Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas From the Holmes Spot!

With all of the holiday sales at the MAKEITRIGHT.ca store this year, you'd think that one item they would have is a Holmes Christmas ornament! Since they didn't have one, I decided to make one for myself. As with almost everything, I got a little carried away and ended up creating Make it Right crew for my tree! Now, I realize that not everyone is represented, and I also realize that I forgot Carlito (poor Carl), but hopefully you can get as much holiday joy from these as I did from making them! Merry Christmas from the Holmes Spot!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Mike Holmes: Dreaming of a Safe Christmas

When the weather outside is frightful, a fire inside can be so delightful, as long as the fire stays in the fireplace. Winter weather can increase chances of household fires, and is it any wonder why? Between space heaters, crispy Christmas trees strung with bright electric lights, votive candles that twinkle on window sills, and cozy snuggley fires flickering in the fireplace, disaster is just a careless moment away. When it comes to warding off the cold or decorating with candles, it's important to take some basic safety precautions. The first, and probably the biggest precaution one can take is an annual fireplace and chimney inspections. Let us not forget to use common sense when putting up the Christmas tree -- make sure the tree is far enough away from heat sources such as fireplaces, and decorate them with non-flammable decorations. Last but not least, it's always a good idea to make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are up to snuff. When it comes to safety, there's no excuse for taking short cuts. In this article, Mike Holmes gives some common sense tips on how to keep your holidays safe as well as bright.

From the Montreal Gazette:

Mike Holmes: Dreaming of a safe Christmas

From fireplaces and Christmas trees to lights, fire hazards are everywhere

After a decade, Mike Holmes still cares because he knows the work he, his crew and others do makes a real difference to the people they help.
Photograph by: Alex Schuldt/The Holmes Group, Postmedia News
Winter is the most popular season for household fires. A lot of it has to do with using different heat sources, like fireplaces and space heaters, cooking more, or holiday decorations such as Christmas trees, unsafe lighting and candles. That’s why it’s especially important we make sure our smoke detectors are working and that we minimize the potential for fires around the house.
Fireplaces. Annual fireplace and chimney inspections should be part of your regular home maintenance. Every working chimney’s flue must be inspected and cleaned every year, no exception. Creosote is extremely combustible. It’s basically tiny, unburned flammable particles that build up on the inside of your chimney’s walls. All you need is a tiny spark and you can have total ignition.
Cook it simple. If you have never fried a turkey before, don’t use the holidays as your test run. According to one home insurance company, there are three times more turkey fryer claims over the holidays. A lot of people get inspired to try new recipes around this season, but if it involves equipment you’ve never used and techniques you have never done, save the trial run for when you have more time and fewer things to worry about.
Trees. Whether your Christmas tree is real or not, use flame-resistant materials when decorating, and make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source such as fireplaces, candles, radiators, heat vents and lights. When you go to bed or leave the house, turn off any lights or electronic decorations on the tree.
If you have an artificial tree, it should be fire retardant (check the label). If you have the real thing, watch for dry needles, which pose a fire hazard. Once the needles start to drop it’s the beginning of the end; you’re going to have to get rid of the tree soon. Check with your local community to find a proper Christmas tree recycling program.
Outdoor outlets. If you don’t have outdoor outlets, keep the lights inside. Don’t run them through windows from indoor outlets. And, extension cords — even the ones made for use outdoors — are definitely fire hazards if they’re pinched by something like closed windows. The pinching breaks the wires inside, which then overheat, melting the rubber cord insulation and potentially starting a fire.
For the long run, invest in getting proper, weather-rated, GFCI-protected outdoor outlets installed by a licensed professional.
Extension cords. Extension cords are temporary solutions — at best. I would avoid using them altogether, but if you do use them, make sure they’re compatible with your lights or whatever other device you plan on using it for.
Also, if you’re going to use an extension cord outside, make sure the outside jacket of the cord is rated for exterior use and the wire gauge is rated for what you plan on plugging into the extension cord. I’d go with one that is at least 14-gauge outdoor rated.
Lights. Holiday lights are a big fire hazard. Replace any lights with frayed or damaged cords, and choose LEDs whenever possible. They’re brighter, more energy efficient, don’t overheat as much and cause fewer fuses to burn out than traditional bulbs.
You can safely connect more strings of LED lights together than you can those with traditional bulbs — usually a maximum of five strings of lights as opposed to three. However, always read instructions and warning labels. If the lights are going outside, plug them into a GFCI-protected outlet only, so if moisture gets in it will trip the circuit.
When the holidays are over, take the lights down. Outdoor holiday lights aren’t meant to be outside all year round — two months max. They will wear out faster, plus the cold weather causes the wiring in string lights to become brittle, making them vulnerable to damage. Damaged wiring is a fire risk, so don’t set yourself up for disaster next year.
Too many homeowners put too much pressure on themselves to make the holidays perfect — the perfect gifts, meal, decorations and lighting. Unfortunately, that kind of pressure can also lead to mistakes, short cuts and safety mishaps.
To me, the perfect holiday season is a safe one. The last thing you want is a house fire, and especially one that could have been prevented.
Catch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Holmes Group 2013 Holiday E-Card and Video

Goofy fun is right up my alley, so when I saw this from the Holmes Group this morning, I nearly fell out of my chair with glee! Mike Holmes and crew did a holiday e-card for all their friends and fans. It's clear these Christmas hams had a lot of fun making this. Check it out...

