Monday, October 26, 2009

City launches new home renovation grant program

The City of Toronto today launched Home Energy Assistance Toronto (HEAT), a new incentive program offering residents up to $1,000 when they upgrade their home insulation. HEAT is open to residents of low-rise residential properties, such as detached and semi-detached houses, and townhomes, and is designed to encourage Torontonians to undertake improvements to increase their home’s energy efficiency and reduce associated greenhouse gas emissions.

"Providing grants to make the homes of Torontonians more energy efficient benefits us all," said Toronto Mayor David Miller. "Grants like this allow for the creation of green jobs and decrease our overall energy demands, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions. HEAT will empower residents to act locally to not only save money but to clean our air and protect our environment as well."

There are approximately 450,000 low-rise residential buildings in Toronto today, which account for 19 per cent of electricity and 36 per cent of natural gas consumption in the city. According to research from Ontario Power Authority (2006), residents who retrofit their insulation and use electricity to heat and cool their homes will save, on average, more than 2000 kWh of energy, over $150 on their annual energy bill, and 0.5 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Residents who use gas will save 600 cubic metres, more than $250 on their annual energy bill, and an estimated 1.2 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the air.

Home Energy Assistance Toronto is a partnership with Federal ecoENERGY Retrofit-Homes, and means that homeowners can now access insulation grants of up to $8,750 in total from all three levels of government. Residents who undertake other important energy efficient upgrades (such as improving toilets, doors, windows or heating and cooling systems) can leverage even more funds - up to a combined $11,000.

“Our Government is working with partners like the City of Toronto to deliver results for our economy today and benefits for homeowners and our environment for years to come,” said the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Natural Resources. “Canadians across the country are participating in the ecoENERGY Retrofit Homes program. This program is creating and protecting jobs in our communities and putting money in the hands of Canadians at a time when they need it most.”

To be eligible for HEAT funds, homeowners must follow the steps (web link in Backgrounder) outlined by ecoENERGY Retrofit-Homes. The steps include hiring a Certified Energy Advisor to conduct a Home Energy Assessment, both before and after renovations.

Toronto is committed to combating climate change. In 2007, City Council unanimously adopted the Climate Change, Clean Air and Sustainable Energy Action Plan, an environmental framework aimed at reducing Toronto’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

Home Energy Assistance Toronto is an important tactic in this aggressive plan, which is why $9 million has been earmarked for HEAT, which will run until March 2012. It is estimated that approximately 9,000 to 12,000 householders will access these home improvement grants during this period.

For more information about HEAT and other City of Toronto environmental programs, visit

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. 2009 marks the 175th anniversary of Toronto's incorporation as a city. Toronto's government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Media contacts:
Lawson Oates, Director, Toronto Environment Office, 416-392-9744,
Lyne Kyle, Senior Communications Coordinator, 416-397-1410,
Jocelyne Turner, Press Secretary, Office of the Honourable Lisa Raitt, 613-996-2007
Media Relations, Natural Resources Canada, 613-992-4447,


October 14, 2009

City launches HEAT, a way to insulate your home and your wallet

The City of Toronto today launched Home Energy Assistance Toronto (HEAT), a new incentive program offering residents up to $1,000 when they upgrade their home insulation.

Home Energy Assistance Toronto is open to homeowners of low-rise residential properties including single detached, semi-detached, attached (i.e. row houses) and small multi-unit buildings (three storeys or less and maximum footprint of 600 square metres).

HEAT is a partnership with Federal ecoENERGY Retrofit-Homes. To be eligible, homeowners must follow the steps outlined by the Federal program, which include the need to hire an Energy Advisor, certified by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), to conduct a Home Energy Assessment prior to renovation. For more information on eligibility requirements, visit

The advisor begins by conducting a Home Energy Assessment and creates a personalized Energy Efficiency Evaluation Homeowner Report. This report states the home’s current efficiency rating and features a list of measures that could be completed to reduce its energy consumption, along with grants for each listed improvement. Suggested retrofits could include upgrades to insulation, as well as windows, doors, heating and cooling systems, plus ways to conserve water.

In total, ecoENERGY Retrofit-Homes offers residents up to $5,000 in home efficiency grants. Ontario’s Home Energy Savings Program then matches these grants for another $5,000 (maximum). When combined with HEAT, this means that homeowners can now access up to $11,000 in total grants when they upgrade their home insulation, and also implement other important energy efficient upgrades.

The amounts specifically related to Home Energy Assistance Toronto by area of insulation include:

• Up to $200 from the City of Toronto
• Up to $1,500 in Federal and Provincial grants

• Up to $500 from the City of Toronto
• Up to $3,750 in Federal and Provincial grants

• Up to $300 from the City of Toronto
• Up to $2,500 in Federal and Provincial grants

Visit for more information on the recommended insulation measures for each area of the home.

