How Cost-Saving Measures Can Actually Cost More

penniesIn our line of work, clients often want to use their own trades or supply their own materials to try and save a penny or two, or extend their renovation budget as much as possible. But what people often don’t realize is that these measures can actually end up being costlier in the end. Here’s how:

Hiring Our Trades vs. Your Own

  • The trades we hire work for both us and you. They have been vetted for credentials, references, quality work, experience, scheduling adherence, insurance obligations, financial viability and their ability to cooperate with us, other trades on site, and you the client.
  • Your trades work only for you. If we don’t sign their cheques and direct their work, a multitude of issues can arise and have in the past. We mark up these trades’ services in our contract to reflect the costs we incur in sourcing, managing them effectively, ensuring their rates are reasonable, and guaranteeing their work.
  • If you supply materials or fixtures, it is essentially up to you to ensure they will work appropriately for the space in the desired application, and will have a warranty of some kind in case of defect. For example, lighting fixtures can be purchased anywhere, however, if they have not been tested and passed by CSA or UL in the States our electricians will often not install them. In addition, our insurance does not cover homeowner-supplied fixtures or materials, nor do we warranty these products (and our trades won’t either).
  • When we supply the materials and fixtures, you can rest assured they will be insured, warrantied, verified and will function perfectly in the space for the desired application. We install them with warrantied and insured trades and act on your behalf if they malfunction in any way. As well, we have some pricing pull with our suppliers since we have established relationships and will likely be looking to shop with them again. In addition, even with our markup on the prices we pay for raw materials and fixtures, it is usually very close to any “great deal” you can find – meaning you’re not really saving any money.

Supplying Your Own Materials vs. Using Ours

Either way, there are a lot of risks in trying to hire your own trades or supply your own materials – most of the time it’s simply not worth whatever savings you might actually achieve. If you are looking for ways to save money on your home renovation or stretch the budget somewhat, our team has the experience and know-how to help you identify your optimal scope-price solution. Contact us today to discuss your project to see how we can help.

- The Jameswood Team

What To Do If You Find Mold or Asbestos During a Renovation

mold found during renovationsMany homeowners don’t take asbestos or mold remediation into consideration when thinking about renovating their home. But even homes as young as mid-1980’s may contain asbestos – and homes of any age can have mold that must be remediated before any work can proceed. So what do you need to do if these potentially dangerous hazards are found in your house?

Steps to Take for Asbestos or Mold Remediation:

  1. Your first step should always be testing. It’s important to know exactly how much there is and what type it is, in order to best determine your next steps. Find a reputable asbestos/mold remediation company and obtain a quote for the testing.  The market has become competitive, but there are still some that charge too much. Have them take samples for proper testing.
  2. Have them provide you an estimate or assessment of the work required based on the results of that testing.
  3. Get a permit for remediation and ensure the area(s) are contained. The remediation company may or may not help you with these.
  4. Prior to any work being performed, make sure there is a test for AIR QUALITY done. It is very important to compare your air quality before AND after the remediation is performed.
  5. Ensure you receive a certificate of remediation and air quality after the work is done.
  6. Once you receive these certificates you can proceed with your renovation project – and not one minute sooner.

What Else to Know About Mold & Asbestos Remediation

  • Asbestos and mold remediation can be quite expensive. This price is usually a result of the steps involved in having it properly done and it is not recommended to try and cut corners on this type of work.
  • Often, anyone living in the home will need to relocate while the work is being performed; the length of this work depends on the assessment provided by the remediation company.
  • Purchasers of a home containing mold or asbestos must be notified of its existence – past or present – and even a grow op house that will be totally demolished must be remediated first!!

If you have any concerns about your home renovation in Calgary, reach out to the experts at Jameswood Homes today.

-The Jameswood Team

3 Important Steps To Take Before Home Renovations

a man signing a document with a pen

Thinking about building a home or starting a renovation? Here are the three most important things to do before home renovations work starts.

1 – Get all your ideas finalized on paper.

It is helpful for everyone in the family to agree on what they want from the renovation or build before taking any further steps. Include must-haves, should-haves, and wish-list items. This prevents many potentially costly and stressful delays or changes down the road. (Note that marriage counselling is not usually a contractor’s strong suit).

2 – Get your referrals in order.

Talk to people who have done some renovations in Calgary. Ask which company they used and how problems were handled. The renovation world isn’t perfect; there are always issues that come up, so it’s extremely important to find a renovator that will work with you to solve them effectively, thereby minimizing any delays or budget overruns. Talk to several renovators or custom home builders in Calgary – at least three – until you find one you feel very comfortable with.

