Category Archives: landscaping

August long weekend 2015: What’s open and closed in Toronto

The August long weekend – Simcoe Day in Toronto – is a civic holiday and a long weekend for many people in the Greater Toronto area.

The holiday goes by many names across the province, and it goes by different names and is often celebrated with different traditions across the country. In Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island the day is known as Natal Day, while it is Regatta Day in Newfoundland. In Ottawa the Civic Holiday is often referred to as Colonel By Day.

Businesses are not required to close Monday under the provincial Retail Business Holidays Act, so they may open at the discretion of the municipality.

Below is a list of what’s open and closed in the GTA:


  • Tourist attractions (ROM, Ontario Science Centre, Toronto Zoo, Ripley’s Aquarium)
  • Major malls (Eaton Centre, Yorkdale, Fairview, Sherway Gardens, Square One, Vaughan Mills)
  • Select Beer Store locations (Click here for a full list)
  • LCBO (378 stores across the province will be open. Click here to find your store)
  • Movie theaters
  • City-run facilities like pools, splash pads and golf courses. (Click herefor details)
  • Riverdale Farm
  • High Park Zoo
  • Toronto Islands and ferries


  • AGO
  • Banks
  • Government offices
  • Post offices and mail delivery
  • All Toronto Public Library branches

Weekend Events

Source: by NEWS STAFF Posted Jul 31, 2015 5:07 am EDT

Beware that metal barbecue brush

Melinda Gay Mouldey had to have surgery to remove a bristle from a brush similar to this one, used to clean a barbecue.

Melinda Mouldey felt a piercing pain in her throat as she took the last bite of her hamburger at a friend’s barbecue.

“Oh my gosh, a piece of rosemary just stabbed me,” the 39-year-old Brantford woman exclaimed before starting to throw up so violently she ended up in the emergency department. But it wasn’t the herbs her friend used in the May 22 meal that caused a serious health issue requiring emergency surgery to treat.

The culprit was the newly bought wire brush used to clean the grill. An 11.3-millimetre metal bristle snapped off, landed on the grill and ended up in Mouldey’s burger. Impossible to see, it lodged deep in her throat as she took that last bite.

Sound like a fluke? Doctors at St. Joseph’s Healthcare want you to know it happens every barbecue season.

Last year, there were about a dozen surgeries of varying complexities at St. Joseph’s to remove wire brush bristles that can cause serious internal injuries. The Canadian government and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also issued warnings.

“The further down it goes, the more damage it can cause,” said Dr. Natasha Cohen, a resident training to be an ear, nose and throat specialist. “It’s one of those things that’s preventable if you raise awareness.”

Mouldey had never heard of barbecue brushes causing medical emergencies before it happened to her. She thought nothing of her friends using the wire brush.

“He brushed off the grill, she brought out the burgers and he started grilling them,” she said. “I ate my last piece of the burger and when I put it in my mouth and swallowed, I got stabbed.”

She immediately started vomiting, but went home instead of going to a hospital because she thought a piece of rosemary was caught in her throat and would dislodge itself eventually. She went to bed and made breakfast for her four kids in the morning.

“If I stayed still and didn’t talk, I wouldn’t throw up,” she said. “If I moved, I would start gagging.”

When she started vomiting blood, the McMaster University research secretary contacted a gastroenterologist colleague, who told her to go to the emergency department. She still didn’t realize the serious trouble she was in.

“I thought it was going to be quick,” said Mouldey, who had her 17-year-old son drop her off. “I thought I’d call him when I was done.”

But her blood pressure was high, and within 15 minutes she was sent to a priority area in the emergency department, where a general surgeon was called in while X-rays and tests were done.

She was admitted to the hospital May 23, but it took a CT scan on May 25 for doctors to realize it was a wire brush bristle lodged in her throat behind the jaw, just above where an Adam’s apple would be on a man.

