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  •    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.

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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.


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

  • Posted by Andrea O

Down Pipes 101

John Whyte from True North Eavestroughing gives advice on downpipes and the common issues surrounding them.

Problem 1: Clogging

The main issue with the clogging of downpipes is that it can go up over top of the gutters, come down the walls and into the foundation of your home.

Problem 2: Silly Gizmos

Homeowners buy all sorts of products to try and get the water away from the house. They don’t necessarily work.

Types of problem gizmos:

Plastic sheet – this freezes in winter and never lets water out

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 10.56.16 PM

Bendy tube — this is the worst for downpipes, it holds water and never drains properly.

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 11.01.38 PM

Cement tray – these are placed on lawns or on walkways to get water away from the house, but people often trip on them and get hurt.

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 11.05.10 PM

A better solution…

The zip hinge. It fits any size downpipe, goes up and down and you can walk by it. This pipe doesn’t freeze in wintertime and homeowners can install it on their own.

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 11.35.00 PM

Problem 3: Clay Weepers

Weepers AKA weeping tile is a pipe that comes up the side of your house and takes the water down below the frost line, away from your home, where it doesn’t freeze.

Old weepers are made of clay and often crack, this causes debris to fall down inside them and clogging happens.

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 11.18.16 PM

Problem 4: Corrugated pipe underground

Many homeowners make the mistake of putting black corrugated pipe underground, it often clogs and gets crushed. The roots of trees also grow around these types of pipes, collapsing them. This stops the water from flowing down, out of the downpipe, and into the black corrugated pipe, which leads to it being plugged up.

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 11.31.53 PM

A better alternative to corrugated and clay pipes is a 4 inch PVC pipe.

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 11.23.50 PM

Be sure to check out our video on eavestroughs for more info on eavestroughing systems!


Basement Renovation 101

Whether it’s starting from scratch or renovating a basement that has already been finished, basement renovations are a huge undertaking. In most cases you’re adding an additional 40 – 50 per cent of the original square footage of your home.

Lowell Lyons, from Lyons Construction  shares his advice on what you should expect prior to renovating your basement.

It’s a big project, so plan!

Begin the planning and preparation stage at least six months prior to contacting a contractor.

Ask yourself: How do you want to use the basement? Some basics to consider including:

  • Bathroom
  • Bedroom
  • Home theater
  • What kind of lighting?
  • Types of doors

Keep in mind many items require add-ons to be considered up to code. For example, a bedroom requires an emergency window for people to escape out of.


  • A contractor will often have a design team who will help put together a proper plan for your basement. This will lay out everything for the construction team, and include blueprint drawings to be submitted to the municipality.
  • Complete blueprint and design drawings cost between $2000-$2500.

Moving infrastructure:

  • Expect to have to move ductwork, plumbing, electrical and gas lines.
  • Budget early on for this, each item costs between $250-$1000 to move.
  • These can often be contained conveniently in one bulkhead.
  • Don’t be attached to where the rough in is, either way the floor is going to get broken up, so you can move your washroom wherever suits you best.

Check the foundation for cracks:

  • Polymer injections are the fix and usually cost under $1000.
  • Cracks in the foundation can lead to moisture from the ground reaching your floor, so save yourself the headache and fix it before the reno.

Electrical Work

  • During a basement reno there are many circuits being added to your house, and a standard electrical panel won’t suffice.
  • Upgrading costs between $1200-$1800
  • Once the electrical work is complete make sure your electrician contacts the electrical safety authority to have an inspection done.
  • After passing inspection, a sticker will be put on your panel proving your electrical work has been inspected and is safe.


  • Bare bones — putting up walls, some lights, electrical work, $40-$50 sq ft
  • Comfortable — spray foam insulation, subfloor, bathroom, $50-$60 sq ft
  • Luxurious — i.e. fireplace, heated floors, granite counters, steam generator in shower, $80-$100 sq ft

Ask Questions!

Walk through every day, take a look, if you have any questions write them down and ask. A good contarctor will update you regularly on the progress of reno (at least once a week) and will be happy to answer your questions.


Underpinning 101

Underpinning is an often-daunting renovation, where your basement floor is lowered to increase ceiling space.  This involves altering the foundation of your house, and as a result should not be taken lightly. In 2012, this home in Toronto collapsed during an underpinning job.

In the latest edition of HomeStars U, Daniel Johnston, from True North Underpinning shares advice homeowners should know before hiring a contractor to do underpinning and explains an alternative method called benching.

Reasons for underpinning:

  • Creates more livable space
  • Income properties
  • Correcting structural deficiencies like a sagging foundation

Do not underpin your house without a structural engineer

  • City inspectors usually require a structural engineer to inspect the job after it’s complete.
  • They will meet with you, go over the design, talk about the depth, problems and concerns that may arise.

Underpinning Process:

  1. The foundation walls are marked out in sequence according to the engineered drawings. Usually 1,2,3,1,2,3, in sections that are three to four feet wide.
  2. All the earth from the sections marked 1 is excavated underneath the footing of the house, down to the required depth, which must be undisturbed soil. The undersides of the existing footings are cleaned of debris.
  3. The excavated sections are then formed, filled with concrete and vibrated to ensure even distribution and a level surface.  The forms can either be filled over the height of the existing footing (over-pour method) or 2″ under the existing footing and the remaining space is filled with non-shrink grout.
  4. These steps are then repeated for the second and third sections.
  5. Once the three stages are completed, the footings of the foundation walls are extended down to the required depth. Now the remaining earth can be excavated to the same depth as the new footings.
  6. Finally the waterproofing, gravel and weeping tile can be installed, plumbing updated and a new concrete floor poured.
Benching Process:
  1. This is mostly done in homes that share a common wall with another, where homeowners don’t have permission from the neighbor to excavate underneath, or, if the foundation has been deemed unfit to work on. Unlike underpinning, benching leaves the load bearing soil under the footings undisturbed and in place, encasing it in a concrete ” bench ” to keep the soil undisturbed.
  2. The bench is reinforced with rebar and anchored to the foundation walls and acts like a retaining wall for the load bearing soil under the footings.
  3.  Once the benches are completed around the interior foundation walls, the soil can be excavated down to the same depth as the bench.
  4. These steps are followed by waterproofing, weeping tile, plumbing, gravel and floor installation.


  • Varies on site conditions and engineering concerns
  • For underpinning a 600 sq ft basement, adding about 2 ft: $30-35,000
  • Benching is about two-thirds of the cost of underpinning
  • Extra costs (approx. $10,000) for additional steel structures, plumbing and waterproofing

Hiring the right person:

  • Experience is key. There are many different types of foundations and footings out there and you need a contractor who has worked with multiple types.
  • Check as many references as possible. If you can, go to a site currently being worked on.
  • Insurance is mandatory for underpinning; the company should be able to provide you a certificate from their insurance broker, stating your name and property as the policyholder.


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