18 Oct 2017

While basement renovations are exciting projects that allow homeowners to bring their vision to life, there are always health and safety requirements to plan for in your basement space in Ottawa. Let’s look at a few of the main areas that you should discuss with your project planner before commencing a basement renovation.

This article is part 2 in a 2 part series; part 1 can be accessed here.

Mold and water issues

Basements are common places to find mold simply because they can be damp or lacking in proper ventilation. If your basement space feels damp, or smells musty, know that there is the possibility of mold growth since moisture is one of the main ingredients required for mold.

The best way to deal with mold is to prevent its growth in the first place. One of the best methods of mold prevention is to run a dehumidifier in your basement to remove excess moisture. Also make sure any bathroom in the basement has proper ventilation if it contains a shower.

With regards to basement renovations, mold is an issue if it has been eating away at the surface of your insulation, wall studs or drywall. Left untreated, mold can damage these building materials and they would need to be replaced and the moisture issue dealt with.

If you have a laundry setup in your unfinished basement, inspect the washer and dryer. Make sure the dryer is properly vented to the outside of your home and not leaking any moisture into your basement. Also make sure the washer is not leaking any water that you are unaware of.

Another more serious issue in your unfinished basement could be a foundation leak. If water is finding its way into your home from the outside, this is an issue that must be dealt with before any basement renovation can occur, and can be address through foundation waterproofing. Ensuring your basement space is dry and properly sealed provides the necessary condition for starting to setup drywall and flooring in your new space.

Smoke alarms

The Ontario Building Code (OBC) requires working smoke alarms outside of every sleeping area in the home, and at least one smoke alarm on every storey of your home. As such, your basement requires at least one smoke alarm even if you aren’t planning a bedroom down there.

But, if you are planning a bedroom in the basement, know that as of January 1, 2015, new construction and renovation rules require that a smoke-strobe alarm be installed inside of the basement bedroom. These alarms have a visual signalling cue, intended to provide visual aid to alert anyone to the triggered alarm.

A carbon monoxide alarm will also be required outside of the bedroom in the basement. These are a great idea regardless, as they can detect dangerous levels of CO from your gas or oil furnace, or any fireplace or wood-stove planned in the basement.

Secondary dwellings

If your basement renovation plans include possibly renting out the space, or having family move in, then there are specific factors to consider during your basement renovation in Ottawa as the space will now be considered a secondary dwelling.

Generally, secondary dwellings are allowed by zoning in almost all neighbourhoods in Ottawa, and can occupy the entire basement space of the home.

In addition to the smoke alarm requirements listed above, fire containment and safety measures, such as fire rated drywall, fire caulking, separate entrances, and egress windows, may be required.

11 Oct 2017

Basement renovations are a very popular way to extend the living space in your home here in Ottawa. Many older homes never had a finished basement by the builder and were often used for storage or laundry only. If you have purchased an older home in Ottawa and want to finish the basement, or if you are just looking to renovate an existing home that never had that space properly renovated, here are some basic points to keep in mind when making your plan.

Flooring

Choosing between carpet, tile, laminate or hardwood is an essential part of making your basement space livable. Many people love carpet for the soft touch and comfort it provides in the winter. Others prefer hardwood or tile for easy cleaning and durability. When looking to renovate your basement, think about what you will be using it for, what kind of traffic it will see, and what flooring material best suits your needs.

Electrical

One of the most popular lighting choice for finished basements in modern homes is recessed lighting (pot lights). This lighting provides a modern look in the home and can really illuminate your basement space with style. While it may seem simple, know that you must choose the placement, type of bulbs and size of your recessed lighting options and it will require some planning. It will also require a licensed electrician to handle the wiring.

While you are planning your basement renovation, it might be a good idea to have an electrician take a look at your home electrical panel as well. This is especially true in older homes, where the panel may require updating to accommodate the new electrical that you want to install in your finished basement.