The behind the scenes video is just as entertaining as the card itself! Sherry's reaction to seeing her dad as "Santa Holmes" was simply priceless! In fact, all of their expressions are priceless. I would give ANYTHING to see the outtake photos from this shoot!

Great job guys! Two thumbs up!

Here's the official newsletter for December... Dashing through the snow!

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Holmes Spot Commentary On Damon Bennett's Departure

***The Holmes Spot Obligatory Disclaimer***
The Holmes Spot is an UNOFFICIAL FAN RUN BLOG... all opinions expressed are MY OWN!

Damon Bennett has been a staple crew member on Mike's shows for almost a decade. Speaking purely as a fan and avid follower of both Mike Holmes and his shows, how do I feel about Damon's departure from the show, and presumably the Holmes Group? One word describes it: unceremonious. It's almost like a slashed tire... there's no loud pop, it just hisses, rapidly deflates, and it's done. For me, that's kind of how this feels, and here's why...

First, reading Damon's statement, it's obvious the heart that went into it. How do you sum up a ten year career on television, especially one with as many emotional highs and lows as the Holmes shows have had? It's not easy to do, I'm sure. But one glaring thing that stands out to me is this, that Damon doesn't acknowledge Mike Holmes directly. He acknowledges him indirectly as "The Holmes Group" and "crew" and even acknowledges certain crew members, but not Mike. I find that fascinating, given Damon's elevated position as Mike's right hand man and crew supervisor.

Out of curiosity, I did a quick check over at the Point Load Picture's website, the production company run by Mike Holmes and Peter Kettlewell. There seems to be no trace of Damon's show, Damon Bennett Restoration Company, the one that was supposedly in production and had filmed a pilot episode. Am I being too quick to make the assumption that this is no longer on the table?

I'm not implying for one single second that Damon is not being gracious, nor am I doubting for one single second his sincerity and his appreciation of his role over the last 9 years. I'm merely making the observation that this announcement -- BOTH announcements -- were rather awkward, abrupt, unceremonious, and a little bit icy as well. After all, the Holmes Group is a party-hearty bunch of folks who love to celebrate milestones. One would hope and think that a crew member as significant as Damon moving on to better things would warrant more than a little blurb on a Facebook page. As of now, there's no mention of Damon's departure on the MAKEITRIGHT.ca website, which is a shame. Makes me believe the split is less than amicable, but that's just my own speculation.

As far as the only official statement from Mike at this time, the one made on his Facebook page, I think the same observations can be made... it's quick, abrupt, and cold. I think Damon deserves a little more than a status update, he's been a huge part of the show for a long time, and he's part of why the shows have been so successful over the years. Fans love Damon, and whatever the reason for the split, I think fans deserve a little closure. Drop the bomb and walk away.

If anybody (official) has anything else they'd like to add, or would like to make a statement, please contact theholmesspot@gmail.com.

The Holmes Spot wishes Damon all the best, and hopes to see more from him in the future.

Damon Bennett and Mike Holmes/Holmes Group Part Ways

Breaking news from the Holmes Group posted on Mike Holmes' and Damon Bennett's Facebook pages... Damon Bennett and Mike Holmes announced that Damon is no longer affiliated with the Holmes Group and will be leaving to start his own construction company.

From Damon Bennett's Facebook page (Posted 7:32AM EST, Monday 12/16):

I wanted to be the first to break the news to everyone that after almost 10 years of making it right, I will be moving on and beginning a new chapter. I had a lot of fun growing as a contractor on the show and being able to help so many people was incredibly fulfilling.
I would like to thank The Holmes Group & HGTV for the experience of a lifetime. I've had the opportunity to build an earthquake proof home, a hurricane proof home, I went on a cross canada tour fixing homes from one end to the other, and I even recently built a castle.
I would also like to thank my Make It Right crew, past & present, for working tirelessly along side me for all of those years, always giving 110%. It wouldn't have been the same adventure without you guys.
I will never forget all the excellent tradespeople I have met & worked with, thanks to all of you as well, I couldn't have completed any of those jobs without all if your superb skills & tireless contributions.
To the film crew, you taught me just as much about television over the years, as I learned about construction. The fans don't get to see it, but you guys are there every step of the way, working just as hard as the construction crew to make sure everything gets done on time & looks great for the viewers week after week. Thank you for being my support, my friends and my kick in the butt when I needed it.
And last, but not least, my two right hand guys, my crew chief's, Carl Pavlovich & Adam Belanger, I couldn't have done it without you.
It's an exciting time, I'm looking forward to devoting more time to the charities I support, working with my crew at Damon Bennett Construction, and yes, maybe even a new show.
Anyone in the GTA who would like to contact Damon Bennett Construction please forward your inquiries to damonbennett@live.com.
From Mike Holmes' Facebook page (Posted 9:13AM EST):
Wanted to let you all know that after 9 years, 4 series and over 100 episodes Damon Bennett will be leaving the Crew to start up his own contracting business. Thanks Damon for all of your hard work making it right. Wish you all the best! You all can keep in touch with Damon on facebook at the link below.
The announcement has been made. I will be posting my own opinion on this later today... come back to read my commentary and analysis of this announcement.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Holmes Spot Christmas Special

