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.

Kitchen Sink Selection

kitchen remodelGourmet kitchens are gaining increasing popularity, and today’s homeowners are seeking kitchen designs that are both stylish and functional.  There are a plethora of kitchen sinks available today, and the sheer number of options can be overwhelming.  Here’s a rundown of the most popular kitchen sink options with the pros and cons for each.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel sinks are both durable and affordable, so are a great way to cut your kitchen renovation cost.  Stainless steel sinks are also easy to maintain and clean, and come in a variety of finishes to best fit your kitchen’s design.  However, because stainless steel sinks are made of a thin sheet of steel, they can be somewhat noisy as dishes and other objects brush against the side.  Additionally, they may develop fine scratches with repeated use, and although there are a variety of finishes, the color will still be silver.

Enamel Sinks

Enamel kitchen sinks, which consist of either stainless steel or cast iron with an enameled finish, come in many colors, and are also affordable.  This could be a good way to customize your kitchen remodel without going over budget.  Enameled cast iron, while heavier, may also be more durable, so is the preferable choice so long as your countertop can support its weight.  However, both kinds of enamel sinks are prone to chipping and scratching, so should be used with care.

Composite Sinks

Composite sinks are made of either acrylic or fiberglass, and provide a sleek, shiny look.  They are moderately priced, and will cost a little more than stainless steel or enamel, but are cheaper than composite granite or integrated sinks.  However, composite sinks are prone to scratches from improper cleaning or knife usage on the sink’s border.  Because of their low tolerance for wear and tear, composite sinks may not be the best choice for diligent cooks.

Stone Composite Sinks

Stone composite sinks are comprised of either granite or quartz and acrylic.  Because they are part stone, they are more durable than standard composite sinks.  They will not chip or scratch with dropped pots and pans, although harsh abrasive cleaning can still leave scuff marks.

Integrated Sinks

Integrated sinks are manufactured along with the countertop, similar to most bathroom sinks.  Integrated sinks create a smooth, seamless look, and spills can be swept directly into the sinks.  However, integrated sinks aren’t available in all of the media described above, and are typically either composite or stainless steel.

Ultimately, your kitchen sink selection will depend upon your home’s décor, your projected wear and tear level of your kitchen and your budget.  A reputable home renovation professional can help guide your decision, and can also ensure that your new sink is properly installed.  For kitchen renovation Toronto-area homeowners have many well-qualified contractors available.

Are you currently remodeling your kitchen or looking to replace your kitchen sink?  If so we’d love to hear your own thoughts.  What kind of sink did you ultimately select, and what impacted your decision?  Tell us all about it in the comments section.

Four Common Bathroom Renovation Mistakes

bathroom renovation torontoBathroom renovation is very rewarding, and updating your bathroom can create an enjoyable space and increase your home’s value if it’s done correctly.  However, it’s a big job, and can be a daunting task for your average homeowner.

It’s easy to get distracted during the course of bathroom remodeling and to become overwhelmed with unanticipated expenditures and stumbling blocks.  Avoiding these four common bathroom renovation mistakes will keep your bathroom renovation on track to deliver the anticipated results.

Insufficient Budgeting

Realistically speaking, bathroom renovation is expensive.  If you don’t allocate a sufficient budget to the project, you’ll end up knee-deep in unanticipated expenses and likely with a subpar bathroom remodel.  Get a quote from a reputable bathroom renovation contractor, and discuss how to cut costs without compromising quality.  A competent professional will set a realistic budget, and will be honest about which aspects of a remodel are necessary and which are optional.

Cheaping Out on Materials

You should absolutely shop around to find the best possible deal on fixtures and materials for your bathroom renovation, but it’s critical to avoid compromising quality.  Shoddy fixtures, cabinetry, flooring or other materials will only need to be replaced in a few years, so it’s much cheaper to buy the right materials in the first place.

Hiring the Lowest Bidder

You’ll also want to hire a quality contractor, and keep in mind that the lowest bidder is often inexperienced, poorly qualified and likely to cut corners.  Choosing a reputable contractor experienced specifically in bathroom remodeling will save you heartache and repair costs down the road.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request customer references.  For bathroom renovations Toronto homeowners have many excellent contractors available; just make sure you hire the right person for the job.

