Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Message 2011 from Wo-Built

Image: Christmas message 2011 from Wo-Built
Christmas cookies, milk, Santa hat and note all on a table
Image credit: MS Office ClipArt -MH900216163

"It is no longer good enough to cry peace, we must act peace, live peace, and live in peace."
- Shenandoah proverb

At this special time of year, the entire team at Wo-Built, Inc. would like to take an opportunity to wish you and yours Seasons Greetings.

It is also worthwhile to mention at this meaningful time of the year that as a company Wo-Built continues its dedication to our social missions and to helping strengthen communities.

We also send our heartfelt wishes for peace at home and abroad, and the alleviation of hardships for all those less fortunate than ourselves.

We also remember the planet itself at this time of year. Mother Earth has been good to us, no question about it. She, too, deserves a token of kindness at this time of year. Wo-Built renews its commitment to eco-friendly building.

Last but not least, should you decide with your family that the New Year should bring a profound change to where and how you live, please remember that Wo-Built is here to help you create the house of your dreams for the family who calls it home.

To you, your family, your friends, and all those you care about, a very happy Holiday Season and a healthy, prosperous, peaceful New Year.

Wo-Built's Team
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Lighting Design of a Retail Space

Corus Quay, Atrium: Corus Entertainment Building - Overlooking the Atrium, photo by
Photo: Corus Entertainment Building - Overlooking the Atrium
See how the eye is drawn towards the light.
2011 @
Uploaded on

Design is all around us. Coming from an architecture background I look at spaces and often start analyzing them to see what makes them work or more often not. Recently I looked at the impact daylight has on the illumination of an up-market restaurant.

Let's imagine a restaurant with a store front, i.e. any passer-by can look into the restaurant and daylight can enter the building. This is a challenge during the day due to the brightness contrast between outside and inside. If the restaurant is not lit brightly enough to be seen, the space will look dark and forbidding from the outside. How often have we stood in front of a restaurant or a shop and wondered if it is open or closed. And, of course, if there is uncertainty we don't even try the door.

An up-market restaurant is a special case, since over lighting it during the day would make customers feel as if they were in a fast food environment, not very romantic and relaxing, but under lighting it would not be very inviting from the outside. Big dilemma.

Fortunately, a solution for this dilemma is simple and inexpensive. The solution is a combination of lighting and surface treatment. As the eye is automatically drawn to bright areas, the end area or wall of the restaurant has to be brightened up by using lighter colours and light fixtures that will wash the wall with light. This will give the inviting element to the space. The remaining restaurant can be kept relatively darker to create the more intimate setting. The lighting should be concentrated to shine on the tables, so that the diner can appreciate the food as we do eat with all our senses: taste, smell, appearance and even sound (just remember the crunchiness of freshly baked bread).

It is important to be able to create different light levels, as at night the contrast to the outside is reversed and it does not take as much light to sparkle. Hence in any design dimmers and selective switching of light fixtures is a must.

Lighting design is not cookie cutter and each situation need to be designed on its own merits. We incorporate lighting in all of our designs, and for restaurants and retail spaces good lighting is an absolute must. It will often make or break a space. Just imagine how much better your business would do if you created the right ambiance for your space.

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build
Member of IESNA
Illuminating Engineering Society of North America

Thursday, 15 December 2011

To Renovate or Not to Renovate?

Existing House or New House, Move or Renovate Spreadsheet, image by
Image: Existing House or New House: Move or Renovate Spreadsheet
A homeowner dilemma: To stay-and-renovate an existing property
or to buy-and-move into a new house

2011 @

When talking to prospective clients often they wrestle with the choice “Shall we renovate or just move?”

Even though there are many reasons that will play a role in the decision, such as loving the house, proximity to schools/amenities, friendly neighbours, gardens, making the house exactly as you want it etc, money is high on the list.

Let’s look at the following scenario: An existing house and a new house located in the same Toronto’s west end neighbourhood.

The existing house required a rear or side extension to gain extra bedroom or family space : Current value: $ 400,000 + Reno cost $100,000 + HST

New house with required extra space (some renovation required): Estimated: $475,000 - $500,000

Scenario 1: To Renovate an Existing House
(owner can live in property while it is renovated)
Current value: $400,000
Renovation costs (Addition): $100,000 + HST
Estimated renovation cost: $113,000

Total staying and renovating costs to get the extra space: $113,000

Scenario 2: To Move to a New House
(some renovation required)

Estimated value: $475,000 - $500,000
Upgrade costs:
Difference to existing house : $75,000 – $100,000
Land transfer tax: $11,200 - $12,200
Difference to existing house buying costs $86,200 – $112,200

Moving costs:
Commission: $24,000 + HST
Moving expenses: Estimated: $2,000 + HST
Legal expenses: Estimated: $1,500 + HST
Home inspections: Average: $500 + HST
Minimum renovation: (window coverings, painting, bathroom upgrades, new carpets etc): $10,000 + HST
Estimated moving costs: $42,940

Total upgrade and moving costs to get the extra space: $131,140 - $154,940

Of course this is a simplified calculation and in reality the cost will vary according to the specific circumstances, but the case can be made that a renovation is more cost effective in the above situation.

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

Thursday, 8 December 2011

A Message from the CEO: Why Hire Us? We Are the Best...for You

Giving a helping hand: Image, illustration for message from CEO: Why Hire Us?
Giving a helping hand.
Image No: 0722800 from

All rights reserved

My recent experience having an advocate while dealing with one of Wo-Built's issues reminded me how much of a relief it is to have someone you trust guiding you and fighting in your corner. It made me realize that what we do for our clients is very similar.

Often, a large renovation is a once-in-a-lifetime project and it can be at once exciting, daunting and scary. You don't know what is going to happen and what to expect.

In the past articulating why I believed we are the best was always a challenge. Yes, we are the best because of our inspired designs, our professional work force, our transparency, but this is just as it should be. We’ve called it a stress-free renovation, but that didn't address what made it stress free.

Having had someone I could rely on to do the best for the company and therefore me, was a revelation. This person was my backbone, my resolve, my guide, my coach, my consultant, my cheering section… and this is what we do for our clients. This is what makes us the best for you, our clients.

We are your advocates, your champions and we 'fight' for you against all the obstacles a project might have: the city, the weather, building surprises.

We are also your coach, giving you guidance through the emotional rollercoaster. You can rely on us to do the best for your project and therefore for you.

We are stakeholders in your project, not only because we like you — that is a given as well — but because we have both a financial stake (we like to be paid) and reputational stake (we like to show off the projects we do).

Like any coach, advocate, champion… our success depends on you ‘winning.’ That is why we are the best for you; and, why you shouldn’t settle for second best.

