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Nothing sells a home faster than adding cost-effective, energy-efficient insulation and weatherization products. That’s what you get when you add Dow Building Solutions to your team. Our broad portfolio of energy-efficient sheathing, housewraps, spray foam insulation and accessories is backed by 65+ years of building science experience and industry knowledge. It’s building performance you can measure – in lower utility bills for homeowners, fewer call backs and increased referrals. Find out how Dow Building Solutions can help you reach your goal for long-lasting energy efficiency at www.insulateyourhome.ca or call 1-866-583-BLUE (2583).
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March/April 2011 Vol. 17 No. 2
Castle Building Centres Group Ltd., with building supply outlets in every province, is Canada’s leading supplier of lumber and building materials to professional contractors, builders and renovators. Publications Mail Agreement #40006677 Return undeliverable Canadian Addresses to: 100 Milverton Drive, Suite 400 Mississauga, Ont. L5R 4H1
Editorial Director Castle Building Centres Group Ltd. Diane Jones Managing Editor Paul Barker Art Director Mark Ryan Contributors Nestor E. Arellano Mark Beckham David Chilton Lawrence Cummer Victoria Downing Stefan Dubowski Jean Kelley Josh Kerbel Jim Muccilli John G. Smith Advertising Enquiries Vendors whose products are carried in Castle Building Centres stores have the opportunity to advertise in
Contractor Advantage C A N A D A’ S
For more information or to reserve space in the next issue, contact: Diane Jones Advertising Manager, Phone: 905-564-3307 Fax: 905-564-6592 E-mail: email@example.com Published and designed exclusively for Castle Building Centres Group Ltd. by Business Information Group Material Contact: Jessica Jubb 416-510-5194
Features Software deliveries / 22
It can become the most important tool in a contractor’s kit, helping to handle everything from project management to costing, accounting, payroll and design.
Fencing outside the box / 28
Small design elements and fencing materials that mimic upscale materials bring the ‘wow’ to a yard’s all-important backdrop.
Bathroom alterations / 36
A knowledge of environmentally friendly products and energy efficiency initiatives is essential for any contractor.
Green guidance/ 43
Environmentally friendly building trends are making their mark on basement renovations across the country.
Pressure treated/ 50
Public concerns have driven manufacturers to develop new methods of pressure treating wood.
Hang-ups and hook-ups/ 56 Better closet designs begin by considering exactly how the space will be used.
Departments NEWS WATCH / 5
Home prices still on the rise
NEW PRODUCTS / 9
New and improved products
ONLINE MARKETING / 13
Cutting through buzzword hype
BUSINESS STRATEGIES / 14 SMART MONEY / 16 ECONOMICS 101 / 18 LEARNING CURVE / 21 CASTLECARE / 62
The power of SMART
Resolving shareholder disputes Forget time management, energize! Business building blocks
Retaining top talent
Copyright 2011 CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
ENTICE & ATTRACT CIL Allure gives you the power to create a stylish, beautiful home without compromising on performance. Our best quality paint, CIL Allure is available in an array of 6,000 brilliant colours across multiple finishes. CIL Allure also comes in the fashionable low sheen scrubbable matte finish that allows you to achieve the look you want. Plus, with virtually no odour, itâ€™s easy to apply and itâ€™s durable finish make it easier than ever to clean.
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PHOTO: THINKSTOCK IMAGES
Home Prices Still On The Rise The average price of a home in Canada increased between 3.9% and 4.6% in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared to the previous year, as markets shrugged off a lackluster third quarter and returned to a post-recession growth profile. Home values are forecast to continue a moderate and steady climb in many of the country’s key housing markets through 2011 with sales activity skewed to the first half of the year, according to the most recent Royal LePage House Price Survey and Market Survey Forecast. The low cost of borrowing stimulated the housing market in 2010, and this trend is predicted to continue in the first half of this year. The widely held consumer belief that rates will rise in the latter part of 2011 may prompt an increase in buying activity early in the year. “Trends in the housing market continue to be driven by the lingering after-effects of the recession,” said Phil Soper, president and CEO of Royal LePage Real Estate Services. “Canadians realize that interest rates are unsustainably low and that homes will become effectively more expensive when mortgage rates return to normal levels. We will likely see more price appreciation early in 2011 as some buyers complete transactions in advance of anticipated higher borrowing costs.” Soper added, “2011 is expected to unfold much like 2010, when close to 60% of sales volume occurred in the first half of the year in anticipation of interest rate increases that never materialized. However, housing market activity in the first half of 2011 will be modestly closer to the norm, as last year’s phenomenon was made worse by mid-year tightening of mortgage accessibility and the introduction of HST in Ontario and British Columbia.” Regionally, the strongest price appreciation of the cities studied is expected in mid-sized urban centers where affordability is better than the national average. For example, in Winnipeg, St. John’s and Fredericton, two-storey homes below $300,000 are still widely available. Demand in these cities is expected to be strong, putting upward pressure on home values. Cities in Alberta are expected to be among Canada’s strongest performing markets in 2011. Woes in the historically volatile region’s housing market stretch approximately five years, when the Alberta housing market suffered a sharp correction following several years of double-digit price increases. The province’s energy-driven economy staged a comeback in 2010, recovering from the recession-led plunge in oil and gas prices Major employers are expected to steadily increase hiring in 2011 which should attract new residents to the province and put upward pressure on the limited supply of housing. Royal LePage forecasts the average price of a home in Calgary will increase 5.4% through 2011 while Edmonton home prices will increase 3.3%. Home sale transactions are predicted to rise 6.7% in Calgary and 9.1% in Edmonton over the same period. Across Canada, the average price of a home is forecast to rise 3% over the coming year to $348,600 while the number of transactions is expected to drop 2%.
During the fourth quarter of 2010, average home prices either increased or stabilized year-over-year, with Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and St. John’s seeing the biggest gains. Nationally, the average price of detached bungalows rose to $324,531 (up 4.6%), the price of standard two-storey homes rose to $360,329 (up 4.4%), and the price of standard condominiums rose to $226,746 (up 3.9%), compared to the fourth quarter of 2009.
Regional market summaries: The residential real estate market in St. John’s, Nfld. saw strong year-over-year price gains across all three housing types surveyed every quarter this year. However, the market has shown signs of cooling as inventory starts to rise. Detached bungalows and two-storey houses in Montreal saw an 8.7% year-over-year increase in the fourth quarter, while standard condominiums jumped 11.3%. Average prices in Montreal are forecast to increase by a more modest 3% in 2011 as a more balanced market emerges. Ottawa’s housing market saw year-over-year price appreciation ranging between 6.3% and 10% across all housing types surveyed this quarter. However, as inventory grows, Ottawa can expect price increases to be closer to 4% in 2011. House prices surveyed in Toronto increased modestly year-overyear. Standard two-storey homes witnessed the largest increases at 5.6%. Market activity slowed in the second half of the year as buyers rushed to the market in the first half of the year in anticipation of interest rate hikes and HST. For 2011, price increases are expected to be very modest at approximately 1%. Detached bungalows, standard two-storey homes, and standard condominiums in Winnipeg witnessed strong year-over-year price gains this quarter. Detached bungalows performed the strongest, increasing 10.3% compared to the fourth quarter of 2009. Although the market is showing signs of cooling, sellers are still seeing multiple offers and are often receiving higher than their asking price. Winnipeg is expected to maintain its momentum throughout 2011 with prices rising around 7%. CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
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Single family homes performed best in Regina, which saw standard two-storey homes increase 9.1%, while detached bungalows rose 8.4% and standard condominiums increased 2.4%. Prices in Regina are expected to increase an overall average of 5% in 2011. Both Calgary and Edmonton are positioned for house price increases in 2011 with a rebounding energy sector. In 2010, Calgary witnessed moderate year-over-year price depreciation across all housing types surveyed. Edmonton saw more modest price depreciation for two-storey houses. Detached bungalows witnessed the only price increase among housing types surveyed at 1.2%. Single family homes in Vancouver dominated house price gains as two-storey houses rose year-over-year by 9.8% in 2010. A printable version of the fourth quarter 2010 survey is now available online at the Royal LePage website.
Colour Zoning Hot Trend: Sico According to leading paint brand Sico, colour zoning is coming back in a big way this year and that means more and more Canadians will be using their walls as a canvas to create original, dynamic living spaces. Colour zoning, or using blocks of colour to highlight walls and room features, “is the hottest trend in home décor right now, from using paint to create shapes like squares, rectangles, stripes or circles on walls, to outlining special architectural elements and furnishings,” said Dominique Pépin, Marketing Manager for Sico and a Chairholder of the international colour forecaster Color Marketing Group. Sico has just launched a new colour zoning brochure that features a range of creative design and colour ideas. The leaflet is available free of charge and further information is available at www.sico.ca.
December 2010 Housing Starts Down: CMHC
The seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts was 171,500 units in December, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). This is down from 198,200 units in November. “Housing starts moved lower in December due to the multiple starts segment, especially in Ontario,” said Bob Dugan, chief economist at CMHC’s Market Analysis Centre. “Single-detached starts were also down, but minimally.” The seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts decreased by 13.3% to 149,100 units in December. Urban multiple starts moderated by 20.1% in December to 84,500 units, while single urban starts moved lower by 2.6% to 64,600 units.
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FORTRESS IRON RELEASES NEW FENCE, RAILING LINES Versai Ornamental Fence (above) from Fortress Iron is a cost-effective system capable of handling aggressive grade changes frequently seen around homes. “Teamed up with the professionals of DuPont, Fortress has developed the ultimate in exterior iron coating with FortressShield,” the company says. “This premium coating goes above and beyond with a sophisticated combination of DuPont E-Coat Plus and an additional layer of DuPont Polyester Powder Coating to ensure a superior fence that is impervious to the elements.” Features include rigid welded steel construction, which is twice the strength of an aluminum fence, with a 20-year limited manufacturer warranty. Meanwhile, the Fe26 Iron Railing (right) from Fortress provides customization possibilities that were previously available only though expensive custom welding shops. The fact it is 100% galvanized steel, e-coated and premium powder coated means a virtually maintenance free and durable welded railing system for any surface whether concrete, wood or composite.
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PRISMACLAD EXPANDS COLOUR OPTIONS FOR WINDOW EXTERIORS Ply Gem Canada has introduced the new PrismaClad Colour program to provide virtually limitless colour options for window exteriors. The colour solutions are available on all products within the Ply Gem Canada Elite Series Regency and Fusion product lines. Through the Ply Gem Canada PrismaClad Colour program, customers who want more options than the six colours that come standard on Regency and five colours on Fusion can select from more than 40 exterior window hues, including 30 signature colours, 17 woodgrain colours and 12 metallic colours. Within the program, Ply Gem Canada has also created the DuraMatch colour matching process, which the company says allows it to match nearly any existing colour and is an “ideal solution for projects that do not involve the replacement of every window.” In addition to an expanded colour palette, Ply Gem Canada offers several solutions to enhance home design, such as simulated divided lites, designer glass or brickmoulds.
