Why Install a Heat Pump

A heat pump is one of the most economical ways to reduce costs and improve energy efficiency and comfort in your home or office, as it uses much less energy to produce heat. Heat pumps are far more efficient when compared to conventional HVAC methods and could reduce your heating costs by up to 50%.

How Does it Work?

When it’s cold outside, a heat pump extracts outside heat and transfers it inside. When it’s warm outside, it reverses directions and acts like an air conditioner, removing heat from your home. The advantage of a heat pump is that it moves heat instead of generating heat, which is more energy efficient.

Refrigerators and air conditioners are both examples of heat pumps operating only in the cooling mode. A refrigerator is essentially an insulated box with a heat pump system connected to it.

An air-source heat pump absorbs heat from the outdoor air in winter and rejects heat into outdoor air in summer. It is the most common type of heat pump found in Canadian homes at this time. However, ground-source (also called earth-energy, geothermal, geoexchange) heat pumps, which draw heat from the ground or ground water, are becoming more widely used, particularly in British Columbia, the Prairies and Central Canada.

The Benefits

Heat pumps are safer and require less maintenance than systems based on combustion, and are more affordable to run than oil and gas boilers. They reduce your carbon emissions and have an efficient conversion rate of energy to heat. One of the biggest advantages of a heat pump over a standard heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) unit is that there’s no need to install separate systems to heat and cool your home. They have a very long lifespan and are extremely reliable.

Incentives and Rebates

BC Hydro and FortisBC often offer grants and rebates for energy efficient upgrades to your home, including heat pumps.  We’ve seen rebates of $800 from BC Hydro for the installation of a ductless air-source heat pump as well as many others!  Island Energy carries a list of Incentives and Rebates on their website and has been a leader in Victoria’s heating and air conditioning field for over 25 years.

Don’t wait for the winter weather to make the call.


Soft Costs in Construction

Hi Russ, we are preparing to build our new home and wondered if you could help educate us on what costs to expect outside of the estimate from you. – ML

Considering a new home or renovation project? Be sure to factor in some soft costs you might encounter that don’t come through your builder. We’ve listed the most common ones to help you with your planning.

BC Hydro

  • More electricity is used during construction which can increase your hydro bill
  • Watch for power line connection and disconnection charges on your account

Insurance

  • Your house insurance is meant to be changed during a renovation due to increased activity, dangerous tools, heaters and other equipment being used in construction

Loans, Interest and Taxes

  • Loan generated interest
  • Bank transaction charges
  • Mortgage broker fees
  • Accounting fees
  • Taxes

Move In / Move Out / Lodging

  • Hotels or temporary lodging
  • Restaurant expenses
  • Increased fuel usage if traveling from a further distance
  • Occasional time away from work to engage with the project

Other Fees

Interactive Construction includes more than just putting nails into a house when pricing a job, so you may find these items in your planning estimate from us. You might not see these costs in a typical construction estimate, but most are usually required to complete the process.

  • Plan creation & design
  • Building permits
  • Other municipal fees (new water main, sewer main, etc.)
  • Engineering (Structural, Geotechnical)
  • Variances that may be required
  • Land surveys
  • Hazardous materials testing that may be required

And let’s not forget the budget you’ll need for that big house warming party!


November Home Care

“Winter is Coming” and what better way to enjoy the changing season than to show some love to your home.  We’ve combined our experience and the advice of our specialists and professionals into a list of inspiration for you and your hard-working family. Enjoy!

Weatherproofing

Harness the heat by sealing cracks and spaces along baseboards, junctures, windows, doors, fixtures, switches and outlets. Your winter heating bill will thank you!

Leaves

Clean gutters and downspouts and install leaf guards to keep falling leaves and debris out. Dead leaves can kill your lawn. Take care sweeping or washing asphalt shingles – it can remove the protective aggregates and damage your roof. Call a professional.

Trees and Plant Life

Trim tree limbs that are dangerously close to power lines or the roof of your home so that falling snow and ice doesn’t cause damage. Look for areas where gardens or dirt have been built up high on the foundation within 6-8” of the siding – this can cause moisture damage to the siding and lead to insect infiltration.

