All posts by Dave Gray


Field Tested: DeWalt’s Flexvolt 7¼” Part 1

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Field Tested: DeWalt’s Flexvolt 7¼” Part 1

Welcome to the first edition of our new feature, “Field Tested.” Going forward, for each issue of the magazine three readers will get to try out a new tool (or building material) and give us their honest feedback on how it stands up to jobsite conditions.

Each tester will share their first impressions upon opening the packaging, and then provide their feedback after using the tool on the job for a month or so. About a year from now, we’ll follow-up with each to see if the tool has become their new go-to item, or if it’s gathering dust back at the shop.

If you’d like to add your name to our list of potential tool testers, email managing editor Allan Britnell with some information about your company and your experience:

If you’re a tool or building material manufacturer and would be interested in having your product considered for an upcoming test, please contact Allan as well.

First up, DeWalt’s new Flexvolt 7¼” cordless circular saw (DCS575T1). The manufacturer claims that the 60-volt, brushless tool can make 339 cuts in 2×4 SPF lumber on a single charge.


The testers

Bryan Klomp, Klompco Carpentry, Elmira, Ont.

Bryan Klomp is a long-time reader of Renovation Contractor and regular attendee of our annual Renovators’ Roundtable. We profiled Klomp in the Jan./Feb. 2013 issue of the magazine.

Dan MacKay, Dan MacKay Construction, Debert, N.S.

Dan MacKay appeared on the cover of the second issue of Renovation Contractor back in 2011 when we profiled east coast builders and renovators.

Don Vloet, Dun For You Home Renovations, Welland, Ont.

Don Vloet is another long-time reader and frequent contributor to Renovation Contractor magazine. We profiled him in the Jan./Feb. 2014 issue.


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Work Smart Contest

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Work Smart Contest

Jax Bailey of J. Bailey & Sons New Homes and Renovations Ltd., in Prince George, B.C., reminds us that being eco-friendly can also save you time and money.

When we’re working on a renovation and the clients want the old toilets, cupboards, sinks, and so on taken to the dump, I take a picture with my cellphone and post on our local Freecycle website. The “waste” is typically claimed within in a few hours, and I have much less to haul to the dump.


Want to see your idea in print – and win free tools?!? Send your time-saving jobsite tips to or snail mail us at: Work Smart!, c/o Renovation Contractor, 37 Sandiford Dr., Suite 404 Stouffville ON L4A 7X5.



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Iconic Canadian foods we’re not sorry about

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Iconic Canadian foods we’re not sorry about

(NC) — Enjoy some classic national treasures the next time you visit a local restaurant, diner or food truck. Learn more about favourites we love eating again and again and get some patriotic inspiration for your next meal.


Created in rural Quebecois snack bars in the 1950s, this national staple is now adapted in many weird and wonderful ways, like Mexican-inspired pulled pork and guacamole variations. Data from mobile payments company Square shows that only about 20 per cent of poutine sold in Quebec is traditional style, with the most popular poutine twists being chicken and sausage.

Nanaimo Bars

Named after the city of Nanaimo, B.C. on Vancouver Island, sales data shows London, Ont. actually sells the most of these sweet treats. While British Columbians prefer the traditional layer of custard-flavoured butter icing, only 40 per cent of Londonites bought Nanaimo bars in the traditional style. Most prefer a mint flavour for the middle layer instead.

Maple Syrup

A popular souvenir for tourists, Toronto surprisingly sells the most maple syrup in Canada. But getting your maple syrup here will is expensive, whereas if you’re in Quebec you get a better deal. In Quebec, most sales happen during the month of April, the sugaring season, whereas in Toronto most sales happen in the summer month of August. Drizzle some on top of your pancakes at brunch or ask for some to add to your salad for a little sweetness.


Your kids will think they are getting dessert when you pull out this fun treat made with bananas, nuts and honey. Simple and nutritious, it’s also perfect for entertaining or taking to work as a mid-afternoon snack.

When shopping for the ingredients, make sure to support locally produced foods by double-checking your labels. Try BeeMaid honey, packed by producer-owned co-ops that have been a part of the Canadian food landscape for over 60 years.

“Our over 300 beekeeper owners take great pride in their ownership, and take extreme care to provide the best quality honey,” explains CEO Guy Chartier. “We source it all from our owners, and this structure ensures that our honey is of consistent quality year after year, bottle after bottle.”

