Tag Archives: Jim Caruk

Build a better bathroom

Build a better bathroom

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Build a better bathroom

Bathrooms are second only to kitchens in terms of which room homeowners most-often renovate, and the amount of money they’re willing to spend on them. The next time you’re ready to renovate a bathroom, keep these five features in mind to elevate your space.

Séura Smart Mirror, courtesy of Séura.
Séura Smart Mirror, courtesy of Séura.

The heat is on

For millennia, builders have used tile flooring in rooms where there’s a high risk of water damage. Whether you opt for slate, marble, or ceramic tiles, the material is impervious to water. Unfortunately, stone and tile are cold to the touch. That’s fine – and actually quite desirable – in the summer, but can be an unpleasant shock during a mid-winter, midnight trip to the bathroom.

That’s why heated floors are becoming a must-have for mid- to high-end bathroom renovations. If your home is heated by hot-water radiators, it’s fairly easy to add a run of piping below the floor before laying the tiles. If not, there are a number of electrical mats that can be installed directly underneath the flooring.

And to take this luxurious warmth to the next level, consider installing a towel warmer. Who wouldn’t want a towel at the ready that feels like it just came out of the dryer when stepping out of the shower? Again, you can buy models that are heated by water from the boiler or via electricity.

Ditra-Heat System courtesy of Schluter Systems
Ditra-Heat System courtesy of Schluter Systems

Reclaim the throne

By now, we all know the importance of swapping out old, high-water consumption toilets for low-flow, dualflush models that reduce the amount of water wasted with each use. And now you can be both eco-conscious and luxurious when it comes to choosing a commode.

Bidets are still relatively rare in North America but once you get over the novelty of them, they are a very hygienic option. Rather than having to take up precious floor space installing a toilet and a separate bidet, a number of companies make combined two-in-one units, or replacement seats that include the washing function.

Still not sold on a bidet? There are a number of other luxurious upgrades you and your family might enjoy – from heated seats and lids that open and close automatically, to built-in nightlights and even speakers for streaming music.

Soak it in

Once upon a time, a shower consisted of a single fixture, hung directly overhead. But with homeowners increasingly seeking a spa-like experience at home, manufacturers started increasing the number of ports and jets for water to shoot out from in the shower. While an overhead “rain” soaker and a hand-held fixture are fairly standard now, the next-level upgrade includes a column of body jets lining the walls of the shower enclosure to literally soak you from head to toe.

Photo courtesy of Kohler
Photo courtesy of Kohler

Divide and conquer

Back in the 1980s, his-and-her sinks were all the rage in master bathrooms. The trend more or less faded away when homeowners realized that 95 per cent of the time they just used one of the sinks, leaving the other one spotless. One of today’s trends takes the separation to the next level: his and her bathrooms. Yes, dual ensuites for the man and woman of the house. Obviously you’ve got to have enough space and a big enough budget to even consider this upgrade, but can you imagine the ease of opening the drawers or vanity without having to wade through your partner’s lotions and creams to find your toothbrush buried in the back?

Add some A/V

Singing in the shower is a pastime for many. But it’s even better when you have something to sing along to. You could simply buy an extra wireless speaker, such as a Sonos or Google Home, but the excessive moisture – particularly during the colder months when the windows are closed – can damage these electronics.

Ideally, you’ll find waterproof, wireless speakers for your audio entertainment. One option is Kohler’s Moxie, which combines a showerhead and wireless speaker in one.

To truly turn your bathroom into a home entertainment centre, consider a mirror with a built-in TV or smart touchscreen so you can catch up on the news and weather, plan your commute time, or update your calendar while getting ready in the morning.

CAPTION: Photography courtesy of Margaret Mulligan

Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor

We look forward to hearing from you and welcome your feedback. Do you have a reno or decor question for our team of experts?

