From food spills to dropped dishes, kitchens are notoriously tough on floors. Though tile has long been the traditional flooring material for our kitchens, some homeowners are swapping out cold materials for the warmth and beauty of wood. Before ripping out your kitchen tile in favour of hardwood, consider a few these factors.

When to consider wood over tile

a kitchen with wooden floors

When it comes to choosing wood flooring over tried-and-true tile, consider three things: your space, your lifestyle and your budget.

If your home is open-concept, wood floors offer a more spacious, coherent feel. If your kitchen is closed off, however, wood flooring may enhance the chopped up feeling of your rooms or be more trouble than they're worth.

If you cook a lot or have pets or children, you might want to avoid wood flooring, , which scratch easily and don't tend to fare as well in places with high moisture. Keep in mind if you have problems with leaky appliances, you should get them fixed before installing wood floors because water will also damage them. In addition, if you're on a budget, high-quality hardwood might be too expensive for your kitchen renovation. 


a kitchen with wooden floorsPhoto by Naomi Hébert on Unsplash

However, if you're dead set on the look of wood floors in the kitchen but can't afford or justify natural wood, laminate flooring is an option, with some major caveats. Laminate is an imitation of natural wood or stone flooring. It's more affordable, but unless you find a high-quality laminate, it doesn't quite look like the real thing. There's also the issue of moisture to contend with. Laminate is easily damaged by water, causing peeling and discolouration. You can avoid these issues by installing sheet vinyl or luxury vinyl plank (LVP), which is 100% waterproof.

a kitchen with wooden floors

While laminate has come a long way in terms of quality and lifespan, it generally doesn't last as long as hardwood floors, sometimes companies offer warranties of up to 25 years. That being said, once you damage laminate, you're stuck with the damage until you replace it. Thankfully, removing a section of laminate and replacing it is fairly simple, but if a catastrophic spill occurs—for example, your dishwasher floods—you may be in for a bigger job than you bargained for.

Keep in mind laminate typically won't add to your home's resale value in the same way wood, stone or tile will.

Solid vs. engineered hardwood

a kitchen with wooden floors

If you have the budget and the lifestyle to put in wood floors, you have two types available to you: solid hardwood and engineered wood.

Solid hardwood floors can be easily scratched and damaged. It's the most expensive flooring option but will also generally add the most to your home's resale value and, if cared for properly, last forever. If you decide to go with solid hardwood, choose a wood which ranks high on the hardness scale. You want to avoid softwood in the kitchen altogether, as softwood is prone to staining and damage and won't do well in a high-impact room.

a kitchen with wooden floorsPhoto by Jens Behrmann on Unsplash

Engineered hardwood is a great middle-ground alternative to laminate and solid wood, both in price and in quality. It has a very thin layer of wood veneer on the top followed by a few layers of plywood, so it's durable while still giving you the solid hardwood look you crave. This flooring won't last quite as long as properly cared for solid wood, but it's still very durable and the closest you can get to hardwood floors if solid wood doesn't fit your budget.

Both solid and engineered wood flooring can come in scraped or wire brushed finishes—smart options because the texture can help hide imperfections.

And while hardwood floors in living areas may be finished with traditional penetrating oils, kitchen floors will need a surface finish, such as polyurethane, to seal the wood surface and prevent water penetration.

A note on installation

hardwood floors being installed

Installing hardwood in the kitchen can be tricky; it needs to integrate well with cabinetry and the fewer gaps, the better off you'll be in terms of preventing water damage. Unless you're a pro, installing hardwood in the kitchen is not a DIY job. Also keep in mind prefinished hardwood, while the most durable, often has rounded, bevelled edges, which might mean more gaps during the installation process. A good contractor can try to mitigate these issues to give you a seamless floor.

Caring for your kitchen floors

a person mopping up wooden floors in a kicthenPhoto by rawpixel on Unsplash

If you opt for hardwood or engineered hardwood over tile floors, they'll generally require a bit more care and maintenance. Leaks and spills will need to be cleaned up right away. As a general rule, mop wood floors occasionally and do so with a slightly damp mop or towel. Never allow water to stand too long on your floors and be sure to sweep your floors regularly to keep the finish intact. Adding pads under chair and table legs will help protect floors from scratches.

