Bang On: President's Column

Amenities constantly change with high-rises

  • Written by Sue Wastell

The main reasons for a move to high-rise homeownership are usually convenience and location. But amenities also play a major role in choice and could be the deciding factor between different buildings.

Understanding the importance of amenities keeps builders and developers constantly researching wish lists of features.

Thirty years ago it was card rooms for bridge tournaments and poker games. In the early days of the internet, business centres with computers that could go online were the hot ticket.

Those areas have now made way for many new features to try to stay relevant with the changing needs and desires of residents, including the following:

  • Yoga studios:Sometimes with pre-arranged weekly sessions.
  • Pet areas:Considerable thought and planning have gone into understanding the needs of not only pet owners but also pets. No time to go to the local park? No worries — some buildings feature outdoor dog runs, including fountains for pets to drink from. Indoor pet washing areas can be a major convenience rather than having to use a bathtub in a unit. All manner of accommodations are being made.
  • Fitness and aquatic centres:Along with an outdoor terrace and a gym, a desired amenity has always been a pool. The pool space might now also include men’s and women’s changing rooms, steam rooms and sauna.
  • Holistic wellness areas:These might accommodate physical or massage therapists who come directly to residents.
  • Covered porte cochere:No one wants to get out of their car in the rain or snow and have to make a run for the front door. Some building designs now include covered areas where residents can load or unload a car.
  • Underground parking:Security and convenience are factors here, especially in poor weather. We’re seeing garages include electric car charging stations for residents.
  • Food delivery:Toronto’s new Line 5 condo building has incorporated a dedicated lane out front for Uber and food delivery vehicles. If you’re running a few minutes late getting home, the building also provides a hot and cold storage area where the building concierge will accept pre-paid grocery and takeout orders.
  • Social spaces:Apartment living can sometimes feel like a lonely place where you don’t have many opportunities to interact with your neighbours. Today you can work from home, have food and shopping delivered and never need to leave the house. But people are now realizing the value of social interaction and we’re seeing spaces such as group kitchens, where you can have a large group over for dinner or hire in a chef and have a cooking class. Theatre rooms, games rooms, craft and hobby rooms and children’s playrooms are all popular.
  • Ceiling heights:Natural light, increased ceiling heights and oversized windows continue to be a must-have amenity for many.
  • Technology:It’s gone beyond having advanced fibre optics in the building. Condo developers are incorporating smart-home technologies that allow their homeowners to control lighting, temperature and electronics using their tablet or smartphone, even if they’re not home.
  • Guest suite:Can’t fit your overnight guests into your own apartment? Guest suites available for rent by residents are great at allowing your guests to stay close by in a hotel-type setting. They can also be an income-generator, which can help the condo association keep condo fees in check.

So it seems high-rise living can provide more than just a view.

Sue Wastell is the president of the London Home Builders' Association and Owner of Wastell Homes in London.     

Lots of decisions to make with paint: type, colour, finish

  • Written by Sue Wastell

Whether you’re building a new home or renovating a room, choosing paint can become a larger task than one might think.

Not all paints are created equal. Price usually is an indication of the quality. Good quality paint contains less water, more solids and a finer quality of titanium oxide and resin. These attributes mean more colour ends up on the wall, it maintains its look longer and provides a more durable surface. This can also mean less labour and less coats of paint to get a solid look.

The two most common types of paint are water borne and oil based. Water borne include latex, or acrylic-based paint. Oil based paints were thought to wear better, however, modern latex and acrylic paints have become almost as durable with less fumes, less yellowing and easier clean up with water instead of solvents.

More environmentally friendly paints with fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are available from all manufacturers. VOC content regulations were developed to help reduce emissions that produce smog and the formation of ground ozone. VOCs can cause skin and eye irritation, headaches, and respiratory distress in some people. If you want to tint the paint, ask about the VOCs in the colourant. Many colourants contain VOCs, which will defeat having chosen a low-VOC or no-VOC paint.

Sheen is something to consider when looking at finishes. In high traffic areas, you want a finish which can be wiped clean and is easy to touch up without repainting the entire wall. Eggshell finishes are a good choice in high traffic areas, as they have almost no sheen and are easier to clean than a flat finish.