3 – Get everything in writing.

Repeat after us: Get. Everything. In. Writing. The usual culprit that causes problems during home building or renovations is a lack of clear communication and/or differing expectations between the homeowner and contractor. Having everything in writing ensures you both have a guide, a script so to speak, from which to reference from throughout the entire process. This is the basis for your contract, which is not an option, but a legally binding requirement. It should include every possible detail such as money, schedules, specifications, insurance, warranty, and use of toilets (yes, even these little things are important too).

Our team works tirelessly with homeowners to ensure everything goes according to their carefully laid out plans. If you’re looking to take the renovation plunge, reach out today for an estimate on your project.

- The Jameswood Team

The Twa Family Home Renovation

At Jameswood, we are happiest when our clients are happy. And one of our most recent Calgary home renovation clients wanted to share exactly how happy they are – so here is their Thank You note, in entirety, along with some before/after photos:

“We hired Jameswood to manage our major renovation last year which was essentially the entire house excluding the bathrooms. The renovation was quite extensive and involved a wall tear down, so we were reluctant to manage it ourselves. After the first meeting with Brad and Don, we knew we made the right choice as their professionalism and extensive experience was readily evident, giving us the confidence that the job would be done right.

First of all we were very impressed with their choice of designer, they were very helpful with providing the right features in our home that will work best with our family and lifestyle. We loved the new open concept design and they spent a tremendous amount of effort and thought on our kitchen which is where our family spends the most time in. Secondly, the construction manager assigned to our job, Jorme Barnsley, was a joy to work with. His attention to detail and his passion to complete the job right the first time is impressive. He oversaw the contractor’s work and made sure that the level of quality is up to the high standard that Jameswood is known for. Jorme and his apprentice Jason also did a lot of the demolition, framing and finishing work which was impeccable but also they made sure that at the end of each work day the house was tidied up.

At the beginning of this job we were reluctant in hiring a renovation company because of the additional cost but we were happily surprised that Jameswood was worth every penny. First of all we got top notch contractors to work on our job – from the designer, to the flooring, plumbing, electrical, cabinet maker, painters, kitchen counters and drywallers – contractors that would have been tough for us to find and book at short notice. Jameswood also made sure that contractors were held accountable for any deficiencies that were found at the end of the job. The deficiencies were immediately resolved, which from experience always take a while or never happens if we dealt with the contractor directly. Having a reputable renovation company working for us saved a lot of headaches, countless hours of scheduling and calling around as well as stress dealing with numerous contractors.

Moreover, our project was completed in 3 and half months, a week ahead of schedule which was important to us as we were living in our fifth wheel and needed to be in the house before it went below zero. We had to reduce scope to stay within our budget, but Jameswood was flexible in redoing estimates and scheduling to meet our needs. The final cost of the job was under our revised estimate as Brad and Jorme made sure we were aware of any scope creep so that we could make informed decisions throughout the job.

Thank you Brad, Jorme, Jason and Don, we appreciate all the hard work and commitment to the success of our renovation.”

-Wade and Julliane Twa

Hallway - Before

Hallway – Before

Hallway - After

Hallway – After

Stairwell - Before

Stairwell – Before

Stairwell - After

Stairwell – After

Kitchen - Before

Kitchen – Before

Kitchen - After

Kitchen – After

You’re welcome Wade and Julliane! It was a pleasure to work on your project and we are excited and pleased to share your feedback. Thanks for providing it!

-The Jameswood Team

How to Turn Your Ceiling Fan into Your Friend, Year Round

ceiling fan bladesCeiling fans have come a long way in the last decade or two. Years ago, they were typically a massive eyesore, sagging over the dining room table with only two settings—off and noisy gale force wind. Today’s ceiling fans are not only much more aesthetically pleasing and super quiet, but can serve a purpose no matter what season it is. However, getting the most from your ceiling fan requires specific attention to the direction the blades rotate.

Most modern ceiling fans have both a summer and winter mode, which can automatically be switched and will change the direction of the blades:

  • In the hot summer months, a ceiling fan should be turning counter-clockwise. Since hot air rises, this causes the warmer air near the top of a room to be sucked down and forced downwards. This air is cooled on the way down and can make a space feel up to 8 degrees cooler – which could be the difference between you getting a good night sleep or tossing and turning all night. It could also save you a lot on your air conditioning bill.
  • In the cool winter months, your fan should be turning clockwise on a low speed. This will pull cool room air up and force warm air to re distribute itself downward. In a sense, you’re recycling the warm air that has already risen to your ceiling. This will reduce your heating costs in the winter and may even eliminate the need for a space heater.

