Tag Archives: Brendan Charters

Suburban to Urban

Suburban to Urban – Density for the good of the community

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Suburban to Urban – Density for the good of the community

Toronto, having entered the global scene as a major world centre over the last two decades, still needs to mature in many ways. As residents of the fastest growing metropolis in North America, Torontonians have had to embrace change, and have done so reasonably well. However, where we have failed is mirrored across major centres throughout North America, and in many cases, the world. It has been highly publicized that Toronto is a tale of two housing types – the highrise condo and the lowrise single-family home. There is a gap in choice for the residents and new Torontonians immigrating to this city (more than 100,000 arrived last year alone).

The “missing middle” is a housing type that takes the built form of duplex, cottage courts, fourplexes townhouses, stacked triplexes, multiplexes and live/work suites. These are sometimes illegal due to the zoning that governs many of the areas defined as stable neighbourhoods. Also referred to as the “yellow belt,” this area makes up about 70 per cent of the city’s landmass. Still, it also includes a declining population (as those living in the single-family homes continue to age and their kids leave the nest, permanently). In comparison, defined strips of the city (generally downtown and along the Yonge Street corridor) are booming in vertical expansion of condominiums that scrape the sky.

The dichotomy is often not suitable, as it leaves an aging population in homes they may have difficulty aging in. It also relegates young cash-strapped families starting in tiny condos to move out sooner, fleeing the city in search of more house and more land.

With an excess of six million people calling the GTA home today, slated to grow past eight million in 10 years and balloon to more than 10 million in less than 25 years, the great bastion of the “stable neighbourhood,” and the people and property owners within it, must change. If everyone who moved out of a condo in search of an alternate housing type moved to one of the bedroom communities outside the GTA, our North America leading gridlock would only worsen. We just can’t build enough transit to keep up with that solution. In a mega-city such as Toronto and an even more populous group in the GTA, efficiently moving people will forever remain a significant challenge.

But, as we know, change is hard. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about swift change for the entire world. One of the great challenges that has been noticed is the impact of density on the transmission of the virus. Rental rates of condos located downtown are reported to be down close to 20 per cent. While anecdotally, real estate professionals are citing a growing flock of persons cashing in and relocating to communities up to two hours from the city in hopes of finding affordability and physical distancing from others.

With the help of Zoom and similar technologies, working from home is possible, but can also provide strain when working and living with a family within a small condo. The single-family housing type which dominates most neighbourhoods can become more flexible and provide housing for many types of residents, across different life stages and various economic levels.

It makes little sense for a young family to become grossly indebted obtaining a single-family home, have their kids vacate the building in search of their own housing once they’ve grown, leaving two people to remain in a four-bedroom home. When one passes away, it can leave three empty bedrooms and a lot of house to maintain and safely provide for their own care within, all while shutting other families out of the market for longer than necessary.

Suppose we were to reimagine these existing buildings – to convert from a single-family dwelling to a duplex, triplex or fourplex. Or, even allow for the assembly of two to three of these structures for a lowrise, four-storey walkup (with elevators) as was allowed in old Toronto. We could provide for transition options for people to stay in their communities for their entire lifecycle if they chose to.

It would also develop a more accurate societal cross-section (a real “community,” if you will), comprising babies, young children, teenagers, young adults, families and seniors. Each of whom has vastly different housing needs and have varied socio-economic backgrounds. As Ted Knight famously quips in the movie Caddyshack, “The world needs ditch diggers too!” Why must the post-war suburbs be reserved for high-income professionals or those benefitting from generational wealth?

Toronto and its residents know full well that we are in a housing crisis. With only a few thousand legal secondary suites in the city and, an estimated existence of between 70,000 to 100,000 illegal basement apartments, a well-defined and exploited need is outpacing political abilities to make the changes we need.

For our mutual benefit, as we all travel the journey of our lifecycle together, we could be creating walkable communities while rehabilitating the aged housing stock in the process and helping the environment, too. If still unconvinced, spend some time reading from local planners such as Richard Florida, Jennifer Keesmaat, Gil Meslin and Architecture critic Alex Bozikovic. Google terms “gentle and distributed density,” “missing middle” and “flexible housing” to get an idea of how subtle change can make a positive impact for everyone. If you like your community, let’s work together to change it so it will work for you and your family forever.

If you want to design, build or renovate your home for the long term, remember there is real value in working with a professional to design and build the space. Visit renomark.ca, the home of the professional renovator, to start your search when looking to start your project.

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at design-build firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the 2020 BILD Renovator of the Year.

@eurodalehomes

416.782.5690


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The must-do maintenance checklist for every homeowner defined by nature

The homeowner’s must-do maintenance checklist defined by nature

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The homeowner’s must-do maintenance checklist defined by nature

Elements of nature. Powerful and unlike anything invented by humans. In the end, nature always wins, so within here, we offer every homeowner a simple checklist to follow to ensure that you protect your investment, and everything inside of it, from falling prey to the forces attributed to the elements of nature.

Air, water, fire and earth – the four elements present different risks, and thus, different approaches to minimize those risks, when it comes to your property. To keep it simple and easy to remember, we will provide four tips for each element, for a sweet total of 16 maintenance items we can all get behind.

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Air

Roof – Inspect at grade and at roof for torn, missing or curling shingles as they can lift easily in high winds and expose raw sheathing. Check inside attic for proper ventilation and potential signs of moisture (mould on underside of sheathing, depressed or black insulation). Wind-driven roof damage may only otherwise show up when you notice ceiling damages on the inside.

