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Get ready for C-Caps

Get ready for C-Caps

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Get ready for C-Caps

The new Canadian aging-in-place specialist program is launching this fall.

by Elizabeth Malcolm, CHBA Communications and Social Media Officer

The oft-repeated phrase, “Demographics is Destiny” dates back to an obscure 19th century Frenchman, but it remains true today. The saying has taken on new meaning as Canada’s population goes through an unprecedented shift in age distribution.

We are all aware of the aging of Canada’s population, but both the extent of this trend, and the opportunities it opens for CHBA’s renovator members, are more significant than most of us realize.

CHBA is about to change that by launching the new Canadian Aging-in-Place Specialist program (C-CAPS) this fall. This member-service Get ready for initiative has been a high priority for CHBA’s Home Modification Council, as well as the Canadian Renovators’ Council, both of which have collaborated in its development.

Drawing on the well-established CAPS program developed in the U.S. by the National Association of Home Builders, C-CAPS is a truly Canadian version, designed and developed specifically for CHBA renovators.

The C-CAPS training and certification program aims to get out in front of a huge demographic wave on the way, and help renovators to get themselves set up to service – and capitalize on – this growing market.

The “grey wave”

According to Statistics Canada, in 2014 there were more than 6 million Canadians who were aged 65 or older, representing 15.6 percent of Canada’s population.

By 2030 – less than 11 years from now – seniors will number more than 9.5 million and make up 23 percent of Canadians.

As the chart, “Demographics are Destiny,” shows, this is the culmination of a long-term trend that has seen the number of seniors in Canada overtake the number of children, reversing a demographic relationship that had been in place since before Canada became a country.

Improved healthcare and longevity mean that someone aged 65 today can expect to live another 20 years or so. As a result, new parents today will likely have to care for their elder relatives longer than for their own children.

Between 1921 and 2005, average life expectancy at birth rose substantially in Canada, from 58.8 to 78 years for men and from 60.6 to 82.7 years for women. In all likelihood, the trend to increasing longevity will continue to swell the ranks of Canada’s senior population even further in the years ahead.

The home modification market

With so many more seniors, the key question for our industry becomes, “Where are they all going to live?”

Contrary to what many demographers forecast in the past, the overwhelming majority of Canadian seniors want to stay right where they are. They much prefer to age-in-place in a home and neighbourhood they know than to downsize into a condo or seniors-only community.

And this is where the C-CAPS program comes into the picture.

An aging population will have more complex housing needs, particularly if most seniors intend to stay put in their current home. Simply put, as we age we will inevitably encounter a range of mobility and other health-related challenges. Challenges our homes were not designed to accommodate easily.

So aging-in-place will require modifications to our homes that respond to our specific needs and challenges – mobility and otherwise. And everyone’s needs will be somewhat unique.

Delivering these modifications will require an industry that has the knowledge and the professional connections to do the job right.

That’s what C-CAPS will provide to Association renovators: technical and design training, product and material knowledge, and a solid understanding of who they need to have on their team to deliver high-quality results.

CHBA is also developing a consumer website to provide information to the public about aging-in-place, available home modification grants and assistance, and to promote C-CAPS renovators.

How big is this market? If we include mobility assistance devices and other products designed to support aging-in-place, estimates range up to $30 billion per year. And growing.

Not just another renovation

While many seniors needing home modifications may well have had previous renovation work done on their home, they will need an expert with specialized knowledge and experience to help them age-in-place. And until now, finding such professionals has been extremely difficult.

Home modifications involve a very specialized range of skills. Obviously, the renovator must know about how the physical space needs to be designed, and how to integrate and install mobility assistance and other devices and products.

But home modification also involves other professionals, like occupational therapists (OTs), who are critical in developing a modification plan that addresses homeowners’ specific needs, both today and in the future. Collaborating with OTs, designers, architects, and building officials requires a different approach than is typical in general renovations. In many cases, health authorities and insurers may also need be part of the team.

The C-CAPS approach

Earning a C-CAPS designation will require training. The CHBA program involves a prerequisite online course with subsequent in-class sessions, both of which will include testing.

Successful completion of both parts of the course will earn you your C-CAPS certificate. An additional online training module focusing on marketing and sales for business owners will also be available.

As the course rolls out, CHBA expects to introduce continuing education requirements for C-CAPS renovators to keep everyone up-to-date as many things in this area are changing fast in terms of technology improvements, especially in the area of electronics and networked medical devices.

