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.

01 Aug 2017

Most people know that copper has been the standard choice for water piping in homes for many years. However, if you haven’t been faced with a home renovation or construction decision for some time, you may not know that there is a new, cheaper alternative available: PEX pipes. There are several reasons why PEX is becoming a more popular choice for plumbing in new home renovations and constructions. This post will discuss several of the key differences between PEX water pipes and copper water pipes and why PEX now rivals copper as a piping solution.

PEX Pipes

PEX, or cross-linked polyethylene, first appeared around 1980 as a residential piping solution and has become very popular over the past 25 years due to the simple fact that it is much cheaper than copper.

Functionally, PEX is notably different than copper for several reasons. First, PEX is easier to install as it is not rigid like copper. PEX can be bent and fished like a garden hose through walls and corners and never requires soldering like copper. PEX also comes color coded and therefore can be conveniently and clearly installed to match the type of water it will be carrying (i.e. red for hot water, blue for cold water).

PEX also has the advantage of resisting corrosion better than copper, especially in areas that have higher acidity in their water. In terms of cold weather resistance, PEX can’t be beat as it resists freezing and bursting in indoor applications better than copper, a feature especially useful for home renovations here in Ottawa.
PEX is also the preferred solution for radiant heating systems that are installed under floors as it bends easily for installation.

In terms of disadvantages, PEX cannot be used outdoors as it is susceptible to breakdown in prolonged exposure to sunlight. There are also no methods to melt and re-use PEX piping safely, thus making it a less attractive option for environmental sustainability.

Finally, you may have heard that PEX tubing may pose health concerns due to leaching from the plastics that make up the tubing. Since PEX has only been popularly used for the last 25 years, many critics maintain that there may be unknowns regarding the use of PEX. The good news is that PEX is NSF certified for health effects related to drinking water. This independent certification is applied only if the amount of chemical traces found in the drinking water carried by plumbing materials are below levels that could be harmful. NSF certification is also recognized by Health Canada, providing further assurance that this material is safe for drinking water in your home.

Copper Pipes

Copper piping has been the go-to solution for water piping forever, and still remains a great option. Copper itself has natural antimicrobial properties and is great for hindering the growth of bacteria, a quality that is important for your water supply. Copper is also easily re-usable and therefore a great environmental option for those thinking of long term sustainability.

While copper is still an effective solution for water piping, the cost of this raw metal has risen over time to a point where it is a less appealing option, especially in large installations. Copper has even become the target of theft in abandoned or newly constructed homes as it has become so valuable.

Copper is not only more expensive, but it is a more difficult installation as soldering is required to fit pipes together and elbow joints are also required to fit around any corners.

Copper also corrodes easier than PEX when faced with acidic water and can potentially be problematic long term when installed in areas with this type of water. In addition, as all residents of cold climates know, copper is likely to freeze and burst if not properly insulated or if furnaces break down in cold temperatures. Keep this in mind as an important factor when choosing your plumbing solutions for renovations or home additions in Ottawa.

In the end, both PEX and copper are great options for your piping installations. If you are looking to save some money, PEX is clearly the best route. PEX is also perfect for radiant heating applications. In terms of copper, it is always going to be more expensive, but is a tried and true material that delivers as expected and is still preferred by many plumbing experts for its antimicrobial properties and sustainability.

23 Jul 2017

When choosing the right countertop for your kitchen renovation in Ottawa, there are a variety of factors to keep in mind. While countertops are a visual focal point of every kitchen, each countertop material also comes with its own maintenance requirements, budgetary impacts and thickness options that should all be considered before making a final selection. In this post we will take a brief overview of some countertop selections and the important factors related to each.

Granite

Granite countertops are natural stone, very durable and boast a high scratch, chip and heat resistance rating. Granite is therefore very hard to damage and is a long-lasting solution for kitchen countertops. In fact, these natural stone surfaces are so scratch resistant that you can even cut on them with a knife (although this is not recommended as it will quickly dull your knife).

In addition to these functional benefits, granite countertops look great as they have a sleek and smooth surface that is also unique for each installation since the countertops come cut from a natural stone. Granite also boosts the re-sale value of your home as it can visually renew even the most outdated kitchen.

While granite boasts excellent stain and scratch resistance, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind. Granite is one of the most expensive countertop selections and is also a porous material, so it must be initially coated with a sealant in order to protect the surface and then re-coated every six months to two years (depending on manufacturer recommendations) to maintain the seal. Usually, the initial seal will have been applied by the manufacturer along with provided instructions on how to properly care for your new countertops.

The good news is that, once sealed, granite countertops will keep most liquids from staining or being absorbed, and require only cleaning with a mild detergent and warm water. With that being said, take care not to leave spilled wine on your granite countertops as they still can stain if not properly sealed. Also, avoid vinegar-based and acidic cleaners on granite as they can damage the sealant. It is best to think of granite as resistant to stains, not impermeable.

