The most common bathroom size measures 8 by 5 feet — enough room for a single sink, a toilet and a shower or shower-bathtub combination. You may think there isn’t much you can do with an area of this size. But you’d be wrong. Here, five projects within these dimensions showcase clever ways to create virtual and literal space, and how to make big style statements on budgets small and large.

From Our Homeowner’s Workbook: How to Remodel Your Bathroom

Will Solar Panels Add Resale Value to Your Home?

Solar technology is more reliable, more efficient and more affordable than ever. As some Canadians opt to harness the power of the sun, let's look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of going solar in 2019. 

Things to consider 

solar panels of the roof of a house

Unlike sunny California, Canada has long winters and fewer hours of sun during the colder months, making nuclear and hydroelectric power dominant in the Canadian power market. Although large-scale solar panels aren't always viable, there's ample opportunity to harness the power of solar at home all year, especially if you have a large roof with great sun exposure.

According to installer Adam Coughlin from Bison Solar, the broader and flatter your roof, the better. Steep or complete roofscapes aren't as conducive to solar panels.

solar panels of the roof of a house

If you have land to spare, you can install numerous or larger solar cells mounted on poles, for larger Kilowatt (kW) returns. The output power cable will have to be trenched back to the property to hook up with the main power feed.

the output cable of a solar panel on a roof of a house

Costs and savings

solar panels of the roof of a house

The upfront cost of installing solar panels is its biggest deterrent. While there's is no federal government rebate or tax incentive for installing solar panels, there are a handful of provincial and regional incentives to help with installation costs and offering rebates by selling your power back to the grid. Even with incentives and rebates, the initial costs can range from $15,000 – $25,000 depending on the size of the system. However, these costs have greatly improved over the years and are only poised to get better thanks to innovative technology.

“The price of solar has come way down from the olden days,” Paige Campbell, a Canadian who works for a company offering solar services around the world said. “There are amazing quality panels coming from Asia, which are in the $100s now and not $1,000s.”

The national average cost, including all components, installation and fees, adds up to approximately $3.07 per watt. For an average 7.5 kW system, you're looking at around $21,000 up front.

Solar offers savings because many provinces are beyond grid parity. You'll save on your monthly electric bill and in some cases, for systems under 500 kW, the extra power can go back into the power grid and be sold back to your power company for credit.

However, depending on solar power as your only energy source can have its drawbacks. When there's a power loss, due to a storm, for example, you'll lose power as well. Homeowners may want to consider investing in a backup generator.

a transformer on the side of a house that connects the solar panels to the existing home power supply feedPower coming from roof-mounted panels, directed into switching and the transformer then feeding into the existing home power supply feed on left.

In Ontario, the Net-Metering program allows for any electricity generated to pump back into the grid and result in a credit on your power bill. Ontario is the largest producer of solar power in systems below 500 kW due to various now-defunct programs like GreenOn and Feed-In-Tariff.

How does it affect my resale value?

a Tesla electric vehicle charger

With the proliferation of EV cars and the reduction in panel costs, solar energy is becoming a more desirable selling feature for a home. Solar panels can last up to 25 years and one American study found home buyers see them as an attractive upgrade, much like a renovated kitchen.



Choose fire-resistant plants and materials and create defensible areas using these design strategies

Firescaping incorporates the design of the landscape and property surrounding a home to lessen its susceptibility to fire. This can be achieved through a well-thought-out landscape design plan that specifies less combustible plants, incorporates fire-resistant materials and follows the advice and guidelines determined by fire-safe organizations. 

In this article I’ve identified several landscape design strategies as well as some of the guidelines I’ve gathered from various professionals and fire-safe organizations in California. These methods will help keep your property and home safe without having to sacrifice having a beautiful and thriving landscape. For specific guidelines in your area, please refer to your state, county or local fire safety organizations.

There's something so appealing about a century home. From gingerbread trim to old-fashioned finishes, historic homes boast distinct “character” not easily replicated in newer builds.