To check the rotation of your ceiling fan, simply stand underneath it when it is off and look straight up at it when it is being turned on.  Most fans will have three strings or switches, and one of them will control the direction.  You will need to experiment to find the correct one.  Be sure to check your owners’ manual to get information about your specific model.

-The Jameswood Team

Image courtesy Steve Johnson /

Tips on Keeping Your Home Warm this Winter

woman looking out window holding coffee cupAs the temperature drops outside it is important to make sure your home is well equipped to defend against the impending cold weather. Whether you’re considering a home renovation, a new custom home build or just want to keep your family warm, it’s important to think about how to stop cold air from entering your home and how to keep the heat inside.

There are many things an average homeowner can do themselves to ensure a warm and comfy home in the winter months. Inexpensive items like replacing old weather-stripping on doors and windows are easy to do. You could check and replace old caulking on your siding, doors and windows to help prevent cold drafts from coming inside. It’s wise to think about how you lose heat in your home. Checking the seal on your attic hatch is crucial since heat rises. Another heat saving idea – if you have any furniture blocking off your heat registers, it’s best they get moved. Changing your furnace filter should be on every homeowner’s winter to do list. Why make your furnace work extra hard when it doesn’t have to?

If you own an older house sometimes winterizing your home isn’t enough. I frequently discover inadequate insulation while opening up a wall during a renovation. I also commonly find an improper or non-existent air barrier. These are critical items in today’s homes to protect you against the elements. When renovating your home, spending the extra money on these items will pay off in the future. Not only will it help save on your heating bill, but also will make your newly renovated space cozy and warm all through the winter months. Replacing old windows and upgrading your heating system are also of the utmost value in making your home as efficient and comfortable as it can be.

-Jason Bell, Jameswood Homes

Photo courtesy nenetus /

The Top 5 Ways To Boost Home Resale Value in Calgary

a home for saleAs the Summer real estate market starts to heat up in Calgary and across the country, many homeowners are looking for ways to capitalize on the sale of their home and maximize its value. One of the best ways to do this is to invest in a home renovation that improves space, function, efficiency and flow – not to mention making it look better. As we told you about recently, now is the perfect time to invest in your home. Here are our top 5 ways to maximize profit and resale value of homes in Calgary:

5 – Don’t Forget The Exterior

Great curb appeal is extremely important as it is the first impression buyers have – and we all know how critical those first impressions are. If you’re already considering home renovations, now’s the time to do it.

4 –Add Storage

Although your home may have adequate storage or space for your family, potential buyers want to see that there’s MORE than enough room for all their stuff with room to grow. Sometimes this is an easy fix, while other times it takes a bit of creativity to maximize existing unused space in novel ways. Either way, it’s worth the investment.

3 – Improve Energy Efficiency

This is an area that applies to all homes and is a valuable component that’s become increasingly important for homebuyers. And if you’re already doing a renovation, it’s a very cost-effective way of adding a lot of value. Eco-friendly upgrades include improved insulation, energy-efficient windows, high efficiency furnaces and even solar panels. See our Sustainable Home Building and Renovating post for tips on other economic advantages to energy-conservation efforts in the home.

2 – Develop The Basement / Create a Rental Suite

Adding square footage and legal bedrooms is one of the best ways to add value to a home. And if you’re able to convert part of your home into a separate suite that could be rented or used for aging relatives, your home will appeal to a much broader market of people—adding a ton of value in return. Bonus: if you end up staying rather than selling, you are giving yourself a large amount of additional income. Now is also a great time to think about adding secondary suites in Calgary.

1 – Upgrade The Kitchen and Bathroom(s)

Experts agree these are the two most important rooms for resale value, and data from the Appraisal Institute of Canada supports that. Interior design trends will vary—as will buyers’ tastes—so just make sure any designs in these two areas aren’t too extreme in style. Look to opening up walls to maximize square footage, improve flow, and create better overall function for the potential buyers in your neighbourhood.

No matter which type of home renovations you do choose to complete, another important aspect of maximizing value is to ensure the work is done by a professional Calgary home renovator with superior workmanship. Poorly done DIY projects or “lipstick jobs” are a deterrent for buyers and could actually lowering your resale value instead of increasing it. Get a free consultation from Jameswood Homes today and we can discuss the projects that would most maximize your home’s value.