In terms of thickness, granite is sold in two main options for kitchens: 0.75 inch and 1.25 inch. The first difference between the two thicknesses is the look. 1.25 inch is obviously thicker and many people like this look as it appears more durable and substantial for kitchen applications, while others prefer 0.75 inch because it takes less space and appears sleek and modern. Like most decisions based on aesthetics, the choice is entirely up to the customer.

While it is true that 1.25 inch cuts are thicker, the fact that the material is granite means that whether you choose 0.75 inch or 1.25 inch, both are durable and rarely crack. Keep in mind that the 1.25 inch cut is clearly more granite and therefore will be more expensive.

Finally, when installing granite, one must always choose an edge profile. Edge profiles are basically the shape that the edge of your granite countertop will take. There are numerous edging selections to choose from, such as straight edge, bevel and bullnose. While straight edge is a standard edge and is not considered an upgrade, other edge profiles require work to achieve and will cost more for your kitchen renovation.

Quartz

Quartz slabs are man-made and engineered from a combination of ground quartz, binding resin and color pigmentation. Quartz is very durable and thanks to the pigmentation, is available in a wide variety of colors and patterns during manufacturing. In addition, quartz requires no sealant as the binding resin that is used in the manufacturing process makes the surface non-porous.

In terms of thickness, quartz is similar to granite as the most popular choices for the kitchen are 0.75 inch and 1.25 inch and again, the choice between the two is mostly cosmetic.

There are also numerous edging profiles available for quartz as we would find with granite. Manufacturers will usually have a complete brochure listing all of the various options.

Quartzite

Even harder than both granite and quartz, quartzite is another beautiful natural stone countertop option.

Quartzite is a natural stone that often features beautiful patterns and color options not found in granite due to the presence of natural minerals, iron oxide and impurities found in the stone. These give each quartzite countertop a one of a kind natural look and pattern that can really make a kitchen come to life. This beauty comes at a cost, however, as quartzite is an even more expensive kitchen countertop selection than granite.

Just like granite, quartzite requires sealing prior to use in order to protect the surface from staining and additional sealing on an annual basis to preserve the sealant. Also like granite, abrasive or acidic cleaners should be avoided in favor of a simple solution of mild soap and warm water.

Like granite and quartz, quartzite is most commonly found in 0.75 inch and 1.25 inch thickness for kitchen countertops and numerous edging profiles are available to choose from.

What is the difference between quartz and quartzite?

Both are very durable, however quartzite is natural stone and more expensive and has the visual appeal of a natural stone whereas quartz is man-made and has the advantage of a wider selection of colors and patterns as it is manufactured.

While quartz requires no annual sealant due to the resin, it is more vulnerable to heat damage as this resin is plastic based and can melt in high heat, so never leave a hot pan on your quartz kitchen countertop without protection underneath.

21 Jun 2017

The design options and possibilities for a coach house in Ottawa are very exciting for homeowners looking to create more space on their property.

Homeowners can now design and build a separate structure on their existing property that will increase their property value and also provide them with more living space, room for a rental income, or room for family members to live.

Currently, there are specific guidelines in place to follow when looking to design and build your new coach house in Ottawa. These guidelines can get complicated, so it is important to speak to experienced professionals to learn how to properly plan for your coach house.

What are the new coach house guidelines in Ottawa?

There are many guidelines to follow when looking to plan and build your coach house in Ottawa. You can view the official guidelines online at the City of Ottawa website here.

Keep in mind that only properties with a single family or semi-detached dwelling or duplex can apply for a coach house. Townhomes are also allowed under certain specific circumstances.

Here is a quick rundown of some of the general rules to follow:

  • Coach houses must be located on the same lot as your current house
  • Coach houses must be free standing and separate from the main house
  • Coach houses cannot have their own new driveway.
  • Coach houses must have a kitchen and a bathroom
  • Parking is not required for a coach house
  • You can only have one coach house per property
  • You cannot have a coach house if your primary dwelling unit already contains a secondary dwelling unit (rental apartment, basement apartment, rooming units)
  • Coach houses in urban areas must share municipal water and wastewater services with the main house as well as electrical and they may share a natural gas line if desired
  • Coach houses share their utility bills with the main house on one bill
  • The City of Ottawa recommends that coach houses have their own separate hot water tank
  • Coach houses must integrate into the style of the streetscape in urban areas
    Coach houses in urban areas must take into consideration tree conservation prior to cutting down any trees on the lot to build
  • Coach houses must be located in the rear yard, unless the lot has frontage on both a street and a travelled public lane, then the coach house must be located in the yard adjacent to the travelled public lane

What about lot sizes, building height and building dimensions?