GUARDIAN LAUNCHES ECO-FRIENDLY INSULATION Guardian Building Products has announced the launch of its new fiberglass insulation with ecoGuard™ technology. The breakthrough produces eco-friendly fiberglass insulation that combines the company’s thermal technology and energy performance without adding dyes or formaldehyde. Guardian Fiberglass Insulation with ecoGuard™ technology is a white, no formaldehyde added, high performance product line available to the residential and commercial construction markets.
With at least 35% recycled content and no added dyes or formaldehyde, this latest technology marks what the company describes as a “significant change” in its 30-year fiberglass production process. Features include Reduced VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), sound control and improved handling. The insulation also meets the highest and most stringent standards in the industry for indoor air quality, GREENGUARD® Children and Schools certification. CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
STANLEY’S MIG15 FRAMING HAMMER WEIGHS IN AT 15 OUNCES Stanley, a brand of Stanley Black & Decker, recently launched the first 15-ounce all-steel MIG Framing Hammer to its line of FATMAX hammers. The lightweight MIG15 gives contractors the weight of titanium with the strength of steel and can handle virtually any professional wood-framing job. “The industry standard has traditionally been hammers as heavy as 28 or even 32-ounces; however, the trend today is towards lighter products overall, including power tools and hand tools,” said Scott Moore, vice president of marketing at Stanley Black & Decker Canada. “Extensive jobsite research and countless conversations with our end users helped our engineering team develop a lighter hammer that not only delivers the power professionals need, but also helps to increase their level of productivity, reduce fatigue and improve comfort.”
Vicwest Residential Steel Roofing Vicwest supplies a wide range of residential steel roofing complete with coordinating trims, fasteners, closures, caulking, flashings and non-slip underlayment. Vicwest residential steel roofs are quickly becoming the choice among builders and homeowners. Vicwest is helping roofing contractors grow their business with proven steel systems, with larger coverage areas for quicker installation, warranties of up to lifetime, installation manuals and training also available. Ask your local Castle Building Supply Centre or visit us on the web.
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Cutting Through Buzzword Hype A cursory understanding of some important Internet terms will help businesses make more informed decisions around online marketing initiatives. BY JOSH KERBEL
The permeation of the Internet through the business world has brought with it a gaggle of buzzwords large enough to drive any reasonable person insane. Search engine marketing, landing pages, conversion ratios, social networking; what do they all mean? Even more important, should you really care about it? The bottom line is, yes. You should care as the chances are your company is already spending money promoting itself online, and you might want to know where some of your investment is actually going the next time you pay your social media consultant or Webmaster. Below is a list of common terms that are used throughout the Internet marketing world that should help you make informed decisions when it comes to your marketing needs. Domain: Think of a domain as a phone number or mailing address. It is the main subdivision of Internet addresses. The last two or three letters after the final dot tells you what kind of organization you are dealing with: .com (commercial), .edu (educational) and .org (organization). Two letter domains represent countries; .ca for Canada. Geo Targeting: Delivery of ads or content specific to the geographic location of the searcher. This allows a more localized and personalized user experience and often results in better advertising performance, since you do not waste money advertising to people who cannot use your service due to location. Inbound Link: An inbound link is a hyperlink to your Website from an outside site.
Inbound links are important because many search engine algorithms use the quality and quantity of inbound links to measure the popularity of a Web page. Additionally, the chances are the more inbound links you have, the more traffic your Website receives. Keyword/Keyphrase: A word or phrase used by Internet users to search for online content. Search engines look for sites that are associated with the word or phrase the user is searching for. If you are a custom home builder in Hamilton, you want to make sure that your Website has lots of keywords and phrases communicating that.
only when the consumer clicks on the ad. Search Engine: Software that searches Websites for specified keywords and returns a list of the Websites where the keywords were found. Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The process of making a site and its content highly relevant for both search engines and searchers. SEO makes it easier for search engines to find a site for the appropriate keywords. Properly done, search engine optimization helps a site gain top positioning on the search engines for relevant words and phrases. Social Media: Sites that depend on and encourage user participation and user-gener-
Despite what some ‘Internet Guru’ might tell you, you cannot make a campaign ‘go viral.’ Return on Investment (ROI): Return on investment = (Revenue - Cost) / Cost. This is the calculation of the financial return on an Internet marketing initiative. Determining ROI of Internet marketing is much more accurate than calculating the ROI for television, radio, and traditional print media because you can track exactly how much revenue your marketing campaigns are generating. Search Advertising: Paying for an ad to display when a user searches for a given word or phrase. These ads are typically text ads, which are displayed above or to the right of the organic search results. Most search ads are sold by the pay-per-click (PPC) model, where the advertiser pays
Josh Kerbel is Managing Director of Sales Funnel, a digital marketing agency that specializes in lead generation and prospect management systems. To get a copy of the free white paper, 8 Steps to Internet Marketing Success, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ated content. They include social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Twitter: Twitter is an online application that lets you send short updates to people who “follow” you. In its limit of 140 characters or less, posts can share good articles, industry insights, etc. It is a great tool for keeping in touch with a group. Universal Search: Also known as blended search results, universal search pulls data from multiple sources to display on the same search result page. The search results for any given topic can include images, videos, maps, local information, product information and current events. Viral Marketing: The creation of a marketing campaign that is so compelling the audience shares it, and it spreads like a virus. Despite what some “Internet Guru” might tell you, you cannot make a campaign “go viral.” Viral is impossible to predict, anyone who tells you otherwise is just looking to take your money.
The Power Of SMART The success of your business hinges on setting specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based goals. BY VICTORIA DOWNING
We have been working with remodelers and renovators for nearly 30 years and discovered that the most successful companies follow a certain set of actions, which we have named “The Remodelers Advantage Success Cycle.” All of our consulting and teaching revolves around this cycle. The goal of the cycle is to reach success. To make sure that we are all on the same page, I want to share our view of success. We believe that any definition of success should include: • A healthy net profit year-after-year • Above average owner compensation • Working hours that allow for a rich, balanced life; and •A significant company that contributes value to all stakeholders including clients, employees, trade contractors and the community. Your view of success probably will include other items as well. We know that once you accomplish the items above, it is much easier to reach the other goals that you may have. The main elements of the Success Cycle are as follows: • Create leadership at all levels • Gather accurate, timely information • Set SMART goals • Execute effectively through people and systems; and • Measure and assess constantly. It all begins with leadership. Company owners must lead or someone else in the company will, but they probably will not choose to go where the owner wants. In the best companies, leadership is shared so
that every employee is empowered to lead those they work with and supervise. Some of this leadership may well be vested in a key management team, which helps to govern. Still, leadership always comes from the top and includes such things as defining and teaching the vision, mission, core values of the company and modelling the behaviors desired in the company. It is holding steady at the tiller when the company is in rough seas. It is coaching, mentoring, cheerleading and making
Leadership always comes from the top and includes such things as defining and teaching the vision, mission, core values of the company and modelling the behaviors desired in the company. tough calls when they have to be made. After leadership, gathering accurate and timely information is a starting point. We cannot correct what we do not know about. We have to have accurate and timely information about many aspects of the company including financial, sales, marketing, estimating, etc. I find that this foundation is usually missing or faulty when remodelers first come to me for help. My philosophy is that the numbers of the business tell the company story. They do not lie, gloss over
Victoria Downing, Contractor Advantage’s new Business Strategies columnist, is president of Remodelers Advantage Inc. and is a leading authority in the remodeling industry. She has authored and co-authored several industry books, including The Remodeler’s Marketing PowerPak. She can be reached at the above e-mail address or by phone at 301 490-5620 ext. 105.
issues or tell a story that is better than reality. Numbers tell the truth, but only if the numbers are accurate. If they are accurate, the financial numbers not only tell you where you have been, but they also quickly identify problem areas. Creating accurate numbers is where we start. First, a review of the financial reports (profit and loss statement and balance sheet). When I talk to a remodeling company owner for the first time and we review these important reports together, I find problems with the accuracy in 99%
of the cases. We cannot read the true story until these problems are fixed. Once we get regular financial statements, marketing and lead statistics, and productivity figures, we are ready to get into a cycle of continuous improvement. No matter the condition of your company when you start on this important loop, you will just get better and better and eventually arrive at success. Having that leadership and information, gets us into the continuous improvement loop. With the information gathered, we can move to setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-based) goals. Those goals are often carried within a business plan, a budget, a marketing plan, marketing budget and calendar, departmental improvements, increased client satisfaction and more.
By using the SMART system, all goals include practical definitions of success that we will clearly know when we achieve them. Now that we know where we want to go, effective execution is the key. For many of us, it is by far the hardest. We make paper plans but do not turn them into reality. There are two important sets of contributors to successful execution: a top performing and empowered team who have bought into those goals and systems and procedures that create consistent results. Having empowered performers on a team who are utilizing well designed systems is a major accomplishment in any business and one that pays off handsomely and also helps to freeze up the owner.
improvement cycles, like the wheels on the bus, go ’round and round.’ In the coming months, we will talk about various business management challenges. In the meantime, take the first
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In the coming months, we will talk about various business management challenges. In the meantime, take the first step and review your financial reports. The third step in the continuous improvement cycle is measuring and assessing constantly. These tell us how we are doing on executing our goals, because we accompanied our goals with numbers for measuring or metrics, we can now get reports that will allow us to monitor our progress or lack thereof. For instance did we want to improve our close ratio from one sale per eight qualified leads to one per seven? We will have made sure that close ratio is measured and we can assess our progress. We have done the full loop but that means it is time to go around again. Take that close ratio example. Maybe we are only half-way to the goal, now we are closing one sale out of every 7.5 leads. We reset the goal in a SMART format, execute, re-measure and keep improving. The
step and review your financial reports. If you would like a sample of a wellorganized profit and loss statement, please send me an e-mail to Victoria@remodelersAdvantage.com.
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Resolving Shareholder Disputes A shareholders’ agreement can go a long way to avoiding the possibility of a crippling business disruption. BY JIM MUCCILLI
If the shareholders’ agreement does not help to resolve the above matter quickly, the dispute might need to be resolved by means of a more structured Mediation or Arbitration, or alternatively, by the Courts.
