Picking An Exterior Finish
Get the look you want with materials that will last!
Dress For The Weather
Calgary homeowners know that the weather can be unpredictable. We are known to have drastic rain storms, heavy snowfall, pelting hail, severe wind, and hot sunny days throughout the course of a year. Protection from the elements is an underlying precept that has guided the evolution of building science over the centuries. Calgary’s unique weather calls for durable materials that can withstand harsh conditions in all seasons. There are a few good options, each with there own “pros and cons”. Here is what you need to know:
This is one of the most popular options due to it’s durability and low cost. Vinyl can be manufactured in many colours and styles, giving you plenty of options to achieve your desired look. It is durable and lightweight, making it easy to work with. In some cases, it can even be installed over existing materials. The overlapping interlock system is waterproof when installed correctly. It is always installed over other waterproof membranes (such as tar paper or Tyvek), giving additional layers of protection. Once installed there is very little maintenance required. It can be cleaned with water.
The Downside: Vinyl does become brittle in extreme cold weather. We have seen instances of breakage with the heavy hail that sometimes rolls through Calgary. The total effectiveness of a vinyl siding system depends on proper installation, especially at material transition points. We have seen water penetration in instances where small details were ignored.
This material has been declining in popularity for new homes since the 1970s, but it can still be seen throughout many of Calgary’s established neighborhoods. Like vinyl, it is extremely lightweight and easy to work with. It is also tough and difficult to penetrate. Aluminum siding is manufactured with a coloured enamel coating and can be seen in a few distinctive styles and textures. The durability of aluminum means it will often outlast the life of the house, and it can easily be recycled.
The Downside: Although it is difficult to penetrate, aluminum can easily scratch and dent, causing noticeable variance. The sound of rain and hail against the aluminum is much louder than alternative materials. Due to low popularity there are few suppliers with only a handful of colour and style options. This makes it more difficult to replace or repair existing aluminum siding.
HardyPlank® is the leading brand of fibre-cement siding products which have only recently become popular throughout North America. By recently we mean within the last decade. It comes from a mix of cement, clay, sand, and wood dust. This innovative technology was developed to produce an extremely durable product – no chipping, no dents, no scratches. As a new product, growing in popularity, it is mostly seen in Calgary’s newest communities, but it is also popular for retrofit jobs on existing homes and buidings.
The Downside: Fibre-cement compositions are heavy and difficult to work with. Installation requires specialized tools and techniques. The material itself comes at a higher price-point, and the specialized labour can add to the cost.
Wood is the original siding material of the American frontier and it continues to hold a place for both function and aesthetic. It is biologically programmed to manage water and maintain its durability. It is easily customizable and can be worked by any contractor. Cedar is the most popular wood used for siding in Calgary. It can be expected to last the life of the home with proper maintenance and care. It brings a natural beauty and is considered a highly sustainable material.
The Downside: Maintenance can include stain application, clear finishes, and repainting every few years. The maintenance requirements add to the already premium price for wood siding. It is also one of the few flammable siding materials available.
Stucco is a cement-based material that is plastered onto a reinforced wire mesh fastened to the house. Mixtures and techniques have evolved over hundreds of years throughout Europe and Asia. It is one of the oldest materials, and still considered one of the best for water management. Traditional stucco is a sand and cement mixture that is applied in several coats. Modern stucco mixtures incorporate acrylic resins, allowing for additional colours and less coats. There are various methods used to texture the final layer to achieve different looks.
The Downside: Stucco application requires significant preparation. Improper preparation can lead to water ingress and delamination in areas. It is a skill-based trade requiring attention to detail. There are unskilled trades in Calgary that will try charging less for their work. It isn’t worth the risk.
Talk to us if you have questions about siding or exterior cladding. We can help you assess different options and show you samples of each.
What To Do If You Find A Water Leak
First of all, do not panic! If you have any water damage in your home, or questions about water damage, you can call us to speak with an expert. Water damage is one of the most common issues in Calgary buildings and homes. What makes it especially troublesome is that it can easily go unnoticed, leading to extended damage over time. Every property manager and homeowner should have systems in place to detect damage at the earliest stages. We want to make sure you know where to look and how to tell if you are having any water issues in your home.