Email editorial@renoanddecor.com


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Jim's Place - Eco-Conscious Design

Jim Caruk builds his own dream home in Toronto

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Jim Caruk builds his own dream home in Toronto

Photography by Alex Lukey

There’s an old line about the cobbler’s kids going barefoot, the idea being that he or she is too busy repairing shoes for their customers to make shoes for their own children. Lucky for Jim Caruk’s daughters, this was never the case. The homebuilder and star of HGTV’s Real Renos (among other shows) has always viewed his own house as a showcase for the high-quality design and craftsmanship he always puts into the homes he builds for his clients, and his latest home is no exception.

Jim Caruk designed his home with an intentionally masculine, industrial look. The exterior features a mix of red brick, limestone, and black-accent panelling, capped with a Vicwest metal roof that has a 50-year warranty.
Jim Caruk designed his home with an intentionally masculine, industrial look. The exterior features a mix of red brick, limestone, and black-accent panelling, capped with a Vicwest metal roof that has a 50-year warranty.

Jim’s style takes centre stage

The four-bedroom, 3,800-sq.-ft. home is located in Humber Valley in the west end of Toronto. Now that his daughters are grown and have families of their own, (Caruk’s known as “Papa Jim-Jim” to his four grandchildren) he was free to indulge in some of the more masculine, industrial touches he favours. The exterior façade features a mix of red brick, limestone, and black-accent panelling. The lofty, industrial-looking windows bring in plenty of light, while the Vicwest metal roof will withstand the elements for decades with its 50-year warranty.

The maple and leather bench in the entrance foyer is from Toronto-based Objects & Ideas (ObjectsAndIdeas.com). All their pieces are designed and made in Toronto, using Canadian materials. The floor-to-ceiling wainscotting is typical of Caruk's "tricked out" trim.
The maple and leather bench in the entrance foyer is from Toronto-based Objects & Ideas (objectsandideas.com). All their pieces are designed and made in Toronto, using Canadian materials. The floor-to-ceiling wainscotting is typical of Caruk’s “tricked out” trim.

Inside, Toronto-based design company and retail outlet, 36 Knots helped burnish and furnish the look. “We were going for a contemporary, masculine look,” says 36 Knots’ Yvonne Tristani. “We used solid pieces, such as the heavier-set walnut chairs with blackened steel panels in the living room, offset with light leather cushions and very neutral carpets.”

The imposing piano converted into a coffee table in the living room is actually a double salvage. Caruk picked it up from a former client who was going to throw it out.

Jim Caruk’s favourite space in the home is the combined kitchen and dining room that span across the entire rear of the house, and leads to the covered back porch.

Outdoor oasis

“My favourite space is the dining room/kitchen. It’s the entire back of the house, and it leads out to the covered porch,” says Caruk.

The porch is a cosy covered seating area that looks out over the surprisingly secluded, tree-shrouded yard. The tongue-and-groove ceiling features embedded pot lights and a ceiling fan over the dining table. Glass railings provide an unobstructed view of the 12-by-20-ft. in-ground pool. In the basement, there is a guest room, or nanny room, with an ensuite bathroom.

The covered rear porch looks out on to the secluded, tree-shrouded yard with an in-ground pool. A ceiling fan over the dining table and a gas fireplace provide three-season comfort.
The covered rear porch looks out on to the secluded, tree-shrouded yard with an in-ground pool. A ceiling fan over the dining table and a gas fireplace provide three-season comfort.

Next-level energy efficiency

While the design, finishes and furniture reflect Caruk’s personal tastes, it’s what is behind the walls that he feels makes the biggest impact.

“The best feature of the house was working with Owens Corning to create a net-zero ready home,” says Caruk. Net-zero ready homes use the latest in building materials and design to minimize energy consumption. These features include insulation with R-values exceeding the current building code as well as sealing all the air gaps inside and out to prevent wasting heating and cooling energy. By adding a sufficient amount of solar panels, or other green energy options, a home can be classified as net-zero, meaning that it produces at least as much energy as it consumes every year.