• Approval/decision process for major corporate decisions • A buy/sell provision, perhaps a shotgun clause to force a transaction and a detailed dispute resolution framework
Jim Muccilli is a partner with the Business Valuation & Litigation Support Group at Soberman LLP. Jim has worked in this field for over 20 years and brings with him a vast knowledge in the areas of business valuation, loss quantification and forensic investigations. He is also a qualified expert witness. Jim can be contacted at 416-963-7132 or email@example.com. 16
• Description of the process to allow for the fair valuation of the company’s shares • Stipulation of management responsibilities, non-competition restrictions, bonus and remuneration formula • Mechanisms to deal with shareholder deaths, misconduct, divorce, incapacity, etc. • Succession arrangements-insurance of key persons. If the shareholders’ agreement does not help to resolve the above matter quickly, the dispute might need to be resolved by
PHOTO: THINKSTOCK IMAGES
What can you do if you are a shareholder of a private company in Canada and you are at odds with the other shareholders? What if you suspect co-shareholders stealing from the company? Maybe you are a minority shareholder and feel like the majority is taking unfair advantage of you. Disputes between shareholders of private companies are often emotional and, in Ontario, for example, can be as complicated as a personal divorce. Further, the disruption to a small business is often devastating. Knowing what remedies are available to resolve matters quickly are often the key to survival. A shareholder has the right to a proportionate vote in the affairs of the company and to access sufficient information about the company’s affairs and financial position. Other rights may be supported through a shareholders’ agreement. Although a majority shareholder may have the right to effectively control and “run” the business, a minority shareholder cannot be “oppressed.” In other words, they must be treated fairly. A shareholders’ agreement can go a long way to ensuring disputes are avoided or at least, provide the mechanism that allows them to be settled quickly. An agreement identifies shareholders’ specific responsibilities and outlines how and where disputes are to be resolved. For example, it can specify forced buy/ sell considerations during a dispute and even include a formula or other means to determine the transaction price. Briefly, a shareholders’ agreement should include at least the following:
means of a more structured Mediation or Arbitration, or alternatively, by the Courts. If a minority shareholder feels they are being treated unfairly, an “oppression remedy” is a strong tool employed by the Court to compensate the minority.
The Court can impose: • A specific arbitrary decision of a matter in dispute, including allowing a minority shareholder to sue a majority shareholder on behalf of the company in the case of a theft or breach of fiduciary duty; • A forced purchase of shares between the disputing parties; or • A winding up of the company and distribution of the net assets. Where a minority shareholder is oppressed and the Court deems that a fair or practical remedy is to have the majority buy the minority shares, it is often done at a “fair value” which
may be fair market value without deduction for a minority discount. Establishing a team of advisors: Involving an Investigative and Forensic Accountant (“IFA”) can assist in establishing if some form of oppression is involved. An IFA can also investigate the quantum of any losses suffered by the company or by the oppressed shareholder who would need to be restored or otherwise considered in an equitable resolution. A Chartered Business Valuator (CBV) can assist in establishing the fair and equitable value for any transaction-based remedy, including the purchase of the minority shareholding. In an advisory role, the CBV can determine the price impact of various sale structures and terms and ensure that adequate consideration is being paid to tax consequences. All of the various transactions will often trigger some form of tax which will depend
on the structure and terms of the proposed resolution. For example, a buy-back of shares by the company may trigger a dividend for tax purposes. A purchase of shares between shareholders will trigger a capital gain. Therefore, the services of a tax specialist are often needed. The sooner an agreement is made, the more likely a private business is to survive a shareholder dispute. A comprehensive shareholders’ agreement can help to preserve operations and resolve matters quickly. Qualified and experienced legal advisors, and forensic, valuation and taxation experts hired early in the process could keep the process out of a prolonged, expensive and destructive litigation by providing the facts, insight and information to allow all parties to make informed decisions as quickly as needed.
Forget Time Management, Energize! With a multitude of competing priorities it is important to first ensure ones energy is being replenished in order to effectively manage time. BY JEAN KELLEY
Phrases like “manage your time” and “do more with less” have become the buzzwords for this decade. The idea is that if you can manage your time well, you will be more productive in all areas of life. The only flaw in this thinking is that time is finite. In other words, you can manage time all you want and continually push yourself to get more done, but all this managing and pushing tires your brain, drains your spirit and disengages your soul. That is when mistakes occur and burnout ensues. The key, then, is not to simply manage your time, but also to manage your energy. Unlike time, energy is restorable. When you manage your energy well, you will have more energy for your priorities, whether they are personal or professional in nature. If you do not manage your energy, you cannot manage your time. Sure, you can think about all the things you need to do and you can schedule them, but if you do not have the energy to do the tasks, you will not be able to accomplish them appropriately. Realize, that managing energy goes beyond work/life balance. While many people talk about work/lifebalance (devoting ample time to all areas of your life), few address the things that make life rich and fun. With so many things competing for your attention daily, you need to give attention to energy replenishment to devote the time to your life’s priorities. This is why it is important to manage your energy before you manage your time.
The Three Pillars of Energy Management: Keeping your energy in check means giving attention to your brain, your spirit and your soul. Think of it like a three-legged stool. For the stool to be useful, you need all three legs. Remove one leg from the equation, and the stool topples over and is useless. The same is true for your energy. Therefore, to keep your energy replenished, implement the following suggestions into your daily life.
Stimulate Your Brain: The human brain likes control and certainty, and it is very good at predicting the next thing that is likely to happen based on the information it has. That is why you often feel better when you perceive you have control over a situation and feel stressed if you think you have no control over events. Additionally, the brain is programmed to fear. This is a
Jean Kelley, industrial sociologist and founder of Jean Kelley Leadership Consulting and author of “Get A Job; Keep A Job” and “Dear Jean: What They Don’t Teach You at the Water Cooler.” For more information visit www.jeankelley.com. 18
good thing, though, because the inborn fear is what has allowed our species to evolve. The only drawback to this natural fear is that the brain will take three pieces of information and make a story out of it, and it is usually a negative one. This negative story becomes your reality until you get another piece of data. Talk about an energy drain on your brain.
In order to replenish your brain’s energy, do the following: • S ince your brain is part of your body, it needs to be fed the right food for optimum health. Eat three nutritious meals a day, exercise to increase the oxygen flow to your brain and drink plenty of water to keep hydrated. • Reconstruct your stories. You have to purposefully stop the story and seek out the missing pieces of information. For example, if you get an email from your boss telling you not to take part in a task you volunteered for, with no explanation why, you would likely think your boss does not believe you are capable of the task. In reality, your boss may need you for another task, he or she may think the task is not challenging enough for you, or your boss might sim-
ply not need any assistance on the task any longer. You will never know (and never stop the negative story) until you ask. • Analyze what helps and hurts your thinking ability. For instance, do 200 emails staring at you first thing in the morning make you exhausted before you even start the day? If so, then do not do that task first thing. Do the most important things when you are alert and at your best, as those tasks will actually energize you and you can handle the stressful tasks later. • Give yourself two hours a day for focused attention on a key project. The earlier in the day the better. No multi-tasking is allowed during this time. Whether you are a night or a morning person, the fact is that your brain is rested after your sleep. This is the key time for focused attention and productivity.
Awaken Your Spirit: The human spirit yearns to soar. The spirit enjoys lofty goals and challenging tasks to accomplish. How spirited someone is often relates to how purposeful he or she is. In fact, it is common that when people lose their purpose in life, they feel deflated and even depressed. Hence the phrase: “Their spirit was broken.” An energized spirit is what catapults you out of the mundane and into a new and exciting endeavour. In order to replenish your spirit’s energy, do the following: • Do one thing every day that makes your spirit soar. Whether it is reading poetry or listening to music. If you feel your spirit is fed by that, do it. • Think about what you want to do in your life. Dream big! Give planned time to your future in order to nurture your spirit. • Read things that stretch your mind. Your spirit wants to reach for the next best thing. Unleash the power of your spirit by exposing your mind to new things, even things that you feel are impossible to accomplish right now. • Take time each day to think and concentrate. Many people are in knowledge-oriented jobs and need some degree of quiet time. Even though a particular task must get done, that task often requires planning and thinking. Your spirit cannot gain energy to tackle big goals unless it has some quiet time to prepare. Let people know that you require quiet thinking time, and actually put this time in
your schedule. If others know your needs and intentions, they will respect them.
Feed Your Soul: The human soul likes the familiar, the deep and the poignant. The soul likes ritual, doing the same thing at the same time every day. It also enjoys the simple things in life, beauty and nature. The soul is what connects you to life and to what is deeply meaningful to you.
In order to replenish your soul’s energy, do the following: •C larify your intentions and plan what you want your tomorrow to be like before you go to bed. This allows your subconscious to work on your challenges and big decisions while you sleep. • Take time for enchantment. Linger through a museum. Enjoy preparing a simple elegant meal. Go outside regularly and really look at nature. Your soul loves beauty and wants a connection with the earth.
• Experience the present fully. Focus on the things around you: the colors and textures. Be mindful of your current surroundings and activities rather than always trying to multi-task. Really engage in life in the moment. Feel yourself breathe. • Build rituals for yourself and your family. Even something as simple as eating dinner at the same time every day is a ritual. Both your soul and your brain crave ritual and gain energy from it.
Energize: By focusing on these three areas of your life you will gain the much needed energy to tackle it with enthusiasm and zest. With your energy fully replenished, time will no longer be an issue. You will feel ready to handle anything that comes your way with ease, and you will do it much faster. Make it a habit to stimulate your brain, awaken your spirit and feed your soul. It is one investment in yourself you cannot afford not to make.
Simply enjoy life!
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Business Building Blocks A revised handbook to Building Information Modeling and new guide to setting HARD goals provide tools for improving the operation.
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The BIM Handbook presents the technology and processes behind Building Information Modeling and how contractors and sub-contractors, construction and facility owners, architects and engineers can take advantage of this new software application and work process. Unlike CAD, BIM represents a major shift in the way documentation, work processes and exchange of project information is handled. It facilitates collaboration and further automation in both design and construction. The handbook is designed to guide professionals through the various BIM technologies and related processes, since the collaborative nature of BIM requires professionals to view it from various perspectives. It reviews BIM processes and tools from multiple perspectives: the owner, architects and engineers, contractors, subcontractors and fabricators.
The BIM Handbook combines in-depth technical background, business process discussion of each of the major professional groups in architecture, engineering, construction and operation, and offers guidelines for assessment, adoption and use. It also includes real world case studies that identify the benefits and successes of BIM as well as the pitfalls and challenges. In addition, the book contains study questions for professionals (as well as educators and students) to engage in discussions about the many issues with respect to implementing and transitioning to BIM. Co-authors Chuck Eastman, Paul Teicholz, Rafael Sacks, are professors in architecture and computing, and engineering and construction management. Co-author Kathleen Liston is a technology consultant and co-founder of Common Point technologies, a construction simulation software company.
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People who set extraordinary goals are up to 75% more successful and fulfilled than those with weaker ones. That is the crux of HARD Goals, a guide that incorporates the latest research from neuroscience, psychology and business to help its readers to develop extraordinary goals that will lead to high achievement. Author Mark Murphy, founder and CEO of Leadership IQ, which provides leadership training for companies such as Microsoft, IBM and MasterCard, outlines how HARD goals (those that are Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult) make it easier to improve revenue and gain results.
According to Murphy, business owners too frequently set the wrong goals for success, and the book aims to help readers tap into the specific goal-oriented mental processes needed for success. Unlike typical and formal organizational systems, HARD Goals goes further by tapping into what really engages and motivates the mental systems (emotional, visual, survival, learning) that allow entrepreneurs and employees to understand how best to attain individual and company goals. HARD Goals is based on findings from a research study of thousands of businesses. The book focuses on building a culture of high achievement rather than one that merely stresses good habits. Both books are currently available from www.amazon.ca and www.chapters.indigo.ca.
