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Toronto tour of laneway housing

Tour of Toronto’s laneway housing

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Tour of Toronto’s laneway housing

Photography: Craig Race Architecture Inc.

A few weeks ago, we took BILD’s RenoMark renovators and custom homebuilders, as well as a number of journalists, on a tour of laneway and infill homes in Toronto. We were delighted by the level of interest in this event and happy to add an extra bus to accommodate everyone. We were not surprised to see that people are enthusiastic about the possibilities of laneway housing and eager to learn about the technicalities of building them. With laneway dwellings allowed to be built “as of right” in Toronto and East York as of only last summer – and with city council expected to make a decision in the near future on expanding this to Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke – we are all entering exciting new territory.

The adjunct advantage

A laneway home is typically a second, smaller dwelling built at the back of a lot, facing onto a public lane that shares utilities with the main house. Laneway housing has many advantages, both for homeowners and for neighbourhoods. For the homeowner, a laneway home can be a source of rental income or provide extra living space for extended family. For neighbourhoods, having homes facing onto laneways can improve safety and inject beauty and vibrancy. Laneway housing increases density in a non-intrusive way, enabling a more efficient use of infrastructure such as: transit, schools and community centres. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, laneway homes will contribute some much-needed rental housing in the city of Toronto.

Style meets function in The Junction

The Junction

That will certainly be the case with the first project on our tour – a laneway home that just broke ground in The Junction. The homeowners, who graciously answered questions from our tour participants, are planning to rent out the two-storey, three-bedroom house when it’s completed later this year. With more than 1,400 sq. ft. of living space, this home will do away with notions that laneway homes are cramped sheds in backyards. The best part? The homeowners report that the neighbours are excited, and some are even interested in building on their own lots.

The second laneway home on the tour also offered a feeling of spaciousness, both in the open-concept living area on the ground floor and in the courtyard behind the house. This two-storey, two-bedroom Leslieville home, currently rented out to a young family, was converted from an existing garage.

Sustainable supplement

Leslieville

Next on the tour was an infill project in Leslieville. Infill construction means building and renovating homes in established neighbourhoods. Infill homes, like laneway homes, add gentle density in our communities. The infill home we visited was created after an architect severed an unusually shaped lot into two separate properties. The home is filled with light and its high-performance building envelope helps conserve energy. A basement apartment provides extra rental income.

Laneway building incentives

The City of Toronto is offering two programs to encourage homeowners to develop laneway suites. The first allows for a deferral of development charges for 20 years, while the second provides a forgivable loan for property owners who agree to rent out their laneway suites at an affordable rate for 15 years.

Are you thinking of adding a laneway home on your property, or building or renovating an infill home? Laneway and infill building projects come with their own unique challenges when it comes to zoning requirements, design considerations and construction techniques. Your best bet is to work with a professional RenoMark renovator or custom homebuilder who can guide you through the process. To find one in your area, visit renomark.ca.

Making sure we have enough housing for the 9.7 million people who will call the GTA home by 2041 is a generational challenge. We need innovative solutions — laneway and infill homes among them — to meet it.

David Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the voice of the home building, land development and professional renovation industry in the GTA.

For the latest industry news and new home data, follow BILD on Twitter, Facebook, BILD’s official blog.


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Plan Ahead: BILD president shares insider tips to ensure your renovation comes up roses

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Plan Ahead: BILD president shares insider tips to ensure your renovation comes up roses

Like thousands of people in the GTA every year, I just had a major renovation completed on my home. It was a great way to make sure that my home meets the changing needs of my family, and that it is updated with features and designs that match our current tastes. In doing so, I experienced first-hand the benefits of using a professional renovation contractor, and putting into practice what the Building and Land Development Association (BILD) and its RenoMark renovators recommend to all their clients.

By following our own recommendations, I didn’t experience any nightmare scenarios that unfortunately, are more common than anyone would like to think. The end result was fabulous, the project was finished on time and on budget, and while most renovations often have some bumps in the road, the process went relatively smoothly.