Being Trendy

There are many intriguing bathroom renovation trends on the market currently, and although some of them may be the ticket to your dream powder room, others are impractical and overly expensive.  Additionally, some of these trends will quickly go out of style, meaning that your bathroom will be outdated in only a few short years.

A newly renovated bathroom can be a sanctuary for your family to enjoy for years to come, and increase your home’s appeal on the real estate market in the future.  If you carefully plan your bathroom remodel and avoid these common mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to a successful bathroom renovation.

If you’re currently involved in your own bathroom renovation project, we’d love to hear about the potential stumbling blocks you’ve addressed, and your personal insights on bathroom remodeling.  Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Bathroom Renovation Tips

bathroom renovationsBathroom renovation is a big job, but it is manageable with proper planning.  These bathroom renovation tips will help you keep your project running smoothly to create a beautiful new bathroom that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Have Everything On Hand Before you Begin

Some items such a vanities or custom-order tiles can take a while to arrive, but you’re best off waiting for everything to ready before beginning.  Bathroom renovation can be inconvenient, as your bathroom is difficult or impossible to use in the midst of a heavy remodel.  Waiting until everything has arrived minimizes the time that your bathroom will be out of commission.

Allow for Shower Storage

 Shower storage is an important but often overlooked bathroom design feature.  Planning for built-in storage in recessed nooks or ceramic shelves creates an attractive and practical design.

Choose a Curved Shower Rod

The shower rod is a seemingly trivial detail, but a curved shower rod allows a surprising amount of additional shower space.  It may be a little more expensive than a standard straight rod, but the extra space is more than worth the cost.  Additionally, a curved shower rod is screwed into the wall rather than relying on tension, so it can’t be pulled down easily.

Upgrade Your Lighting

Lighting is relatively inexpensive compared to other components of bathroom renovation, but it makes a big difference.  Select bright lighting that makes a bold statement and coordinates with your finished bathroom’s design.  Recessed light over the shower is an added bonus; just make sure that it’s rated for bathrooms.

Call a Professional When Necessary

If any aspect of your bathroom renovation is out of your comfort zone, don’t be afraid to call in a professional.  This may cost a bit more at the outset, but an improper job could cause damage to your home or even compromise your personal safety, so a contractor can save you money and heartache in many cases.  Fortunately for bathroom renovation Toronto homeowners have many excellent contractors in the area.

A well-done bathroom renovation is rewarding, and creates a space that you and your family can enjoy for many years.  Just be sure to plan carefully and you’ll be well on your way.  If you’re currently planning a bathroom remodel, we’d love to hear your own bathroom remodeling ideas in the comment section.

 

Bathroom Flooring

bathroom remodeling torontoBathroom flooring is an important component of any bathroom renovation, flooring can easily become worn and dated.  The right flooring choice is not only practical, but also sets the tone for the bathroom’s design.  Here we give a rundown of the most popular bathroom flooring options and discuss the pros and cons of each.

Tile Bathroom Flooring

Tile is one of the most popular bathroom flooring options, as it’s waterproof, low-maintenance, stain resistant and durable.  Ceramic bathroom tiling is available in many sizes, shapes colors, patterns and textures.  However, tile feels hard and cool underfoot, and smooth-surface tile can become slippery when wet.

Vinyl Bathroom Flooring

Vinyl flooring is durable and resists water penetration.  Vinyl is available in both sheet and tile form, and comes in a wide array of colors, prints and textures.  However, sheet vinyl flooring can be difficult and costly to install, so should only be installed by competent professionals.

Marble Bathroom Flooring

Marble is the quintessential flooring, and creates a stately, classic look.  It is highly durable, and comes in a variety of colors and finishes.  However, marble can be slippery when wet, so if it is used around showers or tubs proper non-slip bath mats should be in place.  Marble is also quite costly, and the underlying structure may need to be reinforced to accommodate its weight.

