Bang On: President's Column

Renovating? Get the details in writing

  • Written by Peder Madsen

Homeowners often ask me whether it is better to renovate their existing home or make the move to build a brand new home. My answer is, it is a personal decision that depends on a lot of factors.

My recommendation is to check out both and when you understand what is required, the costs, effort and time involved, then you can weigh the information and decide which is the best choice for your family.

To garner information on the possibility of renovating, the first step is to contact two or three qualified renovators to discuss your ideas, goals and possible options. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of hiring a Professional RenoMark renovator. The RenoMark designation, ensures that the renovator is a member of a home builders’ association and that they conduct business under a specific code of conduct and adhere to specific requirements. For more information visit

Below are tips on the steps in the renovation process. Next week there will be advice on the process of building a new home.

A renovation can be as simple as a bathroom overhaul or as complex as a major addition or a whole house makeover. Whether large or small, all renovations must be carefully planned so the end result is what you envision and desire.

To start, make your “need to have” and “want to have” lists. If multiple options have been priced or if scaling back the project is necessary, these lists will help you make an informed decision on prioritizing where to best spend your money.

The next step is to decide on a design concept, on which drawings can then be prepared. If you find it difficult to visualize a project from two dimensional plans, ask your renovator about three dimensional which would allow you to view the space from any angle; almost like a virtual walk-through.

At the end of the design phase you will have a set of plans that will allow you to obtain firm pricing for the project. Specifications for products and finishes will have been finalized at this point and will be part of the design documents. Your contractor will prepare a written Contract that will refer to the design plans and specifications and include additional information required such as payment terms, timelines, proof of insurance etc.

I can’t stress enough a caution to avoid the temptation of saving a few dollars by hiring a contractor who wants to work for cash and without a Contract. If you do so, there is a very high risk that work could be substandard or unsafe leaving you with significant financial and liability issues. Without a written contract, you are vulnerable without any recourse.

In some instances decisions on the final interior finishes might not be finalized at the time of Contract signing. Including realistic allowances in the Contract will give you more time to make these important choices and your renovation can get underway sooner.

Inevitably during the renovation process changes are made. At the time of construction many of these changes can be easily made at little or no cost. This is one reason it is important to keep an open dialogue between yourself and your renovator during the construction process.

Understanding the process of renovation will help you now to explore options for building new and ultimately in making the best decision for your future housing needs!

Peder Madsen is the president of the London Home Builders' Association and Vice President of CCR Building and Remodeling in London.     

Winter stark canvas perfect to redraw yard

  • Written by Peder Madsen

At first you might think that landscaping isn’t a winter topic, but with everything blanketed in fluffy white, you truly have a blank slate to let loose your imagination on. Plus you can never have too much time for planning.

Outdoor living has taken on increased importance in our lives, as we seek out more ways to relax and entertain in our homes. Whether you are building new or renovating, now is the perfect planning time to align your inside and outside living.

When you buy a brand new home, you have a unique opportunity to ensure the locations of windows and doors to maximize view and flow between inside rooms and decks. Walkways and driveways can be designed to enhance important curb appeal and developing your landscaping from the very beginning, allows you to add beauty to your home, street, and community, as well as creating your own personal outdoor living environment.More than ever, builders are paying attention to the natural environment, carefully preserving trees and natural growth whenever possible. Green spaces and attractive landscaping of common areas are integral in larger community developments.

Some builders offer options for patios, built structures and plantings and to work with a landscape specialist, allowing you to complete the full look of your home and enjoy all of the benefits of your purchase immediately. There is a lot to think about when you begin your landscaping from scratch, whether you work with your builder, a landscaping specialist, or do it on your own. Developing a full vision of your entire outdoor space, complete with your wish list of everything you have always wanted, from decks and gardens to waterfalls and an outdoor kitchen is essential. Once you have the complete picture, then you can assess what you want to take on right away, and what you might want to phase in over time. Doing the big plan now also helps to avoid costly re-locations of gardens or decks later or the disappointment of having a door or window in the wrong spot.
Creating a great landscape is a little like magic-you want to enjoy the results and not be aware of how it was done. Outdoor lights should be invisible, but show plants off to their full advantage. A mix of annuals and perennials will provide an ever-changing symphony of colours, textures and ambience. Waterfalls should look and sound natural with hardware hidden from sight.
Maintenance is no longer a big concern for water features, with biological ponds, automatic skimmers and remote controls. But you need to be realistic about the amount of upkeep you want or are able to do. The use of low-maintenance lawns, in-ground edging, native plant species, ground covers and mulch all help to reduce mowing, watering and weeding.