The solid walnut and blackened steel living room chairs are contrasted with light leather cushions and very neutral carpets. Jim Caruk salvaged the coffee table made from the guts of a piano from a past client who was going to get rid of it.
The solid walnut and blackened steel living room chairs are contrasted with light leather cushions and very neutral carpets. Jim Caruk salvaged the coffee table made from the guts of a piano from a past client who was going to get rid of it.

“Building net-zero is still in the fairly new stages and it costs more upfront. But, in the long run, you’ll get that money back,” says Caruk. “My gas bill was cut almost in half.”

With more than 45 years’ experience building high-end homes for himself and his clients, Caruk has spent just as long learning how to build better homes from the inside out. His latest personal project showcases how you can combine attractive esthetics – matched to the homeowner’s particular tastes – with the latest innovations in energy efficiency.

Freelance writer Allan Britnell is the managing editor of our sister publication Renovation Contractor, and the editor of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association’s members’ magazine, Building Excellence.

SOURCES:
Builder and Designer: Jim Caruk, Caruk Hall Construction, Architect: David Small Designs, Styling: Christine Hanlon, Carpets and Furnishings: 36 Knots The Style and Staging House


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Reno Expert: Overseas Building Products

Overseas Options: Building products that are bigger abroad

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Overseas Options: Building products that are bigger abroad

When you travel the world, you discover that so many of the things that we take for granted as standard aren’t necessarily the one and only way to do things. Take garbage collection, for example. We wheel out our garbage and recycling bins to the curb every week for a truck to pick up the trash and make it disappear, but in many European cities, they have automated systems that use pneumatic tubes to deliver the material from the bin straight to a sorting facility. Here are a few homebuilding-related items that are more popular abroad than they are here.

Incineration toilets

In rural areas where sewage lines aren’t available, the standard option is a septic system. But in many cases, the site location makes it prohibitively expensive to install one.

Courtesy of Cinderella Incineration Toilets
Courtesy of Cinderella Incineration Toilets

Facing concerns over water contamination from leaking septic systems, the Scandinavians have become expert manufacturers of composting toilets (aka incineration toilets). In recent years, brands such as Cinderella and Envirolet incinerating toilets have become popular options for Canadian cottagers. As the name suggests, these odourless systems incinerate the waste, leaving only sterile ashes that need to be disposed of in the trash every month or so.

In addition to saving thousands of dollars on installing a septic tank, these toilets also eliminate the need for water supply or sewage lines. All you need is a power supply (usually electricity, but there are also propane- and natural gas-powered units) and a vent pipe running to the exterior.

With an incineration toilet you could literally turn a closet into a powder room and, since there is no plumbing required, you won’t need a building permit to install one.

Tankless water heaters

With the high cost of electricity and real estate, most Europeans heat their water with a tankless boiler, instead of a hot water tank, which basically amounts to a giant tea kettle running off and on around the clock.

There are pros and cons to each option; the biggest con against tankless heaters being the extra cost upfront. You may recoup the costs on energy savings but that’s over the very long term. The main reasons to consider a tankless water heater is the endless supply of hot water, and for the fact that the smaller, wall-mounted unit allows you to maximize living space if you’re renovating a basement.

One warning though: tankless boilers are still relatively rare in Canadian homes, and not a lot of guys know how to properly service them. You’ll want to find a reliable technician who’s familiar with the model you have.

Lightning protection

Considering how much we spend on our homes and cottages, it’s kind of surprising how little we spend on protecting them. We all have smoke detectors. But how many of us have fire extinguishers – and know where they are and how to use them?

Even fewer property owners would be able to say they have a lightning protection system. I had to look this up but, apparently, about 100 lightning bolts strike the surface of the Earth every second. That works out to about three billion strikes a year!

Many European jurisdictions regulate lightning protection in their building codes, which makes sense in densely packed urban areas where one strike can affect numerous homes and residents.

A full lightning protection system may not make cost-effective sense for every home in Ontario, but if you have a rural home, or cottage on a high point of land – or where it’s the tallest structure in the immediate area – you really should consider the investment in your safety and security.