The decision for Toronto to fund insulation upgrades was based on findings from ecoENERGY Retrofit-Homes. According to Natural Resources Canada, 78 per cent of program participants in Ontario have replaced their heating systems. This is the most common measure undertaken compared to only 20 per cent uptake for re-insulating the attic, 12 per cent for basement insulation, and nine per cent for walls.

NRCan also completed a customer survey of EnerGuide for Houses (the predecessor to ecoENERGY) in 2005 to identify why participating homeowners did not follow through with all of their recommended energy efficiency upgrades. Insulation was the measure identified as the least commonly employed measure, with “high cost of work” listed as the main deterrent by 62 per cent of customers in Ontario. Initial capital investment was also identified as a barrier.

According to research by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund (in collaboration with local contractors), the grant amounts from the City, Province, and Government of Canada should provide residents who upgrade their insulation to the prescribed levels, with approximately 70 per cent of the costs, on average.

City Council has approved $9 million in Home Energy Assistance Toronto grants over the next four years. It is estimated that approximately 9,000 to 12,000 residents will access HEAT funds during this time with an average individual savings of 0.5 tonnes (electrically-heated homes) to 1.2 tonnes (gas-heated homes) of greenhouse gas emissions.

HEAT funds are available to residents who fulfill the eligibility criteria and complete their home renovations between August 6, 2009 (the date of Council’s decision to implement HEAT) and March 31, 2012.

In order to receive the grants, residents need to book a post-retrofit Home Energy Assessment with their Certified Energy Advisor. During this final stage, the Advisor will complete and submit the grant application to NRCan.

The cheque from ecoENERGY Retrofit-Homes will arrive approximately 90 days following the post assessment, followed by another four weeks for the cheques from the Province and City of Toronto.

For more information on HEAT and other City of Toronto environmental programs, visit

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. 2009 marks the 175th anniversary of Toronto's incorporation as a city. Toronto's government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ontario a step closer to mandatory energy audits

October 17, 2009   Bob Aaron
With the proclamation of the Green Energy Act, 2009, Ontario has moved one step closer to requiring mandatory energy audits on the sale of residential properties.
Section 3 of the new legislation is the only part of the law that has not yet received royal assent, but when it does it will give anyone who is making an offer to purchase a residential property the right to receive an energy audit from the seller. Regulations, which have yet to be released, will describe the type of information and reports the purchaser is entitled to receive.
The new law allows the government to establish rules setting out how energy audits will disclose the energy consumption and efficiency ratings for the house.
The Green Energy Act also states that, before accepting the offer, the seller must provide the prescribed information, reports or ratings to the buyer.
Real estate agents, or any others acting on behalf of the seller, are required to inform the owner promptly of any request for the information, reports or ratings from a person submitting an offer to purchase. This requirement, however, does not apply to agents or others who are performing their services as a favour and not getting paid in connection with the offer to sell.
The energy audits do not have to be personally delivered to the interested buyers as long as they are made "reasonably available" – whatever that means.
When the provincial government originally announced its intention to impose energy audits on the sale of residential real estate, industry stakeholders made their objections known quite forcibly to Queen's Park. That requirement was dropped from Bill 150 in favour of disclosure of the right to receive the audit and the option to waive it.
Another provision that was dropped was the rather draconian right of the government to appoint inspectors who would have the right to enter any business office (including a law office) to demand to see energy audits stored there.
Since this would have shredded the privacy protections to which clients are entitled in their lawyers' offices, I was very critical of this provision when it was announced. As passed, however, the legislation makes more sense without establishing Ontario energy police.
My guess is that Section 3 will not be proclaimed until details of the requirements for an energy audit have been worked out, and Ontario has enough federally-licensed and trained energy auditors to handle the province-wide demand, without bringing the real estate market to a standstill.
It remains to be seen whether the real estate industry will jump on board the green energy bandwagon and encourage those listing their properties for sale to undertake energy audits.
The alternative would be for real estate agents to insert into purchase offers a standard clause waiving the right to an energy audit. This type of clause might even find its way into the standard printed form offers.
My take is that until vendors and purchasers see the value in having homes undergo energy audits, stakeholders in the real estate field will view the audits as an interference in the orderly processing of real estate transactions and routinely use waiver clauses.
Other parts of the Green Energy Act encourage construction of facilities producing energy from alternative sources, including solar, wind and biogas projects.
The bad news is that Ontario power consumers will be shouldering the cost of the alternative sources.
Currently, electricity is wholesaling at four to five cents a kilowatt hour (kWh), but the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) will be paying huge premiums to producers of green electricity. The OPA will be paying between 45 and 80 cents a kWh for hydro from new solar facilities, 19 cents for offshore wind farms, 13.5 cents for onshore wind farms and up to 19.5 cents for biogas projects.
The only source of this huge expense, of course, will be from everyone in Ontario who uses electricity.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Reno Coach Your Advisor for Renovations and Construction Projects in Toronto: Cash cow or legal headache?

