Category Archives: Video

How To Repair Plaster Walls And Ceilings

How To Repair PlasterLearning how to repair plaster walls and ceilings isn’t as hard as you think. But it isn’t like drywall and uses very different techniques and materials. Plastering is an ancient art that is sadly dying in our modern era. Drywall has almost completely replaced it in North America. And it is very hard to find any tradespeople still doing it. Due to the fact that chemistry is going on during the hardening process it is quite easy to have things go wrong.

Plastering is a skilled trade and some types of plastering are simply too difficult for the average homeowner. I have tried some of them myself and the biggest issue one faces is knowing what retardants are needed to slow down the cure. Retardant information is not readily available on the internet in any meaningful form. The tradespeople aren’t giving up their secrets. ‘A few drops of dishwashing detergent’ isn’t really helpful is it? Cream of tartar supposedly works too but I’ve had no luck with it.

Having said all that I ended up using a gypsum plaster product to patch up some rather large holes I’d made in my ceiling. While it was a big very messy job I am super happy with the end result. Renovations, electrical work and plumbing problems often require plaster repair work in your house. Watch the video or continue reading and you can learn how to repair plaster walls and ceilings too.

Materials needed

Don’t use straight plaster of Paris. It will set up before you can get it out of the bucket. Use Durabond 90 instead. It’s a plaster of Paris based product with premixed retardant. It will give you around an hour of working time. Use general purpose sand for your 1st and 2nd layers. You can use metal lath, or wood if you prefer. The wood should be roughly an inch and a bit wide and a quarter inch thick. Plaster bonder is also a great idea as it really helps with adhesion. It’s a latex product that washes up with water. Get some galvanized nails for fixing down the lath.


Hammer and chisel for opening up the plaster. Heavy tin snips for cutting metal lath. Small saw for cutting wood lath. A couple of buckets. Mixer attachment and drill. Float, trowels or putty knife. Paint brush. Spray bottle

Plaster wall and ceiling construction

Plaster construction has two parts, the foundation called lath, and the plaster that is spread through it and on top of it.

Lath nowadays is a metal screen-like material but earlier construction is thin strips of wood. In both cases the lath is fastened to the ceiling joists or wall studs. When repairing or restoring a plaster surface it’s important that the lath is secure and sound.

Plaster can be gypsum or lime based or even a mix of the two. Lime plaster is the oldest type, made by burning limestone in a kiln. The resulting lime is used for plastering and for cement. Gypsum plaster, known as plaster of Paris is also made by heating in a kiln.

Lime plaster is the superior choice especially for kitchens and baths but it’s much harder to work with. For general interior work gypsum based materials are a better choice for amateurs.

Working with the plaster

Plastering is usually done in 2 or 3 coats. You can spread the coats out over a few days or even do them all on the same day. The existing plaster and lath needs to be slightly damp. Each coat of new plaster should be misted with a squirt bottle before the next coat is applied as well.

The first coat, called the scratch coat, is a mixture of sand and plaster. In older homes it often had horse hair or other fibres to help it stick to the lath. Applying the scratch coat is tricky. The plaster is more or less squeezed through the holes or gaps in the lath. Lots of it can end up on the floor or on your head.

How To Repair Plaster

The second coat goes on much easier as most of the holes and gaps in the lath will already be filled in. This coat is a mix of sand and plaster as well. This coat should sit a bit below the final surface to leave room for the finish coat.

The finish coat is straight plaster. It should be fairly thin, perhaps a ¼ inch or so. Before laying this coat it’s a good idea to scrape down any areas of existing plaster that have sand stuck to them. You can see me do this with the edge of my float in the video several times. Doing this will keep sand out of the finish coat. Hopefully you can get a nice smooth surface with your trowel on your first attempt. Doing so will save you a lot of very difficult sanding once everything is hard and dry. Now you know how to repair plaster walls and ceilings in your home!

How Do Canada’s New Marijuana Laws Impact Buying A House?

Canada’s decision to legalize recreational marijuana use has made a huge impact on the world stage. In fact we are only the second country to do so after Uruguay in 2013. While I don’t partake myself I am in favour of this legislation. Alcohol is actually a far more harmful drug despite being legal for decades. But what about marijuana and home ownership? How do Canada’s new marijuana laws impact buying a house?