Photography: bigstock.com
Photography: bigstock.com

Caulking – Window sills, joints between exterior cladding, door frames all bleed air. Insulation and caulking at basement floor joist headers can dramatically reduce air infiltration and exfiltration, resulting in energy savings and increased comfort.

HVAC – Have an annual furnace/boiler and AC service, replace filters every three months, clean ducts and ventilation fans inside grills.

Tie downs/weight – Lawn furniture, yard tools, anything left outside that is not overly heavy or tied down can become a dangerous projectile in a strong wind. Review these regularly before the storms blow into town.

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Water

Photography: bigstock.com
Photography: bigstock.com

Roof – Similar to wind risks, old or missing shingles cannot perform in keeping water out. Water inside the building envelope can create major finish damages, structural and health problems in a big hurry. Included with the roof inspection, we recommend cleaning eavestroughs twice per year to ensure proper flow and reduce ice damning risk in winter.

Caulking – Interior and exterior caulking should be inspected annually. Showers and sink edges, a crack the size of a credit card could result in major leak damage. Window and door sills should be inspected for bubbling and cracking of caulking, as well as roof vents to ensure reduced risk of water infiltration.

HVAC – Check hot water tank, furnace and air conditioners for leaking at floor, and drain lines to be free flowing. Ensure humidifiers are not overly scaled and flow as should.

Drinking water – Replace fridge or sink filter at least twice annually. Send test kit sample of tap water to municipality for testing annually. Also, turn off hose bibs on interior and open exterior by November 1st each year to avoid freezing damage (even on “Frost-Free” faucets!).

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Fire

Courtesy of Nest
Courtesy of Nest

Alarm – Replace Smoke/CO alarm battery annually and test alarms monthly. We recommend the NEST alarms for their regular smart phone notifications and testing, as well as the neat night-light option.

Extinguishers – Check/recharge fire extinguisher(s) for the kitchen. Add a single sprinkler head or the Haven ceiling mount suppression device in the mechanical room (the location of most fires.)

HVAC – Clean or have annual service performed and check

Dryers – Remove and clean out ventilation grill, vent pipe and inside edge of appliance to prevent overheating.

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Earth

Soil – Ensure positive slope away from foundations and fill any depressions around downspouts to ensure proper storm runoff.

Radon gas – Test kit or continuous monitor (preferred) and ventilate sub-slab in basement to depressurize against odourless carcinogen that naturally emanates from some soil types.

Fertilize – Early spring, mid-summer and late fall to ensure lawn and garden have adequate nutrients.

Sweep – Monthly cleaning of the hard surfaces around your house can highlight any rot or repairs needed to decks, porches and also reduce the amount of dirt dragged into your home.

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If your home is in need of more than a little routine maintenance and you are contemplating a new home or more extensive renovation, remember there is real value in working with a professional to design and build the space. Visit renomark.ca, the home of the professional renovator, to start your search when looking to start your project.

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the GTA’s only four-time winner of the Renovator of the Year award.

@eurodalehomes

416.782.5690


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Top honours at 2020 BILD Renovation and Custom Home Awards

Top honours at 2020 BILD Renovation and Custom Home Awards

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Top honours at 2020 BILD Renovation and Custom Home Awards

The Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) handed out their annual Renovation and Custom Home Awards to the GTA’s top renovators and custom home builders by video conference on April 8th.

Created by BILD in 1999, the Renovation and Custom Home awards recognize professional renovators and custom home builders for their innovation, quality of work, customer service and industry leadership.

BILD received a record 117 submissions for 25 categories that included Best Overall Space, Best Overall Renovation, Best Overall Custom Home, Custom Home Builder of the Year and the coveted Renovator of the Year award. All submissions were evaluated by 28 industry professionals who served as volunteer judges.

This year, the Renovator of the Year award went to Eurodale Design + Build for their commitment to customer service and their contribution to the overall image of the renovation industry. Eurodale Design + Build also won Best Innovative Renovation.

“Eurodale customers were impressed with the renovator’s quality workmanship and professionalism,” says Dave Wilkes, president and CEO of BILD. “True to the RenoMark brand, Eurodale clients were provided with a warranty for the work done and clients felt that the renovator went out of their way to deliver an outstanding project with excellent service and followup.”

The award for Custom Home Builder of the Year went to Luxor Home Corporation. Luxor Homes’ clients felt that the builder went above and beyond to provide great quality of work and outstanding customer service. Luxor Home Corporation also won Best Custom Home Kitchen.

Profile Custom Homes won the Best Overall Custom Home award for their project in Mississauga. The design and flow of the home blurs the line between indoor and outdoor living areas. The modern design is softened by the use of wood and the integration of views of nature from every room of the home. They also won Best Custom Home over $2 million, Best Custom Home Washroom, and Best Renovation (No addition) over $500,000.

Best Overall Renovation went to Carmelin Design + Build. Carmelin Design also won Best Condominium Renovation under $200,000, and Best Renovation (No addition) under $250,000.

Both of these award-winning projects utilize high-contrast colour features in the kitchen, while softening the floor through the continuous use of hardwood floors throughout the home. The integration of large windows, which are expertly orientated in the design, maximizes the infiltration of sunlight throughout the home.