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

links: A Message from the CEO: What Guides Us We Are Looking for Adventurous Building Owners What We Do: Renovating, Contracting, Building Custom Homes A Reflection: Inspiration - Using the Building Trades for a New Start in Life
by Sabrina Erneman

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Contemporary Design vs. Classical Design – Personal Preference or De-facto Evolution of Design?

Contemporary design vs. classical design in architecture, collage

Collage: Contemporary Design vs. Classical Design
Images Credit: MS Office ClipArt: Cube Houses in Rotterdam; Row Houses in Amsterdam

"All the evolution we know of proceeds from the vague to the definite."
Charles Sanders Peirce


"All the ills from which America suffers can be traced to the teaching of evolution."
William Jennings Bryan

Quotes Sourced from: Brainy Quote

The argument for and against evolution is fitting given the question of contemporary versus classical design. It’s a case of the future versus the past. But which belongs in the present?

Contemporary designers
would argue no-doubt theirs is the valid approach. After all, isn’t this the 21st Century? Raised on Star Trek, dreaming of the day our living spaces made us feel we were an advanced, sophisticated, space-faring society, why not envelope ourselves in stainless steel, glass, concrete, etc.? Trouble is we are none of these things (at least not in the way we imagined). Technology has made us more detached from each another, our communities, our food and the environment. Contemporary western society confuses connectivity with connection; complexity with sophistication.

Maybe this explains contemporary design’s obsession with simplicity and “cleanliness.” Simple forms and clean lines counter the chaos of the modern world, but does it create warmth; comfort? There is nothing warm or inviting about stainless steel and concrete. Like industrial food (another “technological wonder” of the last Century), all the “life” has been processed out.

Classical design, on the other hand, seems sorely outdated—quaint for stay at a B&B in the Muskokas or a fancy dress ball at the Royal York. But really, who needs all that clutter in their everyday life? If you live in a farmhouse in rural Ontario, great; but, in East York, Oakville, and elsewhere in the GTA, the trend is to blend contemporary interiors with existing buildings (be they brownstones or loft conversions of old factories). Blending old and new in — dare I say it — a contemporary way.

The reality is that design is always a sign of the times. Like any other art form, it reflects the idiosyncrasies of particular eras or moments. Our society faces advancing technological complexity at a pace never before imagined. Resistance to change is equally potent. Today’s design is truly eclectic. We can see every conceivable permutation and combination of old and new imaginable. Old-style houses made from faux concrete stones with stainless steel kitchens, steel roofs and hardwood floors. Concrete, glass, and stainless steel buildings with animal skin rugs, wood furniture, stone accents.

To say it comes down to personal preference seems like a cop-out. It’s really about livability. Does a space strike a liveable balance between what you find aesthetically pleasing and what you need practically speaking? It’s not just about what a space looks like or how it works, but also how it feels.

The question of contemporary vs. classic has always been there, as each generation struggles to fit the new into the established. What makes a space liveable for you? That’s what matters today.

Attila Lendvai
VP of Strategic Development
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

links: Architecture: Combining New and Old Do Industrial Buildings Have a Future? Design in Motion … in a House!?

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Build Yourself a Dream Business: Open a B&B

MS Office ClipArt: buildings, chalets, couples, inns, Swiss architecture, tourists, travelers, an illustration for an article Build Yourself a Dream Business: Open a B&B
Image Credit: MS Office ClipArt: buildings, inns, Swiss architecture, travelers

“Manuel will show you to your rooms - if you're lucky.”
- Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers

Ever dreamed of “getting away from it all” permanently? Maybe opening a Bed and Breakfast (B&B) is right for you. And no, we are not suggesting you follow the “Basil Fawlty School of Inn keeping.”

The concept is simple enough: open a room or two in your home to strangers. For a fee, offer them overnight accommodation in a warm and friendly atmosphere along with a nice breakfast.
Whether you’re in The Beaches in Toronto, by the lake in Oakville, up north, or anywhere, doing a B&B right will mean more guests and more revenues.

That will require some serious design and building considerations, whether you are building from scratch or renovating / re-building your existing home.
  • How will you redesign the space — maximum occupancy potential or maximum comfort (even luxury)?
  • How do you envision the common areas, kitchen, and dining room?
  • Bathroom facilities: will they be shared or will each room have their own?
  • Will you have at least one room with an in-suite Jacuzzi (popular with fatigued business travelers and romantic couples alike)?
  • What about a fireplace in each room?
  • Will the rooms have entertainment in-suite?
  • Will you provide internet wirelessly or will you also provide a wired network?
  • Will you offer parking?
  • How many spaces?
If the idea of converting your existing property into a viable bed and breakfast sounds appealing to you, but you don’t know where to begin, you may want to start by calling a contractor who you can trust to help you envision the dream and make it a reality.

Attila Lendvai
VP of Strategic Development
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

links: Bed and breakfast
"A bed and breakfast (or B&B) is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodation and breakfast, but usually does not offer other meals." CITY OF TORONTO ZONING BY-LAW No. 438-86 AMENDED DECEMBER, 2001 Section 6 - Residential Districts
"22. A bed and breakfast establishment is a permitted use provided: (425-93)
(i) a maximum of two rooms are used for the purpose of providing lodging to the travelling public;
(ii) the detached house, semi-detached house or row house within which such establishment is located
is not simultaneously used for the keeping of roomers or boarders; (425-93)
(iii) the bed and breakfast establishment is operated by a person or persons whose ordinary and
principal residence is within such detached house, semi-detached house or row house; and (425-93) (858-88)
(iv) vehicle access is by means other than a mutual driveway. (425-93)" Bed and Breakfast Chart: APPENDIX 6: Page 1 BED AND BREAKFAST ESTABLISHMENTS PROVISIONS OF SELECTED MUNICIPALITIES
"City of Toronto Official Plan defines “Bed and breakfast establishment”- means a portion of residence for lodging the travelling public.
No licensing By-law regulating Bed and Breakfast Establishments." Canada Revenue Agency: Operating a Bed and Breakfast in Your Home

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Helping Women in the Building Trades

Want to have a career in the finishing trades?

Want to have a career in the finishing trades?
Interested? This could be you...
2011 @

"What could be better than providing a necessary building while helping women to build a future for themselves."

Martina Ernst

Our bulletins – Wo-Built's recent involvements in helping women in the trades.

March 2012 Forum for Women in the Trades and New Network of Women in the Trades

Toronto, November 15, 2011 - Wo-Built Inc, represented by Elida Huignard, Vice President of Training, participated in the November meeting to organize the March 2012 Forum for Women in the Trades.

Skills for Change invites the participation of several Ontario Building Trades Unions like the Sisters in the Trades from IBEW353; and professionals associations like CAWIC (Canadian Association of Women in Construction); colleges like George Brown, Centennial, The Centre for Skills Development & Training; the Ontario Works Apprenticeship Committee, SAWRO, the YWCA and On-Track for Women.