Ceiling Clearance

Residential dwellings have a minimum clearance requirement for ceiling height in basements. Keep this in mind for your basement space, especially for older homes as they were often designed with the basement as a storage area, not a full-sized living space.

According to the Ontario Building Code, basement ceilings in newly finished spaces can be as low as 6’5” under beams and ducts, but at least 75% of the required floor area must be at least 6’11” in height. For more specifics, know that the Ontario Building Code applies differently depending on the age of your home. If your home is greater than 5 years old, Part 11 of the OBC applies, while newer construction is covered by Part 9.

Egress Windows

Older homes often have basement windows with very little space for egress or exit. In case of fire, it is always a good idea to have windows large enough to escape through. Converting your existing windows into egress windows not only adds greater safety for your home, but lots of more natural light to the basement living space. Consider converting your existing windows to larger egress windows during your basement renovation. It will provide peace of mind that your living space is properly suited for exit in case of emergency.

The requirements for basement windows vary and depend on whether you have a bedroom in the basement, if your windows open into a window well, and if you are planning on making your basement a secondary dwelling / rental apartment. Visit the Holland Homes and Renovations blog again in the upcoming weeks for our blog post specifically on egress window requirements for your basement space.

This post has covered just some of the basics of planning a basement renovation. Check back next week for Part 2 of our basement renovation series where we will cover some other key issues to consider when finishing your basement.

04 Oct 2017

Melting snow and heavy rain can lead to many problems for your home’s foundation. If your foundation contains any cracks, or does not have a proper drainage system, you may end up with a wet or leaking basement. In this final part of our Foundations series, let’s look at some of the waterproofing options available for your home’s foundation.

Interior waterproofing

Not all basement waterproofing involves exterior excavation. If the water issue cannot be addressed from the outside due to limited access or a desire not to excavate, certain water problems can be addressed from the inside.

Interior waterproofing usually involves a weeping tile system along the footing of your foundation inside your basement. This system collects the water that gets into your basement and pumps it to the outside with the help of a sump pump. While this type of waterproofing is more economical than exterior waterproofing, and is less disruptive to the exterior of your home, it does not solve your leaking water issue but rather manages it so that it does no further damage.

Exterior waterproofing

Exterior waterproofing is a more complete approach to solving your water leakage issues. Using excavation around the exterior walls, the source of the leak can be traced and proper waterproofing membranes and a weeping tile system can be installed or fixed. While this approach is more invasive, it provides a more complete solution to any basement leaking or foundation leaking due to water.

Water on your basement floor

If you find water on your basement floor, it may have found its way inside through a process known as hydrostatic pressure.

If the soil around your home is saturated with water, the weight of this water in the soil can create pressure that pushes against your foundation. This is why a waterproof membrane and drainage system are essential to catch and move water away from pressing against your walls.

It is also essential to keep water away from your foundation walls and collecting under your home by ensuring that downspouts move rainwater away from your foundation. As water accumulates, it can create an immense weight against your home and will find any crack that is present as a routine into your home and onto your basement floor.

Basement efflorescence

You may have noticed a white fuzzy substance on your concrete basement floor and wondered what to do about it. This is known as basement efflorescence and it is caused by salt leftover from water. As water evaporates, it can leave behind mineral deposits which lead to efflorescence crystals.

While this is mostly a visual issue, it does indicate that moisture was present on your basement floors or wherever you found the efflorescence.

There are three main conditions that must be present for efflorescence to appear in your basement.

First, there must be water soluble salts located in your walls or basement floor. This is actually quite easily achieved, as mortar, grout, concrete and sand all contain water soluble salts. There is nothing you can do about this as a homeowner.

Second, there must be moisture present in the floors or walls to carry and dissolve the salts. Since concrete is porous in nature, there is often moisture present in it.

Finally, there has to be a route for the water to take to get to your floors and evaporate, leaving behind the salt crystallization. This is where homeowners can take action to prevent the cracks present in foundation walls and floors that allow water to come from the outside onto the interior surfaces of the basement. Basement efflorescence cannot appear without a source of water present.

