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From ravaged to renaissance is a tale of one East York home's transformation

East York home’s transformation a tale of ravaged to renaissance

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East York home’s transformation a tale of ravaged to renaissance

 

Once upon a time, on a quiet crescent in east Toronto, a “For Sale” sign sat on the front yard of a post-war 1950s home. The house was in tragic condition. A pie-shaped lot presented some trying limitations, but it was well situated in an excellent neighbourhood, and had a private driveway with an attached garage. Buyers without construction or design knowledge might not see the opportunity to develop a great family home on this property, but luckily, the new homeowners did. The young couple came to us with excitement, a great attitude, and willing to let our team design and build a house that could meet their growing family’s needs.

Master plan and permits

However, this project was no small undertaking. Designing and getting approval of the plans proved to be more challenging than the construction itself. We explored several preliminary plan options, researched the zoning restrictions for the property, and visited the Committee of Adjustments for zoning variances. The final decision was to do a whole interior and exterior renovation project. This included raising the ground-floor ceiling height and rebuilding the second floor; creating a new third-floor study in the attic space; adding a two-storey rear addition with finished basement below; renovating and finishing the existing basement space; and completely remodelling the existing ground floor.

Ground floor greatness

The homeowners had a strong preference to gain more ceiling height on the ground floor, which led to the decision to destroy and rebuild the existing second floor entirely. With new 10-ft. ceilings, we wanted to optimize the space for better living and entertaining, so we decided to remove the walls between the living room and dining room to allow for a better connection to the new, contemporary kitchen. After enlarging the existing garage, we then converted the existing kitchen into a new mudroom and powder room. Overall, the design of the ground floor was intended to be functional for a family to grow and entertain in.

Privacy matters

On the newly rebuilt second floor, we constructed four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a laundry room. The master bedroom features a walk-in closet and a four-piece ensuite with double vanity. Two of the three remaining bedrooms have private access to their own full bathroom. The second floor is spacious enough to accommodate the entire family, and laid out in a way that provides the master bedroom with privacy.

Light and bright attic

To keep the overall height of the house feeling reasonably scaled, we arrived at the design of a unique roof shape that allowed for a generous third floor, which is minimally visible from the street. The third floor addition in the attic is a great feature to the house, as it is open-concept, light-filled and has a walk-out balcony.

Room to spare

Finally, the existing basement and addition were designed as an extension to the family’s living and entertaining space. A spacious recreation/movie room takes up a sizable portion at the front of the basement, while a guest bedroom and washroom add yet another sleeping arrangement to the overall house. There is plenty of designated storage in the basement, and a small home gym as well. The project in East York is one that our team is very proud of. We managed to deliver one family’s dream home, on a property in which they took a sizable risk on purchasing. With the meaning of home taking on a whole new meaning this year, our city, and world, is reminded just how important it is to love the physical space – from function, comfort and design – to make your home the safe haven we all crave.

Photos: Valerie Wilcox

Jessica Millard joined Men At Work Design Build in 2017 while studying at Ryerson University.

The Toronto-based firm offers integrated engineering, design and professional construction services for addition and major renovation projects on old Toronto homes.

Jessica has been involved in various internal departments within the firm, and is currently the company’s Project Coordinator.


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7 home renovation mistakes to avoid

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7 home renovation mistakes to avoid

A home renovation is a tough project. If you have ever done it before, you probably know its pitfalls. Even then, the project can still challenge you and result in renovation mistakes that cost you money. With a good plan, however, kitchen or bathroom renovation mistakes will not challenge you.

Below are simple home renovation mistakes that homeowners might overlook but are costly.

DIY with little or no experience

You can DIY through a home renovation project, especially if you are experienced in some projects. However, you cannot be a jack of all trades; some projects might require a professional. In most cases, a designer is needed to avoid bathroom or kitchen renovation projects. Even if you can install countertops, having the wrong design will make you regret for many years after the project.

Electrical projects, plumbing, installation of large electrical equipment, and removing a wall, among others are best done by professionals. You need to hire a contractor and a designer early into the project.