Lifestyles by Barons Inc. won Best Overall Space Renovation. This beautifully constructed whole home renovation is a testament to Lifestyles by Barons’ attention to detail and listening to the desires of their client. The integration of the soft-coloured stone and tile throughout the home provides an ambience of strength, while relaxing and easing the homeowner’s state of mind. Lifestyles by Barons Inc. also won Best Basement Renovation over $125,000, and Best Washroom Renovation.

“This year’s winners exemplify the quality, innovation, creativity and integrity that homeowners can expect when working with professional RenoMark renovators and custom builders,” says Wilkes.

All award winners are members of the national RenoMark program, which connects homeowners with professional renovators who have agreed to abide by a renovation-specific code of conduct. Contact information for all RenoMark renovators is accessible on renomark.ca. A complete list of winners can be found in the latest blog on the RenoMark website as well.

BILD would like to congratulate all the winners and finalists.

A complete list of winners can be found in the blog section of renomark.ca.


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Kitchen Trends 2020

Kitchen Trends 2020 – Tips to advance your home into the roaring ’20s

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Kitchen Trends 2020 – Tips to advance your home into the roaring ’20s

Photography: Thornton Design

In 1949, the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed a full research project around what it described as “A Step-Saving Kitchen.” YouTube it, it’s pretty awesome…but technology, trends and how “the farm homemaker” (or urban millennial) uses the kitchen has evolved greatly since then. So, where does one start and how do you filter the noise? We sat down with our team to break down the main kitchen trends we are implementing in 2020.

Jim Cunningham, Architectural Technologist from Eurodale Design + Build, Interior Designer Laura Thornton from Thornton Design, and Jimmy Zoras from Distinctive by Design, all shared key elements being recommended for consumers. These experts routinely guide homeowners in two crucial areas of the kitchen – functionality and style – so we posed three key questions for them (and you) to consider when crafting the perfect kitchen for this new decade of food storage, preparation and the social interactions connected to food.

Firstly, what is the single most critical design feature you try to convince clients to include in their kitchens?

JC ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN: Incorporate more receptacles, with integrated USB ports for connecting devices. Backsplash, under cabinets, sides of islands, counter pop-ups, even inside drawers – you can never have enough. Lastly, always rough-in for water to the refrigerator, and a future pot-filler over the range to future-proof the space.

LT INTERIOR DESIGN: Kitchen islands are a great addition to any kitchen, offering extra seating and storage. If size allows, instead of one large island, we prefer dual islands. They are a fantastic way to increase traffic flow while expanding a kitchen’s function, dividing between meal-prep island and a serving island or additional seating island.

JZ KITCHEN DESIGN: Specialty hardware adds real-life functionality. Automatic Servo Drive mechanisms for doors and drawers, pull-out drawers instead of doors, cabinet door-lift systems and corner-cabinet hardware (magic corners and Lemans units), these are all great investments for easy cleanup and access.

What do you feel is the outgoing or passé trend (style or function-based element)?

JC: Gold knobs. Some things should remain in the ’80s, if only for historic preservation.

LT: Goodbye boring subway tiles and say hello to slab backsplash. Eliminating grout eliminates maintenance. In addition, a vertical-run slab adds show-stopping drama.

JZ: Dark-stained cabinets are a thing of the past as we are using more natural wood as accents for cabinetry to make the kitchen pop with a statement.

What is the next hot thing that will find its way into new kitchen designs for 2020 and beyond?

JC: Contrast is back. Now we see a flip to three-tone colouring and wood uppers with painted lower cabinets. Light blue is making a splash as well vs. the navy that has been prevalent the last five or six years.

LT: Concealed hood fan covers. The unexpected use of metals, marble or quartz, stained wood, tiles and even shiplap has become a way to cover the hood fan for a sleek and clean overall esthetic. Material, texture and sizes are changing the face of this long-ignored kitchen element.

JZ: Black-powder coated metals for exposed tubing and framed open-shelving with wood accents. Stone is also a big item now for full-height backsplashes as well as accent pieces such as hood fan covers as a vertical stone show like an art piece.

Lastly, the biggest thing to remember is that kitchens are now multi-faceted spaces that allow for almost everything you could otherwise do elsewhere in the home (excluding sleeping and washroom facilities, thanks). Sizes of homes in urban settings are shrinking and the kitchen has evolved into a space, which is constantly visible, not excluded from the rest of it. Built-in banquettes, eat-in kitchens, desk spaces and multi-use elements are allowing families the ability to congregate in one main room to remain connected to each other vs. ducking away into private rooms with their personal devices. Housing affordability is also shaping these spaces as in many bachelor condos, the kitchen is open to the combined family room and bedroom, so concealment of storage, prep items and appliances is essential. Whatever the square footage, we are sure that the design team’s suggestions of functional storage, hardware selection, texture, colour, millwork elements and tone integration as well as multi-use islands are all critical features for a modern kitchen to kick off the new decade.

When planning your own kitchen in a new home or renovation, remember there is real value in working with a professional to design and build the space. Function is as important as form here, and planning your search at renomark.ca, the home of the professional renovator is a great place to start looking for help.

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the GTA’s only four-time winner of the Renovator of the Year award.

