Archive for 2007
With the rising cost of heating your home, building a home that is as energy efficient as possible is becoming ever more important. By using less energy in the day to day operation of your home, you not only save money, you benefit the environment as well.
Wherever you live, your home will be affected by its surroundings. Are your summers hot and dry or humid? During winter is the weather mild or are there long periods of biting cold? Your home protects you from these external elements and creates an environment on the inside at the same time. Your home is really a combination of systems that must work together to be efficient.
The R-2000 Home has been the Canadian standard for energy efficiency in construction for twenty years. The standards, for an R-2000 Home have been revised over time as new technologies and materials have become available in the industry. The standards that have to be met to be considered an R-2000 Home are high, based on the amount of energy the house consumes and the efficiency of things like heating systems, insulation, air flow, ventilation, materials chosen and the amount of water used by the home.
When considering what kind of heating system to purchase for your new home, don’t look at just the cost of the unit itself. You should also consider the cost of installation and operation over the life of the unit. A more efficient system may cost a bit more initially but will save you money everyday as you heat your home. There are also a wide range of fuel choices available including electric, oil and natural gas. Though not yet in the main stream, solar power is becoming more and more cost effective and is being used to support traditional systems more and more. Along with fuel choice there is also the decision about the delivery of heat in your home. Choices include forced air, electric or hot water baseboard or radiant heat.
Heat pumps are becoming more popular as well and offer the added benefit of providing air conditioning during the warmer months as well as heating during the winter.
Since you are trying to save money heating our home, you want to keep that heat in. The R-2000 Home requires increased insulation in walls and attics and spaces where heat can escape. That same increased insulation will help keep your home cool in the summer.
Controlling the air that can escape or enter the structure is essential to reducing heat loss. An R-2000 Home is wrapped in a specialized plastic fabric on the outside (just beneath the siding) and protected again on the inside be a plastic vapour barrier. Both plastic barriers are taped and sealed at the joints to maximize their air retention. Since heat moves from warm to cold, small areas where air and heat can migrate such as around electrical outlets are sealed with expanding foam.
A major area where air and heat can be lost is around the doors and windows. The air seals on these products have been greatly improved. Long gone should be the days where you stand in front of a window and feel a draft. Most quality windows now have double panes filled with gas to increase the R-value and they are coated with an ultra violet film to protect your furniture. Quality levels have increased to also reduce condensation and thus lessen the areas where mould or mildew can grow – a major health concern.
Weather stripping and construction on the doors you choose should be of the highest quality and many steel entry door systems have an increased amount of insulation in their core construction.
With the focus on air flow management and increased insulation in new high-efficiency homes, a need for a system to change the air within the home becomes necessary. If the air inside the home were too tightly sealed, a build up of moisture from cooking and taking showers would quickly cause mold to multiply and damage the structure of the home. Chemicals present in common items like furniture, carpeting and household cleaners would pollute the interior air.
Mechanical ventilators are designed to run continuously and exchange a low amount of fresh air from outside with interior air. Having paid to heat the air in your home, you don’t want to lose that warm air to the cold air from outside and so a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) is made with a series of filters and intake and exhaust fans to adjust the temperature of the air coming into the home.
THE MATERIALS YOU USE
There are several concerns to be aware of relating to the materials you choose to build you home with.
Are the materials made from recycled materials or by-products of the creation of other materials? Some strand boards and parallam beams can be manufactured from chips created as by-products of other process – reducing the need to cut down trees for these products.
Be conscious of the waste produced during construction. Not only does maximizing the materials you are using reduce the requirement to cut trees to create more (and the quantity you have to purchase) but also reduce the waste produced which in most cases you have to pay to have removed from the job site. Can the waste material you are producing be recycled? While some may end up in the local landfill, much can be recycle if you are careful about keeping it separate. If metal is kept separate from wood from the start, it is little trouble to recycle it properly than if everything is thrown in a dumpster together.
In places where wood is used in your home consider using types that come from faster growing trees. Spruce and maple can replenish themselves much more rapidly and will mature and will mature and be ready for the manufacturing process for more quickly than species like oak.
Some materials that you use to construct your home such as carpeting use chemicals in their manufacture. Over time, these will emit small amounts of vapour into your home. While your HRV system will assist in removing these vapours, try to choose alternatives that contain fewer of these chemicals. Other products to be conscious of are some types of paint and solvent based surface finishes, some sheet materials, adhesives, preformed shelving and cabinetry.