The Reno Coach Your Advisor for Renovations and Construction Projects in Toronto: Cash cow or legal headache?

Cash cow or legal headache?

For many years the legal status of basement apartments, flats and other accessory residential units which have been added to houses has been unclear. Many municipalities passed zoning by-laws prohibiting these types of apartments in houses. Nevertheless, many thousands of basement apartments and other accessory rental units were constructed. Although the exact number is unknown, it is estimated that as many as 100,000 illegal units were in use across the province in 1993.
In 1994 the N.D.P. government proclaimed Bill 120 the Residents Rights Act. This Bill permitted second units in houses, regardless of Municipal Zoning, provided that Health and Fire safety standards were met. The Ontario Fire Marshal's Office proclaimed Ontario Regulation 385/94 in July of this same year. (retrofit section dealing with Two Unit Residential Occupancies). These two pieces of legislation both mandated the permissibility of, and the safety requirements for Basement Apartments in Ontario.
On November 26, 1995 the new Conservative government introduced Bill 20 restoring back to municipalities the right to outlaw Basement Apartments. This in effect drove these second units back underground. Owners feared prosecution from not only safety authorities, but also local zoning regulations.
Units built prior to November 16, 1995 are grandfathered:
If the unit existed prior to this date (November 16 1995) it was grandfathered, provided it met health and fire standards. The onus is on the owner to prove that this is in fact the case and can be accomplished through the production of rent receipts, presence of tenants on voters list or in some cases the signing of an affidavit for the municipality.
Toronto's Second Suites By-law
On July 6, 2000, the City of Toronto's new "second suites bylaw (493-2000)" came into effect. This bylaw permits second suites in all single-detached and semi-detached houses throughout the City of Toronto, with certain conditions.
Some of the conditions include:
  • the second suite must be self-contained with its own kitchen and bathroom;
  • the house, including any additions, must be at least five years old;
  • the floor area of the second suite must be smaller than the remaining part of the house;
  • in most cases, a home with a second suite must have at least two parking spaces;
  • all existing second suites must comply with the Ontario Fire Code, zoning and property standards
For more information see The FACTS about Second Suites Click on "legislation and reforms" then "second suites Toronto" This link will take you away from our site. Use your "Back" button on your browser to return to this web site.
For prospective purchasers of these properties, once the legality of the apartment has been established, then it must be insured that it meets health and fire standards. This can be established by the production of a "Letter of Compliance" from the local Fire Department or the municipality. If this inspection has never been done, or was done a great length of time ago, you may wish to have an Independent Fire Code Inspector report on the conditions to-day. Retrofit legislation calls for the maintenance of the fire safety measures originally built into these two family units. If proper compliance is not indicated at this time you may wish to negotiate with the vendor to perform these upgrades prior to closing, or you may wish to adjust the price accordingly and do the work yourself.
Owners of houses containing two self-contained residential units (dwelling units) are now required to bring their buildings into compliance with the new fire safety regulation adopted under the Ontario Fire Code. Tenants in these buildings are entitled to ask their landlords to make sure that the fire regulations are met.
Some of these Regulations are summarized below.
1.0 What is a Dwelling Unit ?

A dwelling unit is a room or suite of rooms operated as a self-contained housekeeping unit that includes independent cooking, eating, living, sleeping and bathroom facilities.

2.0 Buildings Covered by the New Fire Code Regulation ?

The regulation applies to detached houses, and semi-detached houses, and row houses that contain two existing dwelling units. The two dwelling units may be located anywhere in the house.

3.0 What are the Requirements ?

In general, the regulation contained in the Ontario Fire Code addresses four fire safety issues:

3.1 Fire separation

The owner has three options for compliance with the fire separation for each dwelling unit

3.2 Means of Escape.

Four options are provided for compliance with the means of escape from each dwelling unit.

3.3 Smoke Alarms

Depending on the option selected for fire separation and means of escape, it may be necessary to install electrically wired, interconnected smoke alarms throughout the house. Interconnected smoke alarms are designed to sound simultaneously when any one smoke alarm is activated, providing early warning to all occupants of the house at the same time.

Where interconnected smoke alarms are not installed, every dwelling unit must be equipped with a battery operated or electrically wired smoke alarm on every floor level that contains a bedroom or sleeping area.

All smoke alarms must be maintained in working condition, and they must be audible in the bedrooms when the bedroom door is closed.