“It was horrible,” she said. “I couldn’t eat anything, I couldn’t talk, and if I turned my neck, it would stab me.”

On May 27, the hospital sent Mouldey, with her husband, to an otolaryngology specialist to remove the bristle. When the doctor couldn’t get it out at the office, the couple was sent to St. Joseph’s Hospital. She was in emergency surgery by 11 p.m.

It was the third time Cohen had removed a wire brush bristle in her three years of training.

“It happens often enough that all of the residents have seen it,” she says. “The bottom line is that it’s not about avoiding the barbecue or not cleaning your barbecue. It’s about knowing this can happen and being extra careful.”

Mouldey’s family now has a brush with bright red plastic bristles that can’t be used during cooking. Other friends use a piece of wood. She knows others who run an onion over the grill after using a wire brush as an additional cleaner and to pick up any stray bristles.

“There are a lot of alternatives out there,” said Mouldey, who doesn’t want anyone else to go through a similar trauma. In the end, she was in hospital from May 23 to May 28.

“It was very stressful,” she said. “It was the worst week of my life.”

Source: Joanna Frketich Hamilton Spectator, Published on Tue Jun 30 2015

Should You Sell Your House or Renovate It? Either way, it’s an expensive, time-consuming proposition.

A home for sale and a man working on a home renovation project.

Your house may not have changed much over the years, but you probably have. Maybe you were single when you signed your mortgage papers, and now you’re married with children (or divorced and sometimes with your kids). Perhaps you’ve added some pets and wish there were amenities like cat doors. Or maybe that cute, little starter home is simply little and no longer cute to you.

However your mind gets there, many homeowners find themselves pondering the big question: Should I sell my home or stick it out and renovate?

There’s really no wrong or right answer. So much depends on the homeowner’s point of view and the house itself. But here are some factors that may tip the scales.

The math may sway you. Sell or renovate? If you’re leaning toward selling, but are toying with making upgrades to increase the sticker price, know this: A major renovation won’t always spell a big payoff.

“My wife and I just went through this debate,” says Bennie Waller, a professor of finance and real estate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. They did their due diligence and collected estimates, but realized renovating would be very expensive. “We didn’t think we would ever be able to recoup the cost of the investment when it came time to sell,” he says.

So they decided to buy a new house – and keep the old one so they could rent it out for another income stream.

“I examined the decision purely from an investment perspective,” he says.

Or the math may not matter much. For some people, a house is their home for keeps. If you feel like staying put as long as you can, so that someday your adult kids can decide if they’d like to move in or sell their childhood home, recouping renovation costs may not matter to you. Especially if you’re young and plan to spend decades there.

Indeed, sentimentality can be a strong motivator to stay. Take it from Tracie Hovey, a Greencastle, Pennsylvania, resident and the president of a public relations and advertising firm. Though she has only lived in her house for a few years, she has no desire to pack up and go anywhere. She and her three children moved into the house when she remarried. Her husband had two of his own kids, and so they now live under a roof with five kids, ages 15 to 21. There are good memories here, and Hovey says they like their neighborhood and neighbors.

Still, it can get crowded. “We are short one bedroom when all the kids are home,” Hovey says. But it’s outside the house where the trouble really begins, especially during the summers and holidays, when the kids are on break.

Image result for images of renovate or sell

“When they are all home, it makes getting in and out of the driveway impossible, and I often find that I’m moving two cars just to get out of my garage,” Hovey says. Some of their kids end up parking on the street, which, she says, “can be irritating for our neighbors. It looks like we’re constantly having a party.”

So Hovey and her husband, a business executive, are currently shopping around for home contractors, hoping to build a three-car garage alongside the house and turn the existing garage into a master bedroom. She admits they’re a little nervous the home improvements might put the house above and beyond the value of neighboring homes, which could increase the pain come selling time.

It’s just one of those unwritten rules of real estate; it’s always easier to sell a house when it’s around the same price as the neighboring homes.