  • Coach houses must always be smaller than the primary dwelling and cannot be taller than the primary dwelling. Specifically, coach houses must not be greater in size than 40% of the footprint of the main building
  • Coach houses must not exceed 40% of the size of the yard they are in
  • Maximum sizes for a coach house: 80m² footprint of lot in urban areas, 95m² footprint of lot in rural areas
  • If the lot is less than 125m² in footprint, then the coach house can be up to 50m² but still not more than 40% of the yard size
  • Coach houses can have a footprint as small as 23m². These will still meet the minimum Ontario Building Code requirements for a dwelling unit of approximately 18m²
  • Height restrictions: 3.6m tall in urban areas, and no wall can be higher than 3.2 metres
  • One-storey coach houses can have lofts by lowering the main floor below grade to meet height restrictions
  • Coach houses in rural areas can only be built on properties that are 0.8 hectares or larger and those properties must have a private well and septic service
  • Coach houses in rural areas must share at least one of private well or septic system with the main building

What are the rules for lot setbacks?

  • Coach houses can be placed 1 metre maximum away from the rear and interior side yard property line. The other option is 4 metres minimum away from the rear and interior side yard property line.
  • Corner side yard setbacks: same rules as for principal dwellings

Can I have a two-storey coach house in Ottawa?

Yes. You can have a two-storey coach house in urban and rural areas of Ottawa, however you must apply for it specifically. In addition, you must consider all variance conditions and the coach house planned must have all its habitable space above a garage.

Are there any other guidelines I should know about?

  • Coach houses are not allowed in the former Village of Rockcliffe Park as this district contains heritage status that protects its low-density characteristics
  • Rooftop patios are not allowed
  • You require a building permit for a coach house
  • Walkways must be provided to the coach house
  • Coach houses have specific requirements in terms of windows and entrances
  • You can convert existing accessory structure such as garages, sheds or stables, with certain restrictions

Start your coach house project today

Keep in mind that coach houses are a brand-new building option in Ottawa. These guidelines and regulations are likely to change and become stricter as the city reviews how coach houses are being built, if there are complaints from neighbours, and if the guidelines are accurately providing proper setbacks and privacy for all residents involved.

This is why it is best to start your coach house plans now in order to take advantage of the existing guidelines that allow many options for your coach house construction.

Contact the design and build experts at Holland Homes and Renovations today to discuss how we can help to guide you through the coach house building process.

We can guide you through the zoning bylaws, design options and dimensions for your coach house in Ottawa. We can also discuss the best placement for your coach house on your property, and test the soil for the ability to hold your coach house structure and foundation.

07 Jun 2017

Some of the most important safety devices in your home, the circuit breaker is the unsung heroe of residential fire prevention. In Ontario, a new electrical code has recently been implemented as of May 2016 that affects the types of breakers required in new constructions or home renovations. Let’s quickly discuss the basics of circuit breakers in the home and then how new regulations in Ontario will change the approach to electrical work for your home renovation or addition here in Ottawa.

What are circuit breakers?

Circuit breakers are devices meant to control and protect electrical power systems from dangerous amounts of current. Since equipment and wires can fail, overheat or get damaged, homes need circuit breakers to protect against potential fires caused by the electrical wiring.

How exactly do circuit breakers work? Circuit breakers automatically act to cut power whenever electrical wiring is detected as having unsafe levels of current flowing through it. Conventional household circuit breakers contain a switch that allows current to flow through at safe levels when the contacts are touching. This switch will act to separate the contacts and break the circuit from carrying electricity when current rises to unsafe levels.
Unlike fuses, circuit breakers can be reset and used multiple times and do not need to be replaced after acting.
There are two main types of circuit breakers: GFCIs and AFCIs.

What are GFCIs?

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters stop the flow of electrical current to the protected wire before it can be touched by anyone. GFCIs are inexpensive safety devices that are designed to protect human beings from dangerous electrical shock rather than prevent damage to materials.

GFCIs act faster than conventional breakers as they break the circuit as soon as a surge is detected in a hot wire, rather than waiting for the surge to lead to unsafe levels as is the case with conventional breakers.

GFCIs can be found in your central electrical panel and they protect any outlets, lights or appliances that are connected to that particular circuit. GFCI protected circuits work well in areas that may come in contact with water and are therefore required in Ontario to protect exterior outlets, bathroom outlets and new kitchen constructions or renovations where outlets are within 1.5 meters of the edge of any sink, bathtub or shower.

What are AFCIs?

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters are circuit breakers that immediately disconnect power if they detect a dangerous or unintended electrical arc. These dangerous arcs of electricity can start a fire by igniting surrounding materials such as wood, drywall and insulation.

In contrast to GFCIs, AFCIs are designed to prevent fires and damage to materials, rather than prevent shock. Arc faults are dangerous and can be caused by a variety of factors that damage the electrical wire: nails, screws, vermin, excessive heat, aged or bent cords, etc. The advantage of AFCIs is that they detect a wider array of dangerous arcs than standard breakers and work immediately to disconnect power.

