Home office TorontoIf you have considered creating a walkout basement to your home, this is not only a great feature to have while you are in your home, but it can actually add value if you ever decide to sell. Here in Toronto, many of the homes are older, with basements that were never meant to be used as living space, but a walkout basement can create another floor of living space without all the red tape of adding an extension to the home.

If you have a traditional basement and would like to create a full height basement, you’ll have to hire a contractor that specializes in what’s know as “Underpinning”, more commonly known as basement lowering.  It’s a popular option in Toronto as land is limited and it’s a great way to create extra living space without extending the house and losing more backyard.

Not only can you enjoy another level of living space, but a walkout basement can add value to your home if you ever decide to sell.  

Take a look at five great ways to use your walkout basement

 

Create a living space for parents or adult children

A basement that remodeled and with a privatized entrance is the perfect place to allow your college-aged child live, or even your aging parent. The fact that it is somewhat separated from the remainder of the home offers the same privacy that they would have in an apartment.

 In-law suite basement apartment Toronto

Create the ultimate, privatized home office

If you operate a home-based business in which you need to have clients come to your office, you might not want to welcome strangers into your living space. By allowing clients to enter through the designated entrance it can help to separate your professional and personal life. Not to mention, you don’t have to worry about the condition of your home when welcoming clients.

Home office Toronto

Create an inviting family space

For some homeowners, the basement is best utilized by creating a comfortable living space for your family to spend quality time in. Because of the increase in natural light offered by the door, you don’t have to feel like you are tucked away in a confined box when you are together, and in the summer you can open up the door and let fresh air in.

Fameily room in Toronto basement

Create a kids’ space

What parent doesn’t want to have a playroom for their little ones to house their many toys? The problem with traditional finished basements and playrooms is that it can seem like you are shoving your children in a dark corner to play. But, that’s the beauty of a walkout basement, the entry allows for natural light to enter, and it creates a great entry point to the yard and pool.

 Family play room Toronto

Create a guest suite

What better place to have your relatives come stay than in their own private suite in your basement? Many homeowners who may not have an extra guest room will convert their walkout basement into a bedroom space for friends and family to stay. The exit give them a sense of privacy for coming and going, and the fact that they aren’t sleeping on a pull out couch or in your child’s room means less crowding on the main floors.

Basement bedroom Toronto home

Keep in mind that by adding natural light into your basement, and outdoor access, this space can become anything that you need it to be. You are sure to find that by making this space feel more like your actual living space, and less like your basement, that you are making a wise financial investment everyone can enjoy.

Have questions about basement lowering and the process involved?  If you live in Toronto or the surrounding GTA, feel free to contact us here for a free in-home inspection and estimate.

If you’ve had plumbing changes to your home, whether it be from a leaky pipe or simply an upgrade, you may have some relatively valuable scrap metal on hand that can be converted into cash if you take advantage of the metal recycling services at your local metal recycling center.  In Toronto, there are many companies that will buy the scrap metal that you would have otherwise thrown away during renovations.

Sell scrap metal after next Toronto renovation

Identifying Old Plumbing

Old plumbing is usually comprised of copper tubing and brass fittings.  Copper has a golden brown color and is fairly easy to bend with your hands, as opposed to steel pipe, which is gray or rusty in color and quite rigid.  A magnet will stick to steel, but not copper, and gives you an easy way to tell the difference if the pipe is painted to where you can’t see its natural color.

Pricing

Copper generally pays between $2.63 and $3.16 per pound.  Fittings at each end of the tubing are usually a different metal.  If yellow in color, they are known as yellow brass and are generally worth between $1.58 and $2.10 per pound.  If you don’t remove the brass fittings and sell them separately, the company buying the tubing will have to make a price or weight allowance for the difference in value.

Steel pipe and fittings will only bring somewhere around 8 to 11 cents per pound, so it is important to sort them out of the copper and brass when selling.

Other Plumbing Parts

Other plumbing scrap includes faucets and thin tubes that carry water from the supply line to the sink.  The lines will typically be silver colored, since there is a layer of chrome plating on the brass to keep the surface from corroding, and give you the clean shiny look you prefer.  If you make a deep cut into the line, you will see a yellow color under the chrome.