“But we aren’t the most expensive house in the neighborhood, even with the addition, so I think we would be all right,” she says. Plus, other houses in the area have three- and even four-car garages, so their home won’t be dramatically different than the others in the neighborhood.

You could buy and then renovate. That’s what Cosmo Macero Jr., a public relations consultant in Belmont, Massachusetts, did. His house seemed really large when it was just him and his wife. After two kids, it seemed a little smaller. When they decided to bring in Macero’s 89-year-old mother three years ago, they realized they had to make a change. They weren’t just housing another adult, but one with health care aides dropping by regularly.

But the cost of renovating was punishing. So Macero toyed with the idea of renovating his mother’s home and having them all move in there. That, too, was wildly expensive, and it didn’t feel like it would be a good investment. Macero’s main concern was spending a lot of money on improvements that wouldn’t be seen as improvements by anyone else.

“They might have become money pits for the sake of creating a living space that might feel very customized [and unappealing] to a buyer years down the road,” Macero says.

So he ended up leasing his home, since the market wasn’t great for selling, and purchased a new house with a vacant dentist’s office attached.

A dentist’s office? It sounds like the last thing a homeowner would want, but not in this case. “That office became the object of a major renovation that turned it into a wonderful in-law suite for my mother,” says Macero. His mother, now 92, loves her suite, which has its own entrance, thanks to its former purpose, and Macero believes the suite will be a selling point in the future.

Natalie Gregory, a real estate agent in Decatur, Georgia, took a similar path. She considered renovating her house but instead bought another one – and then renovated that.

“I work from home and wanted to have a basement where I could have a dedicated office, as well as a play room and media room for the kids. So we specifically looked for a home with a basement and a lot that would allow for expansion,” Gregory says.

She didn’t renovate her old house because it was built in the 1920s, and major changes would have adversely altered its character. The added amenities of a dedicated office, play room and media room, she says, would have added more to the home’s value and would have likely made it more difficult to sell in the future.

“You want to make sure you still have the value in your home,” Gregory says of considering a major renovation. “Some homes are what they are. It is right the way it is. For instance, if a home is a great two-bedroom, one-bath, maybe it needs to stay that way and you pass it on to the next people who need just that.”

So should you renovate or sell? Really, you could say it comes down to your frame of mind – and the frame of your house.

SOURCE:  March 6, 2015 | 10:50 a.m. EST

Mike Holmes: Don’t kick back in your backyard until it’s got the all-clear

Smart backyard planning and landscaping can help you protect your home, as well as cut cooling costs.

We’re heading full force into summer, and for many of us, the idea of a great summer starts with a great backyard. But more than just a place to have some drinks, enjoy time with the kids and friends, it’s important that your backyard works for you — by that I mean it helps protect your home and save you money.

What’s the first thing we should look at when checking out a backyard? Grading — that’s the slope of the property surrounding the house that helps direct water away from the foundation, not toward it. This helps protect against basement leaks. For every foot away from the foundation wall, the ground should drop at least half an inch. So over a six-foot span, you should have at least a three-inch drop.

If you ever want to test it, you can do a hose test. Get the garden hose and point it horizontally to your foundation wall, about five inches away from it. Turn the hose on and as the water runs, check the direction of the water flow. It’s a quick way to make sure water is moving away from your home.

That’s also why I don’t like plants and shrubs right up against the foundation wall. Every time you water them, you would be driving water directly to your foundation. Any tiny cracks will allow water to penetrate through, and if your basement is finished this could require an expensive fix.

When they get bigger, shrubs against your foundation wall and exterior can also trap moisture against your home’s exterior, which could lead to mould, termites or other insects. You’re better off moving those garden beds and shrubs away from the house.

What about trees? I love them, and they can help block the summer’s heat and sunlight from entering your home if planted in the right spots. But again, don’t plant them too close to your home.

