Mold Detection & Prevention at Your Muskoka Cottage

Mold is present wherever there’s moisture. Mold exposure can cause serious health complications in people who are sensitive or allergic to mold, or those who have pre-existing lung illnesses. Mold can also wreak havoc on your property, growing rapidly wherever moisture is present, including on windows, roofs, pipes, ceiling tiles, drywall, and many other areas. When mold makes its way into your home, it reduces indoor air quality, causes stains that are persistent and difficult to remove, and creates unpleasant odours. In order to avoid mold problems in your Muskoka cottage, it’s important to understand how to identify that you have a mold problem, and know how you can prevent them from occurring.

How to tell if your cottage has a mold problem

Despite the potential health problems, staining and odor caused by mold problems, it can be difficult to detect mold in your cottage – especially because mold isn’t always immediately apparent. If you’re trying to detect mold around your cottage, you’ll want to begin with damp areas such as leaky windows, basements, carpeting, and drywall that has been exposed to moisture. 

The most telling sign of mold is the staining that is often present with mold outbreaks. Mold will often contain dark blooms on or around windows, walls, and furniture, leaving a dark stain that few surfaces are immune to. Mold will often carry with it a distinct musty or earthy smell, helping you narrow down where the problem is coming from. If water damage has affected walls, window sills, or other areas where paint exists, it will cause cracking, blistering, or peeling, and cause drywall to “bulge” out or appear warped – mold will often be found underneath or around this water damage.

Remember that whenever you’re dealing with mold, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take the proper precautions, even if you aren’t allergic or sensitive to mold. Wear gloves, masks, and gloves whenever working to protect yourself.

What to do to prevent mold in your Muskoka cottage

The most effective way to prevent mold from growing and spreading in your cottage is to take control of the indoor humidity and airflow in your property. This can be done by using dehumidifiers and fans, or simply by keeping your windows open – ventilation is especially important with bathrooms, laundry rooms, or any room with a source of running water or where laundry is hung to dry.

In addition to controlling humidity, it’s critical to prevent water from entering your home. You can do this by ensuring that your gutters are maintained and cleaned regularly, and that snow is shovelled away from your cottage, especially during the later winter months. Ensuring that the ground around your cottage slopes away from its foundation is also important, as it’ll keep rainfall and snowmelt from entering your property through its foundation. Eliminating leaks caused by old and damaged windows and doors is crucial, as is ensuring that the weather stripping around windows and doors is replaced when it begins to look worn. 

It goes without saying that wet feet are almost always going to be a presence in a cottage, so removing any carpeting and replacing it with hardwood flooring is a good idea for long-term mold prevention; plus it makes your cottage easier to maintain. Who wants to vacuum at the cottage? 

Mold can wreak havoc on window and door frames, causing them to break down and creating unsightly stains. The team at Muskoka Window & Door Centre has years of experience in dealing with windows and doors being affected by mold problems. If you think that your windows or doors have been damaged by mold, contact us today for an assessment and advice on the best course of action.

For more information about Muskoka Window & Door Centre’s high quality line of window and door products, visit our website.

Hacks to Keep Your Cottage Cool This Summer

After a painfully long and unpredictable winter season, warm weather is finally here. With warmer months, though, comes sweaty days and nights searching desperately for relief. Though you can crank the air conditioner or run fans day and night, this can come at a hefty price – there are plenty of cheaper ways to escape the heat. If you don’t own an air conditioner or are looking to save money on utilities throughout the summer months, here are a few ways you can keep your cottage cool this summer.

Control air circulation with your doors

One way to prevent your cottage from overheating is to close off any unused rooms throughout the day to ensure that cool air stays where it’s supposed to, instead of circulating throughout the entire cottage. Opening your doors during the night will allow cool air to naturally circulate throughout the cottage, letting you take advantage of cool nights. Playing it smart and better controlling the circulation of air will keep you cooler during the coming summer months.

Make use of window coverings

This is another simple but very effective way to keep it cool throughout the summer. Throughout the daytime hours, keeping your blinds, curtains, shades, and other window coverings closed is a great way to keep heat out, lowering the temperature in your cottage significantly and helping you save a great deal on utilities. This method works best windows that face south and west, and especially when using blackout blinds or curtains, which go a long way in naturally insulating your rooms. When buying blackout window coverings, be sure to look for medium colours and plastic backings for best results.

