What the Fire Department Wants You to Know About Income Suites

Vivahpmepros connected with Captain Roman Wojnarski, Community Risk Reduction, of Toronto Fire Services to learn important information about building an income suite in your home. Be sure to read all of Captain Wojnarski’s tips before you start planning your renovation.

Big house? Empty nester? Many homeowners have their reasons for turning a portion of their home into an income generator. Before you start thinking about what to do with all that extra cash or make a list of materials to buy from your local Home Depot, take a serious look at both the practicality and feasibility of this important decision! A knock on the door from a local Building or Fire Department Inspector may send a shockwave of anxiety into your system (like getting caught cheating on an exam) followed by a swelling of regret. Experience has shown many well-intentioned homeowners didn’t think things through and started funding a major renovation without taking the time to review the rules and regulations about making these changes.

You see, the home you live in is in all likelihood a “single-family dwelling.” That’s how the structure was conceived, designed, approved, and built. Even though it’s your “castle” there are certain aspects of it that cannot be modified, altered, added on to, or taken away from, that is, without the proper applications, reviews, and approvals. The local municipality is going to have a say in how you alter your home and making a portion of  it into an income (rent out a basement apartment or number of rooms) space may raise some flags if you don’t do your homework ahead of time.

Firstly, any change of use to your home (for example, building a basement apartment in a “single-family dwelling”) will require a BUILDING PERMIT. The scope of the permit (permit application) will be described in detail to the local City Building Department, including where and what your building looks like now and how it is proposed to be altered. In many cases, a qualified Designer or Architect is the best resource to begin with and will often make these applications on your behalf. This process assures the  city, you, your neighbours, and future tenants, that the requirements of the ONTARIO BUILDING CODE are being met. This includes the many safety (including fire safety!) measures that are prescribed by law and intended for the well-being of all occupants. Generally, compliance with the Ontario Building Code will include requirements under the Ontario Fire Code, especially for things like the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

But the Ontario Fire Code (a regulation under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, considered a companion document to the Building Code) has its own set of rules in terms of life-safety in existing buildings including alterations of same that have been made years before. Part 9 (RETROFIT) of the Fire Code defines the minimum performance requirements for life safety in existing buildings. This includes everything to do with containment (constructing or enhancing fire separations between spaces), means of egress (number of code-compliant exits or ways out of a unit or floor area), fire alarm and detection (smoke alarm requirements and possible interconnection of same), among other things. Failure to comply with this regulation can result in charges being laid and ultimately potential hefty fines!

As mentioned, basement apartments are one of the most common types of additions (existing basement units are subject to Section 9.8 of the Fire Code). The requirements for such can vary depending on layout, but commonly pertain to proper fire separation between units, possible fire separation of a furnace room, and installation of ULC listed 20-min fire protection rated doors with self-closing and latching devices. Some municipalities may have further requirements for things such as ceiling heights, provisions for parking, etc.  One thing that is ALWAYS a must is the installation of  SMOKE ALARMS! These alarms are required on every floor or storey; on floor areas with bedrooms they must be located on the ceiling of the hallway serving the bedrooms.

Carbon monoxide alarms are also needed anytime there is a fuel fired appliance (gas appliances being the most common), or when an adjacent wall, floor, or ceiling is shared with the same, or even if there is a parking garage on the other side. One of the most convenient options available to consumers is the combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarm (with 10-year maintenance free battery) which can simply be installed on each floor area and in each hallway serving bedrooms of a house for optimal protection!

It will come as no surprise that residential dwelling units (however configured) are the leading types of occupancies in terms of fire frequency and fire fatalities. PREVENTION, DETECTION, ESCAPE! That’s the message behind all the Public Education efforts that municipal fire services across this province endeavour to get across to the public. Even the best housekeeping, and regular maintenance of smoke alarms or fire doors are incomplete without an ESCAPE PLAN. Every occupant in the house must know what to do and where to go in the event of a fire or if an alarm in the home activates. Home escape plans are a crucial part of every household emergency plan and there is no shortage of resources available online to help with this. Toronto.ca/fire is a great starting place as is the Oflce of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management. Check with your local Fire Service to see all the resources available to you. Remember also, careless and unattended cooking remains the leading cause of residential fires and careless smoking remains the leading cause of fire fatalities.

Investing in a portion of your home to generate rental income can bring great returns. But remember to invest in life-safety first! Go through your local municipality to ensure you are conforming to all provincial and local requirements. The safety and well-being of your tenants and family members is the best dividend of all.

How to Update Your Porch for Fall

The weather may be cooling down, but we’re entering one of the most beautiful times of the year. We’re lucky to have four distinct seasons in Canada, each with their own benefits. Every new season brings an opportunity for change and to start fresh. Here’s how to update your front porch to take advantage of the beautiful fall and it’s somewhat chilly but manageable temperatures.

