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  •    Oct 29, 2014
  • Posted in Uncategorized

  • Posted by Andrea O

Tuckpointing 101

Tuckpointing is a trade many people are unfamiliar with until they need it done on their house.

It involves repairing the worn out mortar between the bricks of your house and it is the restoration aspect of the masonry trade. Not every masonry company is specialized in tuckpointing, so you need to make sure you hire someone who is an expert at it in order to get the best results.

Joe Hill from A&A Masonry is a tuckpointing expert, and his speciality is colour matching, a key indicator of whether or not tuckpointing has been done right.  In our latest video he shows us the tell-tale signs you need tuckpointing done and walks us through the steps of the process.

Some signs you need tuckpointing:

  • Deeply recessed mortar joints, meaning 8 to 10 mm past the surface of the bricks
  • Stress cracks are incredibly common — usually above doors and above and below windows
  • Deeps holes, in the mortar

Not getting tuckpointing done on them can lead to:

  • Water entering your home
  • Insects getting inside the house
  • Wasps building nests between the layers of the bricks
  • The face of the brick can pop right off
  • Water sits in the cracks of the bricks and will rot them, this could lead to needing the bricks replaced, which is a lot more costly down the road

Tuckpointing Steps:

1. First the joint is removed. This is the line of mortar between the bricks, it is removed either with a grinder, saw or hammer and chisel.

2. Then a tuckpointing bag (similar to an icing bag you’d use on a cake) is used to fill in the mortar joint.

3. You must then wait for the mortar to set, how long it takes depends on the weather, and how much water the bricks have absorbed over the years. Stone absorbs zero water and takes a lot longer to dry. Clay bricks absorb the moisture quicker unless they’ve been saturated with water for years, which means the setting process could take longer.

4. A finishing tool is then used to shape the joint. Most joints get a concave finish. Other common finishes are v-shaped or flush with the brick.

5. Finally, the bricks are brushed off with a mason’s brush.

Colour Matching

The trickiest part of tuckpointing is matching the colour of the new mortar to the original mortar on the rest of the house. Many factors determine the colour: how deep the mortar is in the wall, how hot it is outside, how long it takes the colour to set (it tends to lighten up). Within a couple weeks you can see the final colour of the mortar and when tuckpointing is done properly it shouldn’t stand out from the rest of the wall. Ask to see the contractor’s portfolio in order to determine his ability to colour match and ask to see houses they’ve done in the neighbourhood – this will be the best indicator of the mason’s skill.

Pricing guide:

  • Get multiple quotes and don’t go with the lowest one
  • 90% of what you are paying for is the skill of the mason as the material cost itself is low
  • The main factor in determining price is access, if you have to put up scaffolding on a three-storey house to get to a small patch on the chimney, it’s going to cost more than a bigger patch on ground level
  • The cost doesn’t go by square footage because a lot can be wrong with one small area of a wall

Shingle Warranties 101

Shingle warranties can often be confusing and come with many stipulations. In the lastest HomeStars U, Danny Areia from City 1 Roof Works shares the basics  homeowners should know about warranties on asphalt shingles.

1)   Do you research before picking a shingle:

  • Make sure you know about the manufacturer of the shingle and the limitations on the warranty
  • Manufacturers have different limitations on their warranties, for example some will only cover claims resulting in leaks and not esthetical issues
  • A good manufacturer covers esthetics and defects

2)   In order for your warranty to be fulfilled:

  • The roof must be installed according to the installation procedures, which go well beyond the building code
  • The manufacturer must also certify the installers to check if your roofer is certified go to the manufacturers website for a list of certified installers

3)   A 50-year shingle does not mean 50-years of coverage 

  • Every warranty has a prorated and non-prorated period
  • Prorated: all labour and material costs on all repairs and replacements are completely covered by the manufacturer
  • Non- prorated: Typically starts 10 or 20 years after your roof is installed depending on your warranty
  • The amount of coverage you receive during the non-prorated period depends on the value of your roof, which depreciates over time

4)   Basics that will help ensure your warranty holds up:

  • Proper attic ventilation that meets manufacturer code requirements (otherwise your warranty could be cut in half)
  • Standard nails, an inch and a quarter must be used
  • Make sure when your shingles are being replaced the original ones are removed
  • The plywood on your roof deck must be inspected to ensure it has a clean, smooth and solid surface, suitable for installing a new roof on
  • Ice and water shield:
    • One of the first underlayments applied on top of your roof deck
    • A rubberized layer with a silicon-based adhesive that sticks to the roof
    • Applied to areas of the roof more prone to water leakage like the valleys, the eaves, chimneys and skylights
    • Beware a lot of companies skip this essential step

5) Remember you can’t be on the roof yourself making sure the job is done right!