Why being ahead of the curve matters

Clearly, C-CAPS will position CHBA renovators as the go-to professionals for those needing aging-in-place home modifications. In fact, it opens up a new upselling opportunity for anyone doing a renovation project for homeowners who expect to age-in-place, but currently have no mobility issues. And it will create significant business opportunities for C-CAPS renovators to work with other healthcare professionals, such as OTs.

Perhaps most importantly, it will provide consumers with a reliable way to identify competent home modification professionals. Seniors have long been targetted by unscrupulous contractors, and C-CAPS will help reduce this problem.

Finally, by helping to make aging-in-place a more practical option for older Canadians, Canada’s healthcare system will benefit tremendously. Too often, seniors end up in an assisted living facility long before necessary, simply because they can no longer cope in their homes. The public cost of such unnecessary institutionalization is immense, and likely not sustainable.

Creating a national group of professional C-CAPS renovators is a major step in addressing this problem.

For updates, email C-CAPS@chba.ca

Elizabeth Malcolm, CHBA Communications and Social Media Officer


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Under Pressure, Part 1 of 2: The danger of depressurization

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Under Pressure, Part 1 of 2: The danger of depressurization

By Gary Sharp, CHBA

As our customers get their houses ready for winter or decide to make their houses more energy efficient, it is appropriate to have a discussion about depressurization – a situation that can make a house dangerous.

What is it? Depressurization occurs when more air is being exhausted from a house than is coming in, either through air leakage or mechanical means. In that state, the house is under a negative pressure, relative to the outside.

In cold weather, houses lose heat through the building envelope (convection, conduction, and radiation) and because of unintentional cold air leakage into the building, and warm air out of it. Heat loss due to air leakage is one of the easiest heat loss mechanisms to fix so new homebuilders and renovators are spending more time and effort to make homes airtight. If you’re renovating a house that’s more than 30 years old, chances are good that most of the heat loss from that home is due to air leakage; in the 1970s, when we first started to address energy efficiency, it was estimated that up to 50 percent of the heat loss from a house was due to uncontrolled air leakage.

Renovators use air-tightening techniques to improve an existing building’s thermal performance. Insulating and air sealing is a common practice, and will continue to be important techniques in making our buildings more energy efficient and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to contributing to heat loss, moving air can carry moisture (water vapour) into a wall or ceiling system. When the water condenses inside of the structure and does not dry out, it leads to mould and rot of structural members, which is not only bad for the home, but dangerous to its occupants. Air leaking into a wall and carrying water vapour is a far greater source of moisture entry into that wall than by simple vapour diffusion – up to 100 times more of a problem.

There is a lot of equipment in houses that exhaust air and can lead to depressurization.


Exhaust Device L/S (litres/second) CFM (cubic feet per minute)
Bathroom Fan 20 – 50 40 – 100
Range Hood 25 – 600 50 – 1,200
Indoor BBQ Grill 60 – 600 120 – 1,200
Clothes Dryer 40 – 55 80 – 110
Central Vacuum 45 – 65 90 – 130
Wood Fireplace (at full burn) 150+ 300+

When homeowners run equipment simultaneously – imagine a clothes dryer and range hood on at the same time – it increases the amount of air being exhausted and can result in depressurization.

Where does the air come from to balance the extra air being exhausted? Much of it comes in through unintended leakage points, but some of it comes in through the chimney. After all, the chimney is really just a hole in the building envelope. Chimneys are intended to carry smoke and combustion gases to the outdoors. But if the house reaches a certain point of depressurization, air will begin to move in the opposite direction: it will flow into the house, and can bring combustion gases with it. These gases include carbon monoxide (CO), an odourless, colourless gas that can kill people.

Depressurization can create other problems as well. Soil gases leaking into the house – including radon – is also a threat. And don’t forget about the real possibility of rain or water on the outside of the building envelope being pulled into the building by the depressurization.

Carbon monoxide is generated by any appliance that burns fuel – whether that fuel is oil, natural gas, propane, or wood. Under normal conditions, when the house is not depressurized, the CO simply goes up the chimney and exits the house. But if the house is depressurized, the CO can’t vent properly through the chimney and it “spills” back into the house. Any appliance that has a chimney is considered to be a “spillage-susceptible” appliance. Renovators should take them into consideration when air tightening a home.

