Building Permits – What You Don’t Know Could Cost You

Building_permitIn today’s market, home renovations and additions have become increasingly popular as many homeowners are choosing to stay put and enjoy their living space. Also, for those who have purchased homes for the purpose of renovating or building an addition, there are many considerations when it comes to building permits, and having awareness and knowledge prior to starting these projects can save you a lot of time and unnecessary costs.

A building permit is required before starting a construction, demolition or renovation project, with some exceptions. For instance, did you know that a permit may be needed in your city for constructing separate rooms in your basement, but not to build fences (other than a pool enclosure fence)? It is best to confirm with your city’s Permit Administrator as to whether a permit is needed for your planned project.

When it is determined that a building permit is needed, one of the first steps in applying for a building permit is to have a site plan drawn. This is a plan of the location of the existing house and the proposed addition, specifically as it is laid out on the lot. This site plan is used to show the boundaries, grade elevations, structures and trees of the property. An architect or designer can prepare the drawings, and a survey will also need to be provided as well.

A building permit will be refused by the city if an owner’s construction will not meet Ontario’s Building Code. The Ontario Building Code sets out mandatory minimum standards for structural, fire safety and accessibility, and health, and no appeal or variance is allowed.

The building code also requires that permit plans be prepared by a provincially qualified designer, or by an architect or professional engineer with a Building Code Identification Number. Designers in Ontario are required to be listed in the Qualification and Registration Tracking System. Your designer is responsible to ensure the design meets the building code but cannot submit drawings without having the provincial qualifications. If you are unsure if you are working with a designer that holds the proper ministry qualifications, you can do a quick search by name of BCIN on QuARTS Public Search Engine. Should you choose to work with a designer who cannot submit the drawings, the designs will have to be duplicated by qualified professionals in order to prepare the building permit application, thus incurring more costs and time to your project.

However, designers are not required to be qualified by the Ministry if they are designing their own house, an accessory structure to a house that they own, or if they are designing an accessory structure to any house that does not exceed 50m2 in area.

Being mindful and asking the right questions of the professionals you hire can make a huge difference in the length of the renovation but also in the pleasure from seeing your dream home completed.


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Budgeting For Your Next Reno? It’s All In The Details

Screen shot 2016-07-12 at 9.03.37 AMAaaah, kitchens. We spend so much time in them, cooking for ourselves and our families and friends, that they have become the heart of the home, a hub of sorts. Whether considering a renovation to a dated kitchen, or designing a new custom home-built kitchen, the possibilities seem as endless as the options you can choose to make this essential space not just comfortable and functional but beautiful.

When looking at options, you need to consider your budget. There is not one magical feature or style that will classify your kitchen as high-end, but there are several key areas to be mindful of that can make the difference between a $20,000 kitchen and a $100,000 kitchen:

Cabinet Options

Choosing glass-faced or custom-designed doors that extend to the ceiling may add extra storage, but come with a higher price tag.


Granite or quartz countertops can be quite striking and can make quite an immediate impact, but they are also a big-ticket item, especially when a large kitchen island is part of your plan.


There are many options in flooring, such as hardwood, stone or premium ceramic tiles, but considering the square footage of your space can greatly affect the cost.


Standard tile backsplashes can work, however the pattern and colour, in addition to whether a premium tile or stone or glass is being used, can change the look and feel of an entire kitchen.

Large islands

Creating a built-in seating area, complete with sink or cooktop grilles, drawers and wine rack into an island, can up the cost of an island, compared to creating a simple island as an extension of your counter space.


An overhead fixture such as a chandelier is one consideration, but adding several lighting placements (under-counter, pendants over the island, pot lights, in-cabinet, under-cabinet) can increase how your budget is being allocated.

Breakfast bars

Breakfast bars that are built into an island can be a great feature in your new kitchen, but once the seating and large countertop extensions are added, so will your costs increase.


Appliances can account for approximately 35% of your budget, and when you are considering oversized counter-depth refrigerators, induction or gas/grille cooktops, or multiple ovens as well as brands such as Miele, Wolf, Sub-Zero or Thermador, then these options can significantly modify your kitchen from a simpler renovation to a luxurious game-changer.

Whatever your budget, it is important to consider not just the price tag of these items, but also the quality and craftsmanship that doesn’t just extend the life of your kitchen, but also maintains its value when reselling your home.

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5 Questions to Ask Before Beginning a Roofing Project

Linnert-Roofing-Eave-ProtectionA roof is an essential piece to any home improvement project. Taking on a complete renovation, home addition or custom build may mean major to little or no changes to your roof. In order to get the most of your investment, it is crucial to ensure that your roof is being built using the best materials and practices available.

Our knowledge of the building science helps us understand the work that is required in any project. Whether you’re looking to hire a professional or it is your General Contractor who is responsible for bringing skilled trades to your home, we believe there are 5 questions that should be asked before beginning any roofing project.