Every year the Holmes Spot tries to create something special for Mike and his crew for Christmas, as well as all the awesome people who read the Holmes Spot! This year's gift is already in process. What is it? You'll have to guess! Take your best gander and post it below! Here's a preview... Can you tell what it is? 

Make Room For Baby!

My husband and I are becoming parents this coming year through the miracle of adoption, and as a mommy-to-be, I am beginning to call into question the safety of my home! (I'm told this is normal.) Redoing a  nursery is a joy for any prospective parent, and Mike Holmes is more than qualified to give tips and advice on how to make a baby's space safe and sound -- after all, he does have two little grandbabies and three grown kids of his own who work with him on his shows.  From internal mini-blinds, to less-toxic paint, there are abundant ways to make home healthier for little ones and big ones alike. One of the first things Mike warns about is so-called low or zero VOC paint. The base might be low or zero VOC, but the pigment may not be. For baby's room, prospective parents might want to choose a lighter color to avoid exposing baby's lungs to toxic off-gasses, because darker pigments usually contain more VOC's. Whatever paint you choose, Mike offers these helpful common sense suggestions: "Properly ventilate the room, keeping the windows open (if there are any) and using fans; seal the area from the rest of the house; wear a disposable respirator if you are painting the room yourself, and let the paint dry for at least a week before moving the baby in. The longer you wait the lower the VOCs will be."
From the Montreal Gazette:

Mike Holmes: Making room for baby

From window and paint safety to purifying the air

After a decade, Mike Holmes still cares because he knows the work he, his crew and others do makes a real difference to the people they help.

Photograph by: Alex Schuldt/The Holmes Group, Postmedia News

Spring is the high season for babies, so a lot of parents are starting to prepare the baby’s room now. We usually remember the regular stuff, like covering electrical outlets and installing safety gates around the house. But here are a few extra points to keep in mind.
Windows are a bigger job than just a fresh coat of paint. If you live in a noisy neighbourhood, in the middle of the city or if there’s construction happening on your street, noise reduction is worth looking into.
Most new parents want to cut down the noise in nursery rooms so baby — and parents — can sleep more soundly. Different glass packages — such as thicker glass and triple glazing — can make windows more soundproof.
Another concern is safety. You can get internal mini blinds — windows with blinds built into them — so they won’t get dusty. Because they’re cordless — they work on magnets — there’s no choking hazard. There are also doors that have built-in mini blinds.
More homeowners are pushing for no-VOC or VOC-free paint. VOC stands for volatile organic compound. But we have to be careful about these kinds of labels because sometimes it’s just clever marketing.
Just because a paint has no VOCs doesn’t necessarily make it safe. For example, acetone has no VOCs but you wouldn’t want your kids sniffing it. Some homeowners think because the label indicates there are no VOCs that they can paint with kids in the room, or with the windows closed, or without wearing safety gear. Not the case.
And even if the label on the paint indicates it’s VOC free, the pigment added to the paint can contain VOCs. Usually the darker the pigment the more VOCs there are, so lighter colours — especially white — are safer. If you’re set on getting a no-VOC paint, make sure any pigment added is also VOC free.
Also, keep in mind that no-VOC paints are fairly new, so their quality — including durability — isn’t at the same level as regular or even low-VOC paint. However, since we are talking about baby rooms, durability might not be a big issue as parents will likely want to change the room colour within a few years.
Bottom line: when it comes to paint use your common sense. I don’t care if the label indicates no-VOC, low VOC or 100 per cent VOC free — follow the same precautions you would with any other paint product:
Properly ventilate the room, keeping the windows open (if there are any) and using fans; seal the area from the rest of the house; wear a disposable respirator if you are painting the room yourself, and let the paint dry for at least a week before moving the baby in. The longer you wait the lower the VOCs will be.
Indoor air
Everyone worries about the air outside, but the air inside your home can be two to five times more polluted — sometimes even 100 times more polluted!
Babies and small children are especially vulnerable to indoor pollutants, such as dust, mould and bacteria.
In addition to a regular furnace filter — which you should be changing every month during winter — I also recommend installing a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. This is a separate unit that’s installed next to your furnace. It can capture more particles than the average furnace air filter can and it’s also washable in most cases. So every month you wash it, clean it and put it back in.
You can also get a separate air purifier to plug into your baby’s room. But stay away from ionizing air purifiers. Parents like them because they’re silent, but some models emit ozone, which is a lung irritant. Besides, most babies like some background noise, so the sound of the purifier’s fan can actually help them sleep.
When it comes to safety, there are no short cuts. And when it comes to our kids we can never be too careful. Make your baby’s room right by making it safe.
Catch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mike Holmes Named Official Patron of the Royal Canadian Regiment