The extra foliage will direct water and precipitation to your home’s exterior and roof. This can increase the chance of a leak; it will wear down your exterior siding faster, and when the leaves drop in the fall they could end up in your gutters, potentially clogging them.

Ideally, you also want to keep trees away from any sanitary lines, too.

A tree’s roots can grow to be two to three times wider than its canopy, and the roots can wreak havoc on your plumbing and weeping tile, especially if your home still has clay pipes. If there’s a tiny crack in the plumbing underground, the leaking water will attract tree roots to it, because roots seek out water, and then they can grow into the pipe itself, causing a blockage and potentially a sewer backup in the basement.


It’s one thing to protect your home, but it’s also important to make it work efficiently. One way is by helping block out heat so you don’t have to crank up the air conditioning as often (which saves you money). There are a couple of backyard projects that can help do that.

As I mentioned, you can strategically plant trees around your home to block out the heat, but you can also install awnings on your windows. Awnings are an old-school solution that can reduce heat gain by about 55 to 77 per cent. In some areas, awnings can save homeowners as much as 25 per cent on their energy bills.

You could also hire a pro to build a pergola on the sunny side of your house.

Pergolas are those wooden exterior structures, usually in the backyard against the house, that have vertical posts supporting large crossbeams and joists. (If the pergola is free-standing it usually has four support posts. If it’s built off the side of a house it will have two.) Pergolas are great because they can help block out the heat and cut cooling costs, and they look good, too.

Your backyard should be your sanctuary; the place where you can kick back and relax. But to do it right you have to plan it right, because what you do on the outside of your home will always have an impact indoors.

Source National Post Mike Holmes, Special to National Post | June 12, 2015 

Watch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV. For more information visit

Why growing vegetables on the roof is the future of Toronto architecture

Arlene Throness, urban agricultural coordinator at Ryerson University, walks between rows of garlic being grown on the roof at the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre.

Green roofs are nice, but rooftop farms are better.

They’re the future of living architecture, say International green roof advocates who gathered in Toronto last week.

Traditional green roofs reduce energy consumption by keeping buildings cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, and they also absorb rainwater instead of sending it into storm sewers. For this alone, they have become official policy in Toronto.

But rooftop agriculture — or agritecture — does all this while also providing jobs, generating electricity, training youth and of course, growing food.

“Toronto is a leader in North America for green infrastructure — not only green roofs, but community gardens. This is about putting those two ideas together,” said Steven Peck, president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, which hosted the two-day Grey to Green conference.

“We have a handful of agricultural green roofs and all of them are community projects,” like Eastdale Collegiate, Ryerson’s Engineering building and the Carrot Common, said Peck. “But we don’t have any commercial-scale agriculture on roofs — that’s the next thing.”

Last month, Toronto was recognized as North America’s second best city for building green roofs, with only Washington D.C. building faster.

Thanks to the green roof bylaw passed in 2009, all new buildings over six stories tall and with more than 2,000 square meters of floor space must have at least 20 per cent green roof.

But because planners envisioned using perennial plants, certain regulations discourage seasonal crops, said Arlene Throness, who designed and operates the 929 square meter farm on the roof of Ryerson University’s George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre.

The city by-law requires green roofs to be 80 percent covered three years after planting. If you’re harvesting crops every season, the green roof is periodically naked while the new crops grow, and this breaks the law, Throness explained.

“I think the fear was that edible plants would take too much labour and water,” and the city wanted to give developers a low-maintenance solution for building green roofs, Throness said. “But we’ve been monitoring our water use and don’t require any more.”

After a pilot project in 2013, last summer the roof hosted a five-crop rotational farm that produced more than two tonnes of vegetables, she said. “We’ve found that we can grow everything here.”

The harvest is split between campus kitchens and the Gould St. farmer’s market on Wednesdays.

Ontario imports billions of dollars of produce from California each year and this supply is becoming threatened due to their prolonged draught, said Throness. Rooftop agriculture adds local food security to the existing environmental benefits of green roofs.