Open your windows at night

While this method may seem obvious to many, it’s often overlooked by cottage owners looking to escape the heat. Opening your windows wide and drawing back coverings during the night will allow the cool night air to enter into your cottage and circulate naturally, reducing the temperature inside and keeping you cool while you sleep. Be sure to keep your doors open to allow the cool air to permeate throughout your home – a great way to maximize this is by setting a fan by the window to blow the cool air around. Remember to close them and draw the shades early in the morning to avoid the scorching morning sun.

Take your cooking outdoors whenever possible

Your stove or oven can be a huge source of heat during the summer months, turning indoor cooking into a risky affair on hotter days. The best solution is to take your cooking outdoors whenever possible, taking full advantage of the warm weather by using your grill to prepare food. Not only does grilling keep the heat outdoors where it belongs, but it also lets you make meals fun and delicious without heating up your kitchen and the rest of your cottage.

Other easy and effective hacks to help you keep cool this summer

  • Run the bathroom exhaust fan for longer than you normally would after taking a shower or bath
  • Turn off or limit the use of incandescent light bulbs
  • Use household appliances at night when possible
  • Make sure ceiling fans are spinning counter-clockwise

For more information about Muskoka Window & Door Centre’s high quality line of window and door products, visit our website or contact us today.

The Pitfalls and Benefits of Renting Out Your Cottage on Airbnb

Since 2008, Airbnb has been helping users find or host short-term home, room, and cottage rentals around the world. The service currently lists millions of properties in nearly 200 countries, operating more than a dozen offices all around the world. Renting out your Muskoka cottage can present opportunities for earning extra supplementary income, but comes with its own unique drawbacks and pitfalls that you may want to consider before publishing your listing.

Extra income: the only “pro” to being an Airbnb host

The biggest – and only – advantage to owning a rental property is the amount of supplementary income you can earn. This is undoubtedly the main motivator in listing your property on a service like Airbnb, or hosting any long or short term tenant. This extra income can go a long way in helping you pay for mortgage and insurance expenses, or for paying for much needed improvements and repairs to your cottage. Depending on the success of your listing and the frequency of rentals, the extra income earned can greatly improve your quality of life, helping you pay off your mortgage or add new additions to the cottage.

Your time is valuable, make sure you can commit

The first major drawback to listing your cottage on a service like Airbnb is that it can very quickly start to eat up a great deal of your free time. The online nature of Airbnb means that you’ll have to be checking in frequently to respond to inquiries, as well as messaging back and forth with guests about details like arrival information and other important details.

Should your guests experience issues during their stay at the cottage, you’ll need to be on-hand or have someone lined up to solve them in a timely matter, or else be faced with a negative guest review. Another time-consuming aspect is that you may feel it’s necessary to be around the cottage when guests arrive, which can very quickly become disruptive and erratic. This can, however, be eliminated by installing a keypad for entry. You’ll also have to check the property after the guests have left in order to conduct a quick clean-up and inspection, which can take up a good deal of time if you host guests on a regular basis.

While cleaning services can be hired to do this, they are often few and far between in Muskoka and booked in advance; they aren’t available on a moment’s notice like they are in the city. If you can find one that can regularly clean your cottage after guests, it will be expensive but worth it if you can’t be there yourself.

Insurance implications can get complicated

Let’s be honest. Hosting complete strangers in your home or cottage will always bring with it at least a minor amount of risk. Your property can be damaged, guests can get unruly, and mistakes can happen. While the Airbnb Host Guarantee provides protection for up to $1,000,000 against property damage, it doesn’t cover cash, collectibles, jewelry, pets, or personal liability. You’ll also want to look into property insurance that covers short-term rentals, as standard property insurance doesn’t apply to these situations. Airbnb is very clear that the Host Guarantee program isn’t designed to replace homeowners or renters insurance, and strongly suggests that hosts understand the terms of their insurance agreement before hosting guests. While this insurance is available as an extra rider, it is usually not in a regular homeowners policy.

