Sunday, 17 November 2013

Keep it Cozy

With this recent cold spell, so common for mid-November in Calgary, we are getting a sneak peek of the winter that is in front of us.  The next few months will bring us more snow and more cold, but what else do we expect, this is the Canadian prairie, we’re built for cold, right?
Okay, let’s talk about what I just said; “built for cold”, are we or our homes really prepared for what lays ahead?  Sure, every year we spend hundreds of dollars buying new jackets, boots, mitts and hats for our families so that we are prepared to go out into the cold when we have to; but what about those Saturday mornings when we just want to weather the blizzard inside our cozy home? 

How do we turn this drafty shack into a cozy sanctuary for those occasional Saturday blizzardy mornings when we have no other plans?  Not to mention we are also concerned about those energy bills too, right?  There are quite a few things we can do to stay warm and save a few bucks.

Do you know if you have enough insulation in your attic?  Take a look at your roof on a snowy day.  If it’s not warm and sunny, the snow should not be melting off your roof.  Over time blown in insulation packs down making it less effective.  Getting more insulation blown into the attic is a quick solution if your home’s heat is escaping through the roof. 

Other common problem areas are windows and doors.  While it is not the ideal time of year to replace windows, you can temporarily install plastic window film to get you through the season.  Look at it like a crutch that will get you through the winter, and maybe look into replacing the windows when the snow stops flying.  Though it isn’t ideal some companies do replace windows even in the dead of winter.   The sooner the better.   New Low-E windows will save you literally hundreds of dollars in heating bills and keep you toasty warm.
Weather stripping can be the best investment in fixing a drafty door.  After the wear and tear that we put our doors through on a daily basis, after a few years the exposed weather stripping can become tattered and useless. 

For under $50, bit of time and a few simple tools you can keep the cold out and the warmth in.

Stay warm everyone!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Here come the Holidays

As fall marches on are you starting to make Christmas plans?  Where will the family be gathering this year? Will you be entertaining? Does this scare you a little?

The Home Depot's current commercial has got me thinking with their play on words to call this season 'The Fallidays'. It really is true that in preparing your home for the winter Holiday season, fall is the time to start! If you are planning a full scale renovation or just a couple minor fixes, chances are you will want it all finished and buttoned up before winter entertaining.

Kitchens and bathrooms are common projects to take on in this season. Depending on the magnitude of the project you may be considering, renovating these spaces may take weeks to complete.  With this being said these areas for renovation are a great idea for 2 reasons.  First, kitchens and bathrooms are a good return on investment when it comes to increasing the value of your home as these are the 2 areas that sell houses.  Second, when it comes to entertaining the kitchen tends to be the place where people always congregate during get-togethers.  Take a look next time you have a party or attend one and you'll see what we mean.  And an updated bathroom always wows.

Whichever "sprucing up" you decide on there are a few things that you will want to keep in mind before you start... 

Timeline - as it is nearing the holidays you will want to make sure that you get a commitment from your contractor on finish date.  Give yourself some leeway for any surprises that might arise.

Budget - as with any renovation, unless you've just won the lottery, keep your eye on the dollars.  It's easy to get carried away upgrading this for that and then the next thing you know everyone is getting popcorn for Christmas (not that there is anything wrong with popcorn).

Vision - what do you want the finished product to look like?  Not just the area that you are currently working on, but more importantly how does it tie into the rest of your home?  If you want your new kitchen to have an ultra modern look and feel are you planning on renoing the rest of your house to this same style at some time?

A little planning and fore thought will have your home ready to entertain or allow you to just kick back and relax for the holidays ;)

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

It's fall... and that means yard cleanup

It's hard to say goodbye to summer, especially in Calgary where we get such a short amount of it, but there is no denying that fall is upon us.  Now is a good time to do a bit of work around the yard to put it to bed cozy for the winter.

It's a great time to fertilize your lawn with a winterizing fertilizer with a moderate level of nitrogen and high in potassium (the last of the 3 numbers).  The grass should be left a little longer for the winter, think of it as the warm blanket for the roots below, and raise the mower blades to about 7-9 cm.  Rake up fallen leaves or mulch with a mulching mower and leave them in place.  If there is a large layer of thatch, it may be a good idea to aerate or dethatch the lawn.  It's also a great time to put down some grass seed.  Even if it doesn't sprout before the snow flies, it will be laying in wait for springtime!

Now is also the time to plant bulbs such as crocuses, tulips, and daffodils.  Plant them with the tip pointing up in well drained soil.  Generally they should be positioned 3 times deeper than their height.  Note that squirrels may be prone to digging up and eating freshly planted bulbs and deer are fond of them in the spring; since both these critters are common to the Calgary area, you may want to do some additional critter-proofing.

To deter critters from using your materials as their winter nests, wait until the ground is frozen to cover tender perennials with mulch or compost.  Cut out blackened stems and foliage as it dies from overnight frost.  Also remove any diseased foliage as this will weaken the entire plant, and trash it, do not compost!  Attractive seed pods can be left for winter interest as well as to attract birds.

Early fall is a good time to plant new trees, but once the ground freezes it can be hard to deliver the amount of water a new tree needs.  It may also be getting hard to find strong trees from the nursery as they try to clear their stock in the later part of the summer and early fall.  Try to avoid pruning trees in the fall unless absolutely necessary as cuts seem slower to heal and it is such a prevalent time for mildew and fungi.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Tile: Go big or go home!

The trend in tile for bathrooms and kitchens changes regularly just like every other home finishing.  Over the last few years the larger the better has became the trend.  Now the price point for large tiles has made this look become affordable as well.  Don't get too scared off if you are comparing price per tile, instead do the math and compare price based on square foot. 

