Tuesday, 27 November 2007

The Magic of Renovation Shows

The Magic of Renovation Shows
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As I settle on the couch with my coffee cup in hand to watch yet another renovation show and another miracle take place I can’t help but wonder how realistic these renovation shows really are?

The formula is always the same. At the start we see a room in considerable disarray which is dismantled within 30 seconds. Next comes the plan with or without everyone’s approval and then it’s full steam ahead. Any problems seem to be solved over the commercial break. While everyone’s antics have us laughing the work is somehow magically progressing. It all seems so simple as I watch the show’s development and the costs seem so reasonable. Another commercial break and we see everyone jumping for joy at the final outcome. While everyone is still in rapture over the transformation I let my mind wander to the possibilities of what might be in my own home and start planning my campaign. Then I pull my head out of the clouds and get a reality check. We don’t get to see the renovations-gone-wrong or a horrified client. We don’t get to see the considerable planning that’s involved in a project. Nor do we see the significant amount of work and time involved. We only see the renovation fairy wave her magic wand that has everyone crying tears of joy with the end result.

Renovation shows are useful in showing us the possibilities and giving us ideas, but we have to remember that realistically, a good renovation takes excellent planning, the right know-how and a certain amount of patience and the only renovation that comes out perfectly and takes a half hour is the one on T.V.
Lonya is the staff writer for Wo-Built Inc.

Generation Renovation: Shows: Home & Garden Television Special Online Features

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Monday, 19 November 2007

A Reflection: Home Sweet Home

We start early with our dreams!
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What constitutes a dream home and how do these dream homes form? For many of us we start to put together a dream home at a young age when our dreams have no limits. It may start at a young age playing with a dollhouse and letting imagination run wild. Or it might be helping Dad doing repairs and reno projects around the family home.

Many of my friends started off with dreams of large homes with swimming pools and huge backyards and I shared in those dreams without any particular dream of my own. My dream home started to form along the way as my interests, habits, and lifestyle preferences took root. Shortly after I was married we rented an apartment of our own. It was only a 2-bedroom with a bijou kitchen but it boasted a walk-in closet, had a balcony overlooking a park and was in close proximity to shopping and transportation. I loved that apartment.

When we started a family I thought a house would be more ideal, but the reality turned out to be a little different. The maintenance, upkeep and expenses of a home proved to be more than I bargained for. I thought I had attained my dream home only to find that the actuality was quite different, and the dream was altered yet again. As I longed to go back to the simplicity of my old apartment it became apparent to me that a condo is definitely my dream home.

The answer to the question of what constitutes a dream home is a very personal thing and that for myself life and reality had a way of shaping and changing those dreams into what they are at this moment in time.
Lonya is a staff writer for Wo-Built Inc.

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Tuesday, 13 November 2007

We Have a Date for Our First Pre-apprenticeship Course

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Attention, Announcement, Attention!!!

Bring on the Fanfares and Fireworks!!!
Wo-Built Inc first Pre-Apprenticeship Course for Women in the Finishing Trades will start

March 17th, 2008

and will be held at the Pre-Apprenticeship Training Institute in Toronto.

The curriculum will include basic skill developments in:
  • Wood Framing
  • Painting
  • Taping/Dry walling
  • Finish Carpentry
  • Blue Print Reading
  • T-bar installation
  • Tiling ceramics
  • Basic plumbing (installation of sinks etc)
  • Basic electrical concepts
  • Home Preventative Maintenance
  • Building Code Requirements
  • Health/safety training
For more information please contact

Wo-Built Inc.: Change of Date for Wo-Built Inc's Pre-Apprenticeship Training Course

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Friday, 9 November 2007

What Is Better? Own Work Crews or Sub-contractors?

The big question: Image Canstockphoto.comThe big question: own work crews or subcontractors?
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When doing a renovation or a construction project, what is the difference between using a general contractor with their own crew and one that uses sub-trades? There are a few differences and when making a choice between general contractors, you should be aware of these and of the benefits of choosing one over the other.

First... let's clarify what we are actually discussing. Your general contractor is engaged by you to do the work on your project. The question is does the general contractor use staff that work for him directly or does he subcontract to other tradespersons to do the work and how does that effect your project? Given the quality of apprenticeship programs in Ontario, there should be no difference in workmanship between the staff versus sub-trades. However, frequently customers notice that companies operating with their own crews tend to be unexpectedly slow to complete jobs. One reason suggested for this is that the more jobs that are started, the more efficient the general contractor's labour cost. So, by starting lots of projects, the general contractor is assured of having his crew fully occupied and, that is important to them because the staff crews get paid if there are jobs on the go or not. So, it is not uncommon for a crew to be pulled from one job to be put on a new job many times through the construction season.In contrast, general contractors who operate with sub-trades have options when they wish to start projects. Once the project is secured, they find the sub-contractors to start the project and should they find more work, they find additional resources for those projects. On the matter of time conflicts and delays from lack of contractor availability (and that is possible because a sub-trade may also try to secure multiple concurrent projects), if the project is not moving ahead as required by its contract schedule, another sub-trade can be assigned the work. General contractors with their own crews don't do this because it becomes an additional expense to their operation.

On the matter of cost, there are some direct impacts of using a company which employs its own staff versus using sub-trades. Employee trades need to have contributions by the employer for taxes that apply to all employers. They contribute to the employee's Canada Pension Plan, Unemployment Insurance and Workmans' Compensation. Sub-trades are self employed contractors to the general contractor. They are responsible for their own Workman's Compensation contribution, CPP and don't pay UI. This means that the price paid for a given trade will cost more for employee staff than for sub-trades and this is reflected in the prices quoted for your project. And, in almost every instance, the cost of labour is the largest component in a renovation or construction project.This description of the differences do favour sub-trades over staff crews, but, there are some advantages to hiring a company with its own staff crew. for the most part, there is a feeling that the general contractor has more control over the project. And, this is for the most part a reasonable expectation. However, if the general contractor is re-assigning his resources, the owner of the project is no better off for having made the decision to put their faith in a self-crewed project. But, is there a certain cohesiveness in a crew that is working all 'under one roof' so to speak? All projects are scheduled, so there is typically little un-needed overlapping of the trades. As an example, framers, dry-wallers and painters are almost never sent to the same site at the same time because their work is scheduled to be a sequential group of tasks. So, working as team though a good concept is not required. In fact, they could be non-related workman and if they are scheduled and co-ordinated well by the general contractor, they really need not be involved with each other.

In recommending to someone which choice is better for them it generally becomes a question of cost and risk management. Most often, the general contractor who uses sub-trades will be able to bid costs below the company who keeps resources on the ready and on staff. And, if there is a lot of work taking place in the local construction market, it is more likely that a general contractor using sub-trades will able to keep the project moving forward because they are not tied to one set of staff members. Given the ability to choose, it makes more sense to have a general contractor on your project who has the flexibility to get the resources needed versus the resources he has.
This article was contributed by Ari Berman, a Management Consultant from Toronto, Canada, with a specialization in operations and process change. He has helped companies spanning aircraft builders to soda drink manufacturers to increase their value - finding and improving important details that never got attended to in past. His work in the construction industry includes overseeing commercial construction projects in retail shopping malls across Canada. He can be reached at 647-235-8181 or via e-mail on

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Tuesday, 6 November 2007

A Reflection: Inspiration - Using the Building Trades for a New Start in Life

Giving a helping hand: Image Canstockphoto.comGiving a helping hand.
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I was invited to write an article for the Wo-Built website. At first I didn’t know what to write about but after some thought I figured I should write about what I have recently been inspired to do.

I met with someone with whom I got into a conversation about women in construction. This conversation went on for a while so I won’t bore you with the details but towards the end of it, my friend came up with an excellent idea. His mother has donated food to a local women’s shelter for every holiday of the year and last Christmas he went to help her carry some of the trays of food in. He was stopped at the door & not allowed to enter, instead only his little daughter, who could barely hold the tray was allowed in. Why? Well, because he is a man. They did not allow a strange man into their shelter because there are battered women living there who are being protected against their male abusers and would feel intimidated by a man’s presence that was un-announced. Although my friend did not get to go inside he did see in through the entrance & said it could use a lot of work; so why not get together an all women’s crew to go in & fix it up for them? If they didn’t want men in their shelter then it would make perfectly logical sense to do this with other women.

I thought more about this after immediately accepting the challenge. Why not even show these women by example what we do everyday for a living? Have a meeting with the residents and see if they would be willing to shadow the professionals for that time? This is what Oprah calls the A-ha moment. If a battered woman has enough strength left to leave her situation behind & start all over again, why not empower her even further by educating her to learn a trade which would support not only her but her children too! Most women in these situations have very little left when they enter the shelter. Some of them may take on a "regular" job but often it’s hard to make ends meet and live a quality life at the same time. Regardless of pay, it may not be fulfilling and they could feel frustrated by where they have ended up.

I would like to open up the field of expectations and let them see by example how their professional lives could be so much more. Women have innate skills that are important to the construction field; such as, colour co-ordination, eye for detail and dedication to do a thorough job (not that men don’t care but you know what I mean). There is a real need for skilled and properly trained labour in our various fields and this is the time make a new opportunity for other women to feel they can freely enter into this work environment.

I will cap off this page of inspiration by asking for your input. How can you help inspire or help one other woman’s life? It may not be with a job but with listening ear to a friend or colleague, or talking to your local school or donating your time to a charity like Habitat for Humanity. Whatever you do, it will make you feel great and trust me it will definitely brighten someone else’s day too!

For more information about helping renovate this woman’s shelter, please contact me at I am currently looking to pull together a group of women to help this shelter & its residents. The plans are still in their fledgling stages, so anyone is welcome to share their input or their time.

Sabrina Erneman
S.E. Design
This article was submitted by Sabrina Erneman, Cabinetmaker & Interior Designer and Owner of S.E. Design, a Toronto based High End Outdoor Furniture Company. She also designs and/or fabricates custom furniture & millwork for clientelle in both residential & commercial interiors.
Bus. Telephone # 416-300-3339

Design Corner: Outdoor and Spa Furniture Worth Mentioning
Wednesday, 30 May 2007

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