Tag Archives: Margaret Mulligan

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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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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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: 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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