1.A new Front Door

Updating your front door has many benefits. A new front door will enhance your curb appeal, increase security and it can help save you  money on heating and cooling! Over time, front doors wear down from daily use and being exposed to the elements. The weatherstripping can wear away and create gaps for air to escape. This means that your HVAC system will have to work harder to keep your home warm because warm air is actually escaping from around your door.

Instead of paying more on your monthly utility bill, invest in a new door.

You can speak to a pro about the best option for your home and find a door to fit your budget. If your door is still in good condition but you’re a little bored with it, consider updating the colour. A fresh new colour is a great way to embrace the new season and increase your curb appeal.

2. Add Seating

While it’s unsafe to have neighbours pop by for a cup of tea indoors, you can still socialize at a safe distance. Depending on the size of your porch, adding seating to opposite ends can create a  spot for friends to visit and chat for a bit. Think about adding chairs or a bench to accommodate your visitors. By sprucing up the rest of your porch, you’ll have a place that is beautiful to look at while safely distancing with friends. Take advantage of the fall weather and enjoy meeting friends outside while you still can.


3. Porch Maintenance

There’s no sense in updating a porch that isn’t structurally sound. Overtime, porches can weaken and railings can become loose. If you’re concerned about the safety of your porch, read this article to find out if yours has any warning signs it needs repairs. If you find your porch  does need some attention, be sure to connect with a pro now. You’ll want to update your porch before the snow starts. Fall is a good time to do porch maintenance projects as the pros aren’t as busy as they are in the summertime. Connect with a pro now so you can safely use your porch all year long.

4. The Details

Chipped paint? A light that doesn’t turn on? Railings that wobble? There are a number of small details that make up our porches and if they’re looking worse for wear, so too will your home overall. Take the time to do an appearance check of your home. If you were walking by and didn’t own your home, what would you notice? You might realize that your shutters are nearly falling off or your address is missing a number. This is a clear sign that it’s time to update the details. If

you have a bunch of smaller projects to get done, consider hiring a handyman to help you out. It’s often cheaper to get them to do multiple small tasks at once, as opposed to hiring a specialist for each individual task.

5. Clean Up

If you didn’t get a chance to clean off your porch this summer, there’s still time! Power washing your porch, home exterior, and even the path leading up to your home, can make a huge difference. By hiring a pro to power wash your home, you can wash away years of built-up dirt and debris. Power washing is also a great way to prep your home or porch for a new coat of paint. Connect with a pro to get a quote so you can  find out how much it will cost to spruce

Every new season brings with it an opportunity for change. Take the time to update your porch this fall so that you can enjoy it before the weather gets too cold and drives us inside for months. By making updates that enhance your curb appeal and security, you’ll be able to enjoy your porch and share it with your neighbours. Connect with a pro today who can help you update your porch for Fall.

3 Tips for Better Bathroom Lighting

Proper lighting in the bathroom is essential but often an afterthought. We start and end our days in the bathroom, so it only makes sense we pay attention to the lighting. Poor lighting in your bathroom can result in accidents, an unattractive appearance (for both you and the room), as well as a negative impact on your mood. To ensure you can see when shaving or putting on your makeup, proper lighting is key. Follow these 3 tips for better lighting in your bathroom.

1. Start with the Ceiling

Whether you’re renovating your bathroom from scratch or are just updating your lighting, it’s best to start at the top and work your way down. When it comes to ceiling lighting, you have two options: flush mount or recessed lighting.

Flush mount lighting refers to any visible light fixture that sits directly against the ceiling and shines light downward. Depending on the fixture you choose, there can be space for uplighting to reflect onto the ceiling and into the room which will make it appear brighter overall.

Recessed lighting, more commonly known as pot lights in Canada, are lights that are installed into a hollow opening in the ceiling. This makes the lights themselves invisible as they are flush with the ceiling. They provide a clean and modern look as they blend in with the space.

The type of lighting you choose is really up to personal style preference. If you want to draw attention to your ceiling, opt for a fixture that is made to be looked at. For a simpler and more modern look, pot lights are best as they do not draw attention to themselves.

Design Tip: Avoid putting lights of any kind directly above your head as this will cause harsh and unflattering shadows. Instead, place your ceiling lighting over the walkway area so that you’re lit from behind and not directly above.

2. Vanity Lighting

Vanity lighting is the most important lighting when it comes to seeing yourself. Good vanity lighting will assist you when shaving, putting in contacts, or doing your makeup. The best set up for your vanity lighting is to have a light on either side of your mirror at eye level. This way there will be no shadows cast on your face. You also want to avoid asymmetrical lighting as this can cast shadows as well. You want to look your best when looking at your reflection and proper lighting will help illuminate your natural beauty.

