Wrtten by MIke Holmes:

 

I love my garage. I get some of my best ideas in there. It’s where I go to get away from all the chaos, to unplug and decompress. Actually, it’s the reason I bought the property I live on in the first place. I’m just lucky there was a house there.

Garages are practical. Besides keeping your cars there, they’re great to store tools, building materials and extra stuff like tires and bikes. You can add a small workshop in the back too, depending on how much space you have.

When we talk about garages there’s attached and detached.

 

Attached Garages

If your garage is attached to your house, the most important thing is to make sure it’s sealed. You must keep fumes, exhaust and carbon monoxide out of the house.

I can’t tell you how many times I see, in new construction, that they’ve used a wall cavity in the garage as a return air duct to feed the furnace. You never want to use the inside of your garage as an air return.

First, you get minute particles being pulled inside your home. Your family breathes this in every day. Not to mention that having an open cavity — which means there’s no metal ducting — can draw the off-gassing from running vehicles in the garage into an open space behind the drywall.

I don’t know why any builder would do this. But they do, and it’s wrong. If there are vents going from your garage to the inside of your home, you need to get them redirected. You don’t want to risk carbon monoxide coming inside the house. And call in a professional HVAC contractor to do the job.

Aside from stopping fumes, you need to make sure that a fire starting in the garage can’t spread to the inside of the home. Install a 20-minute fire-rated door between the garage and the inside of the house. The door shouldn’t open into a bedroom. And it shouldn’t have a pet door, either.

The door should be about an inch thick and self-closing. All garages need a door closer on the door. Think about it: Your car’s running. Fumes are going to go inside the house. Not good.

I’ve also seen a lot of homes with rooms on top of the garage. If there’s a room above the garage it’s going to be cold, because there’s a lack of insulation or at least improper insulation. This is why we spray-foam garages. It gives us a thermal break. Not to mention that closed-cell spray foam gives us a barrier between the carbon monoxide and the inside of the home.


Should all garages be insulated?  The depends. What does your local building code dictate? Is there plumbing in the garage? If so, the plumbing has to be insulated.

Is the garage heated? If it isn’t, you don’t want to insulate; doing so can cause mildew.

But if the garage is heated you should definitely insulate. Use fibreglass, cellulose, foam board or closed-cell spray foam — if it were my garage I’d go with spray foam. Then cover it with drywall for fire resistance.

Attached garages are one of the biggest sources of heat loss in a home, because of air leakage. Garage doors are big; a lot of air can get by them. To stop this, get tube-shaped stripping for the bottom of the door. The tube stripping forms a seal when it compresses against the floor of the garage.

 

Detached Garages

A detached garage eliminates the risk of dangerous fumes coming into the house, so you don’t have to worry about making it super sealed. All you have to worry about is that it’s the right structure and the right size.

Building a detached garage means you can make it as big as you want. Or as big as your lot allows. For me, the bigger the better. But even if you don’t want a big garage, make it slightly larger than what you need — if you can.

After going through the trouble of building, you want to be sure you’ve got enough space. You never know when you might need more room to store new tools, equipment, or even a new toy. Depending on the materials you use, the extra space could be worth the extra cost.

In the bigger picture, most people don’t think about their garages when it comes to renovations. But it’s important. If it’s attached to the house it will affect your home’s safety and energy performance. It’s worth bringing in a certified inspector to make sure it’s properly sealed and to code.

And if you’re going to build a detached garage make sure you hire pro. Check references and take a look at other garages they’ve built. See how they’ve held up through the seasons. Speak to those past clients. Are they happy with the contactor’s work? Doing your homework can save you money and a world of grief.

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Home Office-Al Gore Al Gore’s home office via Steve Pike/Time.

 

With advances in telecommunications, a public desire for a greater work/life balance and a decreased reliance on shared workspaces, home offices are becoming more and more in demand. And, (sadly) thanks to the recession, many people have found themselves without an office to go to, and are forging out on their own.

 

In my house, an office and a baby’s room are in the process of being swapped (a surprisingly arduous, painful transposing). One advantage, though, is that it gives us an opportunity to redesign the work space. I’ve been looking at the home offices of some famous work-chez-vous types to glean inspiration for elements to include. Here are my observations so far.

 

Home Office-Ernest Hemingway Ernest Hemingway’s home office (Cuba) via Frank Fazekas Travel & Photography.

 

Personal effects
The great benefit of a home office is that it’s your office: it doesn't have to conform to any corporate guidelines that strictly outline exactly how many pictures of your family you can have. Take Ernest Hemingway. It appears he felt he was most productive while staring down an animal he’d killed. His homes in Key West and Havana both feature offices with stuffed and mounted game, as well as other souvenirs from his globetrotting adventures. In terms of uncut manliness in all its brawny glory, the Cuban residence [pictured above] takes the prize because of what appears to be the head of a massive water buffalo gazing over Papa. HR wouldn’t stand for that!