Soil preparation and water control, particularly drainage, are crucial. Ask your builder about the soil type, landfill, foundation height and backfill around the house. Drainage patterns have been approved by the municipality and MUST be maintained to ensure that any runoff doesn’t create problems for neighbours or in other areas of your lot.

Other considerations to be included are:
- electrical cables for lights and transformers
- water lines for ponds or irrigation
- gas lines for a heater, barbecue or outdoor oven
- drainage from eavestroughs and downspouts

Lastly consider where you need shade versus sun. Gazebos can be built in any shape you can dream of, using a variety of low maintenance materials. Colourful awnings or sun-sails can also be used to make connections with decks and patios.

Landscaping is an integral part to maximizing the enjoyment of your home – don’t rush it!

Peder Madsen is the president of the London Home Builders' Association and Vice President of CCR Building and Remodeling in London.

Take steps to avoid ice dams and leaks

  • Written by Peder Madsen

While some people welcome our Canadian winter as a wonderland, many dread the effort needed to maintain your car and home and to stay warm and safe. If you haven’t already had the joyful experience an ice dam, then take a few minutes now to learn how to avoid one. It is not an item for anyone’s bucket list.

Have you ever driven by a house where the snow seems to be in panels every 16” or so? This is a clear indication of heat loss into the attic as it melts the snow between the trusses or rafters. If that house, is your house, then you should take special note of the info below. To explain, ice dams are large masses of ice that collect in gutters or on the lower edge of a roof. They usually occur when a significant depth of snow accumulates on the roof. If the attic temperature is above freezing, it warms the roof sheathing, which melts the snow lying on the shingles under the snow. This water runs down the roof to the overhang, which is not warmed by the attic. The water freezes on the roof starting the ice dam. As more melting snow (or rain) runs down the roof, it meets the ice and backs up, sometimes under the shingles and into the attic or the house. Most people don’t realize this is happening until drywall, carpet or furniture are damaged.

What to do? First, inspect the attic to determine the point of penetration. Attics can be tricky to navigate and evidence of water may not be obvious. Water can run along the attic floor a distance before coming through the ceiling, making it very difficult to determine it’s entry point.

Obvious areas such as chimneys, plumbing vents, and attic vents – anything that penetrates the roof sheathing – should be inspected first. If the sheathing (either boards, plywood, or composite board) along the lower edge of the roof is soaked and you can see a corresponding accumulation of ice on top of the roof, ice damming is occurring. This means that water is backing up under the shingles. Shingles are designed only to shed water running down, not up.

Your inspection may find that leakage is not the problem: the whole attic or part of it may be dripping with condensation or covered with frost.
Attic condensation and ice damming are related. Both can be caused by warm, moist air escaping from the house into the attic. You need good air sealing and insulation, to keep the attic cool and dry, and not cause snow to melt on the roof.

Increasing attic insulation is the most obvious fix. Fiberglass batt or blown-in insulation are easily added. Proper ventilation is also critical. Adequately sized vents on the roof and at the soffits with a clear unblocked airway between the two, will allow cool dry air to be drawn into the attic and warm moist air to be expelled.

One further step is needed, to reduce the amount of moist warm air leaking into the attic by ensuring:
- bathroom exhaust fans vent to the exterior and not into the attic
- potlights in the top ceiling are insulated sealed fixtures
- sealing around plumbing stacks, chimneys and electrical wires that pass through the attic floor
- sealing where partition or bearing walls meet the ceiling; around the house perimeter where the attic floor meets the outside walls
- insulating and sealing above pocket doors
- and have a professional ensure heating / air conditioning ducts or equipment in the attic are properly insulated and sealed.

A blower door test can locate less obvious air leaks by pressurizing the house with a big fan that amplifies leakage. Searching the attic at night for lights from below can also be helpful. Holes should be blocked and sealed.

For houses with complicated roofs or cathedral ceilings, electric heating cables, which will melt channels in the ice, can be considered.

Peder Madsen is the president of the London Home Builders' Association and Vice President of CCR Building and Remodeling in London.