Make sure you check your hardwood warranty before you install—some contracts are void for kitchen spaces or other areas where water could be a hazard, like laundry rooms.

No matter what flooring you choose, it should align with your home. Consider your taste, lifestyle and budget, and it won't be long before you're entertaining your friends and family. 

Stephanie Cervone

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6 Easy Ways to Soundproof a Room

Whether it's noisy neighbours, bleeping garbage trucks or thudding footsteps, unwanted outside noise at home can be infuriating. Thankfully, there are several ways we can minimize those sounds so our home is a peaceful, tranquil oasis. Here are some of our favourite soundproofing solutions.

1. Use sound-absorbing rugs and carpets

a rug on a living room floorPhoto by Ryan Christodoulou on Unsplash

Hard surfaces reflect sound waves while soft surfaces absorb them, so materials like padded carpeting will help reduce vibrations. Uncovered, hard floors—like bare wood, tile or laminate—will emphasize footsteps, so for rooms requiring extra quiet, like a study or a bedroom, wall-to-wall carpeting is your best bet. If committing to a fully carpeted room isn't your style, a few well-placed rugs will work wonders. Opt for thick, plush fabrics to absorb as much sound as possible and don't forget a carpet pad underneath. Thankfully, we hear shag rugs are making a comeback!

2. Fill in the cracks

a window seal being caulked Close-up Of Person Hand Applying Silicone Sealant With Silicone Gun On Window

Sound is like water; it can seep into any unsealed space. From gaps under doors to airflow coming through or around your windows, gaps let in clamour, so a very easy and affordable strategy for soundproofing your home is by simply filling in the cracks. A few ways to seal away outdoor sounds include:

  • Caulking around switch and receptacle boxes for a tight seal;
  • Placing weatherstrips under your doors;
  • Installing weatherstripping along the edge of windows;
  • Filling in cracks in drywall (a major cause of noise) with caulking;
  • Filling in any cracks you find in floorboards; and
  • Installing storm windows.

3. Hang heavy drapes

a chair up against window curtainsPhoto by David Sjunnesson on Unsplash

Windows are often overlooked as sound disruptors but they can let in a lot of noise. This is a particularly fine point for a bedroom to ensure better rest and relaxation. Spring for lined drapes, which greatly help in blocking sound from entering through the window from outside. Got a lot of noise? Heavy-duty soundproofing window treatments act as an extra-efficient barrier for reducing racket. Remember, the thicker the fabric, the better it will be at reducing sound.

4. Muffle sounds with a heavy bookcase

a bookshelfPhoto by Alex Block on Unsplash

Here's a fun hack that doubles as storage. If you have thin walls, consider installing a built-in bookshelf as a partition. Books and other objects can help reduce sound wave vibrations and noise coming from the other side.

5. Invest in new doors

wooden doors to upstairs bedrooms

Most interior doors are hollow-core, so to reduce noise, invest in new composites, like particleboard-core, composite-core or solid wood doors. They will work much better at providing a sound barrier.

6. Install acoustic panels 

a living space with a wall full of acoustic panels

Made of porous expanded polypropylene (PEPP), acoustic sound panels are meant to improve the acoustics inside a room (for example, a home theatre), but they're also great at blocking outside noise. Some manufacturers even offer custom-printed fabrics to turn your panels into wall art. Installation is relatively simple: just attach with clips and velcro. You can even DIY your own.

By Lara Ceroni


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Changes to schools and boundaries in Surrey school district

Via Surrey Schools.

Surrey is British Columbia’s largest and fastest growing school district. Now almost 50 per cent larger than Vancouver and growing by over 1,000 students per year, the growth in Surrey schools matches the growth in the community.

For homebuyers, one of the key questions is often “where will our children go to school?” The purpose of this overview is to ensure that Realtors and buyers are aware of what is happening with  Surrey schools and so they can make informed decisions about the school catchments and where children may be able to attend school.

The best place for information

Each month, the Surrey Board of Education updates their “Active Capital Projects.” This covers new school construction, or additions that have been approved and funded or are already in construction.

In addition, complete with maps, there is a YouTube video of the Surrey Board’s active projects and long range planning.