 

Home Office-George Plimpton George Plimpton’s home office via Static.guim.

 

Clutter
Looking at the home office workspaces of famous people, one thing stands out: the sheer number of things. Virtually every person I looked at, from the late, great writer and Paris Review editor George Plimpton to Al Gore [pictured, top of post] has a desk coated in nine inches of notes, bric-a-brac and other detritus. It appears creative minds devise their own creative filing systems and often find comfort in clutter.

 

On the other hand...

 

Home Office-Steve Jobs Steve Jobs’s home office via The Digital Journalist.

 

Maybe No Desk at All?
Here’s Steve Jobs circa 1982, in all his minimalist glory. Quoth the visionary: “This was a very typical time. I was single. All you needed was a cup of tea, a light, and your stereo, you know, and that’s what I had.” He ended up doing pretty well for himself. 

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Piece of portfolio in property is a good diversification strategy

 

I run across many people who have become frustrated and disillusioned with investing in the stock market. After all, the 10-year period from 2000 to 2010 was one of the worst in history for stock markets around the world.

Given the low, single-digit returns common during that decade, many investors are looking at alternative investments such as real estate. Here are some different ways to invest in real estate

BUY PROPERTY

The most obvious way to invest in real estate is to buy property directly. For most people, this means buying a place, renting it out and selling it in the future.

Some people prefer to buy, renovate and flip property with no intention of renting it out. Some think big, preferring to invest in larger, commercial projects. Some pool resources with others by forming real estate investment groups. As you can see, there are many different ways to buy real estate directly.

 

REAL ESTATE SYNDICATION

Today, there are many opportunities to invest in syndicated real estate projects. In real estate syndication, a group leader (or syndicator) looks for projects and brings investors together to buy.

With syndication, sometimes investors own individual title and sometimes they own partial shares.

There are many variations of real estate syndication, so investors need to read the fine print before hopping on board. Legal arrangements are usually very complex and most investors I talk to don't really understand the mechanics of the investment.

With syndicated real estate, fees and commissions can also be high, so make sure you know who has the greatest opportunity to make money. (It's often the syndicator.)

REAL ESTATE FUNDS

There are a handful of real estate mutual funds out there. Only two - Great West Life Real Estate Fund and the Investors Group Real Property Fund - have a 10-year track record. Both are massive, with $3 to $4 billion in assets each.

In 2012, the GWL Real Estate fund made a strong return of 16.3 per cent. Over the past 25 years, this fund has given investors a 4.7-percent compound annual return and comes with some risk; it has lost money over a one-year period 27.7 per cent of the time.

Investors should pay attention to the management fees of these funds. They run around three per cent per year.

There can also be a liquidity concern with these funds; the Great West Life Real Estate Fund has had some periods where investors could not access their funds.

REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT TRUSTS (REITS)

A REIT is an entity that buys real property using invested money from the shareholders. A REIT trades on major stock exchanges just like any other stock.

One of the key characteristics of a REIT is that the REIT is encouraged to pay out all or most of the income and profits to the shareholders so the REIT itself does not pay tax. In other words, the dividends and distributions are taxable to the shareholders.

One of the biggest and most well known REITs in Canada is RioCan. RioCan invests in large retail shopping properties.

REAL ESTATE ETFS

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) have come a long way and Real Estate ETFs are a great way for investors to put a portion of their portfolio into real estate. The iShares S&P/ TSX Capped REIT Index is the biggest, oldest and most well known real estate ETF. Just like REITs and Real Estate Mutual Funds, investors can buy a portfolio of real estate properties without having to deal with the day-to-day management of owning property directly and dealing with tenants.

Real Estate ETFs are becoming more popular because the management fees are considerably lower than those of real estate mutual funds.

MY FIVE CENTS

This is not an exhaustive list but represents some of the most popular ways to invest in real estate. Remember to do your homework, watch the fine print, know the fees and costs and get help when needed.

I always caution investors away from chasing performance - it often leads to a losing strategy, not a winning one. That being said, having a portion of your portfolio in real estate can be a great diversification strategy.

 

written by Jim Yih - a financial expert.

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VANCOUVER - The City of Vancouver has been selected one of Canada's best diversity employers for 2013.

In making the announcement Tuesday, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the national award recognizes the city's work through its advisory committees with disabled people, women, seniors and the LGBT communities.

Toronto's Mediacorp, in partnership with Globe and Mail, made the selection which was sponsored by BMO.

The city has also recently created an Urban Aboriginal Peoples Advisory Committee and partnered with an aboriginal career organization to advise on matters of concern to Vancouver's urban aboriginal population.

Other notable diversity efforts cited include:

- Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services work to increase the number of women on the force;

- Engineering services work with the British Columbia Institute of Technology to offer opportunities for women enrolled in the trades;

- A partnership with the Native Education College and BCIT to offer work placement to aboriginal students

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