Since their requirement by the Ontario Electrical Safety Code (OESC) in 2002, AFCI circuits that supply bedroom outlets have greatly reduced the potential for electrical fires originating in bedrooms. In fact, AFCIs have been so effective that they are now required by OESC code as of May 2016 on circuits in most areas of your home, including outdoors. The exception to this rule is in kitchens and bathrooms where GFCI protected circuits are required due to their ability to protect against the dangerous mix of water and electricity.

The new OESC guidelines also specifically require a specific type of AFCI – combination type – that protect wiring within house walls and connected electrical cords too.

How do circuit breakers affect my home renovation plans?

Since AFCI breakers are mandatory in Ontario as of May 2016, any new home renovation or construction in Ottawa must include them where specified. While AFCIs do provide better protection, they are unfortunately more expensive.

In addition to the cost of the AFCI breakers themselves, an additional cost may come from upgrading the accompanying electrical panel to accommodate them. This is because the old panel may not be equipped to handle the upgrade to AFCIs and replacement of the entire panel or installation of a sub-panel may be required during your home renovation.

16 May 2017
Flood

Part 1: Preparing your home for heavy rainfall

Nobody wants to have to deal with the inconvenience and expense of water leakage and penetration into their home. Unfortunately, due to weather, flooding or structural damage, it is sometimes unavoidable. What can you do as a homeowner to prepare and educate yourself on how to manage the danger that water can pose to your home?

In this three-part blog post, we will explore some of the important aspects of protecting your home against water penetration, the types of damage that can occur when water does get into your home, and how to deal with water damage in the home.

What to do to prepare your home for heavy rainfall

If the weather reports are calling for a heavy rainfall in Ottawa, there are a few things you can do as a homeowner to prepare. The general principle to follow to avoid leaky basements and foundations is that you must direct water away from your home.

First, make sure all of your downspouts are correctly working, are not clogged, and are directing the water away from your home and not against your foundation. This is one of the simplest ways to ensure large amounts of water are not pooling against your structure and eroding the walls or seeping down into potential cracks.

You may be surprised to learn that eavestroughs are not required by code in Ottawa. Despite this, responsible homeowners know that they are essential for proper home drainage and to avoid water pooling against your foundation. Make sure when building a new home to arrange to have them installed.

Also, make sure that your eavestroughs are connected properly to your downspouts. While this may seem obvious, many causes of water penetration into the home are due to incorrectly connected eavestroughs and downspouts that are not directing the water away from the home.

Second, make sure your window wells are clear from obstruction. Clear out any leaves and sticks so that water can drain properly into your window well drain and not backup so that it starts to pool against your basement windows. If your window wells do not have a drain, contact a professional service to have them setup with a drain as this is essential for proper protection from water leakage.

Third, if your house has a sump pump, make sure it is functioning properly and that it has a battery backup in case of power loss. Your sump pump is useless if the power goes out and this will leave your house vulnerable to water damage. In extreme weather, the power is one of the first things to get cut out and you want to make sure your home will still be protected from water by powering your sump pump with a backup battery,

Your sump pump pipe should also be checked to make sure the exit point is not clogged and that water can travel freely to where it needs to be pumped out. In the winter and after storms, debris or freezing can occur and it is important to ensure water will exit the pipe and not flow back into your home.

What to do to prepare your home against water leakage

When assessing your property for proper drainage, make sure to consider the issue of grading. The ideal situation is to have proper grading away from your home so that water flows away and not towards your foundation. Negative grade is a situation where rainwater falls onto your property and is directed towards your structure due to the slope of your property. This is bad news as it will lead to eventual leakage into your basement.

Older houses used to have unfinished basements where water was often present and homeowners were not as concerned with the issue. Nowadays, with more knowledge about mold, and with more people wanting a proper living space in the basement, we want to avoid have a wet or leaking basement at all times. Proper grading is one key element to ensure this.

One of the other key elements to deal with water around your foundation is a weeping tile system and a waterproofing membrane wrap such as Platon. Let’s look at how these are essential elements for every home’s waterproofing and drainage system.

Part 2: Waterproofing your home

With today’s homeowners wanting to maximize living space, basements are no longer afterthoughts where we turn a blind eye to water leakage. Gone are the days of cold, wet basements used only for storage. Current home construction requires strong waterproofing and drainage materials to protect basements from the invasiveness of water.

The combination of a waterproofing membrane wrap and a weeping tile system is an excellent solution to protect your basement space from leakage and water penetration

What is a waterproofing membrane wrap?

A durable, dimpled membrane made of polyethylene, such as Platon wrap, helps to direct water away from your foundation and down to the weeping tile. Platon wrap is the black wrap you may have noticed around your foundation or around new homes under construction.

Platon wrap is not technically attached to your exterior wall like a tar spray system is. There is an air gap between your foundation and the wrap created by the dimples in the wrap itself.

The key to waterproofing membrane wrap is that this air gap collects any water that flows past the membrane and directs it down towards the footing drain and not the basement.  This way, water and moisture are not accumulating against your foundation wall and are instead directed vertically down towards a proper drainage path.