On Monday December 9, 2013 in an official ceremony held at Wolseley Barracks in London, Ontario, Mike Holmes was made an official Regimental Patron of the Royal Canadian Regiment. According to a press release posted on Mike Holmes' official website, "a Regimental Patron is a senior position of distinction within an Army regiment and plays a valuable role in the Regiment’s focus on fostering community relations." The RCR, establish in 1883, is an infantry regiment of the Canadian Army, whose membership consists of "serving or retired members of other Regiments, Corps or Branches who have served with The RCR, members of our affiliated Regiments and the families of Regimental members" according to the RCR website.

In a press release posted to Makeitright.ca:

Mike Holmes named Patron of The Royal Canadian Regiment

TORONTO, ON, December 9, 2013—Mike Holmes, well known Canadian advocate for homeowner rights, improving building standards and supporting charity and relief efforts across Canada and around the world, was officially named a Patron of The Royal Canadian Regiment.
The Royal Canadian Regiment is Canada's senior regular force Infantry Regiment based in Petawawa, Gagetown, New Brunswick and London, Ontario.
A Regimental Patron is a senior position of distinction within an Army regiment and plays a valuable role in the Regiment’s focus on fostering community relations.
“The men and women here are real heroes. And they’re still doing whatever they can to make things better,” stated Mike Holmes. “I’m truly honoured to help any way I can.”
As a new member of the Regimental family, Mike looks forward to encouraging Canadians to better understand The Royal Canadian Regiment and how supporting Canadian soldiers and their families builds a stronger and more resilient community.
“Mike Holmes has established a well earned reputation for standards of excellence and ‘making things right’; a motto that is close to the hearts of all the soldiers of our Regiment who are devoted to the service of Canada,” stated Colonel Joe Aitchison, Colonel of the Regiment for The Royal Canadian Regiment. “All members of the Regiment are thrilled to welcome Mr. Holmes into the Regimental family.”
An official ceremony was held at Wolseley Barracks in London, Ontario to commemorate his appointment as Patron of the Regiment.

For all media inquiries regarding Mike Holmes, please contact:
Amanda Heath, Communications Manager
The Holmes Group

For all media inquiries regarding The Royal Canadian Regiment and this appointment, please contact:
Major Paul Gauthier
The Royal Canadian Regiment

Mike Holmes made several comments about his appointment on his official Facebook page:

I’m truly honoured to help any way I can. The military men and women here are real heroes.

The Royal Canadian Regiment made me an official Patron--I even got a sword!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Make It Right, Make It Watertight

When it comes to protecting your home from water damage and mold, membranes are important. In fact, Mike Holmes has written multiple articles about the importance of using the right types of membranes on the "envelope" of your house (see Insane in the Membrane for more information). In this article, Mike speaks about the importance of making your home watertight. He recounts a job where a relatively small tear in the membrane on a roof deck lead to a very costly repair. As with anything, there are different types of products you can use, and some are better than others. As Mike likes to point out, investing money into the right products can save you a lot of time, aggravation, and not to mention money in the future.

From the Winnipeg Free Press:

MIKE HOLMES: Make it right, make it watertight

Membranes minimize the danger of water damamge to your home


A waterproof membrane that is properly sealed and Tuck Taped helps protect a home's exterior sheathing from moisture, water damage and mould.
One of the most important systems protecting your home are waterproof membranes. When they don't work or get compromised, fixing the problem and repairing the damage can be very extensive, not to mention expensive.
On a recent job, one eight-centimetre tear in the waterproof membrane on a roof deck led to about $31,000 in repairs.
Waterproof membranes are meant to protect your home from any moisture and precipitation Mother Nature decides to throw your way, whether it's snow, rain or humidity.
Since they are meant to stop outside water and moisture from getting in, it makes sense that waterproof membranes are part of your home's building envelope -- what separates the inside of your home from the outside. That includes your home's exterior walls, foundation, roof, windows and doors.
Depending on where they need to go, there are different types of waterproof membranes.
Foundation: An exterior waterproof membrane on your home's foundation is literally an extra layer of protection. There are two types: damp-proof and waterproof, and they do different jobs.
A damp-proof membrane is usually a black tar or asphalt compound that gets painted or rolled onto your typical concrete foundation. On top of that goes a mastic coating -- which is like a waterproof paste -- a mesh coating and then another layer of mastic.
This system is meant to stop vapour from penetrating the concrete -- water vapour and sometimes even radon gas. But it's not 100 per cent waterproof. Instead, I like a two-coat liquid rubberized membrane that's sprayed on, only by certified contractors. It sets into a rubbery coating that is 100 per cent waterproof.
No matter what type of coating a foundation has, it must also be protected by dimpled membrane. It stops groundwater from coming into contact with the foundation wall, but the dimples also create a drainage space that lets the wall breathe.
According to code, all you need is the dimpled membrane. But adding that extra waterproof membrane creates a better waterproofing system.
Exterior walls: Over a regular stud framed wall, you have exterior sheathing and then your exterior material.
Most exteriors -- whether they are made of brick, aluminum, vinyl, wood or stucco -- will allow some moisture to get in. If that moisture meets the exterior sheathing underneath, there's the potential for mould.
To protect the exterior sheathing, we wrap it with house wrap or moisture wrap. Tyvek or Typar are the most popular with builders. Both are a type of synthetic wrapping material that has tiny microscopic holes, so they are still breathable.
But in order for this waterproof system to work, it must be properly installed. That means Tuck Taping all the joints and seams. If not, water can get in behind it, which defeats the purpose.
There's also a superior product -- Blueskin house wrap. It has an adhesive, so instead of needing to be fastened to the sheathing, like Tyvek or Typar, it sticks to it, which minimizes punctures in the membrane.
But for it to stick properly, the sheathing must be completely dry and dust-free. Plus, to fully seal exterior walls, Blueskin should be wrapped around windowsills and door jambs. That means installing it before windows and doors go in, and properly Tuck Taping it, too.
The roof: All roofs need some kind of sheathing membrane on them to control and drain moisture that might penetrate your roof. Minimum code says it must be installed on the first three feet of the roof's edge. Having it on the first six to eight feet is better, but on the entire roof is best.
Until the 1980s we only used tar paper. But now we have much better products that do a better job of stopping moisture.
Self-adhered products, such as ice and water-shield are better. They prevent ice damming and make the installation process easier -- which cuts down on labour time, saving the homeowner some money.
Also, when you nail shingles over tar paper it leaves holes in the surface. This makes the membrane weaker. But when you nail shingles over self-adhered roofing underlayment, such as Blueskin, the adhesives close up around the nail, so there are no holes or gaps in the membrane.
Blueskin also makes a "high-temperature" product specifically for metal roofs. It has a higher melting temperature than regular ice and water membranes. Why? Because metal roof gets very hot in the summer. It's important to make sure the adhesive on the membrane doesn't melt, which can compromise the bond to the sheathing below, making it vulnerable to water damage.
Making your home waterproof pays off every time. They might not seem like much, but waterproof membranes play a huge role when it comes to making it right and watertight. Cheaping out on the small stuff usually leads to not-so-cheap big stuff in the end.
-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2013
Catch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Merry Christmas...?

Hey, did you know that if you have a Facebook page, you can win some cool Holmes merchandise in the Holmes 12 Days of Giveaways contest? Just visit Mike Holmes' Facebook page to enter. Today's prize is this awesome youth tee, as modeled by Derek Ullman, I do believe. Ho ho helllloooo...

Happy Sunday!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mike Holmes: Choosing the Right Subfloor System

In Mike's last syndicated news article, he wrote about the pros and cons of hardwood versus engineered wood when it comes to flooring (see Hardwood: Real v. Engineered for more information). Regardless of the type of flooring you choose, be it hardwood, engineered wood, or even laminate, the subfloor you install it over is very important, especially if you're laying it over concrete. When laying wood over concrete it's important to remember several things. First, concrete is porous, and will wick up moisture. When wood meets moisture, rot and mold result, so it's important to protect your flooring -- and your health -- with the right products. Second, putting a plastic vapor barrier over concrete may not cut it. A 6mm plastic sheet can protect your flooring from moisture, but can trap in all that moisture between the plastic and the concrete, causing surface mold to grow. If you must install a floor over concrete, better products, such as Amdry Insulated Subfloors, are designed specifically for that purpose, allowing for better air circulation and insulation between the concrete and the flooring. "Anywhere the potential for moisture is high, you need the right subfloor system to protect your flooring." The Holmes Spot agrees!
From the Montreal Gazette:

Mike Holmes: Choose the right subfloor system

Protects your flooring from moisture and mould

After a decade, Mike Holmes still cares because he knows the work he, his crew and others do makes a real difference to the people they help.