Not a consistent source of income

Finally, Airbnb is unfortunately nowhere near as consistent as hosting a long-term tenant is, although it does bring with it the advantage of you not having to be a landlord and therefore subject to the tenant-favouring Residential Tenancies Act in Ontario. Guests come and go, and dry periods are almost inevitable during seasons that don’t see a heavy influx of tourists. With Airbnb and other short-term rental services, you’ll never be certain just how much income you’ll be able to generate, although if you have a property on one of the major lake systems in Muskoka you can pretty much bank on it being filled during the summer months.

If you’re looking to use Airbnb as a long-term income supplementation strategy, you may want to consider other avenues that are more consistent or easier to predict, unless you have a second cottage in the area that you can stay at regularly and don’t have to work too far away during the summer months when you will have the highest volume of guests. One way you can make the property more attractive in the fall, winter, and spring is to ensure that it is nice and toasty inside. If you have windows that are getting old, this can be difficult, and that’s where we come in.

For more information about Muskoka Window & Door Centre’s high quality line of window and door products, visit our website or contact us today.

Reduce Your Cottage’s Environmental Footprint and Your Utility Bills

Buildings are responsible for a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada – especially those that were built over 30 years ago. If you’re looking to reduce the environmental footprint of your Muskoka cottage, you don’t have to rebuild it from the ground up. There are many ways to make your cottage more sustainable, and to save yourself a few dollars in utility fees at the same time.

Go solar or change your lightbulbs

One of the most popular ways to go green is to convert to solar energy or use it to augment your current system. Installing solar panels on the roof of your cottage is an essential step can drastically reduce emissions, and will allow you to generate clean electricity to power all or some of the essentials in your cottage.

While solar panels are a long-term investment, the eventual payoff is usually enormous both in energy savings and resale value. Additionally, installing solar powered outdoor lights, or a solar water heating system is an effective way of making your cottage more sustainable, and can also make a significant impact on your electricity bill. Switching to energy efficient light bulbs is another great way to save on electricity, as they tend to use far less of it and last longer than traditional bulbs.

Reduce your water consumption

Cutting the amount of water that you use everyday is a great way to reduce the environmental footprint of your cottage, and it’s easy to do. This can mean investing in energy efficient home appliances that use less water, reducing the amount of time you spend in the shower, or finally fixing the minor leaks and drips that you’ve been putting off. Even if you are getting your water from the lake, your pump and hot water heater are still using electricity to power the process, so it’s worth taking some extra steps to save water.  

Installing high efficiency shower heads and low-flush toilets are great ways to conserve water and reduce your cottage’s footprint. Minor lifestyle changes can also be made to use less water, such as not running the tap while you’re doing dishes or brushing your teeth are easy changes to make, but go a long way when it comes to reducing water usage.

Reinsulate your home

If your home isn’t properly insulated, there’s a good chance that it’s losing a huge amount of heat, wreaking havoc on your heating bills. Good insulation goes a long way in conserving heat, holding it inside your cottage and lessening the amount of heat you’ll need to generate throughout the colder months.

Ensuring that your walls, roof, and floor are properly insulated will greatly reduce the amount of heat escaping from your home, saving you on heating costs and going a long way in improving your environmental footprint. Making the switch to cotton insulation is a more environmentally friendly option than fibreglass insulation, which typically has a much higher production cost as it isn’t being sourced from a renewable resource.

Replace or repair your windows and doors

One of the leading causes of heat gain and loss in your cottage is having old windows and doors – they can be responsible for up to 30% of residential heating and cooling. Often they have developed drafts, have lost much of their structural integrity, or weren’t designed with energy efficiency in mind.

Replacing your old windows and doors with products that have been Energy Star or NFRC certified and feature lower U-factor ratings is a surefire way to greatly reduce the amount of heat that is lost in your cottage. New windows and doors go a long way in keeping your warmer in the winter months, and cooler in the hot summer months, and even have a major effect on dampening the amount of outside noise that makes its way inside your cottage.