With a new secondary school in Grandview Heights, a large addition at Pacific Heights, and two new elementary schools in Sunnyside Heights and in Douglas, there will be boundary adjustments in South Surrey and White Rock. The Surrey Board of Education has conducted public consultation and the details of the boundaries can be found in Option 2B in these pages of resources. The boundary changes impact many schools in South Surrey and White Rock.

There are many changes coming with the new schools and while the Surrey Board is excited, they must adjust boundaries to help facilitate the changes to the school district. If at any time you or a client would like to locate a child’s potential school click here.

The Surrey Board of Education has an enormous wealth of information online and you can, at any time, find out the status of construction and the future boundary positions simply by accessing the materials or by calling them at 604-596-7733 and asking for Jacob Zinn.

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How good is the air quality inside your home? You may want to consider a heat-recovery ventilation system, advises home inspector Sean Moss

What is an HRV System?

An HRV or “Heat Recovery Ventilator” is a mechanical air-exchange system that brings fresh outside air into the home, while heating and strategically distributing it throughout the house.

Fresh outside air is drawn into the home with one vent, while passing through a filter in the system. Meanwhile, the older, warm, stale air is pushed outside with another vent. The heat is exchanged, but the air is not recycled. So, essentially, this process recovers heat that would otherwise be lost.

HRVs are typically designed for newer well-insulated, tight buildings rather than drafty older homes. However, with the proper retrofits, they can be installed in any home.

Before I jump into the benefits of an HRV, it is important to understand ventilation, as it serves two main purposes:

  • To provide the necessary oxygen for people to breathe.
  • To remove, or at least dilute, contaminants from the home.

Poor indoor air quality has been documented to cause negative health effects on humans, especially the very young, elderly and people with sensitivities. Sufficient ventilation, combined with proper filtration, is necessary for the maintenance of proper indoor air quality.

Benefits of an HRV System

Our homes are filled with all kind of pollutants, dust mites, pet dander, odours and toxins. The HRV system effectively removes them from the home to improve our indoor air quality. This is especially beneficial for those who suffer from asthma or allergies.

Some systems can recover more than 80 per cent of the heat before it leaves the home, which is budget friendly, while reducing the need to open more windows.

We generate a lot of moisture in the home from plants, through washing, cooking bathing, laundry, and breathing. Condensation can also contribute to visible and hidden moisture. HRVs remove this moisture from the home, resulting in lower levels of humidity, mildew and mold, especially from high moisture areas such as bathrooms and kitchens.

The end result is a clean, fresh and more comfortable living environment.

Where to Install the HRV

The HRV system should be located in a space that is conditioned (heated), easily accessible with ample room for maintenance and in close proximity to an exterior wall – this is important as you will need a short duct run to the outside.

Avoid closets, as they can be result in noise issues. Attics are difficult to get to, often resulting in neglected maintenance, and garages should be avoided because they are cooler, thus reducing the efficiency of the system.

Ideally, your HRV system should be installed by a licensed, experienced ventilation contractor, as there are a number of important sizing calculations and requirements to ensure the system runs properly with optimum efficiency.

What about Maintenance?

The HRV system is intended to run 24/7, so annual preventative maintenance by an experienced, licensed contractor is required.

Have your contractor show you how to do some of the simple maintenance tasks, such as replacing the filter, cleaning the drain pan and checking the exterior intake/exhaust hoods. Unless you are properly trained, leave the complicated components to the professionals.

With increased exposure to and knowledge of indoor air quality, as well as moisture issues, the demand for HRV systems is becoming common practice.

For more information and specific details, including costs and pay back periods, contact a reputable HRV contractor to learn more. 

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Fairest for Your Feet: The Best Flooring Choices for Condos

You’ve decided to install new flooring in your condominium, or update the flooring before you move in. But what to buy?

With condos you have to take a lot more into consideration than simply how the floor will look. First and foremost, there are the neighbours, and it’s not just how much they might hear you, but how much you might hear them.

Before you start shopping for flooring, says Ashley Kitchen, interior designer at reVISION Renovations, check into your condominium bylaws.

“With older condominiums, many strata councils will absolutely say no to hardwood floors,” she says. “You really need to speak to the strata members before you do anything else.”