Skills for Change and all the above organizations will coordinate the forum where the launch of the Provincial Network of Women in the Trades will be announced, for which Skills for Change has obtained three year funding.

Wo-Built Inc, a private contractor that promotes the training of more women in the trades salutes the initiative and will participate enthusiastically in its development.

Meeting with Sisters in the Trades, at the IBEW353

Toronto, November 16, 2011 - Wo-Built Inc, represented by Elida Huignard, Vice-president of Training, Jane Wilson and Rebecca Anderson from Skills for Change participated in the informative meeting with the Sisters in the Trades at the Electricians IBEW 353 Union Hall.

Skills for Change, who provide learning and training opportunities for immigrants and refugees, requested the participation of the Sisters at the planned March Forum of Women’s Access to Trades. They also inquired about any issues the Sisters see important to be discussed at the Forum.

The Sisters, a lively group of trades’ women consisting of Journeymen (that are women) and apprentices; many which contributed with important insights in the life of women in the trades. These issues will open many venues of discussion at the Forum.

The Sisters in the Trades is a young organization which is attracting women from several Union Halls: electricians, plumbers, painters and carpenters, united to defend the rights of women in the trades.

links: Microskills Annual Report 2011 Highlights: Trades and Technology: Women’s Access to Trades Network
"We launched a Women’s Access to Trades Network, in partnership with several organizations and individuals dedicated to assisting women to get good jobs in the trades. The Women’s Access to Trades Network hosted a "Women in Trades Forum" where more than 80 stakeholders offered recommendations in a report that highlights the need for more leadership and commitment to greater opportunities for women to access employment in the trades. A copy of this report is available on our website. As part of the planning committee for a Youth Trades Fair sponsored by Career Foundation, we designed a very successful Women in Trades Corner aimed at teenage girls." Women’s Access to Trades? Not Even Close! A One-day Forum for Accelerating Change
An invitation by MicroSkills Women Services and several collaborators to review women's progress in the trades and ways to increase women's access and success. Fort York, 250 Fort York Blvd. Toronto, November 25th, 2010 Women in Trades & Technology National Network (WITT NN)
WITT National Network (WITT NN) is an education and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting and assisting in the recruitment, training and retention of women in trades, technology, operations and blue collar work (TTO/BCW) across Canada. Fulfill Your Dreams, and Have a Great Career in the Trades Building Homes - Leading Women into Construction Career Possibilities for Women in the Building and Construction Trades Skills / Compétences Canada (S/CC) is a national, not-for-profit organization that works with employers, educators, labour groups and governments to promote skilled trades and technology careers among Canadian youth. Skills Canada - Ontario is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting the skilled trades and technologies as viable, first-choice career options for Ontario youth. The Ontario Technological Skills Competition & Career Exploration Showcase
1900 Competitors, 30,000+ Spectators, 60+ skilled trade contest areas, Over 325,000 square feet, Elementary, Secondary and Post-Secondary Students
Monday, April 30 and Tuesday, May 1, 2012, Waterloo, ON The Ontario Technological Skills Competition & “Think Skills…Think Future!” Young Women’s Conferences
Mentor Registration: A mentor is a woman who works, trains or teaches in a skilled trade or technology field and is willing to share her positive career experiences with the student participants through informal networking activities.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Building Value in Your Home in Uncertain Economic Times

build value in your home, add value, adding value to your house renovation, collage by

Collage: Build Value in Your Home
Illustration Credits: MS Office ClipArt
House with red roof & Red dollar sign
2011 @

"Price is what you pay. Value is what you get."
- Warren Buffet

If all the media hype around “uncertain economic times” is making you shop around for the lowest possible estimate on your building, addition, or major renovation project, you may want to think again.

Any financial planner will tell you one of the safest places to put your cash is in your home. With low interest rates and red-hot prices in Toronto, adding value to your home is a smart financial strategy.

Be advised: buyer beware. “You get what you pay for” is doubly true when it comes to building projects. Ask yourself (or better yet, ask your contractor): how can they promise so much for so little? What does a low price tag say about the quality of materials and labour used? A quality builder delivers real value. Quality is also the original eco-knowhow. Longevity and efficiency mean you save money over time and increase resale value. Adding the latest green technologies will add even more value over time.

Then there’s the question of design. We’re not talking fly-by-night fashion trends, here. You may have to live with your design decisions for years to come. You want a designer who understands this. The truth is good design saves money. Standard cookie-cutter layouts waste square footage. Smart design makes better use of space, and well-designed spaces work as good as they look.

Last but not least, there’s the whole process. A building project (especially an addition) can present challenges you may not have anticipated. Beware estimates that promise low costs with no contingency plans. You may be signing yourself up for more than you bargained for (and less of what you deserve).

You want to choose a design and build contractor who inspires confidence and delivers value, not the short-term high of "getting a deal." The money you think you’re saving today will cost you much more down the road; meantime, you’ll have to live with what you paid for.

Attila Lendvai
VP of Strategic Development
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

You can read other related articles here: What to Do When You Outgrow Your House? Move or Be Moved? Aspects of Longevity of Design: How to Design Timeless Spaces Construction Statistics and Economic Indicators: Signs for Future Projects Adding Value to Your House – How About Adding Value to Your Life?! Top Renovations That Increase Home Value

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Don’t move into a retirement home; retire your house and stay at home!

The LEGO House, credit: Virginia Tech: Building Construction: Passive Solar Design of Lego Houses
The LEGO House
Image Source: Virginia Tech:
Building Construction: Passive Solar Design of Lego Houses

“Retirement has been a discovery of beauty for me. I never had the time before to notice the beauty of my grandkids, my wife, the tree outside my very own front door. And, the beauty of time itself.”
Hartman Jule
It’s a beautiful thing: to be able to wake up one day in the neighbourhood you’ve loved and lived in for years and realize: “I don’t have to go to work today…ever again.”

You can take a stroll down the street to the nearby park where you took your children to play. Now you’ll be able to take your grandchildren there as well. You can stroll part the shops near your home in East Toronto, West Toronto, the Beaches, Oakville, or wherever. You’ve shopped there all your life; but you’ve never had the time to really browse until now.

The new backyard garden can be tended while chatting with your neighbours. In the winter you can invite them into your new sunroom for tea. Your friends can reach you and vice-versa as easily as they ever could…no long drives to the suburbs; no gated communities; no “common areas;” no nonsense. Just you, the place you love, and a beautiful new house that you can call home for years and years to come—worry free, designed with every conceivable contingency in mind for your future.