So, while efflorescence is a visual issue that poses no threat to your health, and can be cleaned up quite simply by wiping with a chemical cleaner, its presence does indicate a bigger problem. If you clean the efflorescence and find that it keeps coming back, then you know your basement has a moisture issue to be looked at.

26 Sep 2017

Last week, in the first part of our blog series on what you should know about your home foundation, we covered the basics of the two most popular choices for home foundations in Ottawa, concrete block and poured concrete. This week, we will look at two other types of foundations, Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF), and Slab on grade, that may not be as popular, but still offer some key advantages.

Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF)

ICF foundations are one of the most energy efficient options for home foundations. Comprised of polystyrene forms made of two expanded polystyrene (EPS) panels held together with connectors and reinforced with steel re-bar inside, they are assembled into place and then filled with poured concrete in order to create solid walls.

The forms interconnect to each other on each side and on top in a similar fashion to Lego blocks. The end result is a basement foundation that does not require insulation as the polystyrene forms filled with concrete provide a solid mass that prevents air leakage and air transfer and provides insulation itself.

ICF is also unique in that it can be used for the entirety of your home’s exterior walls, not just the foundation. This means that the panels can interconnect from the basement all the way to the roof line to provide a sturdy and insulated wall for the entire home.

Due to their strong insulating value, ICF foundations will save the homeowner on utility bills in the long run as they prevent temperature fluctuations from air leakage and also provide a comfortable basement living space in both winter and summer. They also provide superior noise reduction than other foundation systems.

From an environmental perspective, ICF foundations also provide a positive impact as the EPS is made mostly from recycled materials and can be considered a green building option.

In terms of disadvantages, ICF requires a knowledgeable builder for installation that may be hard to find due to the fact that it is not the most commonly requested foundation selection. ICF will also cost more up front for your exterior walls when compared to traditional wood framing or concrete foundation.

Also keep in mind that ICF, like all foundations, still requires proper waterproofing and a proper drainage system to keep water away from the home.

Slab on grade

Comprised of a single layer of thick concrete, slab on grade foundations rest directly on the ground and do not have basements. Despite being a less popular choice for foundations in Ottawa, the advantages to this type of installation are numerous.

First, eliminating a basement means no risk of water leakage through the foundation and no risk of flooding. Also, having no basement means your overall construction costs for materials and installation are lower.

The building structure also rests directly on the concrete slab instead of basement support beams and therefore provides a wide and sturdy foundation for the rest of the home. It also provides a faster installation than a traditional basement foundation would.

In terms of disadvantages, slab foundations have no access underneath the poured concrete slab for any wiring or utility lines. In addition, there is obviously no basement space to work with so your furnace and mechanical controls all need to find a home on the main floor.

Installation should also, as always, start with an analysis of the surrounding soil to determine how the footings will be installed to support the slab. As with all foundations, the surrounding soil is critical to analyze in order to determine how supportive it will be, how it handles moisture and how it might shift over time.

Insulation is also another key factor when considering a slab on grade foundation. In colder climates such as Ottawa, home foundations need to be installed to withstand the weather throughout the entire year. For slab on grade, it is usually wise to install horizontal insulation under the entire length of the slab to reduce heat loss in the winter months.

19 Sep 2017

The most important part of the home, your foundation supports every aspect of your building structure and should be carefully planned, built, and cared for. In this three-part series on foundations on the Holland Homes and Renovations blog, we will go over some of the basics of residential foundation options.

To start, we will explore the most popular foundation choices available for your custom home in Ottawa. Next week, we will look at some of the alternative options for foundations that you may not be aware of. Finally, we will conclude our series with tips for foundation waterproofing and maintenance.

Part 1: Concrete Block and Poured Concrete

There are two main options that most people choose from when deciding on a home foundation in Ottawa and each comes with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Concrete Block

The most affordable option when it comes to home foundations, a concrete block foundation is both strong and easy to install. Typically constructed using large concrete blocks held together with mortar, concrete block foundations are laid in an overlapping style similar to bricks. Steel re-bar is used to help connect the blocks to concrete footings in the ground for extra support.