DELIVERIES It can become the most important tool in a contractor’s kit, helping to handle everything from project management, to costing, accounting, payroll and design. BY NESTOR E. ARELLANO
any contractors rely on a penand-paper approach to keep tabs on tasks such as job estimates, materials costing, payroll and design work; a tried-and-true method that serves certain businesses well. On the other hand, there has emerged a wide array of free to low-cost and easy-touse software tools that can speed up these often tedious tasks, help cut costs and even uncover hidden tax savings. Now that most entrepreneurs in almost any industries carry computer laptops or have a PC in their home offices, many contractors are discovering that it pays to explore the capabilities of software tools. 22
Project management: Who does what? When is a certain part of a project supposed to be complete? Which equipment or worker is expected at what location? These are some of the everyday questions that contractors face, notes Andy Woyzbun, lead research analyst for InfoTech Research Group based in London, Ont. A technology expert, Woyzbun advises businesses on how to deploy and use computer systems and software. “For some contractors, jotting these and other details on a calendar or daily planner might do, but increasingly many find out that project management software can be the most important tool in a contractor’s tool belt,” Woyzbun says.
Essentially, project management (PM) involves planning, organizing and managing resources, such as equipment, materials and personnel. It also takes into account scheduling and tracking project goals and milestones. “Basically, you want equipment, materials and manpower available on the jobsite when they are needed,” Woyzbun says. “You want to avoid double booking resources, missed appointments or missing workers as these cause delays and lose you money or contracts.” Among the key advantages of putting all this paperwork in digital form and using software is that calculations and entries are automated. For instance, changing the price on one item will result in the automatic alteration
PHOTO: THINKSTOCK IMAGES
Feature of the total cost of a project. When you move the completion date of one task, a good PM tool will alert you on the need to adjust completion dates for other components of the whole project. This reduces the risk of critical issues falling between the cracks and causing problems later along the way. With PM notes in digital form, contractors need not make multiple copies of the document for partners and other stakeholders. Documents can be emailed to their intended recipients or, in some cases, even sent to the recipients’ smartphones. Reports on projects are instantly viewable on computer or smartphone screens. “Dashboards” provide quick at-a-glance view (just as a car dashboard does) of items that require special attention. Reliable PM software ideal for contractors can be purchased from around $500 to more than $1,000, according to Woyzbun. Two of the most well-known brands are Microsoft Project (MS Project) and Primavera from Oracle Corp. Woyzbun said the two are among the better products used by larger operations, which handle multiple projects, own or lease several pieces of equipment and employ more than 10 employees or sub-contractors. There are also lower-cost PM tools available in a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. SaaS, also known as software-on-demand, is basically software deployed over the Internet. Rather than pay a one-time purchase price, users typically instead pay a monthly fee or pay only when the software is used. Among the most popular PM tools offered on-demand are Clarizen, Basecamp and Tenrox, Woyzbun says. Clarizen, has a Professional version priced at $34.95 per month for a single user. The company’s Enterprise version, which has 100 customizable fields and 200 business rules, is priced at $49.95 per month for a single user. Basecamp’s Plus version, which is designed for 35 projects, is priced at $49 per month. The Premium version, made for up to 100 projects, costs $99 per month. The Max version, which handles an unlimited number of projects, cost $149 per month. All three versions do not have limits on the number of users.
“For some contractors, jotting these and other details on a calendar or daily planner might do, but increasingly many find out that project management software can be the most important tool in a contractor’s tool belt.” Tenrox Project Management is a software package available for download over the Internet for around $200. It is among the most easy-to-use, comprehensive PM tools available. For instance, the tool allows a project manager to create project teams and to share access to a PM document with the team members. Both high-end and cheaper SaaS models feature time management tools, capability to track an unlimited number of projects, milestones and tasks, budget tracking, report templates and publishing features. In many instances, these tools also come with collaboration features that enable multiple users to work together on a project online at the same time. Increasingly some tools have iPhone and BlackBerry integration to allow users to view or even work on documents on their smartphones.
Open source software developers also offer a wide choice of free-to-use PM tools. For example, although downloadable for free the Gantt Project PM software has surprising array of features. Gantt Project allows project managers to create team members, assign those tasks and input their names, phone numbers and other contact information. The tool also comes with a percentage complete bar that clearly illustrates at what stage a particular component of a project is at.
By the numbers: One of the most critical parts of managing a business is tracking and controlling cash flow, according to Peggy Crawford, principal of Renewed Business Strategies of Orillia, Ont. Crawford advises business owners on accounting and tax matters.
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Feature “The days of going to your accountant with an envelope or box of receipts are fast disappearing,” Crawford said. More and more small- and medium-sized business (SMB) owners are relying on accounting and tax preparation software these days. Crawford said tax and accounting software products are best used as tools to gather and analyze data to help the business owner or accounting expert to make faster decisions. “Essentially, accounting and tax software helps its users record data in a way that makes it easier and faster for accountants and tax experts to help them.” Basic accounting software such as QuickBooks, Simply Accounting and MYOB will handle bookkeeping functions such as, billing, expenses and income tracking, and can
PHOTO: THINKSTOCK IMAGES
“The days of going to your accountant with an envelope or box of receipts are fast disappearing.” be purchased for about $200. More complex versions of these tools or other products that also provide payroll management and analytics features can go as high as $550 or more. “In their beefed up form, these software products can be used to help in some form of project management capacity.” Most accounting software products, Crawford says, interact with computerbased spreadsheet tools like the industry standard Excel from Microsoft. Spreadsheets allow you to lay out the numbers in rows, columns or grids and store information in a database. They also have computing features that allow users to create equation formulas. By being able to change entries and preview how they affect the results of the equation, contractors are able to create “what if scenarios,” Crawford says. This functionality, she said can be valuable in job costing. “For instance, by experimenting on the price of different materials, contractors can determine more accurately which material or combination of materials
could help bring a project within budget. You can do this with a pen and paper but results are instant with software.” The history recording feature of many accounting tools can also clue contractors in on the cost of previous jobs and how much profit was reaped from that type of assignment. “Using this information, contractors get a clearer picture of what types of projects are desirable and which ones they should avoid,” she says. By using tax preparation software, contractors can cut down substantial business costs or receive considerable deductions, according to Cam Moore, product manager for the global business division of Intuit Canada. Intuit produces the QuickBooks line of accounting software and the TurboTax suite of tax preparation software. Most tax preparation software sell for around $40 to $100. Many contractors do not have the time or expertise to prepare their business’s tax documents, Moore says. This is where tax preparation software can help them record the needed
items and figures. These products also allow contractors to file their tax returns online. Generally, tax software is updated each year to account for tax rule changes. “This way, the software is able to help users identify current deductible expenses or items they may not have been aware of or were not available the previous year,” Moore says. “Good tax tools often come with a sort of questionnaire that determines your type of business and then provides industryspecific features to help obtain the maximum refunds and exemptions available for that type of business.”
By design: Computer aided design (CAD) software (albeit less complex versions than the fullfeatured products used by engineers) are finding their way onto the computers of many contractors, Woyzbun says. From the very beginning contractors have always had some design responsibility in projects. “Contractors do not just
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Feature execute plans. Very often, last minute changes or unexpected situations require them to make changes to the blueprints,” he says. “In some projects, contractors may be required to have some working knowledge of reading blueprints of designs made with tools such as AutoCAD 2D or 3D software.” Products such as those from Autodesk can cost as little as $70 for simple sketching tools to more than $5,000 for full-featured tools that incorporate drop-down menus showing material specs for each component of a drawing. “For many contractors lower-priced CAD tool that range from between $50 to about $200 might be more appropriate,” Woyzbun says. These tools enable contractors to create simple drawings, use adjustable template designs or deploy pre-loaded cookie cutter drawings. Peter Selwyn, franchise owner of an Ottawa-based Closet Tailor business uses a proprietary CAD program from the company. Closet Tailor’s easy-to-use CAD software is very handy for helping enhance a customer’s ideas, he says. “The tool comes with a collection of closet designs, colours and materials. I just mix and match these items into a design for my clients to help them decide what they want me to build.” Better Homes and Gardens has a Home Designer Suite software that enables users to simultaneously create 2D and 3D designs of rooms, landscapes, decks and cabinets from a library of 6,000 design items. The software retails for $99. Beyond project management, design and accounting, there are numerous other software tools to be considered that can make a contractor’s work easier. For instance, the PowerPoint slide presentation tool from Microsoft sells for around $100. Windows Movie Maker is available for free download, and can turn digital photos, charts, drawings and documents into videos. Creations from both tools can be loaded onto desktop or laptop computers or even uploaded to social networks such as Facebook and Vimeo to help contractors market their services to a wider audience. Word processing programs such as Word or layout tools like PageMaker can be used to create posters, labels or flyers. Free (or “open source”) alternatives to these tools are available online from Open Office.
Programs such as Outlook for email or even free browser-based tools such as Gmail from Google or Yahoo mail can also do double duty as contact lists and planners. Almost every software product that is being sold has an open source equivalent.
Things to consider: When looking for a software tool for your business, experts we talked to suggested that contractors consider the following: • Does the tool contain features and functionalities that you need? • Is the tool easy to understand and use? • Can reports or projects be shared among multiple users when needed?
•D oes it integrate with tools used by your partners? • Is there any customer or technical support available? • Are there any hidden costs such as extras for special features or additional services? There is no need for contractors to fear or remain hesitant about using software for their businesses, because many of these products have now dropped in price and have become easier to use, Woyzbun says. “In many cases all it requires is searching online or reading product reviews or taking a few minutes to explore the features and powers of software that is already installed when people buy their computers.”
Software review and resources
You can find useful reviews of free software tools on these sites:
Project management • http://www.project-management-software-review.toptenreviews.com/index.html • http://www.softwareprojects.org/reviews-gantt-project.html
Comparison project management
Accounting software review
CAD software review
• http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_CAD_editors_for_architecture._engineering_and Construction_(AEC) • http://download.cnet.com/windows/3d-modeling-software/
Fencing the Box
Small design elements and fencing materials that mimic upscale materials bring the ‘wow’ to a yard’s all-important backdrop. BY LAWRENCE CUMMER
PHOTO: BLUE SKY/FORESTFENCE
ontractors who consider fencing a mere line of wood boards enveloping a property line can learn a great deal from landscape architects and designers. While many homeowners, especially those sharing townhouse spaces, do look for simple privacy fences all can agree on, others seek a way to create greater charm in order to impress guests, raise property values and enhance their backyard time. Homeowners in urban areas who would rather invest in their homes than purchase summer cottages look to fencing, decking and landscaping to give them a better outdoor experience. As well, the cost reduction of more sophisticated materials and designs have made more decorative, upscale fences an option for an increasing number of homeowners. Industry experts say a desire by homeowners to have a
more unique, aesthetically beautiful fence is definitely on the rise. “The key to a having a beautiful yard is in a good fence or deck,” says Marc Chauvin, owner and operator of Blue Sky Distributing. “Think of fencing like the canvas of a painting; it is the backdrop. At the heart of any successful landscape design is a good backdrop.” Chauvin, who trained as a landscape designer and has spent the last 25 years in the fencing and decking industry, says fencing was a “kind of boring” market until an influx of new products emerged during the last four or five years.