CAPTION: Photography courtesy of Margaret Mulligan

Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor

We look forward to hearing from you and welcome your feedback. Do you have a reno or decor question for our team of experts?

Email editorial@renoanddecor.com


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Reno Expert: Decks

Durable Decks: Five ways to make your deck last longer

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Durable Decks: Five ways to make your deck last longer

Photography: bigstock.com

The kitchen is the hub of any home. But once the warm weather rolls around, in most cases the deck becomes party central, serving as an outdoor dining room, living room, and food preparation space, all in one. If you’re looking to replace a rickety, weathered, old deck this summer, here are five things to consider so that your new one lasts a lifetime.

Be code-compliant

Depending on where you live, the size of the deck, and how high it is off the ground, you may or may not need a permit to build a deck. But even if your project doesn’t require a permit, you or your contractor should definitely follow the building code specs during construction.

The city of Markham has a free, downloadable guide (search for “Residential Decks: A Homeowner’s Guide” on their website markham.ca.) that covers the Ontario Building Code requirements, along with helpful diagrams showing how the parts come together.

Key items include the minimum height required for railings, the maximum gap allowed between the vertical pickets supporting the railing, and the maximum and minimum allowable height and depth of each stair tread.

Plus, no one wants to get themselves in the situation where a neighbour calls the city and you find out after it’s built that your new deck is too close to the property line.

A solid foundation

Any structure, including a deck, is only as durable as its foundation. The footings that support the deck need to extend below the frost line – in southern Ontario that means at least 4′-deep.

The wood used for the framing should be pressure-treated (PT) to prevent rot and insect-damage. If you’re splurging on higher-end materials, such as cedar or composites for the deck surface, a properly designed deck will cover up and shield the green-hued PT from view.

Note that PT wood is corrosive to most screws and nails, so you need to use PT-approved hardware – look for an “ACQ-approved” label on the packaging. Also, keep in mind that the ends of any PT lumber that is cut will need to be treated on-site with preservative.

Composites

Composite deck boards are rot- and insect-resistant manufactured lumber that is made from a mix of recycled plastic and wood. When they first came out, some composites were plastic looking, excessively hot to the touch, and could even start to sag in the heat. Since then, the technology is much improved and there are a number of realistic-looking options available in a variety of colours and textures. Composite deck boards also come with warranties up to 25 years, protecting you against defects. If seasonal expansion and contraction causes a wooden deck board to start developing foot-stabbing splinters, you’ll have to foot the cost of replacing those boards.

Whatever material you choose for the deck boards, be sure to leave a gap between each to allow for seasonal expansion and contraction of the material and to allow rain and debris to fall through.

Aluminum and glass railings

As I mention in my last column (Planning for the Future, in the April/May ’19 issue), glass and aluminum railings offer a low-maintenance, splinter-proof, weather-resistant alternative to the standard wooden railing. Of course, most people choose this option for the unobstructed view that these products offer.

Maintenance

A deck is not a build-it-and-forget-it project. At least once a year, inspect components and wood for signs of rot, paying particular attention to key structural elements, such as railings, stairs, and the main support posts. You should also check and tighten any nuts and bolts used as fasteners. Periodically clear out any pine needles and other debris that gets stuck between the deck boards, as those will hold water against the wood, leading to rot.

Every year or so, you should scrub the deck with a cleaner specifically formulated for the type of deck boards you used. These products are applied with a broom or brush, and then washed off with a hose. Don’t use a pressure-washer as the intense spray can breakdown the wood fibres leading to rot, or even carve gouges in the surface. After scrubbing, you’ll want to seal the surface with a UV protectant.

Finally, change up the furniture floor plan on your deck periodically so that you don’t get sun discolouration in sections, and avoid using exterior carpets that get saturated and hold water against the deck boards.

CAPTION: Photography courtesy of Margaret Mulligan

Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor

We look forward to hearing from you and welcome your feedback. Do you have a reno or decor question for our team of experts?