Concrete block foundations are easy to install as the blocks are light and are held together with basic masonry and re-bar. However, several key points must be kept in mind to ensure a strong installation. First, the mortar must be properly applied in order to avoid leakage or weak links in the foundation. The presence of so much mortar means that there are many opportunities for water leakage into gaps and this is why a professional installation is required.

Second, know that the soil surrounding the home is important. The concrete footings that support your foundation need to be sitting on firm, undisturbed soil with proper drainage. Be sure to perform a proper soil analysis before starting on any foundation construction.

Finally, a waterproof membrane should always be used to help water flow down from the foundation walls and to an exterior drain. We will cover more of this topic in part three of our series on foundations when we look at waterproofing options and their importance for a durable and long lasting foundation.

Poured Concrete

The most popular choice for residential home foundations, poured concrete costs a bit more than a concrete block foundation but offers a stronger, more dense installation once the concrete is properly set. Poured concrete also offers superior protection from water intrusion as it forms one large wall instead of multiple blocks where gaps can appear in the mortar installation.

Poured concrete foundations are installed using large wooden walls where the concrete will be poured in-between. Steel re-bar will be attached to the footings prior to the concrete pour and will help to reinforce the walls once they set. The setting process is key for poured concrete as it must be allowed to properly dry and form a secure wall before any further construction is continued.

Due to the seamless nature of poured concrete, it offers better water protection than concrete block. However, poured concrete foundations still require a good moisture barrier and even then, they are known to crack.

We have all heard the horror stories of cracks in foundations and how they can lead to water leakage or general anxiety for homeowners. This is why homeowners should always inspect their poured concrete foundations for any cracks, however small, and address them immediately.

There is no reason to panic if you find a crack in your home foundation. Keep in mind that small cracks in a poured concrete foundation are very common and can be harmless. However, larger cracks can pose an immediate or long term problem if they start to allow moisture into the home. If you find a crack in your poured concrete foundation, contact a foundation expert to have it inspected for size and also to take a moisture reading.

12 Sep 2017

Growing in popularity over the last 20 years, metal roofing offers many positives as a residential roofing solution as compared to traditional asphalt shingles. With advantages in durability, environmental sustainability and colour selection, installing a metal roof just might be the right choice for your next roofing project in Ottawa. Here is a basic overview of metal roofing and its main qualities.

Materials 

Metal roofing comes in three main material types: steel, aluminum and copper. Galvanized steel is the most popular metal roofing selection, however it requires special coating to prevent corrosion over the long term.

Stainless steel is another great steel option, but it is more expensive than galvanized steel and aluminum. This is because stainless steel does not require an extra coating and does not rust or corrode over the long term, thus offering a longer lifespan.

Aluminum is very lightweight, won’t rust and offers great energy efficiency. However, it does require a special finish to protect from the elements. Aluminum is also a very soft metal and therefore may be prone to denting in harsh conditions.

Copper is the most expensive metal roofing material, but with that high-end price comes durability as it won’t rust, peel or scratch. It is also quite visually attractive and can really add to the exterior appeal of your home.

Patterns and Style

One of the biggest strengths of metal roofing is that it comes in so many different colors and styles. For those who want a roofing selection that looks different than traditional asphalt shingles, metal roofing offers more than 30 colors to choose from. From shades of white to deep reds, metal roofing is restricted only by the color of paint you choose as a coating.

In addition, metal roofing comes in many different styles and shapes. Some options include sheet-style panels with raised ribs, metal shingles, metal tile, and metal shake. Homeowners can choose the style with the most visual appeal relative to the exterior of their home and they all provide the same quality of protection.

Durability and Safety

One of the biggest drawbacks to asphalt shingles is that, despite their 25-year warranty, they usually start to curl or break down after 10-15 years. With exposure to sun, high wind, and the generally harsh winters here in Ottawa, you may find your asphalt shingles won’t meet the 25-year mark as advertised.