New materials, looks and features: Gone are the days of simply choosing between pressure treated wood or western red cedar for fencing. As well as vinyl fencing and composites, Chauvin points to
other unique materials coming to the Canadian market. For example, his company supplies EcoStone fences from Simtek, which are made with high-impact polyethylene plastic and reinforced with galvanized steel. New methods of working with polyethylene allow Simtek to create panels of fencing that take on an appearance of stonework. EcoStone costs about double that of the same length of pressure treated wood, but the product is only one-quarter as expensive as the masonry it is designed to look like, according to Chauvin. “This is the first polyethylene fencing product made using rotational mould technology,” he says. Now people can have the beauty of stone without the expense.” With an install that can be done by a contractor without masonry experience, Chauvin views EcoStone as a way for contractors to provide homeowners with an
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Gone are the days of simply choosing between pressure treated wood or western red cedar for fencing. upscale-looking option that would have been too costly to consider in the past. Chauvin says polyethylene provides some other advantages over wood or composite fencing (with which, he says, it is most closely priced). The oils in the material make it repel paint, dirt washes away with rain, it requires little or no maintenance and is graffiti resistant. While not new to the fencing market, some recent changes in PVC has made it a more attractive choice to some Canadian homeowners, according to Christian Lepage, sales director at Plastival Inc. in Terrebonne, Que. Perhaps the biggest change, Lepage says, is a steady decline in pricing for PVC and other non-wood fencing materials. While still slightly more expensive than pressure treated wood,
PVC today comes in at around the same price as western red cedar, Lepage says. Since vinyl is low in, if not free of, maintenance demands, it has increasingly become an increasingly attractive wood alternative that contractors can offer their clients looking to cut costs and save time. Increased options in the colour and form factor have also improved PVC’s popularity. Black PVC designed to looks like wrought iron fencing is another option for homeowners desiring more elegance, but lacking the budget for the real deal. In addition, Lepage notes that while iron requires painting and maintenance, his company has not witnessed colour change in black PVC fencing over more than 10 years. Finally, he adds that PVC is starting to pick up ground in more wood-centric communities, like those on the west coast. Lepage believes colour is once again the cause, since populations that previously shunned traditional white PVC fencing, are embracing the options of grey and beige. Still, some homeowners prefer the sleek, clean look of a traditional white fence, Lepage says.
Good fences, good neighbours: The proverb that good fences make good neighbours is centuries old, and to that end sometimes an old-fashioned privacy fence is all some homeowners need. “Most wood fencing is primarily for privacy,” says Paul Loader, sales manager at Forest Fence & Deck Company Ltd., a 25year fence and decking contractor. He says that while there are some high-end residential fencing requests, the bulk of homeowners are still just looking for a good privacy fence with overlapping boards to make it attractive on both sides. Most of his residential clientele still prefer wood over composites and other materials, and the split between high-end and lower-end fence requests has remained pretty consistent over the years. “There has not been much of a change in the homeowner’s philosophy over the years. In the past 10 years we have always had the mix of some customers who want to do something more elaborate and fancy, and those for which cost is a major factor.” He says it is important to remember that ...Continued on pg 35
News And Facts For The
NSCC’s Marconi Campus Goes LEED The Marconi campus of Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) in Sydney, N.S. is expanding with the construction of a $7 million LEED certified new wing that contains tilt-up walls constructed on the ground then lifted into place The two storey wing, which is designed to be 55% more efficient than a traditional building, will be home to four programs Automotive Service Technician, Motorcycle and Power Products, Welding and Metal Fabrication and Heavy Duty Truck and Transport. Scheduled to open in September, the walls will be insulated to R25 standards, the ceiling to R30 and heating will be provided by heat pumps and through in-floor radiant heat provided by the main campus building. In addition, the structure will feature water conservation measures including irrigation-free landscaping and water efficient fixtures. “This modern, well-equipped wing will provide a leading-edge learning environment for our students, while stewarding the energy-efficient building practices that our sustainably-focused economy demands,” said NSCC Acting President Don Bureaux.
Contractor Professional Officials helped prepare the tilt up walls for the new trades wing of NSCC Marconi Campus during the ground-breaking ceremony in October 2010. Left to right are Dave MacLean, Principal of Marconi Campus, Don Bureaux, Acting-President of NSCC, Clayton Bartlett, vice chair of the NSCC Board of Governors, Senator Michael MacDonald, Deputy Premier Frank Corbett, and David Oulton, chair of the 150th Anniversary fundraising campaign, Building Futures, Construction Association of Nova Scotia.
Meanwhile, the Harbour Wing of NSCC’s Waterfront Campus in Dartmouth, N.S., recently became the second building in Nova Scotia to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification. The LEED Silver certificate was presented to NSCC president, Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair by the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) Atlantic Chapter last year during the BuildGreen Atlantic Conference and Trade Show held at Waterfront.
Greenbuild 2011 The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) will be the host committee for Greenbuild 2011, the U.S. Green Building Council’s Annual conference and expo. Greenbuild will be held in Toronto Oct. 4-7. As Host Committee CaGBC will work with its Chapter executives and local partners to deliver off-site training, regional education and green building tours. Additionally, CaGBC will coordinate the recruitment and management of over 1000 youth volunteers on site. The participation of CaGBC will ensure that Canadian green building practices are highlighted and tours include local LEED® certified buildings. “Greenbuild 2011 will be the first time we hold Greenbuild outside the U.S., but it’s been a truly international show for years, with attendees from
more than 75 countries joining us in 2009,” said Kimberly Lewis, Vice President of Conferences & Events for the U.S. Green Building Council.
Green Building Resources Green Globes: Green Globes is an on-line auditing tool that lets designers, property owners and managers assess and rate existing buildings against best practices and standards, as well as integrate principles of green architecture at every stage of project delivery for retrofits and the design of new buildings. URL: http://www.greenglobes.com BOMA Go Green: A designation program designed by the British Columbia Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA BC) that recognizes buildings that meet minimum environmental standards in five major categories. URL: http://www.boma.bc.ca Green Building Information Centre: The site provides links and other information on green building practices and technologies. URL: http://www.greenbuilding.ca Source: Canadian Construction Association
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Feature many privacy fences are shared and that as a rule, neighbours will often want them aesthetically matching on both sides. Still, that does not mean that one neighbour cannot request little measures to spruce up or individualize their side, adding small premiums to their share of the project, which means more revenue for a contractor. Loader points to a few simple details that can sharpen up one side of even a traditional privacy fence; for example, placing lattice every few feet on which vines and ivy can grow. If both neighbours are looking for it, heavier posts might add slightly to the cost, but will create a more original and upscale appearance. The same is true of lattice work, curved or scalloped sections and toppings. He has seen a slight market shift in the world of wood fencing toward hardwoods: “Both in decking and fencing, more and more people are looking to do work in ipe lumber, for example.” The hardwood is increasing in popularity due to its insect resistance and durability.” In addition, bamboo is increasing as an interesting option for fencing, since its rapid growth makes it a ‘greener’ and more renewable choice. Others such as various South American exotic woods are becoming more available, but Loader is not sure whether they will be met with enough interest. The market still needs to play out to see which will catch on. “If you look back 20 or 30 years, it was all pressure treated or cedar,” he says.” “Now we are seeing a lot more woods being available. They have always been there, but we did not see as much of a demand. Now there are a lot of exotics available.”
PHOTO: BLUE SKY FENCING
Design discussion: Landscape designers know that it is not always what is built, but also what is left out, that can enhance the look. As an example, a mix of fencing with vegetation for screening can create an attractive effect, says landscape architect John McMullen, who runs Plan by Design with his partner Daniel O’Brien. “Combine natural features with built elements,” he says. “We often use combinations of plant materials, fencing and trellises, designed into a residential landscape to create a more organic look and visual appeal.
“Often the most interesting work is created with a mixture of media. You might have masonry, with wood and plants.” Consider function and form to get the right aesthetics, and begin designing with the greater whole in mind. When building a new home or a major renovation, savings and design benefits can be had by incorporating elements of the overall construction into the backyard build. For instance, while it could be costly to later clad part a portion of fence with the stonework as the house, it can be a nominal cost if handled during the initial build. Just like measuring twice and cutting once, it makes good sense to plan early and, if one is being used, to get a landscape architect involved in the process from the get go. If decking and fencing
work is to be a contractor’s specialty, knowing when to contact landscape architects is ultimately going to save the contractor money, McMullen says. “Find a landscape architect that works in residential design, because not all do, and the best thing you can do is establish a good relationship with them,” he says. Just as small elements like lattice can make a big difference, bringing in landscape architects does not need to be a big deal, nor break the bank. Like the fencing projects themselves, McMullen says that there are a wide range of jobs where it is appropriate to pull in outside help. “Design is important,” he says. “Working with a landscaper on a small design element does not need to be expensive, especially if you only need conceptual direction.”
BATHROOM ALTERATIONS A knowledge of environmentally friendly products and energy efficiency initiatives is essential for any contractor. By Stefan Dubowski
ccording to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), 2.1 million households completed renovations in 2009, spending an average of $12,100. Considering the amount of wear and tear on your average residential bathroom, it seems likely that much of that was spent on bathroom renovations. Renovating the bathroom is not the same job that it was 10 or 20 years ago. Today, the bathroom has become the household epicentre for all things “green,” including concerns about water preservation, energy efficiency and overall household cost savings.
At the same time, homeowners want their bathrooms to be stylish, functional, and easy to maintain. It may be a tall order, fulfilling so many disparate requirements. Still, according to suppliers in the bath fixtures field, savvy contractors can combine elegant style, functionality and environmental friendliness in bathroom projects. What is more, thanks to a handful (although a dwindling number) of government programs providing rebates or tax credits for home renovations, bathroom makeovers do not need to be as expensive as they would have been in the past. (See sidebar, “Government programs,” for more information on those.) CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
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Cover Story Certain elements are must-haves, of course. A good base of water-resistant gypsum board protects the house structure from the ravages of moisture. Stylish tiles make all the difference. Faucets and toilets play an important role in the environmental picture. All of these pieces also help address the three key areas homeowners consider when thinking about bathroom renovations: the environment, efficiency and, perhaps most of all, budget.
