Author: Mark Buckshon

Go ahead. Spend!

This year you actually get money back This year Canadians had good news in a bad economy: now’s not the time to stop improving our homes, but to go flat out and get it done. The federal government’s Home Renovation Tax Credit, announced at the beginning of this year, meant instead of putting our renovation dollars under the mattress for more prosperous times, we could – and probably should – spend them before the end of the year. The work has to be finished by Feb. 1, 2010. You can apply the credit to one or more buildings – for instance, on your primary home and also on your cottage. If two or more families share the ownership of a building – for instance, a cottage – each family can claim its own tax credit, but only one can be claimed per family. The tax credit only applies to personal use and not to an income-producing home, or the part of your house that you rent out to others. We have to spend at least $1,000 before it kicks in, and there’s no tax help after $10,000. But for all we spend between those two amounts, the government will return 15 per cent to a maximum of $1,350. It’s not something to sneeze at. That can go a long way when tax return time comes in the Spring. The...

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The man behind the designs

He’s complex, talented, visionary, and clients love him By Francie Healy Excuse the mess, says renowned designer Gerhard Linse of his office and studio on Colonnade Road in Ottawa. But the “mess”, if you can call it that, is vibrant and full of light. There are his drawings. There are photographs of clients’ children. There are binders, and books, and magazines, and blocks of glass shimmering in the windows. There are awards for his designs – dozens of them, standing like soldiers on top shelves. He might think it’s a mess, but it’s a happy space. It looks like...

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The Last Word

Why Renovate? By Herb Lagois Building a new home has many advantages: flexibility with architectural design; energy-efficient solutions; indoor air quality control; alternate construction techniques; and green building techniques. So why renovate? Being able to stay in existing neighbourhoods with existing schools and mature landscaping are definite advantages for renovating and /or building additions. You can usually avoid up-front service costs such as Hydro fees, Lot development fees, driveways, and culverts. Architecturally incorporating existing conditions can be challenging. However, the results can be spectacular, making your home meet your present day and future needs. An energy audit analysis can determine your home’s strengths and weaknesses and qualify it for Eco Energy Retrofit Grants http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/residential/personal/home-improvement.cfm?attr=0  This evaluation will suggest energy upgrades such as insulation, window replacement and mechanical upgrades. With energy upgrades, it is also important to consider indoor air quality, because renovating causes homes to become air tight, thus requiring a mechanical air exchange. Green building techniques are easily incorporated into renovations and additions. In fact, renovating typically lessens the environmental impact by using fewer materials and by recycling existing materials. Furthermore, alternate construction materials such as ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms), SIP (Structural Insulated Panels) and spray foam insulations are easily incorporated into additions. Renovations can be simple aesthetic changes up to completely removing all interior wall surfaces back to the basic structure, allowing for upgrades of electrical, mechanical...

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 How to make beautiful nights

First: don’t shiver in the drafts            Quick! What’s one of the best ways to be warm and cozy all winter? Ask Mark Wardrop of Ottawa Windows and Doors this question. He won’t hesitate for a second. You start with windows, he says. You get the best you possibly can. Let’s say you’ve chosen vinyl windows. Be sure they have highest-quality frames with several hollow “chambers”. If you look at a cross-section of a vinyl frame, it will look like a honeycomb structure. The more chambers, the more efficient the frame (and therefore entire window) will be at keeping out cold. Another thing to consider is the width of the air space between two pieces of thermal glass. The wider the space, explains Mark, the better. The spaces are filled with safe, inert, non-toxic argon gas, which dramatically slows any heat loss. Most people, says Mark, choose two-piece, or double-glaze windows. Although triple-glaze is available, he feels it isn’t as cost-effective. An excellent window will have several layers of a low-emissivity silver oxide coating on the inside of the glass panes. The coating will reflect heat, keeping your house warm in winter and cool in summer. Maintenance is important. Mark says windows should always have fresh caulking, because it dries out over time. And the wood portions on the outside have to be looked after,...

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Cast a glow… and stay warm

Enjoy those inviting flames from fall to spring Who ever heard of falling in love by the clunk of a furnace? You can sit around and listen to it run if you want to, says Andy Cotnam of the Fireplace Centre in Ottawa. But a furnace just doesn’t have the appeal of flickering flames. Aside from romance or the warm light a fire casts in a room, a fireplace is a focal point and gathering place for family and guests. It provides light and heat in a power failure. Fireplaces (with inserts) are practical, cost-effective, and simple. And, says Andy, a new fireplace means a major return on your renovation investment. Research suggests a fireplace gives back as much as 150 per cent of its cost when it comes time to sell your house. Modern, energy-efficient fireplaces now have air-tight or sealed-combustion inserts that burn wood, natural gas, or propane.  An old-fashioned fireplace, on the other hand, actually cools down a room. Andy says it’s like throwing money up the chimney. A traditional fireplace allows 150 cu. feet of air per minute out of the house. With an insert, however, the loss of air is only 5 cu. feet. An insert also means a new liner in the chimney, so it’s like having your chimney replaced, too. No one likes to be cool when they’re watching TV or sitting...

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RenoMark™ renovators are held to the highest industry standards. They have to do the big things – carry $2 million liability insurance and enforce strict workplace safety – and the smaller things that give you comfort: pledge to call you back within two business days, for instance.

RenoMark™ renovators must pay a fee to be certified. They must also follow detailed guidelines. In addition to insurance, safety and courtesy, they must:
• Give you a detailed written contract for all jobs, big or small
• Provide a minimum two-year warranty on all work except minor repair
• Carry the proper licences and permits
• Keep their worksite organized and safe
• In the Ottawa area, be a member in good standing of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) and abide by the GOHBA Code of Ethics.
• Stay current, through consistent and continuing education, in their professional knowledge of building codes, permit procedures and technical skills.

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