3.4 Electrical Safety

The owner must also arrange for the house to be inspected by "the Electrical Safety Authority" and to correct all fire safety hazards identified through this inspection.

4.0 Who is Responsible With Complying With the Regulation ?

The owner is responsible for complying with the provisions of the Ontario Fire Code. Penalties for non-compliance can be up to $50,000 fines and up to one year in prison for individuals.

Owners should be aware that bringing existing houses into compliance with the new regulation may require repairs or alterations for which a building permit is needed under the Building Code Act.
  • The owner can carry out the initial assessment to determine what upgrading may be required.
  • An Independent Fire Code Consultant can assist you with an assessment and advise you on the best means of attaining compliance.
  • The Municipal Building and Fire Departments should be contacted, once this initial assessment is done, to obtain the necessary permits and arrange for required inspection where appropriate.
Added Income For You....
In closing, a basement apartment might be just what you need to provide the added income to make your dream purchase affordable, but beware of the pitfalls and remember that you as a purchaser assume all the liability of a home that doesn't comply, regardless of when you bought it.
"How about carbon monoxide alarms?" 'Additional Expense' or 'Value Added' selling feature?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Underpinning and Permit Drawings

Underpinning is a two-fold winner. First of all, it creates added height to your existing foundation, which in turn adds 100% usable living space to your basement. This procedure is usually done with basements that do not have enough headroom to navigate around. Secondly, it adds positive value to your existing home, also giving your home an added selling feature for re-sale.

The initial procedure for underpinning is to determine the height that is required by the customer to determine the depth of the removal. Once disposal bins are on site and a soil removal system has been established, work may commence. It is sometimes necessary to remove load-bearing walls, replaced by a new horizontal beam and steel post on a concrete footing. Temporary support for the existing house when necessary is usually vertical jack supports and horizontal beams. Disconnecting or suspending the furnace or boiler, and water heater may be required at this point. The existing concrete basement floor is then removed, leaving an angle of repose around all load bearing foundation walls. Under floor plumbing can then be removed.

Next we are prepared to commence underpinning pockets. Underpinning pockets are as specified in your architectural plans, typically in 3 separate phases of pockets, ranging in 3-4' lengths with varying depth of 18"-24" or more. Height of the underpinning depends on your requirements of the finished floor height. Often engineers require us to leave a 3-4" void between the new underpinning pockets and bottom of existing foundation, to pack "non-shrink" grout to compensate for any shrinkage in the concrete. Vibration of the concrete is often done to establish solidity and air removal to prevent any future shrinkage (in which case grout packing is not required -Please note, "bench footings" are required, instead of underpinning, generally on neighboring walls in semi-detached homes.

Now we are ready to install sump pumps, back flow valves, sewers, rough-ins for plumbing. Next, we install an internal waterproofing system, which consists of a 4" weeping tile system tied into sump pump around perimeter of foundation, to establish continuity and bleeding in foundation. A drainage mat (Delta MS membrane) is then installed around foundation walls, covering existing foundation and underpinning pockets, and draped over weeping tile and the gravel bed.

A 4-6" gravel bed is spread throughout basement floor to make ready for the concrete slab. At this point in time, it is an option to install and in floor radiant heating system, connected to a hot water on demand, or boiler system. A new re-enforced concrete floor (4-5" thick) is poured throughout entire basement with a smooth or rough finish as required by customer.

This completes an underpinning project. Please note that all underpinning must be done with all permits in place, with stamped architectural/engineered drawings done. To get your underpinning project underway:

1. Contact The Reno Coach  to arrange initial consultations.

2. The Reno Coach  will provide you with Drawings  to obtain permits OR client may provide their own.

3. The Reno Coach will obtain permits and have them fast tracked upon customer’s wishes.

4. Date is set for work to commence.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Reno Coach to the rescue!

We were in the middle of our first floor renovation when our contractor at the time pulled a fast one on us and left us in a mess(wont go into details of that as its irrelevant to The Reno Coach review)Its not enough to say that we were shocked and stuck! I heard of Reiner from The Reno Coach trough a friend who used him before for his own house renovation and raved about it.Gave him a call and our nightmare was over!!Reiner took over a project and had everything done on time and budget!The first floor in our house is finaly done,we have moved few walls around,created an open concept,redone our kitchen and put a skylight in our hallway.Reiner was so confident,organized and comforting,especialy after our bad experience with the first contractor.We cant say enough about his professionalism.We highly recomend him for your next house renovation!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lifting a House a old way rediscovered How to gain height in your Basement

I  recently meet Stanford at his House with my clients to see his lifted house to gain height in the Basement .I was amazed by the look of big windows in the old Bungalow it was like we where above ground. Stanford designed and build a system which lets you lift your house and add a few rows of Blocks to gain height in your more information visit