Honey Banana Pops

  • 1 1/3 cups (315 mL) ground toasted almonds, ground coconut, candy sprinkles and/or graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 just-ripe bananas, peeled
  • 1/2 cup (250 mL) honey
  • 8 popsicle sticks


  1. Spread your topping choices on a plate. Cut bananas in half crosswise. Insert a popsicle stick into each cut end.
  2. To assemble, hold each banana half over plate or waxed paper to catch drips. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of honey over banana, rotating and smoothing with back of spoon to coat all sides. You can also squeeze honey from a plastic honey bear container and smooth out with a spoon.
  3. Roll banana in topping of choice until coated on all sides, pressing with fingertips to help topping adhere. Place pops on waxed paper lined cookie sheet.
  4. Repeat with remaining bananas, honey and topping. Serve at once.


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The colours of Canada

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The colours of Canada

Beauti-Tone is celebrating Canada’s 150 th anniversary of Confederation in colourful style with the launch of the National Parks of Canada Colour Collection.

“As part of Home Hardware, one of Canada’s most admired companies, we wanted to celebrate Canada’s 15 th in a way that would be both meaningful and colourful,” said Bev Bell, creative director, Beauti-Tone Paint and Home Products Division. “Since nature is the very best colourist, we quickly realized the vibrant colours our beautiful and varied Canadian landscape has gifted us would create a perfectly colourful anniversary homage.”

Beauti-Tone was honoured to become proud partners with Parks Canada. Armed with colour-matching tools and a Canada 150 Discovery Pass, the Beauti-Tone team scoured Canada’s national parks capturing the beautiful colours they saw in order to create a collection of colours inspired by the beauty of our land, and perfect for our homes. The result: Forty-seven nature-inspired hues, one for each of Canada’s 46 national parks and one national urban park.

“The Beauti-Tone team was truly awed by the beauty we experienced; mountains to plains, lakes to glaciers, and coast to coast to coast,” said Bell. “We are hoping this colour collection will not only help fellow Canadians find colour inspiration for their homes, but will also encourage them to enjoy first-hand the natural beauty and true colours Canadian National Parks have to offer.”

The Beauti-Tone National Parks of Canada Colour Collection colour card is divided into six geographically inspired palettes: Beyond the Prairies, Coastal Character, Fireside Warmth, True North, Range of Hues and The Night Sky. Each palette includes colour inspiration and room images, and many include additional interactive content, including sights and sounds from our beautiful national parks, attainable through the layar app.

Each of the forty-seven colours in the National Parks of Canada Colour Collection is inspired by one of Canada’s National Parks. For example, Patriot Love, was inspired by the beautiful changing colours of the maple leaf in Rouge National Urban Park and creates a dynamic focus wall in this chic multi-level condo.

Visit your local Home Hardware store to pick up a colour card. Beauti-Tone’s National Parks of Canada Colour Collection is available exclusively at Home Hardware, Home Building Centre and Home Hardware Building Centre locations across Canada.




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Who discovered Canada? ‘We did,’ say the Basque

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Who discovered Canada? ‘We did,’ say the Basque

By Marc Atchison

TraveLife Editor-in-Chief

PASAIA, BASQUE COUNTRY, SPAIN — In this tiny backwater fishing port that opens up to the Atlantic’s Bay of Biscay, Canadian and Basque history intersect at a small maritime museum that is hoping to recreate the past.

“Pardon the noise but the men are working very hard today,” says Mikel Leoz as he leads me through a large workshop connected to the Sea Factory of the Basques Albaola Museum where workmen are using primitive tools to shape a giant wooden beam balancing on a workbench horse.

“As you can see, the new San Juan is really starting to take shape,” says Leoz, the man overseeing an ambitious project to build a replica of an ancient whaling ship known as the San Juan, which sailed from here in the 16th century for Newfoundland but never returned.

“The San Juan sank off Newfoundland (actually the southern coast of Labrador’s Saddle Island) in 1565,” says Leoz. “Then in 1978, thanks to the research efforts of renowned Canadian historian and geographer Selma Huxley Barkham, Parks Canada divers found the (skeleton) remains of the San Juan in the waters near the town of Red Bay.