Choose products that use energy efficiently. Deciding on compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent can save you money over the life of the product. And don’t forget simple things like turning off the lights, radio or television when you leave the room. If there are electrical appliances that are not in use for long period but still plugged in – unplug them. Many appliances draw a small amount electricity even when turned off. Over time this small amount adds up.
Conserve water in your home is just as important as conserving energy. When deciding on faucets, shower heads and toilets, look for those that use less water.
The appliances in our home all run on power that we have to pay for, so if you’re going to buy new appliances for you new home, make them as energy efficient as possible. Not only will this save you money, but it will also help protect the environment. The electrical power that comes into your home is generated be a variety of means from burning fossil fuels, hydroelectricity or even nuclear and all these methods have an impact. Whether it’s global warming, loss of animal or plant habitat or dealing with the waste products produced in generating power, when we waste electricity we waste more than money.
When buying new appliances, look for the Energy Star Symbol. Products with this symbol meet standards for energy efficiency that can help you save money and electricity over the years you use the appliance.
Refrigerators: Refrigerators use the most energy of any appliance in the home since it is running all the time, and by opening the door, you let out some of the cold from inside. When designing your kitchen work triangle, keep the refrigerator as for away as is manageable from heat sources, light, the stove or direct sunlight. Buy only the features that you will use. It may be attractive to buy a model that offers an ice dispenser in the door, but this type uses more power so if you never use this feature it is wasteful.
Dishwashers: Your dishwasher uses the most power to heat the water during washing and the amount of water used can’t be altered, so to be most efficient, wash only full loads. If you can, air dry the dishes after the wash cycle is complete rather than the dry mode. This reduces the amount of energy required to dry the dishes.
Laundry Washers: Energy Star washers use less energy than older models. They also need less water and more water is removed from the clean clothes during spin cycle which reduces the time they need to dry. Like the dishwasher, you should try to wash full loads and cold water is best. New style front-loading tumble washers use less water than the more traditional top-loading models. Always remember that after the wash cycle is complete, the waste water goes out into the environment. Choose the detergent that you use carefully. There are several types that have less impact on the environment.
So now that you are in your new home with new energy efficient appliances, it’s the perfect time to make a few simple changes to your lifestyle. Participate in recycling programs in you community, include a recycling center in your kitchen to separate food waste from your garbage. Have a place in the house to sort and store cans, bottles, paper and plastic for short periods until pick-up or taking them to a recycling centre. If you are a gardener, the benefits of a composter can greatly improve the health and vitality of your plants and make your landscaping flourish.
When you’re thinking about building a new home it’s pretty easy to get caught up in thinking only about the sticks and bricks of the structure. Many people overlook the fact that the lot you choose to build on can be just as important a factor in determining your future happiness as the home itself. Before you get too involved in the details of you house plan, it can pay to invest some time I finding the perfect lot. There are a number of key questions that you can ask yourself to help determine what lot is right for you.
DO YOU ALREADY HAVE A HOMEPLAN?
If you already have your dream home planned, and you know the style and size, then it makes sense to look for a lot that will complement and maximize you design. If you don’t have a house plan yet, then you may want to search for the perfect lot and then design a home to fit.
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO LIVE?
Knowing in advance where you want to live will help you stay focused and avoid throwing lots that don’t meet your need into the mix. If you are new to an area, find a knowledgeable real estate agent to help in your search. You must also consider proximity to shopping, schools, churches, playgrounds, and work. All of these factors influence property and resale value. Finally you should carefully research the value of other homes in the area. As a rule of thumb, you will want the value of your home and the lot to be approximately the same as others in the area. Having too high or too low a value for the neighbourhood can make it more difficult to sell your home in the future. You should also take the time to check for area zoning restrictions or restrictive covenants that might limit your freedom to build the house you want.
IS THE LOT LARGE ENOUGH?
More than likely there will be some setbacks that will leave only a portion of the lot for the actual house. How much back and front yard space do you want? Will there be a driveway? Will you be building a garage? These are all things that you must consider. Even if the garage might be a future addition, it’s smart to think about it now. You will also want to check for any easements on the lot. An easement is an area on the lot that is restricted from building. Most easements are for utility line access.
WHAT IS THE TOPOGRAPHY LIKE?
A flat lot is much less expensive to prepare and build on, but a sloping lot can be much more scenic. You should also be wary of lots in low spots that may be prone to flooding. No matter what lot you are considering, take the time to visit it after a heavy rainfall to evaluate the drainage. Take the time to look for the sun direction as well. Many homeowners will orient their house to maximize natural light exposure. Don’t stop at what’s above ground either. The type of soil or rock under the ground can affect how easily you will be able to dig a foundation and how well it will support you home. Bedrock is very expensive to dig through, while clay soils expand and contract which could cause cracks and leaky basements.
