Archive for: February, 2007

Building plans submitted to city

February 23rd, 2007

Today (which also happens to be our 1 year anniversary) we submitted our building plans to the city!

When you arrive at the Building Permits Office, you will need to put your name into a book on the counter, with the time you arrive, and why you are there. We had to wait over an hour to be seen because half the staff were on lunch at the time we went.

TIP: Builders send their interns to the Building Permit Office first thing in the morning, so it is very busy between 8am and 10am. Office staff go out for lunch in shifts between 11am and 1pm (we showed up at 11am). You could probably get seen fairly quickly if you came at 10am. Otherwise, some time after 1:30pm (when the backlog of people has started to clear) is probably best.

We weren’t actually applying for the permits today, but instead were just getting a preliminary review of our plans to have the city point out any (hopefully) minor deficiencies before our formal permit application.

There are two types of preliminary reviews one can opt for:

  1. Preliminary Project Review (PPR) at a cost of $250, which is non-refundable.
  2. Preliminary Application of Law (PAL) at a cost of 25% of projected permit fees paid in advance.

This latter review is far more detailed that the PPR but if you are fairly certain you are going ahead with the project it will save you $250 since you are really just paying a portion of your Permit fees now, instead of when you apply for the permit. (At present, permit fees are $13.10 per sq.m.)

We opted for the PAL review. With our application we also included photographs of our property with surrounding houses, and the houses across the street. This gives the Permit Office an idea about what the house will look like in relation to the rest of the neighbourhood. The package also had one set of scale drawings of the new house, and a stamped survey of the property.

Now that our plans have been submitted to the city builders will apparently now take our project much more seriously. We’re hoping to start interviewing builders as soon as we get the results of the preliminary review.

We should hear back from the office within 10 business days.

Posted by Colin

A review site for kitchen & bathroom fixtures

February 16th, 2007

Another good tip from the aforementioned Taunton Books: Terry Love is a plumber/contractor who actually goes through the trouble of installing new fixtures in his home to find out what’s best for his clients.

Fortunately he also has a web site where he reviews toilets, kitchen & bath fixtures, water heaters, etc. and gives you the skinny on what’s best in the industry.

The site is unfortunately really ugly, but the information should be useful.

Posted by Colin

New LED bulbs are promising but expensive

February 9th, 2007

Treehugger notes a new 9W LED Bulb that produce 308 lumens of light (the equivalent of a 70W traditional incandescent bulb). This variety of LED bulb is designed to plug into an ordinary bulb socket making it an easy transition for most homeowners. As far as I know, this is the brightest LED bulb (for typical homeowners) available to date, so it’s great to see progress being made with this technology.

Unfortunately, at $65 per bulb, it would take over 10,000 hours (or over 7 years at 4 hours per day) of operation before the investment would break even.1 While LED bulbs last far longer than 8000 hours, at these prices it’s still a very long term investment.

1 Break-even was calculated assuming a regular 8000 hour bulb costs $1; Energy savings were 61W per hour or 16.39 hours to save 1kWh. If 1kWh is assumed to cost 10 cents, one would save $1 in electricity for every 163.9 hours of runtime.

Posted by Colin

Find a Contractor with Handy Canadian

February 8th, 2007

I stumbled across the Handy Canadian web site today, which appears to be a great way to find contractors to bid on your building project.

What’s great about this service is that it saves people’s time all around: Instead of telling every contractor about your project one at a time you can just post it once, let them form their opinion of it, and bid. The contractor saves time too: they can post all sorts of information about their background, the type of work they do, provide their references, etc. so you can get comfortable with who is bidding on your project.

Since the service is free for those proposing the projects, and you are under no obligation by posting your project there, there is really little reason not to do so.

I could be wrong, but I also find it more likely that contractors who choose to use a service like Handy Canadian that puts their company’s details in the spotlight, are probably far less likely to be of the fly-by-night ilk Mike Holmes has warned you about.

We’ll follow-up on this post to share our experiences with the service.

Posted by Colin

Lumber Reference Guide

February 5th, 2007

CyberYard has a set of reference tools for looking up the qualities and uses for a wide variety of woods.

They also have a glossary of lumber terms and various calculators. Most of the functions of the calculators would be easier to perform on a hand held calculator, but the building charts at the bottom of that list could be useful.

Posted by Colin

Books: Taunton Home Series

February 1st, 2007

I’ve just borrowed the Taunton Home series of books from my brother. Each book in the series is made for someone who plans to renovate a different part of their house or property.

The first book we’re going through is the “New Bathroom Idea Book“. Unlike the Susanka books we discussed previously, we didn’t see any rooms in the book that we found wholly pleasing. Instead we could only pick out bits and pieces of each room that we liked, but this is really almost as helpful.

The book also contains technical information that is quite valuable, for example:

“Bathroom fans are rated according to the volume of air they can move in cubic feet per minute (cfm) and by their noise level (in sones). A small 5 ft. by 9 ft. bathroom requires a fan capable of moving 50 cfm, while larger bathrooms may need a 90-cfm or 150-cfm fan. Steer clear of fans that have sone ratings higher than 3; they’re too loud.”

At $28 each, the books are quite expensive but worthwhile if you can borrow them from your local library… or brother.

Posted by Colin