Best of Kitchen Renovation Trends 2013

Kitchen RenovationKitchen renovations are some of the most popular home improvements, and for good reason.  A full kitchen renovation creates a great space in both form and function.  The kitchen remodeling market is ever-evolving, with new kitchen renovation trends surfacing all the time.  Here are some of this year’s most popular kitchen remodeling ideas.

Stainless Steel

Up to 63% of new kitchen remodels now include stainless steel elements in the sink, stovetop, appliances and even countertops.  Stainless steel has long been a fixture in industrial kitchens, and is both attractive and functional.

Chef’s Stoves

High-end stoves are a must have for many of today’s homeowners.  Many chefs prefer gas ranges, as they provide quick, even heating.  If you’re looking to go ultra-modern, consider an induction range.  Induction ranges use a magnetic field to directly heat your pots and pans rather than simply heating the area underneath like conventional gas and electric stoves.  This allows not only for ultrafast heating, but also leaves the range cool to the touch once pans are removed, preventing burn hazards.

Let in the Light

Today’s kitchens typically have many more windows than in the past.  Efficiently designed storage space frees up more wall space for windows, allowing a more open, brighter kitchen.  If your kitchen opens directly to the outdoors, you can also opt to install glass doors to let in some light without making major renovations.

Think Green

Environmentally friendly materials have surfaced on the home renovation market, including in kitchen remodeling.  Greener options for flooring, paint, cabinetry and countertops are increasingly popular, as are more eco-friendly appliances.

Glass Backsplashes

In the past, tile backsplashes have been the norm, but glass backsplashes are now increasingly popular.  Art glass backsplashes are an excellent way to add some color and personality to your kitchen, making it a style all your own.  Glass is also easier to clean than tile, and doesn’t need to be re-grouted.

Over to You

Have you remodeled your kitchen in 2013?  If so, we’d love to hear what features you included in your kitchen remodel, and your own take on current kitchen renovation trends.  Tell us all about it in the comments section.

Kitchen Cabinets: Refinish, Reface or Replace?

kitchen remodelKitchen cabinets are one of the big-ticket items for kitchen renovation, but updated kitchen cabinets can go a long way towards freshening up your kitchen’s décor.  However, if your kitchen cabinets are in reasonably good shape, it’s possible to refurbish pre-existing work to freshen up your look without breaking the bank.

Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Painting kitchen cabinets and replacing hardware is relatively easy and inexpensive.  However, before you start picking out colors, be sure that your cabinets are paintable.  Solid wood, wood veneer and metal cabinets handle paint well, but laminate and melamine cabinets aren’t paintable, and refinishing these two types is best left to a professional.  Luckily for kitchen renovation Toronto homeowners have many excellent contractors available for small and large jobs alike.

Refacing Kitchen Cabinets

If you’re looking to do something a little more than skin deep, you can also reface kitchen cabinets.  Kitchen cabinet refacing involves either installation of a thin veneer over existing cabinet doors or alternatively replacing doors but leaving the cabinets intact.  This is a little pricier than refinishing, but may be ideal if your doors are dinged up or if you’re looking to update the woodwork itself.  Just make sure that the underlying cabinets are in good repair and that you’re satisfied with the layout before your invest in refacing kitchen cabinets.

Replacing Kitchen Cabinets

If your kitchen cabinets are in rough shape or if you’d like to change the layout of your kitchen, replacing your kitchen cabinets may be the way to go.  Stock or modular cabinets will be cheaper than custom cabinets, although some homeowners prefer custom cabinets that are tailored to their needs and to the home’s décor. Whatever your choice, be sure to purchase cabinets made of high-quality materials that will stand the test of time.

Updating your kitchen cabinets will be a huge improvement to your kitchen’s décor, and you’ll be glad you’ve done it.  The extent of the job is up to you as a homeowner; consider your budget, personal preferences and the condition of your existing kitchen cabinetry before moving forward.  Also don’t be afraid to seek the help of a professional in both the planning and construction phases of your project.

 

Best of Bathroom Renovation Trends in 2013

bathroom remodeling torontoAny savvy real estate agent will tell you that bathrooms are big business on the housing market these days.  In the past bathrooms weren’t much bigger than a walk-in closet and were limited primarily to the fundamentals.  It seems that bathrooms in new homes are bigger each year, and for good reason.  The bathroom remodeling market is ever expanding with new concepts, and today’s bathroom is packed with amenities.  Here are some of the year’s top trends.