3. Light Bulbs and Dimmers

The benefits of LED light bulbs are numerous, especially when it comes to costs. They help save energy and you also don’t need to replace them for years. In addition to these benefits, LEDs are much easier to dim. If you haven’t considered adding dimmers to your bathroom, you should. Not only can they help create a dimly lit spa-like experience, but they can also be lowered further for late night trips to the bathroom. Adding dimmers to your LED light bulbs will give you the flexibility to create the right lighting for every occasion. Note: Whether you’re starting from scratch or updating your existing lighting, it’s important to only hire a licensed electrician. As a Canadian homeowner, it is your responsibility to ask for proper licensing from any electrician working on your home. Check their Vivahpmepros profile for a Verified badge that ensures they have the proper licensing to carry out your project.

Proper bathroom lighting is essential to starting and ending your day right. By updating your lighting you can create a bright space that is visually appealing. In addition to your bathroom looking better, you’ll find you look better too! Why spend any more time in a bathroom with poor lighting. Connect with an electrician today and light your bathroom right!

How To Transform Your Bathroom Without Renovating

Over the past year, we’ve all been at home more than ever before. One room that’s seeing even more use than normal is the bathroom. Being at home more has probably led you to notice things you don’t love about your home, including your bathroom. While you may want to rip it out and start from scratch, your budget may not allow it right now. Instead of planning a major renovation, there are plenty of smaller projects you can take on. Check out these projects that will help you transform your bathroom without a major renovation.

  1. Paint

When it comes to your bathroom, think about brightening and lightening the space. Say goodbye to dark and dated paint colours and freshen up the space with a new wall colour. Hiring a pro for this project will not only save you time and effort, but you will be amazed by the results. Professional painting companies don’t cut corners like we homeowners often do when attempting a DIY project. They will take the time to properly clean and prep your walls before painting them. They will also be able to make suggestions on the best type of paint to buy for a high humidity room. Save yourself the hassle of trying to figure it out on your own and hire a painting pro to update the colour of your bathroom.

2. New Lighting Fixtures

Poor lighting can make your bathroom look worse than it really is. Whether it’s the lightbulbs you’re using or the light fixture itself, poor lighting can cast shadows on your face and make it hard to see what you’re doing. Layered lighting is best when it comes to bathrooms, one overhead light simply will not do. Ideally, you want to layer your  lighting so that you can see what you’re  doing. Whether that’s shaving, brushing your teeth, or putting on makeup, good lighting is key. To help you create the right lighting, you can speak to an electrician about your options. Not only will they be able to make suggestions for the best lighting but they will be able to carry out the project.

Note: Across Canada, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to only hire a licensed electrician for any electrical project. While you can change your own light bulbs, you are legally required to hire a licensed electrician to switch out or add any light fixtures.

3 – More Storage

Who couldn’t use more storage, especially in the bathroom where our countertops can quickly become cluttered. Moving items off your countertops and into baskets or containers will instantly make your space look more organized. There are often overlooked spots in bathrooms that can be used for more storage. Consider adding shelves to walls or a freestanding shelf over your toilet to maximize space. If there’s room, you can also add a shelf above your door to store linens or more baskets. Get creative with your bathroom and utilize all the space you have.

4. New Hardware

Sometimes the little things make the biggest difference. To help transform your bathroom you can swap out your old vanity knobs and pulls for something new. The best thing about this project is that you can do it quickly and to suit your budget. Look online or head to your local hardware store to buy a couple of new knobs. This project will make a dramatic difference if your knobs and pulls are currently mismatched, broken or just dated looking.

Other pieces of hardware you can update in your bathroom are your sink   faucets and showerheads. Not only does updating to something more modern make the space look better, but these pieces will function better too. Think how nice treating yourself to a waterfall shower instead of the sputtering fixture you currently have would be. To save yourself time and money, you can buy the fixtures ahead of time and hire a plumber to simply install them for you.

5 – Art & Accessories 

For some, the bathroom can be overlooked when it comes to art and accessories. Some see it as a functional room only, not needing decorations like other rooms in the home. If you want to add some personality and style to your bathroom you should definitely incorporate art and accessories. As mentioned above, buy some nice looking baskets to help store your items. Update your old shower curtain to one that makes you happy to look at. Hang up a piece of art. Did you know that some plants can actually thrive in bathrooms? Not only do they thrive but certain plants can actually help purify the air. Try a snake plant or golden pothos to add a little greenery to your space.

Investing in your bathroom is an investment in yourself. We start and end our days in the bathroom, so it only makes sense to make it a beautiful space. With these projects, you’ll be able to transform your bathroom on any budget. As an added bonus, all of these projects can be completed in about a day with the help of a pro. Get started on your bathroom transformation by connecting with a pro on HomeStars today.