@eurodalehomes

416.782.5690


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Make room for mudrooms

Make room for mudrooms

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Make room for mudrooms

The Four Seasons – no, not the luxury hotel chain – the actual seasons that are responsible for supplying the dust, dirt, snow, salt, leaves, grass clippings constantly deposited inside your front entry are a year-round issue. The sandals, shoes, boots, coats, toques, mitts, scarves, ball caps and knapsacks that we drag inside (and out) join in too, making it next to impossible to have a presentable and formal entry in any home – unless you have a mudroom, of course.

A few short steps to a lower level can reduce stress on the main floor. Photography: Valerie Wilcox
A few short steps to a lower level can reduce stress on the main floor. Photography: Valerie Wilcox

Lack of space, surplus of footwear

The reality is that many urban homes have tiny main entrances. As such, finding a creative and attractive way to store outerwear becomes challenging. Even if you have the room to tuck away all the outdoor paraphernalia, the floors quickly become an extension of the exterior – and not in the good way – like when architects reference the free flow between the main floor family room and the pool terrace off the bi-folding Nana-wall in Arizona. This is just messy, and when guests come to your door, it is best if they are not greeted with footwear strewn about and forced to step into slush or mud in their socked feet as they enter.

Enter Peacefully – a clean main entry is only achieved with an associated mudroom. Photography: Valerie Wilcox
Enter Peacefully – a clean main entry is only achieved with an associated mudroom. Photography: Valerie Wilcox

Carve out some unconventional space

The solution is to add to, or creatively remodel, your space to allow for an alternate entrance. With space at a premium in urban house settings, the footprint of homes needs to maximize the lot areas and if they don’t already do so, pushing outward off the side of the existing dwelling is the first natural choice. Second to that, is to push off the back of the home, allowing pedestrians to avoid the front door entirely and access the home from either the side or the back. If neither option is available, a front-facing expansion can occasionally allow for a de-formalization of the main entry and create an expanded combination vestibule/mudroom at the front of the home. Let’s face it, if we get a chance to install some more storage elements, it will instantly make the space feel more clean and organized, reducing clutter and mess. If none of those options are viable, we take a look at a quick floor level shift. Given the main floor in the majority of homes are a couple of feet above established grade (a function of pushing footings at least four feet below grade to avoid the heaving effects of winter frost), a side door at, or close to grade will provide for a short run down to the basement level where one can install a mudroom, leaving only a few stairs to keep clean and removing the mess entirely from the main floor.

Millwork is perfect to hide it all with stylish doors and drawers. Photography: Will Fournier
Millwork is perfect to hide it all with stylish doors and drawers. Photography: Will Fournier

Design considerations

We have developed many different configurations for these rooms and the total space allocations and quality of the finishes are dependent on how many people reside in the home, how many visitors (extended family and close friends) come over on a regular basis, if there is a home-based business on the property, whether the home is a single family dwelling or if there is a secondary suite within the same building, and what the budget provisions are for the undertaking. Closets, millwork, benches, flooring type and natural light are all key considerations in the design.

Use earth tones to hide the dirt we bring in from the outdoors. Photography: Valerie Wilcox
Use earth tones to hide the dirt we bring in from the outdoors. Photography: Valerie Wilcox

Creative space alternatives

No matter what your existing home and lot may offer, if you are struggling with the mayhem at the front entry, some careful planning and design can go a long way to retain the sanity of all residents and guests visiting your home. It just takes a little creativity, time and initiative. Don’t get bogged down by the conventional labels for spaces. Define how to best allocate the areas of a home for the needs of everyone who lives there. Let’s mudroom together! For your really good friends, invest in one of those kitschy mats that suggest “Back door (or side door) guests are best.” Trust me, you (and they), will be glad you did!

Thinking of a mudroom in your new addition, renovation or custom home project? As always, I recommend you start your search at RenoMark.ca to find a professional design-builder to help undertake the full project from initial plan, through design, approvals and final construction.

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the GTA’s only four-time winner of the Renovator of the Year award.

@eurodalehomes

416.782.5690


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The Party Project

If you want a major renovation to be completed in time for a holiday party, think again

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If you want a major renovation to be completed in time for a holiday party, think again

The global calendars are set around the end of the year. Across all religions, the holidays or holy days are virtually the same every year (within reason) and yet each year – sometime between the end of summer (read Labour Day) and December 1st, we seem to lose a few critical months in our minds. The day Halloween is over in Canada, the shops and malls start playing holiday music, parties begin to fill our calendars through to New Year’s Eve, before we even digest our Thanksgiving meals. Just like that, another year has passed!

Stress-stopper

When thinking about a big party to footnote a large addition, renovation or custom home project, our first piece of advice is to stop, and not do it if it is at all tied to a rigid date like a religious holiday, birthday, graduation or worse… wedding day! Sure, some of us work better under the pressure of a deadline, and having a firm date can truly help spur things to happen quicker (or when they should in the first place), but keep in mind that residential projects are fluid beasts that can twist and turn as a result of a series of relatively uncontrollable factors.

The perfect project — right up until the thick Fibre optic cable was uncovered where the addition was designed to sit, adding over a month to the project.
Photography by Valerie Wilcox (After photo), Nikolas Koenig (Before and During photos.)

Permit backlog

Projects start with design, but most projects require review and approvals from some municipal regulatory body. In busy cities across this province, those time frames have been lengthening and have become increasingly unpredictable. In Toronto proper for instance, it is not uncommon for a large addition and renovation project to require anywhere from a few months up to two years to obtain approvals required to start construction, depending on the rules which govern the property and the proposed project.