Re-painting a white ceiling can be tricky, because it is difficult to see where you have painted or where you might have missed painting. Some ceiling paints appear to have a colour, such as pink, when they go on, but lose the colour when they dry.

If you are struggling to decide what colour to choose, there are tools on paint manufacturers’ websites that can help. They post their colour trends for the year, highlighting the top colour pallets their designers have put together.

There also is a colour quiz, where you answer a few questions about your personality and how you live and you will get a personalized palette for all design elements of your room.

You can upload a picture of the room you want to paint and many programs will show you what that room will look like in any colour you choose.

These tools and others help take the guesswork out of painting.

My final tip comes from Paul Guenette, owner of London CertaPro Painters franchise, who says “it is still important to see how paint swatches look in your home before making the final decision. The same colour applied to all of the walls in the same room may appear very different during daylight or with interior lighting at night.”

New paint can change the mood and look of any room in an instant.

Sue Wastell is the president of the London Home Builders' Association and Owner of Wastell Homes in London.     

Garage door options wide open

  • Written by Sue Wastell

When it is time to replace your old garage door or to select one for your new home, you will be amazed at the choices. The variety has exploded during the last few years with doors to meet your needs, your price point, and your exterior elevation, all consideration when shopping for a new door.

The most common type of residential garage door is a sectional door, which has horizontal panels hinged together and fitted with rollers. The rollers ride on two parallel tracks. Lifting the door is achieved using a chain, belt, screw or direct drive system. Most door styles operate manually, where you can lift the door or a garage door opener can be wired to include an outdoor keypad, which mounts to allow access from outside. A new feature we are seeing on many garage door openers is one that will alert you if you leave your garage door open.

There also are options to include glass panels in the door in styles from traditional to contemporary. There are even carriage house style doors available in a sectional door made to look like they are swing style doors.

Construction materials vary including steel, aluminum, wood, wood composites, fiberglass, vinyl and glass, all with different durability and price points.

Steel doors: The best steel garage doors are made of two layers of galvanized steel, the surface of which is either primed and painted with a tough topcoat finish or clad with a composite material. Steel doors can be painted to match your home and are available with or without insulation. Insulated doors have cores of rigid polystyrene or polyurethane foam insulation, which helps keep the garage warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. The downside of steel doors is that they can be dented.

Vinyl doors: Vinyl garage doors are promoted as being kid-proof, because they are difficult to dent or break. Typically built on steel frames, these too are filled with polyurethane insulation. Vinyl doors look similar to fiberglass doors but are available in fewer colours. They are durable and require little maintenance.

Fiberglass doors: Doors made from fiberglass are less prone to denting or cracking. They do not rust, but can break upon impact so you don’t want to be shooting a hockey puck at these doors. Two layers of fiberglass are typically bonded to a steel frame and filled with polyurethane insulation. Steel end caps help improve rigidity.

Aluminum frame doors: New modern home elevations are booming with aluminum frame garage doors fitted with aluminum panels that eliminate the problem of rust, but are easier to dent. They are available in contemporary brushed finishes, as well as in many colours. Translucent glass panels may be used in place of aluminum panels, which allow light in without compromising privacy or security.

Wood composite doors: In our climate a solid wood door is not a great choice due to expansion and contraction of solid wood. Composite garage doors are a better choice and typically have a wood frame covered with sheets of fiberboard. Better models offer higher-density fiberboard skins and include realistic details, such as overlays and grooves to simulate a real wood door.

Sue Wastell is the president of the London Home Builders' Association and Owner of Wastell Homes in London.     

Preventative maintenance cheaper than repairs

  • Written by Sue Wastell

It is time to get your home prepped for fall and winter. Finishing up the last remaining maintenance projects and tending to the yard and gardens is something we all are accustomed to doing. But let’s look at a few items that are just as important, and can easily be overlooked.

Window and doors, if not properly working, can allow for unwanted cooler air to find it’s way inside. Check your caulking and weather stripping. You can check door seals by closing your door on a piece of paper. If you easily can slide the paper back and forth, you may want to change the weather stripping.