Legal Marijuana Production For Personal Medical Or Recreational Use

I’m fairly certain that the new and existing medical marijuana laws already on our books will have zero impact on home ownership. The 4 plants per household limit for recreational users represents zero risk to the health and integrity of a home. But complex rules allow a medical user to grow more. However, the number of plants allowed is nowhere near enough to damage a property in any way.

Criminal Marijuana Production

Criminal marijuana cultivation is a whole other matter. If a home is being used for this purpose and the police get involved it can be almost impossible to get financing. If the property is declared a grow-op this dubious status is actually registered as an instrument on title. Typically an inspection by the state is mandatory and if necessary, remediation and rehabilitation.

But even if this work is completed and the instruments pertaining to the criminal activity are removed from title they still show up in a ‘deleted instruments’ search. This is usually the point where you are turned down for financing or insurance, especially if the grow-op was large or relatively recent. Read about this from a lawyer’s perspective.

In my opinion marijuana grow-ops are certainly something to stay clear of. But buyers willing to assume the risk can often get a former grow-op at a substantial discount. It’s not impossible to get financing, just difficult. Many alternative lending sources are willing to do so at higher rates. And the impact of prior criminal activity will lessen given enough time.

The Final Word

To summarize, it’s clear that Canada’s new marijuana laws won’t affect buying a house in any way whatsoever. And you shouldn’t be concerned if you see a few plants when shopping for a home. But criminal enterprises like grow-ops are something else entirely. My advice is to simply stay away from these properties. They aren’t worth the headache for the vast majority of buyers.

Plumbing In Your Home

Knowing about the plumbing in your home is a required skill when working as a Realtor. Being able to identify plumbing types is part of the job. Prior work experience in construction is definitely a big plus. Of course I learned about plumbing in Real Estate College too. But my biggest source of knowledge about plumbing when I first became a Realtor is the very old house I call home.

Having said all that I’m pretty quick to note what’s in a home, both the good and bad. So here’s a quick break down of the various types of plumbing in your home and your neighbours.

Plumbing Supply Types

On the supply side copper pipe is the most prevalent here in Ontario. I’d say it’s in 95% of the homes, with the balance being mostly PEX tubing. There are other types as well but they are way less common.

PlumbingCopper is an excellent material for water sources that are slightly alkaline in nature. A pH above 7 stops metal leaching and corrosion that occurs if a water source is acidic. This keeps your pipes intact and prevents lead from leaching out of the 50/50 lead/tin soldered joints common in older properties. Municipal water supplies are made intentionally alkaline for this exact reason. Alkalinity also protects against lead leaching in places where lead supply piping still exists such as the Beaches area of Toronto.


Pex Tubing Photo Claude Taylor

PEX tubing is the other popular choice for water supply. It’s easy to install and cheaper than copper which is why it’s found in so many modern homes. But there are several different manufacturers so it’s important to know which brand you are working with. Concerns about PEX center on chemicals leaching from the plastic over time. I think this is a valid worry due the relative newness of this material in supply piping.

Kitec is the other type of plastic supply piping. It’s bad stuff! You still find it from time to time unfortunately. This piping eventually ruptures if given enough time. It was used in Canada from 1995 to 2007. The manufacturer settled a class action lawsuit a number of years back. It’s big bucks to have it ripped out and you would be entitled to a hefty discount if you were buying a property with Kitec.Plumbing

The last type of supply piping you’ll find is galvanized steel. You can still get this stuff although it’s hardly ever used anymore. It rusts out over time both inside and out and can become clogged and even plugged up from internal corrosion. It can be hard to identify by sight alone. Using a magnet is a great way to find out.

Plumbing Drain Types

PlumbingIn Ontario the gold standard for single family residential waste plumbing is ABS plastic. It has been in use since the 1970s. It’s cheap, durable and really easy to work with. PVC is a great alternative too. It’s less common though and a bit more complicated to join together. The usage of one type or the other is dependent on your local building code.
You’ll often find other types of waste lines in older properties. Homes in the 1960s and early 70’s had sewer lines entirely of copper. This material can be a poor choice in many applications. Waste water is acidic and eventually corrodes copper from the inside out. Runs of line that hold standing water are especially problematic.