Nature delays

Forecasting and scheduling handcrafted builds is also unlike the highly measurable work undertaken in a controlled factory setting. Although prefabrication is increasing in many tract-built sites, it has yet to make inroads successfully into smaller, single infill or remodel sites. What may look perfect on paper, rarely translates perfectly to the field. For example, hidden surprises like soil conditions, asbestos, or archaeological finds can only show up once things start on-site. Likewise, weather can impact delivery of materials, as well as production rates of workers until a structure is closed in and at least watertight. In Ontario, as in much of Canada, we undergo blistering heat in the summer and bone-chilling cold in the winter – both have impacts on the pace and safety of workers on-site, which in turn affect productivity estimates. From one year to the next, temperatures and precipitation rates can vary tremendously and are unpredictable at best.

Not to mention, most firms that take on single family projects are small businesses, hence with small teams. Anything from illness and injuries to vehicle breakdowns, life’s curveballs impacts the number of people who show up to work on a site any given day.

The project schedule was railroaded upon discovery of what lied beneath. The house was situated atop cinder and ashes from a former adjacent rail line.
Photography by Will Fournier

Rebates & supply-demand chain

Suppliers of materials are very susceptible to market forces when it comes to being able to supply goods that are desired or required. A busy marketplace can become infinitely busier and almost unmanageable when government initiatives are rolled out, such as rebate programs (remember GreenON and the impact on window manufacturers?), as well as economies, which purchase supplies from us such as our friends south of the border (remember the Gulf War and the impact on plywood?). Tariffs and trade wars, as well as market prices of commodities can all affect availability of items you plan to put into your home.

Lastly, as the consumer, we must also appreciate that our own lives can get in the way. Domestic challenges can quickly require much more attention, as well dependents and work commitments can delay our scheduled plans to select finishes or review project details that the contractor may require from us.

Realistic timelines

The construction project road is nicely paved with good intentions. It’s important that we are all realistic about the time it takes to build what we are planning. It’s also very helpful to look into the project rear-view mirror. Ask your architect, designer and builder what similar projects took to undertake, and ask for client references to confirm those time frames. Each project is also unique in its own right and deserves a custom schedule. A generous site with a new-build custom home can be undertaken in less than six months, whereas a tight urban addition and renovation project that includes underpinning could easily take upwards of a full year to build. We recommend creating two schedules – with a two-month gap between them. Have your project partners work towards the tighter target, and you plan for the one with the two-month padding and hope that you are able to meet somewhere in the middle. If either of your targets arrive within a couple of weeks of the holidays, resist the urge to mail out party invitations, unless it’s a painting or moving party, as the odds are…something will have impeded the project completion. Why add that stress to anyone’s plate as part of a dramatic construction project?

Thinking of undertaking an addition, renovation or custom home project? Start your search at RenoMark.ca to find a professional design-builder to help undertake the full project from initial plan, through design, approvals and final construction. You’ll be glad you did.

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the GTA’s only four-time winner of the Renovator of the Year award.

@eurodalehomes

(416) 782-5690


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Trade tips for the perfect bathroom

Trade tips for the perfect bathroom

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Trade tips for the perfect bathroom

Washroom, Bathroom, Restroom, Lavatory – call it what you will, we all know what a nice one looks like, and we all steer clear of ones that make us cringe. In virtually every project we design and build, there is one, if not more, of these critical rooms in the homes that are being newly created, gutted or updated.

Bathrooms, as with any room in a home, are affected by the four key budget factors: area (size), architectural complexity (spatial design), HAAS (the systems) and the quality of finishes. Some key tips we offer our clients are not typical or standard inclusions in washrooms, but many of our clients wisely opt for these comfortable and stylish upgrades. We will outline them here for you to consider adding into your own spa-like escape at home.

Photography by Valerie Wilcox
Photography by Valerie Wilcox

The niche

Though many pre-manufactured options now exist, we can create custom shower cubbies to hold shampoo, conditioner, bar soap and razors. Cubbies can be placed to conceal these products, or be a more centralized focal point, depending on your personal preference.

The floor drain

We picked this tip up from our architect friend, Richard Librach. A floor drain, tied to the main stack and installed adjacent to the toilet, is the perfect minor add-on to handle those periodic and pesty toilet overflows. Especially handy in second or third floor washrooms, this can prevent a messy and costly cleanup!

The warm floor

Either electrically (cheaper to install, more expensive to run) or hydronically heated (expensive to install, cheaper to operate), nothing says luxury like stepping onto a warm tile or stone floor in bare feet. Once you go hot, you never go not.

Photography by Nikolas Koenig
Photography by Nikolas Koenig

The concealed drain

Under benches, long, linear or tile-covered drains have taken that traditional round grate from the centre of the shower and transitioned it into a showpiece, or concealed it completely for a more sophisticated look. With curbless showers taking a more prominent position in the marketplace, these drains are one of the most evolving aspects of the bathroom as of late.

Ventilation

While not a code requirement, adding a dedicated switch for your bathroom fan is a smart upgrade. We recommend a timer to increase simplicity and save on energy. ‘Set it and forget it’ helps ensure the fan doesn’t turn off when you turn off the light; it also ensures it runs for a good 30 minutes after a shower, and not all day and night, wasting energy. This also helps reduce mould. If you are really low-maintenance, you can put your trust in a moisture-sensing fan that will turn on and off when humidity levels command it. Or, for something smart and stylish, consider an automatic ERV self-ventilating skylight.