By contrast, metal roofing is a very durable option that usually lasts about 3 times as long as asphalt shingles, up to 50 years. This is because metal roofing is more durable in several key areas that asphalt is not.

First, metal roofing will not fly off your roof in high winds like asphalt shingles are prone to do.

Second, metal roofing does not peel or break down in the harsh sunlight and elements over time. With that being said, the painted coating may need to be re-done at least once during the lifespan of metal roofing as weather and exposure can cause paint deterioration.

Finally, metal roofing is very safe from fire exposure. One of the main causes of fire damage in homes that are neighbouring a fire is that flames can pass from one roof to the next, setting the asphalt shingles on fire. Metal roofing solves this problem as it is fire resistant and will not catch fire in this manner and therefore is not only safer, but may save you on your home insurance costs.

Metal roofing is also not a threat to catch fire with lightning, as metal roofing does not attract lightning any more than other types of roofing and would safely disperse the electrical charge on contact across the surface area of the roof if struck.

Environmental Factors

One of the main drawbacks to asphalt shingles is that they are hard to recycle economically. This means after their life cycle is complete, they usually end up in dumps with no further use left for the material. Metal roofing can be considered a ‘green’ building material as the metal is mostly recyclable and can be re-used for other purposes after its usefulness as a roofing material has run out.

Another ‘green’ benefit to metal roofing is that it can be coated to reflect away light and heat from the sun thus helping to lower your cooling costs in the summer.

Asphalt vs. Metal: Which roofing material should I use?

When deciding between asphalt shingles or metal roofing, know that both are quality roofing products that get the job done. If you are working within a budget, then asphalt will definitely save you money upfront as metal roofing costs around 2-3 times as much.

If you are planning to move from your home in the near future, asphalt may also be the better decision since you will not reap the longevity benefits of metal roofing, although metal roofing does raise your immediate property value and saves on cooling costs.

But, if you are planning to stay put in your home for many years, then metal roofing may prove to be the wise financial investment for long term durability, peace of mind and even visual appeal.

06 Sep 2017

New construction homes usually have great insulation, with tight windows, proper doors and efficient vapor barriers that all meet today’s high efficiency standards. While all of this has meant that today’s homes have much better home insulation than in the past, it also means they may run the risk of being too airtight, restricting your home ventilation.

The issue that arises if your home is too airtight is that moisture cannot ventilate to the outside and the general air movement in your home from outside to inside is poor. In older homes, this was never a problem as construction materials and installation were never as highly insulating as they are in today’s energy efficient homes.

With airflow becoming an increasingly important concept to attain in new construction homes, heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) have become a popular device for ensuring the proper movement of air from outside to inside.

What is a heat recovery ventilator?

A heat recovery ventilator is a mechanical device installed onto your existing furnace ductwork that swaps stale indoor air for fresh outdoor air and spreads it around the house. The incoming and outgoing air never mix directly inside the HRV as they simply pass inside the separate channels of the ventilator and undergo a heat exchange process by conduction.

HRV units have two fans: one to push stale air outwards and one to bring fresh air inside. Two exterior vents are used in the process as well, one to exhaust the stale air and one to bring in the fresh air.

While opening a window may seem like a simpler solution to providing fresh air for a home, this is not an energy efficient solution as your furnace will need to heat the fresh cool air in the winter or your air conditioner will need to cool the incoming hot air during the summer. HRVs allow incoming air to be heated or cooled in a more efficient manner as they steal some energy from the expelled air as it leaves through the ventilator.

HRVs also contain filters, so no need to worry about dust and particles that may be entering the home from the outdoor air.

HRVs in winter

During the winter, HRVs use the heat from the outgoing air to warm up the incoming cool air. The heat exchange core of the HRV is the most important part of the device as it transfers heat from the outgoing air to the incoming air, therefore conserving energy and eliminating the need to completely heat the incoming cool air once it arrives inside. This elegant solution allows an HRV to provide fresh indoor air during the winter in an efficient and controlled manner.