Yes, you have kept the beauty of the family home by retiring the old family house. With a sensible re-design and rebuild of the property (think Lego), you have preserved all the memories and beauty of your existing home, with a brand new living space designed for a comfortable and safe retirement.

Just think of the joy and satisfaction you’ll feel helping your grandkids build a tree house in the tree you planted outside your front door years ago. Now that’s what beautiful retirement living is about.

Attila Lendvai
VP of Strategic Development
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

You can read other related articles here: Comment about Aging: Adapting Your Home for Comfortable Living Government of Canada: Seniors Canada: Working for Seniors Service Canada: Services for Seniors CARP Canada: A New Vision of Aging in Canada Senior living : How the right home updates help seniors age well at home
"With a few home improvements and modifications, seniors can stay safe at home and live independently for many years."
by ARA Advertorial

Thursday, 10 November 2011

A Truly Liveable Space Needs a Nourishing Colour Palette

Equinox by Hans Hofmann, Choose nourishing palette for your mind and soul, collage by wobuilt.comCollage: Choose a Nourishing Palette for Your Mind and Soul
Image credits: “Equinox” by Hans Hofmann, 1958, painting
MS Office ClipArt: Paint can and paintbrush

2011 @

“The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color. Our entire being is nourished by it.”
Hans Hofmann
If the above quotation by American abstract expressionist painter Hans Hofmann is considered in the context of our living spaces, the choice of colour should never be left to a complete stranger.

When Wo-Built completes a building or renovation project, they often deliver a “blank canvas” to their clients. This usually means white walls primed for interior design and finishing—in a word, colour.

So what do you do when presented with a beautifully designed space yearning for a personal expression of colour that will “feed your being” for years to come?

For starters, you might want to read-up on the psychology of colour. Don’t make the mistake of simply going with “what looks nice,” in a magazine or on a colour swatch. Our perception of colour changes over time. To test this theory, go into your closet and find that outfit you’ve only ever worn once.

Generally, colours are categorized as warm (red, orange, yellow) or cool (blue, green, violet). Warm colours enliven and are associated with higher energy, while cool colours promote serenity and tranquility. Blue is especially calming. Red and orange are said to stimulate hunger, while blue is said to curb it. Yellow can be cheerful, while violet promotes creativity, but both can get tiresome quickly.

Another factor to consider is colour combination. A monochrome colour scheme (different variations of the same colour), provides a soothing effect. A little more audacious is a colour scheme based on similar colours. A contrasting colour scheme is most dynamic, with colours appearing brighter than they actually are, and is best suited to high-activity areas like the kitchen; these can also get tiresome.

There is one more approach to consider: let your furniture and artwork be your colour! With some well-placed “accent walls” painted to draw focus and separate spaces, the rest of the space can remain just as it was delivered by Wo-Built: a clean canvas “painted” by your interior pieces; personal style.

Finally, don’t worry about impressing others with your “sense of colour.” Instead, choose a “nourishing palette” for your mind and soul. This will support a truly liveable space. Guests will respond to the positive energy of a space more than they will to a designer colour palette.

Attila Lendvai
VP of Strategic Development
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

You can read other related articles here: How many paint colours?! Paint Colour Trends 2008... Are you making the most of your investment?
by Sylvia O’Brien Colour for Your Home and Your Life: Intention Of Space
by Lonya Miller

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

When Home Buying, Mind your Manors!

Homeowner's Inspection Checklist, screenshot CMHCCMHC: Homeowner's Inspection Checklist
Conduct your own inspection to keep your home in top condition.
Image credit: CMHC Publications and Reports

The other day we went on a call and encountered a fairly common problem: termites had ravaged the structure of a circa 1940’s bungalow. A bungalow which, we must point out, was purchased recently.

The first takeaway is simple: get a complete professional home inspection before you buy. That means finding a qualified home inspector you trust, and making sure they give you a thorough report on all potential safety hazards: structure, electrical, gas heating (if applicable), etc.

It also means focused inspections of three key areas: moisture, asbestos and termites. But you may have to request the termite inspection specifically; you cannot assume a standard home inspection is going to find them.

Toronto in general has termite infestations, with pockets in East York, the Beaches, West Toronto and North Toronto. A termite inspection might be a good idea when looking at a cottage up north, too. As for moisture, cracked foundations, rotting wood and black mold are not your friends. And asbestos? Come now, do we really need to point out why you don’t want any asbestos in your house?

Of course, home inspectors aren’t psychic! By law they cannot make holes to look inside walls or inspect foundations below the ground (unless you actually own the property). No home inspection is foolproof. No amount of preparation or protection can catch every problem, especially if some problems are well concealed.

Hence the second takeaway: even with a complete home inspection you still may find extensive damage to your property, especially in basement areas.

Furthermore, should you discover problems that were not disclosed to you by the previous owner, you may consider initiating some sort of legal action (and hope you have a friendly banker to finance the repairs in the meantime). Such cases are not to be rushed into, however. It can be a drain on your resources; it’s often difficult to prove any wrongdoing; and, winning it is one thing: getting paid is another matter.

Attila Lendvai
VP of Strategic Development
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

links: CMHC: Homeowner's Inspection Checklist
Publications and Reports 62114: Conduct your own inspection to keep your home in top condition. CMHC: Home Inspection Checklist
Use this Checklist to review the report you receive from the home inspector. Tips & Advice: Is a Home Inspection Good Enough?
by Leonard Baron

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Relax During Your Home Renovation: Press-Release

Relax during your house renovation, wobuilt.comWo-Built: Relax During Your Renovation
2011 @

For Immediate Release

Wo-Built Inc. Announces "Relax During Your Renovation" Campaign for Oakville

Toronto, (November 1, 2011) – Wo-Built Inc., Ontario’s social, ethical and environmental builder, is about to launch its newest campaign promoting complete quality home upgrades for homeowners in Southern Oakville. The campaign’s focus: relax during your renovation.

“Many people are hesitant to undertake a major building project for the simple reason that they — or someone they know — have had unpleasant experiences with renovation projects in the past,” Wo-Built President Martina Ernst said. “Wo-Built is different. We listen to our clients. Their concerns are our concerns. Our genuine empathy and honesty gives Wo-Built clients greater confidence in their builder and a more relaxed experience.”

Although built with modest sizes and the technology of their day, older houses along the Lakeshore in Oakville (and thru the GTA) can be completely rebuilt to new standards or custom specifications. “Few people appreciate they need not compromise their Lakeshore location in order to have the large home of their dreams,” Wo-Built President Martina Ernst elaborated. “We can transform a 1000 sq. ft. bungalow into a 3000 sq. ft. two-story plus loft, complete with home theatre or legal apartment in a newly re-imagined and bone-dry finished basement.”

