Saturday, December 29, 2012

An entrance treatment on a historic home

 It was many years ago, and I was a young carpenter. I didn't take a before shot, but if you can imagine just the finial and the shape of the turning within, capping off a door casing with buttons in the corner, that was pretty much it. This would be about 20 years ago.

I had just finished off framing and trimming a glass roofed guest house, including mantles and kitchen, as well as a tennis court fence that took a crew of 50 nearly 3 months to build and now the main entrance to the house was looking a little shabby for it's new neighboring guest house.

The house is in the Barrie Ontario area, and if you can believe it, the owner received a gift from a friend just as I finished the headpiece... the 5 birds on a branch concrete casting you see in the middle. It was finished and I was packing up the tools when the owner walked up with the casting saying... "Just work this in ok?".

How it was done?  Just nested and built up trim, with a proper roof flashing tucked into the siding. It is sort of like a mantle, however everything needs to be sealed as you go, and you certainly cannot use Poplar... that would rot within a couple of years. Believe it or not I salvaged the old lead flashing from the original installation and used that to seal the turned finial and lower part of the curve after making it deeper.

By Lawrence Winterburn

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Basements in the Toronto Area -( Step by Step part 1 )

Here is a basement done by Luke Simonovski--Our Builder in East Toronto Ontario. He renovates basements all over the GTA Toronto area. We are going to walk you through the entire process of professional basement refinishing using this Toronto home's basement as an example.

When you are hiring people to finish basement space you need to keep in mind that they will all use different specifications for the build...and some leave important issues at substandard levels. This will illustrate why you are often better off using a more experienced contractor to finish your basement--since you will have a more functional finished product that won't need repairs for decades.

Any functional basement renovation starts with a layout that takes into account what the space needs to be used for, as well as obstructions and plumbing tie in locations.

 Luke starts out by insulating all the exterior walls using Blue Styrofoam SM rigid insulation. Here you can see the plumbing stack left open until the tie in. We will show you how that is done in a later post.
 Code dictates that the fuse panel can be closed in, but only in an approved enclosure. It has to provide clearance. Circuits need to be added for receptacles and lighting in the basement as well. Luke brings in qualified tradesmen for all plumbing and electrical work.
 It is always a good idea to fire proof the furnace room just in case of a malfunction. Furnaces have been known to explode on occasion and closing it in with a double layer of fire rated drywall can buy the homeowners time to escape.
 Luke likes to use steel stud for framing basements because nearly every piece of framing needs to be a different length. Steel stud costs more...however you save money in the end because it is more efficient. He always uses wood around the openings so that the doors don't work loose over time.
Posts need to be factored into the design so that it doesn't obstruct. There are many ways of decorating or hiding posts within walls. Often posts can be moved, however that is a labor intensive and often cost prohibitive thing to do. Stay tuned... more photos of this project to come!


Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Restaurant Makeover on Bloor West in Toronto

 A modern diner on Bloor West Toronto--
 Here's a restaurant makeover on Bloor West in Toronto by Luke Simonovski-- Skl Group. Working with a designer friend of Luke's, they had the booths refinished, walls updated and these gorgeous dineresque porcelain patterned floor tiles.

 In the 50's they used asbestos floor tiles--and in commercial applications they would only last a few years. These new floor tiles last far longer. In Restaurant use, good quality porcelain tiles will last 20-30 years.

 The key to renovating restaurants is that everything you do needs to be durable and cleanable. Plastic laminent, ceramic and metal are often materials of choice when it comes to the lower 4' of restaurants. Things get dropped--kids splash juice and food everywhere. I am not a fan of carpet in restaurants--it just traps dirt and bacteria.
If you are looking to do Restaurant Renovations anywhere in the Toronto area you can speak to Luke or Lawrence at 416-951-9998

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Exterior Renovations near Wasaga Beach Ontario

Exterior Renovations in Wasaga Beach / Allenwood Beach

Dan Maragno of Maragno Contracting does renovations in the Oakville and Wasaga Beach area year round. Summers he is an Authorized Design builder for and since his family has a cottage in Wasaga Beach, he shares his time between the two places.  This cottage owner approached us to add a porch to this home, however, the building department nixed their plans for the porch. They simply were not allowed by Tiny Township to build the look they wanted. 

