Making Project Selections
How To Avoid Choice Overload
We all dream of new designs and possible renovations for our homes. That is why we love watching HGTV and spending time on Instagram and Houzz. The excitement that comes from searching through possibilities and making selections for your own project is intense and almost addictive. Some people know exactly what they want, but others may be experiencing “choice overload” when having to decide between so many fantastic alternatives. If this is you, then we have some advice to help you get through the selection process, loving every minute of it.
Find A Style That Suits You
Homes, like people, have a personality derived from their unique traits and characteristics. The variation of colours, the finishing textures and pattern combinations are a few of the elements that work together to create a distinctive atmosphere. Your home should support or complement your personality. Find a style that you can relate to – something you are comfortable with. There are limitless galleries and images online to scroll through, but you may have a better experience actually visiting a show-home or recent renovation project. Keeping a personal “look-book” can help you define your ideal style.
Work With A Designer
A professional interior designer can help with their years of experience and expertise. They can help you find your style and apply it to a physical space. Remember that you are planning something that you will be experiencing every day for the foreseeable future. Some professional help goes a long way.
Create A Colour Palette
A colour palette can take you a step further as you define your personal style and determine how it will be applied to your home. Complementary colours and tones will help maintain the desired mood or atmosphere in each room. Connected spaces can be easily blended for consistency and energy flow. If you are planning separate styles for different areas in the home, multiple palettes will be beneficial.
Know Where To Start
It is often recommended to start making selections in the largest, or most centrally located room. In most modern layouts, this will be the kitchen, which is considered the heart of the home. Kitchens are where families spend most of their time together. They are also one of the most often show-off spaces. Starting from the kitchen and working outward will help keep a smooth flow.
How To Stage Your Home For Sale
11 Tips To Get Attention And Help You Sell
You have a beautiful home, but for whatever reason... it is time to sell. Without going into too much detail about the Calgary real-estate market, we want to focus on one recurring trend. Houses that look great are easier to sell! Homeowners and real-estate agents that take the time to demonstrate the full potential of a home gain the attention of more prospective buyers. It is as simple as that. It is always in your best interest to show your home at it’s best. Here are some priceless tips for anyone selling or preparing to sell a house.
Even organized clutter makes a room feel small and cramped. The best way to make a room feel larger is to remove the clutter. This includes excessive furniture and decorations. Remember that mementos and family heirlooms will not carry the same meaning for someone looking to buy your house. Remove as much as possible. It is not uncommon for professional stagers to remove as much as half of the furniture in a home when preparing it for sale.
Reorganize The Furniture
Now that you have more space, reposition your furniture to make each room more user friendly. Consider the natural flow of traffic and adjust accordingly. By pulling your furniture away from the walls the rooms will feel even larger. Try different pieces in different rooms until your setup is feels open and inviting with some cozy touches.
The Spare Room
This is the extra room in a house that doesn’t get used very often and eventually becomes the universal gathering place for junk and misfit possessions. Turn this room into an exciting new feature space. A sewing room, a reading room, a yoga studio… what can you make when you clear it out and bring in some of your other furniture?
The problem with lighting is that many of us get used to improper lighting. Even right now in your home there is probably an area with burnt out or mix-matched bulbs. Some rooms in older homes were built for floor lamps and supplemental lighting only. They are rarely ever properly lit. Great lighting will make your home feel warm and welcoming. Changing your lightbulbs to a higher wattage can help. Use supplemental lighting in rooms with only one or two fixtures.
Paint The Walls
A fresh coat of paint looks clean and new, but there are even more reasons to paint your home prior to listing it for sale. Style is subjective but can greatly influence the experience a prospective buyer has in your home. Whatever themes or personal style you incorporated into your home design, chances are that not everyone will love it as much as you do. Tone it down to something more neutral and let the prospects roll with their own vision. Space is also a key factor that we’ve already covered a few times. Using the same color on adjacent rooms helps tie them together into one big space.
There is a word that perfectly describes the patterns of art hung in most homes… “boring”. By hanging your paintings in a high line around each room you render them invisible. When you are staging your home for sale, get creative. Place art at different levels and try different groupings to avoid the negative stereotype.
Accessories on shelves and tables can add some customizable style to any space. Going overboard can bring you back into the clutter zone, but some delicate touches can make an impression. Home stagers use the “rule of three” as a general guideline. Group three accessories together, but not in a straight line – use all three dimensions. Don’t get too eclectic. Find a common element within each accessory grouping.
Make It Comfortable
…or at least make it look comfortable. Make up the beds and add towels to your bathrooms. Use soft colours and textiles that make people want to stay and relax. Add pillows and blankets that would make you want to curl up with a book or take a nap. Buyers can now imagine themselves being comfortable in your home.
Heart Of The Home
Kitchens are the heart of each home. As such, they undergo more scrutiny than any other room. Nobody likes an outdated kitchen with outdated appliances. When renovating your kitchen, keep in mind that not everyone has the same taste. A professional designer is a big help when you consider the impact your renovations will have on the resale value of your home.
Leave Nothing Unfinished
Buyers are smart and will see through cheap fixes. Anything that looks DIY sends signals that there could be problems down the road. The last thing a new homeowner wants is to inherit some time-consuming project to sully the excitement of buying a new house. Work with a professional to complete any outstanding projects. Plan to have everything finished prior to listing your home.
The Most Important Room
When staging a home for sale, it is important to remember that the most important room is the first one that people will see. That is the outdoor room, or landscaping. The walk up to your house is the first impression buyers will have of your home. Make it easy, clean, and attractive. Revisit the above tips and apply them to the outdoor space. Remove clutter, arrange furniture, add lighting… and make it a positive experience.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fire Ant Contracting 24-7 Emergency Response
Fire Ant Contracting is very proud to offer a fantastic 24-7 Emergency Response Service.
Fire Ant provides an efficient, reliable, professional service that will put your mind at ease in any emergency.
Fire Ant responds to floods, sewer back ups, mould remediation, asbestos abatement, wind damage, structural concerns, break in damage and any emergency maintenance.
Fire Ant is fully trained in water remediation, asbestos abatement & mould remediation. Our renovation division can take of any repairs or re-builds as necessary.
We provide professional Xactimate invoicing and quoting so fully supported by insurance companies.