Ditching the Jacuzzi

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, a hot tub-style Jacuzzi was the picture of modern luxury, and was a must-have for many homeowners.  Jacuzzis still do look nice and can even be nice to use, but if you’ve ever used one, you’re familiar with the not-so-luxurious noise.  Many homeowners are replacing noisy Jacuzzi tubs with quiet, energy-efficient soaking tubs.

His and Hers

Double sinks have long been a staple for couples, but recent bathroom renovation trends have taken the concept of his and hers to a whole new level.  Many couples with the square footage and budget are opting to have both a common two-person soaking tub and separate showers and vanities tailored to gender-specific tastes and needs.

Multimedia

We are living in the digital age, and our powder rooms are no exception.  Many homeowners are installing full entertainment systems in their bathrooms, including TVs, stereos and even gaming systems.  Some prefer to angle TVs so that they can be viewed from the tub, or to go ultra-modern and install flat panel TVs behind mirrors.  Either way a teched-out bathroom is a sure ticket to luxurious relaxation at the end of a long day.

All Steamed Up

Steam showers are perfect for Toronto’s cold climate, and are one of the more popular current bathroom renovation trends.  Imagine coming in from a bitterly cold winter day, summoning up a haven of tropical moisture with a touch of a button in your shower, and sitting down on a bench to enjoy. Finish off with a refreshing rinse, and you’ll step out feeling like you’ve spent a costly hour in a spa all from the comfort of your own home.  Steam showers can be retrofitted to your existing shower, and use very little water.  Sounds like a deal!

Consult with a reputable bathroom remodeling contractor to begin planning your luxury bathroom upgrade.  You’ll be well on your way to an ultramodern, luxurious space that you’ll enjoy with your family for years to come, and your home will stand out from the rest when the time comes to sell.

Winterizing Finished Basements

winterWinter is now upon us, and brings with it increased energy usage and potential damages to your home.  Many homeowners overlook the basement when they winterize their homes, but this is an important aspect for many reasons, particularly in finished basements used as living space.  These tips for winterizing finished basements will help you increase your energy efficiency and avoid damages to your home.

Why Your Basement is Cold

Although your cooler basement may be a good thing in the summer months, it becomes a nuisance in the winter.   Basements are surrounded by the ground on at least three sides, meaning that the cold from the frozen ground is transmitted to the basement itself.  Hot air also rises, so your basement, as the lowest point in your home is naturally colder.  Further, most basements aren’t insulated, only compounding these problems.

A cold basement increases your energy bills and risks damages resulting from frozen pipes that burst.  Winterizing finished basements is particularly important, both because the basement is used is a living space and because water damage resulting from a burst pipe is more costly to repair.

How a Cold Basement Increases Your Energy Bill

The basement frequently houses some or all of a home’s utilities including the furnace, HVAC system, water heater, hot water pops, ducts and others.  These utilities use energy to make heat, and if they’re in a cold environment, they need more energy to do so.  This means that every utility housed in your basement is more costly to operate in a cold basement.

A cold basement also results in a cold floor and chilly conditions upstairs, meaning that you will raise the temperature in your home and subsequently increase your energy expenditures even further.

Addressing Energy Loss

Windows are a key source of heat loss in basements.  Replacing windows, especially if they’re north-facing, with energy-efficient windows can make a world of difference.  It’s an up-front investment, but it will save a substantial amount of money on your energy bills and increase your enjoyment of your finished basement in the long run.

Insulating your basement walls is also very helpful, although improper insulation can accumulate moisture and do more harm than good.  Check out our article on basement insulation for more information.

Winterizing Your Pipes

Freezing pipes are particularly problematic in Toronto finished basements due to our cold climate.  It’s thus very important to winterize your pipes to prevent the catastrophic water damage resulting from a burst pipe.

Simply increasing the ambient temperature in your basement through improved insulation and windows will go a long way towards preventing pipe breakage.  You can also insulate pipes with polyetheyleine or fiberbglass tubes to protect them.  On particularly cold nights, it’s also advisable to keep faucets adjacent to external walls dripping.

Taking some extra time for winterizing finished basements can cut your energy bill back dramatically and even prevent damages resulting from frozen pipes.  If you feel out of your element, your basement finishing contractor can also help to make your basement more energy efficient.

Over to You

We’d love to hear your own insights on winterizing basements.  Please leave us your thoughts in the comments section.