Martina Ernst, Co-founder and President/CEO of Wo-Built Inc, is a sought-after contractor, designer of residential and commercial properties, lighting designer, mentor and speaker. She has worked on numerous building projects, both in Canada and internationally.

Wo-Built Inc. is a leader in green building and complete home modernization, with an active social mission to train young women wanting to pursue a life in the trades as well as educating homeowners, commercial property owners, investors and governments. Wo-Built is an accredited Better Business Bureau (BBB) general contractor, a Member of Live Green Toronto, Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) and complying with the RenoMark™ ethical code of conduct. To find out more, please visit

Media Contact:
Attila Lendvai, VP of Strategic Development
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build
Suite #3, 1287 St. Clair Avenue West
Toronto, ON M6E 1B8, Canada

# # #

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Happy Diwali: Festival of Lights

Happy Diwali:  Children's Book Of Celebration 2011, collage by wobuilt.comCollage: "The Children's Book Of Celebration" 2011
Publication of Regional Maple Leaf Communications Inc.
Illustrations by Cecilia Camet

Today is the Hindu holiday of Diwali, the Festival of Lights. I first experienced joyful Diwali or Deepavali celebrations in Singapore when I lived there. The festival of lights definitely owned up to its name with lots of fireworks, colour and light. As a lighting designer and member of IESNA I knew the colorful light displays were a treat to look at. When the Children's Book Of Celebration put our advertising on the Diwali's page, fond memories of the festivals came back.

I love the idea of decorating your home brightly and even doing home renovation prior to an important festival. For me it gives a sense of renewal, happiness, joy and new beginnings. When I look at my own home the best value is always painting; it freshens up the space, gives it a new look and feeling and it is not expensive to do. I also dust off my knick-knacks and change them around to uplift my space.

In the past some of our guest bloggers and decorator gurus had great and inexpensive ideas on how to brighten up your spaces for any occasion. Please click here to read a great article Unique Spaces – Is your home really you? by Ayanna McAlmont, with her guides to homeowners to have homes which reflect who they are at heart. And check Hayley's Hot Tips on Home Decor: Add a Little Bit of Magic into Your Home.

We wish everyone a joyous Diwali and a happy prosperous New Year.

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Forget the Darker Side of Urban Life: Get Yourself Some Stairs and Step up into the Light

Forget the Darker Side of Urban Life: Get Stairs and Light, by

Photo Collage: Forget the Darker Side of Urban Life:
Get Yourself Some Stairs and Step up into the Light
2011 @

"They may be America's last pioneers, urban nomads in search of wide open interior spaces."
Cathleen McGuigan

When it comes to housing, you will pay per square footage according to the following:
  1. Proximity to “happening places;”
  2. How “happening” your place is;
  3. Number of years since your place first “happened.”
Consider downtown Toronto for a moment. If want new apartment on a budget, expect to live in a 300 sq. ft. closet—er ...bachelor. You can save some coin while living relatively close to downtown in a slightly more spacious apartment with not too many creepy-crawly “tenants.”

What is true for condos is especially true for houses. To live near the lake, be it the Beaches, East York, Etobicoke or even Oakville, you might think you have to settle for a tiny bungalow built either at the turn-of-the-century or just after WWII. Welcome to “the dark side” of urban housing compromise.

But let’s take a look at that brand new 300 square foot bachelor studio condo for a moment. From brand new kitchens and stainless steel appliances to high-tech lighting and a murphy bed, a small space can be pretty swanky…when it’s planned and built with state of the art technology and modern design.

The trouble with older houses is that they were designed and built with the technology of their day. Luckily, a house (bungalow, backsplit, whatever) can not only be re-built, it can be expanded and upgraded with space that doesn’t exist yet. All it takes is a little vision to “see the light” of urban living.

Want a 3000 sq. ft. home near the Danforth and the lake instead of an hour north of Toronto? Then transform your 1000 sq. ft. bungalow into a two-story plus loft. (Maybe put a home gym, home theatre or legal apartment for guests or income in your newly re-imagined and bone-dry finished basement).

Are you an urban nomad in search of wide open interior spaces? Don’t search; find the wide open space above your head, beneath your feet, in front or out back. Call a vision builder who specializes in cutting-edge designs with the personal touch so you can step up into the light of a no-compromise urban life.

Attila Lendvai
VP of Strategic Development
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

links: Another Addition Renovation We Are Proud of: The Wow Factor Approach! Good Daylight Design Strategy for Your Home

Thursday, 20 October 2011

5 Good Ideas Book Launch

Five Good Ideas book launch Toronto, photo-collage by, photos by Olga GoubarPhoto-Collage: Five Good Ideas Book Launch
October 18, 2011, Toronto's Network Orange;
Hosted by: Author and broadcaster Jane Farrow;
Featured: Interview with the editors, Maytree Chairman Alan Broadbent and
Maytree President Ratna Omidvarand, insights from a panel of contributors.

Photos: Olga Goubar @

Five Good Ideas
Practical Strategies for Non-Profit Success
Edited by Alan Broadbent and Ratna Omidvar
Published by Coach House Books, Toronto 2011

Here are some quick thoughts on possibilities for merging profit and non-for-profit worlds in construction industry.

I got dragged out again of the office to attend a book launching event. The event was held at the Downtown Toronto's ING Orange Café, a really interesting community space to hold meetings with a lot of green ideas: living walls, reusing the old warehouse structure, movable walls to reconfigure spaces to suit and many more. The book ‘Five good ideas – practical strategies for non-profit success’ edited by Alan Broadbent and Ratna Omidvar of the Maytree Foundation. I was captivated what some of the contributors mentioned, and I got the book.

On cursory inspection of the index the topics reflected the same issues as running a company: leadership, organizational effectiveness, human resources, resource development, communications, advocacy and governance. So will it be that non-profit organization behave similar to for profit organization? Or will there be differences.

On a personal note, since I tried to help non profit organizations become profitable in one of my former lives, the book will be extremely interesting to see if any of my ideas are reflected. For Wo-Built, since we are spinning out our social mission, this book will be invaluable.

Since I haven't read the book the jury is still out, but if my gut feeling is correct this book is also valuable for any CEO of a construction company. My personal believe is that our industry, the construction industry, should be responsible for implementing its own social initiatives such as apprenticeships, education of the next generation, health and safety issues and more. Some companies are very active in this regard, but we could do so much more as a collective, and not just leave this to nebulous “government”. We, as an industry should look at hybrid solutions, combining our for profit missions with social innovation to provide us with the future labour force the industry can be proud of.

Maybe after reading the book I can report on some of the possibilities of merging the two worlds.