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Renovation Leads to Separation – Staying Together After All the Work is Done

by: Rosalin Smith-Carr on August 21st, 2009

House_RenovationsIf you’re thinking about moving ahead with a home remodelling project, the following are some factors to consider. This is tried and true advice gleaned from over 25 years of consulting with clients in Toronto on home buying, moving, selling and renovating. It will not only save you financially, but emotionally as well. Speaking of emotions . . .
Toronto Home Remodelling: Can Your Family Afford the Emotional Cost?
There is an old idiomatic expression in the real estate industry that goes, “Renovation leads to separation.” This is especially true if the family inhabits the home while the renovation is taking place. Noise, dust, cramped quarters and dealing with unreliable contractors take a huge toll on even the most stable relationship.
This is added stress on top of professional responsibilities, child rearing and other day-to-day pressures. This is why I have always found that the most important factor to consider when deciding whether or not to renovate is not the financial cost, but the emotional cost.
After all, what good is a newly renovated home when there is no family left intact to enjoy it?
Toronto Home Remodelling: When It Makes Sense to Move Forward
If your family is prepared to weather the emotional toll, following is when it makes sense to move forward with a home remodelling project.
You Love Your Home: This is probably the best reason. If you love the basic bones of your house, its location, and the feel of the neighbourhood, then remodelling makes sense – if it’s within reason (which we’ll discuss in just a bit).
The Costs are in Line with the Neighbourhood: You can easily spend too much on a home renovation project. Following are two questions to ask that will help you keep costs in line with your desires.
The first question you need to ask – and answer – before proceeding is, “Does it make sense to spend this amount of money, on this home, in this area?” You want to be able to answer “yes” emphatically. The second question is, “When all the work is done, will my home be the most expensive home on the street?” The answer to this question should be “no.”
The reason is, any improvements you make should be those that a future buyer will be willing to pay for.
Remember, potential homebuyers pay relative to what other homes in that vicinity have sold for. So no matter how much that slate tile in the master bath costs or how great it looks, if it puts your home in the “most expensive” category, it’s unlikely you’ll recoup what you spent.
Toronto Home Remodelling: Make Sure Moving Is Not a Better Option
As renovating can get expensive – quickly - sometimes it makes sense to move. To illustrate, consider this: let’s say you own a beautiful two-bedroom, semi-detached home on a lovely, quiet street. You need a third bedroom and would like to have a family room on the ground floor. You’d also like a pool.
Do you think it would be a good idea to have all of these changes and additions done to your existing home? My experienced opinion is, “Probably not.” Why?
These are significant changes. You’re not remodelling, you’re rebuilding. In real estate speak, changes like this make you a classic “move-up buyer”; one who wants a detached home with a private driveway and a larger lot size. It would be better to buy a home with these features than remodel your existing one.
Toronto Home Remodelling: Get First-hand Advice before Making a Final Decision
No matter what your decision, get some helpful first-hand advice before making it. Seek out the following three people:
(i) an experienced, local real estate agent. They’ll be able to advise you on tangibles like resale value;
(ii) someone who has gone through a similar home remodelling project. They’ll be able to tell you what to expect, e.g., cost, how long it’s going to take, recommend contractors, etc.; and
(iii) a contractor who can provide you total costs for your Toronto home remodelling project.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

How Much Should That Renovation Cost? How To Find Out If You're Getting Ripped Off

How Much Should That Renovation Cost? How To Find Out If You're Getting Ripped Off

The idea: inform you of what you should expect before you sign on the dotted line.
"We tend to get calls after the fact ... We want to encourage people to call before," Michaels explains. "This launch is a more proactive approach to educate our consumers."
Homeowners can check up on a number of jobs including carpentry, plumbing and roofing. The new initiative hopes to ensure you know exactly how long a job should take - and at what cost - before entering into a contract.
Project Fix It will continue until Labour Day weekend. But you'll be able to continue to call after that date if you have any questions concerning future renovations. Want to know more? Call (416) 392-3082 for additional info.
  • Check with Toronto Building to determine if a construction permit is required for the proposed renovation
  • Get at least three quotations from licensed contractors
  • Ask the contractors for their City of Toronto business license number and verify the information by calling (416) 392-6700
  • Get references from other customers
  • Enter into a written and signed contract
  • Ensure that all work to be done (including site clean up) is clearly stated in the contract
  • Ensure that the full price of the job is in the contract
  • Pay the full amount at job completion or include a payment schedule in the contract (payments should correlate with the amount of work done by the contractor)
  • Include in the contract the name of the company, the business address, phone number, a completion date, and a City of Toronto License number
  • File a complaint if you come across illegal activity by calling (416) 392-3082 or e-mail the Municipal Licensing and Standards licensing mailbox at
List courtesy: City of Toronto

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Renovation tax credit not yet approved: expert

Bob Whitelaw, a public policy consultant, speaks on CTV's Canada AM from Ottawa, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009.