If you’ve recently had new windows or doors installed in your Muskoka cottage, it may be a good idea to ensure that there are no air leaks. If you find that the weatherstripping and caulking around your windows has been damaged since its installation, re-installing it can be a quick and easy DIY project that will help to reduce your cottage’s footprint. During the summer months, window treatments and coverings can be an effective way to keep your home cool, and to minimize your use of air conditioning or electric fans.

For more information about Muskoka Window & Door Centre’s high quality line of window and door products, visit our website or contact us today.

Preparing Your Cottage Septic System for the Summer Season

With the spring season finally here, it’s time for Muskoka cottagers to start the process of opening their cottages for the summertime. This means getting supplies together, cleaning, dusting, and airing out your cottage, fixing anything that was damaged over the harsh winter, and perhaps most importantly, preparing and maintaining your cottage’s septic system for the months ahead. Getting all the maintenance and preparation out of the way will ensure that you (hopefully) won’t have to think about your septic system for the rest of the season. If you’re unsure of what steps to take in opening and preparing your septic system for the summertime, here’s what you need to know.

How to recognize that you should pump your septic system

If you’ve never had your septic system pumped or have limited experience in doing so, it can be difficult to know exactly when to go about emptying it. It’s recommended that your septic system be pumped every three to five years, though this can depend on the amount of people spending time at your cottage or the usage. The first sign that you should pump your septic system is if it’s been a while or if you can’t pinpoint the last time it was done – it might be a good idea to have it pumped just to err on the side of caution. Another more obvious sign is if there’s a pronounced odour on your property – it could be a sign that sewage has backed up into your pipes. Less obvious signs like slower drainage and gurgling sounds emitting from drains can also signal that your system needs to be pumped.

Check your septic tank filter

A functioning filter is an important part of a healthy septic system, making it important that you check the status of the filter prior to opening your septic tank for the season. Your filter can become clogged with scum and debris from a long winter, with snowfall and snowmelt contributing to the buildup. A clogged filter can disrupt every aspect of your septic system, making it critical that you check and clean/change your filter to ensure that the system functions as it should. If you aren’t sure how to locate and clean your filter, follow these instructions.

Check your yard for pooling and standing water

One of the most common causes of a flooded yard or large pools of standing water on your property is a flooded septic system. This is usually caused by the septic system’s drain field becoming flooded. Keep an eye on your yard throughout the early part of the spring season, as it’ll help you catch problems before they can escalate into more serious ones by knowing to pump your tank if your yard floods.

Check your sump pit pump

If your household waste goes into a sump pit first before being pumped to your septic system, check your sump pit pump for proper operation when you open your cottage. If you have to have it replaced, make sure that the pump is designed for solid waste and not grey water (water from showers and sinks). Additionally, you should choose an ejector rather than a grinder pump so that the waste is properly broken down once it gets to your septic system. Your septic is designed to handle solid and liquid waste, rather than all liquid waste as you would get with a grinder pump.

Redirect your gutters away from your septic system

With more seasonal rain on the way and without proactive redirecting, your gutters will be directing water directly into your drain field and other parts of your septic system. Redirecting your gutters early in the season ensures that your gutters won’t be feeding directly into your septic system, instead carrying water and debris away from your cottage’s vital systems.

Watch your water usage

Finally, it’s always a good idea to watch your water usage throughout the cottage season. If you anticipate that your cottage will be hosting many guests, it may be a good idea to pump your septic tank just to be on the safe side. Using too much water can very easily throw off the balance of microorganisms within your septic tank, reducing their effectiveness and creating problems for your cottage and septic system. Remember not to flush objects that may harm the septic system or disrupt the microorganisms within – things like food waste and grease especially should not make its way into your septic tank. Bacon grease or grease from roasts should be thrown in the garbage or better yet – used as firestarter.

For more information about Muskoka Window & Door Centre’s high quality line of window and door products, visit our website or contact us today.

How to Survive Black Fly Season in Muskoka

The disappearance of the snow and the arrival of warmer weather means that black fly season is on its way, driving Muskoka cottagers and tourists indoors to get away from the swarms of annoying biting bugs. Thankfully, black fly season won’t last forever and the annoyances that accompany it can be easily mitigated so that you can continue to enjoy your cottage while the swarms are out.