Wraps such as Platon also create a barrier between your foundation wall and the wet soil surrounding your home. This keeps your foundation walls dry and not full of the typical moisture than can accumulate on the walls due to heavy, wet soil.

Platon wraps also help to relieve a phenomenon known as hydrostatic pressure. When moisture builds up in your soil, the sheer weight of the soil increases and puts force against your foundation wall. Think of the increase in weight that comes with materials when they are soaking wet.

This much pressure will cause the water to seek release wherever there is a crack, or will be strong enough to cause cracks as well. A waterproofing membrane wrap therefore helps to relieve this hydrostatic pressure by moving the water down away from the foundation wall so the pressure doesn’t build up.

How does a weeping tile system work?

Moving water downwards with your waterproofing membrane so that it doesn’t sit against your foundation wall is great, but it would be ineffective without a drainage system to collect all of this water. A weeping tile system is necessary to collect the water and move it to the storm sewers on your street or to your sump pump.

This system works through the usage of a perforated pipe that collects water around your home’s foundation and moves it towards the street sewer or sump pump. This allows your home’s waterproofing system to obey the basic principle of waterproofing: move water away from your home.

Without a weeping tile system, water would sit next to your foundation with nowhere to go. The result would be that the accumulated water would slowly weaken your foundation, finding cracks to seep through and also creating unwanted hydrostatic pressure.

These are some of the important systems to have in place to deal with water around your property. However, sometimes homeowners find themselves in the unfortunate situation of dealing with water damage in the home despite their best efforts at waterproofing. Let’s look at how to deal with water that does find its way into your home, and some important steps to follow to help your restoration efforts.

Part 3: Dealing with water damage

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having water damage inside of your home or basement, there are several key steps to follow.

Electrical and water

The very first priority should be to shut off the electrical and water supply in your home. This will not only protect anyone working in the home, but also prevent further damage or accidents during the cleanup. This is especially true if water damage is due to pipes in the home that need to be shut off.

An electrical inspection is another key step to consider as heavy water damage can cause a safety hazard for anyone working in the flooded area. Basements are home to circuit boards, switches and exposed wiring that can be dangerous if in contact with water. Shut off the power in your home and contact a professional to inspect the damage to ensure it is safe to stay in the home.

Insurance and valuables

You may want to consider taking some photos of the damage for insurance purposes so that you have a record of the events before starting the cleanup process.

After taking photos, remove all valuables from your basement and the affected areas so avoid further damage to them. This will also help to clear room for the cleanup. Be sure to wear protective clothing when working in flooded areas to avoid slipping and exposure to contaminants.

Structural issues

A structural inspection should also be considered as water can weaken your foundation, your drywall and even the supporting beams in your home. A structural inspection can also help to identify the entry points of water if you do not already know them.

Likely, baseboards will need to be removed and the walls assessed for damage and to consider if they need to be replaced. Flooring such as carpet or hardwood may also be damaged.

Home restoration

Removing the accumulated water is also an important step. If it can be done with buckets on your own, this is one route. Likely, if it is a significant amount of water, you should consider contacting a professional restoration service for advice or help with the cleanup.

In the meantime, once your electrical is deemed safe, it is wise to run all the fans in your home along with dehumidifiers to help expel the moisture that has now entered your home. This is important as mold can start to grow once conditions in your home are damp and moisture heavy. Keep in mind that drying your home and belongings will take days and maybe weeks and not all items will be salvageable.

Ideally, if there is mold, it can be identified and removed prior to any reconstruction or basement renovations work that commences. This will avoid the hassle of having to go back and remove the damaged areas after you have started to restore your basement to its original condition.

Drinking water safety

Finally, if you are in an area with well water, consider water safety before drinking your water. If the surface flood water has entered your well, it can be contaminated and unsafe to drink. Boil your water and consider using bottled water while consulting your municipality about ground water conditions, or having your well inspected.

Contact Holland Homes and Renovations

Water is an element that must be managed by all homeowners at all times. During spring melting season, or during heavy rains, or even during winter when pipes can freeze, water can be a homeowner’s worst enemy. This is why it is important to learn about the essential ways to protect your foundation and manage the water that is threatening to leak inside.

If you are planning new home additions or renovation in Ottawa and have questions about grading, drainage or structural integrity, feel free to contact us at Holland Homes and Renovations to discuss how we can help.

07 May 2017
Moisture in your home can lead to mold. Mold signs to be aware of before your home renovation.

One of the hidden and dangerous complications often encountered during a home renovation is the discovery of mold. It might surprise some homeowners to learn that mold poses an equally toxic danger as asbestos when you are opening up your walls and ceiling during renovation. Regardless of the age or location of the home, wherever there is moisture, there is the threat of mold growth. This is especially true in Ottawa where our winter weather brings lots of melting and moisture come spring time.

Not only is mold dangerous for human exposure, but it also causes the additional expense of removal during custom renovations or home additions. Since mold is not necessarily visible to the naked eye, it can come as a shock when we find it hidden beneath walls, floors, or in our basements or ducts when we start to renovate.