Is a Finished Basement for You?

services_basementsFinished basements dramatically increase your home’s usable square footage, and provide an excellent recreation space that you will enjoy with your family for years to come.  A finished basement is also a major selling point, and will increase your home’s value and appeal to potential buyers.

However, basement finishing is a big job, and isn’t a decision to be taken lightly.  Prior to moving forward, consider the benefits, and identify whether they are worth the time, effort and expense.

Benefits of Basement Finishing

 If you’re working with limited square footage, as many Toronto homeowners are, a finished basement is an excellent way to increase your livable space, and is also cheaper than moving or adding on to your house.  Basement finishing runs from about $30 to $55 per square foot, while moving or additions can cost $150 to $200 per square foot.

A fully finished basement provides an excellent recreational space, and is also great for entertaining.  Further, a finished basement increases your home’s value, and makes your home markedly easier to sell when the time comes.

Basement Finishing Cost

Any reputable contractor will tell you that basement finishing is costly.  You can generally expect a finished basement to cost from 10-20% of your home’s total value depending upon the basement size and extent of the remodel.  Any contractor that quotes much less than this amount is likely cutting corners and using subpar materials, so be leery of the lowest bidder.

Consider your personal finances, and also how long you anticipate staying in your current residence.  If you’re not in a great place financially or are planning to move in the near future, it may be best to hold off for a while.  You want to make sure that you’ll be able to enjoy your finished basement for a good long while, and to do so without going bankrupt.

Marketing Matters

Chances are that you will move eventually, and you should always consider the effects that any major renovation will have upon your home’s value and appeal to buyers.  The two main points to consider here are quality and usability.

A well-finished basement makes your home stand out from the rest, and is a huge selling point.  However, visibly shoddy work may be unappealing, as the buyer will be concerned about potential repair costs.  Additionally, be aware that specialty finished basements, such as a photography dark room or microbrewery, for example, may not have a broad appeal to potential buyers.

Over to You

If you’re the proud owner of a finished basement or are currently considering a basement renovation, we’d love to hear your own thoughts on the subject.  Tell us what pros and cons influenced your decision and offer up your own advice by leaving a comment.

Planning Your Bathroom Renovation

bathroom remodeling torontoA bathroom renovation is an exciting job.  You’re sure to love your new space, and enjoy it for years to come.  You are probably bursting with ideas for your dream bathroom.  However, before jumping into a bathroom remodel, there are some less exciting (but very important) things to consider.  Careful preparation will keep your bathroom renovation on track and running smoothly.

Set a Budget

If your haven’t already done so, you should get an idea of how much you’re able to spend on your bathroom renovation and set a realistic budget.  This will help guide your decisions about what to include in the remodel.  A qualified contractor knowledgeable in bathroom renovation cost can help you set and maintain a realistic budget; fortunately for home renovation contractors Toronto homeowners have many excellent options.

Work Within Space Constraints

Bathrooms are usually the smallest room in the house, but are expected to fulfill a multitude of uses.  There are many exciting bathroom features currently available on the modern home renovation market, but few bathrooms realistically have room for all of them.

Consider how much space you have available, and also the locations of plumbing hookups and electrical wiring.  Use these aspects as guidelines for your bathroom floor plan, or seek the guidance of a competent home renovation contractor.

Contractor Selection

Some aspects of a bathroom renovation are DIY-friendly, but chances are that you will need the help of a professional for at least part of the job.  Plumbing and electrical work can be damaging or hazardous if done improperly, so it may be best to leave these and other jobs up to professionals.

Select a contractor who is experienced specifically in bathroom renovation, and who is licensed, bonded and insured.  Ask to see a portfolio of prior work, and also don’t be afraid to ask for references.  A reputable professional will offer a portfolio and references without hesitation.

Are you currently involved in your own bathroom remodel?  If so we’d love to hear your own bathroom renovation planning tips.  Tell us all about it in the comments section.

Kitchen Space Savers

kitchen flooringOne of the major issues with kitchen renovation Toronto homeowners face is limited kitchen size.  Kitchens are required to support a multitude of tasks, and the available workspace in a compact kitchen is frequently insufficient.  Incorporate these kitchen space savers into your kitchen remodel to make the most of your space for a kitchen that is both attractive and functional.

Work Your Wall Space

If you’re working with a compact kitchen, it’s important to use your available wall space wisely.  Hooks and racks provide extra storage without compromising valuable floor or counter space.