Photograph by: Alex Schuldt/The Holmes Group, Postmedia News

Last week I talked about engineered hardwood floors, and one of the big benefits is that you can install them over concrete and below grade, like in a basement. That’s according to some flooring experts, but I think you need to be careful.
If I was going to do this I would add an extra layer of protection to make sure I have the right subfloor system to prevent mould and water damage.
Concrete is porous, and if we’re talking about the basement floor then eventually there’s going to be some moisture coming through the concrete slab.
So it’s important to make sure that: one, moisture doesn’t damage your flooring; two, moisture can dry out once it gets inside; and three, we prevent mould. To do that we have to incorporate the right products and materials.
Some flooring manufacturers might tell you that as long as you put down a six-millimetre plastic sheet barrier on the concrete floor, you can install any type of flooring on top — even real hardwood.
First, I don’t recommend real hardwood flooring in the basement. The risk of moisture or water damage is too high and hardwood costs too much. Even if you had the money to replace your flooring it’s a huge waste of materials and of a natural resource.
And the problem with putting a layer of plastic over concrete is that any moisture that penetrates through will be trapped underneath the plastic. It won’t be long before surface mould starts to grow. Your floors might be safe but your health might not, and any mould issue that isn’t fixed grows into a bigger problem — along with the health risks.
Now we have new products and materials made specifically for installing flooring over concrete and preventing mould, like Amdry Insulated Subfloors.
This product comes in panels — one side has foam insulation with raised drainage and air-circulation channels, and the other side has OSB sheathing. The foam also has a film that is moisture, mildew and mould resistant to protect the foam insulation and OSB from absorbing moisture.
When installing this product the side with the foam insulation faces down and goes against the concrete. The foam insulates and helps keep the floor warm by providing a continual thermal break across the entire floor surface, so it’s more energy efficient. It also prevents condensation because it keeps the temperature of the concrete floor from coming into contact with the temperature of the basement’s indoor air.
Before products like Amdry Insulated Subfloors were available, contractors needed to build proper basement subfloor systems themselves.
We’d start by putting down one-inch, rigid foam board and then 5/8-inch plywood or OSB screwed through the foam and into the concrete floor using Tapcon screws, which are designed for concrete. Then a low-expansion spray foam would be applied along the all exterior edges, and finally we’d seal all the joints with Tuck-Tape.
Think about how long that would take and how much it would cost the homeowner — not to mention that properly putting the whole system together takes the right skill and technique. But now with these new prefabricated panels, not only do we cut down on installation time but also on mistakes.
And it’s not just the subfloor systems in basements we have to think about. Kitchen and bathroom floors should also be watertight.
That’s why we install a waterproof membrane, like Schluter DITRA underlayment to prevent the tiles from shifting and grout from cracking, and to protect the subfloor from water damage. It can also be installed over the Amdry Insulated Subfloor system, so if you wanted to have tile in your basement there’s a safe way to do it.
Anywhere the potential for moisture is high, you need the right subfloor system to protect your flooring. Because when it comes to your home, it’s the stuff you don’t see that makes the difference between it lasting or not — and that includes what’s below your flooring.

Catch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mike Holmes Inspections Offering New Clean Air Services

This just in from the Holmes Group: Mike's home inspection company, Mike Holmes Inspections, is now offering Radon testing, indoor air quality assessments, and air sampling as part of its full range of residential home inspection services. The air inside our homes can be more polluted than the air outside, and a service like this helps to bring awareness to the issue of issue of indoor air quality. In many parts of the world, including Canada, Radon can lead to much greater risks of lung cancer. It's important that homeowners be aware of the quality of the air inside their homes, and the Holmes Group believes that adding these services as part of their residential home inspection is a step in the right direction.

From Newswire.ca:

Mike Holmes Inspections offers Radon Testing, IAQ Assessments & Air Sampling

TORONTO, Dec. 2, 2013 /CNW/ - Mike Holmes Inspections (MHI) is pleased to announce that it has added Radon Testing, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) assessments and Air Sampling to its full range of residential home inspection services.
Homeowners can now book Radon Testing, IAQ assessments and/or Air Sampling as an independent service or bundled with a standard home inspection.
"You should know if the air inside your home is making you sick—not to mention your kids," stated Mike Holmes, President of The Holmes Group. "Radon is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. To me, radon testing and taking air samples is a no brainer. We should be doing this for every home."
The addition of these services follows on the heels of Bill 96, Radon Awareness and Prevention Act, which passed Second Reading in Ontario legislation last September. If passed, Bill 96 would require the province to raise awareness on radon exposure and its risks, and encourage homeowners to measure the radon levels in their homes.
"The environment inside our home has a direct impact on our health," stated Ashley Shojaie, Director of Mike Holmes Inspection. "These new services are another way of protecting our clients and making sure their homes are safe."
A home's indoor air can be 2-5 times more polluted than the air outside. In some cases, it can be up to 100 times more polluted. An IAQ assessment plus indoor air sampling can detect mould spores, mites and other pollutants present in indoor air.
"We're not waiting for legislation to change," added Holmes. "We know this is the right thing to do."
For more information on Mike Holmes Inspections, please visit www.mikeholmesinspections.com.
About Mike Holmes Inspections
Mike Holmes Inspections is an independent home inspection service company providing thorough, fair and educated assessments of building structures and systems by integrating advanced technologies with sophisticated industry techniques. It invests in the development and augmentation of industry standards through collaborations and third-party ventures with educational institutions and industry associations.
SOURCE Mike Holmes Inspections
For further information: For all queries regarding Mike Holmes Inspections, please contact:
Ashley Shojaie, Director
Mike Holmes Inspections
For all media inquiries regarding Mike Holmes and The Holmes Group, please contact:
Amanda Heath, Communications Manager
The Holmes Group