Not just any tile

We don’t recommend natural stone for shower floors. Toronto city water is very hard and has lots of iron that will yellow your beautiful Carrera marble in short order. Stick with the manufactured product here. Likewise, if you like to get a little steamy in the shower, a tiled ceiling will help ensure the moisture doesn’t condense on the painted plaster surface. It costs a bit more but provides a more resistant, easier-to-clean surface.

Steam units

What better way to cleanse the pores than to steam them out? At home personal steam units are becoming more common requests for those looking for the relaxing and pampered spa-like experience.

Photography by Will Fournier
Photography by Will Fournier

Moisture sensors

Eddy home, Alert Labs and similar manufacturers, are producing small sensors hidden, either beside or behind the toilet, that will alert you by text message, email or phone call that there is water accumulating on the floor (from a shower, vanity or toilet), allowing you to act before the issue gets to be a bigger problem.

Recirculation line

Especially useful for tankless or on-demand boiler applications and in second-floor bathrooms, a recirculation loop to the vanity sink and the shower helps ensure instant hot water is ready for use and helps prevent water wastage.

Transom windows

Privacy, natural light and fresh air are all plentiful with these awning-style, high-mounted windows.

Intelligent toilets

Not your grandparent’s bidet, these seats or full-toilet systems can supply your water closet with music, night lights, and warm air blowing at your feet and/or your backside. It’s the ultimate luxury to ensure the most luxurious “go” experience.

Single component grout

Premixed, colour-perfect and stain-proof, this grout resists shrinking, cracking and wear and tear and also prevents mould – the nice bathroom destroyer!

Mirror, mirror on the wall

From custom cabinet framing, to lit vanity mirrors, and mirrors with hidden TV screens embedded within the glass, voice and smart mirrors, the conventional mirror – even with your beautiful face in it – is just plain boring! “Hello Alexa, apply a filter to my bathroom selfie!” Thinking of a new bathroom or perhaps overhauling an existing one? As always, I recommend you start your search at RenoMark.ca to find a professional builder to help you undertake the installations of all the new finishes in your project.

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the GTA’s only four-time winner of the Renovator of the Year award.

@eurodalehomes

(416) 782-5690


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Design/Build Expert: Metals

Magic Metal Mix: The beauty of blending hardware finishes creates a unique look

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Magic Metal Mix: The beauty of blending hardware finishes creates a unique look

Metal is mined from nature and provides durable and stylish fixtures and hardware in our homes. Once upon a time, metal selection followed a “set and forget” method when detailing hardware accents – never veering from the single selected metal – no matter where it was used within a home. If the faucet was chrome, brushed nickel or brass, so too were the light fixtures, the door handles and the cabinet hardware. Those rules have now fallen by the wayside, as designers, contractors and homeowners are switching things up and even adding metallic accents where they were not typically thought of or seen before.

We interviewed Halina Catherine from Halina Catherine Design in Toronto to get her take on how and where she is mixing metals in her projects. First, we wanted to know if there were rules for mixing metals in a home.

Photography: Peter Sellar
Photography: Peter Sellar

BRENDAN CHARTERS: What is the rule when mixing metals?

HALINA CATHERINE: Mixing metals in home decor can give your space a clean and elegant look. Although some people may feel intimidated to do so, there is no hard rule against it. A trick of the trade to create a more esthetically pleasing mix would be to select a dominant metal and accent it with another. A kitchen, for example, with predominantly stainless-steel finishes (stove, sink and fridge) would look nice with an added pop of gold cabinet hardware to offset and accent it, and could be further layered with a matching highlight trim on the stove hood. If the homeowner is more reserved and prefers a more minimalist look, mixing darker metals, but still using different finishes like polished, hammered and matte finishes, can develop a similar, albeit muted effect.

BC: Do you think this somewhat “glam” style of metallic influence has potential for crossing over into fabrics and furnishings?

HC: Yes! Metallic materials in fabrics have started to make their way from the fashion runways into home decor. Sheer neutral drapery with a slight metallic thread running through them is something I’ve incorporated in my interiors for the last few years. It’s so subtle but enhances the overall appeal.

Photography: Halina Catherine
Photography: Halina Catherine

Photography: Halina Catherine
Photography: Halina Catherine

BC: Since runway clothing fashion is increasingly influencing what we put into our homes, what trends are you seeing in metals for cabinet or door hardware vs. plumbing or light fixtures?

HC: We are living in a relatively unstructured time – people are resisting typical rules, they don’t want to follow trends, and they want individuality expressed in their homes. Designers want to flex their creative muscles to the max. Since clients are open to this, suppliers are now developing more metals than ever, in different and more creative ways. Furniture, including tables, sofa bases, kitchen and media cabinets with brass or brushed chrome or stainless inlays, are all unique methods of adding a touch of metallic, which highlights and mixes well with more traditional metallics. Light fixtures and plumbing fixtures are also following suit. I just finished a project where we used brushed platinum plumbing fixtures, accented with polished gold and smoked-amber glass. The combination was stunning! Who thought platinum would be available in plumbing fixtures? I always thought it was reserved for wedding bands!

BC: Boundaries are being pushed and interiors are looking more unique than ever, however, is there an urban vs. rural divide?