WHAT WILL YOU WANT IN THE FUTURE?
We will go through changes in our lives, and having a lot that gives you the flexibility to accommodate these changes is a big plus. Whether it’s an addition to the family that requires an addition to the house, or maybe a new garage or swimming pool, you don’t want to find yourself somewhere down the road without sufficient space.
It’s very difficult to find a lot that meets all of your criteria. In many cases there are trade-offs to be made, so list your criteria in order of important. If you find yourself overwhelmed, you can seek the services of a landscape architect, surveyor or professional contractor to help you make the right decision.
By Marie-France Roger
The bi-generation house is the type of construction sometimes considered to facilitate access to property for young adults ready to assume responsibility, or oftentimes by parents or grand-parents who are in need of assistance (loss of autonomy or other reasons). Whatever the situation, this type of construction allows each to preserve their way of living and conserve a certain intimacy, all the while enjoying the advantages of co-ownership and the close proximity of family members.
The particularity of bi-generation homes is the combination of the practical aspect of two homes to appear as one single-family or conventional home. This permits integration of this type of construction in sectors where conventional multi-family units are not permitted.
The main challenge in this type of design is to bring together two independent interior layouts to look like one single conventional home where both layouts need to be private and functional, while respecting the needs of all the occupants. As we will see later, municipal regulations are also an important element with which people must deal, but the first thing to do is determine the needs which brought us to consider this type of construction.
Style and Design
The design of a single family home is a procedure which requires a lot of attention and comprehension on the part of the home owners as well as the designer who will accompany them in their project. This step is even more important and the challenge greater when combining the needs of two families, including one or more family members with restrained mobility or loss of autonomy.
When considering such a construction, it is of prime importance to take the time to evaluate your requirements and to consider these from the family viewpoint as well as those of parents or grand-parents. We must also take into account the years to come and possible future needs. Aging home owners or those in need of assistance should evaluate what their situation may be in years to come and foresee now what type of layout will best suit their lifestyle for both today and future. It is at this step that we must consider all the elements which will make this home a comfortable, peaceful and pleasing haven for its occupants.
The choice of a trusted professional is also a key element to success in this type of design. You should ensure that all the needs of the future occupants are taken into consideration and that satisfactory solutions are put forth for each. A good designer must equally be able to offer judicious advice to a future home owner while remaining within a pre-established budget.
Another of the many advantages is that even though it is a bi-generation home with the look of a conventional single-family home, it can be harmonized with a sought-after style. Amateurs of Victorian-, manor- or contemporary-style homes, it is certainly possible to adapt this type of home to one’s preferences, to get away from the multi-family unit options which the future home owners may possibly have already considered.
Pooling together both families’ resources greatly facilitates the purchases and maintenance of such a home and the bi-generation home offers without a doubt tranquil proximity, security and well being, including the joys of family life.
You’ve thought about it and now you’re doing it, you’re building your own home. It is an exciting decision to make. Being able to choose, plan and live in a dream for many, but now you are making that vision come true.
Are you stepping down this path for the first time? Like anything, the process can be tricky and there are many important details to consider as you get started.
Style of your new home
Have you decided on a style of home yet? If you need inspiration, go to open houses or remember what you like about the design of you friends’ and neighbours’ homes. Make notes. If there is an interesting detail or feature, write it down so that it doesn’t get forgotten during the excitement of building.
Where you will build is very important too. If you already own the land you plan to build on, your opinions may be more open than if you are building in an established subdivision. Many subdivision developers have restrictions called “covenants” which may force you to build a house of a certain size or style. They may limit where you can choose to build your home, even what colour it is when finished. These covenants are in place to assure that all the homes in the area are worth about the same and this will protect the value of your investment in later years. Remember that this is an investment and even if this is your dream home, there may come a day that you will have to sell it. Protecting help ensure its value in later years.
What to consider
There are a lot of other things to consider about the location of your new home. Distance to shopping, schools and work have to be thought about.
Finding the right contractor is your next step. A new home is likely your biggest investment. Make sure you don’t rush into it. It’s always a good idea to get at least three bids and remember the old adage, “If it is too good to be true, it probably is”.
To ensure that both you and your builder are satisfied with the work, make sure the details are spelled out in a written contract. The time you spend at this stage will avoid any confusion later on.