 The next consideration is noise control. No one likes listening to their neighbours pace across a room in high heels or listen to their pounding music. The type of floor and underlay you choose can greatly reduce the sound that travels through the floor.

“The key to soundproofing is in the underlay,” says Kitchen. “Talk to your installer to get their recommendations.”

If you are in the market to buy a new condo, ask the sales team or your realtor to inquire about how soundproof the flooring is and, more importantly, “don’t be afraid to ask for the specifics of the underlay.”

Kitchen went on to speak about a product her installers are raving about.

“I haven’t worked with Flexilastic yet, but it is a peel-and-stick sheet coating that reduces impact and airborne sound transmissions. It works great with ceramic, porcelain and natural stone tile where sound absorption is really needed.”

In addition, the way to ensure maximum soundproofing is combining the best underlay with carpet.

“The prices [for underlay] really depend on the model and square feet you need to cover, so the best thing to do is call your installer to suit your specific needs.”


Although carpeting will provide your condo with the best soundproofing, Kitchen admits she hasn’t had any clients in recent memory who have asked for it. As much as baby boomers have become accustomed to carpet for its warmth and soft feel underfoot, many are turned off by its staining and the crushed, matted traffic areas.

“Millennials do not want carpeting anywhere, period,” she says. “However, when customers request carpeting, they are going for a tightly woven wool carpet.”

Although on the pricier side of carpeting, wool actually retains its shape much better, is durable, naturally soil resistant, non-allergenic, and eco-friendly.

Manufacturers are also creating synthetic carpeting that is more environmentally friendly and a few are actually producing fibre combinations that take softness to a whole new level.

The seasoned designer says there’s no question that carpeting is quiet. And, when a high-density pad is used, a beautiful wool carpet can look stunning and feel comfortable to walk on.

As far as carpet colour is concerned, condo owners are sticking to the organic neutrals – greys and whites but no beige, which “is passé.”

Laminates vs. Hardwood

The biggest craze in condo flooring, hands down, says Kitchen, is laminate. Today’s laminate looks so much like hardwood, many people would be hard-pressed to know the difference.

“There are faux-wood laminates, produced in Europe and in China, that you can’t even tell they aren’t hardwood,” she adds. “They look amazing. Most clients are going for the long, wide planks.”

The faux hardwood laminates come in a huge selection of colours and options.

The great advantage of laminate flooring is that not only does it have the look and feel of hardwood but it costs a fraction of the price.

“In newer condos, engineered hardwood is not the driving force anymore,” says Kitchen, adding hardwood will always require a lot more maintenance. “I’ve had clients who say their first and only choice is hardwood but, when I show them the laminates, they can be swayed.”

However, some homeowners will never be convinced away from hardwood. Kitchen concedes that, for some clients, the beauty and feel of hardwood is hard to beat.


Tiles that look like concrete are super-hot right now in Europe and gaining momentum here in BC.

“Again, these tiles look great and they feature minimal grout joints, so they are easy to clean and almost seamless,” Kitchen adds.

She goes on to say that there are tiles coming out of Spain and Italy that look like hardwood as well.

“We’re also seeing lots of tile that looks like fabric,” she says.

Another hot trend is decorative tiles for accents with a nod to the old hydraulic tiles.

“They look stunning in larger bathrooms and kitchens... the factories are producing them differently now but with similar patterns,” says Kitchen.

As far as tile size goes, small is definitely not better. What is vogue right now is moving toward “modular” sizes – rectangular tiles or 12-by-24-inch sizes. 

“Twelve-by-12 tiles are out, we are following the European trend of bigger is better, going as big as 24 by 24,” she adds.

As a condo owner you are probably thinking that is way too big for small spaces. Not true. If you avoid dark colours, large tiles can actually make a room look bigger.

“A side benefit is that with bigger tiles there are less grout joints, so less cleaning,” she adds.


Vinyl… the word alone conjures up 1950s cheap flooring. Well, not anymore. Today’s vinyl is gorgeous and can be pretty pricey.

Although some vinyl flooring choices are quite affordable and look great, Kitchen says others can cost from $18 to $22 per square foot or more.

“It’s a tough sell – because it's expensive but it is a really good quality product,” says Kitchen. “It comes in a variety of options… it can have the look of stone, slate and even hardwood.”