HRVs also help with high indoor humidity levels and condensation on your windows in the winter. Since condensation forms from warm indoor air meeting cold surfaces (i.e. the glass on your windows), HRVs help by expelling the excess warm, moist indoor air and bringing in drier, fresh air in a balanced fashion.

HRVs in summer

During the summer months, an HRV will take heat from the incoming fresh outdoor air and transfer it to the outgoing cold air, thereby reducing the temperature of the incoming hot air and making it easier to cool.

Note that the incoming warm air will contain moisture in the summer and usually will raise the humidity level in your home. This shouldn’t be a problem if the HRV unit is properly balanced and continuously running. That means you should never turn off your HRV as they constantly maintain the balance of airflow inside your home. This balance is critical to avoid condensation in the home or the over exhausting of indoor air. As such, it is usually best to have a professional install the HRV to ensure the right balance of airflow from outside to inside is achieved and the right levels are set from the start.

30 Aug 2017

Nobody likes to send money ‘down the drain’, but that is exactly what we are doing when we let our heated water drain from activities like showering or washing dishes. This is because drained hot water contains valuable energy in the form of heat that can be recovered for further use in the home. For the same reason we use home insulation, the less heat wasted, the more we can cut down on our home’s energy costs.

Luckily, systems are now available for your home to recover heat from drained hot water and put it to further use. These systems are known as drain water heat recovery units and are gaining popularity in renovations and home additions in Ottawa as a green technology option.

In fact, Ontario was the first province or state in North America to list drain water heat recovery units in building code as part of recognized energy saving building options.

Drain water heat recovery units are widely available for residential use and are designed to capture heat from drained water for use in preheating fresh cold water. This process helps to lower the energy (and money) required to heat new water using your water heater as heat from existing hot water is transferred to the fresh water we want to heat before the water heater is even involved.

Although the process may seem a bit complicated, the results are not: lower home energy bills each month due to the reusability of the heat from your drained hot water.

How does the system work?

The first question many people have when they first hear of drain water recovery units is: ‘why would I want to reuse dirty, drained water?’  Of course, these units don’t reuse the dirty water itself, but rather the heat from the drained water. This is accomplished by a series of copper coils that are wrapped around the copper drainpipe that forms the drain water recovery unit. These pipes are used instead of traditional drain lines.

Known as a double wall heat exchanger, this coiled drainpipe system allows heat to be exchanged from the outgoing drained hot water in the copper drainpipe and the incoming fresh water in the copper coils around the pipe – all without the two streams ever touching and mixing.

This means that the only part of the drained water that is transferred to the fresh water is the heat. It also means that the fresh water is pre-heated prior to entering the water heating system or appliance and this saves energy and money during the heating process.

Where can these systems be installed?

Drain water heat recovery units are typically installed as part of the drainage stack below showers and leading to the hot water tank where the heated water can be stored. Showers make the most effective use of the heat recovery system as they both expel hot water and use hot water at the same time in large quantities.

In fact, these heat recovery units will increase the hot water supply to showers and ensure that the age-old problem of running out of hot water is greatly reduced. That also means that the lifespan of your hot water heater is increased as it needs to work less to heat water thanks to the assistance of the drain water heat recovery system.

What about tankless water heaters?

Drain water heat recovery units also work with tankless water heaters, however they will only be effective with showers since without a storage tank, the heat must be used during the simultaneous flow of heated drain water from the shower and the feed of cold water to the tankless heater on demand for the shower.

This also means that dishwashers or clothes washers won’t benefit from drain recovery with tankless water heaters as the simultaneous flow is not significant enough to recover useful heat.

23 Aug 2017

Placement, type, durability, glaze and edge. These are just some of the factors to consider when planning your flooring options for tile during a home renovation or addition. Most people overlook the complications of flooring when they are budgeting for a home renovation as it is an area of décor that seems simpler than it really is. Many homeowners are surprised to learn than even the pattern of placement for flooring tiles can increase the cost of a basement renovation. Let’s dig into this topic in order to reveal just how many factors go into choosing tile as a flooring option.