Bob Whitelaw, a public policy consultant, speaks on CTV's Canada AM from Ottawa, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009. News Staff

Canadians planning to take advantage of the Home Renovation Tax Credit should know that it has not been passed into law, though one expert says it is almost a certainty that they will be able to file for it on their taxes.

The $3 billion program was introduced in January as an incentive that the government hoped would help stimulate the Canadian economy during the early days of the current recession.

The government estimated that as many as 4.6 million Canadian families would take advantage of the chance to complete home improvements, while saving up to $1,350 on their annual taxes.

Sales at home centers and hardware stores were up for the third consecutive month in May, suggesting that the incentive seems to be working.

But public policy consultant Bob Whitelaw told CTV's Canada AM that the HRTC technically cannot be claimed until it is approved by Parliament -- something that hasn't happened yet.

"This was introduced as part of the 2009-1010 budget in January, the credit is effective from January to next February, but subject to passing in the House of Commons and Parliament before you can really claim it on your taxes," he told CTV's Canada AM during an interview from Ottawa on Thursday morning.

And while Whitelaw believes it is highly unlikely that the tax credit will not go forward, Canadians should know that it has not been passed into law.

"Carry on with those expenditures, know that I'm sure our colleagues and people in government will be working diligently to pass this -- whatever party might be in power, within the next year -- so that it will be in effect...for the tax year," Whitelaw said.

The federal government has been heavily promoting the tax credit as part of its economic action plan, and only last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said "there has never been a better time to renovate your home," suggesting that the tax credit can help homeowners save on their taxes and increase the value of their homes.

Under the HRTC, homeowners can receive a non-refundable tax credit worth up to $1,350 depending on the expenses associated with eligible renovations or improvements made after Jan. 27, 2009 and before Feb. 1, 2010.

The renovations must be worth more than $1,000, but not more than $10,000, in order to qualify for the tax credit. Homeowners are required to provide receipts and appropriate documentation in order to claim it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How much should Bathroom Renovation cost

In the long-run, your bathroom may no longer satisfy your needs. This can happen simply because the number of people living in your home may have increased. It may also be because the design is boring you that you no longer enjoy it. Or probably because it is almost on the point of crumbling down that you constantly experience problems when using it.

You can expect that this will happen to you. Your bathroom is just like any parts of your home. It could wear out eventually. When this time comes, you would have to resort to bathroom renovations. This turns your bathroom into a whole new facility while capturing your idea of comfort.

When you plan to renovate your bathroom, one of the most common questions that people ask is, "what is the cost?" It is quite understandable because renovation can be a major project that involves a lot of money. Some experts say that the typical cost of renovation would fall between 9,000 to 25,000 dollars. While others say it could cost around 12 to 15 grand for minor renovations; 15 to 20 grand for moderate changes; and up to 30 grand for top-quality renovations. However, there is no specific cost because there are different basis for pricing. Here are the bases:

1. The size of the bathroom- You need to know exactly how big your bathroom is. This will give you or your builder a clear estimate of the renovation based on its floor area or wall space. You may have to get an accurate measurement or a good estimate of your bathroom space to get a fairly accurate estimate.

2. The kind of materials used- You may be planning to replace the shower heads, sink, toilet, faucets and other stuff. If top quality materials will be used, expect the cost of renovation to rise. You also have to know what needs to be replaced as this can also impact the cost.

3. The complexity of your design- Some people may want to alter the surface of the bathroom. Tiles and walls may be replaced and new features may be added. This is inevitable especially when the walls are starting to rot or perhaps, the tiles begin to loosen up. When the overall layout of the room will be changed, it will also increase cost.

4. The contractor you hired- Different contractors have different estimates. To get the most economical deal, you need to get more than one estimate. You may have to shop around and find two or more reputable contractors. Pretty sure they will give you a copy of their written estimates.

Others would also think of renovating their bathrooms by themselves. This is a great idea because you can actualize what you have in mind for the design (given of course you know what you are doing). On top of that, the cost of renovation could also be cut down about 20 to 40 percent.