Under-budgeting

If you want your project to go to completion without any hitches, the only way to do that is to ensure that you have budgeted for everything. If your home has many old parts with mold, leaks, corrosion, damages by pests, and outdated fixtures, you might need to replace most of the parts.

When you have to tear through parts such as ceilings, the more likely it is that you will find more damages that need repairs. Even contractors are not able to identify these hidden damages before the work begins. As such, you need a slightly higher budget than your estimate. On top of your budget estimate, have at least 10 per cent more to ensure the project does not stall due to unexpected damages and costs.

Ignoring building codes and regulations

Are you handling any renovation project that requires a permit? If you do, avoid working around the codes as it will come to haunt you if you ever need to sell your home.

Permits are offered as a show that your project complies with safety and zoning laws. You might need drawings from an architect or designer when applying for a permit. Even for a DIY project, you will still need a permit.

Projects that need a permit are those that might compromise the structural integrity of your home. These projects include adding a room and removing a wall. In some areas, you might need a permit for small projects such as replacing a window and landscaping. If you ignore a permit and an inspector catches you with a sledgehammer demolishing a wall, you will be fined, have the sale of your home blocked, and probably have everything you have built brought down.

Hiring the wrong contractor 

A good contractor should be licensed and insured. They also need to have a surety bond. Before you hire a contractor, you need to ask for references and call the clients to ensure that the contractor did an excellent job.

When calling the clients, ask how cooperative the contractor is, the quality of their work, whether they stick to schedules and budget, and how they handle unexpected problems. Do not pick a contractor because they charge the lowest price; other factors such as experience, speed, and attention to detail matter. See more on how the right contractors can help you avoid safety mistakes.

Doing your designs

Have you ever designed? Design involves creating a space that matches your lifestyle. It is not only about the appearance of a room but also its functions. If you throw parties regularly, you have children, or you have pets, a designer will factor everything into the design.

A designer is also able to fix the unappealing aspects of your space and making the best features more attractive. Just like watching numerous movies doesn’t make you a good actor, looking at many interior design photos does not make you a designer. By going it alone, you risk making many of the home renovation mistakes to avoid in this list. Again, you might end up spending a lot of money and not being impressed by the results.

Failure to create detailed specs

What do you want for your home renovation project? One way to avoid kitchen or bathroom renovation mistakes is to create details project specs that will allow you to compare bids from contractors accurately.

The specification list should include a project summary, architect plans, designer plans, time schedules, plans for each part to be renovated, and special parameters such as the limit on work times.

Lack of a plan and a contract

Choosing a good contractor is the first step to create a project without renovation mistakes. However, you need to create a detailed contract that you and the contractor sign.

The contract should describe the scope of the work to be carried out, materials to be used, debris removal, the total cost of the project, and the payment schedule. The contract should also describe the order in which the work is to be done. For instance, the hardwood floors should be installed after the wall is painted and the cabinets should be hung after removing and replacing plumbing.

If you plan changes, update your contract to capture the changes. Go through the contract every day to ensure that the work is going according to plan.

Bottom line

Everything might not go according to plan. Even when you read these home renovation mistakes to avoid, unexpected problems occur and you may not know how to handle them. You need to be ready to handle kitchen renovation mistakes if they occur. You should not have very high expectations especially when you are working on a budget as you may not get everything that you have seen online.

Most of the mistakes will occur if you try to cut costs by hiring the contractor with the lowest bid, buy cheap materials, and trying to cut corners on some projects. You can also try to cut down the budget by doing your projects instead of hiring a professional.

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Successful renovation

At the crest of the busy renovation season, here is a guide to planning a successful one

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At the crest of the busy renovation season, here is a guide to planning a successful one

Photography: Courtesy of Alair Homes

Spring is a great time to turn your attention to begin that renovation you’ve been putting off. If you are planning an upgrade or renovation, you are in good company. Based on Statistics Canada’s Canadian Housing Survey (2018), over one million Canadian homes are in need of major repair.