Vinyl is easy to install and maintain and Kitchen recommends it for recreation rooms, offices, gyms or play rooms.

Cork: Yes or No?

In an eco-conscious province like BC, there’s been a lot of buzz about cork flooring. Made from tree bark, it’s a natural and renewable resource, so it’s environmentally friendly. But is it trendy?

When asked, Kitchen says: “It's not durable at all, and the style is a little outdated.”

Michelle Hopkins
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Moving With Kids? How to Choose a Great School Near Your New Home

There are many factors to consider when searching for your dream home, including cost, number of bedrooms, layout and neighbourhood. But if you have children—or plan to someday soon—you need to think about another important selling feature: schools.

After all, you don't want to buy a house only to discover the local schools don't get a passing grade. Here are a few tips to help you find the right school for your children, whether you're moving across town or to the other side of the country.

Find the perfect school with's neighbourhood information

a map showing some schools in Toronto

Home buyers can access comprehensive school catchment information for more than 40 cities across Canada while looking at property listings on You can set the online filters for public, private, elementary, high school, English or French schools. 

Do your homework

young children in a classroom with a teacher at the front of the class

Most provinces offer online directories of school boards and individual schools, which can be useful for learning about class sizes, student-teacher ratios and whether they can accommodate children with special needs. Just as you would research a hotel before going on vacation, you'll want to read what others have to say about a given school. Many parents rate schools online, based on teacher quality, curriculums and enrichment programs.

For academic information, the Fraser Institute's handy tool,, provides detailed school-by-school performance reports. In addition, don't forget to scroll through a school's social media feed, which can yield a wealth of great information, such as photos and newsletters.

Talk to your future neighbours

two families with young children sitting on stairs in front of an apartment

Take a walk through your prospective neighbourhood and check out the area's parks and community centres. Don't be afraid to approach parents pushing kids on a swing or watching their child's swimming lesson. Strike up a friendly conversation and tell them you're thinking about moving to the neighbourhood. Ask about schools in the area and if they have any advice for choosing the right one for your children. Find out whether the local schools encourage parent volunteers or how many field trips are organized each year. 

Map out the commute

young students standing in a single file, waiting by a school bus

Is a home within walking distance of the school at the top of your priority list? Will your children need a drive twice a day? Call the school board to find out if they offer bus services or if you'll be juggling carpool schedules as part of your morning routine. If you have older children, see if public transportation is an option by mapping out possible bus, subway or streetcar routes. 

Visit the schools

a father and daughter holding hand while walking out the gates of a school

Make an appointment with the principal to tour each school you're interested in and arrive with a list of questions, such as whether special programs are offered. Ask to see classes in progress, along with the facilities and grounds, to help you evaluate which school works best for your children. If your children are athletic, ask about extracurricular sports teams; if they're artistic, inquire about their music, arts or drama programs. Can't go in person? Set up phone calls with the principal, administration and ideally the teachers who'll be teaching your children.

Armed with all this information, you'll get top marks in your housing search.


Wendy Helfenbaum

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The Importance of Using A REALTOR® When Buying Pre-Construction

Home buyers might assume there's no need to work with a REALTOR® when purchasing a pre-construction build. After all, the builders and developers have on-site representatives promising to take care of all the paperwork, right? 

Not so fast. There are a number of advantages to working with someone who has your best interests in mind. Here's what you need to know if you're thinking about buying a brand-new build.

A REALTOR® makes the sales process less overwhelming

GIF of a man saying: "Calm down, beathe."Via Giphy

Buying a new build can be a lot more complicated than purchasing a resale. You'll benefit from working with a local expert who knows the project's neighbourhood, target audience, materials used and sales data. Enhance your search for homes by saving your search and getting notifications from favourites. Most importantly, they'll know which builders are most reputable for delivering on time. A REALTOR® can also offer information on what is the best time to buy—pre-construction, mid-construction or after the building is completed—since they might have intel on upcoming promotions. For example, builders may be a free parking spot during pre-construction or they may lower the purchase price when the building is unloading the last few units.

A REALTOR® can negotiate on your behalf

GIF of a woman in a store saying: "I'l give you a dollar for all of this"Via Giphy

Sure, you can simply trust a sales representative to haggle with the builder, but that may not get you the best deal or added perks, like free upgrades or new appliances. Understanding the fine print in a purchase contract is not for the faint of heart. A real estate professional can point out the confusing clauses you're better off negotiating on. 