If you're obsessed with classical details or an old-soul hoping to put down roots, a century home might be perfect for you. However, although full of charm and history, a 100-year-old home could come with a few problems. Here are six things you need to consider before buying a century home.

Do your research

An old historical home that has been restored and rejuvenated in the Midwest.

Before you even consider putting in an offer, speak to a REALTOR® about the home's history. A REALTOR® can find out when it was built, whether the previous owners have pulled (or failed to pull) permits for additions and any recent major repairs the home has undergone. If you feel uncomfortable, don't be afraid to ask questions. Homeowners are required to answer honestly if they've had to do work on their home. For example, fixing a crack in the foundation or a leak in the plumbing. If you're hesitant about the cost to run a century home, a REALTOR® can also ask for copies of recent utility bills.

If you're satisfied with the condition of the home and decide to put in an offer, do not skip on the home inspection. A home inspector will analyze the basement or crawl space to make sure the foundation is intact, look out for signs of mould, structural issues and code violations that, if gone unnoticed, could potentially be hazardous and costly to repair. Should the inspector find any hidden problems, it can be grounds for you to ask the seller to fix the issues, negotiate a lower price, or break your sales agreement.

Plan for an added contingency fund

a century homeVia Pixabay

No matter the house, you should have a designated contingency fund for unexpected repairs. As homes age, they become prone to wear and are less likely to meet the most current building code standards. Depending on when it was last updated, you may need to fix things like wiring, plumbing and HVAC systems. Outdated electrical panels and knob and tube or aluminum wiring, for example, face a much higher risk of overheating and fire. Even if you don't intend to renovate your home, new safety-related improvements may be necessary. The more you save for these extra costs, the better prepared you'll be should they arise.

Know your potential restrictions

a heritage homePhoto by Jessica Furtney on Unsplash

If your dream home is deemed a heritage home, you may face added renovation restrictions. Any plans you have for the house will have to be approved by a committee in the town or city where you live. Some towns will only consider a house's exterior as a part of its history, whereas others will also place restrictions on interior features. Renovating an old home within the restrictions you're given may end up costing you thousands more if you need to restore or completely rebuild any features like dentil mouldings, gables or gingerbread trim.

Check if you're able to update

a heritage home

If you do plan to upgrade, you have to work with the existing structure, which means some modern updates—like an open floor plan, finished basement or forced air heating or cooling—can be more difficult to integrate. 

Make energy efficiency a priority

a dog leaning on the window sill of a century home

Homes have come a long way over the past 100 years in terms of sustainability and energy efficiency. An older home will generally equal higher utility bills, so even if you aren't noticing issues with the current state of the home, it would be wise to consider updating a few things for the sake of saving money and the environment.

Most century homes aren't well insulated. Your home inspector should be able to give you an idea of the home's current R-value(thermal resistance)—or can recommend an energy auditor to evaluate the efficiency of the home and which upgrades would have the greatest impact at improving that efficiency. The lower the R-value, the less efficient the home will be at retaining heating (or cooling) and the higher your bills will likely be—especially when our summers and winters are at their most extreme.

Windows and doors in older homes are also typically single-pane and not the dual or triple pane varieties currently on the market, which offer a better thermal value. If you don't have the budget to replace them, try adding a foam or rubber seal to door and window frames or spray foam insulation behind the trim. Window coverings can also go a long way to help reduce loss and buffer drafts.

Invest in high-quality insurance

a home near a lakePhoto by Emma Frances Logan on Unsplash

While your insurance premiums shouldn't increase as a result of buying a century home, your insurance company may not insure certain aspects of the house because of its age. Speak to an insurance broker or representative before putting in an offer to make sure everything in the home will be covered sufficiently.

Don't let the fear of the unknown keep you from buying a century home. You may not find those charming details and historic touches in a newer build. Keep these points—and a healthy contingency fund—in mind and you'll be one step closer to your dream home.



How to Survive a Home Renovation with Kids

Renovating a home can be stressful: dust, debris and disruption can be dangerous and throw your children’s routines out of whack. However, with careful planning, you can take steps to ensure your family’s remodel goes off without a hitch. Read our blueprint below for a happier, safer reno with kids in tow. 