Facts about black flies

Though small in size, black fly bites can pack quite a punch. Black flies emerge from bodies of water like streams, creeks, and small rivers created by spring runoff. As with mosquitos, it’s female black flies that do the biting in order to take blood and thus be able to lay eggs. Black flies find their next blood meal by seeking out sources of body heat and through the scent of carbon dioxide, generally from unsuspecting humans, animals, and birds.

In addition to homing in on sources of carbon dioxide, black flies are also attracted to the smell of products that feature perfumes, including body wash, shampoo, skin lotion, and cologne. Once they’re ready to lay their eggs, black flies generally make their way back to the source of water that they emerged from and lay them in a more comfortable environment. They aren’t around for long, but they make themselves known – black flies usually plague the Muskoka region from mid-May until early to mid-June.

Make sure to maintain points of entry like screens, windows, and doors

While they’re not around for long, black flies can make the outdoors unbearable. It’s your mission as a cottage owner to keep these pesky black flies outside where they belong. The most effective way to keep them out of the cottage is to properly maintain points of entry. Because of their small size, black flies and other pests can very easily sneak into your home when even the smallest points of entry exist. This means checking every screen in your cottage for tears or damage from winter and being diligent in repairing or replacing any damaged screens. Screen repairs can be done quickly and easily with screen repair tape and other affordable methods. If necessary, replacement screening kits are also readily available at hardware stores and other retailers.

Maintaining your cottage’s windows and doors is also crucial for keeping the elements outside. This means checking for damage to your window and door units, as well as elements like weather stripping and sealant early in the season in order to tackle it proactively, and repairing or replacing damaged windows and doors wherever necessary. Investing in window and door accessories such as specially designed screens is a great way to keep the black flies outside. Integrated door manufacturers like Centor give homeowners the option to include effective pest screens that allow you to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Muskoka area without being bothered by pests.

Other preventative measures you should take

It’s just not realistic to expect cottagers to stay indoors throughout black fly season, especially when there’s so much work to be done to open the cottage. Removing standing pools of water from around your property will help to alleviate the number of black flies in your general vicinity, as they won’t have anywhere to hatch or lay eggs. Using insect repellent with DEET levels of up to (but not over) 30% have also shown to be effective in keeping black flies away from you, though they’ll still be drawn to the carbon dioxide being expelled from you. Lastly, wearing long sleeves and pants when around lakefront or marshy areas is recommended, as it’ll help to minimize the amount of bites you receive.

For more information about Muskoka Window & Door Centre’s high quality line of window and door products, visit our website or contact us today.

How to Stop Your Muskoka Cottage from Flooding Due to Snowmelt

Spring has sprung, and that means the record snowfall that we experienced this winter is melting and threatening to flood your Muskoka cottage and wreak havoc on your property. Springtime flooding is very common due to increased precipitation, and inadequate or outdated infrastructure that can’t hold up to another spring thaw. People living in a low-lying area near the lake or any body of water are at higher risk of flooding, and will need to deal with this possibility each and every year. In order to save yourself the grief and frustration that can be caused by the annual snowmelt, here’s what you can do to prepare:

Relocate snow from around your cottage

The most proactive step you can take to prevent flooding at your cottage is to clear and relocate accumulated snow from around your cottage. The closer the snow is to your property, the more potential damage it’s going to be able to do to your cottage. Moving snow away from your foundation and ground-level windows and doors will work to prevent it from being able to seep into your cottage. Moving the snow around 5 feet away from your foundation usually does the trick, letting it melt safely away from your cottage and saving you a lot of frustration down the line.

Check for leaks in windows and walls

Once the snow has been cleared from around your cottage and its ground-level windows and doors, you can start to inspect your property for any damages, leaks, or points of weakness that may lead to leaks in the future. Checking for leaks and damage will let you be proactive in getting them sealed and repaired, preventing flooding during this year’s melt as well as further damages in future spring seasons. This is also a great opportunity to look into installing window well covers for ground-level windows, which will prevent snow melt from leaking into your window wells while at the same time allowing in plenty of natural light.

Inspect your roof and clear your gutters

A damaged or old roof can spell disaster for your Muskoka cottage, so it’s important to inspect it for damages and leaks early in order to plan for repairs or maintenance. The weight of a season’s worth of snow can do a lot of damage to your roof, with older roofs being especially vulnerable.