The cost of renovating your bathroom could really vary but it is controllable. Just make sure not to sacrifice the quality of materials just to lower the cost.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Your Rights When Dealing With Home Renovations

  • Under the law, the final price of the goods or services cannot be more than 10 per cent over the original estimate. If new work comes up, your home reno contractor should discuss it with you and you should be asked to approve a “change order” that includes the new work and a revised estimate to cover new goods and services.
  • The Consumer Protection Act establishes important protection for consumers in their home reno contract. Let’s say you make a purchase or sign a contract in your home. If the deal is worth more than $50, you have the right to cancel within 10 days. It’s best to do this by registered mail or fax, to get your money back. The only exception to this cooling-off period is in a case of emergency home repairs, where the consumer must have approached the seller and requested the services to be provided within 10 days of receiving the written contract.
  • Consumers are protected against unfair business practices such as deceptive promotional and sales tactics. If an unfair practice has occurred, you can rescind the agreement within one year. One way to do this is by sending the seller a registered letter. If that doesn’t produce results, see our Consumer Protection Toolbox.
  • Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is illegal for a home reno contractor to hold onto your belongings to renegotiate a higher price. Unless conditions change, the original agreement stands.
  • If you want to complain about a home reno contractor, go to visit Your Consumer Protection Toolbox to find out how. If that doesn’t get you anywhere, contact the Consumer Protection Branch.

Friday, August 21, 2009

REAL ESTATE 1 Bloor condo dreams alive

August 20, 2009 Tony Wong

The condominium property site at 1 Bloor may have been sold, but the dream of putting a high-rise building at one of Toronto's most prestigious addresses lives on.

Industry speculation is that Toronto-based Great Gulf Homes is the likely buyer of the property.

``They are an established builder familiar with the area and with a good track record,'' said one source.

The company will likely commit to developing some form of high-rise condominium, although the hotel component may no longer be a part of the building, according to sources.

Calls to Great Gulf Homes were not returned yesterday. The privately held company is one of the largest home builders in the Greater Toronto Area.

The controversial 1 Bloor hotel and condo project was at one time supposed to be the tallest residential tower in Canada.

Developer Bazis International Inc. said late Tuesday that ``a well-established Toronto developer has entered into a binding agreement with Bazis International for the One Bloor property with closing in mid-September.''

The Kazakhstan-backed company said last month in documents filed in court it had intended to sell the property on the southeast corner of Yonge and Bloor streets.

Realtor Anna Cass was one of the first in line to buy a unit in the building. She purchased a 1,300-square-foot unit, and sold units to many of her clients.

``This wasn't just about making a deal; this is where I wanted to live,'' said Cass. ``This was my dream.''

Cass says she hopes the building will still be completed.

``I'm just a regular salesperson. It took a lot of hard work for me to get ahead – and this is what happens. It's been a difficult couple of years.''

Hundreds of buyers like Cass had lined up for weeks in 2007 to own a piece of the property, which featured units priced from $500,000 and up. The penthouse was reportedly sold for $25 million.

Jamie Johnston, a broker whose firm specializes in condominiums, said he warned investors to stay away from the 1 Bloor project when it was first marketed.

``I thought it was over-hyped and over-priced,'' he said.

Developer Michael Gold stopped making payments on a $46 million loan in December. When the loan continued to be in default, a consortium of lenders tried to place the project in receivership.

The group offered $50.5 million to Gold. But he ended up selling the property to someone else.

The 500 people who bought units in the hotly sought-after property are also waiting to hear what will become of the $70 million in deposits held in trust. A spokeswoman for Gold said her client was not granting interviews.

However, Audrey Loeb, a real estate lawyer with the Toronto firm of Miller Thomson and the author of two books on condo law, says deposits by buyers are held in trust under the Condominium Act.

``The funds have to be in place with the developer's lawyer or another law firm so they should be safe,'' Loeb said. ``Not getting back your deposit is not a typical problem that we would have.''

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bathroom Design

Wood Bathtubs are a luxury all on their own and can give any home, hotel or spa a very special talked about feature. The home spa is coming more and more into style as the baby boomer generation begins to retire. Affluent couples are looking towards luxury goods that they can have in their own home and use on a day to day basis. Wooden tubs can be a stunning feature. Numerous specialty companies are begining to make wood and/or solid stone tubs that embody the curves of the human form or the organic lines of nature making the spa experience more relaxing, gentler and bringing the user closer to nature in the comfort of a controlled environment.

Bagno Sasso Leaf shaped Bathtub

Bagno Sasso Leaf shaped Bathtub

Laguna Spa Bathtub

Laguna Spa Bathtub

WS Collections classic wood bathtub

WS Collections classic wood bathtub

Bagno Sasso Bathroom

Bagno Sasso Bathroom

Monday, August 17, 2009

Couple's renovation nightmare is demolished

City officials said the collapsed foundation rendered the entire structure unsafe.

City officials said the collapsed foundation rendered the entire structure unsafe.

A close-up showing the damage to the home's foundation.

A close-up showing the damage to the home's foundation.

Couple's renovation nightmare is demolished

When Kyla Prashad and her husband started renovating their home in Toronto's east end, they hoped to finish the repairs themselves and re-sell the house for a modest profit.

Instead, the young couple is facing a $100,000 demolition bill after city officials labelled the house unsafe.