Renovations and repairs may include a smaller job, like a bathroom refresh or finishing a basement, to meet changing life needs, or maybe it’s something more substantial. Regardless of the project, understanding the process and planning is a key factor in achieving the results you want.

Articulate your wish list

Your first step should be to develop a very clear vision of what is required. Take time to articulate what goals you want to achieve with your renovation and develop a clear description of what you want to change. Write down your priorities and items that you’d like to have if your budget allows. Make sure everyone in your home participates in the discussion so you have a complete picture of what is needed.

Pick a pro

Then it’s time to find a professional renovator that will guide you through the process. The good ones get booked up months in advance, so it is in your best interest to start this process early. You will be putting a lot of trust in this person, so look for a renovator that is a member of BILD’s RenoMark program. This means that they have committed to the RenoMark code of conduct and BILD’s code of ethics. To find a RenoMark renovator, visit the website.

For most people price is an important consideration when choosing a renovator, but it’s important to note that you often get what you pay for. Make sure to consider the renovator’s experience, construction schedule and references. You should verify that the renovator has the appropriate licences, WSIB coverage and insurance. Take the time to check three references to get a good understanding of how the company operates.

Outline budget & potential permits required

Once you have selected your professional renovator, he or she may bring in a designer or architect, and together you will work through your project outline and create plans and specifications. This will help determine the budget estimate and any building permits and approvals you will need. In some municipalities, obtaining building permits and approvals can take many weeks and even months. This is another reason to start the process early.

Get it in writing

When you are comfortable with the preliminary design, budget and timetable, you’re ready to draw up a written contract with your renovator. The contract sets out the precise scope of the work, the price, a schedule of payments, a reasonable timetable for completing the work, product-specific details and a warranty clause. The contract should be reviewed by a lawyer. A RenoMark renovator will provide a contract for all projects. Remember good contracts provide protection to both parties in the event of a dispute or problem.

For more information about the nuances of planning a renovation, BILD has recently compiled a new Reno Guide to assist homeowners through the process. The Reno Guide is published with the support of the City of Toronto Environment & Energy Division and can be found on the BetterHomesTo website.

Dave 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, @bildgta, or visit bildgta.ca.


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Kitchen refresh, seamless function and next-level upgrades

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Kitchen refresh, seamless function and next-level upgrades

Photography by Stephani Buchman

Seamless function and next-level upgrades enhance this sophisticated contemporary space

Have you ever walked through your home and suddenly felt like everything that used to make you happy just isn’t doing it for you anymore? Over time, our needs and tastes change and that once interesting trends may leave you feeling less than inspired and yearning for something new.

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Certain elements, like the stove, combine all the finishes we worked with, allowing for the use of brass, chrome and black throughout the rest of the space.

In a world inundated with visual noise, more and more homeowners are looking for simplicity in design — from function to colour choices, door styles and trim. With so many design options nowadays, the job of a designer is to interpret those desires and turn them into tangible solutions with the right products to fulfill the homeowners’ esthetic and lifestyle needs.

Function first

This kitchen underwent a facelift, it was upgraded to improve function and esthetically shown some love circa the new millennium. The original space was in good shape and the floor plan worked but there were some serious issues that needed to be addressed.

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When combining styles and mixing metals, focus on which metals look best on the chosen backdrop.

The original floor tiles were dated, however since the homeowners would be living on-site through the renovation, to minimize the mess, we opted for a new 6mm-thin, 30″ square porcelain tile with a subtle metallic sheen from Italy, which was expertly installed on top of the existing floor.

Contrast & finishes

The new perimeter white cabinets play against the rift-cut oak, flat-panelled cabinet doors of the island and fan hood, which were stained a dark grey to add visual contrast and depth. The darker elements were accented with chrome and the white cabinets feature brass hardware. Mixing metals and the juxtaposition of the black, brass and chrome against white and dark wood was incorporated with great care along with LED accent glass uppers, new fan hood and light fixtures.

Drawer dreams

To increase function and storage, new pot drawer cabinets were incorporated and equipped with drawer slides accented with glass to add elegance to everyday kitchen storage needs.