How Harmful is Mold?

While there are two types of mold, toxic and non-toxic, don’t be fooled by labels: both pose respiratory dangers and need to be removed as soon as possible once found.   This is because mold is a fungus that releases spores into the air that can affect our breathing and general health through asthma attacks, allergic reactions, skin or respiratory irritations, headaches and even serious infections.

Mold can also damage the structure of your home if left untreated, including home insulation, wall studs, carpet and drywall. Since mold eventually eats through the surfaces that it is growing on, it is imperative that homeowners follow three key steps when dealing with the presence of mold.

Mold Inspection

Since mold is not necessarily visible in the home at first glance, home renovation work can often experience delays due to the detection of hidden mold. Once mold in a significant amount is found, renovations in that area must stop due to the dangers they pose to not only the workers but the homeowners as well. Since mold is an immediate removal issue (whereas asbestos is more of a long-term issue), the first call once mold is detected in large quantities should be to mold inspection and removal experts who can diagnose the extent of the contamination and provide proper advice on removal.

If you are thinking of undertaking a home renovation or addition, it would be wise to do a quick inspection yourself if you suspect mold contamination. Look for black, brown, yellow, green or pinkish stains on drywall, windows or basement surfaces. Additionally, since mold off-gasses, it has a ‘musty’ smell and this is a reliable sign of contamination. If you walk into your basement and notice this odour, there is a good chance you have mold.

Mold Removal

Regardless of what kind of home renovation you undertake, or which company you contract with, mold removal should be prioritized above all other work until the site is certified clean from contamination. Ideally, mold can be identified prior to any renovation work being undertaken. However, homeowners should be aware that the detection of mold during the course of renovation will cause unplanned delays and expenses. While nobody really wants to budget for mold removal, you can’t afford to ignore it. Holland Homes and Renovations will work together with you on any mold related issues to coordinate removal and ensure a speedy return to the project at hand.

How to Prevent Mold

Since mold is a fungus that requires moisture to grow, there are some easy steps homeowners can take to prevent growth in the first place, or prevent future growth once mold is discovered.

  1. Ventilation: Make sure that showers and stoves are properly ventilated to the outside using either an exhaust fan or window if necessary. Dryers should also be vented to the outside of the house.
  2. Lower indoor moisture levels: Air conditioners and dehumidifiers are good appliances that reduce humidity in the home. If your basement feels wet or damp, it is best to have a dehumidifier running frequently to remove that moisture. Purchase a hygrometer, an inexpensive tool that can measure indoor relative humidity (RH). In the winter, ensure RH levels are 35 percent or lower. In the summer, make sure RH levels remain below 55 percent.
  3. Remove water: Foundation leaks, roof leaks, or burst pipes are all sources of unwanted water into the home. These must be dealt with immediately by drying the affected area or calling professional help to remove the unwanted water before it damages your home or causes mold to grow. Keep in mind that mold can grow within 24 hours if the right conditions are present.
30 Apr 2017

Are you thinking about a new in law suite, or renting out your basement and bringing in a tenant? To many people, space within their own home seems like an attractive option for either making some extra income or making a living suite with an asset already at their disposal. However, it is more complicated than just a basement renovation and signing a rental contract with a new tenant. Once you aim to use a basement or other area of your home as a separate living space, it ceases to be simply your home and instead becomes a secondary dwelling.

There are many factors to consider when looking to renovate with the goal of having a legal secondary dwelling in the City of Ottawa. Here are some to keep in mind:

Zoning

Before the creation of a secondary dwelling can advance in any fashion, the first step is to ensure the zoning in your area allows for one. According to the City of Ottawa Zoning By-Laws, a secondary dwelling is permitted in almost all areas except in the former Village of Rockcliffe Park and in duplex dwellings in the Queensway Terrace North neighbourhood.

Dimensions

According to the City of Ottawa, if a secondary dwelling is found in the basement, it can occupy the entire basement space. There are no restrictions on dimensions.

Fire

When preparing a secondary dwelling that involves a basement renovation, the best way to approach the fire safety requirements is to remember that the unit must be compartmentalized from the principal dwelling.  Remember that secondary dwellings will have their own kitchen and stove, so fire safety is important in order to prevent fire from spreading unit to unit. Four main areas to focus on are: smoke alarms, fire containment, escape routes and electrical safety.

Fire Alarms

According to the Ontario Fire Code (OFC), smoke alarms are the responsibility of the owner of the principal dwelling and therefore must be tested and maintained by the owner. There must be a smoke alarm on every floor of a dwelling and outside of every sleeping area.

In addition, as of January 1, 2015, code requires that all smoke alarms in new renovations or constructions have a visual signaling component, which can be found in a smoke-strobe alarm device. The new code also requires one smoke-strobe alarm to be placed inside every bedroom.  This means that if you are renovating your basement to include a secondary dwelling, you must have a smoke-strobe alarm outside of the sleeping area (in the hallway) and also inside any bedrooms you create in the basement.