How To Detect Leaky Windows
A clear sign of leaky windows is pooling or staining on the window sill, but often times water penetration can go unnoticed. Check for rusty screws on your window hardware. Look for stains in and around the sill and frame. Check the drywall beneath the windows for soft spots or bubbling in the paint. Open up the window and check the assembly for chips and staining. Look for staining in the stucco around the exterior of your window. These are all typically signs that water might be penetrating the window and leaking into the wall beneath. Knowing the full extent of damage may require further investigation.
What To Do If You Have Leaky Windows
Once water penetration becomes an issue it is important to identify the extent of the issue as early as possible. A general contractor has additional moisture detection tools that can help you know what might be happening inside the wall, but the best way to know will be to remove a section of interior drywall or exterior sheathing to see exactly what is going on. A professional should be able to provide a minimally invasive solution. Make sure that any window installation quote includes restoring any damaged materials. Never install new windows without removing and replacing all damaged material.
How To Detect Leaky Plumbing
The risk of a plumbing leak will change with the age of your home and the materials used. Calgary has hard water, meaning that it has a high mineral content. This accelerates the natural wear and tear on your pipes and plumbing components. Copper pipes will develop pin hole leaks over time with normal use. Valves and joints may also be affected. Check each plumbing fixture at the connection points for pooled water or staining. Feel for drops of water around your toilet and sink shut-off valves if you have any. Look under the sink for stains or soft spots. Check your washer-machine connections for any wetness, as well as refrigerators with water taps. Check the ceiling below each bathroom for watermarks.
What To Do If You Have Leaky Plumbing
If you do notice a problem, it is important to deal with it as soon as possible. Replace all faulty equipment and ensure there is no more leak. Remove any building materials that have been damaged beyond repair. It is a good idea to test your systems prior to making final repairs. A good general contractor will be able to help you know the extent of any damage and what items need to be replaced. Once the immediate leak is dealt with, get a fixed-price quote for the rest of the repairs.
Other Areas To Check
Check the tile grout in your showers, especially in older homes. In some cases, the tile grout is the only water barrier between your shower and the susceptible building material. If your tile grout is cracked or falling out, water could be getting into the walls. Keep an eye on your roof. There are multiple scenarios in which a roof could potentially fail and leak water into your house. Make sure the roofing materials are intact and in good condition, especially during the rainy season. Look out for ice buildup in the winter. Look for stains on your ceiling, and if you are feeling brave, get up in your attic to look for damp spots in the insulation.
What Happens If I Leave The Leak?
Water will instantly weaken the structure of building materials that are not designed to be water resistant. Any organic materials will begin to decompose, becoming weaker and weaker over time. This includes the wood framing that holds-up your house. The dark moist environment inside your walls becomes conducive for mold and bacterial growth which can have devastating effects on your health. For your own safety, and in consideration to the value of your home, do not procrastinate water issues.
METHOD ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN: Favorite Design Trends in 2018
Kitchen design in 2018 is all about contrast, texture, statement appliances, and the ongoing trend of adding color in the kitchen. We’re finding clients seeking more variety and opting for braver colour and style choices. The mix of striking solid colours and wood grains will continue to prove popular, as well as adding more interest in the form of tile and metallic finishes to create striking kitchens.
Here are our favourite kitchen trends in 2018.
1. Dark Counter Tops. Clients are straying from white and venturing into darker territory with quartz and granite- even concrete- this year. An added bonus is darker countertops equals harder to spot crumbs. Paired with a waterfall edge your kitchen will be a stunner.
2. Captivating Appliances. Stainless steel appliances have ruled for the last decade, and we couldn’t be more excited to switch it up. Everything form ultra modern to vintage style ranges and refrigerators are dominating the market right now. Steam ovens are quickly gaining popularity. With their ability to cook food faster, retain nutrients and moisture better than conventional ovens it’s easy to see why.
3. Ceramic Tile. With recent innovations in technology ceramic tile is quickly gaining traction as the most popular flooring for kitchens. We are seeing wood grain replicas, as well as bold patterns and colors. These funky designs pair perfectly with the bold colors seen in cabinetry in 2018.