  1. Is eave protection provided?

Eave protection is a roofing membrane that is installed near the eaves. The current Ontario Building Code requires a minimum of 11 3/4″ inside the inner face of the wall of heated spaces only. Depending on the pitch of the roof (how steep the roof is) there should be between 3 ft and 6 ft of eave protection to meet the minimum code.

  1. Will an underlay be applied?

The purpose of an underlay is to create a second barrier that prevents water from entering the roof under the shingles. The current Ontario Building Code does not require an underlay so it’s not always used, but we strongly recommend it. Shingles can become damaged or removed from high winds and storms. If there is no underlay, water can easily enter your home.


  1. What type of underlay will be used?

There are types of underlay that have been specifically designed for shingle roofs- these are the ones your professional should be bringing to your roof. Flat roof tar paper, also called roofing felt, is used for flat roofs. Synthetic underlay is a good option for shingle roofs; but the synthetic underlay that is designed to breathe is even better. This allows moisture trapped in the area to escape while still prohibiting exterior water from entering the structure.

  1. How will the underlay be installed?

If not installed correctly, the underlay will not serve its purpose. Underlay should be installed directly to the plywood. It should be installed in the same fashion as the shingles – horizontally from the bottom up. Each strip should overlap the lower. This will direct any water to roll over the seam and direct the water down to the next sheet instead of underneath the overlapping sheet.

  1. What measures are being taken to ensure a safe working environment?

It is in your best interest to make sure the professional does everything they can to ensure a safe working environment. They are also legally required to do so. Ask for proof of the safety at heights training, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) coverage, and liability insurance. Should there be an accident, you could be liable if the proper insurances are not in place.

Asking the right questions before beginning any project will provide piece of mind that the professional working on your home is the best option for you!

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When it Comes to Trim, What Do You Choose?

_aep3361If you’ve gone through a major renovation or custom build, you know that one of the easiest ways to reduce costs is by choosing less expensive products. There are hundreds of ways to help keep costs down but in this blog, we’ll just keep it to trim.

Let’s assume that, regardless of the General Contractor you hire, you have the option to select the profile of your trim but, do you have the option to chose the material?

When selecting trim for your house you will have two options: Medium Density Fibreboard (most commonly known as MDF) and wood. Both options are available in many different profiles and provide you with the luxury of choosing pre-painted trim, which can help reduce the costs associated with labour.


MDF is an engineered product, whose main ingredient is wood fibre. The wood fibre is mixed with resin glue, water and paraffin wax.

MDF is less expensive than wood trim – in fact, it is about half the cost and for this reason it’s easy to understand why people often gravitate towards this product. MDF will swell if saturated with water but, of course, if this happens you have a much larger problem at hand.

The biggest down fall to MDF trim is that it dents and chips very easily. The product will look great initially, but in high traffic areas (like a mudroom or an entrance way), and areas where kids play, the product will deteriorate relatively quickly.

Special attention should be paid to those installing MDF trim (or any MDF product). The glue to hold the fibres together is known to have urea formaldehyde which is harmful to lungs when airborne. It’s suggested to wear a mask, and be outside if possible, when cutting MDF products.


With wood being a natural product, it tends to be the more costly option. There are many wood options; however, oak and poplar are two of the most commonly used woods because of their hardness. The harder the wood, the more durable. Oak is one of the hardest woods, with a lot of characteristics and is most commonly stained not painted.

Pine is a softer wood that can be painted or stained. It’s generally stained when people want to have that cottage or country feel.

Because of the natural properties of wood and the hardness it comes with, it is very durable and can withstand years of use. It will look beautiful initially, and keep looking beautiful for years to come – giving you a little more return on your investment.

For your previous our current renovation, were you given the option to choose your trim material or just your profile?

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Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency

energy-efficient-home[4]If you’re considering a complete home renovation or an addition, an important area that you should consider is improving the energy efficiency of your home. The most common uses of energy in a home are heating, lights and appliances, hot water, and cooling.

One of the largest factors in improving energy efficiency is the amount of heat leakage your home emits. Heat leakage is common in even the most airtight of homes, such as an R-2000 home. R-2000 homes are some of the most energy-efficient homes on the market. Every R-2000 home must meet a high-energy efficiency performance target that is specific to the home and climate where you live.

Testing Areas for Leakage

There are ways you can accurately measure the amount of heat that is escaping from your home, such as conducting a Blower Door test. The most common areas where heat tends to escape from are:

  • Windows and doors
  • Sill plates
  • Floors and exterior walls
  • Plumbing and electrical penetrations
  • Chimneys and attic hatches

By expertly checking these areas, you can find sources of possible heat loss in your home.blowerdoortest[4]

Green General Contractor Solutions

Determining the amount of heat loss within your home will allow your Green General Contractor to provide you with the proper solutions for moving towards a more energy efficient home. Some of the solutions we have suggested include:

  • Purchasing new windows and doors
  • Increasing the amount of insulation within the home
  • Adding caulking to open areas of the home to properly seal and prevent air from escaping

Ideally, these solutions stop the uncontrolled movement of air that result in heat loss throughout the home.

