perhaps more important is how it allows Laura to compartmentalize her campaigns in her own mind.

"Shelving is still important." Keith Travers insisted, “But now the shelves go up to the top of the wall. Shelves are necessary for storage, and small things can be put in wood boxes we can make to match the d├ęcor.” And another item that’s now stored high on the shelf – the office printer.

Install Offices Doors that can be Closed

High on Laura’s list for Keith was to amend the walls of her living room to host French doors (double doors with twelve panel glass windows in the center of each) so she could seal off her home office and therein her business from the rest of her life.

Keith told me later that doors and walls are necessary mental as well as physical barriers; the modern work from home professional needs a door for privacy and security of course, but also, they must be able to close a door in their mind at some point everyday too. A physical door that locks helps them mentally encapsulate their work inside their home life.

Office Telephone Wifi Solution

While most work from home professionals function effectively these days without an office telephone, WiFi must be present in their home office. Why not get a business phone? There are still plenty of advantages to using an old-school Nortel Meridian phone with a display fromStandard Telecom because over time it becomes a super handy easy-to- use business rolodex that can store call data for years. Regardless home office professions must have a strong Wifi signal, and so the modem / router connection MUST be in the home office.

The alternative is to embrace walking back and forth, up and down stairs every time there’s a problem. If the residence did not previously have a home office than the cable modem is likely found behind the television – it must be moved into the office and a proper airport Wi-Fi set up high on the shelf, in the room where people are working – not in the room where kids are playing network videos or spouses watch TV.

Put a Safe in the Wall

Somewhere in the home office there should be a wall safe. Its important. It’s a line item on many small business insurance policies. There should also be a filing cabinet ‘solution’ and if you don’t have a safe then you need a good filing cabinet with at least one drawer that locks. Where else can you keep your master business license? Or your lifetime discount deals, exclusive contracts, or your bottle of the good stuff and maybe your handgun? ‘Handgun owners must have a safe’ Keith adds, ‘they’re required by Federal legislation to have and use a secure lock box to store their weapons.’

A Clock above a Calendar

Further to the idea of keeping track of time and resources – the wall clock and calendar combination is critical for keeping small business CEOs and staff on track. The wall clock is different than the wrist watch and cellphone clock and computer monitor time keeper. The wall clock is a powerful judge that knows when you start late, and finish early.

For small business professional who work alone and talk to themselves, the clock & calendar is one character who becomes a mental butler. He or she is a concierge who schedules calls and appointments and becomes an operational framework for the business. The device also serves to answer questions that other visitors to the home office (mostly family members) might have
regarding your time, especially if they can see the business agenda on the home office calendar and plan accordingly.

Leave Room for Visitors

"There needs to be space for visitors", Keith made Laura think about her new office layout from the perspective of a visiting client that might come to her house. Where will he or she sit? And what will they see? How comfortable will they be in here?

Laura’s home office of the future is set to look very Spartan indeed. With hardwood floors under the swivel chairs and wide open surfaces on white walls and wood tables, the blank office chamber is designed to invite creativity and banish clutter.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hey Toronto, don't forget to Winterize your Plumbing

Winterizing Your Home in the Toronto Area

Wintertime means ice skating and hockey for most Canadians. And whether you plan to go become a snowbird in Arizona or stay in the Toronto area, it is a good idea to consider winterizing your home and yard so that you can enjoy the winter months without having to do any outdoor maintenance.

Here are some of the most popular ways to set your home and yard up for the cold season:

Look into plumbing maintenance: If you do have a problem with your pipes, chances are that it will happen in the Wintertime- when temperature extremes put the most stress on your pipes. One way to try and head this off is to work with a local plumbing partner- someone who can arrange to do maintenance on a regular or seasonal basis. In addition to focusing on water pipe repair in Toronto, most plumbing professionals are able to check all of your pipes and water systems and tell you where there are any weak spots. One way that they can do this is by doing a pressure test that will show if there are any weak spots in your plumbing system. If there are, they can normally predict about how long your system will be able to continue without repair.