Above is the before photo.
Here is Dan and his crew during the renovations project near Wasaga Beach.  (Dan is on the right).

They added cultured stone to the lower part of the wall, pre-finished board and batten siding, New casings, and a fairly substantive eve beam up top. They also re-built the existing deck and added a more modern glass rail system.

If you are in need of a facelift to your home or cottage in Oakville or Wasaga Beach, please get in touch with us at 705 322 9919, (Lawrence at the local design or in Oakville at (289) 242-9162 (Dan Maragno)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Kitchen Renovations in Whitby Ontario

  This is what our talented craftsmen do in the off season!  Quite a few of our people are carpenters, however Luke Simovski is a Tile and Stone expert installer as well as a professional kitchen installer. 
This Galley style Kitchen was designed and built by Luke Simonovski--Yes, the same guy that builds beautiful decks for in the summer. He has an eye for detail and it shows!

This reworked kitchen has all the features a kitchen needs and they made it work in the space on offer. Luke tends to redo all the plumbing from the stubs below adding shutoffs where possible. They also strip the flooring down as required for a good durable base when they are using stone or ceramic flooring.

 Now, this is a new floor tile available from Luke that looks exactly like stone without the budget. Shining gleaming stone... with about 1/3 the cost. I've seen a lot of tile floors in my day, but this one is actually convincing. I looked close and couldn't see the difference.

Well done Luke!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Another Trade Secret-- to do with Levels

You walk into a tool store and pick up a level. Is it? Is it really Level? How do you know it is accurate?

Here's a hint. 70% of all levels on the shelf at our local stores are not accurate.

Check a nearby shelf for level. Then rotate the level... check again. Flip it and check again. The bubble should be precisely in the same place. If not... it is not accurate. DON'T BUY IT!

Check for vertical level-- Plumb. Same procedure. Rotate the level, flip.

Try to imagine building something perfect when each time you check something with your level you get a different reading.

Don't assume that just because a level is expensive, that it is accurate. I've gone into a store with the intention of buying a good level--and after checking them I left with an $8.00 level because it was the only accurate one on the shelf.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Marketing a Carpentry Contractor Today

Marketing a Carpentry Contractor has become more difficult these days.

Back 20 years ago when I started in the business we could get a yellow page ad and get a call every week or two. That was in Burlington Ontario and if you try that these days it is akin to signing on as an indentured servant.

So few people use the yellow pages these days that you may as well heat your house with the money you would pay them under their contracted print advertising. I know general contractors that were getting leads in years past from the phone book--but those dwindled in the last few years. For all intensive purposes the Yellow Pages are Dead.

I am sure you get hundreds of call from directory companies and SEO companies guaranteeing #1 listings in google. If they promise it, they are talking paid advertising in the margin... Adwords. And you can buy Adwords on your own. You don't need their middleman services. Basically, Google is the new yellow pages. The people that used to use yellow pages now go to their computer because it is easier than finding their phone book.

Starting a website for a Carpentry Contractor?--now that is an ambitious strategy. If you are planning to do this you need to have a marketing campaign to go along with it. Top level categories are dominated by players that have had websites for a decade now, directories, and sites that have actual content. Creating content is difficult unless you are an english major and a decent photographer. The average new website in 2010 will see 30 visits a month by the end of the year... that won't give you consistent leads.

Directories often play on ignorance to gain your confidence. "We get MILLIONS of hits every month"... the question you need to ask is how many Unique Visitors do you get every month? How many of those are contractors looking for leads or setting up their account, and how many are actual customers looking for a contractor. Divide the number of unique visitors by the number of services they are marketing for and the number of contractors listed within those services and then make an informed decision. Some niche marketers like will have your pages getting 30-300 visits a day... which makes sense. 1o visits a month just doesn't make sense. You would be better doing a few hundred direct mailings of something glossy.

Lead Generation Services that send the lead out to multiple companies are a scourge that should not be supported EVER. This victimizes you and every other builder using the service. You will devote your time and money towards being low bid... and increases the amount of time you will spend doing estimates. You pay for the privilege of working the lead... and so do your competitors. Keep perspective. It's not just $20 for a deck lead... the other guys paid $20 too... and there may have been 20 of them, and everyone wasted their time. It is not good for our industry. It just makes more overworked and poorer tradesmen.