Stained Concrete

Most flooring sits directly on the concrete slab, which can actually be dyed to create an attractive flooring all its own.  Stained concrete is waterproof, low-maintenance and the most economical flooring choice available.  It’s also an excellent DIY flooring option, and can be installed by most amateurs.  However, stained concrete can be very slippery when wet, so non-slip bath mats should be placed around showers and tubs to prevent slips and falls.

Over to You

Are you currently engaged in a bathroom remodeling project, or have you just remodeled your bathroom?  If so, we’d love to hear your own bathroom remodeling ideas and flooring insights in the comments section.

Three Common Kitchen Renovation Mistakes

kitchen flooringIf you’re considering a kitchen remodel, you may be somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the task, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with home renovation in general.  Because there are so many aspects of kitchen renovation to consider, it’s easy to overlook these important things.  With proper planning, you can avoid these first-timer mistakes and keep things running smoothly with your kitchen renovation.

Losing Perspective of the Big Picture

As you’re planning your project, it’s easy to hone in on the aspects you’d most like to improve (i.e. outdated appliances or unattractive countertops) and lose perspective on the big picture.  This can result in a lopsided remodel that doesn’t maximize your kitchen’s usability and aesthetic appeal.  To keep things in perspective, consider your lifestyle objectives before selecting specific design elements.  This can help you choose kitchen features that meet your practical needs and are within budget.

Over-Emphasizing Fads

If you center your kitchen remodel design exclusively around current design trends, you can end up with a kitchen that is impractical, expensive and quickly becomes outdated.  While fresh ideas can create an innovative design, springing for every design trend can compromise your kitchen renovation.  Keep in mind that a kitchen renovation is supposed to last for 12-15 years, and that many design fads are impractical and will quickly become dated.

Contractor Selection

At the outset of your project, it’s tempting to cut costs by doing most aspects of the job yourself or hiring the cheapest available contractor.  In reality, not hiring competent professionals can increase the cost of your remodel, as you’ll be forced to redo improper or inadequate work.  A skilled professional can also help you to set a reasonable budget and stay on task in your remodel.  Further, an experienced kitchen designer can help you make well-informed cost saving decisions so that you can decrease expenses without compromising quality.

Although kitchen remodeling can be overwhelming, careful planning with competent professionals makes the task manageable.  If you’re currently involved in your own kitchen remodel, we’d love to hear about what stumbling blocks you may have encountered and how you would recommend other homeowners avoid them.  Leave us your insight in the comments section.

Three Things You Should Know About Basement Finishing

services_basementsBasement finishing adds to your home’s usable square footage and resale value, allowing you and your family to enjoy your home more and making it easier to sell when the time comes.  However, basement finishing is a big job and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly.  Take these considerations into account before beginning.

Is Your Basement Dry?

Moisture and water damage is a major issue for finished basements, and even a small leak can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage.  One of the major issues with basement renovation Toronto homeowners in particular face is moisture because of our considerable annual snowfall.

Before beginning your basement renovation project, make sure that you’re ruled out water issues.  Outside of your home, make sure that the ground is sloped away from the foundation walls, and that the downspouts are functioning properly.  Inside, check the floor, ceiling, walls and drywall for any sign of water damage or mold.

Are You Up to Code?

Check your local building codes, and find out whether you need a permit for your basement remodeling project.  Also make sure that all electrical work is up to code.  Finally, if you plan to use your finished basement as an apartment, be sure that it meets all local regulations.  It may be advisable to consult with a professional basement finishing contractor at this stage of your project planning.  A well-qualified professional will be familiar with all local regulations, and will be able to check over any plans for electrical work.  Fortunately for basement finishing Toronto homeowners have many excellent contractors available.

Are You Within Your Budget?

Basement finishing can be quite costly.  Make sure that all aspects of your project are within your budget so that you don’t overspend or end up with an incomplete remodel that you can’t afford to finish for years on end.  Also be sure to leave a little “wiggle room” so that if things go wrong you’re not over your head financially.

A basement finishing project can be very rewarding if it’s well planned.  If you keep these considerations in mind and carefully plan your project, you’ll be well on your way to a finished basement you can enjoy for years to come.