You'll get the low-down on the up-sells

GIF of a man signalling to another man to not do/go for somethingVia Giphy

Immaculately designed model homes offer all the bells and whistles, tempting buyers into adding all sorts of extras onto the standard price. Sometimes, these upgrades aren't worth it. Your REALTOR® can help you decide what's worth doing and what can wait.

You won't fall for sales pitches that seem too good to be true

GIF of a man in a suit asking: "Are you sure?"Via Giphy

Buyers are led to believe if they don't use an agent, the builder will subtract the price of a REALTOR®'s potential commission from the purchase price. But since the seller (i.e. the builder) pays your agent's commission, it only makes sense to insist on having one. Builders are reluctant to reduce prices because those discounts are available for other buyers to see. 

A REALTOR® will provide guidance and support throughout the transaction

GIF on a girl in a crowd cheering someone onVia Giphy

When it comes to pre-construction, home buyers must navigate multiple steps and interact with several people before closing. In addition to making decisions around design, buyers must also make technical choices about electrical work or construction add-ons during the build. In addition, some buyers will be dealing with loan officers, appraisers, notaries and home inspectors. Having a trusted REALTOR® means you can access their vast network to find the best professionals.

Bottom line? The builder's rep has the builder's goals in mind, while your own agent is a valuable resource with just one person to satisfy: You.

By Wendy Helfenbaum

a illustrated quiz about whether of not you should use a REALTOR when buying pre-construction
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Are you thinking about breaking your fixed-rate mortgage? While traditionally considered a financial faux-pas, many Canadians choose to break their fixed-rate mortgage when they find their current terms and conditions no longer meet their needs.

“Breaking a fixed-rate mortgage occurs more often than you would think,” Jared Ksenica, Regional Vice-President, Mortgage Specialist, with BMO Bank of Montreal said.

Of course, there are penalties to pay for breaking a mortgage. When you break a mortgage contract, the penalty is supposed to cover the lender's costs related to unwinding the loan, while also recouping part of their lost profit. The amount is dependent on the interest rate and the mortgage balance.

According to Ksenica, some of the most common reasons for breaking a mortgage include refinancing for debt consolidation, purchasing a second property and helping children with their education or helping them buy a home.

an application for a fixed percentage rate mortgage application

Another reason to break a mortgage is to take advantage of a lower interest rate. If you've been watching rates lately, you may be wondering if you could break your fixed-rate mortgage to save money in the long-term with a cheaper interest rate.

This may sound like a good idea, but be forewarned: trying to figure out what you'll be charged for breaking a fixed-rate mortgage is very difficult, with homeowners often miscalculating the cost of their penalty.

What are the advantages of breaking a fixed-rate mortgage?

a calculator on top of a sheet of calculationsVia Pexels

John Tarnowski, Executive Vice President, Retail Financial Services at ATB Financial, says it's important customers look beyond the rate and compare the full mortgage package to determine what's best for them.

“If moving to a variable or new fixed-rate term will save interest costs over the remaining mortgage term, it might be worth doing, even if they have to pay a prepayment penalty,” he says. “If a person’s life or lifestyle has changed, it might also be a good time to consider this option.”

These kinds of decisions shouldn’t be taken lightly and it’s best to discuss options with a mortgage specialist. Despite paying the penalty upfront for breaking a mortgage, there may or may not be effective savings in the long-term—especially if you're facing high penalties. 

What are the penalties for breaking a mortgage? 

a person at a desk doing some financial-related workPhoto by from Pexels

The biggest disadvantage of breaking a mortgage is the out-of-pocket penalties. And they're often much, much higher than you might have anticipated.

Fixed-rate mortgage penalties are always calculated based on whichever is greater: “the greater of a) three months interest or b) the interest-rate differential (IRD),” with the IRD being the difference between the existing mortgage rate and the interest rate currently charged.

However, there are key differences in the actual rates lenders use to calculate your IRD and this can greatly impact your penalties. The Standard IRD is what most people think of when breaking a mortgage, whereby the lender takes the difference between your contract rate and their current rate that most closely matches your remaining term.