A leaky roof can let in a great deal of water, increasing your chances of flooding and damage. It’s a good idea to leave this task to a professional home inspector or roofer, who will be able to properly assess potential damages and give you a good idea about what needs to be done in terms of maintenance. Inspecting your roof also gives you the opportunity to inspect and clean your gutters and spouts, which can quickly lead to flooding if they’re backed up or damaged. Ensure that your cottage’s gutters are clean and free of damage in order to allow snow and water to safely and freely move away from your property.

Install a sump pump

If you’re concerned about future flooding in your Muskoka cottage, installing a sump pump is a proactive measure you can take to minimize your flooding risk. A sump pump works to automatically move any excess water away from the foundation of your home or cottage, instead diverting it safely to the outside of your property. Sump pumps are especially useful for cottages with a basement below the water table level, and those situated near bodies of water. Be aware that sump pumps require regular maintenance and testing in order to be truly effective, so installing one will mean regular upkeep. Portable pumps also exist for those who aren’t looking to have a permanent sump pump installed in their cottage, but their mileage may vary.

For more information about Muskoka Window & Door Centre’s high quality line of window and door products, visit our website or contact us today.

Snow Accumulation & Your Cottage

The Muskoka region and much of the province has seen record amounts of snowfall this winter, settling on roofs, window wells, and the rest of your property until the springtime arrives. With heavy snow accumulation comes the risk of significant damage to your cottage, especially to your roof and windows. It’s important to know how snow accumulation can affect your cottage during winter months, and what precautions you should take in order to avoid damage and to reduce risks for future winter seasons.

 

Snow accumulation can cause significant damage to your cottage

After a winter full of heavy snow and freezing rain, there’s a very good chance that your cottage roof has accumulated large amounts of heavy snow. While it’s difficult to determine exactly how much snow your roof can handle, it’s important to understand that it’s not the depth of the snow you need to be concerned about, but rather the weight of the snow. Building code requirements make it necessary for roofs to be able to support 21 pounds per square foot at a minimum, with larger buildings designed to accommodate larger loads. Snow accumulation can cause catastrophic damage to your cottage or home, often causing the roof to collapse under the weight of snow and ice.

Another often overlooked area that is affected by snow accumulation are the window wells of your cottage. With their out of sight design, it’s easy to overlook window wells when clearing snow from your property in order to ensure that water does not pool outside your window. Pooling water from melting snow and ice greatly increases the risk of water entering your home, causing damage to your basement. Snow buildup inside window wells can also add unnecessary stress to your windows, and even reduce its accessibility in the event of an emergency.

 

When should you be concerned with snow accumulation

If you’re concerned that the roof of your cottage may be feeling the effects of heavy snow accumulation, there are a number of things you can look for. One of the most significant signs of snow damage to your roof is the presence of unusual sounds coming from your roof and supporting walls – if you hear anything out of the ordinary, it may be a good idea to contact a professional.

Other major signs of snow accumulation include things like sagging ceilings, cracking in drywall or plaster, water leaks following snowfall or rain, and doors that suddenly begin to jam. Leaks emanating from basement windows can indicate that water is entering because of accumulation in window wells. You should also be checking your window wells for buildup of snow or ice, as well as any obvious signs of damage to windows and window frames.

 

How to protect your cottage from snow accumulation

In order to avoid damage caused by snow accumulation, you’ll want to have the snow and ice cleared from the roof of your cottage. It’s important to do this safely, which means hiring an insured snow removal company with the equipment and experience needed to effectively and safely remove snow from your roof. Attempting to clear the roof yourself can lead to damaging the shingles on your roof, and can result in injury if proper precautions are not taken. Cottage owners can clear snow using a shovel or rake from areas where the roof is easily accessible, but this can still be dangerous and harmful to the integrity of your roof in some cases. Additionally, next time you’re shovelling your driveway or simply clearing snow and ice buildup from around your cottage, remember to clear snow and ice buildup from in and around window wells.

 

For more information about Muskoka Window & Door Centre’s high quality line of window and door products, visit our website or contact us today.