It's worth noting that many of the larger tiles are also thicker tiles.  This has its pros and cons.  Because they cover a greater space, a thicker tile should be less likely to break.  However, if you are looking at combining different tiles, such as adding a border or inlay, extra care will be required to ensure that the faces of the tiles are all the same level.  A thicker tile may also become an issue if you are tiling up to other surfaces; keep in mind that if you are removing linoleum and replacing with tile that the level of your floor will change and may require a different transition strip into adjoining rooms.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Renovations that give the best return on investment

Are you thinking about listing your home and want to do some renovations to make your home more appealing to purchasers?  Even if you are not looking at selling in the short term it is valuable to consider your home as an investment and therefore return on investment (ROI) is a worthwhile consideration since cash is, in most cases, a limiting factor.  ROI is calculated as return (increase in the value of your asset) divided by investment.  An ROI greater than 100% results when the value increase is greater than the cost of the project.

Often a renovation is undertaken solely due to the desires of the homeowner, while the resale market may not value it highly.  If you are looking to enjoy your home for some while, resale value may not be a deciding factor.  But, the accountant in me would still encourage you to acknowledge ROI. 

ROI can vary based on your specific home and neighbourhood, as well as decisions made through the renovation process (upgrades, for instance).  It will also vary depending on what the potential purchasers value, and the market conditions at the particular time you go to sell your home.  If you are looking at selling in the near future, a low ROI project may still be something to consider, especially in a highly competitive market.  Renovations can also set your property apart from other properties on the market competing for the same pool of purchasers.  Still, though there are projects that tend to provide greater return and projects that provide less value to the typical home.

Paint, paint and more paint!  The best bang for a limited budget is undoubtedly paint.  In the real estate profession, Peter would encourage any client looking at a potential home to look past the color of the walls.  However, even if buyers are fully aware that paint is the easiest thing to change, its still part of the first impression that they walk away with.  Neutrals will appeal to the greatest majority of viewers, and damaged walls should be repaired.  Given the low material cost and relative ease of completion, a motivated homeowner can realistically undertake small drywall repairs and painting, and can realistically expect a ROI of 100% or even more on this project.

Bathroom and kitchen renovations may require a hefty budget, but these rooms can literally sell the house by putting your home in a different class and allowing you to compete with brand new construction.  Since the magnitude of this type of project is beyond the scope of the average homeowner, a licenced contractor may be required.  If the costs are well managed on such projects and upgrades kept under control, an ROI in the neighbourhood of 100%  which recovers the investment cost is possible.

Smaller projects may be more within the budget.  Updating the flooring, while typically only returning an ROI of 50 to 75%, according to the Appraisal Institute of Canada, can entirely change the look of a room.

Continuity is important and if there is a glaring issue in your home, buyers (or the home inspectors) will notice this and can result in a lost sale.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

High River

Peter spent his day in High River today, and he will be there again tomorrow.  At the particular house he was working on, the basement cement block wall was washed right into the basement, leaving a whole side of the house unsupported.  The structure is now fully reinforced and cleanup can commence safely.

While cleanup must be done to limit further damage, please ensure you are not working in unsafe conditions.  Have a licensed contractor fix structural damage and do not enter a building that you feel may be unsafe!

Here's an image of the train tracks through town

The town is in need of volunteers to help, for volunteer information please visit

Monday, 1 July 2013

Calgary Clean Up

Welcome to our new blog!  And Happy Canada Day!

First just a bit about ourselves.  We at AAMD Renovations Inc. operate a renovation business local to the Calgary area.  We offer complete renovation solutions specializing in basement, kitchen, bath renovations as well as decks, pergolas and garages.

This first entry of our blog comes just a week and half after Calgary and many of our neighboring cities, towns, and communities announced a state of emergency due to unprecedented flooding.  The community has come together to get back on its feet.  Volunteers have been helping strangers move sludge, appliances and everything else, and also providing warm meals and a dry place to sleep for those evacuated.  Slowly some of those affected are being allowed to return to their homes... it pains me to think about what they might find.

With so many damp basements in Calgary and the surrounding areas, this is bound to be an insurance nightmare.  Over-land flooding is likely not covered by most homeowners insurance policies, though sewer backups often are.  The insurance industry will likely be swamped (mind the pun).  If you have flood damage, phone your insurance company as soon as possible to determine what is covered and keep in mind that there is also disaster relieve out there.  Regardless, it is your duty to mitigate losses and do whatever you can to prevent further losses.  This means... get the place dry!  But, before you move anything, take pictures of everything.

All wet items need to be removed from the basement floor.  Cement is a porous material, so it is normal that water will come and go through it, but it needs to be able to dry out.  Make sure that the floor drain in your basement is not blocked. The floor drain should be located at the lowest spot in your basement floor.  If walls need to be ripped out of the basement and you want to change the layout, keep in mind that the floor drain should be left accessible in case of any future water problems.  It is not advisable to install new walls or flooring until the entire area is dry.

If your basement has been developed, you will need to determine the extent to which the building materials need to be ripped out.  If the drywall is damaged, you may be able to just remove the bottom portions. 

Water damaged materials may be salvageable, but only if the water was clean (like a overflowed washing machine or a broken pipe).  The sludge coming out of this is not to be put down the storm drains or back into the rivers, as it might be toxic... therefore, this is NOT clean water we are dealing with.  Carpeting, etc. is probably not salvageable.

Mould grows in warm, damp environments, and given our weather this past week, it is likely already too late if you have not been able to get to it.  There are many types of mould, some are toxic, some are not.  If the water damage is recent it is important to dry out the area as soon as possible to avoid mould growth.  Mould spores are ever present in our homes.  All they need is a warm, damp environment in which to grow and multiply.  If you think you may be dealing with black mould, do not attempt to clean this up yourself.

How to know if you might be dealing with black mould...