4. Color! Bringing us to our next point- color in cabinetry. Pantone’s 2018 Color of the Year was Ultra Violet, which set the stage for the transition from all white cabinetry. If this is too bold consider softer shades like sage and navy.
5. Pantry Wall. As organizational enthusiasts we love this one! Pantry walls often have a combination of pull out drawers and adjustable shelving allowing you to utilize every square inch. Add in wire baskets and clear containers for dry food storage and you’ll be sure to make Martha Stewart envious.
6. Two Tone cabinetry. Light upper cabinets paired with dark lowers have been popular for a while, this year it’s all about mixed material combos such as natural woods lowers paired with gloss white uppers. This creates dimension and texture, adding visual interest and making your kitchen pop!
Design Trends Presented By:
BILD Calgary Region Award Nominations
The BILD Calgary Region Awards recognize professionals in the local home building industry for their creativity and the quality of their work. Formerly known as the SAM Awards, these prestigious awards are highly coveted and sought after by any serious contractor in Calgary. It is an honour to be nominated and a true mark of excellence for the winners. We have been nominated for three awards this year for two of our major renovation projects. Our categories include: Best Home Renovation (with Addition); Best Kitchen Renovation - up to $89,999; and Best Kitchen Renovation - $90,000 and over. Both of the projects are amazing and would not have been possible without the clients who shared their dreams with us, the designers who helped provide vision, and the Fire Ant Team for turning it all into reality.
Best Of Houzz 2018
Every year the Houzz community nominates professionals for Best of Houzz. The Best of Houzz Customer Service award honours professionals that stand out with positive client reviews for projects completed the previous calendar year. In 2017 we had the opportunity to work with some amazing clients. We are deeply grateful for their reviews, but even more so for their trust and the relationships we have built. It is our honour to receive the Best of Houzz 2018 Service award! We owe it to fantastic clients and an incredible team.
With comments like “every single one of our neighbors went out of their way to tell us how courteous and pleasant all of Fire Ant employees and trades were” and “my dog misses all the belly scratches from all the guys” we know that it is the team that makes us look good. We have the best employees and subcontractors that anyone could ask for.
Fire Ant Contracting + Caesarstone
Fire Ant Contracting + Caesarstone
Renovations With Style
This whole home renovation wouldn't be complete without the beautiful white granite countertops supplied by Caesarstone. See the full story on Caesarstone's website.
Make Your Ensuite A Personal Spa!
Peace and serenity at home often varies with different stages of life. Sometimes it can be hard to come by. Everyone needs an occasional retreat from their busy day-to-day lives to focus on their own mental state and wellbeing. Creating an oasis within your own home makes rest and relaxation that much more accessible. It was this idea that sparked the popularity of master ensuite bathrooms. Here are some of our suggestions to turn your ensuite into a personal spa.
1. Connect with nature by using natural materials where possible. Natural wood with granite or slate countertops is a stunning combination. Consider a pebble stone shower base and alternative materials like bamboo and grass to finish and decorate the room.
2. Use neutral tones, especially with the walls and ceilings. Colour and texture are added with accessories. ‘Natural Linen’ and ‘White Dove’ by Benjamin Moore are popular for creating a serene, soothing space.
3. Soft fabrics bring an element of comfort. Create some privacy with some natural cotton or linen drapes. Make sure there is plenty of space for soft towels and face cloths.
4. Oversized showers with frameless glass help maintain a fresh-air atmosphere. Multiple shower heads and body-sprays create a waterfall experience as they massage your body. Rain heads give the feeling of warm soothing rain.
5. Steam showers combined with a shower bench create the ultimate spa experience. Sit quietly and mediate in the warmth of your private steam room.
6. Heated floors are growing in popularity. The warm surfaces are extremely comfortable and add to the spa experience.
7. Add your own private salon with a designated makeup area. A well-lit mirror and vanity can be integrated with a hair dryer, curling tongs, and storage for a straightener. Remember to include additional power outlets in your design!
2017 Custom Renovations
A selection of our custom renevation projects from 2017.
What Kind of Windows?
When it comes to your windows, how much do you actually know? There are a variety of building materials used in window construction, and they each have their own features and benefits. Knowing what you have can help you properly maintain your windows and achieve their maximum useful lifespan. Knowing what is available will help you know what you want in your home when it is time to replace the windows.
