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1 year ago

10 tips to completing a successful reno

Designing and completing your own project is always satisfying. But sometimes, time and experience are at a premium and you need outside help. When you do, make sure you know how to manage the project so it is completed the way you want it, on time and within budget.

1. Start before you think youre starting. Avoid delays caused by waiting for a new sink to arrive or a back-ordered style of tile; buy key products and materials early, so theyre onsite when you need them. You should pick out the paint, hardware and tiles well in advance of the actual start of the project. Save money by taking advantage of contractor discounts on appliances and accessories, and watch out for sales or promotions.

2. Know your contractor(s). Check their references and ask questions of potential contractors. Are they licensed? Insured? How long have they been in business? Check the Better Business Bureau. Have there been any complaints against them? Were they resolved? Dont be intimidated by contractors. You are the client, and you need the job completed to your satisfaction. If theyre slow, uncompromising or offer poor workmanship, challenge them and get what youre paying for. Also, make sure you understand the basics of tiling, electrical, plumbing and drywalling. You dont have to be an expert, but make sure you know what good workmanship looks like. Understand the local building codes and, above all, get the work inspected before paying the bill.

3. Establish and stick to your budget. Make sure your contract is clear and inclusive. Dont rely on general statements about the cost of labour or materials. Have everything written out specifically so you wont be disappointed later. Beware of up-charges. Some contractors may tell you the job has become more complicated or they underestimated materials. Make sure it is clear from the beginning how these situations will be managed.

4. Establish clear and reasonable timelines. Build delays into your schedule so you wont be disappointed. Then, if everything goes according to plan, you will be pleased you were done early. Bonus!

5. Manage the subtrades. This task is your biggest challenge. Stay on top of whos coming and when. Be prepared to act quickly if someone fails to show or is behind on work. One contractor who can provide several services will make your job of coordinating much easier.

6. Expect the unexpected. Sometimes, what you want out of a project will differ from a contractors vision. Dont presume they always understand what you want. If things are going differently than planned, be prepared to act fast to solve the issue. On a recent renovation, I hired a tiler to do the front foyer. I told him to lay the tile according to the manufacturers prescribed random pattern. Later, when I inspected, I found he had done it randomly, but nothing like what I wanted. I spent the evening ripping out the tiles and cleaning them so he could redo the job the next day.

7. Communicate often and clearly. Make your expectations knowncheck on the progress of the job regularly. Watch the work closely, but dont get in the way. Daily meetings to discuss progress and timing will keep the project on course.

8. Minimize the impact. With any renovation, dirt and dust will be bothersome. Plastic is your best friend. Cover everything and keep it covered. Make sure the contractor cleans up the site daily. If doing a kitchen or bathroom renovation, design and install a temporary kitchen or bathroom nearby, so you can function while the job progresses.

9. Be flexible but know your must haves. You must design the basic project at the start, but be prepared to modify it. One guarantee is that as the job progresses, things will change and you will have to make compromises. Have a clear idea of what must be part of the finished product and what you might give up.

10. Make sure youre a priority. Contractors often have several clients on the go at the same time. Make sure you know what other commitments they have and ensure they understand your timelines and priorities. If things start to lag, remind them of your drop-dead completion date. And, it doesnt hurt to bring your contractor the odd cup of joeto help things along.

1 year ago

Hot tools 2013

By Canadian Home Workshop

The hottest new tool for the shop in the early 1980s was probably a power bar so you could have many power tools plugged in at oncenot to mention the wizardry of the (gasp!) surge protector. Fast-forward to today and youll find the trend has gone in the opposite direction. Cordless anything and everything (even a wine corkscrew) is at the top of many home workshoppers need it list. And dont let the tools on our list that arent battery-powered fool you; even the analog chisels and painters tape are as technologically advanced as the cordless wonders of 2013.

1 year ago

Build a rustic bench

This lovely little bench suits any decor, indoors or out. Choose a paint colour to make it lively and hot, like this one, or a deep, rich colour; even black will give this bench a handsome appearance. It is a great starter project for novice woodworkers, and more advanced craftsmen can build it in an easy afternoon. This bench has a very straightforward design and no difficult joinery is necessary. You need to be careful with the circular cuts, but practicing on scrap will help you gain the necessary skill. The material is all off-the-shelf, 34-thick laminated solid pine from a home-improvement store. I finished it with exterior latex semi-gloss paint.


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1 year ago

Hidden heat: Build a radiator cover with storage

By Michel Roy

Photo by Roger Yip

Getting started

Building a simple radiator cover gets you two home improvements in one. A radiator cover hides a big, utilitarian device in a more aesthetically pleasing package and the flat top gives you a little extra storage or display space.

You can build this simple rad cover using off-the-rack lumber and easy joinery. For the front frame, you need 1x4 poplar or pine. Cut the top and sides from 34"-thick medium-density fibreboard (MDF) shelving stock or similar sheet materials ripped to size. The steel mesh comes in many decorative patterns. I found mine at Metal Supermarkets (, where they even cut the product to size for me.

To begin, figure out how big your radiator cover needs to be. Measure the height of the radiator, its projection from the wall and its length. A rad is typically higher on one end than the other, so be sure to get the highest measurement. Also, be aware of how the water pipes feed into the radiator. If you want to conceal the pipes inside the cover, you need to include them in the length measurement. Next, add 1" to the height and depth measurements, and 2" to the length measurement. These figures give you the inside dimensions of the rad cover, leaving 1" of clearance on all sides of the radiator.

There is only one critical detail to remember when making your design: the front face frame overlaps the edges of the side pieces. That is, the sides are butted to the rear faces of the front face frame. If you are using 3/4"-thick stock for the sides, make sure to add an extra 1 1/2" to the length of the overall front face frame.

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1 year ago

Stylish workboot options

By Tara Nolan

The newest workboots look more like high-end hikers than their steel-toed, camel-hued cousins. But they have more going on than their good looksimportant features such as comfort, protection and durability.


CSA Greenpatch

Lightweight and slip-resistant, the Blundstone CSA Greenpatch steel-toe workboot is easy to pull on and off. The breathable leather uppers will mould and stretch to the width and tops of your feet, keeping them comfortable whether youre working indoors or out.

Price: $190

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CT Lo-Cut Amherst

Dont let this shoes looks deceive you. The Wolverine CT Lo-Cut Amherst CSA may look like a trail runner, but the mesh uppers and rubber outsoles conceal cement construction, protective fabric plates and non-metallic toes. Theyre also oil- and slip-resistant

Price: $150

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Red Wing


If you or your kids snowboard, you may be familiar with the unique lacing system on the modern-looking Red Wing Workboots. They use the Boa closure system, which is supposed to allow the laces to put equal pressure around the foot.

Price: $210

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PRO Helix

The Timberland PRO Helix workboots feature the TiTAN safety toe, a lot of traction, and anti-fatigue technology that acts as a shock absorber. These lightweight, leather beauts also are waterproof.

Prince: $210

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