 For Peck, while rooftop farms aren’t appropriate everywhere – older buildings often can’t handle the extra weight – they’re an essential part of the future of the city.

“There are still hundreds of millions of square feet of roofs in Toronto that could still be greened,” Peck said. “We invest billions and billions of dollars on grey infrastructure. It would pay great dividends to devote a small part of that to green infrastructure.”

By the numbers:

72,020 square meters of green roofs built in Toronto in 2014

232,000 square meters of green roofs already in existence

185,000 more square meters have been approved.

4,984 hectares or approximately 8% of the total land area identified as the total available area for green roofs in the City of Toronto.

20 % minimum area that must be covered by green roof on new buildings in the city

2 tonnes of produce produced by a 929 square meter farm on the roof of Ryerson University’s George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre last summer.

Source: Toronto Star  Staff Reporter, Published on Mon Jun 08 2015

Mike Holmes: How to sand and stain your deck — the proper way

If you've got massive decking, you're going to want to do it right the first time so it stays looking nice.

Mike Holmes, Special to National Post | May 23, 2015 | Last Updated: May 23 8:32 AM ET

I’ve heard a lot of talk about outdoor wood structures and maintenance. Some people might tell you that if you go with something expensive, like cedar, that you don’t need to stain it — that it weathers to a natural grey-looking colour. But I know I wouldn’t want my wood going grey, especially not after spending so much money on it. Before it does, make sure you protect it properly.

I’ve spoken to a lot of pros over the years and they all agree on one thing: If you have wooden structures on your property, whether that’s a deck, shed or fence, they require maintenance, no exception.

All wood, except manufactured products like composite wood — even pressure-treated lumber — need to be sanded and stained. If you want it to last, you have to put in the time and some elbow grease.

Here’s how the pros handle their wood:

1. Start with a pressure washer. If you’re working on a softer wood, such as pine, spruce or cedar, be careful with the pressure washer setting (you want to use the wide fan) and how close you hold the wand to the wood surface, because a pressure washer can damage a softer wood. Test it out first on a spot that’s hidden. If you see that the wood fibres start to lift, back off.

If the wood surface has a lot of old product on it, you might need to use a stain or paint remover. Follow the instructions and use protective gear if you go this route, but try to avoid using harsh chemicals if you can. This is also a good time to use an anti-mildew treatment. Go with one that’s biodegradable. After it’s been washed, let the wood dry for at least a couple of days.

2. The next step is sanding, but make sure there is no chance of rain. If the wood gets wet after it’s been sanded, but not before it’s been stained or painted, it’s back to square one — you’ll need to wash and sand it again.

Some homeowners will want to rent a big floor sander to do a large wooden surface like a deck floor. Don’t do that. These machines are heavy and they won’t be able to reach the entire surface of most wooden planks. Floor sanders can only sand surfaces that are perfectly flat, and deck boards are slightly curved. That means it will take off too much in some sections and not enough in others.

Unfortunately, the only way to do it right is by hand with a belt sander, palm sander and sanding sponge — not to mention the proper safety gear, too, such as safety eyewear and respirators. If you can’t do it safely yourself, hire the pros.

Pros start with a belt sander using a heavier grit belt (something like 50) working backwards on the boards. Then they’ll use a palm sander for the areas the belt sander couldn’t reach; followed by a sanding sponge wrapped in sand paper for the areas the palm sander couldn’t reach. Then they’ll repeat that process using a lighter grit (60/80). This leaves a nice, smooth surface that will take the stain consistently.

3. Finally, it’s staining time. The general rule is the thicker the stain, the better the protection.

Clear coats provide no protection; so don’t waste your money. Translucent or semi-transparent stains are also very thin; you will need to reapply every year. For smaller structures, such as an arbour or a pergola, it might not be a big deal, but for larger surfaces such as a wooden deck, you’ll want to go for something thicker that lasts longer.