Using PVC materials in window construction has made it a lot more affordable to replace your windows. PVC is durable and easy to maintain. The entire window unit is made from the same material and is most commonly produced in a white or in a slightly off-white colour. Additional PVC colours are uncommon and are usually discouraged due to the eventually fading. PVC windows do not require any paint and they can be cleaned with a wet cloth.
Aluminum Clad Windows
Aluminum clad windows use aluminum components on the exterior side of the window and wood components on the interior. The aluminum can be painted any colour during the production process, which gives you more options for design. The wood components act as a natural insulator and make the windows easy to install. It is crucial to ensure that the windows are properly sealed. We have seen some poorly designed windows that allow water to penetrate into the wood components causing them to rot.
Hybrid windows are a combination of aluminum and PVC, bringing you the best of both materials. The aluminum exterior provides additional strength and can be produced in virtually any colour. The interior comes in white or off-white and is low maintenance and easy to clean. Hybrid windows are also generally less expensive than traditional aluminum clad windows.
Both the PVC Windows and the Hybrid Windows are able to incorporate a wood jamb interior. The wood can be painted or stained to match your existing themes.
Energy Efficiency & Glazing
In Alberta it is required by law to have at least double-pane windows. The additional pane creates a thermal insulation against the low winter temperatures. Argon gas is used between the panes for maximum energy efficiency. An energy efficient home presents a more comfortable environment and costs less to maintain (heating and AC expenses). It is also better for the environment. Many homeowners are taking the next step to a triple-pane window for additional efficiency. The additional pane adds an extra layer of thermal insulation and also reduces the solar heat gain.
Calgary Home + Garden Show
Visit Us At The Calgary Home + Garden Show
March 01-04, 2018
We will be at the Calgary Home + Garden show this year with our brand new Fire Ant Contracting Booth. The show promises a stellar lineup of speakers and celebrities with exhibitors from all over Calgary. Come see us for the latest in home renovations, including virtual tours of our recently completed projects.
Click the image to get $4 off admission to the show!!
Calgary Renovation Show 2018
Visit Us At The Calgary Renovation Show!
January 12-14, 2017
We look forward to taking part in the Calgary Renovation Show this year from January 12th to the 14th at the BMO Centre. The show promises to bring together inovative products and hundreds of experts all under one roof. Come by our booth and pay us a visit. We have some some exciting new ways to show you what we've been up to and what you can do in your home!
Click the image to get $4 off admission to the show!!
Why Choose A Renomark™ Contractor?
The RenoMark checkmark is a badge of honour for home renovation contractors in Canada. It identifies renovation contractors who have agreed to a specific Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct. The benefit for homeowners is that they get to choose from contractors that are all committed to the same standard of excellence and customer service. But what exactly is different about Renomark contractors?
- Contractors must be a member of the Building Industry Land Development Association (BILD) and be in good standing. As members of BILD they have access to the latest industry information including renovation practices and design trends.
- Contractors must abide by the BILD code of ethics [link]. This gives extra assurance that your contractor is looking out for your best interest and will act ethically throughout the entire project.
- All projects must include a written contract with a detailed scope of work. This not only helps the project to stay organized, but it also protects the homeowners interest in case of a dispute.
- All work must carry a minimum of two wears warranty. This is a full year more than what is required by law. The result is that contractors are more committed to doing the work right and homeowners have a guarantee in case anything is found later.
- Contractors are required to have a minimum of $2 million in liability insurance. This will cover any damage that may be caused by the contractor or their employees throughout the project. We’ve all heard the stories of what happens when damage is caused and there is no insurance…
- There must be a commitment to workplace safety. This includes maintaining safe jobsites and also carrying appropriate coverage for employees and subcontractors (WCB). Safety for the employees extends to safety for homeowners and their guests throughout the renovation.
- Phone calls must be returned within two business days. There is nothing worse than trying to get information from a contractor who does not communicate. The commitment to being prompt gives homeowners peace of mind and keeps contractors accountable.
Seeing Is Believing
"The best predictor of future behaviour is relevant past behaviour”. Thank you Dr. Phil!