Cabinetry details & clearance

The upper cabinets, which once featured space for what we affectionately refer to as “dust-collectors” above the crown, were finished up to the ceiling with small, clear glass uppers inserted above the solid units to add visual interest and elegance. The depth of the coffee station was decreased, and the existing wine bar was moved into the island to allow for a more spacious and comfortable passage between the drink station and island seating. This allowed for further storage with both a decorative and functional display area above. The design for the hood was also brought to the ceiling, and the combustible materials that once sat far too close to the gas cooktop, were eliminated and streamlined for a sleeker, safer design.

Clutter-free counters

Quartz counters were added throughout and on the backsplash to provide a clean backdrop for the other elements in the space. The quartz provides an easy-to-care-for solution that doesn’t add visual clutter in the space.

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The light fixtures are a nod to the dark finishes that were accented with chrome, while the white cabinets were given some warmth with the brass hardware.

The all-important details

Two statement pendants are centered over the island where a single chandelier once lived, and a soft graphic roman shade is centered over a new, clean black-framed picture window over the sink.

When undergoing a renovation, however small you may anticipate your needs to be, there are many moving parts and details to consider that may take more time and money than you originally anticipated. A seemingly small detail like continuing the existing crown across the uppers, for example, can require very detail-oriented design work and talented tradespeople to make it look seamless.

It’s important to trust the professionals you hire to make your dream a reality, then sit back and watch (as patiently as possible) while your dreams come true.

Cynthia Soda is owner, principal interior designer of Soda Pop Design Inc., a multi-disciplinary interior design firm providing complete custom renovation and design services for residential and commercial clients throughout the GTA. Soda Pop Design Inc. focuses on merging the client’s lifestyle, personality and architecture to create customized, liveable luxury. sodapopdesign.ca Instagram: @csodapop, Twitter: @sodapopdesign

SOURCES CABINETRY/MILLWORK, Pure Kitchens CABINET SYSTEMS, Grass FLOORS, Celebre Tile FRIDGE/ MICROWAVE, LG ISLAND BAR FRIDGE, Danby MARBLE HARDWARE, DRINK STATION/PANTRY, Berenson COUNTERS AND BACKSPLASH, Quartz Master Calacutta Paris & Alpine Grey GENERAL HARDWARE, Upper Canada Hardware LIGHTING, Hudson Valley LIGHTING SOUND PANELS, Control4 ESPRESSO COFFEE MACHINE/ TOASTER / SMALL APPLIANCES, Breville STOVE, Supreme FIREPLACES, Kastle Fireplaces CUSTOM WINDOWS & DOORS, Fieldstone Windows ISLAND CHAIR FABRIC, Alendel WINDOW COVERINGS, Starlight Drapery / Maxwell Fabrics CROWN, Classic Mouldings Inc. PAINTING, Final touch – Gray Owl 2137-60 Benjamin Moore ART WORK, PI Fine Art. Sodapop Construction Co., Jeff Baker Woodworks Custom Hood Fabrication

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Measuring up, contractor renovates a home for his parents

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Measuring up, contractor renovates a home for his parents

At a stage where many empty nesters choose to downsize from a house to a condo, Chris O’Hanlon’s parents did the opposite. They left their modern penthouse and moved in with him. The length of their stay would be dependent upon how long it would take him to renovate his parents newly purchased 1980s suburban house. However, it wasn’t just about the length of time it would take, it had to be a high-quality renovation, because his dad is renowned community developer and builder, Patrick O’Hanlon.

Liking the easy life

Mom, Sheri, was getting used to the maintenance-free lifestyle of condo living, so when she first saw the house, she laughed. She wasn’t sure that she wanted to be looking after a yard again, or clearing a driveway of winter snow. But, the family cockapoo, Mindy, would have easy access to a backyard. Plus, this wasn’t the family’s first rodeo. They knew what was in store for them with a major renovation project.

Together, they created a vision for a warm, nature-inspired palette, with clean lines and soft textures.

And so it began

Out came the crowbars and hammers. The main floor was opened up to modernize the space and create a continuous flow throughout. Once the walls came down, a powder room was discreetly relocated beside an existing den, which was now the office.