After the corrective measures have been put in place and the renovation has been completed, it would be beneficial to complete the entire process with a second Blower Door test. Comparing the results from the first test to the second will ensure there is a level of improvement.

Making your home energy efficient may include expenses that were not originally considered during the initial thought process of the renovation. However, taking these measures will not only allow you to save on monthly or annual bills, but will guarantee a much more comfortable home, improve indoor air quality and ventilation, mitigate future repairs and maintenance and increase home equity, all while helping the environment.

In addition, you may want to check with your energy provider for rebate opportunities; this is a great way to get a head start on making your home more energy efficient!

Improving energy efficiency in your home is a significant aspect of any renovation, it is important to ensure that the general contractor chosen for the project is able to advise on the solutions that are best for you and your home.

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Check Under the Snow Before You Buy This Winter

18-ice-dam-4Although the real estate market is not as “hot” in the winter as it is during the rest of the year, the winter months can actually provide valuable insight into many areas of a home otherwise not able to be seen in the warmer months.

When looking to purchase a home in the winter months, it is beneficial to have a look at the roof of the home you are considering. The roof can tell you a lot about the state of the home and may allow you to see where unexpected expenses may come into play after you move in.

A properly insulated and well-ventilated attic will keep cool air in your home in the summer, and warm air in your home in the winter. A natural property of heat is that it rises, so a well-insulated attic will keep that warm air from escaping. After a snowfall, take note of any snow-free spots on the roof. If snow-free spots exist this means that warm air is escaping, resulting in higher than necessary energy costs for you as the homeowner.

While they are beautiful to look at, icicles are also a sign that the roof is not functioning properly.

The icicles are a result of ice damming – a condition that happens when accumulated snow on a roof melts and then freezes. This freezing water accumulates, forming a dam, which further prevents melting snow from draining off the roof. A ridge of ice is formed at the edge of a roof, where water often builds up and causes unwanted damage, including torn off gutters, loose shingles, and leaking water into the home.


The root cause of ice damming is heat loss. Heat escapes into the attic through the ceiling from lack of insulation and ventilation.

Electrical coils on the roof, in the eaves trough and down pipes, are sometimes installed to reduce the damage caused by ice damming but they do not fix the problem.

roof with heat loss

Increasing the insulation in the attic is a start to correcting/eliminating the problem, but there also needs to be air-flow. Roof vents, at the top of the roof will allow air to escape, but there also needs to be a place where the air can enter. By installing ventilation sleeves at the eaves you will have an air inlet and the roof vents at the top of the roof will allow air to escape; thereby, creating good air-flow.

If you suspect that your roof is poorly insulated, or not functioning properly, it is a good idea to have a professional insulation company assess the issue at hand.

If you have had any instances where you’ve experienced poor insulation in your roof, please share in the comments!


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Choosing Quality Products For Your Next Project

Home-renovation-socalMajor renovations and custom built homes are among some of the largest investments a homeowner may make. For this reason, it is important that you know the value and quality you are receiving. Contracts, trust, workmanship and warranties are significant assets to look for when choosing a contractor but it is important to ensure that your contractor is also able to provide you with quality products.

Flooring is a major area of many renovations or custom builds that requires careful consideration. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, there have been many products and/or procedures that have changed over the years; the way in which tile flooring is installed is just one example of these changes.

There are many factors that can affect the well being of flooring, humidity being one of them. The changing humidity levels in your home can cause wood in the home to shift. As wood dries out in the winter months, it often shrinks and expands in the summer months when there is more humidity in the air.

Years ago tile setters would lay tiles on a ¾”-1” thick layer of dry-pack cement (a mix of sand and cement, slightly dampened). Soon after, tile setters used a process that involved stapling wire mesh to the subfloor. A thin layer of thin set was used to cover the mesh which then tiles were laid on top to hold the flooring in place. These methods do not lend themselves to the natural shifting of any home or the effects that result from humidity in the home. Due to this, often times homeowners experienced cracked tiles over time.

Some contractors have adopted new and improved methods since then. Schluter®-DITRA is a polyethylene membrane that was designed for ceramic and dimension stone installations. It offers in-plane movement that neutralizes the movement between the substrate and the tile – thereby preventing the main cause of cracked tiles.

Most substrates are moisture sensitive, which means that water can penetrate through them over time. Schluter®-DITRA is waterproof making it the perfect solution for protecting the subfloor. There are also channels underneath the matting to provide a route for excess moisture and vapour to escape from the substrate. By managing the moisture below the tile, any potential damage to the tile layer is eliminated.

The membrane also provides structural rigidity to transfer the weight of anything on top of the tile floor, such as granite counter tops.

The method of installation and type of product chosen for your tile flooring needs can make a difference in the value and quality you receive from your project.

There are many products and processes available – ensure that the contractor you hire is able to provide you with the best solution for your home.

What products have you had to choose as part of your renovation or custom build? How did you ensure they were the best solution for your home?

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