Clean windows can help maximize light into the house.

Change out your traditional incandescent light bulbs to an energy efficient bulb to have increased light and save some money at the same time.

Safety proof your home by changing batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors. Also look at the expiry date on those detectors as most have a lifespan of eight to 10 years. Ensure your family reviews a fire escape plan, or create one if you don’t have it.

Driveway and sidewalk cracks are best repaired before the deep freeze of winter arrives. If water penetrates these cracks and freezes, in the spring when it thaws, you will find those cracks have grown due to the expansion of the water getting in.

When’s the last time you looked into your attic to check your insulation? Blown in insulation should be evenly distributed throughout the attic in order to keep heat inside and have lower energy bills. Top up or add insulation as needed.

Change your furnace filter. This is one item that should not be missed. By replacing the filter every three months, you keep the air in your home cleaner and extend the life of your furnace. Fall also is a good time to get your yearly inspection done on your furnace.

Drain outside faucets and hose bibs. Shut off those pipes from inside the house and then open the taps to make sure the lines are fully drained.

Test your sump pump to make sure it’s operating well. Sometimes seals dry out and you don’t want to wait until a big rain to find out the pump isn’t working. Test your pump by filling the pit with water until the float rises up and the pump turns on. If you find the pump isn’t turning on, check that the unit is securely plugged in, that there isn’t any debris preventing the float from rising, or have a plumber check it out.

Preventative maintenance always pays off.

Sue Wastell is the President of the London Home Builders’ Association and Owner of Wastell Homes in London.

Reno or new build clients often have similar 'wants'

  • Written by Sue Wastell

When a client comes to a home builder, it is usually because they have a housing need or want that is not fulfilled by what is available in houses for sale.

As builders, renovators and designers, we listen to every requirement and dream they want incorporated into their new space. Those “wants,” we find, are items we have seen over and over.

According to Avid Ratings research, here are the top 10 items homeowners feel are the most important in their new spaces:

1. Walk-in closets: They’re not just for master bedrooms. We find people value storage spaces more and more. Front hall and mudroom closets and pantries in their kitchen are among the highest priorities.

2. High-efficiency windows: Today’s windows have increased insulation, protect items inside your home from fading and can soften noise from the outside.

3. Overall energy efficiency: Many items can help decrease energy and resources use in a home. LED light bulbs, low-flow toilets and showerheads, tankless water heaters and programmable thermostats are just a few.

4. Kitchen island: It provides storage, appliance integration, prep space, even a homework station. Start with what you want your island to do for your family. Most have a dual use, with one side for prep and cooking and the other for seating. Working with a good cabinet designer is a huge benefit. They will look at your space allowances and maximize your island’s capabilities.

5. Energy-efficient appliances: New appliances allow you to save money by using less electricity. Programmable dishwashers allow cycles to run during off-peak hours during the night. These benefits cut down the use of fossil fuels and help control pollution levels.

6. Linen closets: When you think of all the towels, sheets, comforters, extra pillows and blankets you have, the space they require can add up quickly. With space efficiencies becoming more common in home plans, this is one area that should not be overlooked.

7. Open concept kitchens: Gone are the days of a kitchen separated from the living space. People are entertaining more and want to make their home flow easily from one space to another. Open concept also works well as square footage of homes shifts downward to reduce costs. Parties often end up in the kitchen, and having light and views extend from one space to another allows cohesion between spaces.

8. Green certification: Ontario has different certifications to elevate your home’s energy efficiency. These programs allow for healthier indoor living and lower energy consumption.

9. Large windows: Customers want larger windows to bring the outdoors inside while also allowing more fresh air and air circulation inside. Light also combats the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

10. HRV-ERV air exchange: A heat recovery ventilator is used to exchange the air within your home. New homes are built fairly airtight these days, and in order to keep the indoor air quality at its best, an HRV is used to exchange stale air inside your home with filtered fresh air from outside, all while maintaining efficiency in air conditioning or heating that air with an energy recovery ventilator (ERV).

Sue Wastell is the president of the London Home Builders' Association and Owner of Wastell Homes in London.     

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