If you’re currently involved in your own basement renovation project, we’d love to hear your input.  What would you recommend homeowners take into account before starting this project?  Tell us all about it in the comments section.

Bathroom Space Savers

bathroom renovation torontoYour bathroom is a small space that’s called upon for many purposes.  Because we’re in a packed metropolis, one of the challenges with bathroom renovation Toronto homeowners frequently face is a petite bath.  These bathroom space savers will help you maximize the space you do have for a bathroom that’s both practical and attractive.

Wall-Mounted Sinks

Wall-mounted sinks are common in commercial restrooms, and are now starting to make an appearance in newer bathroom remodels.  They’re supported solely by the wall, and the lack of a console trims off some space.  Wall-mounted sinks are available in many different styles, so you’re sure to find one that fits your décor.

Mirrored Storage

A slimline storage cabinet with a mirror doubles as a vanity and as some much-needed extra storage space.   These take up a minimal amount of space, especially when they’re installed above the sink.

Space-Efficient Showers

It can be challenging to fit a comfortable and functional shower into a small bathroom, but it can be done.  Corner showers with a clipped corner (also known as neoangle) can take up less floor space in petite bathrooms.  Also, using all-glass clear will visually enlarge your space.  Finally, recessed or niche storage within your shower (rather than shelves) allows storage of bath accessories without taking up space.

Creative Towel Racks

Traditional towel racks designed to hold only one towel quickly take up wall space in a smaller bathroom.  Consider using more space efficient racks that store multiple towels.  You can even get creative by repurposing a coat hanger or old magazine rack to cut costs and add flair to your bathroom renovation.

Over-Toilet Storage

Wall space above your toilet can be turned into bonus storage space.  Install a slimline cabinet above your toilet to increase your bathroom storage capacity, which is often limited in small bathrooms.

Downsize Your Toilet

If you’re currently using an old-fashioned commode, you can opt for a newer elongated model to free up some wall space.  Newer toilets also use much less water, which is environmentally friendly and trims down your water bill.

If you’re currently remodeling a space-limited loo, we’d love to hear your own space saving ideas.  Tell us all about them in the comments section.

Kitchen Flooring

kitchen flooringKitchen flooring is an important component of any kitchen renovation.  The sheer variety can be daunting, as can the task of choosing a flooring that meets your practical needs, coordinates with your home’s décor and is within your budget.

This guide provides a quick description of several options. Our list includes some of the more classic tried-and-true options, but also some of the trendier, edgier media available on the modern market.

Tile Kitchen Flooring

Tiled kitchen floors are a classic, and are both elegant and durable.  There are a wide variety of colors, materials and textures to choose from on the modern market, and you’re sure to find the perfect match regardless of your décor.  However, tile is also pricier than some other options, and the grout requires regular maintenance to prevent staining.

Brick Kitchen Flooring

If you’re after the feel and durability of tile but prefer something a little off the beaten path, brick kitchen floors might be for you.  Brick pavers are thin tiles made of real clay that have the appearance of aged brick, but are still easy to install and maintain, much like traditional tile.  However, they’re comparable in price to regular tiles, and grout maintenance is also a must.

Rubber Kitchen Flooring

Commercial-grade features are a current kitchen design trend, as they lend a sleek modern look and are also very practical.  Rubber flooring is durable, easy to clean and also ergonomic.  Additionally, it comes in a huge variety of colors and designs, and can even be customized.

Linoleum Kitchen Flooring

Linoleum is a classic, and for good reason.  It’s virtually maintenance-free, comes in countless designs and is very durable.  It’s also one of the more cost-effective options available.

Stained Concrete

Most kitchens have a layer of concrete under existing kitchen flooring.  This subflooring can actually be sanded, stained and sealed to produce an attractive and durable flooring.  It’s arguably the most economical option, and can easily be installed by handy homeowners.

Are you currently involved in your own kitchen renovation?  If so, we’d love to hear your thoughts on kitchen flooring.  Tell us all about it in the comments section.