Email editorial@renoanddecor.com


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Building the great outdooors

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Building the great outdooors

Last time around I was griping about how long this past winter was and how slow it seemed for Spring to roll around. Now, a month later, not much has changed! It was only in the last couple of weeks that the last of the snow melted in the shaded parts of people’s backyards in Toronto, and north of the city there’s still ice on some of the lakes. That said, as I write this home and cottage owners across many parts of the country are dealing with severe flooding from a mix of heavy spring rains and plenty of melting snow.

With all that in mind, is it any wonder why Canadians try to spend as much time outside during the warmer months? That’s why the Renovation Contractor team is busy pulling together material for our annual Great Outdoors issue. That issue will include a feature on landscaping options by first-time contributor Alex Newman, an overview of some exterior finishing trends and products by long-time contributor Frank Condron, guest columnist Carson Arthur writes about urban heat islands, and a whole lot more.

Watch for the June/July issue to arrive in mailboxes – and launch online – early next month.

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Reno Expert

Planning for the future – Five long-lasting exterior products to use in your projects now

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Planning for the future – Five long-lasting exterior products to use in your projects now

by Jim Caruk

It’s amazing how often the saying that “you get what you pay for” rings true. With almost any home improvement project, if you’re willing to pay a bit more upfront for good quality materials, the long-term payback will more than make up the difference. Here are five durable options to consider for your next exterior project.

Photography: bigstock.com
Photography: bigstock.com

Metal roofing

Your home’s roof takes a beating, from the baking summer sun and pounding rain to the weight of snow and ice in the winter. Metal roofing is one of the most durable options out there, and manufacturers are willing to back that claim up with warranties lasting as long as 50 years.

One common criticism is that metal roofs look too commercial or barn-like. But today’s metal roofs come in options that mimic asphalt, cedar, and slate so your roof will blend in with the streetscape. It will just last decades longer than your neighbours’ roofs will.

Composite decking

Natural wood is wonderful for a lot of things, but a long lifespan on outdoor structures is not one of them. Without regular maintenance, cedar or pressure-treated lumber will eventually weather, fade, and start to chip and warp, turning a $10,000 deck into an eyesore in a matter of years.

Composite decking is a durable alternative made from wood fibres and plastic, with the latter often being recycled material. Composite deck boards are both insect- and rot-resistant, and available in a variety of colours and patterns, all without any foot-jabbing splinters to deal with.

Brick and stone veneers

Has the cheap vinyl or aluminum siding on your house seen better days? Some longer-lasting alternatives to consider are the various brick and stone veneer products on the market today. While offering the durability of brick or stone, thin veneers don’t require the skills of a trained mason to install. In fact, some brands are marketed for competent DIYers to install themselves.

Glass railings

The cheap and cheerless way to build a deck railing is to nail some wooden pickets to the frame and top them off with some lumber. Glass railings mounted in aluminum frames offer an attractive, low-maintenance, weather-resistant finish that provides an unspoiled view across your property. The glass is also tempered so if there is an accident and a panel gets damaged, there’s no risk of injury from jagged pieces. The railings are available in a number of different colours and profiles, some so slim that on first glance you don’t even notice they’re there.

Natural stone

When it comes to durability, it’s hard to argue that anything will likely last longer than pieces of granite, slate, or other natural stone that are already millions of years old. There are cheaper options out there for stairs, retaining walls, patios, and other landscaping projects, but for a timeless look that will last to the end of time, I’d always at least consider natural stone.

Photography courtesy of Margaret Mulligan
Photography courtesy of Margaret Mulligan
Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor

We look forward to hearing from you and welcome your feedback. Do you have a reno or decor question for our team of experts?

Email editorial@renoanddecor.com


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RENO EXPERT: Counter intelligence

10 space-saving ideas to save kitchen counter space

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10 space-saving ideas to save kitchen counter space

Photography: bigstock.com

No matter how much floor space in your home is dedicated to the kitchen, it seems like there’s never enough room to fit everything you want to have at hand. Careful planning and design, of course, can alleviate some of the biggest issues. But there are also a number of innovative and ingenious items to help you maximize the space you have.