But there's also the Discounted Rate IRD Penalty (used by RBC, BMO, TD, Scotia and National Bank). Banks who use this IRD format take your contract rate, compare it to the posted rate that most closely matches your remaining term and then subtract the original discount you got off of their five-year posted rate.

This small tweak that can make a huge difference in terms of the penalties you can incur. Using this calculation, it's possible for an IRD to jump from the Standard $1,500 to $9,000.

The Posted Rate IRD Penalty (used by CIBC) can have even steeper penalties. In this variation, the bank calculates your IRD penalty using the five-year posted rate they offered when you initially got your mortgage.

Get informed about the penalty calculators your particular lender will use before signing any mortgage contract so there are no nasty surprises down the road.

people at a table looking over contractsPhoto by rawpixel on Unsplash

If you decide to break your fixed-rate mortgage but you want to stay with the same lender, ask if they offer penalty discounts. While not all lenders offer this type of incentive, some may be willing to reduce your penalties if you decide to stay with them. mortgage contract but still stay with them. In this case, Tarnowski says you can break your mortgage “in conjunction with a new mortgage,” minimizing the penalty by making a lump sum payment on their mortgage.

Be sure to check out our affordability calculator to find out how much you can afford and use our handy mortgage calculator to determine your ideal amortization period and down payment options.

The article above is for information purposes and is not financial or legal advice or a substitute for financial or legal


By Mario Toneguzzi

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Decorating trends have come and gone but the accent wall has stood the test of time. Also known as “feature walls,” accent walls are an easy, low-commitment way to highlight an important element in your home, show off your personal style and make your design vision pop.

A simple coat of dark or bright paint is a tried-and-true way to turn heads, but there are plenty of other ways to draw attention to a feature wall.

a dark green accent wall in a living roomA dark green accent wall adds depth to this living room. Via Ron Frazier on Flickr

Nicholas Nankissoor is a design-builder in Toronto, responsible for the look and feel of several vegan restaurants, including Mythology DinerCopenhagen Vegan Cafe and Vegandale Brewery. He uses accent walls to draw in customers and encourage them to take selfies. However, he notes there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about creating an accent wall. 

Why create an accent wall?

a textured accent wall above a fireplace

“Don't just randomly select a feature wall,” Nankisoor says. “Let unique architecture or furniture guide you.” In most rooms, the location of your accent wall will be obvious, setting the scene for a key feature or piece of furniture, such as a headboard or a fireplace. Accent walls can also help define a space into multi-purpose areas in an open-concept space. If there's no naturally-occurring accent wall, you can create your own focal point with decorative pieces, like a large mirror or favourite painting.

Different ways to accent your walls

Paint: The solid choice

a blackboard feature wall in a nurseryVia It's Great to be Home on Flickr

A coat of paint is by far the easiest way to update your space without a big commitment, Nankisoor says. Painted accent walls often look best when painted a darker or bolder colour, while harmonizing with the rest of the walls. A foolproof trick to choosing the right hue is to “make your accent wall a few shades darker than the other walls.” Alternatively, pick a shade that currently exists in the room's décor elements, like throw pillows or curtains.

Paint: Stripes, patterns and murals 

a striped feature wall in a living room

While a solid-colour wall can work wonders for a room, there are plenty of other ways to use paint on a featured wall, such as with DIY stripes or other creative projects. Simple stripes of slightly lighter and darker shades can add a lot of visual interest; all you need is two shades of paint and painter's tape. 

Empty room background with striped yellow wallpaper a wooden floor and a plant

At one of his soon-to-be-opened restaurants (we can't name it here, unfortunately; the project is top-secret!), Nankisoor is creating a feature wall that will also serve as selfie opportunity for visitors, with fun phrases in speech bubbles painted all over it. 

Updating a kids' room? If you're artistically inclined, there's nothing more fun than a hand-painted feature corner!

a mural on a tree on a kid's bedroom wall


a tropical leaves wallpaper in a living room

Aside from a fresh coat of bold paint, a wallpaper accent wall is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to add personality to a room. It's also a great way to dip your toes into the fun, funky world of creative wallpaper. Choose something bold and eye-catching—after all, it's only one wall and there are so many kinds and patterns to choose from.


a three dimensional wooden accent wallIntricate wood accent wall at Bosk restaurant, Toronto. Via boskto on Instagrama wooden feature wall at a restaurantVia boskto on Instagram

Paint and wallpaper are great for adding colour and texture, but why not experiment with different materials to really make your accent wall stand out? Bosk restaurant in Toronto features a “small, wooded area” wall marked with the restaurant's name to complement the space's wood panelling and Japanese-inspired latticework.