A curved staircase dominated the foyer and the main hall. It terminated on the second floor onto a landing (unusable space), which lead to the master bedroom. A new, reconfigured staircase changed the traffic flow and made room for a second storey laundry room.

The footprint of the master bedroom was decreased to add more room to the master bathroom and to include a walk-in closet – accessed from the bathroom.

Dealing with limitations

There were aspects of the house that couldn’t be changed. For instance, the ceiling height. The standard height in the 80’s was eight feet. They got rid of the popcorn (stucco) ceiling, updated the recessed lighting and added built-in speakers throughout the main floor. They used a solid sawn white oak to update the flooring throughout the entire house. The seven-inch planks added warmth and a contemporary look.

They also opted to remove two existing gas fireplaces on the main floor. In their condo, they enjoyed the electric fireplace, because they could add heat, when needed, or just enjoy it as a cosy focal point. They nestled one into a Marmorea Series porcelain wall, surrounded by a custom-built wall unit in walnut.

Transformation completed

The original kitchen was entirely changed. A post stood right in the middle, it lacked storage and was blocked off by an awkward peninsula. The modifications were dramatic. The eat-in kitchen by the bay window was replaced by a functional island. Cabinetry was extended to the back wall, where a new window provided a view to the backyard. A 12-foot beam allowed them to get rid of the unsightly post.

Like the gas fireplaces, the gas stove was replaced with a Monogram induction cooktop and wall oven, which was reconfigured as a regular oven. Gold accents injected an upscale look in to the welcoming room.

The servery, by the new lounge area, replicated the kitchen cabinetry and provided a central area with comfy seating – designed for conversation and relaxation. Decorative trim work on the ceiling added interest and delineated the lounge area. It’s now Sheri’s favourite place to kick back and read.

A successful, six-month turnaround ensured that his parents didn’t wear out their welcome, and Chris now has his home back. That is, until they get the urge to start a new project.

Jane Lockhart, B.A.A.I.D., is a multi-award winning designer, author and television personality. Jane Lockhart Interior Design janelockhart.com

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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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How to make sure your home is protected during renovations

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How to make sure your home is protected during renovations

You spend the best hours of your life at home with the ones you love, so why settle for second best when you can turn your property into a dream place to live? Renovating your home allows you to do just that, and it can cost less than you think, as well as potentially raising the value of your property. It’s important to remember, however, that renovations can also potentially damage your property, which is why you should always protect your home while improvements are being carried out. Here’s why home insurance is so important, and how to find the best policy at the best price.

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Protecting your home’s surfaces

Whether you’re renovating your property from top to bottom or carrying out home remodelling on a smaller scale, it can make a huge difference to how your rooms look and feel. It’s also important to remember, however, that whilst the renovations are carried out, vulnerable parts of your property are facing threats that simply wouldn’t be there at other times. Dripping paint can attack carpets and flooring, while glass, walls, and ceilings can easily be damaged by the slip of a hand or a tool. For this reason, you should always carry out a thorough risk assessment of your home before carrying out renovations. Always use dust sheets and masking tape to protect vulnerable areas, and only use tools in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines.

The importance of home insurance during renovations

Taking the precautions outlined above will reduce the risk of accidental damage occurring in your home during renovations, but it can’t negate the risk completely. That’s why it’s essential to have a comprehensive home insurance policy in place that will cover the cost of damage caused during home improvements, whether that be damage to contents of the home such as its furniture and furnishings, or damage to structural components such as doors, ceilings, and windows. Your home may also be exposed to the elements during major renovations, so a policy that covers environmental damage is also a good idea. Having this insurance ready and waiting can provide that all-important peace of mind, as well as ensuring that you don’t end up significantly out of pocket if the worst happens.