The couple, who have a young daughter, had yet to live in the two-storey house and invested tens of thousands of dollars into fixing it up.

To make matters worse, the couple was told that since they did the renovations themselves, insurance won't cover the tab to take the house down.

"This has basically been our dream, and it's all coming crashing down - and we have to pay for it (to come) crashing down," Prashad told CTV Toronto's Dana Levenson Tuesday.

During the renovations, the couple made some excavations in the home's basement, but heavy rains over the weekend led to flooding water that weakened the supporting walls.

On Sunday, the foundation walls collapsed in on themselves.

Now, only the front and back walls are holding up the house, and city officials say the entire home is completely unstable and must come down.

On Tuesday, a large gap was visible between the ground and the bottom of the home's side wall.

"The entire foundation wall of the building has basically collapsed into itself, and we have a building that's in an unsafe condition," a city official told Levenson.

The demolition was slated to start Tuesday morning, but was delayed until later in the afternoon.

Prashad, along with her husband Jason Carey, planned on using the profits from the sale to pay for the renovations and to clear some debt.

"I just hope that this is actually the right thing that's happening," said Prashad.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Dana Levenson

Mike Holmes: Insulation has homeowners foaming at the mouth

Mike Holmes: Make It Right, Canwest News Service

Published: Friday, August 14, 2009

You might have heard the recent news about a $500-million class-action lawsuit against both the government of Canada and the manufacturers and distributors of RetroFoam, a retrofit spray foam insulation.

RetroFoam imported and distributed insulation that contains urea formaldehyde. On Feb. 3, 2009, Health Canada, under the Hazardous Products Act, ordered RetroFit to stop importing, advertising and selling the insulation and to recall all product, but not that it has to be removed from houses.

Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI) has been banned in Canada for over 20 years because it releases formaldehyde gas into the indoor air over time as it cures. According to Health Canada, a small amount (0.1 parts per million) is a safe level of formaldehyde, but it depends on your sensitivity, age and general health. Homeowners who have had RetroFoam installed are having their indoor air quality tested.

We don't really know what the risk is to health from the formaldehyde in spray foam. There are trials still going on with UFFI and many of the tests show the off-gassing is minimal and safe. And, there is formaldehyde released from all kinds of building materials and furnishings, including MDF, carpets, flooring and cabinets. I'm not saying that's a good thing, but that is reality.

I'm a big fan of spray foam, but always use it when the walls are open so we can ensure we get intimate contact with the surface and no gaps are left. I recommend and use Walltite Eco, a proven eco-friendly product.

I understand the appeal of a retrofit spray foam insulation. But for homeowners doing a retrofit who don't want to have to tear out their drywall, it's pretty tempting to try a product that claims to do a similar job, at a fraction of the cost, since your installer just drills holes in the wall and sprays in the product.

The average homeowner doesn't know that RetroFoam wasn't legal for sale. But I guess the lesson is to make sure you know what's going into your house. Don't take for granted the products used are going to be safe. Ask questions. It is your home, so you need to take responsibility as much as you can.

RetroFoam of Canada is ultimately responsible to make sure the products they import and sell are legal in our country. And from what I know, the product hasn't been tested by the Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada (ULC).

In fact, RetroFoam is still legally sold and installed in many countries, including the United States.

But understand that every country has different acceptable standards for products. What the U.S. website for RetroFoam can claim ("no formaldehyde or other harmful emissions. . .") might be true there. But "no" might not mean "zero per cent." Or it might mean something like "meets acceptable standards" in parts per million, etc.

What's interesting to me isn't that the claim is about the health risks of RetroFoam. The lawsuit has nothing to do with whether the air quality is bad or not. It's to do with the fact that the houses may now be worth less.

The argument is that homes insulated with RetroFoam will now be stigmatized, and their property value will be reduced - just like in the UFFI scare more than 20 years ago. In recent years, homeowners have legally had to declare UFFI in any sale of a home.

The claimants are looking for recovery of the lost property value. I'm not saying it's not a real problem. If I suddenly couldn't sell my house, or was facing a big loss, that would be a huge problem to me!

The government of Canada is named in the suit because many of the homes were insulated under the federal government's ecoENERGY retrofit program. The claim is that because the insulation work qualified for the energy efficiency grants - that is, a homeowner had more insulation added and that increased the house's R-value - that implied that the government endorsed the products used.

Our government didn't specifically recommend RetroFoam to consumers, and the installations are done by independent contractors. But since the owner of RetroFoam Canada has filed for bankruptcy, I guess the buck has to stop somewhere.

So who dropped the ball on this one? And who's going to be left holding the bag?

I don't know how many times I've seen a contractor or company screwing up and walking away, leaving homeowners in the mess. At least if the government is named in the suit, someone will clean it up.