1. Appliance storage

Adding a cupboard for storing small kitchen appliances is a great way to free up valuable counter space, and minimize the visible clutter. Sliding or retractable doors on these are best so that you don’t have to keep the area in front of them clear.

2. Magnetic knife holder

Ditch the bulky wooden, countertop block and store your knives on a wall-mounted magnetic strip. This allows you to display your set and ensures you’ll never reach into the rack again and pull out the wrong one.

3. Corner shelving

Corner cabinets often become the dumping ground for large, rarely used kitchen gadgets. But since you have to remove everything to get to the items in the back, things often get forgotten about. Keep everything accessible by storing it on a swing-out shelf system.

4. Pot lid holders

These mount on the inside of drawer and cabinet faces so that you can hang your lids and stack all the pots and pans in a tidy pile. If you happen to be in the market for new pots and pans, another option is to look for a set with removable handles for easier storage.

5. Adjustable shelving

Adjustable cabinet shelves allow you to experiment with different heights so that you can fit all the tall items in the pantry, while minimizing wasteful voids.

6. Slide-out cutting boards

Create an extra workspace by installing a slide-out cutting board, mounted below the counter, then store it away out of sight when not needed.

7. Hanging pot racks

If you’re going for the “chef’s kitchen” design, finish the look off by hanging your pots and pans from a ceiling-mounted rack. It saves drawer space and saves you time spent rummaging around in the drawers for the item you need.

8. USB electrical sockets

With all our phones, tablets, and other electronic devices clambering for outlets, we often come up short when trying to plug an actual appliance into a kitchen outlet. These sockets replace a standard one, with room for two plugs and two USB cables for charging electronics.

9. Pullout filler drawers

If you’re installing a new kitchen, rather than using filler strips to fill gaps and leave room for doors to swing open, use pullout filler drawers to store spices and other small items. Some models are as narrow as four inches wide.

10. Nesting bowls

If your assortment of hand-me-down bowls is hogging up too much cupboard space, consider replacing them with a nesting set that fits together like Russian dolls. In addition to mixing bowls, there are a number of other products that stack neatly, including measuring cups, mixing spoons, and more.

CAPTION: Photography courtesy of Margaret Mulligan

Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor

We look forward to hearing from you and welcome your feedback. Do you have a reno or decor question for our team of experts?

Email editorial@renoanddecor.com


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How’s business?

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How’s business?

This is Jim’s Editor’s Note from the December 2018/January 2019 issue of Renovation Contractor, arriving in mailboxes in the next couple of weeks. If you’re not already a subscriber, sign up here for your free subscription. Or read the digital edition here.

Regular Renovation Contractor readers should be familiar with Will Gonell of Gonell Homes in Toronto. When the former New York City cop and U.S. marine decided to move to Canada, he got into contracting and quickly build a reputation for amazing work. He’s pictured on the cover of our Feb./March 2017 issue standing in front of an 18,000-sq.ft. home he’d built.

But in a recent conversation with our managing editor, Allan Britnell, he expressed some concerns about the current state of the industry. He’d recently had two clients pull the plug on projects – one after the permits had been pulled and the trades were all lined up and ready to go – because of uncertainty over the economy. But Will’s also well connected in the industry and has heard similar stories from many other contractors and builders that he knows.

The ongoing risk of a bigger trade war with the U.S., ever-increasing concerns about our housing bubble popping, and the recent downturn in stock markets are just a few factors that have some people concerned enough to tighten their purse strings.

Have you noticed any signs of a slowdown in your area? If so, what are you doing to adjust your business?

I’ve often wondered how some of the younger guys in the business who’ve never experienced a downturn and mass layoffs would cope with a recession hitting the renovation and homebuilding market. Back in the early 80s, getting laid off from my union job doing commercial HVAC work was what lead me to start my own business doing small renovations. It was growing when the next downturn hit in 1989 and I lost thousands on a spec home we were building that we ended up selling for what we’d paid for it.