-The Jameswood Team

Photo Courtesy Dan Moyle / Flickr Commons

1 Easy Way To Help Prevent Renovation Fraud

There is a new way to help protect yourself from becoming a victim of renovation fraud in Calgary. The City of Calgary recently created an online database of licensed contractors in an effort to combat renovation contractor scams. While the City admits having a license is no guarantee that a contractor can be trusted, the idea is that it’s a sign that a business is legitimate and known in official channels. Since contractors are also required to be licensed before they can receive any construction permits, the Licensed Trade Contractor tool is also a good way to know whether your renovation will be compliant with all applicable building codes and bylaws.

building renovation plans with cash and coffee mugOther Ways To Prevent Contractor Scams

Calgary Police agree with the idea of checking a contractor’s license because going through the City’s licensing process shows the company has made efforts to operate within the law. They also recommend noting a contractor’s license number so they can quickly track down who owns the company in the event of suspicious activity.

As well as checking the company’s business licence, police also recommend you:

  • Get written estimates from several different contractors prior to starting work
  • Only hire reputable contractors that provide references of previous work
  • Make sure your contractor signs a written contract that includes a start date, completion date, full details of the work and materials, and the total cost
  • Be cautious of upfront deposits – only contractors who have a special Pre-Paid Contractor’s Licence from the Province can ask for a deposit (call 1-877-427-4088 to check on those licenses)
  • Ask the contractor if they carry liability insurance – though not required by law, if a company does not have it, costs of any damage resulting from the renovation may be left to you

How to Check If They’re Listed & What To Do If Not

Check the City of Calgary Licensed Trade Contractor database online or over the phone at 403-268-5521. If your contractor is not listed, you should contact a listed and reputable Calgary home renovation contractor immediately, such as Jameswood Homes Inc. Your new contractor can take over your project and ensure it is completed on time and on budget.

-The Jameswood Team

Photo courtesy phasinphoto /

The Top 20 Ways to Spring Clean Your Home

Rocking chair on deck in spring timeThere are always things to do around your home and yard this time of year, but some things are more frequently overlooked, which can lead to much bigger problems over time. Spring is the perfect time to make sure all are in check. Here is our top 20:

1)     Clean Window Treatments

Most draperies are machine washable, but be sure to check the labels. Wipe wooden or metal blinds with a damp cloth.

2)     Dust The Hard To Reach Spaces

The tops of ceiling fans, tall cabinets, books, bookshelves, wall art, and window casings are usually missed in regular cleanings. Always work from the top of a room down, and vacuum the floor quickly after to prevent dust from re-settling.

3)     Deep Clean Carpets

Synthetic carpets and rugs with waterproof backings can be deep-cleaned with a rotary shampoo machine. Rugs without backings, including Orientals, require professional cleaning.

4)     Wash Window Screens

Using warm water and a mild dishwashing liquid, scrub each screen with a brush and rinse thoroughly. Patch any holes or replace screens if required.

5)     Wax Floors

Vinyl and linoleum floors that have lost their shine can be waxed with a polish designed for that surface, while most stone or tile floors can be treated with a paste or liquid wax designed for that material.

6)     Dust Refrigerator Coils

Turn off the appliance’s power at circuit breaker or fuse box. Coils are usually at the bottom of the refrigerator, under the grill. Clean coils with the crevice attachment of a vacuum or a specialty refrigerator-coil brush tool.

7)     Wash Inside of Refrigerator and Freezer

Empty contents of fridge/freezer into cooler boxes or mini-fridge. Unplug appliance and wait for it to warm up to room temperature. Wipe interior surfaces with a solution of 2 tablespoons baking soda per 4 litres of hot water.

8)     Change Mattress & Bedding

Turn over your mattress to distribute wear evenly. Replace cool-weather bedding with warm-weather bedding.

9)     Clean Pillows

Whether made of natural fibres (such as down) or synthetic (polyester), most pillows can be machine-washed in hot water with bleach. Check the label to be sure. This rids them of mold, bacteria, and odours.

10) Update Medicine Cabinet

Replace any missing contents from your first aid kit. It should also include a list of emergency numbers, especially the one for your local poison-control centre. Discard and replace any expired medications and cosmetics.

11) Organize Personal Files

Review insurance policies, contracts, household inventories, ensure all is current and shred all unimportant items or documents older than 7 years.