Brass faucets can be chrome plated or simply finished in a way that shows the bronze color without allowing corrosion.  Again, getting below the chrome coating will show you the true metal you are dealing with, and these will be bought as yellow brass.

Pricing or Lack Thereof

Cheaper faucets over the years had been made from zinc or plastic with the same shiny silver-colored finish – zinc will show grey when you cut through the chrome and is only worth a few cents per pound.  Plastic is fragile and will break under a hammer – I’m unaware of anybody that buys plastic faucets.

Armed with this knowledge, you are set to make a little money from the next plumbing renovation project, assuming you don’t let the contractor carry off the scrap metal where they will most likely sell off for scrap metal.

Dave Fusselman is the owner of Fusselman Salvage, a Missouri metal recycling center in Moberly, MO. Visit his website at www.FusselMetals.com for more information on recycling scrap metal or find more of his writings on his Google+ page.

Toronto home underpinningIf you live in a metro area like we do here in Toronto, land is at a premium.  When an expanding family is looking to increase the living space in their home, they usually either choose going up (adding another floor), or going below (increasing the height of their existing basement).

When it comes to underpinning a basement, also called basement lowering, the advantage is that you already (somewhat) have existing walls to create your new addition.  It’s often less expensive than adding an addition to your home, and since your building within the existing structure, there is far less red tape to deal with.

The problem with older homes is that the basement was never meant to be a living space.  It was intended for storage, utilities, laundry, and a nice dark and damp home for spiders to creep about.  The height of the basement is often lower than the rest of the floors, coupled with the fact that duct work and utility pipes are usually run along the ceiling area.

Creating a full height basement is not an easy job.  To lower your basement, you’ll need to underpin the foundation so that your house doesn’t fall over like this one did in Toronto.  You’ll need a permit, a structural engineer, and an experienced structural contractor who has experience with underpinning a basement.

When you decide to create a full height basement for your home, there are two methods that can be used.  Underpinning and Bench Footing, both of them are acceptable ways to create a full height basement, and both of them have their pros and cons.  Creating a full height basement is a complex and expensive job, so you should understand the differences when you go over your options with your contractor.

Build a Stepped Bench-Footing

Bench Footing costs less than underpinning as it doesn’t require you to dig underneath the existing footings.  In this method, the existing footings and soil remain untouched.  What happens is that a new foundation is poured on the inside the existing one, all the way down to the depth of the new basement floor.  This creates a second wall inside your basement, leading to a decrease in basement square footage and a ledge equivalent to the added height of the basement.

That’s why they call it Bench Footing, you now have a bench running along the perimeter of your basement.  Some people will make creative use of the space, creating cupboards on top of the bench, while others will simply build a wall above the Bench Footing.

The width of the Bench Footing depends on the increase in height you want for your basement.  For every foot of height you add to your basement, you will need to add about a foot of width to your Bench Footing.  So if you add 18″ of height to your basement, you will have a Bench Footing 18″ in width.  These considerations need to be taken into account, especially if you will need several feet of space added to your new basement.

Foundation Underpinning

Underpinning is more expensive than Bench Footing, but allows you to retain all of your basement square footage since there is no need to build a bench wall inside your basement.  It’s a difficult job, and one not left to fly by night contractors.

Underpinning involves excavating and pouring new footings to the depth where your new basement floor will be.  This is done in sections, and the load of the foundation is carefully transferred and supported as each section is completed.  It’s a slow and careful process as you’re basically undermining the integrity of the foundation during the basement lowering process.

There are several other advantages to this model. First and foremost the basement footprint remains the same but you get the extra headroom. Moreover if you had the slightest doubt about the state of the original foundations that concern’s gone forever. This is the preferred engineering solution, though budget and other considerations may not call for it.