Behind the walls Gypsum board has changed. Today, products help keep the moisture produced in the bathroom from affecting the house infrastructure. “In a bathroom environment, the main issue you are addressing is moisture and mold resistance,” says Ed Maloney, glass rock product manager at building products supplier CertainTeed Corp. CertainTeed’s Diamondback Tile Backer is backed with fibreglass instead of paper, for improved moisture and mold resistance. The product is also “Greenguard Children and School Certified.” Developed by product-certification organization Greenguard Environmental Institute, the certification means Diamondback has low volatile organic compound (VOC) levels. VOCs can cause allergic reactions and are considered potentially toxic. Diamondback is also EcoLogo certified, Maloney says. Founded by the Government of Canada, EcoLogo is North America’s largest environmental standard and certification mark. Diamondback costs about twice as much as traditional paper-faced products, Maloney says, although it handles the same way as the paper products and contractors would not have to invest in new installation techniques. It is also 30% to 40% less expensive than cement-backed products. The high price does not deter sales. “Not at all, especially in these high-humidity and wet areas,” Maloney says. People accept the additional expense, in part because Diamondback lasts much longer than traditional gypsum board. The product has a lifetime residential warranty, whereas paper-faced products are usually guaranteed only for about a year.
Renovating the bathroom is not the same job that it was 10 or 20 years ago. Today, the bathroom has become the household epicentre for all things “green,” including concerns about water preservation, energy efficiency and overall household cost savings. Tile style: Atop the gypsum board, tile patterns in ceramic or stone make their mark, both in terms of style and the environment. “We have designated a number of our products as ‘ecotile,’” says Jessica Hunter, corporate marketing manager at Ames
Tile & Stone Ltd. She explains that ecotiles are manufactured in an environmentally friendly manner. For instance, 90% to 100% of the water used in the manufacturing process is recycled, and kilns are fitted with filters to reduce toxic emissions. The
An important detail in that space is the type of faucet, as well as other accessories, which can make or break a bathroom project for both style and the environment. tiles also do not emit VOCs, and ecotiles “have an extremely long lifetime when installed correctly,” Hunter says. Tile prices vary, Hunter says, “from less than $1 per square foot to hundreds of dollars per square foot.” The overall expense for bathroom projects likewise varies. “It all depends on the design, the environment the tile will be placed in, as well as budget.” Hunter does have suggestions for renovations on a tight budget. “For your walls, either in a shower or elsewhere, choose an inexpensive tile for your budget, such as a large format 12” by 24” glossy white wall tile, and then add a fabulous accent to make your design unique,” she says. “An accent can be something as simple as a vertical strip of pebbles, or a few rows of glass tiles to add contrast colour and reflect light back into your space.” 40
Water works: An important detail in that space is the type of faucet, as well as other accessories, which can make or break a bathroom project for both style and the environment. Faucet maker Moen was named the partner of the year in 2010 by WaterSense, a certification organization that sets standards for water conservation. “We transitioned all our lavatory faucets both on the residential and the multi-family side to meet the WaterSense criteria,” says Tim McDonough, vice-president, wholesale marketing and brand development, Moen Canada. “We reduce the water flow by 33%.” Faucets are not the only accessory to consider, even if the homeowner is on a budget. “You can redo a bathroom and give it a facelift without breaking the bank,” McDonough says. Install a curved shower rod to give the feeling of more space in the tub, he sug-
gests. Give the walls a new coat of paint. Buy matching accessories: when the faucet, vanity door handles, and the toilet lever match, the bathroom attains visual harmony. “It comes to life,” McDonough says. He also points to Mirrorscapes as an option. These inexpensive borders transform builders-grade mirrors into elegant installations. They are easy to install. “You do not even need a mitre saw,” McDonough says. As for the toilet, dual-flush units “are the biggest things to hit the market,” says Rick Borg, technical product specialist, kitchen and bath at Foremost International Ltd. These devices feature two flush settings: a 4.1 L flush for liquids, and 6 L flush for solids. Yet dual-flush toilets have a flaw: homeowners can never be sure that the toilets are being used optimally. “There are a lot of cheaters out there,” Borg says. “If you have a family with three kids and they should be using the 4.1 L button, but they use 6 L, there go your savings.” High-efficiency toilets (HETs) are the better bet. Designed to flush with either 3.8 L or 4.8 L of water, they always use less than traditional toilets. HETs are more expensive, however. They can cost upwards of $130, Borg says, while a 6 L toilet can cost as little as $85. The price is not a deterrent for most people, but something else might be an issue. “It is unproven,” Borg says. Most people still think a 6 L toilet will outperform a 4.8 L model. That is not the case. In maximum performance (MaP) tests with Veritec Consulting Inc., Foremost found that its HET models outperformed by a wide margin toilets that use substantially more water. An old fashioned 12 or 13 L toilet can flush up to 300 g of solid waste. Foremost’s HETs flush 1000 g of waste. As with other aspects of bathroom renovation, it is important to plan the toilet purchase before making it. “In older homes, there may be 10” roughin toilets,” Borg says. “If contractors go in there thinking that all toilets are the same and they buy a 12” toilet, which is the standard in the market, they find out it hits the back wall and they cannot align it with the drain. They did not plan properly.”
Cover Story Poor planning leads to more work. To accommodate a 12” toilet in a 10” space, “you either move the drain out, or you cut a hole in the wall,” Borg says.
Bright ideas: Lighting is an important factor in bathrooms. “����������������������������� It is going to make a difference,” says Borg. Lighting affects the colour of the vanity, the counter, even the toilet and tub. “They could end up looking super white. Walnut colour can end up looking red.” Jim Cooper, president of lighting supplier Canarm Ltd., said most people seek bright lighting in the bathroom. “You are doing detail work, whether it is removing a sliver or painting your nails.” Still, colouration can vary. Fluorescent bulbs in the 2,700 Kelvin range emit light similar in colour to the warm glow of incandescent bulbs, which many customers still consider the benchmark. Fluorescents operating north of 2,700 Kelvin can come across as too sharp in some situations. While fluorescents are more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs, energy savings are not enough of a draw for most homeowners. “They are not buying fluorescent fixtures for the environmental benefits,” Cooper says. “They are buying what they think looks good. Lighting is still very much a fashion industry.” Bridging style and energy efficiency are Canarm’s Greenchoice Energy Efficient products, including the Carmen series available in a three-light and a one-light configuration. Line-painted glass gives the look of linen on the shades, and the 13-watt GU24 Energy Star rated compact-fluorescent bulb provides the output and colour of a 60watt incandescent bulb. Another Greenchoice product, the FV series, uses F8 fluorescent tubes, two 17-watt bulbs in the 24” model and two 25-watt bulbs in the 36” model. With proper lighting, fixtures, tiles and gypsum, bathrooms can meet even the most environmentally-conscious and cost-conscious homeowner’s high expectations.
GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS Bathroom designs that help homeowners reduce electricity and water usage score high on the “environmental friendliness” scale, but lately they have also scored high on cost savings, thanks to a number of government rebate and credit programs. Across Canada, municipal, provincial and federal government programs give homeowners tax breaks or cash back for water and power efficiency. The City of Banff, Alta. offers a $100 post-purchase rebate for dualflush toilets, which use less than half as much water as older models. Fortis BC, British Columbia’s electricity provider, offers 10 free compact fluorescent light bulbs to homeowners. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers
refunds worth up to 10% of a homeowner’s mortgage-loan insurance premium for renovations that make homes more energy efficient. These programs are starting to wind down. While many municipalities used to offer rebates for lowflow toilets, fewer cities do now that 6 L units are standard. In addition, the federal government’s ecoEnergy Retrofit – Homes program, which provided rebates for electricity and heat-saving home renovations, was cancelled last year. To learn more about government home renovation programs, visit the Natural Resources Canada Office of Energy Efficiency website: http:// oee.nrcan.gc.ca/corporporate/incentives.cfm?attr=0
Greening of the BASEMENT PHOTO: THINKSTOCK IMAGES
Environmentally friendly options are finding a home in renovated basements. BY JOHN G. SMITH
ost green things tend to begin underground. It is where seeds are planted, roots are established, and nutrients can be found to fuel any growth. Maybe there should be no surprise that greener building trends are heading downstairs into the basements of Canadian homes. Environmentally friendly building trends are making their mark on basement renovations across the country as homeowners begin to ask contractors about options that retain heat, require less electricity, and generally create a smaller environmental footprint.
PHOTOS: COURTESY OF OWENS CORNING
There is a good reason that most of these discussions will begin with the insulation that encloses this space. Since concrete is a conductive material, a poorly insulated basement will act like a heat sink for the entire structure, explains Salvatore Ciarlo, Owens Corning’s technical services manager for Canada. The project’s so-called environmental footprint can be influenced as soon as products are selected from the aisles of a building centre. The amount of recycled content in a fibreglass batt, for example, can vary anywhere from 40% to 70%, and the green differentiators do not end there. Even the amount of packaging will make a difference. Larger contractor bags will require less plastic and account for lower levels of carbon dioxide as a result. “Fiberglass is a very green product,” agrees Ron van Pelt, Guardian’s Canadian vice-president of sales, referring to recycled content that comes from sources such as pop bottles, plate glass and discarded windshields. “That is an excellent part of the green story.” Once the preferred material is selected, a well planned insulation project will involve more than jamming some fiberglass or wool batts between the studs in a newly framed wall. Given the added moisture in the lower areas of the home, there will need to be a barrier to control the movement of water vapour, prevent mold, and protect the integrity of the overall structure. Ciarlo recommends beginning with a layer of hydrophobic extruded polystyrene on the inner face of the concrete wall. This will eliminate the thermal bridge that might exist if the wooden 2x4s were pushed right up against the concrete. The material itself is attached to the wall with a band of full bed water-based adhesive at the top and bottom of each sheet, eliminating any convective loops in the process. No other fasteners are required because the
“Fiberglass is a very green product,” agrees Ron van Pelt, Guardian’s Canadian vice-president of sales, referring to recycled content that comes from sources such as pop bottles, plate glass and discarded windshields. “That is an excellent part of the green story.” wall’s frame will hold everything in place. The 1” of foam offers an insulating value of R5. From there, an R14 batt can be used to fill the space between the studs themselves. “Make sure that it is installed as homogeneously as possible. Avoid having areas that are not covered,” Ciarlo adds, referring to the application of the batts that will come in different widths to account for wood or steel studs. As important as the advice may be, there can also be too much of a good thing. Every inch of unwanted compression will sacrifice 25% of the R value, he notes, explaining how the air
between the fibres is actually responsible for insulating the wall. The 3.5” of space created with a 2x4 will only have the room for an R14 batt. Compression and moisture present two of the biggest challenges to the source of insulation, van Pelt says, noting how additional batts would also add a great deal of pressure to the final layer of drywall. A super six polyethylene (or whatever local Building Codes require) is then installed over the batts, with drywall on top. The final layer will also tend to be made of some recycled content of its own. CertainTeed’s EcoLogo production plant, for example, ensures that 99% of its drywall comes from recycled material. The potential environmental benefits do not need to end there, either. The company’s new AirRenew sheets actually improve the quality of the air in the basement, removing unwanted Volatile Organic Compounds that can be emitted by everything from glues to carpets and unsealed plywood.