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

links: blog: Development through Enterprise: The Best of Both Worlds? Blending For-Profit and Non-Profit Models
by Shanika Gunaratna forum discussion: Creating a Hybrid For-Profit / Non-Profit Social Enterprise Structure
Hosted by Jeff Hamaoui (May 2005 - Closed) Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General: Not-For-Profit Incorporator's Handbook Industry Canada: Federal Not-for-profit Corporations: Create / Maintain a Not-for-Profit Organization blog: Why do so few women choose the skilled trades as a career?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

When is a Home a Castle?

a watercolour painting by John W. Johnston from; Holway House, La Crosse - a fine castle-style residence in La Crosse, Wisconsin

"Holway House, La Crosse" - watercolour painting by John W. Johnston
Image Credit:
The personal web pages of John W. Johnston of Northampton, England - JWJ

"Yes, your home is your castle, but it is also your identity and your possibility to be open to others."
David Soul

It’s a very romantic notion: your home is your castle. Some might call it old fashioned, but I like to think of it as never being more relevant than it is today.

Our home is our sanctuary from the world “out there.” Sure, we might have a hi-definition window onto that world, but we watch it from the relative comfort of a sofa, a bowl of comfort food nestled lovingly in our loungewear-clad lap. In moments as these, our home is literally our “happy place.” From romantic nights to family get-togethers; new loves to newborns, the space we live in literally accommodates life’s most cherished people and moments.

It’s no accident that real estate prices increased again in September, with Toronto once again particularly buoyant. Considering the time, energy and money we spend on (and in) our homes, it becomes clear we’re investing in more than just a living space; we’re investing in our own “headspace.”

How do we feel when our space feels “off?” Can we feel we’re standing on solid footing living in an older home with potentially faulty footings? Where is our headspace when our living space was designed for people 50, 60 or even 80 years ago? Is it “our castle” when the walls seem “a little thin?”

Unlike our cranium and grey matter (which we’re more or less stuck with), a complete overhaul of our living space is possible and may be just what we need to overhaul our life! Just think what a total upgrade of your home’s core structures and components will do for your headspace (and heating bills).

Invest in some cool green technology. Build an addition for a home theatre, listening room, Jacuzzi, greenhouse…whatever reflects your headspace right now—or the future. With all the stress “out there,” making your home a castle of refuge for the space “in here” has never been more important.

Attila Lendvai
VP of Strategic Development
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Home Renovation Do’s and Don’ts: What to do before you do anything

Home Renovation 101, some don'ts, discoveries, by wobuilt.comHome Renovation Discoveries: Black Mold,
Spaghetti Wiring, Arching Electricity, Crappy Plumbing.
Look for These and Other "Fun Discoveries".
Image Credit: MS Office ClipArt:
Mans face featuring a pondering emotion
2011 @

Today we begin a series on what to do and what not to do when it comes to your home renovation projects. We’ll take you inside one of Wo-Built’s projects to see the reality behind the advice. And, perhaps more importantly, appreciate the impact of not taking our advice…

What do you do before you start any major home renovation project? Call a good general contractor. Why? Because a general contractor has a sense for "the big picture" and an eye for "all the little details," whereas a more specialized contractor or tradesperson may not.


Homeowners Bob and Marsha (not their real names), decided they wanted to remodel and renovate their bungalow in East York of roughly 60 to 70 years of age (the bungalow, not Bob and Marsha). So, they went ahead and had the ground floor remodeled with beautiful trim, fresh paint, a remodeled bathroom and had a brand new kitchen.

They were so happy with the way everything looked, they said "Let’s finish the basement now." Only then did they contact Wo-Built to come do the basement, after their main floor renovations. It was only after Wo-Built took down the walls in the new bathroom adjacent to the new kitchen (to get at the black mold and properly insulate the walls to prevent it from returning) that the electrician found a single wire spliced into an electrical box (running on a single 60-70 year old circuit / fuse) powering no less than 5 outlets in the kitchen (in addition to the outlets and fixtures it was powering in the bathroom).

So, someone using a hair dryer in the morning while the coffee maker and toaster is going? What about throwing in a blender for that morning smoothie? It could have turned into quite the morning StairMaster workout to go reset the fuse every morning. Now, Wo-Built has to cut into recently finished and painted walls in a brand new kitchen to fix an electrical wiring oversight by the individual(s) who installed it.

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have called in a reliable general contractor like Wo-Built to oversee any renovations being planned from the get-go? Isn’t it better for the realistic scope of the project and correct order of work to be determined before a single hammer is lifted? Wo-Built would have been able to spot problems and avoid wasted effort, saving Bob and Marsha time, money and headaches.

And this is just a taste of the "horrors" lurking behind the walls, in the foundation, and elsewhere in the basement of this benign little bungalow in a sleepy little East York neighborhood of Toronto, Canada.

Black mold behind walls of the "new bathroom," the spaghetti wiring with arching electricity and scorched insulation, the complete lack of insulation in some areas, and plumbing that looks like it was put in by a lonely octopus. Look for these and other "fun discoveries" in the weeks to come (i.e. the Halloween edition…for obvious reasons).

Attila Lendvai
VP of Strategic Development
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Green Renovations: Sharing Experiences and Lessons Learned

Green Renovations Lessons Learned BILD GTA Toronto event with Wo-Built, October 11, 2011Green Renovations Lessons Learned
BILD Renovator & Custom Builder Council
October 11, 2011; 6:00 - 8:30 pm
Credit: Meetings & Events

Building, Industry and Land Development
Renovator & Custom Builder Council

Topic: Green Renovations
Lessons Learned

Join Building Industry and Land Development Association for this informative case study approach as panelists share their experiences on small, medium and large "green" renovation projects:
  • Whole house "green" renovation
  • The Green Home Makeover: Sustainable Neighbourhood Retrofit Action Plan (SNAP)
  • Diagnosing and renovating Mansard and similar roofing
John Godden, Clearsphere Inc.,
Martina Ernst, Wo-Built Inc.,
Emilio Cosentino, Keystone Interiors Inc.,
Shannon Logan, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, SNAP
Greg Labbe and Don Noble, Greensaver.

When: Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Time: Pizza and Networking: 6:00 pm
Program: 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Location: BILD Awards Hall
Address: 20 Upjohn Road, North York, ON M3B 1Y2

For more information please contact: Meetings & Events

Live Green Toronto: Wo-Built

Our Green Commitment

We are dedicated to being environmentally conscious and have embraced "Green Construction" in all our projects. We strive to be the leading design and build company that is sought after for its innovative design and quality construction and one that is recognized for using their projects as a means to help women, the community and the environment.

Our Special Offer for Members
Incorporate in your renovations the following: green roofs, solar, geothermal or heat recovery measures and save 5% of the retail costs.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Design in Motion … in a House!?