Knife blocks suck up a lot of space on countertops, so consider installing a magnetic wall mounted knife rack above your workspace.  Just be sure to install the rack in a place that children will be unable to reach.  You can also store other goods, such as pots, pans and utensils on hooks or racks.

Rethink Your Faucet

If you have a smaller sink, and articulated faucet can be an excellent kitchen space saver.  Articulated faucets can be folded out of the way until they’re needed, so increase your available space.  If an articulated faucet isn’t for you, select a faucet that is taller than it is deep, and in which the knobs and sprayer incorporated into the main console.  Some faucets can be wall-mounted, which saves even more space.

Make the Most of Corners

Corner space is often underused, as corner drawers and cabinets can be difficult to access.  To get better use out of your corners, install a lazy susan.  You can also install specially designed corner stack drawers.

Downsize Appliances

If you generally have a light cooking load, downsizing your appliances can free up a lot of storage and countertop space.  If you don’t often cook for a crowd, a smaller stove, oven or dishwasher may meet your needs without sucking up space.  Also be sure to install a built-in microwave, as a freestanding microwave takes up a lot of counter space.

Reconsider Trendy Extras

Today’s kitchen renovation market offers a lot of extra features that are both practical and attractive, such as pot filling faucets, kitchen islands and appliance garages.  However, if your kitchen space is limited, install these sorts of luxury features sparingly and after careful consideration.  An experienced kitchen renovation contractor can help you identify which features will truly add value to your kitchen, and install them strategically such that they take up minimal space.

If you’re currently involved in a compact kitchen remodel of your own, we’d love to hear your own kitchen space savers.  Tell us all about it in the comments section.

Basement Lighting

basement remodelingBasement lighting is an important aspect of any basement remodel.  You’ll want to install adequate, even lighting that lights the entire basement effectively.  There are some special considerations for basement lighting, so you’ll want to choose your lighting carefully.

Special Considerations for Basement Lighting

Your basement is unique from most other rooms in your house in that it has no windows, but is also a fairy large space.  Therefore, you’ll want lighting that is bright and also distributed throughout the space. Additionally, most basements have a relatively low ceiling, so you’ll want to install lighting that doesn’t take up too much vertical space.  For example, pendant lighting may not be the best option for basement lighting.

Can Lighting

Can lighting consists of a round fixture, or can, that is installed above the drywall of the ceiling, meaning that the trim of the fixture is flush with the ceiling.  The bulb is then placed within the can. There are many trim options for can lighting, meaning that it can be customized to your finished basement’s décor.  Can lighting can be installed on both sides of the basement spanning the length of the wall such that the entire basement is evenly lit.

Track Lighting

For the track lighting method, light fixtures are attached on a continuous track that contains electoral conductors.  This is unique from other forms of lighting, which rout to individual light fixtures. Track lighting has several benefits in that it is easy to install, effective and versatile.  Light fixtures can be evenly dispersed throughout the track, or instead focused in particular areas.  Track lighting is an excellent choice for larger spaces that require ample lighting, so it is an ideal choice for finished basements.

Safety First

Any kind of electrical work, including lighting installation, can be very hazardous if done improperly.  Serious or even fatal injury can occur during installation, and an improper install poses a fire hazard.  Don’t be afraid to seek the help of a professional if you’re inexperienced in electrical work and always make sure that contractor’s work get inspected by ESA inspector. This little step that most contractors try to skip will save a lot of trouble down the road.  Fortunately for basement finishing Toronto homeowners have many excellent contractors available. Are you currently undertaking your own basement finishing project?  If so, we’d love to hear about which type of lighting you selected.  Give us your own thoughts on basement lighting in the comments section.

Basement Heating

basementUnfinished basements are used infrequently, and ambient heating coming from above typically keeps the temperature above freezing.  However, finished basements used as living areas need to be kept much warmer.  Due to our cold climate, many Toronto finished basements require some additional basement heating.

In some cases your main HVAC system may be modified to also heat your basement.  This requires additional duct work, and is probably best left to a professional basement finishing contractor or HVAC contractor.  However, if expanding your existing heating and cooling system is impractical, there are other additional basement heating options.

Electric Heaters

Electric heaters are typically the easiest and cheapest to install of all basement heating options, although they cost more to operate than many other options.  However, if you only require occasional heat or are heating a small area, electric heaters can provide comfortable and cost-effective heating.