“The ship’s keel was well preserved (it’s believed it was protected for centuries under a massive iceberg), and because of that we were able to get exact specifications of the original ship, from which we are building the replica,” says the enthusiastic man.

Red Bay has a long history with Basque fishermen — between 1530 and the 17th century the small town served as an important Basque whaling station. And because several whaling galleons and four small chalupas boats used to spear the whales during that time have been recovered in Red Bay, UNESCO saw fit to designate the isolated Canadian community a World Heritage Site in 2013.

Pictures of Red Bay residents adorn a wall of the Basque museum. “These people are our friends, our brothers because they share our history,” Leoz tells me.

No one died in the sinking of the San Juan, which had a crew of about 60 men at the time. “It was caught in a storm and sank when its anchor chain broke. Some of its cargo was actually recovered later. The partial remains of the ship that the Parks Canada divers found are now on display in a Newfoundland museum,” says Leoz, who adds that while there is little documentation on the San Juan, it is believed it was on its third voyage to Red Bay before slipping below the waves.

Leoz is as much an historian as he is a ship builder and has researched the Basque people’s connection with whaling thoroughly.

“It’s truly a fascinating part of our (Basque) history,” says the man whose greying beard makes him look like a sea captain of yesteryear. “The whale oil was used for lamps and in the making of soap.”

After whale stocks depleted off the Spanish and French coasts in the early part of the 16th century, the Basque began hearing about fertile waters off “Terra Nova.”

“So they set sail (a journey of 6,300 kilometres that took between two and three months to complete) and couldn’t believe what they found when they arrived — Red Bay was teaming with whales,” says an excited Leoz.

“The Basque were able to survive because they befriended the native people of Red Bay and taught them many Basque words. In fact, when French explorers like Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain landed in Newfoundland, the indigenous people greeted them using Basque words like ania (brother) because they thought all Europeans spoke Basque.”

Leoz proudly shows me around the compact museum which features displays showing the techniques the Basque used to harpoon the whales. Large wooden barrels used to store the precious whale oil are also displayed throughout the museum —each barrel could hold more than 180 kilograms of whale oil.

The entire Basque country is backing the project and towns and cities in this loveliest part of the autonomous region are helping in the construction of the replica — the oak and beach wood used in the building of the original whaling ships is being harvested in nearby forests so the new San Juan can look just like the original. Tar used to bind the planks was brought to the shipyard museum on carts pulled by oxen — “just like they did in the 1600s,” says a smiling Leoz, who says that ceremony brought out the whole town.

The whole project is expected to cost 3.5 million euros ($5 million Cdn.), and it has the financial backing of UNESCO, the EU and the Basque government.

Leoz reports the new San Juan will be ready to set sail by 2020.

“We are hoping to sail it to Newfoundland but I think we’ll need a more modern vessel alongside just in case,” smiles Leoz as we reach the top of the giant scaffolding where the yet to be completed replica is cradled.

Even in this early state, the San Juan replica looks majestic.

As we leave the museum complex, I see a group of young sailors crowded in a small powerboat heading in the direction of Pasaia’s harbour that opens to the sea. The tradition of Basque fishermen is being kept alive in this small town on many different levels.

To stay updated on the progress of the San Juan replica, or to find out more about the maritime museum in Passia, go to

For more on the Basque country, go to


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Top tools: Grex Cordless Nail Gun

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Top tools: Grex Cordless Nail Gun


The first cordless nail gun offering from Grex features a very unique power system. Believe it or not, the GC 1850 brad nailer is powered by two AAA alkaline batteries, the same ones you pop in a kid’s toy. Armed with those AAA’s, and a 1,300-shot fuel cartridge, the GC1850 is capable of driving 50,000 ½” to 2”, 18-gauge brads per battery cycle. Weighing in at just 4.4 lbs., the GC1850 is lighter (by as much as three pounds) than its competitors and features a dial control on top to adjust driving depth depending on the material.

This is an excerpt from “Power to the People,” our annual compilation of top new power tools for 2017 in the February/March issue.



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Domestice Details: Picture-Perfect Paint Tips

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Domestice Details: Picture-Perfect Paint Tips

Innovative formulas offer style shortcuts to refreshed rooms

Without a doubt, the easiest, most affordable way to transform a room is with a fresh coat of paint, which can change everything from the tone of the interior light to which colours stand out in furnishings, art and accessories.