Porcelain vs Ceramic

Shopping for tile can be confusing because of the many different explanations you may hear about the differences between porcelain and ceramic. To make matters more confusing, you should know that both porcelain and ceramic tile are commonly called ceramic tile as they are both made of fired clay.

While there is a lot of marketing involved with regards to classifying tile as either porcelain or ceramic, the truth is that both can be installed on floors and walls, both can be installed indoors or outdoors and both are great options for tiling in general. So while porcelain is generally considered more durable and is also usually more expensive, ceramic tile can handle most of the very same jobs.

So how do we choose which tile is best for our purposes? Aside from obvious indicators of durability, such as thickness, what should we look for? When shopping for tile the best approach is to put less focus on porcelain or ceramic and focus instead on the following functional indicators that can usually be found directly on the box: PEI wear rating, water absorption and slip resistance.

PEI Wear Rating

Residential tiling is given a PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) wear-rating in a system from 1 to 5 in terms of surface durability and resistance to abrasion, with 1 being the lowest quality and useful for wall tiling only, level 2 of better quality and useful for light traffic flooring and level 3 being durable and the most common in residential applications. Levels 4 and 5 are very durable options and are suited for residential use but also public or commercial spaces.

Water Absorption

This rating can get complicated, but the key factor to keep in mind is that you want a tile with a vitreous (low absorption) or impervious (very low absorption) rating if you are installing in areas with moisture (outdoors, bathrooms, kitchens).  These ratings ensure low water absorption rates, with vitreous usually being enough for any indoor application.

Slip Resistance

This is another rating that can get complicated as it involves coefficients of friction (COF). The key factor to keep in mind is that lower COF numbers provide less traction and should not be used in areas where the floor will often be wet. For bathrooms, kitchens and high traffic door entryways, get a tile with a higher COF number.

What About Glaze?

One separate factor to keep in mind with porcelain and ceramic tile is whether to get glazed or unglazed tiles.

Glazed tiles offer more color and style variety as they have a finish applied to their surface which allows for many patterns and ornamentation. They are also more durable and stain resistant due to the special coating. However, they are less slip resistant due to the texture of the coating and also show scratches on the glaze more easily.

Unglazed tiles have a consistent color throughout the tile without any additional coating to change their look. They are more slip resistant since they have no special glossy coating and are therefore great for areas where water will be found, such as kitchens or bathrooms. They do, however, offer less stain resistance than the specially coated glazed tiles.

Rectified vs. Non-Rectified Edges

Regardless of whether you choose porcelain or ceramic tile, another necessary decision that must be made regarding their appearance is the type of edging: rectified or non- rectified.

Rectified tiles have machined edges that give them an exact and clean look, with an overall appearance of seamlessness on the floor. In order to achieve this, however, the edges must be very sharp and thin grout lines and exact placement are important. Due to the specific nature of this exact edging, rectified tiles are more expensive for installation as it involves an exact levelling system to ensure uniformity.

Non-rectified tiles have natural edges that have not been specially machined for a uniform look. While this provides a more natural look, the tiles are usually of different sizes and require larger grout lines during installation in order to conceal the differences and imperfections.

The decision between rectified or non-rectified tiles comes down to personal preference in regards to the visual appeal of the grout lines and edges of each option.

Placement Pattern

After choosing your tile, the next step is to choose your placement pattern. Keep in mind that each placement pattern comes with its own costs and time requirements, so budget accordingly.

Soldier

This is the easiest pattern, with tiles forming a simple grid and lined up straight.

Brick

This is another popular pattern, with tiles placed as they would be in a brick wall, overlapping with options such as a 1/2 tile width or 1/3 tile width.

Triangular

For a more visually striking pattern, triangular placement often alternates two colors.