When it comes to working with a contractor we believe that this is also the case. This is why we always encourage clients to look at reviews as well as past work from any contractor that they are considering hiring. Poor workmanship and bad communication are hard habits to break. If a contractor cannot show you past examples of what you would like to do in your home then be careful. If the same contractor has no references and bad reviews then be doubly careful.
Keep in mind that different companies have different styles and create different customer experiences throughout the process. The best way to experience a contractor prior to signing with them is to tour a project. Visit their jobsite or a recently completed project to get a feeling for the quality of workmanship you can expect. True craftsmanship is evident in the small details and how everything integrates. Pay attention to the details.
We would love to invite you to tour our most recent kitchen renovation in Royal Oak. Don’t worry, we’ve made it easy. Click “play” on the virtual tour below and move around the room. This was a complete main-floor renovation that involved moving a wall to add more space to the kitchen. We are thrilled with the results
To see the entire story of this renovation click here.
Check Your Windows
Window failure is a serious concern that leads to water penetration and wood rot. The longer it is left unchecked, the more damage it causes. Certain homes in Calgary have been built with windows that contain an inherent flaw. This flaw allows water to penetrate beneath sheething into the wooden framing components of your home.
What To Look For:
- Metal clad wood windows
- Crank mechanism with rusty screws
- Stains and marks on the stucco (or other sheathing) beneath the window
- Warped hardwood flooring beneath the window area
Hear It From The Expert:
What To Do:
If you suspect any problems with your windows or have questions then don't wait to get in touch! Our team will come by and provide a detailed report of your current window conditions and any required remediation.
The Contractor Checklist
Don’t Risk It!
Everyone has either had or knows someone who has had a bad experience with a renovations contractor. In the Calgary area, the residential renovations industry is highly fragmented, meaning that there are a lot of smaller companies competing for business. To be competitive on price some contractors will try to take “shortcuts”. Others will cut out key elements of the renovation process and dump the consequences on the homeowners. Hiring a contractor is not a gamble. You are in control of the quality of contractor you end up with. By paying attention to the following elements you are setting yourself up for a great experience.
Licensed & Insured
This should be every homeowner’s minimum requirement when hiring a contractor. It is illegal for a contractor to operate without a license or the proper insurance. Liability insurance covers any injuries or property damage that may occur. The industry standard for liability insurance is $2,000,000.
Contractors are required by law to provide a one-year warranty on labour. The industry standard is two-years, which promotes better workmanship and longer-term relationships. A contractor should be able to provide you with warranty information with a written commitment that it will be honored.
Worker’s Compensation (WCB)
A clearance letter from WCB-Alberta will indicate if a contractor has coverage and is in good standing with their account. If you do not have a clearance letter and the contractor has not paid their premiums, you could be liable for those premiums.
Code Of Ethics
A code of ethics is a commitment to abide by additional standards beyond any legal requirements or obligations. It is a document that outlines key ethical elements and states how the contractor upholds each.
Written Fixed-Price Contract
A written contract serves to protect both the homeowner and the contractor. It should include a detailed description of the scope of work. A fixed-price contract covers the entire scope of work under the price stated in the contract. There is no unsurety of the final costs.
History, Reviews & Examples Of Work
A contractor that has been involved with local home renovations for any amount of time should be able to provide reviews from past clients and examples of past work. A strong history supports a contractor’s credibility and validates their expertise and knowledge within the industry.
One of the biggest factors leading to dissatisfaction is poor communication throughout the renovation process. The contractor should clearly communicate and respond in a timely manner. If you are experiencing poor communication prior to a project commencing, don’t expect anything to change once the project starts.
There are some local and national associations committed to upholding high standards within the construction industry and maintaining accountability among their members.
The RenoMark™ checkmark is a badge of honour for home renovation contractors in Canada. It identifies renovation contractors who have agreed to a specific Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct. RenoMark™ contractors are knowledgeable of current trends, materials and regulations affecting the industry. Look for this badge.
COR Certified - What It Means
A Certificate of Recognition is given to employers that meet the provincial standards for health and safety. To become COR certified an employer has to put a program in place and have it audited by a qualified specialist. The certification is maintained by repeat audits after the first year and then every three years. Health and safety has always been a major priority for Fire Ant Contracting. We are proud to carry the COR badge as of May, 2017.