How to find the best home insurance policy

Not all home insurance policies are the same, so if you are planning future renovations, always ensure that your policy covers accidental damage first, as well as providing contents insurance. Reading the small print may not be exciting, but it can save you a lot of disappointment later on. It’s also important to ensure that you’re getting a great price for your insurance, and that’s where specialist sites such as Lowest Rates can prove invaluable. Home insurance quotes in Ontario and beyond can be compared at the click of a button, so you won’t have to pay more than you could be. Don’t be tempted to simply take the first policy you see advertised, shopping around and comparing can take less time, and save you more money, than you think.

With the appropriate physical protection in place and the financial protection that comes from having a great value home insurance policy, you can carry out those home renovations you’ve always dreamed of. When your home looks exactly as you want it to, every day will be a joy, so why wait to transform your property?

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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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Planning a renovation?

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Planning a renovation?

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 also updating features and designs to meet our current tastes. In doing so, I experienced first hand the benefits of using a professional renovation contractor and of practising what the Building Industry 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. And 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:

1. Spend the time upfront to have a very clear picture of what you want to achieve. Understand your budget and have a list of must-haves and nice-tohaves. 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.

2. Choose your renovator 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), 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).

3. When interviewing your renovation contractor, make sure they understand your vision for the renovation and are able to work with you to fine-tune your project. Ask for references of 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 is 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.

4. Make sure you have a robust 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 at renomark.ca for tips that outline some of the most common features you will want to make sure are included in a contract.

5. As the renovation progresses, make sure to stay in regular contact with your 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, be sure to document them with your contractor in a change order.

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. Why would you risk the biggest investment of your life, your home, to a non-professional just to save a few dollars?

Dave Wilkes is president and CEO of BILD (Building Industry and Land Development Association), and can be found on:

Twitter.com/BILDGTA

Facebook.com/BILDGTA

YouTube.com/BILDGTA

and BILD’s official online blog: BILDBlogs.ca

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Industry Expert

Now is the time to start planning this year’s renovation

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Now is the time to start planning this year’s renovation

You meant to redo your kitchen and finish your basement last summer, but the warm days came and went and your renovation project remained only an idea. Not to worry, because now is the perfect time to start planning to make your renovation a reality this summer.

With a generous lead time, you can afford to be thorough with every step in the renovation process, increasing your chances of success. The first step is to articulate what goals you want to achieve with your renovation, and develop a clear description of what you want to change. Write down your priorities and items that would be nice to have if your budget allows. Make sure everyone in your home participates in the discussion so you have a complete picture of what is needed.

Photography: bigstock.com
Photography: bigstock.com

Research a reputable renovator

Next, find a professional renovator who will guide you through the process. The good ones get booked up months in advance. You will be putting a lot of trust in this person, so look for a renovator who is a member of BILD’s RenoMark program, which means that they have committed to the RenoMark code of conduct and BILD’s code of ethics. To find a RenoMark renovator, visit renomark.ca.

Price is an important consideration when choosing a renovator, but experience, construction schedule and references are just as crucial. Take the time to check three references to get a good understanding of how the company operates.

Plans & permits

Once you have selected your professional renovator, he or she may bring in a designer or architect, and together you will work through your project outline and create plans and specifications. These will help determine the budget estimate and any building permits and approvals you will need. In some municipalities, obtaining building permits and approvals can take many weeks and even months – another reason it’s good to start the process early.

When you are comfortable with the preliminary design, budget, and timetable, you’re ready to draw up a written contract with your renovator. The contract sets out the precise scope of the work, the price, a schedule of payments, a reasonable timetable for completing the work, product-specific details and a warranty clause. The contract should be reviewed by a lawyer.

Get it in writing

A RenoMark renovator will provide a contract for all projects. Avoid renovators who offer to work without a contract, even if they promise to skip the HST or offer another incentive. They may not be paying workers’ compensation or carry adequate insurance, leaving you at financial risk.

My final piece of advice is to spend some time on RenoMark.ca and read the articles in our Ask a Renovator series – they cover various aspects of renovation in more detail.

Renovating your home is exciting and rewarding. And as you can see, there’s plenty you can do now to prepare for this year’s renovation. By starting early, you will have your renovator team selected, contract signed, and permits and approvals in place by the time renovation season returns.

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, and bildgta.ca.


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