PlumbingIn many older homes cast iron was the material of choice. It’s durable due to its very thick walls but brittle and will rot out eventually due to corrosion. Cast iron was common in properties from early last century into the 1950’s. Large vertical sections of cast iron (called the stack) will often have galvanized steel or even copper coming in from sinks and bath tubs. Toilets are usually connected directly to the stack with bronze and lead.

I’ve come across many older homes with several types of waste plumbing from various repairs or renovations over the history of the property. Replacing the entirety of the waste system is an expensive and daunting proposition and it’s rarely done. So knowledge really helps. Get a good Realtor and an inspection too. And make sure you know what to look for when buying property.

Your Home Plumbing

Check Your Sump Pump!

It’s fall, check your sump pump!

Flooded basements make the news in the spring and fall each and every year. Neglect, power failures, poor drainage, changing seasons, and rapidly changing weather are almost always one or more of the causes of a flooded basement.

You can’t control the weather or the seasons. Sudden heavy rains, warm snaps in the dead of winter, the spring thaw and the onset of rainy fall weather can all cause wet basements.

sump pumpBut battling mother nature isn’t always hard. Checking your sump pump and making sure you’ve got good drainage for your eaves troughs is often all the work you need to do to keep your basement dry.

Living in a 130 year old home and working as a Realtor has taught me quite a bit about drainage and sump pumps. My 1889 property has a sump pump just like almost every new home built over the last 20 years.

sump pumpThese are installed in new homes as a preventative against water penetration and as remediation in old homes such as mine. The system consists of perforated piping (called weeping tile) on the outside of the foundation that directs ground water to a sump, which is a shallow pit in the basement that collects the water. The sump pump sits in the sump and periodically empties this water to the outside of the home.

Your sump pump has to work extra hard if you live in an area with a high water table, or have soil with poor drainage such as the clay that is quite common in Waterloo region. Ground water simply wants to go wherever it can, running as water does, from high places to low. Draining water away from the foundation is the weeping tile’s job since it sits lower than your basement walls, but it’s also a good idea to get the water away from your foundation so your sump pump doesn’t have to deal with it.

sump pumpYou can do this by adding extension pipes to the ends of your downspouts. 10 feet is a good distance, or you can get really ambitious like I did. A couple of years back I dug drainage piping for my eaves-troughs a good 20 or 30 feet from my house.

Prior to my hard work, the spring thaw and heavy thunder storms would often mean a wet laundry room but now the room is bone dry. As an added bonus my sump pump hardly comes on at all except for a couple of weeks in the spring.

Needless to say, having a working pump is even more important than good drainage. Pump failures definitely cause the vast majority of flooded basements. Check your sump pump now and keep your basement dry! Watch the video if you want to learn even more.

Everything You Need To Know About Sump Pumps

Agreement of Purchase and Sale

The Agreement Of Purchase And Sale (AOPS) is the primary document used to purchase a property. It’s equally important to both buyer and seller. An AOPS is almost always drawn up by an agent for a buyer client. Thus it’s crucial that the listing agent carefully scrutinize a contract that they have had no part in writing.

I can’t stress enough how important the AOPS is. Once signed it’s a binding contract between buyer and seller. It’s one of the key documents your Real Estate Lawyer works with. The AOPS is also forwarded to your lender..

I can write an agreement of purchase and sale in a half hour or so. But it often takes me just as long to explain the details of the contract to my clients. There are no shortcuts to the process and I never pressure my clients to hurry through the AOPS. After all there are 28 separate clauses and Schedule A to contend with as well as data such as names and price.

In today’s post I’ve shared a YouTube video taking you through the AOPS from start to finish. Just a warning, it’s long! But 15 minutes would be almost unacceptably quick if I was actually reviewing the document with real clients.

I’ve also included the 7 pages I used to make the video which you can review while watching.

agreement of purchase and sale

agreement of purchase and sale

agreement of purchase and sale

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