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

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:


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.


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.


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.


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 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.

21 Feb 2017

One word that no homeowner in Ottawa wants to hear when considering a potential home renovation or room addition is asbestos. In Canada, if you own a home that was constructed in 1990 or earlier, there is a chance that there is asbestos in some of your home building materials. The presence of asbestos alone is no reason to panic, however. As we will see, asbestos is not immediately harmful to homeowners unless certain conditions are met.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a natural mineral that has many benefits as a construction material. Not only is it a great insulator, but it has high heat resistance and durability as well.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that exposure and inhalation of asbestos fibres has been linked to a variety of lung problems and forms of cancer. Simply put, you do not want to be inhaling airborne particles of asbestos. When dealing with asbestos building materials, protective equipment must always be worn. And before you try to handle asbestos yourself using only gloves and a paper mask, know that trained professionals wear respirators and protective suits for a reason.

Asbestos as a construction material

Asbestos was used frequently in home building materials in Canada from the 1930s up until the early 1980s, with asbestos-containing vermiculite insulation possibly being used up to 1990.

You might be surprised to know that asbestos is still used in certain materials today. In fact, if you have been reading the news, you will know that only recently did Canada implement a full asbestos ban which will take place in 2018. Until then, know that while Canada restricts the usage of certain asbestos products, and today’s vermiculite insulation no longer contains asbestos, the usage of certain asbestos products is still legally allowed in Canada when the risk of airborne fibres and inhalation is low.

The key to understanding what types of asbestos products are banned and which are still in use in Canada until 2018 is found in the concepts of friable (can be reduced to powder) and non-friable (hard, not easily reduced to powder). Since asbestos is only harmful when the fibres are airborne, friable asbestos products have largely been banned in Canada.

Some of the currently banned friable asbestos-containing products that were in common use in home construction up to 1985 include sprayed fireproofing, insulation on piping systems, drywall, acoustic insulation, popcorn ceiling texture, plaster and vinyl floor tiles. Vermiculite insulation that was possibly contaminated with asbestos was banned in the 1980s but existing stockpiles may have still been installed up until 1990.

Asbestos in the home

Today you can find asbestos legally in Canada in some types of insulation board, roofing materials, ceiling and vinyl floor tiles, certain types of cement sheeting and pipes, water supply lines, fire blankets, plastic filler and even brake linings for automobiles. These are all considered non-friable sources of asbestos in Canada and are therefore categorized as low risk health hazards.

Regardless of the friable or non-friable nature of asbestos-containing materials, the fact remains that it is a known carcinogen. Long-term exposure to asbestos can lead to many illnesses, including lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. The other unfortunate part about these diseases is that symptoms may not show up until 20 years down the road or longer. This is why the Government of Canada is finally banning all asbestos-containing materials as of 2018. New national building codes will be introduced and also new regulations prohibiting the use of any asbestos-containing materials in new home constructions, home renovations and home additions will be put in place.

Does your home have asbestos?

You cannot know which materials may contain asbestos in your home simply by performing a visual inspection. Samples must be taken by professionals and lab testing is required to determine with accuracy any building materials that may contain this toxic substance.

However, the most important question in regards to asbestos is not ‘do I have it?’ but rather ‘am I going to be renovating?’ This is because asbestos is only harmful if it is disturbed and the fibres becomes airborne to be breathed in.

Home renovations where asbestos may be present

If you are not planning a home renovation or addition, and are not going to tear down, remove or generally disturb any of the walls, flooring or building materials in your home that may contain asbestos, then there is nothing to worry about. This is the reason why asbestos is considered more of a long-term removal issue as opposed to an immediate removal issue such as mold. Asbestos is not harmful on its own if it is left alone and behind walls, ceilings, in the attic or in solid materials that are not destroyed or tampered with.

Now, if you are planning a future home renovation or addition, and your home was built in 1990 or earlier, then it is best to perform an inspection prior to renovation, addition or demolition as asbestos may be found in your vermiculite attic insulation, drywall, vinyl floor tiles, ceiling tiles or popcorn plaster ceiling.

In Ontario, asbestos removal is classified under three scenarios once asbestos has been found on the work site: type 1 (low risk), type 2 (medium risk) and type 3 (removal certification required). According to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, each type requires the worker to have received basic proper training for asbestos removal, with type 3 requiring a more in depth certification process.

Depending on the amount of asbestos-containing materials being handled, some of the required protections for workers may include proper identification of the work area as an asbestos hazard, the use of protective clothing by workers, proper containers for the removed asbestos and the use of respirators.

Our team of professionals are trained to deal with exactly this type of situation. If you prefer peace of mind, contact our renovation experts by email [email protected] or call (613) 725-7366 and start discussing your home renovation project today!