12) Clean Your Electronics

Your home computer, television and telephone should have their casings and keyboards scrubbed with a dust-free cloth damp with 1 drop mild dish detergent per 4 litres hot water. Clean crevices with cotton swabs. Wipe screens with soft cloth or dry screen-cleaning sponge.

13) Organize Your Closets

Ensure cold-weather garments are clean before storing them in a zippered bag. Donate any apparel you no longer use. Many charities can pick up the items, some even offer tax receipts.

14) Organize Storage Spaces

Whether it’s your attic, basement, storage room or storage closets, organize your storage and give away or discard unwanted items. Anything with value can be sold online for extra cash. In the basement, use concrete blocks to keep storage boxes off the ground in case of flooding.

15) Prepare Outdoor Spaces

Clean porch floors, ceilings and walls. Scrub mildew spots with 1 part oxygen bleach to 3 parts warm water using a deck brush. Wash outdoor furniture with mild dish liquid and water with a soft bristle brush or sponge. Inspect light fixtures and replace bulbs if required.

16) Replace Light Bulbs

Audit all your home’s lighting fixtures and note their max wattage capacity, base type, if they’re on a dimmer, how many bulbs are needed and what colour temperature you prefer. Remove any that are burnt out, and consider replacing with LED bulbs. There are a wide variety of LED bulbs to suit almost any fixture, and though they are more expensive initially, they last much longer and use a fraction of the electricity of incandescent, halogen or even fluorescent bulbs – costing much less over time.

17) Practice Fire Safety

Replace batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Recharge fire extinguishers. Practice escape plans with your family and discuss muster points. Note the number of family members and pets on a fire-safety decal outside of your front entrance.

18) Wax and Protect Wooden Cabinets & Furniture

Clean all wooden surfaces including furniture, kitchen cabinets, utensils and cutting boards with lemon oil using a rag. Several applications might be needed for full effect. Once dry, apply paste wood wax to furniture and cabinets with a cotton rag, let dry, and buff to shine.

19) Wipe Walls & Ceilings

Vacuum to remove dust or cobwebs, then tackle stubborn grime with a solvent-free degreaser. Wipe down baseboards, mouldings and trim, and scrub corners and crevices with an old toothbrush.

20) Reseal Grout & Replace Caulking

Ensure your tiling stays water-tight, especially in the bathroom, by sealing grout lines with a penetrating grout sealer using a small foam brush. Remove any dirty or loose caulking completely and replace, following the directions on the bottle.

Happy Spring Cleaning!

-The Jameswood Team

Photo Courtesy khongkitwiriyachan /

4 Reasons Why Now Is The Time For Home Renovations

A dollar being placed into a house-shaped piggy bankPlunging energy prices, a weakened Canadian dollar, a lowered Bank of Canada key interest rate… there have been media reports about a dip to our economy for weeks. But there is always a silver lining, and this time it’s for those considering renovations. Here are our top four reasons now might be the perfect time for a home renovation in Calgary – or anywhere else in Canada:

1) Better Investment

With a lowered key interest rate and some market uncertainty, traditional savings accounts and other investments will likely suffer. Savvy investors know this is the time to consider investing in other types of investments that will have higher returns, especially when paired with a lower-risk—and some argue the safest investment you can make is quality improvements to your home.

2) Better Borrowing Rates

Like variable-rate mortgages, interest rates for lines of credit (including home equity lines of credit) are generally tied to a bank’s prime interest rate, which is usually tied to the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate. That means borrowing costs might be lower, and with larger (i.e. home renovation) loans, the savings can really add up.

3) Potentially Lower Project Costs

Depending on your contractor, lower fuel costs and economic uncertainty might be the impetus for edging out some of the competition with lower prices. This could be in the form of a drop in costs for everything from labour to raw materials and other supplies. If you’ve had a few quotes done already, it might be time to shop around again to see if more current quotes offer you some savings on that same reno.

4) Vacation Homes

The Canadian dollar has fallen dramatically against a variety of major currencies worldwide, and that means Canadians have less purchasing power abroad. That’s bad news for snowbirds with homes in the U.S., and might dissuade others from travelling abroad for vacations. So if you were wondering when a good time to build or renovate your dream cottage was… it could just be now. You can use it for domestic vacations instead of going abroad to save cash, or sell it for a better price on the market – both of which are a practical way to capitalize on the current economic situation.

If you want to capitalize on the situation and get started on your home renovation project now, contact the experienced Calgary renovations specialists at Jameswood Homes.

-The Jameswood Team

Photo courtesy nongpimmy /