For maximum protection, use a solid stain or paint, at least on the surfaces that get the most wear and tear. Then you can have a more natural-looking stain on the other areas.

And always use a proper stain brush!

How often do you need to do this? It depends. I’d say at least once every two years, but Mother Nature has her own agenda. If the next time it rains, water beads and pools on the wood, that means it still has some protection. If it doesn’t, it’s time for some maintenance.

Watch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV. For more information visit

Are fake lawns legal in Toronto?

It has happened as she drives down the street, prepares to leave the house for work in the morning and mingles with locals at community events.

Wherever she goes, Julie Collins finds herself being flagged down by neighbours who are amazed at just how lush and green she manages to keep her Scarborough lawn.

To her surprise, her local councillor even handed her an award for its beauty a few years ago.

Her secret, she says, doesn’t involve hours of weeding and watering under the blistering sun.

And forget about fertilizer. That’s unheard of when it comes to her lawn care regimen, because three summers ago she installed artificial grass.

“It’s the most brilliant idea,” she told the Star, after describing how she had been through two grub-eaten lawns and many hours spent hose in hand, fighting the heat that was burning her grass, before she opted for artificial turf.

But while Collins’ neighbours might be singing its praises, city officials aren’t.

Despite the sprinkling of artificial front lawns in Toronto, the city’s director of transportation services, Jacqueline White says plenty of them defy right-of-way encroachment bylaws and regulations on soft landscaping.

Collins claims her lawn is within the bylaw, but not all of them are.

About 20 properties have been discovered over the past year to have illegal artificial lawns, caught via complaints and routine inspections, said White, who noted that the violators have been slapped with removal notices.

While White said the city has yet to take further action on the bylaw offences, former local councillor Karen Stintz pointed out that “people like myself have had an artificial lawn for six years and have never received notices of violation.”

That’s one reason she’s calling for the city to reverse its policy against artificial lawns, rooted in issues involving the product’s “lack of permeability, storm water run-off, impact to city services such as snow clearing and possible impacts to ecosystems.”

Can you tell the difference? At left, a photo of real grass. At right, a close-up view of Julie Collins's artificial lawn.


Can you tell the difference? At left, a photo of real grass. At right, a close-up view of Julie Collins’s artificial lawn.

Stintz dismisses the official grumbles, saying her lawn is completely permeable and free of drainage problems, and has become the talk of her street — with neighbours laughing as they see her and her kids out there vacuuming it every year.

Artificial grass is an easy and low-maintenance way to achieve the perfectly manicured look, she told the Star. “It doesn’t make any sense to not have artificial turf as a landscaping alternative.

“To apply for an encroachment (allowance),” she added, “is equally ludicrous.”

Jerome Keays, owner of Design Turf, an artificial turf installation company, agrees.

The city, he says, is hypocritical for quashing the use of the product on front lawns, because city crews have installed it on tree pits along Queen and King Sts. and on the median of the St. Clair streetcar tracks.

He warns all of his customers about the bylaw but said few are scared off by the consequences, which White said could result in charges though the city works with homeowners before turning to enforcement.

“They’re not deterred because they are fed up with weeds, the pesticide ban and the struggle to maintain a good-looking lawn,” he said. “An artificial lawn is so easy that it’s worth it.”

McMansion tax coming to Mississauga

Mississauga council plans to charge residents for storm water management by introducing a new tax.

Source: The Toronto Star

Urban Affairs Reporter, Published on Wed May 20 2015

Mississauga — a city known for asphalt, an iconic sprawling shopping mall at its centre and suburban-style monster homes — has a message: if you want to keep paving paradise, get ready to pay more.

In a move that’s a first for the GTA, Canada’s largest suburb and its sixth largest city will soon charge home owners and businesses for storm water costs based on how much of their property is covered. If you have a very small house that causes little run-off water, you will pay nothing. But if your home is in the highest of five size categories, it will cost $170 in 2016 for your share of the city’s storm-water management costs. It’s an approach that Toronto is also looking at ahead of its 2016 budget process, according to a city spokesperson.