Here are some of our top tips:

  • Spend the time upfront to have a very clear picture of what you want to achieve. Know your budget, and make a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. Chances are, as you proceed with your renovation, you will likely have to make some trade-offs between what you want and what you can afford.
  • Choose your renovation contractor carefully. Interview at least three. If you don’t know where to start, you can find a list of RenoMark renovators on the RenoMark.ca website with renovators in your city from coast to coast. The benefit of using a RenoMark member is that they are professionals, they carry all the applicable licenses and insurance coverages (including WSIB). Also, they will always provide a written contract, provide a two-year warranty on their work and continually upgrade their skills with ongoing education provided by the local home builder’s associations (HBA).
  • When interviewing potential renovation contractors, make sure that they understand your vision for the renovation and are able to work with you to fine-tune your project. Ask for references from previous clients and check them! Don’t just be satisfied with pretty pictures and a snazzy brochure. If they are not a RenoMark renovator, ask them to provide evidence of insurance and workers compensation coverage, ask about their warranty coverage and ask if they are members of the local HBA. Insurance and WSIB coverage are important because if the renovator does not have coverage, you, as the homeowner, could be liable in the event of an accident on the job site.
  • Make sure you have a comprehensive written contract with the renovator. This will make sure you get the renovation you want, and protects you in the event something goes wrong. Check our website for tips that outline some of the most common terms and features you will want to make sure are included in your contract.
  • As the renovation progresses, make sure to stay in regular contact with your renovation contractor. Book regular progress meetings. Changes are bound to occur with the project as you are working with an existing, and sometimes older, structure or home. When you do make changes, make sure to document them with your contractor in a change order.

Fortunately, my overall experience was a very positive one. I worked with a professional and was very happy with the end results. Remember: you wouldn’t hire someone off the street to repair your car; you would go to a licensed mechanic, so why would you risk the biggest investment of your life, your home, to a nonprofessional just to save a few dollars?

David Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the voice of the home building, land development and professional renovation industry in the GTA.

For the latest industry news and new home data, follow BILD on Twitter, Facebook, BILD’s official blog.


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Should I renovate or rebuild?

Should you renovate or rebuild?

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Should you renovate or rebuild?

The beginning of spring offers a sense of renewal; I know it does for me. The warmer weather often has many of us thinking of spring cleaning, home improvement or a home renovation. If you are thinking of a renovation, you can choose to renovate your kitchen or bathroom, or be bold and add an addition to your home. Adding square footage not only enhances the enjoyment of your home, but can increase the value of your property.

When you embark on a large renovation project to add more space, you should ask yourself if you require an addition or a complete re-build. There are many things that need to be considered when making this decision, such as your budget, the state of your existing home and regulatory approval processes.

Reasons to do an addition to your existing home

  • If you are only looking to add a little more floor area, you may want to extend the rear of the house to help make your ground floor living area larger. A small and simple addition is a practical way of creating more space.
  • If you want to add a second storey to your bungalow, and the structure can handle the additional load, building a simple vertical addition can avoid costly work like a new foundation.
  • Heritage, conservation or site density regulatory restrictions may mean that it is impossible to tear down your home and build a new one, so therefore your only choice is to renovate the existing structure.

Reasons to demolish and build a new home

  • The structure isn’t strong enough to handle a second floor addition. A lot of older bungalows are built with very little structure on the ground floor. This would include exterior walls that don’t meet today’s building standards. In this case, you would have no choice but to undergo a costly and invasive structural upgrade, or build new.
  • The quality of your existing home may become too costly to repair. When a home has undergone a series of renovations, there may be a number of construction challenges to be dealt with before creating the new envelope. There is the possibility of illegal or non-conforming work that will need to be brought up to current building code requirements. Other considerations are a damp basement, the state of services (water, sanitary, and hydro) to the home, or general quality of existing finishes.
  • The layout of the house you want is dramatically different from the one you currently have. There is a tipping point where the amount of work to create new or different layouts overwhelms the savings of working with an existing one. Working with an existing structure generally means losing the opportunity for higher ceilings or a fresh start on floorplans. It can quickly become more favourable to build a new home.
  • A strong factor in the matrix of evaluators for decision making is location. Aside from the amount of work or time commitment, staying in the same place may feel right for you.

I encourage you to visit renomark.ca and educate yourself on the RenoMark Code of Conduct that gives homeowners peace of mind. RenoMark renovators must abide by the RenoMark Code of Conduct. It requires renovators to offer a minimum two-year warranty on all work, carry a minimum of $2 million in liability insurance and provide a detailed written contract.

David Wilkes is president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the voice of the home building, land development and professional renovation industry in the GTA.

For the latest industry news and new home data, follow BILD on Twitter, Facebook, BILD’s official blog.


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