06 Feb 2017

To conclude our series on Ottawa home renovation zoning by-laws, we are going to talk about infill. Infill is further construction and use of land within an already built up area. In the interest of maintaining neighbourhood character and consistency, most cities have infill provisions in place that affect any custom home addition and construction.

The City of Ottawa has two main infill provisions that we should keep in mind when considering a home renovation or addition. These provisions deal with developments inside the Greenbelt only and these provisions apply on top of most other by-laws governing the area.

Infill 1

Infill 1 deals with new property developments on vacant lots (historically vacant, or from demolition, or from severance) in mature neighbourhoods, specifically urban downtown areas, and is related to the character and streetscape of the existing neighbourhood. Primary areas of concern for Infill 1 are parking, front doors and front and back yards. Infill 1 is primarily focused on regulating how new developments will affect the look of the existing neighbourhoods from the street and in terms of consistent neighbourhood character. For specifics on Infill 1, see Section 139 of the City of Ottawa Zoning By-Law: Low-Rise Residential Infill Development in the Mature Neighbourhoods Overlay.

Infill 2

Infill 2 expanded on Infill 1 and deals specifically with building height, building mass and rear and side property setbacks. Infill 2 includes limitations on balconies, rooftop terraces and other building features that affect building shape and appearance from the street and the footprint of the building.

How are you impacted by infill provisions for your home renovation or addition in Ottawa?

First, know that Infill 2 deals with 11 city wards in outer urban areas, including Bay, College, Knoxdale-Merivale, Gloucester-Southgate, Beacon Hill-Cyrville, River and Alta Vista wards, as well as parts of Rideau-Vanier ward.

If you are in those areas, know that developing vacant lots or redeveloping existing lots will come with limitations that aim to keep the character of the neighbourhood consistent. For example, the placement and size of balconies and the height of triplex dwellings will all be governed by zoning rules aimed at managing infill and its impact on the neighbourhood’s character.

Also keep in mind that the infill provisions are constantly being debated, discussed and updated by the City of Ottawa and so it pays to visit the zoning by-laws webpage frequently to stay on top of any changes or new guidelines that are put in place.

Thanks for reading along this month on the Holland Homes and Renovations blog as we discussed some basics related to the City of Ottawa zoning by-laws affecting your home addition or renovation here in Ottawa.

Planning on expanding your home? Consult with our renovation experts by email [email protected] or call (613) 725-7366 to make sure you’re well informed before you start your project!

26 Jan 2017

Zoning by-laws may seem complicated, but here is a quick discussion for how to understand which type of zoning your home is classified under and how this affects your proposed home addition or Ottawa renovation.

In Ottawa, there are 5 main residential density zones (R1 to R5) and each contains its own characteristics, set by the City of Ottawa, that determine use and purpose. If you’ve ever wondered what the city was thinking when they arranged your neighbourhood or how they aim to develop it, then visit the City of Ottawa website to view the characteristics of each zone directly: R1  R2  R3  R4  R5.

Two popular zones for home renovations and additions are R1, which deals with detached single family homes and R2, which includes semi-detached homes and detached single family homes as well.

For renovations or additions in R1 and R2, it is important to consult the measurement guidelines set by the City of Ottawa that govern lot width, height, area and setbacks. This information is available on the City of Ottawa website and is essential for understanding what is allowed for your potential renovation or addition in these zones.

Here is an example governing additions in an R1 zone with the subzone of N (remember to find your subzone using geoOttawa – it would be listed as R1N when you click ‘Get Zoning Information’).

Source: City of Ottawa

4 Minimum rear yard setback is 25% of the lot depth which must comprise at least 25% of the area of the lot, however it may not be less than 6.0 m and need not exceed 7.5 m. Despite the foregoing, on lots with depths of 15 metres or less, the minimum rear yard setback is 4 m.Source: City of Ottawa

Now, let’s say you wanted to add an addition to your existing home in Ottawa. The above measurements would need to be respected in order to determine how large the addition can be and how close to the various lot lines it can be placed.

Luckily, with geoOttawa, we can see the visible lot lines on our property and even use the measuring tool to determine distances. Simply click ‘I want to’ at the top of the website and select ‘measure distance on the map.’ Now we can set start and end points from our existing structure to the lot line using the geoOttawa website tool to get an idea of the distances involved and how they relate to our zoning restrictions.

Being able to interpret your zoning and understand the allowed lot setbacks will give you a good base of knowledge about your specific situation before talking to professionals about your home renovation or addition plans in Ottawa.

Next week, we will continue our zoning by-laws series by discussing the heritage building protections that are found in the City of Ottawa by-laws that may affect your home renovation or addition plans in Ottawa.