At a Mississauga committee meeting Wednesday, the new funding system was passed unanimously and will likely get final approval next week. The new approach will raise millions more each year, as flooding in the city from major rainstorms over the last decade provided proof that its storm water infrastructure can’t handle climate change and all the increased run-off from so much covered land.

“You allowed too much asphalt and too many homes,” said Councillor Nando Iannicca, claiming that residents will call council members “morons that didn’t manage things well” once the new charge shows up on dedicated utility bills for single family units starting in 2016. City staff said the replacement value of the storm water system is $1.8 billion, which can’t be covered by the property tax bill. Much of the infrastructure is in need of replacement.

“You built Square One (the city’s downtown shopping mall) and that’s your problem,” said Iannicca, trying to predict what residents will say to him.

“It’s the environmental factors that are the issue,” he said, in the city’s defence. “There’s floods everywhere, in places that have never experienced floods.”

Tell us what you think

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Storm water operating costs represent 1.6 per cent of the city’s portion of Mississauga’s property tax bill; this means homeowners, on average, are paying about $25 annually. (This does not include the capital cost).

Councillor George Carlson, council’s resident environmentalist, has championed the innovative approach since it was first examined in 2011. He recognizes the impact of climate change, but said development trends are also at the root of the problem. “You can’t use pipes the size of Dixie straws when we need massive concrete culverts,” he said after the meeting. “There were streets in Mississauga that looked like Venice in July of 2013 (when a major storm event wreaked havoc across the GTA).”

“But look at all the asphalt and parking lots and McMansions in this city. All of that covered land is sending more and more run-off water into pipes that were probably already too small. I can see the king and queen needing to live in a castle, but does every third person have to?”

Carlson is doubtful that $170 for the largest homes will curtail “McMansions” right away, but he said it’s about changing the attitude.

“I foresee in Mississauga, in a world of dwindling, finite resources and lower wages, the market for these houses is going to shrink. I can’t see, voluntarily, people wanting to hold onto these white elephants as all the costs for them rises and rises. And now this new charge is another cost.”

Christine Van Geyn, the Ontario spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said the new charge will be just another tax.

“Creating a new and separate tax dedicated to paying for storm water infrastructure could cause the overall tax burden for the people of Mississauga to go up.” She said adding the new storm water charge “is going to drive people and businesses out of Mississauga and Ontario and into more affordable jurisdictions.”

Charges to businesses will be based on a formula that measures the total covered amount of space, but they will be able to save up to 50 per cent of their fee by putting in measures such as catchment basins and permeable material to prevent storm run-off.

Regarding the dedicated storm water fee, Van Geyn said “the city is just looking for a way to hike it to raise revenue.”

Staff agreed with that assessment Wednesday during the committee meeting, admitting that the capital needed to cover the $1.8 billion storm water infrastructure replacement costs can’t be found in the property tax base.

Cheap but crucial curb appeal fixes

Curb Appeal Can Curb Buyer Enthusiasm

Source: Real Estate Professional

Jazzing up the exterior of the home will set high buyer expectations – before they even set foot inside. And many of the fixes outside the home represent some of the highest return on investment of all renovations. To boot, they’re oftentimes the cheapest. Here are four easy – and inexpensive – outdoor renos.

1 – Doors
Doors are one of the first things a buyer notices about a house. Changing the front door can change the entire look of the home. Add a door with square feet of glass for a light and airy look; or try a steel door for better security. Plus, lots of doors are customizable, making it easy to set your client’s property apart from others up for sale on the same block.

2 – Gates and Fences
Just as there are several different types of doors, there are a slew of different styled fences and gates that your clients can choose from. And, like doors, these fences can be used to compliment the style of the home. A quaint property might benefit from a traditional picket fence, while a large stone house might be completed with a wrought iron gate.