“Board pattern and stain colours are all up to your own personal creative vision,” Nankisoor says.

But it doesn't have to be as complicated as all that. Even simple wood planks can have dramatic impact. The most important element, Nankisoor says, is valuing authenticity in the materials you use.

“With wood for an accent wall, reclaimed wood has a natural patina and gives a much more authentic feel than taking new wood and trying to make it look old,” he says. “When choosing wood, look for pieces with nice big knots which will pop out against the stain.”

a rustic wooden-panel feature wall in a restaurant Photo: Nicholas Nankisoora rustic wooden-panel feature wall in a restaurant


a brick feature wall in a bedroom

If you're lucky enough to have a brick wall as part of your natural architecture, play it up with smart interior design decisions.

“What makes brick such a rare and warming design is that it can only be done when you have the opportunity,” says Nankisoor. Take advantage of your naturally-occurring brick wall by using it as an accent and really emphasizing its unique features. For example, if your brick wall is red, try a cooler, grey-toned palette for the rest of the room to make the brick pop. 


a concrete feature wall in a bedroom

Cement or concrete walls are an eye-catching interior design feature that usually come pre-existing in a home, loft or condo but with the opposite effect of brick, adding starkness rather than warmth. Concrete walls look especially beautiful in long hallways, but when used in other rooms, like living or bedrooms, make sure your décor complements the cold, industrial feel. If you want the look of concrete without actually covering the wall in this material, you can use wallpaper that mimics the look of concrete. Unlike brick or stone, you won't give up the real texture quite so much if you use this shortcut. 


a stone feature wall in an outside dining spaceA natural stone accent wall adds lots of character to a home.

A natural stone accent wall is truly a sight to behold. Depending on the stone, it can add a Mediterranean or Tuscan feel to your home and while it makes for a dramatic look, it can be expensive if you're building one from scratch.

a tile feature wall in a kitchenNot just for the backsplash; add some drama with bold kitchen tiles feature wall!

Not just for bedrooms or living rooms, accent walls can also look super luxurious in kitchens and bathrooms. In kitchens, a bold backsplash is often used as a focal point, but you can just as easily use tile as a dramatic feature wall.

In the bathroom, an accent wall can draw focus to a beautiful tub or vanity.

a tiled feature wall  in a bathroomA bathroom gets a modern update with this funky tile accent wall. Via mosaics lab on Flickra tiled feature wall  in a bathroomBeautiful, bold tiles can turn a bathroom into a work of art.

Not a fan of too much tile? Apply a bold tile pattern selectively as a “half-accent wall,” for example, to draw attention to a gorgeous mirror or faucet. 

a tiled backsplash in a bathroomPhoto of a bathroom sink and mirror with tile design. phone photo

Moulding and other materials

lattice work on a wall in a reading corner

Crown moulding and panelling work particularly well for formal sitting or dining rooms. However, there's no rule that says you can't have glamorous panelling in a playroom and a lovely hand-painted mural in your dining room. “It's really up to you,” Nankisoor says.

Accent wall Dos and Don'ts:

a wooden feature wall in a sitting room
  • DO work with the existing architecture and furniture;
  • DO choose natural, authentic materials whenever possible;
  • DO choose a darker colour while harmonizing with the rest of the walls;
  • DO make your accent wall a few shades darker than other walls;
  • DO choose an existing colour shade that exists in the room's décor;
  • DON'T forget there's more to accent walls than just paint;
  • DON'T be afraid to go for bold paint or wallpaper.

Finally, Nankisoor says the biggest takeaway for designing any space is to make it bespoke to your particular home.

“A big mistake is thinking because something looks good in a photo you saw of a different space, you can just copy it at your place,” Nankisoor says. “You want to think about the natural, existing elements and play those up with smart design decisions.”

Article by Stefani Foster

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