With the internet and groups like your provincial Homebuilders Associations, reams of information is available to help your home. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation also offers useful information including valuable question and answer sheets. Their website address is http://www.cmhc.ca.
Finding a good contractor
To find a good contractor, ask around. Ask family, friends and associates about who has a reputation for doing good work. Ask your contractor to supply the names of satisfied clients. If he can’t, look to another contractor.
Not offering a warranty on their services, poor workmanship and extra costs are all pitfalls on the path to feeling good about building you new home. Remember not every contractor plays by the rules. It is best, of course, to avoid these people.
The contractor will also be handling the scheduling of other trades such as electricians, insulation and drywall installers and any other specialists that may be required to complete the construction of your home.
Beyond choosing a good contractor, you will also need lawyer and a banker to handle legal matters and financing. Finally, remember that many home builders are more concerned about structural integrity and the attractiveness of your home from the outside. Remember that the interior should also be designed for practical concerns like – will all that furniture you already have fit? So if it’s not already clear, researching and planning before the first nail goes in is the key to making your new home a great castle to be enjoyed for years to come.
By Lumber Liquidators
Homeowners with hardwood floors are often concerned about damaging their floors during the winter season. Without proper care, winter’s harsh elements? slush, snow and salt? can dull the varnish of hardwood floors and even cause warping and gapping. Most movement or shifting that occurs in wood flooring is due to moisture and will realistically happen with all wood floors.
Trying to avoid winter elements is almost impossible. After all, what would the season be without building a snow man or sledding until you’re soaked? Rather than missing out on winter fun, here are a couple of simple steps you can take to prevent and protect your floors this winter.
Install floor mats.
Catching slush and snow at the door is the best way to avoid damage. It is important to keep these mats as clean and dry as possible – you may even consider investing in an additional mat that you can alternate while drying the other. If your kids enjoy playing outside, encourage them to remove their wet snow apparel as soon as they come back inside to avoid trekking snow all over the house.
Get creative with everyday, household materials.
Placing a dish-drainer tray mat by the door with a towel underneath can be a nice place for shoes and boots to dry off. Kindly ask your guests to remove their shoes as they enter. Buy inexpensive or disposable slippers to make your guests feel more comfortable.
Train your pets. Pets are the number one offender of tracking snow and slush into the house. Train your pets to patiently wait by the door while you dry their paws with a towel, and then reward them with a treat. Consider placing a bowl of treats by the door as a reminder.
Always keep soft towels or a wet/dry vacuum on hand in case you need to get rid of water right away. While towels can clean up most of the mess, it’s best to invest in a quality floor care kit.
Check the Warranty.
Some companies offer warranties, should snow or other harmful elements damage your floors. Make sure to find out before you purchase your hardwood floors what type of product warranties the company offers.
While winter can be a difficult time for hardwood floors, there is one benefit to this season: It’s one of the best times to install hardwood flooring, according to Sullivan, because indoor moisture levels are at their lowest which helps to prevent gapping.
So enjoy winter this year, and have fun taking care of your floors.
Adding a garage is not only practical – it also increases the resale value of your property. With planning, excavation, foundation, construction, electrical and other costs, a simple garage can easily cost upwards of $10 000. Such an important project requires some serious planning.
WHAT CAN YOU AFFORD?
Budget is the starting point with just about any construction project. A garage is no different. Start by deciding how much you can afford to invest in your new garage.
DETERMINE YOUR NEEDS
How you plan to use the garage is the largest factor influencing design. Will you use the garage for:
- Parking a vehicle or vehicles?
- Additional accommodations?
Will the garage require;
Windows or a service door?
Heating or insulation?
Take time to carefully consider all of the uses you want now and in the future. You may only have one car now, but down the road you might wish you had planned for a two-car garage.
DETERMINE THE SIZE
An unnecessarily large garage will cut the amount of useable space on your property, while one that is too small will limit its uses. When is comes to size, build as large as possible while still being practical and affordable. This will allow maximum flexibility for the future even if all the space is not used right away.
To better visualize the layout of your garage, do a sketch on graph paper including rough size dimensions. This will help when discussing the project with a professional.
DESIGN THE PLANS
Regardless of whether you purchase plans or have them custom designed; you will require them in order to receive the necessary building permits from your town or municipality.
Your plans will need to be approved by local authorities that will issue the appropriate building permits. Often multiple permits are required for electrical, structural, foundation and other work. Check with your local municipality for the complete regulations in your area. Remember that obtaining permits is not optional – it is a legal requirement.