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PHOTO: THINKSTOCK IMAGES
Feature Of course, the greener building options are not limited to the walls themselves. The space around the headers often requires some added insulation, Ciarlo observes. “You get moist air that travels in behind the insulation and hits that cold rim joist and it condenses.” That issue can be controlled with an air barrier that is made by installing extruded polystyrene foam inserts and caulking around the headers, or using a fiberglass batt that is laminated with polyethylene flanges. The floor itself will deserve a thermal break of its own. About 1.5” of extruded polystyrene will fill the need in many cases as long as it has the compressive strength for the job. In the case of a retrofit, this will involve laying down the insulation, installing some firring in the form of 1x4 strapping on 16” centres, and then attaching ¾” plywood on top. The straps themselves will create a vent between the foam and the plywood, protecting the floor from unwanted moisture, Ciarlo adds. In the cramped confines of a crawlspace, the best option might come in the form of a sprayed polyurethane wall foam, like GuardFoam 55, with every inch returning close to R 5.5 of insulation value, van Pelt continues. Windows should not be overlooked either, he says. “You are selling a system here, not just fiberglass batts. You install all the batts that you want, but if you have cracks and you have leaks in doors or windows or trim, it does not matter what you do. You are still going to have drafts.” Of course, one of the most dramatic needs in the ongoing energy needs in the renovated basement will come in the form of any lighting. Contractors are in the position to recommend a number of energysaving alternatives to incandescent or halogen lights, such as compact fluorescents (CFLs) and LEDs. “In a basement or family room under the main floor, you can still use a T8 fluorescent bulb or other forms of
“You are selling a system here, not just fiberglass batts. You install all the batts that you want, but if you have cracks and you have leaks in doors or windows or trim, it does not matter what you do. You are still going to have drafts.”
lighting, but recessed is so popular,” says Fred Fennel, who distributes lighting options through Fennel Marketing. In these cases, the lighting can be transformed with an LED that consumes 15 watts or less and runs much cooler than a traditional 75-watt floodlight. “The consumer loves it. It is a better form of light and has a life of 50,000 hours. It has become very popular, very fast.” These products easily install into a majority of 5” and 6” recessed housings, using C-brackets to accept torsion springs. After removing an existing lamp and recessed trim, the lead wire is screwed in place and connected to the light. Everything pushes into the housing. The end result performs like a traditional PAR lamps thanks to an anodized upper reflector and a lens that focuses the light. In addition to using less power, the bulbs themselves last longer than ever. The Reality LED downlight, for example, will last up to 50,000 hours. “The lighting manufacturers are now starting to construct light fixtures that are using CFL technology. Some of it is actually proprietary in the sense that the fixtures they actually produce take and require certain bulbs,” adds Gord Thompson, Cathelle’s director of national sales and merchandising. “The spiral fluorescents, whether it is a medium base, whether it is what they call the new GU24 and GU13s, they are the ones that you will start to see in certain fixtures.” While CFL bulbs still do not throw their light as effectively as a traditional halogen or incandescent design, there have been vast improvements. Alternatives in a project might now include a 9-watt PAR 20, which would replace a traditional 40-watt floodlight. “If you have a slightly larger recessed light like a PAR 30, you are switching to 15 watts, which is equivalent to 65 watts in the traditional halogen lighting,” he says. The spiral bulbs are inside the reflectors themselves, and chrome trims are now used to maximize the reflective power of the light.
PHOTO: THINKSTOCK IMAGES
“Contractors are in the position to recommend a number of energy-saving alternatives to incandescent or halogen light to better units.” “The energy savings are incredible,” Thompson adds, noting how contractors can often use this information to convince customers to upgrade fixtures to better units. When it comes to LEDs, Thompson suggests that the long-lasting designs will have their greatest impact when used for task lights that are installed under cabinets that are no more than 30” high. As important as the bulbs may be, some added control over the lights may make the biggest difference of all. Extra switches can help to limit the lights in a specific area of the basement that is being used. Dimmers are also available for CFL bulbs, although homeowners will need to understand that the quality of light will not match a halogen, Thompson says. “The dimmer itself is what contributes to the energy savings.” Even a motion sensor could make a difference. He installed one in his parents’ utility room, so they could unload a freezer and have the light turn off behind them. Contractors will also want to consider exactly how any light will be used, since the power levels can be much lower if they are simply providing some mood lighting. It is just a matter of embracing some green thinking, and letting the ideas take root underground.
TREATED P Public concerns have driven manufacturers to develop new methods of pressure treating wood, and still more are on the horizon. BY DAVID CHILTON
ressure treated wood is everywhere even if most people are unaware of its ubiquity. It is used in the shingles of that house on the corner and perhaps even in its foundations. That utility pole sporting someoneâ€™s homemade advertisement for piano lessons or a lost dog has also been pressure treated, as has every railway tie in the country. Fences, decks, retaining walls and most items you can think of that are made of wood and expected to last for years will be pressure treated given its special ability to fend off decay, vermin, insects and fungus. In contrast, untreated wood, such as pine, will last only a year or two if it is contact with moisture.
PHOTO: TIMBER SPECIALTIES CO.
Despite being so common across the board, pressure treated wood is used more frequently in some areas than others. Decks, for example, are built almost all the time using pressure treated wood. A source to determine just how frequently it is used in Canada is difficult to obtain, but in the U.S. some 80% of decks are built with this kind of lumber. However, it should be noted that although its use is widespread, not all pressure treated wood is equal. The Canadian Standards Association ranks the lumber according to certain criteria listed in a “Use categories and associated service conditions” document. The CSA says categories UC3.2 and UC4.1 are typical for decking, noting both are recommended
where the wood will be used in exterior construction or in contact with the ground or fresh water as well as being exposed to all weather cycles, including prolonged wetting. Henry Walthert, executive director of Wood Preservation Canada in Ottawa, which has represented pressure treated wood and wood preservative manufacturers since 1955, says there is a further wrinkle. That particular wrinkle is just exactly what chemicals the wood is treated with. Lumber used in decking and patios, among other things, will be preserved using alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ), a water-based compound that has marched to the front following the industry voluntarily curtailing the use of chromated copper arsenate (CCA) due to concerns about the latter’s effect on humans and the environment. Copper azole (CA) is broadly comparable to ACQ and performs similarly. “CCA was under growing scrutiny in terms of the arsenic component, but that is not to say that anything was found that was detrimental. What the manufacturers did was say, ‘Look, we have got new products so
let us voluntarily agree to take CCA off the residential market for most products and that will allow us to enter the market with the new preservatives,’” Walthert explains. Despite the growing unease about CCA, thanks largely to the arsenic used in the preservative, there is no evidence that CCA was dangerous, says Paul Cooper of the Faculty of Forestry at the University of Toronto. “Up until early 2004 the most common preservative for both industrial and residential use was the CCA. It has been the most contentious of the preservatives, I would say, because of the arsenic component. The chromium is not a problem, the copper is not a problem,” says Cooper, who points out that copper has very low toxicity for humans and other mammals. The arsenic in CCA is also very well fixed in the wood, and any amounts that come off are tiny and unlikely to cause serious harm, he says, citing controlled tests. Cooper, who specializes in wood science and is a member of the International Academy of Wood Science, suggests playground equipment treated with CCA could be coated to further reduce risk, and he notes CCA-treated wood has just been
PHOTO: TIMBER SPECIALTIES CO.
re-approved for certain industrial uses. Irrespective of their makeup, wood preservatives are considered a pesticide because they are noxious to insects such as carpenter ants and termites, and are regulated as such by Health Canada in a process that is both rigorous and costly, adds Walthert. The production of pressure treated wood is greatest in Ontario with British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec in the joint number two position, says Walthert. The biggest demand for the product is also in Ontario, specifically southern Ontario. Overall, he estimates the market for the wood is in the $750 million to $1 billion a year range. Pressure treated wood is called that because of the way it is produced, an invention of Dr. Karl Wolman more than 80 years ago. The lumber is placed in a huge cylinder, which is depressurized to remove all the air. The cylinder is then filled with a preservative that is forced deep into the wood under high pressure. Afterwards the wood is removed from the tank for drying before being shipped off to retailers and lumber yards. There is little dispute about the safety of ACQ, CA and CCA treated wood when they are used correctly. That does not mean, however, contractors and their clients can be cavalier about handling the products. In fact, industry sources are emphatic that there are certain procedures
to follow to lessen risk. When a contractor is machining pressure treated lumber he should wear a mask to reduce the amount of wood dust inhalation, and frequent or prolonged inhalation should be avoided. Machining, where possible, should be done outside. Hands and other parts of the body exposed to treated wood should be washed thoroughly when the work is finished, and if preservative residue or sawdust has accumulated on work clothes
they should be washed separately from household laundry. Equally important, treated wood should not be used where it may come into contact with fruits and vegetables, drinking water, animal feed and so on. Treated wood chips must not be used as mulch for a garden or as compost and it should never, ever be burnt but disposed of through recycling programs. For many contractors and their clients poured concrete foundations are the only
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Feature game in town. However, permanent wood foundations have been installed since the 1960s in many places in the country using pressure treated wood. The product used in these foundations was and is treated with CCA, says Walthert, and is one of the few remaining uses for it in the residential sector. A treated wood foundation can be built to handle almost any kind of climate, but it must be designed by a suitably qualified engineer and put in by contractors who are familiar with the right building techniques and all ancillary materials such as the proper fasteners and nails. The CSA’s use category for foundation lumber is UC4.2. “In theory, CCA treated wood for foundations should last a very long time,” says Cooper, who has never heard of a treated wood foundation collapsing. The benefits of a permanent wood foundation, which is built just like the lumber framed walls in the rest of the house and sheathed with plywood, are significant: easier installation, remodeling, decoration and interior finishing; easier insulation and design flexibility; and it might be less expensive. Despite these advantages, contractors should be alert to certain prerequisites of a treated wood foundation. Above grade hot dipped galvanized nails, stainless steel, bronze or copper fasteners may be used to attach treated plywood to treated lumber, although below grade stainless steel should be used to counter corrosion. Both ACQ and CA, while not used in treated wood foundations, nevertheless present their own special brand of trouble: the copper in them is highly corrosive to most metals. As popular as ACQ and CA are, there are other preservatives starting to make inroads in the treated wood market, particularly in the U.S., says Walthert. They are micronized copper quaternary (MCQ) and micronized copper azole (MCA). They work by having the copper “ground up” into smaller particles, says Walthert. “What that has allowed them to do is produce a product that is showing to be more environmentally friendly, in a sense; because the particles are smaller they tend to remain in the wood, and they are less of a concern in terms of leaching.” Walthert expects to see MCQ and MCA on the Cana-
dian market in the next year, although not everyone is fan. Cooper says he remains “not certain” about these new products. Regardless of the preservative’s makeup, it can be stained or painted, using either oil or water-based covers. Pressure treated wood already has some waterproofing done at the factory, but further sealing means it should “weather” first, although there is no consensus on how long this should take. One way to test if the treated wood is ready is to sprinkle some water on it. If water soaks in it is fit to be painted or stained. A brush or roller to apply the
paint or stain is recommended over a spray, because they offer a more even finish while using less material. In every case, it should be noted, following the manufacturer’s recommendations is paramount. It is difficult to imagine a satisfactory substitute for pressure treated wood. It is inexpensive, infinitely adaptable and safe, despite some popular misgivings about the chemicals used in the preservation process. Health Canada, the CSA and the regulations of the National Building Code will see to that even as newer formulations enter the market.