  • Make sure you do your research before you hire someone for the job!
  • Check out our post below for a checklist of items to keep in mind when hiring someone for the job

Roofing 101

The roofing industry is largely unregulated so homeowners must be vigilant when choosing a company. Gordon Bailey from Academia Roofing & Attics offers up a checklist of items homeowners should keep in mind when hiring someone for the job.

1)   Don’t hire if they haven’t looked in your attic

  • A good roofer will check your attic for adequate insulation, ventilation and wants to see that the bathroom fans are hooked up and venting properly
  • They will check for issues with condensation and mold that can be addressed while a new roof is being installed

2)  Addressing issues with mold and condensation

  • Water stains that might be evident in your soffits, on your walls, on your interior ceilings, are all telltale sign that there is an issue needing to be resolved to prevent future problems with mold or condensation
  • If you have any signs of mold in your attic a good roofer will make you aware of it and find you solution that will help ensure it doesn’t come back.

3)   New gutters and eavestroughing go on AFTER your new roof

  • If you put in new gutters and/or eavestroughs before your new roof they will get damaged during the roof install
  • Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise

4)   Expertise is key

  • Every project needs a strong leader
  • Their role is to educate, train, co-ordinate and facilitate the project
  • Each stage has to be reviewed and checked by the leader on-site

5)   A metal expert is critical

  • Every good company has a metal expert on staff or a relationship with one to help complete their projects
  • The metal expert does all the flashings on the job and also works in the shop
  • They are the backbone of most companies because they are able to make a really good quality job 100 per cent finished.

6)   Murphy’s Law

  • Murphy was actually a contractor, and as the old adage goes, anything that can go wrong will go wrong
  • Because of this, Bailey suggests asking for references from customers who were originally unhappy and were made happy in the end


  •    Aug 13, 2014
  • Posted in Uncategorized

  • Posted by Andrea O

Popular Pool Renos

Greg Mulvey from Classic Pools and Landscaping takes us through the top five most popular pool renovations.

#5 Waterfalls

Adding a waterfall to your pool’s landscape is a very popular reno. There are two main types of waterfalls:

  • Sheer descent: a sheet of water that goes over either a stone or brick wallScreen Shot 2014-08-13 at 4.50.57 PM
  • Cascading: made of larger boulders and flat stones, typically done in a three-tier system where water comes out in two or three places.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 4.57.02 PM

Cost: $6,000-$10,000

#4 Concrete Deck

The concrete deck surrounding older pools is often cracked, uneven and an aged-looking shade of grey. To replace it, the concrete is ripped out and a sub-deck is poured around the pool. It is then faced with flagstone or interlock.


  • Brick: $6,500 Flagstone: $10.000
  • Concrete tearout: $6,000-$10,000 (depends on volume and if you can get a bobcat machine in the backyard to make the job easier, otherwise wheelbarrows need to be used)

#3 Pool Lights

Pool lights are a fun update to give to your pool, especially if you have already gone and torn up the concrete! Common options are:

  • White pool lights: have a standard bulb, lights up the pool, and allows you to see everyone when swimming at night, making it safer for swimming.
  • Coloured LED Lights: typically come in seven different colours, you can pick one or have them alternate creating a light show in the pool.


  • White lights, $1200
  • Coloured LED lights, $1700
  • Additional lights are $600 per light

#2 Chlorine to Saltwater

While doing a pool reno most people will switch from a chlorine system to saltwater as it is easier on the eyes and skin and more comfortable to swim in.

After switching to a saltwater system it is important to ground the pool to prevent electricity and the corrosion of pool parts, caused by salt. To do this, a bare copper wire is placed around the entire pool and then is connected to the steel walls or rebar of the pool.


  • Installation of saltwater system: $2100
  • Grounding pool: $350

#1 New Plumbing

A sign that your pool’s plumbing may need replacement is if you are losing about 1-inch of water per day (the equivalent of having your garden hose running for one hour!).

Normally a contractor will change the skimmer and the plumbing lines.


  • New plumbing lines: $1,200
  • New skimmer: $1,000


  •    Aug 11, 2014
  • Posted in Uncategorized

  • Posted by Andrea O

New Pools 101

Thinking about getting a pool but not sure of what your options are? Keith Evans from Land Effects Outdoor Living Spaces Ltd. discusses the different types of pools available in today’s market and their cost.