3 – Front Yard
Nothing’s changed here: Simple landscaping maintenance continues to go a long way to enhancing curb appeal. Suggest your clients lay new sod, if necessary, or add colourful plants to a flowerbed. Lawns will need to be mowed as often as twice a week while the property is listed, and weeds pulled. In the wintertime, ensuring walkways are plowed and salted are also a must.

4 – Back Yard
Canada’s brief summers put outdoor living spaces on almost any buyer’s wish list. There are several ways your clients can play up the house’s backyard space. Again, ensure the lawn and flower beds are well-groomed. If the property has a pool, have your clients clean it of any debris before showings. Staging an outdoor space is increasingly a good investment. That exercise extends to adding a patio set and a barbecue and laying deck tiles. Show buyers what their summers can be like if they’re lucky enough to win this house.

Mike Holmes: Dig unsafely and you could endanger the whole neighbourhood

As landscaping season begins, homeowners are reminded to contact the appropriate local authorities one week ahead of digging to locate underground all utility lines.

The Holmes Group
Mike Holmes, Postmedia News | April 10, 2015 | Last Updated: Apr 10 10:39 AM ET
As landscaping season begins, homeowners are reminded to contact the appropriate local authorities one week ahead of digging to locate underground all utility lines.

How many times have you picked up a shovel and started digging because you were either landscaping, installing a deck or a fence, adding a garden or planting a tree? Did you know you could be breaking the law?

Most people don’t know they’re supposed to contact local authorities one week before doing any kind of digging on their property to make sure they don’t hit a gas line, or electrical, plumbing or other cables.

April is Safe Digging Month and that reminds us all — homeowners and contractors — why we need to call or click before we dig — at any time of the year.

A system of cables and utility lines runs underground. Sometimes these lines and cables are buried deep below, sometimes not. The risk is too big and it’s way too easy to hit an underground line if you don’t know where they are; just nicking one can cause problems.

What’s the risk? For one, you could get seriously hurt. In some cases, it can even cause death.

If you hit a gas line it could cause a leak, and that’s very, very dangerous. All it takes is one spark and there can be a major explosion. The entire area must be evacuated and the gas shut off.

If you hit an electrical line you could be electrocuted. I’ve heard and read the stories, and they will scare the you-know-what out of you. People have lost limbs, suffered brain damage, severe burns and/or died because they hit an underground electrical line.

You could also cause property damage — not just to your own but also your neighbours’ or the city’s. Hitting a water line could cause a flood, or hitting a sewer line could lead to contamination. Then guess who’s stuck with the damages and repair bill? You are. Some homeowners might even face legal action.

Don’t be a headline. If you are planning any kind of work that requires digging, get someone to come to your property and mark where all the underground utility lines are located.

If you’re hiring someone else, like a landscaper, to do the work, don’t assume they’ve done their homework and called the necessary people to figure out where the underground lines are. Ask them!

If they did call, you should see different coloured flags or spray-painted markings, or both, on the property. The different colours are for different lines. For example, red is for electric or hydro lines, orange for cable and telephone lines, and yellow is for oil and steam. Don’t dig on the markings. You must dig manually (ie without the help of mechanical equipment) within one metre of where the markings are.

If you see a neighbour digging on their property ask them, “Did you call before you started digging?” It might feel like you’re poking your nose in their business but you’re not. It’s your business too, and you could be helping them avoid a major catastrophe.

If you don’t know who to call, visit Select the province you or your contractor will be digging in and it will indicate who you need to contact. You might have to contact the utility provider directly or a one-call service, like BC One Call or Ontario One Call. In some cases, you’ll need to contact both the one-call service and utility providers.

Locating underground utility lines is a free service, so there’s no excuse not to call. Just plan your landscaping projects ahead of time and call at least one week in advance. Make it right and dig safe.

Watch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV. For more information visit