Jet House by Jerome Olivet Visionary Architecture DesignJerome Olivet Visionary Design: Architecture: Jet House
Image Credit: Jérôme OLIVET Book: Architecture: Plant inspiration

Good Engineering and Beautiful Aesthetics Can Go Hand in Hand in Your Home.
In recent years, there has been an emerging school of thought in design that could be called "motion design" or even "design in motion." From computer animation to automotive, the focus is on designs that look good while moving, not just while standing still. In the automotive world, the approach evolved from ever-more intense aerodynamic testing for performance and fuel efficiency. In other words, it was a natural progression of an age-old tradition in design called "form follows function." When we consider design in motion as another example of form follows function, we can apply the concept directly to home design and layout — and no, we’re not talking mobile homes!

A house is in constant motion. It’s all a question of perspective and relativity. After all, in a wind tunnel test, a car stays in one spot: it’s artificially generated wind that’s really moving; and yet, its aerodynamics can be tested … that is design in motion. In much the same way, rooms, hallways, counters, closets — all these elements stay put. It’s the people living in and around them that move. The motion of a house relates to its occupants. So, if you really think about it, design in motion is perhaps the most relevant consideration when building a house, an addition or any major re-redesign project.

Here are some questions worthy of consideration: in the morning, how many people are there in the house getting ready within the same time-frame? What is the flow of people between bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, laundry and hallways? Where are the “bottlenecks”? We live in Canada: does the home have an alternate entrance and/or mudroom where slushy shoes and snowsuits can be removed and stored away from the primary entrance (i.e. the one used by visitors and guests)? Speaking of guests, is there an office or sitting room relatively near the main entrance close to a powder room where surprise guests can be entertained without disturbing the rest of the household? Perhaps that same office can contain a sofa bed or futon to accommodate overnight guests (in which case it’s best the powder room also has a shower for them to use). Is there a handyman in the house? A gardener? How about a laundry room with a shower within easy reach of the garden, workshop, or wherever soiled people and their clothes enter the house?

Of course, people are not the only things that move in a house. Sound is also an element that is in motion; "sound carries." Anyone who has ever lived in a side-split or back-split arrangement will attest to a design which essentially turns the entire house into a single audio zone (and these are very common among the many "cookie-cutter" designs prevalent in the Greater Toronto Area and elsewhere in Ontario). The placement of rooms next to or above other rooms where "noise contamination" may take place is an important consideration. In some cases (positioning a baby room) you may want to hear every sound coming from the adjacent room. Of course, sound carries through houses in sometimes unanticipated ways. Duct-work can channel noise remarkably efficiently. A finished basement with ceiling vents connected to existing duct-work could inadvertently make a direct (and unfortunate) "audio pipeline" between the basement washroom and the main floor kitchen or living room.

Similarly, light is also an element in constant motion. Obviously, over the course of a day, daylight and shadow shift from one side of the house to the other. But in the evenings, artificial light from one space within the home can "flood" an adjacent space quite easily. There can be too much light or not enough given the activities in any particular room. Often, designer fixtures that "look good" in the showroom are sorely lacking in terms of providing adequate light. Finally, new digital dimmers and timers add a whole other dimension of motion—changes in lighting intensity over time.

The point is this: aesthetic considerations of design aside, a home must be lived in. Designing the layout and functionality of a house in motion will result in a more livable home. The key is to work with a designer and/or contractor who has the ability and the patience to take you through the process of understanding the numerous motions the house will go through to determine the best design.

If all this sounds too much like an exercise in engineering and too little like design, remember: good engineering and beautiful aesthetics go hand-in hand. Truly, having one without the other is not very practical when it comes to building anything that "must be lived with" (lived in). However, one thing is absolutely certain: having a home that just "looks good" at first glance will become very tiresome very quickly if it encumbers the natural flow of the people and daily life. Maybe that’s why so many people in Toronto are opting to build additions or have dramatic re-designs and re-builds done on their existing properties — what was aesthetically pleasing once must be brought up to speed of 21st Century living.

As for the "Aerodynamic House" in the image that opens this blog: in the not-too-distant future, global warming and more extreme weather patterns — particularly here in Canada — may indeed begin to play a more critical role in design in motion considerations as they relate to homes. But that, as they say, is a topic for another day.

Attila Lendvai
VP of Strategic Development
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

Jérôme OLIVET. La boutique

Jerome Olivet Visionary Design home is where the art is: Jet House is a New Look on an Old Design
By Christopher Mascari

Cjacotguth’s Blog: Research: Aerodynamic House
By Charlotte Margareta Jacot Guth The Jet House, Sleek Aerodynamic Living
by Rigel Celeste

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Good Daylight Design Strategy for Your Home

Good Daylight Design Strategy for Your Home, by wobuilt.comCollage: Mirror, mirror on the wall,
What is the best light source of all?
- Daylight, sunlight is best of all!
Image Credit: MS Office ClipArt: Homes, Houses, Mirrors
2011 @

Mirror, mirror on the wall, what is the best light source of all? - Daylight / sunlight is best of all.

Wouldn't be great to have a magic mirror that can give a definitive answer all the time? Life would be so easy. But this was an easy question as the answer is undisputed. Generally, we humans love daylight and sunlight, it makes us feel more secure, safe, our productivity is up and our health improves. So it is absolutely important to include daylight/sunlight into our designs.

Now the question how to do this would stretch even the best magical mirror, since there are so many different things to consider:
  • Is it used for lighting or heating?
  • Are the windows used for views or sunlight penetration?
  • Do you need even lighting or can there be highlights?
  • What are the spaces used for?
  • And many more...
Let's look at some of the components:

Daylight as a light source
Daylight is diffused light, that has less extreme brightness contrasts and thermal impacts, than direct sunlight. For working environments daylight is preferred, as it has excellent colour rendering, high even light levels that make tasks easier to perform, creates a visual comfort and allows energy savings. However, there is no drama in daylight and it provides little visual stimulation.

So a good daylight design will take natural visual variations into consideration. Maybe sunlight is reflected via light shelves to an area that is not necessary for tasks performance such as a ceiling or an end wall. Or the windows provide a view to the outside world. The challenge is to avoid glare, so that a comfortable working environment can be achieved.

Sunlight as a thermal source
However direct sunlight is perfect for passive solar design where a thermal mass such as a floor or a wall is heated up by the sun and acts as a heat sink. The heat, if designed properly, will be released during the cooler periods to heat the environment.

The two components are often in conflict with each other and a balance will have to be struck, even in a residential setting. Lighting and thermal design is not only for offices, malls, commercial and public buildings, but also has to be considered for a person's home. For example, glare in a kitchen would not do considering that sharp knives are used and glare could lead to accidents. Overheating in summer would be very uncomfortable. And view windows in a bathroom might not be appropriate.

