It’s Spring! Welcome to build season. Although this year we had a mild winter, it’s a major advantage to make your home energy efficient, whether it’s a new custom build or a renovation of your existing home. An energy efficient home is not only more comfortable to live in, it’s more environmentally friendly and less expensive to operate.
New Home Construction
When planning your new custom home, there are many options that can increase energy efficiency. You can include passive solar energy into the design, make use of higher levels of insulation, and install high-performance heating and ventilation systems. Depending on how far you’d like to go, you can choose green building techniques like straw bale insulation, ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms) basements and alternative flooring materials. Your builder can give you more options depending on your goals.
Additionally, environmentally conscious builders often use “green” building materials which have the added benefit of producing less waste material during construction.
Renovating Your Home
First, find out how energy efficient (or not) your home is. There are many companies you can hire to do an energy audit. Natural Resource Canada has a list of recommended licensed service providers that perform an EnerGuide home evaluation. The EnerGuide rating system evaluates your home’s level of energy efficiency on a scale of 1 to 100 (for example an energy efficient new home would be rated about an 80). Go to http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/efficiency/housing/home-improvements/5005.
Common energy efficiency renovations include adding insulation, caulking and weatherstripping, improving or replacing windows and doors, and upgrading the mechanical systems. These are all simple to include with any other planned renovation - discuss with your builder so everything can be planned accordingly.
Enbridge, Union Gas, Hydro One and Toronto Hydro have various incentive programs for both new home construction and home renovations. Or you can check out Natural Resource Canada’s Energy Resource page which lists grants and financial incentives. http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/funding/efficiency/4947.
Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have, our experience runs the full range from energy efficient homes to fully green custom homes.
St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner and the perfect time to “go green” inside your home! Here are some ideas on how you can conserve resources (and save a few dollars) while helping the environment. And remember to keep it up even after St. Patrick's Day is over - let these tips become the new normal for your home.
WAYS TO CONSERVE RESOURCES & GO GREEN
Lower the temperature on your hot water heater, every degree counts!
Don't heat an empty house! During the winter, turn down your thermostat to 20 degrees when you're home and 14 degrees at night and while you're away. For no fuss temperature management, get a programmable thermostat
Your computer may go to sleep, but it's still sucking up energy. Turn off both your computer and monitor every night
Clean your refrigerator coils — vacuum out the dust and wipe with a damp cloth. You'll be surprised at how much nasty stuff accumulates down there!
Repair your leaky faucet and install water-saving toilets and shower heads
Run the dishwasher and washing machine only with full loads
Switch all your lightbulbs to LED’s
Speaking of laundry, just wash in cold water. It really does get the job done!
Turn off lights when you leave the room (simple yes?)
It’s getting brighter outside - don’t turn on lights at all for as long as you can—open your curtains and enjoy natural light.
Send us your best tip and we'll add it to the list!
You dream of having a custom home, and think it’s do-able. But where do you start? What do you need to organize before you can actually break ground? Looking at plans? Interviewing builders? What do you do first? Follow these simple steps and stay on track with your budget and schedule.
1.Purchase the lot
Finding one can take some time, and you want to make sure it’s the perfect spot. We recommend completing a feasibility analysis of the site so there are no budget surprises down the road. Site preparation costs may include environmental issues and municipal zoning. Also consider running utilities to a new home site, particularly if you’re looking to purchase remote cottage land - it could be expensive to run services to the lot.
2. Secure financing
Whether it’s selling your current home to free up equity, or arranging private financing, know what funds you have, and be open with your building team (architects, designer, builder) as to your budget.
3. Know your design style
Collect photographs of dream rooms, gather sample drawings, do sketches, make a Pinterest or Houzz board with your favourite finishes - anything to show your architect/builder so they understand your design style. The more information they have, the more efficient the pre-construction phase will be. Which leads to:
4. Prepare drawings
Spend time interviewing several architects, checking references and getting your initial drawings completed. We can certainly recommend several architects for you. An experienced builder can recommend an architect/home designer who matches your design style.
5. Find the right builder
This can be done concurrently while interviewing architects. It’s ideal if you have both your architect and builder working together during the pre-construction phase. Your builder can help keep your budget in line with each new drawing. Source your builder well ahead of your anticipated start date. Good builders are very busy during prime construction months and need to be secured in advance. For the Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Custom Home Builder, check out our blog post.
6. Plan your home base
Whether you are constructing an addition to your current home, doing a tear down, or building on an empty lot decide where you are going to live during construction. This is a good conversation to have with your builder, who can shed light on whether it’s possible to remain in the dwelling or not. Remember to factor in the very early mornings that contractors will arrive at your home, the noise, dust and overall impact on your life.
Following these simple steps will ensure a smooth transition to the fun part: breaking ground!
The building of a custom home can be a daunting process. Here are 10 questions to ask a potential custom home builder to get you started on finding the right one for you.
1. How long have you and your team been building homes in this area?
A deep understanding of the local area can make a big difference in moving your project forward. It’s important for your custom home builder to have an intimate understanding of local permitting and codes in order to complete your home without any red tape.
2. How are your projects managed during construction?
Does the builder have a work crew or a whole series of subcontractors? How long have the subcontractors worked with the builder? How often will the builder be onsite and who will supervise when they are not there? A trustworthy and accountable presence should be on hand at all times.
3. What sets you apart from other custom home builders?
Why choose one over another? Each home builder has a philosophy when it comes to building homes – make sure you are in alignment with the company you hire.
4. How do you maintain a high level of communication so I know what is coming up in each phase of the build?
Communication is crucial and is key to keeping the site on track. There are a myriad of details and areas that require homeowner input in a timely manner. Your builder must have excellent communication skills be a good listener, and be able to work co-operatively with you.