Our health and safety management system considers every individual who steps foot on our jobsite. With our sign-in sheets we know who is coming and going and who is still on-site. We keep safety equipment including fire extinguishers on-site at all times and in multiple locations if necessary. Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) must be used by all employees and any persons visiting the jobsite. Signage is put in place to identify hazards and promote procedural safety measures.
We believe that jobsite safety is facilitated through education. Training and proper supervision within our own team reduces mistakes on every level. We also work with homeowners so that they know what will be happening in their home at all times and what will be expected of them while work is taking place. Another key factor is communication. We maintain open lines at all times for homeowners and building residents. If something appears unusual we want to know about it right away. Our team members are also trained to identify issues and proactively get the word out.
If you have any questions about health and safety during the renovation process please don’t hesitate to ask. In the end safety depends on cooperation on all sides. Our COR certification demonstrates our commitment.
Bungalow Renovation Virtual Tour
Take A Tour
Take a tour of a recent whole-home renovation in Wildwood, Calgary. This dated 1970s bungalow was transformed into a contemporary masterpiece. Make sure you stop by the kitchen, master-bathroom, and basement wetbar to see some stunning features!
Home Improvement Rebate Program
Fire Ant Contracting Ltd is very proud to announce we are listed as an approved, participating contractor for the Energy Efficiency Alberta Home Improvement Rebates programme.
This great initiative was launched to encourage Alberta homeowners to make energy efficient home improvements with a CASH back incentive!
Windows - Upgrade to new, ENERGY STAR® triple pane, low-e, argon windows at valuable savings. Installed correctly, window upgrades increase home value, increase air-tightness, reduce energy loss, and reduce road noise. Upgrading to ENERGY STAR® triple pane, low-e, argon windows will provide greater energy savings as the area of the home covered by windows increases and based on the current windows you have in your home.
Insulation - Improve the insulation in your attic, on your above-grade walls and in the basement for a more comfortable and energy-efficient home. Investing in insulation upgrades will increase your family’s comfort, reduce your energy expenses, and increase your home’s value. Best of all there’s typically no maintenance: just energy savings and better comfort for decades.
Energy Efficiency Alberta’s rebates are available for insulation added to a home’s attic, main walls, basement or pony walls. Your rebate will be based on where the insulation is applied, how much insulation is added, and how many square feet receive the upgrade
Tankless Hot Water Heater- An ENERGY STAR®-approved tankless water heater gives your home the incredible advantage of never running out of hot water—and it’s the most cost-effective way to heat water to boot. Tankless hot water systems take up less space, waste less energy and may even provide hot water faster than conventional systems. Domestic hot water upgrades to ENERGY STAR® tankless systems present a tremendous energy-saving opportunity over older, storage tank systems, especially those equipped with standing pilot lights.
Basement Development with a Hidden Safe!
We are very pleased to share this new photo with you!
We recently completed this basement development in NW Calgary, it was an extra special project as it contained an existing built in safe which we incorporated into this beautiful basement development.
Cindy of Purple Turtle Design produced drawings for this lovely, open plan living area with ample storage (I have never seen that many built in cabinets in one basement!), a guest bedroom, full bathroom and safe room. An oversized custom sliding door was installed on custom wall tracks which slides along the length of the wall to cover the safe door. Dark stained maple was used throughout for two large built ins, the custom door, the stair railing and the bathroom vanity. A light, neutral wall colour was painted on all walls in the basement to provide a light, airy feel.
There is lots of room for this young family to play!
A day as a Blacksmith!
We work with the best crafts men and women in the Province!
We are lucky enough to work with some specialist craftsmen who sometimes invite us to try out the trade! Mark at Mystic Forge taught Ed some blacksmithing skills at his awesome workshop in rural Alberta.
Wow, what an experience!
Mark creates the most amazing custom pieces, from staircases and tables to railings and gates, all custom, all handmade.
Contact Fire Ant Contracting for a quote on incorporating a custom piece into your next renovation.
Visit the Mystic Forge Website for some inspiration!