Networking is important. Your friends and family and every client you work for can give valuable word of mouth referrals. Make friends with every client and they will help you for decades to come. (and keep in touch) Strategic alliances with companies that actually deliver non-competitive leads, and solid direct marketing should be part of your strategy in the 21st Century.


Monday, April 5, 2010

When you do a solid wood hardwood floor, sometimes you get a client that wants you to put more effort into the job--and sometimes they even want to pay you for your efforts. A hardwood flooring job can often be judged by what they do with the stair rails and treads.

There are ready made stair treads, however the species is rarely a perfect match, and often they are made of veneer plywood or laminate, which doesn't last particularly well when given the daily beating that stair treads take.

When people are spending money on real hardwood--or wide plank hardwood, they deserve to have the stairs done properly as well.

For this job I chose wood directly from a wide plank flooring mill near Barrie Ontario . Merv Gardener dries his lumber to 6% for flooring--so I know that these treads will be stable.

When it comes to biscuits we used a Beech Biscuit, with an exterior epoxy glue which when mixed with sawdust from the sander, I can tint to the same oak color.

Of course when I went to do this I realized I lent a number of my clamps to one of our builders, and haven't seen them return yet! So, I glued them up in a number of small batches. This job was about 15 treads including the stairs down to the basement.

When it comes to putting the flooring down, we use PL Premium adhesive and a few well hidden finish nails, or countersunk and plugged screws.

Really, with a good bed of screws you will find that treads are not removable... without destroying the sub tread.

We always make an extra tread just in case something goes wrong. This time we had the lowest tread break as we spun the newel into place--just a bad grain. I ended up having to score the tread in about 10 places and using a chisel to be able to remove it from the sub tread.

We'll get into the hand rails next post--they wobbled about 2 inches before we installed the new treads, so the third installation
was certainly a challenge. Salvage may save some trees, however it is never fun!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Trim Carpenters Barrie - Wasaga Beach-Orillia

Great Trim Carpenters are hard to find !
Many Designers have a hard time knowing what trims work together. We find it best if they just sketch their concept in rough form and we will work the trim profiles from there. We've been doing trim in the Barrie, Wasaga Beach and Orillia areas for more than 20 years now.

Jamie Elliott works the trade full time and Lawrence Winterburn is now part time, only accepting the more interesting projects. (His regular job is as Senior Designer for . ) He was a trim carpenter for many years and enjoys keeping his skills up.To get in touch with Jamie or Lawrence call 705-322-9919 or 888 293 8938.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Taxing year for Ontario Renovators

The Federal "Stimulus" is now done and most renovators in Ontario have a strange echo in their mid-winter offices. Is it phones ringing? Is it customers beating down their doors? No, that will be March when that happens. They are alone with their thoughts for the most part.

The federal government rung out the sponge and every little job (most under $2k), has been done to take advantage of a 15% discount thanks to the feds. It will be quiet until the next sense of urgency and spring season starts.

You will see some very angry customers we have to tell people that the deck or fence they want done before the new July tax comes into effect will carry the tax anyhow.

"Any job not contracted before May 1/2010 and substantively complete by July 1 will have an additional 8% PST on it". In fact it is a May 1 effective start date for the tax--no matter how they spin it.

This is a wrong headed tax change. With a 13% tax on renovations it will have one major effect--It will drive the renovations business underground.

If you think people won't want to save 13% by paying cash to builders working out of old minivans you are sniffing solvents--certainly jobs that run less than 10k anyhow. There are tens of thousands of laid off or recently unemployed carpenters and factory workers with some skills that are happy to take that money. It will serve to punish legitimate renovation contractors.

My prediction-- after the first year of Ontario's HST there will be 50% fewer registered contractors in the province.

I love how politicians always say the same thing... It is a revenue neutral change. If it doesn't get them more money, why would they do it?

The other thing I have heard lately is that Canada has remained relatively unscathed through this whole economic turmoil. Next breath -- but we have the largest provincial and federal deficit in 30 years. Doesn't that mean that less taxes were generated because people and companies made less money? Of course it does. But we are unscathed.

Get those larger jobs booked by May 1/2010.

An old friend used to say, "Carpenters never Starve"
. When you have skills you will make a living. When you are smart and have skills you will do even better.