A carbon monoxide detector must also be placed outside all sleeping areas.

Fire Containment

Fire containment is important as it should provide protection for each set of occupants from fires originating in the other part of the dwelling unit.

Drywall separating the different dwelling units needs to be fire ready and have a minimum of a 30-minute fire rating. Fire caulking is another product that should be used as a sealant for added protection.

Some exceptions to the 30-minute fire rating exist depending on the presence of interconnected fire alarms or sprinklers. Check with your local fire authority for more information.

Secondary dwellings also require their own entrance, either leading into the rest of the home or leading directly outside. These doors need to be fire rated as well and constructed of solid wood or metal.

Some additional fire safety options for containment to consider are fire dampers and duct smoke detectors.  These devices work in tandem to shut down the furnace if smoke is detected in the ductwork and prevent the spread of smoke to other parts of the house.

Escape Routes

Also known as means of egress, in the event of fire every secondary dwelling unit requires a means of escape.

If the basement unit has a door on the same level that exits to the outside, then no egress window is required. However, if the exit door is located on another level, or involves entering through another dwelling unit to access it, then a second escape route in the form of a window is required.

In this scenario, the window must be able to be opened from the inside without tools and the window opening itself must be provide a minimum area of (3.8 ft²) with no dimension less than 15 inches.

Contrary to what many assume, a basement bedroom in Ontario does not require a window. The egress window requirements in Ontario specify only that the window is somewhere on the basement level.

Electrical

Secondary dwellings in the basement require an Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) inspection by a licensed contractor. Some issues to consider are whether you want to bill your tenant for their separate hydro usage, and if a separate hydro meter and electrical panel would be required in that scenario.

There are only some of the requirements to consider when looking to create a secondary dwelling. Every province and city has their own specific requirements for legal secondary dwellings. For more information, visit the City of Ottawa’s website and contact the relevant safety authorities for inspection. While secondary dwellings are a great way to use your own home for other beneficial purposes, it pays to approach them the right way from the beginning so as to avoid any safety or legal issues down the road.

Considering a secondary dwelling renovation or adding an in-law suite to your home? Get your project started with our team of professionally trained experts. Email us at [email protected] or call (613) 725-7366 and share your ideas with us today!

29 Mar 2017

The smoke alarm has come a long way since its inception as simple heat sensing devices over a 100 years ago. Today, there are a wide variety of manufacturers and types of smoke alarms and an equal variety of building codes for their placement depending on where you live.

Here in Ontario, new regulations have recently come into effect that will change the type and placement of smoke alarms in any new home constructions or home renovation. Let’s take a look at the available options for homeowners and the mandatory codes to follow in Ottawa based on the Ontario Fire Code (OFC) or Ontario Building Code (OBC).

Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms are standalone devices that contain a sounding device to alert homeowners to the presence of smoke upon detection. While this may sound obvious, many times we confuse smoke alarms with smoke detectors. The difference is that a smoke detector is part of a larger system and does not audibly alarm on its own, but rather only detects smoke and then signals to a separate fire alarm panel and sounding device.

According to the OBC, there must be a working smoke alarm outside of every sleeping area in the home (usually in the hallway), and at least one on every storey of the house.

One fact to keep in mind when dealing with smoke alarms is that it is against the law to disable them. A common situation homeowners are often confronted with is a beeping/chirping smoke alarm that cannot be silenced. Don’t disable and ignore it! A beeping/chirping smoke alarm can mean low battery or an expired device. If your device is constantly making sounds, but there is no smoke or fire, check the battery and then the date of manufacturing of the device and replace it according to specifications – usually after 8 to 10 years.

While current code requires increased placement of smoke alarms, that is not the only new regulation in place in Ontario today. As of January 1, 2015, there are new requirements applying to new constructions and renovations that require a visual signaling component in smoke alarms – the smoke-strobe combination alarm.

Smoke-Strobe Alarms

Smoke-Strobe alarms are newer devices designed to provide a visual signaling cue when the alarm is triggered. This is necessary because people with hearing impairment cannot hear the alarm sound and require other means of signaling in order to recognize a triggered alarm.

In addition to having one smoke alarm outside every sleeping area of the home (usually in the hallway) and on every storey, as of January 1, 2015 the OBC requires all smoke alarms in new constructions or large renovations to have a visual signaling component.

The new code also requires one smoke-strobe alarm to be placed inside every bedroom. It does not matter if a person with hearing impairment lives in that home or not, the code applies across the board without exception.

Based on the above requirements, keep in mind that all new renovations or home addition here in Ottawa will require compliance with the new Ontario Fire Code. This means all newly built rooms, storeys or bedrooms will all need to have the appropriate smoke-strobe alarm devices installed and properly working.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarms

As of 2001, carbon monoxide alarms have been mandatory in newly constructed Ontario homes that contain fuel-burning appliances (stoves, furnaces, fireplaces) or attached garages. Specifically, the OFC requires that they be placed adjacent to all sleeping areas of the home in order to protect sleeping occupants. They are not required by code to be in the furnace room or basement, however it is recommended.