In an attempt to limit the potential danger of CO not venting properly, many new houses use sealed combustion appliances. These appliances get their combustion air from outside, and they exhaust to the exterior, which means that they’re not spillage-susceptible. But that doesn’t mean we’re off-the-hook about depressurization. Soil gases (primarily radon) can still be a problem, and a CHMC study found that exhaust fumes from an attached garage can enter a depressurized house.

So how do you know if the house is depressurized? The best way is to hire a qualified mechanical contractor or certified energy advisor and have them do a test. The test for depressurization basically involves closing up the house (windows and doors), turning on the exhaust appliances, and measuring the pressure difference between indoors and outdoors. From this information, the amount of “make-up air” required can be determined. Make-up air is supplied by installing an active system that blows air into the house (i.e. a fan) whenever the house is depressurized.

How do we fix depressurization? Have a mechanical contractor install a make-up air system to supply the replacement air when the exhaust appliances are turned on. This keeps the house in “balance” and greatly reduces the likelihood of depressurization.

A less accurate, but still valid method to determine if spillage is occurring is to examine the appliances with chimneys and look for soot in places where it should not be if the appliance was working correctly. On water heaters this is the space on the top where the chimney connects. Look for soot or discolouration on the top of the unit near the chimney. For fireplaces, look for smoke stains on the face of the fireplace above the firebox and ask the homeowner if they need to open a window to get the fireplace to draw properly. While this doesn’t tell you how much depressurization is occurring, it does tell you that you need to be concerned about depressurization in this home.

As renovators, we’re all trying to do the best job we can for our customers. Making the house more energy efficient by insulating and air sealing will make the house more comfortable and will reduce the client’s energy bills. Keeping your customer safe in their home is also your responsibility, so don’t take a chance with depressurization. Check it out, install a proper make-up air system, and don’t forget that all homes need carbon monoxide detectors.


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Industry Expert: BILD

Industry Expert: First Things First

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Industry Expert: First Things First

by Bryan Tuckey

Simplify the building permit process by entrusting your renovation to a professional

Now that you’ve decided to renovate your home, the first step is to do your homework and determine what building permits you might need.

Most construction, renovations, alterations and demolitions require a building permit. For instance, in many municipalities you need a permit for constructing separate rooms in your basement, but you probably don’t need one if you are building a fence, unless it is one that will enclose a pool.

Too often people question the importance of permits and sometimes they are tempted to undertake projects without having required permits in place. However, that is very short-sighted. Permits help protect you, your home and your community by making sure your project is structurally sound and follows all regulations.

Unprofessional renovators may be willing to do work without obtaining permits. Forgoing required permits may seem like a way to speed up your renovation and save money upfront, but it could very likely result in renovation deficiencies and added costs down the road. You could be faced with substantial fines and then having to redo the work. Lack of required permits may affect your home’s insurance coverage and you could also run into problems when you sell your home.

Local municipalities issue permits and application processes, and the rules governing building permits, can vary depending on where you live. Getting a building permit can be a complicated process. It can take several weeks or even months to obtain, and it can be a bit overwhelming, so a good approach is to work with a professional renovator who is experienced with permit applications.

RenoMark professional renovators are very experienced with permits and they will guide you through the process. They will assess your project and explain whether or not a permit is needed and what it will take to get one and they will work on your behalf to acquire them.

A critical step in obtaining your permit is ensuring that your project complies with the Ontario Building Code, municipal zoning and other applicable laws. Working with a professional renovator is the most efficient way to obtain permits. Your renovator is the project manager for your renovation and he/she will bring in the right people such as architects or engineers to get any necessary drawing for the permit application process. Make sure that the costs for additional professional services are discussed upfront and included in your renovation contract.

After you’ve obtained your permit and started construction, your renovator will arrange for all inspections required under the permit.

BILD created the RenoMark program in 2001 to help homeowners distinguish professional renovators from underground contractors. A key feature of the program is the RenoMark Code of Conduct by which all members agree to abide. It mandates that they provide written contracts for all jobs, have at least $2 million in liability insurance and offer a minimum of two years warranty on all work. Find a RenoMark professional at renomark.ca.

Bryan Tuckey is president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association and a land-use planner who has worked for municipal, regional and provincial governments.

Follow him on Twitter @bildgta, facebook.com/bildgta, and bildblogs.ca.


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