To Summarize the Situation

Bench-Footing is Quicker

Underpinning is Stronger

Bench-Footing is Less Expensive

Underpinning Costs More Money

Bench-Footing Bypasses Foundations

Underpinning Strengthens Foundations

Bench-Footing is the Thief of Space

Underpinning Maximises Space

 

The differences between underpinning and bench-footing are pretty obvious. The Underpinning may be the ideal solution whereas the Bench Footing may be the only affordable one. Look before you leap into this pond of water. If you have questions about creating a full height basement for your home (if your in Toronto and the surrounding GTA), fell free to contact us for a free inspection and estimate.

walkout basement under construction in TorontoHome remodeling projects take a vast amount of time, planning and monetary investment, yet homeowners, realtors and families can all benefit. The value returned varies, but depending on the project it can significantly increase a home’s worth, aesthetic appeal and comfort level or solve a particular problem.

 

No matter what the home remodeling project is, there are certain steps that need to be taken in order for the project to flow efficiently, while completing it to its fullest extent.

1. Find a Purpose

What’s the point of starting a home remodeling project without finding its purpose first? A project’s purpose gives motive for homeowners and guides the project in the right direction. Before embarking on any remodeling endeavor ask yourself, ‘what do I need and why?’

a.      Increase Value:  Homeowners and realtors may find the need to increase the value of their homes prior to selling. They mightn’t even sell anytime soon, but want to prepare for when that time comes.
b.      Expand Family:  Families may look to grow, but don’t have the funds to move to a larger home or just don’t want to move from their current location. If either are the case, then expanding their current home is a great option.
c.       Solve a Problem:  Some homes may be decrepit and need foundation repair, mold removal services, a new paint job, etc. The purpose and direction of the project depends on what needs fixed.
d.      Increase Comfort:  Many homeowners simply want to increase the comfort of their homes. It’s possible they may have been planning this for some time and finally saved up the funds to start a project.
2.     Prioritize Options

Once you’ve found the purpose of the project, now it’s time to prioritize your options. The purpose helps prioritize the importance and order of what needs to be remodeled or repaired:

a.      Bathroom
b.      Basement
c.       Bedroom
d.      Kitchen

When in doubt, ask yourself, ‘does this relate to the purpose of the project?’ Will a new bathroom addition diffuse the clutter that a new family member will add to the household or will a finished basement actually be utilized enough to weigh the cost of renovating it in the first place?

3.     Schedule an Inspection

Every remodeling project should require an inspection. Whichever area of the house you plan on remodeling, it’s best to search for potential environmental hazards that might come back to damage your project later. Plus, it helps when you create your budget in step 4, since you’ll know what to expect.

a.      Water Damage:  Several homeowners don’t notice the damage that water has on the foundation or interiors of their homes. This could occur through a leak or a crack in the foundation. If you’re looking to remodel your basement, it’s recommended to schedule an inspection first, so cracked or weak concrete won’t ruin the newly remodeled basement later on.
b.      Mold:  If water leaks into an area with little to no ventilation, then mold will form, which is harmful to residents and a home’s environment. It is also difficult to notice since it usually lingers in dark or hard-to-see places, which is why an inspection will take care of this potential problem.

4.     Create a Budget

Homeowners will have a better understanding of how much a project will cost with an inspection because it notifies them of other potential problems they must take care of in the remodeling process. This also determines a project’s feasibility. Once the inspection is performed, it’s time to create a budget.

5.     Set a Deadline (If Needed, but Always Preferred)

Deadlines are helpful for many scenarios; if a project needs completed prior to selling a house, if a bedroom needs added prior to the arrival of a new family member or if a certain problem is on the verge of being an emergency. In either case, speed fixes many problems, plus cuts down on costs in the long run.

6.     Search for Professional Home Remodelers

You have your deadline and budget. Now, it’s time to search for the right home remodeler for the job. This search can be done in several ways and through many medians.

a.      Local Directories: Highly authoritative and curated local directories are great resources for finding local services. Curated directories are important because they are built around the experience of the user, which makes it easier to find relevant services.
b.      Online Search:  We’ve all been there. Go to our favorite search engine, type in a key phrase and abracadabra…hundreds of options of indexed web pages that are ideally ranked to fit the relevance our search query. It almost never fails.
c.       Referrals:  Many small home remodelers acquire much of their work from referrals of past clients. Why? Because if they do a good job, then people will tell their family, friends and coworkers. So, ask around.