Hang-ups &Hook-ups Better closet designs begin by considering exactly how the space will be used. BY JOHN G. SMITH
eanne Fry is proud to say that her closet is nothing less than “impressive.” “I am a little bit anal about the folding of my linens,” admits the owner of The Big Purge, a Toronto based business that helps clients find a sense of order amidst the chaos. Everything is perfectly aligned, and the edges of individual stacks are as straight as a ruler. The sense of order hardly ends there. Board games and luggage are assigned to the top shelves, space at the bottom is dedicated for shoes, and a series of baskets store everything from jewellery to undergarments. Nothing would dare fall into a disorderly heap. “I have organized for people who have really nothing but a hanging bar in their closet. There is so much wasted space,” she says. “You have got to use every inch of your 56
closet, especially if you are doing the condo living thing or even living in an older home.” That is where a contractor can make a difference. With a little extra planning, these transformed spaces can actually become a showpiece in any home. Many projects would benefit from a brief consultation with a professional organizer who can identify a homeowner’s specific needs and the way the pieces should fit together, suggests Kristie Demke, a 13year professional organizer and president of Professional Organizers in Canada. The service itself typically costs under $200, which is far less than the cost of call backs from unhappy customers or last-minute adjustments to a finished project. “Closets always look big and roomy until you put any clothes in them,” she observes, adding that the standard shelf and
hanging rail in any reach-in closet should always be ripped out and replaced, even if it is fitted with nothing more than an off-the-rack organizer kit. These offerings tend to include a centre tower filled with shelves, while the rods on either side can be placed at different heights to account for the needs of an individual user. “You absolutely have to make a system to be as easy to maintain as possible, whether it is a filing system for a desk, kitchen or walk-in closet,” she says. “You are selling the dream that your closet is not going to be bursting at the seams.” A properly designed closet system begins by considering something as fundamental as the height of the people who will use it. Since Demke’s husband is 6’5” tall, for example, the bars used to hold his clothing need to be mounted a little
PHOTO: THINKSTOCK IMAGES
Feature higher than usual. “Most of the hanging stuff is right down to the floor, because there is nothing more difficult than to find something hiding under a suit jacket,” she adds. The rods for storing sports coats and dress shirts are even placed below those that hold dress pants. “The wider tops will obscure your pants. It also blocks out less light and you can see the top of the shirt.” Age can be a factor in the related measurements as well. If designing a closet for younger children, it should include a series of hooks and bins that are mounted close to the floor for easy access. The hooks for the youngest children should be somewhere between 36” and 44” high, leaving room above that for seasonal clothing or other rarely used items. It is not the only factor that should be considered in the requirements of smaller users. Rolling bins, for example, should be no more than 20” wide, otherwise, they will be too heavy to use. “For a child, it has to be light enough that they can pull it out,” Demke explains, adding that she even prefers 16” designs. A simple test on whether the bin will be easy enough to use is to pull on the drawer with a non-dominant hand. This will mimic the force that a child can apply. The test should not be limited to the bins used by kids, either. The easy-moving designs will be important for homeowners who have senior citizens at home. Such differences even extend to the choice of hardware. A pair of knobs placed 18” apart may work for an adult, but young children are not coordinated enough to use them. Then it is a matter of maximizing all of the available space, and that will vary from one project to the next. Demke’s dressing room, for example, includes a wing for shoes, a vanity table, and lines of clothing along all three walls. “You need at least 10’ by 12’ to come up with something like that,” she admits. One valuable addition to a walk-in closet can come in the form of a small island that should be just a little shorter than those that would be created for a kitchen. At 30” high, it would offer a convenient platform for packing a suitcase. A built-in power outlet would allow the surface to double as an ironing board, while the storage will be further enhanced with drawers mounted in each end.
“Many projects would benefit from a brief consultation with a professional organizer who can identify a homeowner’s specific needs and the way the pieces should fit together.” The space around an island like this does not need to be as wide as it is in a kitchen, but there should be at least 24” of room. That will make it possible to open a drawer without bumping into the shelves which line an opposing wall. Given the fact that many items will be stored close to the ceiling, a small custommade ladder with two or three steps will make it possible to maximize every inch of the avail-
able height. “If you cannot reach for it easily, you are not going to put it away,” she adds. Some dimensions will be common regardless of the size of the closet itself. Demke, for example, likes to place most shelves no more than 10” apart, rather than sticking to the traditional openings that fall somewhere between 12” and 16”. That way, she never needs to dig through a stack of 20 T-shirts, which would
PHOTO: THINKSTOCK IMAGES
“The standard shelf and hanging rail in any reach-in closet should always be ripped out and replaced, even if it is fitted with nothing more than an off-the-rack organizer kit.”
inevitably fall to the floor. When the shelf will be used to store jeans, however, a 16” space will be best. Shallow drawers for storing things like socks, ties and underwear, meanwhile, should be no more than 8” deep, while a few drawers that are a mere
3” or 4” deep will be perfect for storing things like jewellery or watches. When creating a space to store shoes, she likes to use shelves rather than including individual cubby holes that are often highlighted in the pages of fashion magazines. “There could not be a more colossal waste of space,” Demke explains. In addition to taking up space with the vertical partitions, a cubby does not account for the different sizes of footwear, ranging from high fashion boots that are 16” tall, to hiking boots that are half these heights and ballet slippers that are smaller still. The better solution is to include long shelves that are spaced 4” to 6” apart, complete with the ability to
adjust the shelves to account for taller boot heights. Straight shelves also tend to be far more flexible than angled designs that have been used for the same purpose, she adds. As for the shelving material itself, the professional organizer recommends a ½” laminate or MDF, which will hold the desired space but still consume a limited amount of the overall height. A longer 36” span would likely require a ¾” material. As important as the storage space itself may be, some well-placed lighting will add to the overall sense of space and make the largest closets more useable than ever. “Decide on how much lighting you think you want and double it,” she says. Track light-
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Feature ing will be the best option in many cases because it can be aimed at darker corners of the closets or the dim recesses of a drawer. “You want it to be flexible, you want it to be utilitarian, and you want it to be out of your way.” That means track lighting should hang no more than 6” below the ceiling. The choice of bulbs will also make a difference. Some compact fluorescent bulbs, for example, are better able to show true colours as well as the difference between black and navy. “Do not put a pendant light over the island,” she adds, referring to how it will usually be in the way. As a final design element, Demke is always quick to ask where the laundry basket will go, so it can be removed from the room itself. “If you had a closet where you had a laundry chute, that would be heaven,” she says. It appears that professional organizers have dreams of their own. To find a professional organizer in your area, visit Professional Organizers in Canada at www.organizersincanada.com.
In the next issue of
Contractor Advantage • Foundations • Insulated Concrete Forms • Outside Tools • Exterior Paints & Stains • Garages CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
Retaining Top Talent Implementing a program that builds employee loyalty is inexpensive, but too often overlooked. BY MARK BECKHAM
Who is your most important employee? What would happen if they went to your competition? How much would it cost you (in increased wages and lost productivity) to replace that individual? As a business owner, you should know the answers to these questions. “A company is an organic entity in many ways made up of various parts,” says David Gellman, a chartered accountant turned reverend, who works alongside his wife Alexandra Gellman as part of Guru and Associates Wellness Inc. “The energy of keeping a company growing and successful must be a two-way street where the company gives back to those who contribute to its success.” Here is something else you need to know. Monster Canada polls show a strong majority of Canadian workers are interested in corporate wellness programs, while a minority of employers actually offer them. Monster asked, “Given the labour shortage, what is your employer doing to try and keep you?” Out of 3,594 responses, 82% reported “Nothing at all,” while only 9% said “Allowing for flexible scheduling and other work-life balance initiatives” and 8% said “Offering a pay raise.” A second poll Monster asked, “Does your company offer corporate wellness programs such as fitness/nutritional coaching, gym memberships, training seminars, etc.?” 68% of its 2,857 respondents replied “No, but I wish they did.” 20% of the respondents selected “Yes, and I really appreciate them.” Only 10% of the respondents were not interested.
This is a problem. These numbers can be interpreted as sending clear messages: 1. Employers are not interested in trying to keep their best and brightest employees. 2. C lose to 90% of employees see corporate wellness programs as offering great value. With such overwhelming statistics, maybe it is our fault as employers if an employee leaves to join the competition. When that happens, what is really unfortunate is that it is inexpensive to implement a program that builds employee loyalty. Ask yourself, what does it cost to find qualified trades people in today’s market? By the time you pay for advertising the job vacancy, interview potential candidates, negotiate a competitive wage, and then train the new employee, you have likely spent significantly more time and money than it would have cost to retain the employee that just left. Here is the flip side of the coin. If most employers are not responding to the needs of their employees, then it is a perfect opportunity for you to implement a program that attracts the best and brightest people; trades people who make you money day in and day out. Castlecare offers great programs that entice employees to stay. One of the great features of Castlecare is that it is ‘premium sensitive.’ In other words, the coverage is based on your budget. There are three levels of coverage: The Bronze package provides basic benefits. The Silver package provides more coverage for slightly more money. The Gold package provides the highest level of
Mark Beckham, BSc, is one of the Principals of Bencom FSGI (Financial Services Group Inc.) His professional experience includes employee benefits and financial services including retirement products and insurance. He can be reached at mark@ bencomfsgi.com or by telephone at 888-664-5555 ext. 301.
coverage. Many companies share the premium cost with their employees 50/50, in which case you only pay half of the total premium of the plan you choose. To be eligible for Castlecare coverage you must have three employees or more working a minimum of 20 hours per week. We realize many contractors do not meet the three employee minimum, so we are offering a program that provides taxeffective coverage to smaller businesses (with fewer than three employees). This program allows you, as an owner of a company, to pay for health and/or dental costs with ‘before tax dollars.’ The program we are introducing is called ‘Cost Plus.’ For example, let us say you need a dental crown that costs $1,000. To pay that $1,000 in after tax dollars, you must earn roughly $1,500. With Cost Plus you pay your dentist $1,000. You then send the receipt, along with a company cheque for $1,100 to Benefits by Design. The additional 10% is for administration fees. Benefits by Design then sends a cheque to you personally for $1,000 to cover the dental expense. The net result is you pay in pre-tax corporate dollars, which is a company expense. Instead of spending approximately $1,500 personally, your company spends roughly $800 after-tax dollars. This is a significant personal savings. Any expense that is recognized by Canada Revenue Agency as an eligible medical expense can be put in for reimbursement, including: drugs, dental care, glasses, chiropractor or massage therapy. (You can visit our website for the complete list.) Contractors are a group that has traditionally found it hard to get coverage at an affordable price. Castlecare group benefits fill that gap. If you would like more information, or if you are ready to receive a quote, please visit www.Castlecare.ca/contractor.
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