Other Tile Flooring Options

Travertine

A natural stone tile that is sourced from quarries, travertine has a great natural look but comes with many drawbacks. Since it is natural stone, it is very heavy and tough but prone to chipping and scratching.  It is also very expensive and should be considered a high-end flooring choice. It is also very hard to maintain – adding a polish will make it too slippery, and leaving it unpolished results in eventual staining, chipping and trapped dirt.

Marble

Since marble is also a natural material, each tile has its own unique look. This is great for visual appeal, however it makes it difficult to match the tiles to each other. When choosing marble, it is best to ensure all of the tiles came from the same original batch and that you are on site to approve their final placement since so much of the visual appeal is subjective.

Marble also comes with regular maintenance requirements since it is natural stone. You must seal it and clean it regularly in order to avoid staining or permanent marking into the porous marble surface. Don’t even think about leaving a cold or hot beverage on a marble surface without a coaster!

As you can see, flooring tile options are varied and somewhat complicated. Since flooring takes up so much of the visual space in your home, it is best to consult your contractor about the available options for your home renovations or additions and also to get a good visual sense of what the final product will look like.

07 Aug 2017
Windows

Windows are a focal point of every home in terms of style and function. Not only does the style of window affect the overall look of your home, but it also changes factors such as ventilation, energy efficiency and maintenance.

There is a surprisingly large amount of window types to choose from when building or renovating your home and many advantages and disadvantages for each.

Continue reading Part 1 below for a good overview of some of the different types of windows available and the pros and cons of each for your new home renovations or addition in Ottawa. Also, be sure to check back next week for Part 2 of our window selections series in order to learn about some other key factors to consider when choosing your home windows in Ottawa.

Casement Windows

Casement windows open in a similar fashion to doors, with a hinge on one side only that opens outwards. A crank on the interior of the house opens the window towards the outside and the window is held in the open position by a casement stay, which is a metal bar that extends along with the window to provide support.

Screens are found on the inside for casement windows and are therefore better protected from weather and debris and also easier to clean and remove if necessary.

Casement windows provide great ventilation as they can force air into the house due to the angle of the window. They are also very weather-tight due to the combination of the crank closure and tight seal.

There are some disadvantages to note for casement windows: the crank and casement stay are movable parts and are therefore features that can break over time and would require replacing.

In addition, since the window opens outwards, the edges can get exposed to the elements more frequently and can wear over time, especially if left open during a storm.

Single Hung and Double Hung Windows

Single hung windows have two sashes but only the bottom sash is operable. The top sash remains fixed while the bottom sash goes up and down. Often, the movable sash also has the ability to tilt inwards as well for easier cleaning.

Double hung windows have two sashes and both are operable and go up and down, with the ability to tilt the sashes inwards as well for cleaning.

Single Hung windows can be difficult to clean since the top sash is fixed and can’t be tilted. If this window is located on an upper floor, it becomes more complicated than just walking outside to clean the outer surface. Double hung windows, by contrast, are easier to clean in this regard since both sashes are movable and can be tilted inwards for cleaning from the inside.

As for ventilation, double hung windows are superior as they allow more openings for airflow, whereas single hung windows can only allow air through the bottom sash.

Slider Windows

Slider windows operate on a track with the panes moving side to side horizontally. There are a few options when choosing a slider window: single sliders with only one movable sash, double sliders where both of the sashes move and 3-lite sliders where the middle pane is fixed and the two ends are operable.

Slider windows also come with an option for the movable sash to be tilted inwards for easier cleaning and ventilation.

One main advantage of slider windows is that they don’t open outwards and take up space that may be valuable in areas such as walkways, patios or porches. If considering basement renovations, they are also great for basement bedroom egress, allowing easy escape in case of fire as they don’t protrude outwards where they could become an obstacle to exiting the window or clearing the window well.

A main disadvantage of slider windows is that they don’t tilt inwards and therefore require a visit to the outside of the home, and potentially the use of a ladder, to clean all panes.

Come back and visit the blog next week for Part 2 of our Window Selections series as we will discuss single pane, double pane and triple pane window options, vinyl vs. aluminum windows and also U-values.