Ode to a career in construction

  • Written by Peder Madsen

After catching up on some popular shows during the holidays, I noticed that many are focusing on aspects of public service as our main local heroes. It made me wonder what a show would be like, that focuses on society’s often unsung heroes…….from construction…

Imagine a girl or boy in school, being encouraged by their parents to use their math and science skills to take on the journey of becoming a lawyer, accountant, or doctor. But they have a different passion and the will to become it, so, they push towards shop class against the pressures of home and school. They luckily find a teacher with a similar passion who embraces the student’s drive and shows them the ropes.

We are fortunate to have such passionate teachers who understand the career opportunities within the trades. These educators are paramount to the success of students interested in the creative nature of construction, as well as the future well-being of our industry and city/country.

The student now takes their new skills and joins the ranks of a local contractor where they further their learning, all while taking extra courses to digest more info on architecture and engineering. They learn the essentials on-site of how to build responsibly, by an entrepreneur who works closely with government to further standard practices on how we construct homes and public buildings in our city and in Canada. They have the opportunity to stick close to the roots of the profession, while also learning the fundamentals within the more studious book work of drafting and material selection.

Along this road, the student (now a trades person) is privileged to meet many building inspectors. Although these officials do not don capes while keeping their city safe, they conduct a most important task of ensuring that all buildings are erected equally in accordance to code, which requires an ever-evolving understanding in a world of continual regulation change.

Although trades and inspectors are not always praised for the durability of their work, they take pride in knowing the buildings and homes they contribute to will remain a testament to great craftsmanship for years to come due to their longevity.

Sometimes, heroes go unnoticed, and often that is because there is no need for action as they have already done the job so well.

Essential though is the role of the homeowner who calls on this team in the first place. Despite the opportunity to hire their cousin to save on tax, in this show, the homeowner understands the value / comfort of hiring true professionals who have a high regard for detail and durability. The value, sound sleep for years after the work is completed, is achieved, all thanks to placing their initial trust in the hard work of the dedicated team of trades and city officials.

Without homeowners and businesses that call on our industry, we wouldn’t have the steam to power through and develop new technologies.

Speaking of technologies, we need to recognize the scientists who craft the tools and materials, that allow our heroes to get the job done. Working closely with regulators and trades people they create great new technologies, products and methods that we may take for granted. Thanks to these efforts, Canada can boast some of the world’s most efficient homes being built on it’s soil.

It's a realistic show, strangely similar to my own journey, along which I have met great people and benefitted from working with intelligent trades. Some entrepreneurs pursue leadership roles within our communities and beyond and many trades, myself included, remain teachers because of the love we have for our chosen craft.

For those who are a part of the construction journey or are thinking of joining, my imagined show isn’t fictional, it’s a path well worth the trek.

Peder Madsen is the president of the London Home Builders' Association and Vice President of CCR Building and Remodeling in London.     

High-tech devices top my list of home needs

  • Written by Peder Madsen

Need it? Want it? Does it matter which? This was a caption on an ad for a shopping mall in a Las Vegas Luxury Living magazine that a friend recently brought home for me. Appropriate little sound bite when you think of the flash that is typical of Las Vegas. But it made me think of the difference in values when a couple are looking for a new home or looking to renovate. Is it a stretch to get that from the caption? What would you have thought if I hadn’t revealed its origin?

I have seen it play out many times with clients and friends and yes personally.

I see great value in the building science of construction – how to build the best energy efficient wall that can’t be penetrated by water, or any of the new environmentally friendly building materials just newly available. However, if it came down to making choices with my wife and keeping within a budget, well I might not get all the technology bells and whistles that I think I need.
For the tech nerds out there, here are just a few of the new products that emerging technologies are bringing us:

• A variety of different insulation and weatherization materials that have zero ozone depletion potential, are moisture resistant, durable, include recycled content, absorb sound and are energy efficient
• All–in-one Geothermal systems that provide heating through forced air and radiant infloor hydronic applications, central air conditioning, and
domestic hot water production in one convenient small unit
• Thermostats that have bright touch screens for easy use by homeowners that default to a screen saver that complements your home decor when not in use or can be used as a digital picture frame. Or, the very latest thermostats that can connect with a home’s wireless network allowing the homeowner control from anywhere in the world; they can also display live weather alerts and forecasts.
• New space saving products specifically designed for new smaller homes – combined tankless water heaters that provide both heat for the furnace and as well as on demand hot water - tiny yet powerful units.
• Weatherproof roof vents that outsmart Mother Nature using internal baffles that deflect water and snow and prevent moisture from getting into the attic
• Green drywall that actively helps clean the air by capturing formaldehyde or other aldehydes (VOCs) that safely remain within the board while providing enhanced protection against moisture and mould.
• Triple glazed windows that block out road and exterior noise for a quiet peaceful environment – some are even self-cleaning!
• Photovoltaic solar systems, panels and now shingles, that collect and convert sunlight into electricity and are either tied into the electrical grid or to provide self-sufficient electricity for the home.
• Appliances that are smarter than ever before with simple programs on smartphones allowing users to monitor energy rates and consumption of their fridge, stove and laundry appliances.
• Programmable systems to customize your lighting, window coverings or appliances to turn on and off in anticipation of your every need. Even countertops are becoming high-tech, with some having wireless cell charging capability seamlessly embedded. Imagine just placing your phone on the counter to have it charged!
Home automation is also right on our doorsteps. Predictions for this industry are a baffling $14 billion in worldwide revenues by 2018. At the moment, cable and security companies drive this industry, but we are seeing this shift to a wider and more diverse range of companies interested in selling us new technology for all areas of the home.

Can you see how these could top my list of needs?

Peder Madsen is the president of the London Home Builders' Association and Vice President of CCR Building and Remodeling in London.

Marry form, function for timeless kitchen

  • Written by Peder Madsen


Kitchens, long referred to as the Heart-of-the-Home can be designed with the latest trends in mind but still with longevity in mind.
Sentiment – because it is the heart of the home with lots of use for family as well as company, who doesn’t want their kitchen to be stylish and on trend – but as a kitchen re-do can be a significant investment, whatever you do needs to have longevity.

Here are a few trends that are timeless and align perfectly with todays informal dining and entertaining:

• Open layouts enhance personal connections helping to balance the on-line nature of many of our work lives;

• Ceilings are often overlooked for their design potential; but with a little imagination and some moldings they can become an important tool in defining areas in open concept combinations spaces.

• Clean horizontal lines with smooth cabinet fronts, less moldings and extra details creates a calm backdrop for family life.

• Fewer upper cabinets can be balanced with open shelving to lighten the look and provide visual interest with dishes or unique art pieces; even removing upper cabinet doors can brighten the look;

• White cabinets will never go out of style. You’re more likely to grow tired of bold hues on major surfaces, so stick with accessories you can easily change for a totally new look.

• Invisible appliances include under the counter microwaves and top loading microwave drawers which incorporate universal accessibility design principles. Tired of seeing the refrigerator protruding? With paneling to match cabinets, refrigerators can be magically transformed for a seamless look. Tired of the maintenance of stainless steel? Although it’s popularity still outranks all other finishes, stay tuned to see what impact the new smudge-proof and ‘black’ finishes are going to have.

• Countertops are available in unlimited colours and patterns; if you want durability along with a shimmering surface, Quartz should be your choice.

• The sparkle provided by plumbing and hardware finishes come and go – brassy looking gold in and gone, satin gold is coming in – but shiny silver lives on forever. Incorporate polished chrome or nickel into hardware, faucets, shelf brackets and more for an upscale accent that endures.

Focusing on the function of the kitchen, you can’t go wrong with:

• LED lighting has lost its harshness with new lights being softer, even more efficient and longer lasting than halogen and fluorescents. Personally, I’m glad to see those ugly curly light bulbs gone! LEDs can illuminate a toe-kick, perk up an island, or brighten the work space beneath cabinetry.

• Single level islands increase the intimacy of a kitchen and provide valuable prep space. Gone is the concept that two levels will actually allow you to hide some of the clutter and mess.

• Deep drawers – you can never have too many! By the stove for fast access for pots and pans, by the dishwasher for quick unloading of dishes or add readily available organizers to keep things in place and maximize effortless storage.

• Sinks also come in a variety of sizes, styles and materials. Over sized single sink models accommodate large pots and pans or other items that require handwashing. But think about what you need before you decide.

When planning your kitchen, remember to incorporate functionality and durability and hopefully the above hints will help you design a stylish environment that has longevity!

Twenty years ago, kitchen cabinets were considered well equipped when there was a lazy Susan or a built-in spice rack. Today there are many storage options, from pullout shelves, multi-layer cutlery drawers, narrow spaces that otherwise have false cabinet fronts (example - in front of the sink), pull outs from the kick plate under the cabinets or customized narrow spaces for cookie sheets and large platters.

You can create whatever fits your personal style!

Peder Madsen is the president of the London Home Builders' Association and vice president of CCR Building and Remodeling Inc. in London.


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