Plumbing maintenance that you can do yourself around the home should probably include draining all of your garden hoses, coiling them up, and storing them indoors in a shed or the garage. Draining any fountain not made of stone or natural materials is also a good idea because they will last longer.

Go High Tech On Heat Loss:

Another popular type of maintenance over the past several years has been to take the latest infrared sensors and make a heat map of your home so that a contractor can can take defined heat loss areas and fix them. The present technology is strong enough that it can show a couple of degree temperature difference, making it easy to find out where your house is leaking warm air from the outside.

The savings that you achieve by having your house examined and then repair may be substantial if it works out that you had a major leak without knowing about it.

One area that can put you ahead when it comes to heat loss is choosing the right insulation strategy in your home. Many older homes were not insulated as well as they could be. On the other hand, even if your home is newer and already has insulation in the walls and floor and ceiling, you can still save money in the long run by adding another layer of insulation. If you have centralized heating, it is also a good idea to ensure that all of your duct pipes are wrapped with insulation.

Ensure Your Heat Sources Are Adequate:

Over the years, you have likely grown close to your furnace and fireplace- and know how efficiently they actually perform for you. At the same time, Autumn is a really good time to have a professional come in and check them out to see if they can't get more efficiency out of them. At a base level, you may find that your furnace filter hasn't been changed as often as it could- something that can take away from its output. You can also have them test the output in each room to ensure that the air forced into every room is warm enough to actually heat it up. In addition to wrapping the duct pipes, it can pay off to ensure that the main pipes that lead into the the furnace itself are also winterized.

When it comes to fireplaces, many homes have purchased heat exchangers or inserts that increase the amount of hot air that is generated when you have a fire. If you don't have one, you might look at your options- they can save you money. Getting your chimney cleaned is antoher great winterization idea because it means another season of safe fires in your home.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Evolution of Urban Planning, Infographic

I find it really annoying when people email infographics, asking me to post it for them. I consider them to basically be spam.

This one however was rather interesting, so I have decided to post it. It was sent to me from "Kon von der Schulenburg", who is an architect from an architectural firm called "Cantrell & Crowley Architects & Interior Designers". Their website is http://www.cantrellcrowley.com

Saturday, July 30, 2016

One Unusual Way to get a House Cheap

Want to buy a house which is guaranteed to be cheaper than similar houses on the market?

Option 1: Buy the former house of a murderer.

Eg. Paul Bernardo for example. The notorious serial killer.

The house shown on the right is 57 Bayview Drive in Port Dalhousie.

It is Paul Bernardo's former house. It was purchased and torn down, with a new building being built on the lot that looks very different.

Or here is another example...

Option 2: Buy a house where the former owners were murdered by the mafia.

Barry and Honey Sherman were murdered by members of the Rizzuto crime family in their North York home. Their bodies were found near their basement swimming pool with their necks tied by belts to a railing.

The property (shown below) was later purchased for relatively cheap, the buildings torn down and the new buildings erected, but if the new owners had been fine with swimming in the pool where they had been murdered (I know it sounds creepy) they could have just let it be. Or just get rid of the pool and just have a really large rec room or garage in the basement.

Tear Down, Build Fresh?

Now you may be noticing a trend here.

The new buyers typically always end up tearing the old house down and building a brand new home.

They might keep the foundation, but if the murders happened in the basement the foundation will likely be destroyed too and a new foundation will be built.

Which means the property is ripe for people looking to renovate a building and then flip the property as an investment. Especially if a decent amount of time has passed and the property no longer looks like the previous building.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Raccoon Removal Service for Homes

The video below is of a mousetrap that humanely catches mice. But what if you could build a larger scale version that catches raccoons?

Raccoons are a serious problem in many parts of Toronto, often due to a lack of natural predators that eat raccoons. The closest thing to predators in Toronto is traffic, as testified by the sheer number of raccoons that get hit and killed on Toronto streets every year.