Do you have the means to stick it out? Are you willing and able to switch gears to take on smaller projects to get by? Do you have a fallback plan? We love hearing from our readers so send your thoughts, concerns, and even the good news that you’re thriving to Allan (allan@renocontractor.ca) so he can compile them for an article in a future issue.

In our next issue, we’ll look at how one contractor turned to a business coach to help his business grow. When we first profiled Don Vloet of Dun For You Contracting in Welland, Ont., back in our Jan./Feb. 2014 issue he was running a small, successful business, but he wasn’t exactly thriving, working mostly on small kitchen and bathroom renos. At the time he said, “I’d like to grow more. I’m trying to let go of some control, and getting more into management.”

A regular attendee of our Renovators’ Roundtable events, in 2016 he met the team from Breakthrough Academy (BTA) and signed up for the program. Long-time contributor Diane Peters will speak to Don to find out how BTAs systems have help his business grow and, hopefully, ride out whatever the economy throws at him.

 

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RENO EXPERT: Figuring out Furnaces

Figuring out Furnaces: Understanding the key features for apples to apples comparisons

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Figuring out Furnaces: Understanding the key features for apples to apples comparisons

New units with all the bells and whistles are much more efficient than older models.

It’s Murphy’s Law that your furnace will conk out right when you need it most, in the coldest depths of winter. You wake up to a freezing home and start your day trying to find a technician who can come in ASAP, meaning you’re not really in the position to properly research what you need.

If you have a furnace that’s more than a decade old, replacing it should be somewhere in the back of your mind. Here’s an overview of the key features to look for when the time comes that you’re forced to buy a new one.

Illustration: bigstock.com
Illustration: bigstock.com

HIGH-EFFICIENCY UPGRADE

The key operating stat to look at when comparing furnaces is each unit’s annual fuel-utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating. This calculates how much of the fuel used is converted to heating energy, so the higher the number, the more efficient it is. The current Ontario Building Code requires a high-efficiency condensing furnace with a minimum 90 per cent AFUE. Today’s top-of-the-line furnaces have AFUE ratings of 98 per cent or higher.

If your furnace is a really old conventional model that vents up the chimney, you’ll have to replace it with a condensing unit. These models vent horizontally out the sidewalls, so you’ll need to run PVC vent pipes. You’ll also need to run a drain line for condensation to the sewer.

SIZE MATTERS

The heating output of a furnace is rated in British Thermal Units, or BTUs. Don’t just assume that you should replace your old furnace with the exact same size as your existing one. If your home has been extensively renovated with an addition or updated basement, you may actually want a larger unit to provide even heating throughout the home.

But new units with all the bells and whistles are much more efficient than older models. If you’ve upgraded your windows and doors, boosted the insulation in the attic, and made other energy efficiency improvements, a smaller model may be more appropriate as it will cycle on and off less frequently. An HVAC expert can calculate the requirements based on the size of your home.

MOTOR ON

The blower motor is, obviously enough, the component that pushes the heated air through your ductwork. Consider upgrading from a single-stage blower to a two-stage or electronically commutated motor (ECM for short). Single-stage blowers operate at full capacity all the time. Two-stage units operate primarily at the lower stage, only kicking in to the second one on the coldest days. They cost more upfront, put you’ll recoup that money in long-term savings on energy consumption.

SMARTER THERMOSTATS

Unless you have a really old mercury thermometer, odds are that by now you’ve upgraded to at least an early generation “setback” thermostat that enables you to program different temperature settings for different times of day. But the latest “smart” thermostats can do a lot more than that, including enabling you to remotely raise and lower the temperature from your phone. Many also allow you to save energy by creating heating zones with reduced temperatures in little used parts of the home. Models such as the Nest actually learn your habits and adjust things accordingly, and can also be tied in to home security cameras, smoke and CO detectors, and more.