Daylight will have to be introduced in a sensitive and effective method via skylights or utilizing external shading devices such as overhangs and trees. Trees, especially trees that loose their leaves in winter are very good sources of sunlight control as they provide shade in summer and let through light and heat in winter.

Daylight can also be introduced by using light tubes, which are coated on the inside with highly reflective material, which allows the light to travel longer to an area. Light tubes can bring light into basements from the roof, making the spaces more pleasant.

Daylight / sunlight is a renewable energy, it is available in abundance and if designed correctly will enhance spaces and make them more comfortable while saving energy.

Martina Ernst
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

links: Illuminating with Presents from the IESNA
IESNA - Illuminating Engineering Society of North America Light – the Music of Architecture Make The Most Of Natural Light
Daylight is by far the best light source. It's free, sustainable and can give a sense of energy and well being. Some housing is not well designed to catch sunlight, but by making the most of the light that is available, you are likely to achieve some energy savings and create a more comfortable and healthy living space. Natural Light Works DaylightCal visualises the duration, angle and quality of sunlight wherever you are.
Using weather forecast data, DaylightCal calculates the distribution of daylight for any location and date worldwide. Find out how much daylight you’ve got left today and how much to expect tomorrow. Light medicine of the future: Let there be light
By d.hagers 10 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Home Office Cheaply
9. Improve the lighting
By Collis Ta'eed | The Working Day
Educational issue: “Rule of thumb“ for students in architecture
"To include energy optimized building design from the beginning of a draft there are some simple rules architectural students can follow to avoid problems with the daylight, the ventilation and the protection against overheating."
Escrito por Sonja Schelbach, HCU-Hamburg

Thursday, 29 September 2011

What to Do When You Outgrow Your House? Move or Be Moved?

Collage: Relax during a renovation? This could be you!
Image Credit: MS Office ClipArt: home, living room, couple, relaxing
2011 @

What to do when your family, tastes, and or other needs outgrow your current home: buy a new home, build a new home, or remodel your home. Explore different options to create your family dream home.
Many people believe there is only one way to "trade up" in the world of real-estate: to move. Fair enough: there’s an entire industry — and a very vocal one at that — focused on gearing us to think in terms of selling our home, finding a new home, getting a new mortgage, moving, etc. The fact that there are middle-men (i.e. from real estate agents to mortgage brokers) at every stage of this process all "taking their cut" is a little factoid of information rarely mentioned. Still, it’s an understandable approach to the dilemma of what to do when your family, tastes, and or other needs outgrow your current home. And certainly, one need only look around the Greater Toronto Area to see the real estate sales cycle in full swing.

Another popular route is to build a new home from scratch. In the contemporary scenario, this usually means a move to the suburbs (or "suburban hell" as I like to call it), where "reasonably-priced" lots are still available. Of course, from a GTA perspective, this means going to areas west of the city like Mississauga, Oakville, and Milton. Or, perhaps north to Brampton, Vaughan, Markham, or Newmarket. Possibly east to Scarborough, Oshawa, Peterborough. If you’ve ever wondered why all the houses in any particular subdivision in any of these cities all look the same (including older areas in Toronto, from downtown to Etobicoke to North York), it’s likely because all the designs came from one builder’s binder of cookie-cutter plans. If you ask me, cookies belong in lunch boxes, not neighborhoods. Besides, visit any decent bakery (i.e. in the city) and you’ll see how appealing a spread can be when there’s a good mix of decorative cookies on offer — a selection that’s a bit more creative than "chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin or peanut butter."

So what about the least well-known yet possibly most economical route? That is, of course, to build a dream home on the lot that’s available already underneath your existing home. The advantages are numerous. For starters, you don’t have to move to a different location. If you like your neighborhood, neighbors, location, etc. why pick up and transplant your family to a completely new one? Many people living in Toronto near the lake — East York and the Beaches, for example — want to stay in the area, what with the proximity of the Danforth, subway, etc. — and only need to upgrade their older house. Secondly, you already own the lot beneath your home (at least partially, if you still have some mortgage left to pay on it). At the very least, you will be able to leverage its current market value without having to go through the hassle of selling and the expense of paying an agent.

Presumably, you picked the property you live in for a number of good reasons. If some of your needs have changed over time, a simple addition might be just the thing. Of course, if your home choice was limited by your economic status at the time, perhaps you could consider something a little more involved than a simple addition: a complete re-design. It is a little-known fact that you can tear-down the vast majority of an existing home and build something almost completely from scratch in its place (maintain a few basic elements) and have it qualify as a renovation. This has significant benefits over building a house entirely from scratch. Plus, as already mentioned, your new dream home is built in the neighborhood you know and love. This option is especially attractive to anyone living in an older bungalow in East York, The Beaches, along the Danforth, Etobicoke, even Oakville. Lakeside properties that have houses which were designed to be "cottage-like" are now prime candidates to be transformed into lakeside dream homes — close enough to downtown Toronto, preserving the cottage feel, but with all the benefits of a brand new home.

The point is this: in today’s real estate market, you may be able to sell high, but that means you also have to buy high. Alternatively, you have to go where you can buy cheaper and be stuck in suburban hell in a home that looks like everyone else’s, while adding some extra time into your morning commute. Or, you can take advantage of low interest rates and rising property values to make an investment into your lifestyle and the property value of your existing home. We’re not talking about a "lipstick and rouge" job, either. With some professional design consultation and creative use of space, you might be amazed at the value a "complete renovation" can add to your quality of life — house and home.

In other words, why just move when you can be moved?

Attila Lendvai
VP of Strategic Development
Wo-Built Inc. - Innovative Design and Build

links: MoneySense Magazine: Homes: Renovate or relocate
If you’ve run out of space at home, you have a big decision to make. Should you move? Build an addition? Raze and rebuild from scratch? MoneySense costs out the options.
By Bryan Borzykowski Is it time to remodel -- or buy a new house?
Keeping up a home for 30 years may cost you up to four times its purchase price. Is it smarter just to buy another home every 10 years? Here's how to decide.
By Liz Pulliam Weston Why build? Move an older house instead
Moving and fixing up a reclaimed home sounds like a real bargain. But it's not a simple job. Here's how two friends did it and came out ahead.
By Marilyn Lewis of MSN Real Estate Renovation and Home Purchase Report - Major Market Highlights
"Forty-two per cent of households in ten Canadian markets renovated their home in 2010."
This publication highlights the key trends, analyses and statistics from CMHC's Renovation and Home Purchase Survey, conducted in ten major Canadian centres. The survey provides information on prior year's renovations in all ten centres. Intentions to buy or renovate a home are highlighted in five of the centres, so you can learn more about Tomorrow's Customers Today. Can I Afford to Buy a Bigger House for My Growing Family?