HC: It’s important to choose your finish according to how it will make you feel. It’s always about loving your space first, whether rural or urban. No rules. However, in saying that, if I were designing a space in an urban environment, I typically gravitate to cool tones – think chic polished chrome with white inlays, or matte-black paired with nickel. In a rural farmhouse I’m designing in Caledon, Ontario, we have incorporated bronze alloy hardware throughout, containing copper, silicon and zinc, giving all the fixtures a warm coppery-gold undertone. It’s rustic-warm but weighty at the same time to be able to hold its own in rooms with large wood beams and stone.

BC: Trends can change quickly, which can mean costly mistakes or changes. What would you recommend for people in search of something more “timeless?”

HC: The truth is, there is nothing trendy about metals. They have been around since the beginning of time. Gold is timeless, as is stainless steel, nickel, platinum and matte black pewter – though some of the finishing of these metals can change, the metals are all natural, hence timeless by their very nature. I encourage you to stop feeling like you need to follow a trend and instead be your own trendsetter. Do what you love and what feels best to you. Fortunately, the days of choosing all-polished chrome as the only acceptable choice have truly gone by the wayside.

The bottom line is that we can surrender our fears, as we are officially free to mix it up with metals and have some fun. At Eurodale Design + Build, we like to work with professional designers, like Halina Catherine Design, as experts help provide confidence and direction to homeowners undertaking an addition, renovation or custom home project, and their expertise always ensures things tie together nicely.

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the GTA’s only four-time winner of the Renovator of the Year award.

@eurodalehomes

(416) 782-5690


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Design/Build Expert: Laneway housing

Stay in your lane, pal: Laneways, now are for more than just vehicles and vermin

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Stay in your lane, pal: Laneways, now are for more than just vehicles and vermin

Toronto has a housing problem; some call it a crisis. One of the levers Council is pulling at to increase more urban housing options (a pilot project) is to construct laneway houses in rear yards that abut public lanes.

Photo courtesy of R-Haux
Photo courtesy of R-Haux

Beyond the basement

There are 2,433 lanes in the city of Toronto and since June 2018, residents have been able to plan for and build these secondary suites, in a (somewhat) detached fashion from the main dwelling. Essentially, it shifts the previously permitted basement apartment to move up and behind the principal dwelling, so long as the services are provided from the main building, and the lot is not severed. It’s a practice that has been allowed in many other metropolitan centres for some time. Cities such as Vancouver, Los Angeles and even Ottawa have had similar bylaws and a plethora of interesting solutions already successfully resided in. Over the past year, however, the Building Department reports there have only been 78 permits applied for and six permissions issued. The goal of the bylaw was to allow for quicker and easier action by Torontonians, but given its connection to the city’s more complex makeup of other governing bylaws, 15 other applications are awaiting Committee of Adjustment hearings for minor relief to the rules. That alone can add more than six months to the approval process, so seeing this put into any significant practice will take some time.

Livable lanes

So, who benefits from this pilot project, you ask? Potentially, anyone and everyone. Adding laneway housing brings eyeballs to the lanes, which increases safety of persons living in or passing through them. The city benefits from an increased tax base and the (hopefully) good news story about gentle density, increased housing choices and improved stock – therefore improved affordability.

Photo courtesy of Lanescape
Photo courtesy of Lanescape

How to make it happen

There are many options available to any current homeowner who has property abutting a lane inside the pilot area. One company that was a part of the laneway bylaw development is Tony Cunha and his team at Lanescape.ca. They hold regular public information sessions for designers, builders and homeowners looking to learn more about the intricate process and rules governing these initiatives. They also provide design and construction services, which range in cost due to factors including finished vs. unfinished areas, site-specific servicing, plus consulting fees. Tony emphasizes that this is not the ‘Tiny House’ movement gripping social media. “These units,” he attests, “can be up to 1,700 sq.ft. in size, with a 10mx8m footprint.” Lanescape has done a great job at creating illustrations of how to fit a laneway house onto a lot, and the zoning restrictions that govern it. Setbacks from the lane, the main dwelling, as well as height and angular plane restrictions ensures this is a true secondary suite, and not just another house behind a house. While every lot is unique, if you understand the basic rules, there is an as-of-right condition to fit something onto virtually every lane abutting lot. Stickhandling the rules, with guidance from professionals, can shorten the approval process and build the laneway home faster.

Bylaw-friendly design

Another group focused on designing solutions that fit the bylaws, is Leith Moore and his team at R-Hauz. They are taking the approach of full bylaw conformity, and have designed a number of products that fit the as-of-right-bylaw, based upon the typical Toronto lot sizes aiming at range from 15 to 30 ft. with stops at 20 and 25 ft. Their goal is to reduce the time required to erect the dwelling through a level of pre-fabrication and repetition of product and process. With roots in larger tract-style development, they are focused on the speed and scalability of the build, for the benefit of the customer and their neighbours, who also share daily access in and out of the shared lanes. With a more contemporary square, yet curvilinear design and standardized options for systems and finishes, these houses have been designed with a “best square foot, rather than most square foot” mantra to maximize storage and comfort and flow for the occupants. With a design already hatched, zoning approvals as-of-right and a repeatable product with modularized components, these may be the most prevalent solutions we start to see around our lanes.