Direct-Vent Gas Heaters

Because of our cold climate, for finished basements Toronto homeowners may require more efficient, even heating.  Direct-vent gas heaters are energy efficient, and provide constant, thermostatically controlled heat.  Direct-vent gas heaters use natural gas as an energy source, and distribute heated air throughout the room with a fan.  A pipe exits the rear of the heater, and penetrates an exterior wall to vent exhaust gases and intake combustion air.

Fireplaces

Fireplaces can provide both a cozy atmosphere and cozy warmth, although it’s important to select the right kind of fireplace for your basement heating needs.

Wood-Burning Fireplaces

Most standard wood-burning fireplaces suck lots of hot air out of the room, so aren’t necessarily efficient.  Airtight wood-burning fireplaces can provide a reliable heat source, but must be regularly tended and can be a bit messy, so they’re not for everyone.

Direct-Vent Gas Fireplaces

Direct-vent gas fireplaces provide a view of the flames, and produce radiant heat.  Some direct-vent gas fireplaces also have a fan to circulate warmed air, producing a more consistent heat source.

Ventless Gas Fireplaces

Ventless gas fireplaces release combustion products directly into the room.  This makes them more efficient and easier to install, but they can deplete the room’s oxygen supply and produce hazardous fumes.  This is particularly hazardous in basements, which are smaller and have less airflow than your ground floor.  We recommend avoiding ventless gas fireplaces in basements for these reasons.

Radiant Heating

If you will use stone or tile for your finished basement’s floor, you can install a radiant heating system.  A radiant heating system will not only warm the floor, but can also increase the overall temperature of the room, which can eliminate the need for an additional heat source.

When evaluating your basement heating needs and installing some of the more advanced heating options, it may be best to seek the help of a qualified professional.  Fortunately for basement finishing contractors Toronto homeowners have many reputable home renovation professionals available.

Was basement heating a factor in your recent or upcoming basement renovation?  If so, we’d love to hear your viewpoints on the best basement heating options.  Please give us your input in the comments section.

Bathroom Lighting

bathroom remodeling torontoBathroom lighting is an important but often overlooked aspect of any quality bathroom remodel.  It’s very common for bathrooms to be inadequately lit, which makes the space visually smaller and also makes the bathroom harder to use.  Whether you’re interested in a full bathroom renovation or are after a simple touch up, these bathroom lighting tips will help you make the most of your bathroom.

A good bathroom lighting scheme is comprised of a series of layers, in which ample lighting is placed where it is needed, such as in the vanity or shower, and additional lighting enhances the room’s overall ambiance.

Vanity Lighting

Vanity task lighting is a top priority, as it is needed to illuminate the head and face for shaving and grooming.  A very common mistake is to place a single ceiling fixture directly over the mirror.  This casts shadows on the face and hair, making grooming very difficult.

Vertical fixtures mounted on both sides of the mirror are best for casting an even light across the face and hair.  If mounting lighting to the side isn’t an option due to space constraints, lighting can also be placed above the mirror.  Be sure that the light source spans the width of the mirror for nice, even lighting.

It’s also worth noting that fluorescent bulbs may make the skin tone appear washed out or drab.  Soft incandescent lighting may be the best choice for vanity lighting, as it efficiently illuminates the face and hair without inordinately washing out the complexion.

Shower Lighting

Shower lighting is another priority for task lighting.  In small bathrooms with clear shower doors, a dedicated shower fixture may be unnecessary.  However, in larger bathrooms or if frosted or opaque curtains or doors cover the shower, a dedicated fixture may be appropriate.  A recessed light with a glass lens works best here, as it is more durable and will not yellow, unlike plastic.

Ambient Bathroom Lighting

Ambient lighting substitutes for daylight, which bathrooms often lack.  Ambient lighting is typically supplied by a central fixture, which is ordinarily a surface-mounted ceiling light.  However, you can also get creative with options like pendant lighting or even a small chandelier.

Safety Concerns

Keep in mind that water and electricity are a deadly combination, and that the bathroom brings water closer to electricity than any other room in the house.  Be sure to consult with a certified electrician before beginning your bathroom lighting project, and discuss these concerns with your bathroom renovation contractor.

Fixtures that are close to the shower or tub must also be “wet” or “shower-location” rated.  Remember that this rating differs from the “damp” rating necessary for outdoor lighting.

Have you recently embarked on a bathroom lighting project, or are you upgrading your lighting as part of a bathroom remodel?  If so, please share your own bathroom renovation ideas and lighting insights in the comments section.