5. How do you handle change orders?
There should be written confirmation on change orders, which should also include the time and/or cost implications.
6. Do I have access to the job site throughout construction?
It’s one thing to want regular site visits to check on progress and quite another to want to “help out” during demolition or drywalling. Check with your builder on what is permitted. In most cases, liability doesn’t permit homeowners to participate in the build process.
7. Can you provide references?
There should be no hesitation in providing written references, or phone numbers of recent clients.
8. What are completed projects I can visit?
The builder should be more than willing to arrange a visit to completed homes in the same price range so you can get a feel for their work, and chat with the homeowner about their experience.
9. What type of warranty do you provide on your work?
Anyone in Ontario who plans to build a new home must be registered with Tarion Warranty Corporation and enroll the home as required by the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Your builder should also offer their own warranty.
10. What is your schedule for this type of job?
The builder may not have an opening for a few months, it’s important to know where you would fit in with other work. How do they juggle their jobs? How long would you have to wait to get yours started?
11. Are your workers covered under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) & do you have liability insurance?
Ensure your potential builder has WSIB for their employees and liability insurance.
A Site Visit
If you’re satisfied with the responses, the builder should be willing to visit your site to evaluate the land. They should be looking for contractor access, utility availability and checking for other criteria which could impact budget and timelines (if it’s heavily treed, steep or in a flood plain for example).
Once your potential builder has seen the land and drawings (if you have them), they can prepare a written quote. This should be comprehensive in its detail and fully itemized.
From site preparation, to foundation, shell and interior finishing you need a very clear understanding of what is included, what you are responsible for and what items are “to be determined” based on permitting, environmental reports, or other variables.
Finally, when choosing your custom home builder it’s also important to have a good working relationship with this person. Do your research, and trust your instincts.
What would you add to the list?
With warm weather continuing here in Ontario, October is the month to put away the patio furniture, clean off the decks, and prepare for Winter. Here’s a list to keep you on track and not up at night worrying about what you forgot to do.
Outside the Home
Prep the deck - Power wash and seal the deck, you’ll be glad you won’t have to do it in the Spring.
Cover up & drain - Put a protective cover over air conditioners, drain and store outdoor hoses. Close the valve to outdoor hose connections, and drain the faucet (unless it is frost proof).
Winterize landscaping - Plant fall perennials (I’m partial to peonies!) and protect young trees or bushes for winter by wrapping in burlap.
Winter welcome - Sweep the dirt on your front step, shake out the mat, and replace those flower urns with branches, ornamental grass, and even vegetables. - kale is fantastic at the front door.
Lawn 101 - Fall is the best time to aerate your lawn, and to fill those bare spots with seed.
Put it away - Store outdoor furniture, ensure pillows and seat cushions are stored either indoors or in sealed containers.
Cover firewood - Move firewood to a covered area on your property. Always keep firewood in the region where you purchased it, so don’t bring firewood from the cottage to your home in the suburbs. Even if you don’t see any bugs, there can still be insect eggs or microscopic fungus spores which can ruin an entire ecosystem if they’re moved.
Inside the Home
Energy audit - There are still numerous incentive programs available from the Ontario Ministry of Energy that range from winter-proofing to energy conservation. Check the Homeowner list here
Chimney care - Get your chimney cleaned before that first fall fire, you never know what could be hiding in there.
Prep the furnace - Book your annual maintenance of the furnace and HVAC. Replace or clean the air filters.
Clean the garage - Switch bicycles for skis. Purge what you don’t need for winter, prep for ski storage and other winter pursuits. You’ll want room to store the car inside! A good sweep will clear the cobwebs and whatever else has been hiding in there all summer.
Coat check - Organize your mud room or main entry. Children need a home for their backpacks and you know it will be sooner than later that the inevitable wool coats & wet boots will make an appearance. Baskets are great organizers for mittens, hats and scarves.
Create a homework spot - It’s that back-to-school time of year. Whether you have children or not, every home needs a spot for calendars, mail and online surfing. Ensure you have a comfortable chair, task lighting and all the supplies you (or the kids) need: pens, pencils, ruler, calculator, erasers, etc).
Sort the pantry - Just like regular cleaning out of the fridge, the pantry needs attention too. Toss expired foods, wipe out every shelf and re-organize. With any luck, you'll need some room to store fall canning gifts from your neighbour.
Check lighting - With daylight quickly diminishing, give your rooms a once over. Do you need an accent light? Another reading lamp? Candles are a welcoming addition to any room. Be safe - never leave a lit candle in an empty room. And always keep children and pets away from an open flame.
Clean out the medicine cabinet - Whether you prefer homeopathic or traditional, you know you're going to need the oil of oregano and the decongestant at some point. Check the expiry dates on everything. Do not flush medicines down the toilet or sink. In Canada on any day of the year, you can bring unused and expired prescription drugs, over the counter medications and natural health products to your local pharmacy for proper disposal.
Bedding - Time to bring out those thick quilts and duvets. Inspect for rips/tears (or critter damage if at the cottage!) and send to dry-cleaner if necessary.
Fall Textiles - Speaking of cozy blankets, pull out those fluffy accent pillows, and faux fur throws.
Now you're ready to cozy up with a cup of coffee, sit outside and enjoy the crisp fall air and beautiful trees knowing you're ready for Fall.
Let us know if we forgot anything. What’s your best tip?
Enjoy this overhead look at some recent custom homes - yes we love our drone. And we love it when client's supply drone footage too! Thanks to Rik and Heather Brown for supplying the Elliot Lake footage.