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hardwood: Real v. Engineered

Different flooring has its purposes, but there's nothing like a wood floor. Tile is cold, and the grout gets dirty and needs to be deep cleaned by a professional every once in a while to keep it looking nice. Carpet is soft under your feet, but even the best carpet can get crushed and needs a professional steam cleaning at least once a year to properly maintain the individual fibers. Wood floors are beautiful, durable, and with the right maintenance, can last for years and years. When it comes to wood floors, consumers have a few choices, mainly real hardwood versus engineered hardwood. Engineered hardwood is essentially layers of wood compressed together with heat and glue into solid planks, whereas a real hardwood plank is a solid piece of wood.  Both are quality choices, and both have their pros and cons. The choice you make will depend on factors such as location and climate. In this article, Mike Holmes discusses the differences between real hardwood versus engineered hardwood, and explains why the experts differ on which is better.
From the Montreal Gazette:

Mike Holmes: Is real hardwood better than fake?

Weigh pros, cons of each option

After a decade, Mike Holmes still cares because he knows the work he, his crew and others do makes a real difference to the people they help.Photograph by: Alex Schuldt/The Holmes Group, Postmedia News
When it comes to hardwood flooring, there’s solid hardwood and engineered hardwood. People are always asking me which one is better, but both have their pros and cons.
Solid hardwood floors are just that — they’re made from solid wood. Each board of solid hardwood flooring is made from a single piece of hardwood that’s about three-quarters of an inch thick. Because it’s so thick, it can be sanded down and refinished for however long the flooring is in the house.
But the main problem with solid hardwood is that it shrinks and expands depending on the humidity in your home. In the winter when it’s drier, hardwood floors will shrink. When there’s more moisture in the air, like in the spring or summer, hardwood expands.
Whoever installs solid hardwood floors must have enough experience to leave the right amount of space for hardwood’s natural expansion and contraction. The individual boards can’t be too tight or too loose. If they’re too tight, your floor will buckle. If it’s too loose, the gaps between the boards will get too wide in the winter.
Then there’s engineered hardwood flooring. It’s made of layers of wood, bonded together with adhesives under intense heat and pressure.
Because of this process, engineered hardwood flooring isn’t affected by humidity as much as hardwood. It doesn’t shrink or expand, which makes it resistant to warping and cupping. And for that same reason, it’s considered very strong and stable.
It can also be sanded and refinished — not as much as hardwood, but a few times over a couple decades is fine, depending on the quality. But another reason why people love engineered hardwood is its application.
Unlike solid hardwood, engineered hardwood can go over concrete under the right conditions, like in a condo. And some people say it can also be installed below grade too, like in a basement. But there is some debate about that.
Hardwood and water don’t mix. If they do, there is the potential for mould and water damage. What does that mean for you? Possibly ripping up your new floors and replacing them. That’s why we never put hardwood in areas where the potential for moisture is high, such as in bathrooms, laundry rooms, kitchens and even basements.
Should we follow the same guidelines for engineered hardwood? It depends on how much you’re willing to risk. I would never install it in a bathroom or laundry room, but when we talk about kitchens and basements, things aren’t so black and white.
I’ve spoken to a lot of professionals and many of them say that engineered hardwood in the kitchen is fine. As far as wear and tear goes, it can get scratched or dented by falling objects or utensils. But if we’re talking about potential water damage and mould, as long as you wipe up any spills quickly, you don’t need to worry.
They also say that engineered hardwood can handle moisture levels found on most basement concrete floors, usually no more than four per cent. Some engineered hardwood boards allow for air movement between the flooring and the foundation, so if there is any moisture, it can dry out. But the basement must be watertight.
Bottom line, if enough water gets into the boards, you will run into the same issues you have with solid hardwood. That’s why you never wet mop engineered hardwood floors — or any hardwood floor, for that matter.
Can engineered hardwood be installed in kitchens and basements? Yes. Many pros do this. But for most people, engineered hardwood flooring is expensive — it can be more expensive than hardwood.
Then there’s the issue of off-gassing.
All engineered and manufactured wood products are made with adhesives and resins, and most of those will off-gas, including plywood, OSB (oriented strand board), laminated beams, MDF (medium-density fibreboard) and particleboard.
But when it comes to off-gassing and engineered hardwood floors, the issue isn’t the adhesives mixed into the wood — it’s the toxins in the stains and topcoat.
Some manufacturers do a really good job of making sure their engineered hardwood does not off-gas, including the topcoat and finish. But homeowners should make sure for themselves. Contact the manufacturer and ask about their green policies.
I love engineered hardwood, but as with everything else, you need to do your homework. Talk to the pros, ask the right questions and always follow manufacturers’ instructions on proper installation and maintenance.
Catch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Breathe Easy