Safety first

Man tearing out old kitchen during home renovations.

The No. 1 priority during any home renovation is the safety of your children. Take precautions to protect your kids from dust, sharp or dangerous tools and toxic products like varnish and paint. Try hiring a family-friendly contractor who has experience working on projects with kids present and ask them to pack away dangerous tools so they're out of reach.

They can also help erect barriers around the work area, such as plastic drop cloths or zip walls, to keep dust from spreading. If possible, put up child-friendly gates around the work area or semi-permanent walls to keep the work zone separate from the living zone.

Keep in mind even the most considerate contractor isn't a babysitter and can't keep an eye on your children for you or pick up after themselves at every second. Make sure you remind your kids which areas of the house are off-limits and be extra vigilant. Lastly, introduce your kids to the renovation team so they don't feel like there are strangers in the house.

Do one room at a time

a kitchenPhoto by Jose Soriano on Unsplash

The bigger the renovation, the bigger the stress. Choose one room to renovate at a time and you'll save yourself a lot of grief during the process. The kitchen and bathroom are “priority” rooms, in the sense they're harder to live without and will likely make family life easier once complete. 

Be flexible, especially with timelines

two parents and a child painting a wall in a house

With any home renovation, it's important to expect the unexpected. Assume it will take a lot longer than you anticipated. Laundry still needs to be done and beds still need to be made. DIY projects will inevitably drag on, as one partner may have to do more of the work on one day while the other keeps the kids engaged. The point is to be flexible, adapt and proceed as efficiently as you can. 

Find family-friendly workarounds

a man working a microwave stored underneath a kitchen top

Since renovation timelines are unpredictable, you'll want to make your living situation as sustainable as possible. That might mean creating a temporary kitchen in the living room or basement (complete with mini fridge, hot plate, kettle, microwave and dishes/utensils) or even kitting out your backyard with an outdoor shower. Adults may be able to go without bathing for a few days or eat out at restaurants for every meal but this simply isn't realistic for children. Find comfortable, interim solutions until you can get your living situation back to normal. 

Get the kids involved

a man and his young son painting a wall

Construction sites aren't playgrounds for children but getting your kids involved in the renovation process is a great opportunity for family bonding. It can be an excellent learning experience, too. Older kids can help out more than younger ones, but things like wiping surfaces or windows, using the tape measure, sweeping (with a small broom) and sanding with sandpaper are a few kid-friendly tasks you can assign. Planting a garden? Let your kids get their hands dirty. They'll get to experience the satisfaction of watching their crops grow firsthand.

Ask for their advice and let them weigh in on things like choosing between paint colours, tiles and backsplashes. Have fun with it. You can even make them a badge and dub them “design expert”!

Get out of the house

a family taking a walk on a pierPhoto by Luis Quintero on Unsplash

Construction time is the perfect time to spend a day together as a family. Cope with the destruction at home by planning outings away from the chaos. (And no, a trip to the hardware store does not count as quality time.) Pack a picnic and head off to the beach, park or playground for some well-deserved downtime. If you can get away for a weekend, even better. Your sanity will thank you. 

Make time for self-care

a couple spending time together in an open fieldPhoto by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Downtime goes for parents, too. Taking time to decompress, eat right, exercise and see friends will contribute to a happier household—and a happier renovation project overall.

With the right planning, a home renovation with kids can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Once the chaos of the remodel is over, you'll have a wonderful space for your family to enjoy, making the weeks or months of mess and stress worth it.



Wide-open spaces are wonderful, but there are important functional issues to consider before taking down the walls

Open floor plans are great — they can make a home feel larger and airier, create multifunctional spaces and make it possible to live in a smaller space. But the truth is, they aren’t for everyone. Designers have been reporting that some clients have a hard time with this setup, whether it’s because of TV noise, a desire to hide kitchen messes from view or a need for a quiet place to read or work. Before committing to an open floor plan for the first time, answer the following questions to see if it’s for you.
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