Concrete Pools

  • The most expensive option starting at $80,000
  • Involves excavating the backyard and custom-forming the concrete shell
  • These pools are not limited to any shape or size and are made to last a lifetime

Fiberglass Pools

  • Starting cost is between $35,000 – $40,000
  • Are pre-formed shells that get lowered into the backyard using a crane, typically on the same day
  • These pools come in many shapes, colours and finishes and have stairs and benches molded right in

Vinyl Liner Pools

  • Are the least expensive in-ground option, within the $30,000 range
  • The dig for these pools takes about one day, and the pool itself takes about one week to get in the ground

Above Ground Pools

  • These pools are a great entry level pool, starting at $10,000
  • A deck can easily be built around them, serving as a backyard patio


Local bylaws are key when it comes to building a pool. Make sure you check the municipality bylaws in your area.  A good contractor will help to make sure your pool meets local bylaws and that your project runs smoothly.




  •    Jul 10, 2014
  • Posted in Uncategorized

  • Posted by Andrea O

Top 5 Furniture Trends

Steve Forberg from Decorium Furniture  discusses the top five furniture trends currently defining today’s eclectic looking home.

1. Industrial reclaimed furniture:

  • Mixing modern elements with rustic wood items and industrial metal.
  • Popular items: Wooden chairs, white lacquered tables, industrial metal lamps

2. Upholstered beds

  • Highly customizable; choose your fabric, sizing and finishings
  • Allows you to create a mix and match look for your bedroom decor as these do not come as a part of bedroom sets

3. Mirrored Furniture

  • This continuing trend comes in a variety of formats: desks, side tables, and night tables suit a multitude of rooms.

4. Home Office

  • Desks are now making their way into the living room as families use the room for both work and leisure.

5. Oversized Seating

  • Seating depths for couches have gone from 36-37 inches to 40-42 inches, sometimes even 44 inches.


  •    Jul 8, 2014
  • Posted in Uncategorized

  • Posted by Andrea O

Furniture Making 101

High quality furniture can be quite a costly investment. Carpenter Malcolm McGrath of Malcolm Mcgrath Cabinets and Fine Carpentry discusses what homeowners should consider and look for when buying furniture for their home.

What will you use it for? This will determine the level of quality you need:

  • Short term vs. long term I.e. children’s bedroom furniture vs. living room furniture
  • Decorative (lighter use) vs. utility furniture If it’s not used as much you can get away with lower quality
  • Fixed to a wall vs. free standing – Pieces fixed to a wall can be lower quality as they don’t need as much support

Quick Rules:

  • Factory assembled will be stronger than flat packed furniture that you put together yourself
  • Solid wood is stronger than particle board and won’t delaminate
  • Cabinet joints are always stronger than metal fasteners or particle board stapled together

 The Hierarchy of Joists (lowest to highest)

  • Stapled particle board: breaks easily
  • Screwed particle board: also breaks easily
  • Screwed hardwood: hard to break
  • Traditional cabinet joists: Very strong, hard to break. Carpenters make the wood clamp into each other without glue or fasteners. Doubling these joists up makes it even stronger.

Custom Furniture

  • Expensive, but a high quality option.
  • Making custom furniture is an extensive process. It takes multiple weeks for one piece of furniture to be made. A simple table can take two weeks.
  • Cost: A craftsman making $30/hr can end up being $2000 in labour costs, plus $200 for materials
  •    Jun 25, 2014
  •   1 Comment
  • Posted in Uncategorized

  • Posted by Andrea O

Windows 101

In this edition of HomeStars U, Graeme Knight from Brock Doors and Windows  provides the basics on what kinds of windows you will see when you walk into a showroom.

Six Signs You Need New Windows:

  1. Condensation between panes of glass
  2. Wood windows have rotten frames
  3. Drafts coming in through windows
  4. Bugs coming in through frames
  5. Windows that are broken or not functioning
  6. Leaking or moldy windows

Different Styles of Windows

  • Have a crank out hardware mechanism to open and close the windows
  • One key feature to look for is a multi-point lock that will lock your window in multiple locations, ensuring a tight seal.
  • Price: Including installation, starts in the low $400s

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.53.42 PM

  • Similar to casement, these windows have crank out hardware, but are hinged at the top
  • Often used in places where it’s difficult to push or pull open a window, for example, above a kitchen sink
  • Price: Including installation, starts in the low $400s

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.56.42 PM

  • Come with a seat or walk-in option (you walk into the bay area)
  • Bow windows are similar to bay, but have softer angles
  • Price: Begins in the $1500s, depending on the type of installation you choose, the size of the window and upgrades.
Bay Window

Bay Window

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 11.02.41 PM

Bow Window

Hung Windows: Vertical & Horizontal Sliders

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 11.08.26 PM

  • These windows have sliders that are either vertically or horizontally placed
  • Two formats; single and double hung
  • Single hung:has a fixed sash on one side and an operating sash on the other
  • Double hung: two operating sashes
  • Often these windows lift out or tilt out for easy cleaning
  • Price: With installation, begins in the low $300s.
Picture/Fixed Windows

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 11.09.56 PM

  • Don’t open or operate
  • They come in many different formats
  • Price: With Installation, low $300s
Glazing Options

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 11.12.38 PM

  • This is how many panes of glass your window has
  • Double glazed (two layers) or triple glazed (three layers)
  • Triple glazed will increase your energy efficiency, as long as argon gas is put between all the layers
  • Argon gas is an inert gas which reduces the transfer of hot and cold across your window
  • Make sure when you are choosing triple glazed that the unit containing the panes of glass is actually wider than if you were just getting double-glazed. The extra room between the three panes of glass leaves room for more argon gas; otherwise you aren’t gaining any energy efficiency.



  •    Jun 24, 2014
  • Posted in Uncategorized

  • Posted by Andrea O

Window Installation 101

In the lastest installment of HomeStars U,  Anthony Gucciardi from Encore Home Improvements gives us the basics on the two methods of window installation.

Full-Tear Out

The entire window is removed and damaged wood is replaced. The installer reinsulates the interior frame and a new window is installed.  The interior portion is completed with new wood, or vinyl jam extension and new interior casing is put in. Finishing is then completed on the exterior.


Installers leave the existing frame and new glass is mounted inside it. You lose 1-1.5 inches all the way around, resulting in less glass space.


It costs 15-20 per cent more to do a full tear out installation .

What’s right for you? It all depends on the window and your existing window frame. If you have water, drywall damage or any other type of damage around your frame this automatically means you should do a full tear-out installation. These are the sorts of problems that could end up costing you more in the long run.

The Installer

When buying windows you are often also choosing the installer, so be sure to ask the right questions:

1) How long have they been doing installations?

2) Are they WSIB insured?

3) When doing a full tear out make sure your installer has a carpentry background because most of the time there is interior wood work involved.



  •    May 28, 2014
  •   1 Comment
  • Posted in Uncategorized

  • Posted by Andrea O

Eavestroughs 101

In the lastest edition of HomeStars U, North Shore Eavestroughing’s Darren Perry shares his advice on the installation of eavestroughing.

The following are common problems many eavestroughing systems face.

1. Overflowing eavestroughs:

Improper eavestroughing can lead to overflowing water, which can leak into your basement.

Can create rot against the roofline (the wood fascia board) which is what the eavestroughs are attached to. This can lead to future problems that are more costly to repair.

2. Standing water in eavestroughs:

If eavestroughs aren’t angled properly the water pools instead of draining to the downspouts. This can also cause overflowing eavestroughs.

3. Lack of leaf guards

If you have trees hanging above your house, to keep the water in the eavestroughs free flowing and prevent downspouts from clogging, leaf guards should be installed. They also make the eavestroughs easier to clean.

Many people are hesitant to go with leaf guards due to their experience with the mesh style ones that were on the market ten years ago. The holes were too large and debris ended up trapped underneath the guard and they were a nightmare to clean. Today there are many great options on the market.

4. Better spots for downspouts

When designing a new eavestroughing system it’s important to look at where the new downspouts are going to go. Look at where the old ones are and if the location can be improved. You can change the angle of the entire eavestroughing system and put the downspouts in better locations.

Are your downspouts connected to an underground pipe network? This is common in many cities and from an environmental standpoint you might be better off funneling the same water onto your lawn instead of the underground system. It is not possible to disconnect your downspouts in all cities.

Maintenance Tips:

Ensure your eavestroughs are clean in order to avoid blockages of waterflow. This especially important in areas with lots of trees.

The frequency of cleaning varies based on number of trees. If you have a group of trees right by your house expect to have to clean your eavestroughs four or five times a year. If trees are far removed from the property, once a year will likely suffice.


Without leaf guard: $1800 – $2000

With leaf guard: $2500

When Hiring…

Make sure the contractor has a seamless eavestroughs machine. This machine runs out pieces of eavestroughing that are long enough to fit on your house. This means you won’t have extra joints, which can leak over time.

During the Job…

Make sure the contractors are using a level to ensure that they are getting the proper angles and slants for your new eavestroughing system.


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