Now, special formulations also make it possible to paint everything from walls to textile to furniture, with new options for texture and sheen.


Dulux Paints, for example, has introduced two-step, light-reflecting products with burnished finishes called Venetian Silk and Liquid Metal.

Low humidity and moderate temperatures make fall a great time to paint outdoors.

In June, Benjamin Moore introduced to the Canadian market Century paint, an “ultra-premium” collection of 75 new colours with a suede-like matte finish. The saturated tones were inspired by gems, minerals, spices, herbs and plants—many of which were among the original sources of paint pigments.


Benjamin Moore paint expert Sharon Grech thinks the soft finish will be especially appealing to those who embrace hand- and custom made design. “People are looking for the handcrafted. Here, you don’t just see the colour, the experience becomes tactile.”

With some patience, and a steady hand, DIY paint stripes can define a room.

If a whole room re-do isn’t feasible, tired furniture and thrift-shop finds can be given new life with easy-to-use chalks paints from Annie Sloan or milks paints from Toronto based Homestead Paints.


Many people, says Grech, want to “dive into colour” but are unsure about how to choose a shade that’s liveable and long lasting. For inspiration, she suggests looking to a beloved print or a treasured souvenir from a family trip that can serve as a starting point for a palette.

“Pick a favourite colour, and make the room about what you love,” she says.

However you arrive at the perfect hue, the following tips will produce a more professional-looking result.


“If you want a premium job, do premium preparation,” says Grech. That means cleaning walls, filling holes, and repairing damaged areas. Smooth these out with sandpaper and give the entire wall a final light sanding and wipedown. Use the correct primer for the paint. Check the surface again after priming, as it can sometimes reveal imperfections.

Good lighting is critical to a superior paint job. Floor lamps with the shades removed work well for this.

The Dulux website (which has a series of how-to videos) explains that rollers—ideal for painting large areas and ceilings—come in foam, mohair or sheepskin, and with various lengths of pile. The type of roller you need depends on the paint. For example, they suggest that foam rollers don’t typically work well with latex paints, as the spongy texture can produce an orange-peel effect.

Chalk paints are forgiving and fun to use.

Dulux advises that brushes made from natural bristles should not be used in water-based paints—they absorb water and swell, destroying the shape of the brush—and that synthetic brushes that stand on their bristles in solvent will develop a fatal curl.

Always paint from dry to wet, keeping a “wet edge.” Save breaks until you hit a corner rather than in the middle of a wall.

Extension poles aid in rolling longer, more efficient strokes, save bending over to refill, and make a wet edge easier to maintain.

Don’t try and save time or money by getting by on one coat. The pros always do (at least) two in order to get the true development of the colour.

Vicky Sanderson



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Colour Correction

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Colour Correction

Here’s a roundup of the various paint companies in-house designers “Colour of the year” selections:


Benjamin Moore: Shadow

CIL: Antique Violet

Dulux Paints: Starry Sky Purple

Pantone Color Institute: Pantone 15-0343 (aka “Greenery”)

PPG Paints: Violet Verbena

SICO Paint: Mozart


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Decor Expert: Kimberley’s Guide To Lighting Power & Safety

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Decor Expert: Kimberley’s Guide To Lighting Power & Safety

Electrical considerations are an important part of any renovation but particularly in those rooms where power and water mix, like bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms. If you’ve been dreaming of renovating one of these important spaces, then planning ahead is your most cost-effective resource.


Putting plans, elevations and reflected ceiling plans (so you’ll know where the light fixtures are going before your electrician asks) on paper allows you to thoughtfully consider all of the details you’ll want to get right. Floor plans provide guidance when it comes to placing outlets. If you know you have a favourite reading chair, you’ll want to make sure there is a plug nearby for your lamp.

Most homeowners prepare floor plans but fail to prepare elevations, which highlight what’s happening on walls. An elevation will show you where you want a light switch (as you enter the room) and where you don’t; in the exact spot a painting would look great. It will also help you place outlets along a kitchen countertop or near the ironing board. Remember to consider the colour of the wall outlets are appearing on. With a dark backsplash, for instance, you’ll want to choose dark (matching) outlet and switch covers. That way, the outlets won’t distract from the pretty tile you chose.