Homeowners can choose to meet this fire code requirement with a separate carbon monoxide alarm, or a combined smoke-carbon monoxide alarm. These devices can be hardwired, battery operated or even plugged into the wall, although the hard-wired with battery backup types are strongly recommended.

As of October 2014, this code now applies to all existing homes in Ontario built prior to 2001 and therefore even if you previously did not have a CO alarm, it is now required.

New Technologies

Due to the new codes and requirements introduced over time, you may notice new fire protection devices in stores here in Ottawa. In addition to the new smoke-strobe combination alarms on the shelves today, triple combination smoke-strobe-carbon monoxide detectors are being manufactured and may be available eventually for consumers in Canada.

Wireless smoke alarms are also newly available, replacing the hassle of wiring each unit into the ceiling or calling an electrician to do the work for you. These devices also make it easy to interconnect to other wireless devices for increased safety signalling, thus allowing all units to sound an alarm when only one detects fire or smoke. While very convenient, one key note to keep in mind is that wireless smoke detectors must be monitored and tested frequently to ensure the battery is still working.

07 Mar 2017
Cold Home Insulation

When it comes to home insulation, we all know that that the question isn’t “should I insulate?” but rather “what type of insulation should I use?

Properly installed home insulation provides an effective barrier between indoor and outdoor air and is key for home comfort, energy conservation and cost-savings on your utility bills.

There are a wide variety of options available when it comes to home insulation and it is best to educate yourself on the options before making the right choice for your specific home renovation or home addition project in Ottawa.

Batt Home Insulation

Batt insulation comes in pre-cut rolls that are plastic wrapped and ready to roll out. While batt insulation can be found in both wool and cotton varieties, the most popular type is the pink colored fibreglass.

Batt insulation is generally easier to install than other types of insulation and the pre-cut rolls also make it easier to handle.

While batt insulation is an appealing DIY solution, the main drawback is that the rolls may not fit the exact areas that require insulation and therefore some extra cutting and sizing would be required, especially to fit properly inside all the cavities and around any piping. While this takes more time and effort, it pays to do the job right with a precise installation that results in an overall better insulated home.

Loose Fill Insulation

This type of insulation is sold in bags full of loose insulation that needs to be blown into the areas that require insulation. As such, loose-fill insulation is usually done by professional installers who have the proper equipment to do the job right. Loose-fill insulation comes in three common types: cellulose, fibreglass and mineral (rock or slag) wool.

Loose fill insulation has the benefit of great coverage as it can be blown into every crevice of the building structure to ensure no gaps exist in the insulation barrier. It is also a great option when retrofitting an existing home, as it can be blown through drilled holes into existing walls that can then be covered up for no visible impact on your home.

A final benefit to loose fill insulation is that it is environmentally friendly as the insulation is made using recycled material: Cellulose loose-fill is made from recycled boxes and newsprint, fibreglass is made from molten glass and rock wool is made from by-products of blast furnaces.

Boardstock

Boardstock insulation is a rigid type of insulation that is installed across the building frame instead of inside cavities or between studs. It can be installed in roofing, walls, floors and ceilings and is very easy to handle as it is lightweight.

Boardstock comes in three common types: plastic foam, extruded polystyrene, expanded polystyrene and polyisocyanurate.

Boardstock works well as an insulator as it covers over the top of studs and rafters, therefore preventing them from acting as thermal bridges, which are areas where heat or cold can pass through.

Spray Foam

Spray foam insulation is considered one of the best types of insulation as it excels in preventing air leakage. Known technically as spray polyurethane foam (SPF), it is mixed on site using specific equipment best handled by professional installers who then use hoses to spray the chemicals into the desired areas.

Spray foam is mixed, sprayed through a heated gun and then foams, expands into the cavity and eventually hardens. It is a messier installation process than other insulation types and requires protective clothing at all times.
This type of insulation comes in two main forms: open cell foams and closed cell foams.
Open cell foams are cheaper but have a lower R-value per inch of installation, therefore a thicker application is required.

Closed cell foams are more expensive but provide a higher R-value per inch, require a less thicker application and have the added benefit of aiding the structural strength of the walls they are applied to due to the high density of the foam.

Wet-Spray Cellulose

Comprised of recycled materials such as newspaper, wet-spray cellulose is an environmentally friendly spray insulation that is mixed with water and sprayed through a hose into the desired areas.

Also commonly known as damp-spray cellulose, this application uses water to help adhesion and also includes a borate-based fire retardant to prevent mold growth and discourages rodents from interacting with it.

As with other spray insulations, wet-spray cellulose is a messy insulation and requires protective gear to reduce inhalation of the particles. It should also be professionally installed as the right ratios of water and cellulose are essential for a lasting and effective barrier.