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!