Your final decision is whether to hire a contractor or build it yourself. Although doing it yourself will save on labour, building a garage is a complex project that should not be undertaken by inexperienced individuals.
A contractor can manage every step of construction including permits and working with sub-trades like foundation and electrical. You may spend a little more, but the results will be worth it.
TYPICAL PROJECT COSTS WILL INCLUDE:
Plans and materials estimate
Site preparation, excavating and grading
Foundation / footings
Framing and carpentry
Windows and doors
By André Fauteux
The Canadian Council of Environment Ministers has planned for 2005 a national ban of the sale of non-certified wood-burning appliances for their weak particle emissions. Specialists and consumers alike have been demanding a ban since 1990. But there is a snag : the ministries’ lawyers discovered too late that the present laws do not give this power to the legislator. << We will propose an amendment to the Protection of the Environment law from now to the end of the year, but it could take four or five years before it comes into effect >> Alain Gosselin, team leader for Atmospheric Stakes for Québec at Environment Canada. << I’m a bit discouraged when I talk about it. >> In 1990, the United States imposed certified EPA 1990 wood stoves and fireplaces, which emit only 2 to 4 grams of particles per hour compared to 30-40 gr. /hr for conventional models. These appliances cost around $300 more but their more complete combustion reduces the amount of wood burned. British Columbia is the only province to do the same, by imposing an equivalent Canadian norm, CSA B415.
In 2000, a committee of experts recommended Environnement Québec follow suit, but changing the law keeps being delayed. << It is always a priority and we will attempt to act more rapidly (than Ottawa) while harmonizing with the Federal, >> says the chief of service of Atmospheric Quality at Environnement Québec, Raynald Brulotte. << We must satisfy the new Canadian standard for fine particles, which will be applicable in 2010>>.
But, for the assistant deputy-minister of the same ministry, this is not a high priority. << This would not have such a conclusive effect on the environment >>, said Pierre Baril in a telephone interview. << The regulatory approach is not always the method which has the most impact. We prefer a combination of education and economic incentives.>> Decision which was denounced by Dr. Louis Drouin, responsible for environmental health at Montréal-Center Public Health Center. << I am surprised and deceived that Québec doesn’t act more rapidly, taking into account that we surpass the Canadian standards for breathable particles in the air about 15% of the time in winter. For us Montrealers, this is a priority.>>
Effects on Health
As well as emitting cancer-causing pollutants in exterior air and often also in homes, according to Environment Canada, residential heating with wood generates half the fine particles coming from human activities, even more than all transport sectors. As they penetrate deeply into the lungs, this invisible dust can provoque asthma attacks, cardiac problems and depress the immune system.
<< We do not encourage combustion with wood and we downright discourage it in urban and suburban centers as houses there are closer together >>, explains Alain Gosselin.
He wishes that people will heat in a more responsible manner, for example by burning only very dry wood. Moreover, he hopes that all elected council officials imitate their American colleagues, who impose casting out old wood-burning stoves when a house is sold, or those of certain cities in British Columbia who forbid use of a non-certified appliance during smoggy winter days.
By Marie-France Roger
Increasing the efficiency of buildings and their use of energy, water, and materials, and reducing building impacts on human health and the environment, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal — the complete building life cycle.
What to consider when designing a Green Building:
- The ideal site would be a Brownfield: abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contaminations.
- Conserve water and energy: limit the amount of resources required to operate a building. Installing a self-supporting filtration unit.
- Recycle construction materials: using recycle construction materials limits the amount of resources that must be disturbed. Obtaining locally or manufactured locally reduces the energy in shipping and transporting of these materials.
- Indoor air quality: limit the amount of materials in the building that contain Volatile Organic Compounds(VOC): Compounds that evaporate easily at room temperature and often have a sharp smell. They can come from many products, such as office equipment, adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, paints, solvents, and cleaning products.
- Beneficial Lanscaping: using different landscaping techniques to achieve a variety of benefits (e.g., decrease of maintenance costs, reduction of stormwater runoff, beautification of the landscape, preservation of endangered species) and using plants that require little or no pesticides etc.
By Jessica Langlois
Single detached housing starts n Ontario dropped by 3%, while the more volatile multi-unit housing starts experienced a very significant increase of 94%.
By Marie-France Roger
Home Builders have been strongly opposed to the duplication of the provincial land transfer tax in Toronto that will double the current provincial tax rate.
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