RENO REBATE

If your furnace needs imminent replacement, Ontario’s hydro companies are offering rebates on furnace upgrades, including $250 for installing a model with a variable-speed ECM motor. The catch is that the work has to be completed by December 31, 2018. Visit SaveOnEnergy.ca for more details. Equipment manufacturers and natural gas suppliers often also offer rebates. A reputable HVAC technician will be able to tell you the offers available in your area.

DIY TO-DO LIST

An annual service inspection will ensure your furnace is operating at peak efficiency. But between visits from the pros, homeowners should replace the furnace filter at least as often as the manufacturer suggests. A clogged filter reduces airflow and causes the furnace to overwork. Homeowners with pets may need to be even more vigilant.

CAPTION: Photography courtesy of Margaret Mulligan

Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor

We look forward to hearing from you and welcome your feedback. Do you have a reno or decor question for our team of experts?

Email editorial@renoanddecor.com


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RENO EXPERT: Fall Checklist for Homeowners

RENO EXPERT: Fall Checklist for Homeowners

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RENO EXPERT: Fall Checklist for Homeowners

by Jim Caruk

Step One: Start your to-do list

After a scorcher of a summer, there’s no denying that the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. A wise homeowner knows that they need to take care of a few chores to prepare their house and yard for the winter. Here are some of the key tasks to include on your list.

CLEAN SWEEP

Probably the most important chore you can take care of to prolong the life of your house is to clean your eavestroughs. If you leave them full of leaves through the winter, you’ll not only have water pouring over the sides during snow melts or heavy spring rains (potentially damaging the foundation, which could lead to basement flooding), the weight of wet and frozen leaves can start to pull the eavestroughs off the side of your house.

While you’re at it, make sure your gutters are securely fastened and sloping toward the downspouts, and that the ends of those extend at least four feet away from the foundation to avoid water damage.

There are a number of different products on the market that are supposed to keep the leaves out of the gutter, but even these should be inspected periodically to clear any pine needles or mats of wet leaves that can clog the system.

With the risk of serious injury if something goes wrong, I don’t blame you if you’d rather pawn this job off on someone else. Just make sure you go with a reputable company that encourages safe work practices, rather than some random guy who comes knocking on your door and may do more harm than good to himself and your house.

ROOF INSPECTOR

In most cases, you should be able to do a cursory inspection of your roof from the ground: a pair of binoculars is a great help. You’re looking to see if any shingles are missing, or if the edges of more than a couple are starting to curl up. If you do spot any potential problem areas, call in some pros for an up-close inspection and estimate.

While you’re looking at the roof, also inspect the chimney. Is there a cap on the top to keep wildlife out? Does the mortar between the bricks look like it’s flaking away?

Next, cast your gaze a bit lower to make sure all the windows and doors are in good shape. Exterior caulking breaks down over time, so if it’s cracked or missing, you’ll want to reseal around the exterior frames. And if you can see daylight shining inside around your doorframe, you’ll want to pick up some weather-stripping materials or shop around for a new one. If you have storm windows for added winter protection, now is the time to install those.

YARD WORK

Pull out your city garbage and recycling calendar so you can find out when the last yard waste pickup is in your area. You’ll want to make sure you rake up as many leaves as possible before then, and you prune back your plants and shrubs. Throwing down some grass seed will help your lawn survive the winter.

Don’t forget to clean up the garage or shed so you’ve got room to store your patio furniture. When you’re all done, disconnect and drain the hose, and turn off your outdoor water supply so it doesn’t freeze in the winter.

HOLIDAY PREP

Finally, this is a good time to get your holiday decorations organized. If you’ve got any of those increasingly popular inflatable items, you should test them out to make sure the compressor works and there are no leaks. And you’re wise to hang the lights and other outdoor decorations before the ice and snow come and make it a treacherous task.

CAPTION: Photography courtesy of Margaret Mulligan

Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor

We look forward to hearing from you and welcome your feedback. Do you have a reno or decor question for our team of experts?

Email editorial@renoanddecor.com


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