Photo courtesy of Lanescape
Photo courtesy of Lanescape

Urban revival

We at Eurodale Design + Build, coupled with a handful of architecture offices and custom builders throughout the city, have also dipped our toes in the collective waters, but on a per lot, per client, custom type solution. Many of these projects become lumped in with improvements to the original, aged dwelling that exists on the lot to begin with, as part of a more holistic gentrification of the site. Given the services for the new laneway must be tied to the original home, work will be required at the basement level for connecting electricity, water, sewer and gas anyway. Damages done will want to be repaired, and there is an economy of scale to do improvements to the principal dwelling when crews are on-site for the laneway project. These will create a whole host of unique designs and construction projects of varying style and quality levels, spearheading a tapestry of urban revival of sorts, while solving some housing challenges Torontonians are collectively feeling as we mature and grow.

Do you have any ideas as to how a laneway house could benefit your own life? Give one of the aforementioned professionals a call to see how this exciting initiative could become a benefit to you and your family. As always, I recommend you start your search at RenoMark.ca to find a professional builder to help undertake your project for you.

Who is laneway housing good for? Potentially anyone and everyone. Here is a quick list of who may find it a solution to their needs.

• ADULT KIDS – a great launching pad to help teach these birds to fly.

• AGING PARENTS – retaining independence of space, but safety and security of proximity to loved ones.

• FIRST-TIME OR MOVE-UP BUYERS – help qualify for and pay down the mortgage with a tenant in the main dwelling or the lane house.

• REAL ESTATE SIDE HUSTLERS AND SMALL DEVELOPERS – a way to maximize the value of a lot with some extra construction.

• CAREGIVERS OR PERSONAL SERVICE WORKERS – live-in-style care with a live-out feeling.

• RETIREES DOWNSIZING OR IN SEARCH OF RESIDUAL INCOME STREAM – convert an existing property into an income source without affecting the main house.

• DIVORCEES: better than the proverbial doghouse, this could allow families to stay close together, albeit not under the same roof.

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the GTA’s only four-time winner of the Renovator of the Year award.

@eurodalehomes

(416) 782-5690


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Design/Build Expert: Kitchens

What’s cookin’ good lookin’ ? Kitchens are changing. This is how and why

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What’s cookin’ good lookin’ ? Kitchens are changing. This is how and why

Photography by Peter Sellar

Kitchens are changing dramatically in Canada as housing forms continue to change, and the driver is the divide between larger, expansive sprawl or estate-style homes versus the shrinking units found in the newer, micro-sized condo suites. They are also evolving to represent the true goal of these spaces – and it may differ from what you may initially think.

Size matters

The larger the home, the more likely one can find an eat-in style, more closed concept, dedicated kitchen space. While this room may be somewhat open to either the dining room or the family room for a great-room style feel, it is now more expansive and opulent than ever.

The smaller the home, the more likely the kitchen is completely open-concept to the main living area, adjacent to either the dining or family rooms, or even integrated into the suite as a whole like in a bachelor-style suite. In these types of spaces, appliances are more often hidden behind panel-style fronts, blending seamlessly and completely out of sight when not in use. It provides more of a multi-functional and flexible space, eliminating the feel that one is always in the kitchen when eating, socializing or even sleeping in those tight urban abodes.

Paradigm shift

The trends as it relates to colours of the cabinets and counters themselves are changing too. While the most popular all-white kitchen has dominated the last decade, the mood and related colour palette is shifting in a big way. The intermixing of colour, be it stained or painted cabinets, have been dropped into the spaces by way of feature islands or lower versus upper cabinet colouring, for some time now. Designer Laura Thornton from Thornton Design confirms the fashion of this hub has taken a virtual 180. “Black,” she says, “as well as deep greys and hearty wood tones in a matte or high-gloss finish,” are setting the dramatic stage. Mixing in more offsetting style includes large industrial ranges and ventilation hood fan covers as popping focal points in larger kitchens. Paired with gold hardware, the strong statement is a paradigm shift from recent historical kitchen projects where hoods were hidden and white cabinets and brushed nickel adorned virtually every project, along with light, if not pure white counters.

Industry insider

Quartz countertop company Cambria further confirms this. Kirstin Kucy, Toronto market rep from Cambria, affirms that even though white and grey counters are still extremely popular in kitchens, consumers and designers are trending more to a darker, sophisticated, richer colour palette. This is most visible in the kitchen surfaces where consumers are gravitating towards darker hues and low-lustre (matte finish) materials. “We’ve seen an increased interest in Cambria’s Blackpool Matte design, a low-sheen, solid-black quartz surface material, as well as in designs from our new Black Marble collection for use in kitchens, and even in architectural elements such as backsplashes, shower walls and fireplace surrounds, in lieu of tile,” she says.

Design district privileges

When planning your own kitchen project, be sure to swing by Toronto’s design-decor district – specifically The Building Block – the new one-stop shopping solution at the corner of Caledonia and Lawrence, where you can retain the full suite of both architectural and interior design services for your space, experience a number of the newest kitchen designs in new vignettes, as well as more than 160 countertop styles in the Cambria Premier Dealership in the Distinctive by Design Fine Cabinetry showroom. You can even retain the service of full construction execution – all under one Green rooftop patio! While in the area, be sure to check out some of our designer and trade local favourites, such as the café inside Elte, or for some cured meats or an espresso at Speducci Mercatto, where you can feel like a trendsetting European as you sort out the selections you will use for your own amazing kitchen.

Buon appetito!

Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the GTA’s only four-time winner of the Renovator of the Year award.

@eurodalehomes

(416) 782-5690


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