Dynamic lighting can enhance any room. Consider nighttime use as well as daytime use for kitchens and bathrooms. Low ambient, motion-sensored light options, potentially at baseboard level, can gently light the way if you need to get up in the middle of the night. Your morning coffee will taste a whole lot better when you have softly dimmed kitchen lights vs. harsh overhead pot lights. Create layered lighting options, like task lighting for eyebrow maintenance in the bathroom, clothes folding in the laundry room, or food prep in the kitchen. Choosing the wrong kind of lighting or not installing it correctly can pose a safety risk.


Pamper your feet with in-floor heating. Ensure the placement of your wall thermostat is practical without impeding your design. It has to be at least one metre from a bathtub or shower stall, or be GFCI-protected if within one metre. Manufacturers’ installation requirements vary, so hire a licensed electrical contractor who will ensure a permit is taken out.

Making electrical an afterthought when thinking about your dream renovation can be costly and dangerous. The benefit of hiring the right professionals—an interior designer, licensed and insured contractor and a licensed electrical contractor—means you’ll not only love your gorgeous new space, but you’ll have peace of mind knowing your family is safe. To find out if your electrician is a licensed electrical contractor, check out

Kimberley Seldon


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Architecture Expert: Inspired To Work

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Architecture Expert: Inspired To Work

Create a home office that works for you.

More and more people are working from home. Whether full time or part time, this requires a space where you can amp-up your productivity. Before embarking on creating your home office, there are several questions you need to ask yourself:

  • What type of work will you be doing in the space?
  • Will external clients be visiting?
  • Will colleagues visit for collaborative work?
  • What equipment must be accommodated? Computers, printers, etc.
  • Will you need complete privacy?
  • Will you be using the speakerphone or video conferencing?
  • What type of phone and Internet connectivity is required?
  • How much space do you have to work with?
  • What type of lighting does the space offer and can it be improved?
  • What type of storage is required?
  • What type and how much work surface is required?
  • What type of ergonomics should be considered for your chair, keyboard and work surface?
  • Have you experienced repetitive strain injuries in the past?
  • What is the maximum amount of money you want to spend?


Once you gather this information, you can begin to make decisions about the type of home office that will suit your needs, and the requirements that you must accommodate. When dreaming of an overall design concept, think about what inspires you. Perhaps consider a favourite colour or phrase that you can incorporate into the design. How will your space reflect the type of work that you do? If you perform intense head-down work, how can you create a space that offers a respite throughout the day? Should your office offer a serene and restful environment or would you benefit from a space that energizes you?


Planning an office takes time to evaluate your work patterns before you make purchases or big decisions. Once you determine what is required and how you might design your space, there are many options for furniture and storage. From budget-conscious IKEA to big-box furniture depots to higher-end office furniture from companies like Knoll and Herman Miller, you should invest in the best furniture that you can afford. Offices tend to take a lot of use and abuse, so you want to make sure that storage cabinets are high quality and shelves are mounted securely. Your office chair is one of the most important pieces of furniture you can own. Spending five to eight hours in a chair every day has a lasting impact on your body. It is important that you choose a chair that is highly adjustable for your height, back and arms. A new trend on the market today is height adjustable work surfaces. As a response to newer studies that show sitting in an office chair for extended periods of time takes years off your life, suppliers have created electric motorized work surfaces that can be adjusted throughout the day. Marketed as ‘sit/stand’ desks, most of the major office furniture suppliers now offer these.


Also important for the health of your body, is the type of lighting provided in the space. Simply converting a bedroom into an office without evaluating the lighting is a mistake. You must make sure that your work surface is illuminated properly, whether by ceiling lights or lamps that you add. Ensuring that your computer screen is glare-free also helps reduce eye strain.


Most importantly, your office space should be something that you look forward to spending time in—rather than dreading. It should be a space that accommodates your personality and style while offering an encouraging place to work. While some people thrive in a space that is somewhat chaotic, some people want a place for everything and everything in its place.

Personally, I dream of an office with fully enclosed cabinets and clean surfaces, but I can honestly say that I am more inspired by a space that contains some of my favourite gifts from clients, collectables and kids’ notes. The most important element of my personal workspace is a window that looks onto a tree because nature makes me happy. As well, opening the window to hear the birds sing makes me happy every day. These are small considerations, but important to my overall productivity. What makes you happy? Whatever you decide, make each day your masterpiece.

Samantha Sannella



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