Pollution is something that many of us -- especially those of us who live in big cities -- have to deal with. When the air is stagnant and the winds are low for a couple of days in a row, we can really start to see the haze build up. People might be surprised to know, however, that air quality can be far worse inside our homes than outside. Why? Because pollutants, including harmful radon gas, can seep into our homes through tiny cracks and spaces and become trapped. Also, products inside our home can emit VOC's which can lead to headaches and other ailments if people are sensitive enough to them. Also, any natural stone in your house -- from granite countertops to the concrete slab in your basement -- can contain NORMs (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Minerals) which can release trace amounts of radon gas. During the winter months when all the windows and doors are closed, poor indoor air quality can reach its apex. In this article, Mike Holmes discusses indoor air quality, and how to maintain it. He also discusses why bad indoor air quality can literally make you sick.

From the Winnipeg Free Press:

MIKE HOLMES: Is your house making you sick?

High amounts of radon, other toxins in homes can be health risks

Having a professional test the air in your home can detect the presence of harmful gasses and mould spores.
The air inside your home plays a huge role in the way you and the rest of your family feel on a day-to-day basis.
Most of us worry about the air quality outside. There are smog advisories, air-quality alerts, and it seems like every day I see something in the news about pollution or gas emissions.
But the air inside your home can be two to five times more polluted than the air outside. In some cases, it's 100 times worse!
We are constantly exposed to pollution, toxins, pesticides, gases -- even radon. Most of the time, these things get diluted into the air. But they can also find their way into our homes through tiny cracks in foundation walls and floors, through unfinished floors, windows, sumps, vents or gaps around pipes and drains.
The problem is that when these pollutants get into our homes and can't escape, they start to accumulate. In high concentrations, radon and other toxins can be big health risks.
Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from uranium in the ground. Uranium is everywhere, and when uranium starts to break down it creates a gas. This gas is radon. The more uranium there is, the more radon there is. So chances are there are higher radon levels in areas where uranium is mined.
Health Canada says radon is linked to about 16 per cent of all lung-cancer deaths in Canada. That makes radon the second-leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
But even minor symptoms such as headaches, feeling unusually tired, itching or burning eyes, irritated skin, nasal congestion, a dry throat or nausea could be due to your home's indoor air quality.
If you or anyone else in your home deals with these kinds of symptoms on a regular basis, the air inside your home might be making them sick.
Even the materials we use to build a house can lead to poor indoor air quality, such asVOCs (volatile organic compounds) in paint and kitchen cabinets, or the adhesives and glues in carpeting and flooring. Some granite countertops have been known to emit radon. It makes sense since granite comes from the ground, where there's also uranium.
The good news is that more home-inspection providers are starting to offer IAQ (indoor air quality (IAQ) and radon inspections.
They'll go through your entire house and ask you questions about your habits and lifestyle, just to get an idea of what's normal and what's not. They can also take an air sample, have it analyzed -- even get a mould-spore count -- and send you a report.
You can add a radon or IAQ inspection to a full home inspection, or you can get it as a separate service.
These types of inspections are becoming more important when it comes to making sure a home is safe and healthy.
Radon remediation can cost anywhere between $500 and $3,000. Sometimes installing a cap on sump pumps, boosting up the ventilation in your home with something like a heat-recovery ventilator (HRV), or sealing foundation cracks and around pipes and drains is enough. But other times, it's not.
The most effective way to get rid of radon is a process called sub slab depressurization. That's when a hole is drilled through the basement floor (concrete slab) and then a pipe is installed with a fan. This draws radon gas from the ground and expel it through a vent, usually in the roof.
If you need radon remediation, make sure you hire a contractor who has a lot of experience dealing with it -- someone certified by the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP).
When I uncover the mess I find behind walls, below floors and above ceilings I can see the problems. But what you don't see can put you and your family at risk. And when it comes to poor indoor air and radon, they only way to know for sure is to test for it.
Winter is the best time for testing because we keep our windows and doors shut, for the most part. This lets any toxins build up, which gives us a good reading on indoor-air quality and radon levels.
Now that the cold weather is approaching, make sure you can breathe easy in your home.
-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2013
Catch Mike Holmes in an all-new season of Holmes Makes It Right, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca.