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Helpful information for homeowners

The Complete Heating Efficiencies Guide

Heating and heat efficient systems are more than just considerations in modern life. It is pretty primal, right? The discovery of "fire," our first heating system not counting the sun itself, was the key to our survival after all. But, translated to the 21st Century, the world of heating, or more accurately of environmental controls all year round have become a more precise concern. Today, more than ever, we're concerned with how energy efficient our heating systems are. What with global energy becoming more and more of an issue on so many fronts, this makes sense. But when it comes to heating and energy efficiency at home, we're thinking about our pocketbooks, and about how to get the most out of our heating dollar.


Green Homes Are Here to Stay as Demand for Energy Efficiency Increases

The hottest trend in home design is not limited to wow-factor kitchens, master-suite bathrooms with soaking tubs or the family-friendly great room. Instead, a solid trend in home design is one where homes are built with energy efficiency and sustainable materials in mind.


Just Two Minisplits Heat and Cool the Whole House

Carter Scott was one of the first builders bold enough to build a cold-climate home heated by only two ductless minisplit units (one in the downstairs living room, and one in the upstairs hallway). Skeptics predicted that the unheated bedrooms would be cold and uncomfortable. Yet Scott was confident that the home's excellent thermal envelope -- with high-R walls, triple-glazed windows, and low levels of air leakage -- would keep the homeowners comfortable even when the bedroom doors were closed.


6 Celebrities with Deep Green Homes

Not every celebrity-owned property with energy- and water-saving features also suffers from inflated square footage syndrome. In recent years, many famous folk have built or remodeled homes that are decidedly more modest in size. Here are six inspiring and intriguing celebrity homes that boast some serious eco-credentials without the egregiously excessive square footage.


The Family Home: Going Greener

Families often get a bad rap when it comes to the environment. Our homes are usually larger, which uses more energy, our cars are bigger and require more fuel, and we create more waste. My children's homework folders alone would fill a landfill if we didn't recycle. Regardless of all this, there are simple things we can do around our homes to make them a little more green.


A Net Zero Energy Home

You can take any house all the way to net zero just by giving it enough on-site power production (photovoltaics, wind, hydropower...), but that's not the most effective way to achieve the goal of net zero energy use. First, you want to make the house really efficient.


Resilient Design: Passive Solar Heat

A resilient home is extremely well insulated so that it can be kept warm with very little supplemental heat -- and if power or heating fuel is lost, there won't be risk of homeowners getting dangerously cold or their pipes freezing. If we design and orient the house in such a way that natural heating from the sun can occur, we add to that resilience and further reduce the risk of the house getting too cold in the winter.


10 Easy Energy Saving Tips for Lowering Your Energy Bill

Opening your power bill every month can be a frightening experience. It seems that with every month that passes by, the energy use in your home increases resulting in higher bills for you to pay. If your home isn't operating as efficiently as it was designed to, then your home could be producing more energy than what is required in order to properly heat or cool your home. Below are ten simple tips you can follow to start lowering your energy bills today.


Home Dehumidifying the Energy Efficient Way

Using a dehumidifier in damp areas of your home can help to avoid problems such as moisture damage, mold and mildew. However, some people are hesitant to use a dehumidifier because they tend to use a lot of electricity. If you want to keep your home comfortably dry and yet save energy and money at the same time, here are some tips to help you dehumidify your home in the most energy efficient fashion.


Energy Efficient Wndows

I love windows. There is very little wall space in my house for art! Not only do I like natural light during the day, I also like to bring the outdoors in. I installed a few windows about 12 years ago, when I first moved into this old ranch house. There were huge expanses of sunny, blank exterior wall, so I decided to bring in the winter sun as passive solar supplemental heat.


Don't Let It Escape: Home Thermographic Audits

It could be leaking from your home right now. Escaping through cracks around your windows you can't even see. Your temperature-controlled air is like tiny dollars disappearing from your home and your wallet.


New Ways to Use Less Energy at Home

The share of homes being built in the U.S. with environmentally friendly features jumped to 16% of single-family starts last year from 2% in 2006, says McGraw-Hill Construction, a market-research firm in New York. Fueling the trend, industry officials say, is a desire to save energy at a time of high fuel costs. Indeed, in a recent survey, 93% of builders named increased energy efficiency as an important green practice --far more than cited any other benefit.


Energy Efficient Appliances Save You Money

Appliances are getting more and more efficient with new technology and an understanding of how much energy can be saved. A refrigerator as new as 10 years old is already a dinosaur. It, along with your washing machine, are the biggest energy hogs in your house and should be replaced if they are too old.


U.S. Department of Energy

The Building Technologies Program (BTP) funds research and technology development to reduce commercial and residential building energy use. The program is working to achieve the goal of net-zero energy buildings, which produce as much energy as they consume. BTP works with national laboratories and industry partners to achieve this goal


18 Knockout Ideas for Wooden Floor Showers

Enter the wooden floor shower. It's an elegant upgrade to the materials of yore, and much more versatile. Wood slats create a cozy ski-lodge vibe in winter and a sunny deck-like experience in summer, making it a win-win for anyone looking to spiff up a bathroom design. Just ask Austin, Texas, architect MJ Neal, who uses the material frequently. "It's a lovely way to handle the floor itself, and really warms the space up," Neal says. "It almost harkens back to Japanese baths as well. It can be very calming."


6 Clever Kitchen Storage Ideas

Even the tidiest kitchen needs a little organizational inspiration from time to time. Here are six ways to help your customers go beyond basic decluttering and give their cooking space an extra boost of streamlined style.


Into the Light: Opening Up a Stairwell

A center stairway in a small suburban house of many levels felt like a cattle chute with its side walls sealed up and its narrow handrail difficult to grip. Fortunately, the stairs themselves had closed stringers, which made it possible to replace the existing side walls and rail with an open handrail and balusters using painted wood, cherry, and steel. The stair's opened sides allow light to filter down from an existing skylight through three levels of the home.


Bob Vila and the Vent-Free Gas Fireplaces

A few days ago I ran across an article about gas fireplaces on Bob Vila's website. Naturally, I wanted to read their take on vent-free gas fireplaces (sometimes called ventless, unvented, or just plain stupid). "Vent-free technology, once considered controversial, has now won wide acceptance," wrote Merv Kaufman. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!


Just Two Minisplits Heat and Cool the Whole House

Carter Scott was one of the first builders bold enough to build a cold-climate home heated by only two ductless minisplit units (one in the downstairs living room, and one in the upstairs hallway). Skeptics predicted that the unheated bedrooms would be cold and uncomfortable. Yet Scott was confident that the home's excellent thermal envelope -- with high-R walls, triple-glazed windows, and low levels of air leakage — would keep the homeowners comfortable even when the bedroom doors were closed.


14 Designer Drains to Spice Up Your Kitchens and Baths

These days, manufacturers have stepped up their game with linear drains that can either disappear from sight or take on a streamlined appearance. Even the traditional center drain has been redesigned with custom grill patterns and installations that can be tiled-in.


How a Redesigned Electricity Bill Could Make You Smarter and Save Cash

This summer, the Chicago startup Power2Switch will roll out a slick new electricity bill that's designed to help consumers make smarter choices about their power usage.


8 Cool Screened Porches for Spring and Summer

Cool breeze is a precious commodity as things outside begin to warm up this late Spring and early Summer. One strategy in getting your fair share of it is by the simple and stylish addition of the screened in porch. The reason that many seek to find out how to install a screened in porch is because it solves a few issues when it comes to an outdoor living space. One big one is gaining that precious breeze that defines late Spring and early Summer seasons without the presence of flying insects. Another is that a screened in porch lends itself to a wider range of design possibilities; reading areas, interior container gardens, outdoor dining spaces, and all-around indoor and outdoor continuity. To help outline some of the practicalities, and frankly some eye-popping designs, of screened in porches, here are 8 examples of how a screened in porch can be a defining element to any outdoor living space.


Modern Metal Fireplaces Open World of Possibilities

Allowing way more natural light than traditional fireplaces, and with some not even needing a vent, metal fireplaces are a major improvement


30 Dream Decks for Lounge Lovers

will never forget the first time my mother-in-law came to visit us in our new home in Sandy, Oregon. It was a lovely, sunny week, and we had all sorts of plans for sightseeing and events in Portland. But we are blessed with a deck above the Sandy River with a fabulous view of rapids and a canopy of trees overhead. The morning after she arrived, we all sat out there with our coffee to enjoy the morning. Four days later we were all still wearing our pajamas and all still sitting on the deck.


Doorless Showers Open a World of Possibilities

Universal design and an open bathroom feel are just two benefits of doorless showers. Here's how to make the most of these design darlings


A Moved and Improved Master Bath

Shown: Moved to a larger, light-filled spot, the bath now holds a windowed shower, a marble-framed tub, and finishes in keeping with the rest of the late-1800s house. Paneling, based on wainscoting in other rooms, opens for access to plumbing.


Stayng Cool with a Metal Roof

Metal roofs are durable and recyclable -- but do they really save energy?


The Making of the Next Great New-Home Design

The demands of modern life have been changing much faster than new-home designs, say two top architects.


Lighten Up with Glass Floors

To spread the light, visually connect floors or infuse a space with drama, glass floors are a clear top choice.


Insulated Vinyl Siding and Energy Efficiency

Once the butt of comedians' jokes, vinyl siding has been improved by leaps and bounds and today has captured a large share of the American market. Its relative ease of maintenance, good insulation qualities and affordability has silenced a lot of critics.


The Complete Heating Efficiencies Guide

Heating and heat efficient systems are more than just considerations in modern life. It is pretty primal, right? The discovery of fire, our first heating system not counting the sun itself, was the key to our survival after all. But, translated to the 21st Century, the world of heating, or more accurately of environmental controls all year round have become a more precise concern. Today, more than ever, we're concerned with how energy efficient our heating systems are. What with global energy becoming more and more of an issue on so many fronts, this makes sense. But when it comes to heating and energy efficiency at home, we're thinking about our pocketbooks, and about how to get the most out of our heating dollar.


Renovation Detail: The Ribbon Driveway

Grass paired with concrete for the driveway is more than just pleasing to the eye, it's good for the environment and your home.


Renovation Detail: The Kitchen Sink Window

We purchased our home fully realizing our kitchen's shortcomings, but a standout feature no matter what our renovation decisions may be is the window above our kitchen sink. I often find myself washing dishes for longer than necessary, staring adoringly out the window. Endlessly entertained by chubby birds, bunnies and squirrels, I'm connected to the great outdoors by the kitchen window. No matter what style kitchen you have, a window above the sink is always appropriate. Whether you have a sleek modern cookery or a traditional cucina, letting the sun shine in is a bonus. In fact, hanging window treatments on the kitchen sink window is not even necessary. I plan to replace our double-hung window with a casement and our surface-mount sink with an apron to enhance my nature-viewing experience.


KItchen Workbook: Plan Your Space Like a Pro

Good design may be more critical in the kitchen than in any other room in the home. These tips can help make your design a successful one


Are Tankless Water Heaters a Waste of Money?

Although tankless water heaters are, on average, more efficient than traditional tank-style water heaters, they're also more expensive, so expensive, in fact, that many potential customers wonder whether their high cost can ever be justified by likely energy savings.


Creative Use of Tile

You know how supposedly we use only 10 percent of our brains? Well, I think we use only about 10 percent of tile's capability too. I love staggered subway tile as much as the next girl, but let's face it: It's safe and predictable.


Designing Small Houses to Live Large

While buyers aren't looking for more house these days, they are looking for houses that do more.


Kitchen Workbook: Eight Elements of Classic Kitchen Style

Classic kitchens are timeless and flexible. This comes with other givens, such as neutral color palettes and simple, unfussy details. Sure, a classic kitchen can be deemed too safe for the individualist and too ornate for the purist, but for me it's like jeans and a white t-shirt: add a beaded necklace and heels or tennis shoes and a black blazer and you can make the look your own.


Lighting Style Guide: Lighting in Your Bathroom

In the last of the series about lighting in the most popular rooms in your home, lighting expert and blogger Emily Widle from Pegasus Associates Lighting talks about a room where you have your most private moments, but also a place where you put on your public face: your bathroom. And of course when it comes to lighting in this, there are a few important details to take into account, an important one being moisture levels, and another being choosing the right wattage in your bulbs.


Choosing Bathroom Vanities for Small Bathrooms

Bathrooms add all kinds of value to your home. Remodeling one therefore is a sturdy investment, even for small bathrooms. One area in particular that has a huge impact on the value of your bathroom is choosing bathroom vanities, a process that takes in practicality as well as the style. So, how do you start thinking about how to choose the right bathroom vanity? Bathroom expert and writer Miguel Salcido is here to help you get a handle on where to begin, especially when the space you've got is limited.


Designing a Bathroom for Children

Pink polka dots and hopping frogs are great themes for a child's bathroom, but there is a lot more to designing a kid-friendly space than the theme. The placement of tubs, sinks, and toilets is just as important as what type of item is selected to go in the space. If you are tasked with designing a bathroom that meets the needs of children, check out the ideas below to give you some starting points for addressing your pint-sized client's issues.


Three Teen Girl Bathroom Ideas

When I was asked to design a teen bathroom for two sisters, I admit that I wondered if there was anything more challenging. Generally, teens are finicky, opinionated, and uninterested in just about every interior design that traditional society sees as attractive. I was not optimistic. After talking with the girls, I decided to present them with three different bathroom ideas that incorporated their love of color and their style. Since they had a hard time choosing one, I am confident that all three ideas are sure teen-pleasers.


A Window Above the Bathroom Sink: Feature or Flaw?

I think it's safe to say that most people love a window above the kitchen sink. But put that window above a bathroom sink, and I think most people would find that to be a flaw. A mirror right above the sink is pretty handy -- you can see what you're doing when you brush your teeth or shave your face. So if you have a window there instead, what can you do? Check out 16 bathrooms where that window above the sink is a not a flaw, but a feature.


Nine Ways to Add Color to a Kitchen

Homeowners tend to shy away from high-impact colors when designing or renovating kitchens, since it's best to have a timeless design and not intimidate potential buyers when selling. The results are kitchens that have neutral colors and materials that are quite forgettable.


Crown Mouldiing: Is It Right for Your Home?

Crown moldings are an architectural feature that can really add value to a home. See how to find the right trim for a room's style and height.


How to Choose an Interior Door

A beautiful door is one of those subtle necessities that can make a big difference in a home's style. Like trim or molding, most doors go fairly unnoticed, but they can have a dramatic effect on the look of the room. There should be a good amount of thought that goes into choosing one. Style, materials, soundproofing, and door swing are just some of the points to consider when sorting through the endless options for interior doors.


Choosing Flooring For Kitchens

The type of flooring you choose for your kitchen is strictly up to your preference, style, and budget. Each has different characteristics that may make it more desirable for your kitchen.


Wood Stoves: Safety First

Newer stoves are more efficient. I installed a unit last year after using older, non-EPA-certified wood stoves for years. The efficiency and air quality improvements are notable, and easily pay for the upgrade.


How to Choose an Efficient Heating System

When my husband and I purchased our 1910 fixer upper, there was a monster living in the basement. OK, maybe not the kind you see in horror movies, but just as scary. The existing coal-turned-oil "octopus" furnace was unsafe and inefficient, so we decided it would be best to abandon the beast altogether. Starting from scratch can be a daunting task, but here are the tips and strategies we used to choose the best system for our house.


Keep the Footprint

Want to bring new life to that tired old plan? Try a gut remodel.


Unexpected Kitchen Lights

When it comes to lighting, there are often architectural restrictions like ceiling heights, island widths, and sufficient wattage details that can really cramp a kitchen designer's style! Glass and metal are the standby materials for kitchen pendants, for an obvious reason: they're easy to clean. But occasionally it's worth it to go for beauty over function. Here are a few unexpected kitchen pendant lights that fit the bill.


Designs for Small Kitchens

Many of us have kitchens smaller than we would like them to be, but its possible to have tons of storage space without giving up style. Here are some helpful kitchen decorating ideas to maximize the kitchen space that you do have. Making efficient use of the space can make your kitchen seem much larger than it is. Canada & Klein Ltd has helped homeowners re-design kitchen space without an architect's services if there is no exterior addition to the space.


The Challenge of a Remodel

Remodeling is exciting. Its fun to make design choices. Its creative and absorbing. Its rewarding to make a dream a reality, but its also chaotic, messy, and challenging. Canada & Klein never lets a homeowner operate under the illusion that a remodeling project is a walk in the park. Its a major disruption in my clients lives, Jeff Cohen said. Strangers are going to be in their home for weeks or months at a time. That's why we take precautions to minimize our clients stress.

On the remodeler's side, cleaning up every single day makes a enormous impact. All our jobs stop well before the day is done to allow for enough time to clean the site, Jeff said. Communication between the homeowner and the remodeler is also critical to a smooth, less stressful experience. Canada & Klein uses a number of communication methods including an onsite communication board that allows for immediate daily correspondence between the lead carpenter and the homeowner.

Home remodeling taxes homeowners emotions. Here are a few of Jeff's favorite tips for reducing the stress level:

During a remodel, your home, your nest, is disturbed. Gone is the refuge at the end of a long day. Instead, you have disorder. Its stressful to go for long periods of time without a respite of peace and quiet. Jeff suggests getting away for a bit. Go for a hike, go to the gym, take a class. Go on long weekend or a vacation during a remodel.

Schedules can break down during a remodeling project. The cabinets you fell in love with are back-ordered due to a strike in South Carolina. The plumber's wife just gave birth to triplets and he took the afternoon off to be with her, setting back the hook-up of kitchen sink and garbage disposal. The snowstorm in Minnesota delayed the delivery of the countertops... It can go on and on sometimes. So the feeling that youve lost control sneaks up on you. Intellectually, you understand. (After all, if you were in the hospital with triplets, your husband had better show up!) But emotionally, its tough to stay calm.

What to do?

Canada & Klein's way is to take positive, decisive actions. At the start of the project, communicate your needs openly and honestly with our team. You have the right to question or challenge any decision made. Establish a two-way method of communication that is reliable such as email, faxes, handwritten notes at an established place in the home. Dont rely merely on voice messages at either end as they can be forgotten, or erased from systems, etc.

Dreams versus reality is a great stress inducer.

Don't romanticize the project. Its not a fantasy. The more you expect a certain outcome, the more you may be disappointed. Maybe there isn't room for a trash compactor; French doors cost more than you anticipated; your budget cant be stretched to cover the 8-person hot tub. Try to set realistic expectations within your budget. Be sure you are extremely candid with your contractor about spending limits so that the first set of designs doesnt have to be scaled back after youve fallen in love with those French doors.

Remodeling doesn't have to be an emotional rollercoaster. With a good contractor who's sensitive to your expectations and needs, and is adept at communicating before and during the process, remodeling can be exciting, fun and rewarding.

2006 Biz-comm, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

Invest in your home

Making smart improvements to your home continues to be one of the single best investments Americans can make. According to the Consumer Affairs Department of The Financial Planning Association, an investment in a home (a remodel) is smarter and easier than selling and buying a new home in todays real estate marketplace. Its rare that moving proves to be a good financial, or emotional, choice. Over the long run, you may be better off playing the stock market, not the housing market.

Today's savvy homeowners can add affordable luxuries and space to their home, enjoy their home for many more years, then reap the benefits at resale time. Remodeling Magazines Cost vs. Value report puts the average percentage of cost recouped for a basement remodel at a significant percent in the first year! Other popular projects such as a bathroom addition, kitchen remodel, or master suite also recoup much of their cost in the first year, and after more than one year, that value increases.

With statistics like these, its no surprise that two-thirds of homeowners who planned to undertake a remodel and surveyed by Owens Corning say they were doing so to increase the value of their home, seeing remodeling as an investment rather than a costmoney in the bank for the future, and enhanced living space today. Among those surveyed, more than 90 percent said that they had received as much or more value than they had expected from their investment.

With interest rates still low, it just makes sense to let the economy work for you. Enhance that decision: Choose the professionals at Canada & Klein for your remodel.

Attention to detail, daily communication, the highest level of craftsmanship, developed systems and complete professionalism sets Canada & Klein above others. See for yourself. Call today for a complimentary meeting.

How to select a remodeler

Before interviewing prospective remodelers, consider what factors are most important to you: Reputation Certifications Experience Portfolio of past projects Experience in building "green" Experience in designing for aging-in-place Energy efficiency building Ability to communicate effectively Craftsmanship Honesty Schedule availablity Warranties Price Be sure to ask the following questions when considering whom to choose for a remodeling project.

1. Is the contractor licensed?

Request a copy of the contractor's license. If the contractor can't provide one, there is a reason. Do not hire his or her firm. Be sure the license covers the type of work you are undertaking.

2. Does the contractor carry workers compensation insurance?

Workers' compensation insurance protects the homeowner from liability if a worker in injured on your property. If the contractor doesn't carry worker's compensation, the homeowner may be liable for any injuries incurred during the remodeling process.

3. Will the contractor provide a written lien waiver?

A contractor should provide a homeowner with a Written Lien Waiver at the end of the job. This is a legal document, which says, you, the homeowner, have paid the contractor in full for the services rendered, and the contractor waives his right to place a mechanics lien on your property. If during the course of construction, you receive any Preliminary Lien Notices from material suppliers or subcontractors, it would be prudent to ask the contractor for a Final Release of Lien from each one, prior to paying the contractor his final payment. This protects you in case the contractor doesnt pay his material suppliers or subcontractors after you have paid him in full.

4. Will the contractor provide all the required building permits?

Make sure your contractor provides all required permits. This is very important. When a contractor acquires the required building permits, you know things will be done to code. Also, many homeowners insurance policies require permits for any major remodeling to keep your home properly covered. If a contractor asks the homeowner to get the permits, it's a warning sign that they are unable to obtain them because they are unlicensed, or the work is outside of their license. A reputable contractor will obtain permits for every job when a permit is required.

5. Is a guarantee provided?

A reputable contractor will guarantee his work for at least one year from date of completion.