7.     Evaluate Options

 

After you narrow your search down to a select few, analyze their skills, certifications and experiences. This can be done through

a.      Reviews of Previous Clients
b.      Awards Earned from Past Projects
c.       Photos of Previous Projects

The more positive reviews, awards or recognitions and proof of quality work a remodeler has, the greater the odds to hire that person will be.

8.     Receive Estimates and Time Frames

The next step is to find out how much each remodeler will charge and how quickly they are likely to complete the project. One might be quick, but may charge more and vice versa.

9.     Compare with Budget and Deadline

Analyze each remodeler’s skills, reviews, certifications, experiences, estimates and speed and compare them to your budget and how quickly you need the project completed. Much thought and evaluation is involved in this step. Each remodeler determines the expectations of how the project’s tasks will be carried out. Based on what you’ve researched and what they’ve told you, you’ll have a general idea of what these expectations are.

10.   Select the One for You!

You’ve come all this way! You found a purpose for your project, prioritized it, inspected your home, created a budget and a deadline, and searched for, evaluated and compared a select number of remodelers. Whew! Now you can make a decision and feel good about it.

 

Any home remodeling project should be carefully handled. These steps are designed to fully prepare you for the difficulties and potential threats typically seen in home projects. The process is long and tedious, but the decision you make will be worth the effort. You’ll have more confidence in the project and have less buyer’s remorse once it’s completed.

 

The installation of a tankless water heater is a good option if you want to lower energy costs and create more space in your basement or garage. The function of a tankless water heater means that water is heated when it needs to be used, which is different than conventional water heaters that keep water constantly heated inside a tank. These on-demand water heaters can help to provide a great upgrade to your house, but setting up and selecting the right one can be difficult, so we created this series of tips to help you through the process.

plumbers-toronto

Plan Ahead
Updating to a tankless water heater should be done before your existing water heater fails. You want to have sufficient time to explore the options available for your home. If your existing tank fails, then the time to find a sufficient tankless water heater is limited, as time is needed to determine the costs of a new water installation and how practical it is to install one in your home.

Many types of tankless water heaters are available for residential installation. The best models for your home will have an Energy Star label. Make sure you are purchasing a qualified model by reviewing all the models that are available. You can do this by viewing an Energy Start product list.

Proper Size

The size of water heaters you need is based on a factor called gallons per minute. This is also known as the flow rate. You will need a tankless water heater that can supply hot water to appliances including a washing machine and dishwasher, while still being able to power a faucet and a shower. The best way to think about this is to take a week and look at what items in your house your family tends to use at the same time. If you feel like two showers and a washing machine are often on at once then a high gallon per minute flow rate may be needed.

Efficiency Comparison

Comparing the efficiency of a tankless water heater is done by checking the Energy Factor for a unit. This is the measure of heat transfer efficiency and heat loss. A unit that has a high Energy Factor will be more efficient than units with a lower Energy Factor and will help you save money on your electricity.

Tankless water heater panel Toronto

Do the Math

Talk to an experienced plumber to determine the proper size of unit for your home. If you are unable to meet with a plumber, then compare a few figures. A shower and bath will normally require 2.5 gallons per minute, a washing machine normally requires 3.3 gallons per minute, and a dishwasher normally requires 1.3 gallons per minute. If you know your incoming water temperature (which is most areas is around 50 degrees) then you can easily calculate what type of temperature increase you will get with different applications in your house needing hot water  at different GPM’s.
Product Rebates

The installation of a tankless water heater in your home may qualify for an tax rebate. You will want to check to see if any rebates or offers are available in your area from Energy Star Partners; however, there are not always rebates available in different areas or for different products.

Additional Information

Review the various brands of tankless water heaters available on the market to find the best one for your home such as Rheem, Eemax, Chronomite and Bosch. There are also a lot of great online resources for more information on tankless water heaters as well.

 

About the Author

Josh is a home improvement and DIY fan who works with PlumberSurplus.com, a great place online to look at tankless water heaters.