Like the impromptu memorial for a dead raccoon that popped up within hours and went viral in July 2015. Proof that Torontonians truly care about its wildlife, even if they did it a bit jokingly (I think the cigarette in the raccoons paw was a bit of an overkill). Shown below:

A friend of mine who lives near York University even feeds her raccoons. She lives near a ravine so she has tonnes of raccoons in the neighbourhood. Even within her home she is a bit of an animal fanatic, having a rabbit, cats, mice, and pet spiders. The raccoons to her are just one more thing worth feeding.

I should note however that feeding wild animals can be dangerous. If they lose their sense of fear of humans, they are no longer afraid of humans and can become either dangerous or a nuisance.

Toronto's raccoons for example have, for the most part retained some of their fear of humans, but others are quite brazen and friendly - but friendly doesn't mean they are not dangerous if provoked.

If you own a home and you are having a problem with raccoons being a nuisance (and possibly even attacking your dog or cat or children) then you need to have those animals removed.

Many people in Toronto believe that raccoons should be simply be killed, that this is the simplest / quickest / most permanent solution to the raccoon problem in Toronto. Some people attempt to do this by leaving rat poison, anti-freeze or dishwasher detergent in places where the raccoons frequent and the raccoons eat/drink the poisonous materials and later die.

However deadly traps and poisons are banned in Toronto. As is shooting them with firearms.

"Current Ministry of Natural Resources guidelines state that using body gripping traps or placing poison could result in criminal charges and/or provincial charges with fines up $5,000.'
  • The firing of guns in Toronto is illegal.
  • Placing poison out to kill animals could result in criminal charges."
It is important to note that raccoons are wildlife, and as such are protected. They can only be trapped humanely and then transported (preferably outside of the city). Vermin on the other hand (mice, rats, cockroaches, wasps, insects, etc) can be killed outright.

Derick McChesney of SWAT Wildlife
So over the past few decades there has evolved a special ambassador to animals; the modern wildlife removal technician is a licensed wild animal whisperer who safeguards these creatures' lives and the lives of their young families with every house call. He or she protects the animal's rights just as much as he works to seal the house and keep the homeowner or business owner's property safe.

And nobody does this job better than raccoon removal expert, Derick McChesney of SWAT Wildlife.

Last month Life as a Human did a story on Derick that took the form of a very insightful and informative ride along as Derick completed three missions helping home owners and safeguarding raccoons. You can see how he found a nest of baby raccoons in a rental apartment.


Raccoons often like hiding in high places. Hence the ladder.
Derick also shares wisdom about how to know if animals are living in a house before you buy the property, which you can read on Josie Stern's blog below:

Josie Sterns Toronto real estate blog post, Are Raccoons Living In you Home?
"He [Derick McChesney] states, “roughly 15-20% of homes probably have a mice issue or have once had a wildlife issue. Most of the time the seller will only do the minimum amount of work to get rid of the problem and decline the necessary prevention so they can sell the house and then leave the problem with someone else." Buyers that do unwittingly purchase animal infested properties are in for nightmare renovations that can include new carpets, drywall and total home insulation removal and replacement."

Which includes your attic. Sometimes also your basement, crawl space, garage, space above the garage, etc.

Chicken wire is surprisingly effective at caging raccoons out of attics.

Raccoons often get into houses through the garage. They are basically nature's best burglars. Check out Guru Security's blog post, What raccoons can teach prowlers about your home security? to learn more on this topic.

However if you want to make it more difficult for raccoons to get in and out of your garage, you might want to invest in hiring some garage door installers to install an automatic garage door. It takes only a moment for raccoons to sneak into places they are not meant to be - often in search of food - and the more often they manage to find food means they stick around in the neighbourhood and continue to be a nuisance. Having an automatic garage door that closes when not in use prevents the animals from being afforded the opportunity to do so again and again and again.

More photos of raccoons in Toronto:

I should note that Toronto raccoons don't usually get very big. They're comparatively tiny when compared to the giant raccoons you find in the countryside - some as big as German Shepherds or Chimpanzees. It really depends on how well fed they are. In the countryside they can grow to be quite large.

The one in the photo below is large, but still not as big as the biggest one I have ever seen which was Chimp sized.

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