Water

Be sure water isn’t coming down behind gutters. It not only causes rot starting at the fascia boards but the splash-back can damage siding as well. Ensure pipes are well insulated to prevent freezing and bursting and know how to locate and turn off the water shut-off valve in case pipes do freeze.

Pest Control

Replace damaged roof tiles and attic vents, seal up holes around pipes and cables – mice can get through a hole the size of a quarter. Most rats and pests enter the home through branches and ivy/plants that touch the house, especially at the eaves.

Fire Alarms

It’s that time again! Don’t forget to check the expiry date, test and replace the batteries in your smoke alarm and hold a fire drill with your family. More details, from our Safety First post here.

Heating System

Stay warm and save money by ensuring your forced-air system is running safely and efficiently. Clean ducts and grilles, replace filters, and give the system a test run before colder days are upon us. Heating repairmen get slammed on the first cold days of the year when everyone turns their heat on to discover something has failed over the summer. Beat the rush!

Chimneys & Stoves

Make sure chimneys and wood stoves are cleaned and ready for their time to shine. “Never was there a more happier crew, than them what sings Chim Chim Chiree Chim Chiroo! Chim Chim Chiminy Chim Chim Chiree Chim Chiroo…” – Bert


Office Renovation: Progress and Advice

To all of our renovation customers, we know exactly how you feel and we appreciate your patience and flexibility more than ever. For years we have been dismantling and recreating your spaces while you learn to live and work amongst the organized chaos. On Tuesday, September 26th we commenced renovations to our own home/office. Our desks and office equipment were moved to the main living area while members of our crew began to demolish and re-build walls, floors and ceilings. The need to create more space had been building for months, and with a new person joining our office this fall, it was time to get the ball rolling.

The Progess

The Scope

  • Shelter the living space with poly walls and floor protection to conserve hallway flooring and reduce dust.
  • Strip out the old plaster, down to the studs and ceiling joists.
  • Remove office flooring to expose and fix a squeaky subfloor.
  • Remove a partition wall and existing closets, opening two rooms into one.
  • Replace old ceiling joists with new 6″×12″ fir beams.
  • Install whitewashed tongue and groove soffit above beams to achieve a higher ceiling and a west coast architectural detail.
  • Frame a new meeting room separated by large glass pocket doors to keep an open feel
  • Upgrade electrical and data wiring to accommodate for an expanding team.
  • Insulate roof and walls with high performance insulation.
  • Drywall and install new flooring and trim.
  • Remove floor protection and plastic walls.
  • Clean up and paint.
  • Then voila, it will be done!

Our Advice

  • Get references and be sure your professional is experienced for your type of job.
  • Be clear on what you want, what you like and what must go. Communicate your questions.
  • Use a contract, know your payment schedule and study the details. Many companies are using a Project Management tool to maintain clear communication with clients, tradespeople and project managers. This tool keeps everyone updated with the latest plans, progress and changes. At Interactive Construction, we use Buildertrend.
  • Be open to new ideas and changes to the original plan if they are found to be needed. A good contractor will use their experience to recommend solutions to renovation problems exposed during construction.
  • Bring colour samples home to test, don’t trust those fluorescent lights in store.

    • Know the value of your house, your neighbourhood, and the value of increase to expect in case you decide to sell.
      • “Keep in mind that if the value of your house exceeds the average market value in your neighbourhood, your renovations will not yield much return. But if your house value is below the average, you can recover a large part of renovation costs.” – Recent article in styleathome.

Considering a renovation that is focused around energy efficiency? Doing it yourself? Don’t get too overwhelmed with the big stuff right away, start small:

  • Lighting: Install CFL or LED bulbs
  • Temperature: install a programmable thermostat
  • Heat: cover your hot-water heater with an insulated blanket
  • Water: install low-flow plumbing fixtures in your bathroom, use a rain barrel to capture rainwater to re-use in your garden
  • Think Clean:(volatile organic compounds) which are released as gasses from paints, lacquers, building materials, furniture and carpets. They are bad for the environment and for your health!
  • Shop Local: Where possible, consider the traveling distance of building materials and products that you purchase for your home. Not only does it reduce your carbon footprint, but it helps to support your local economy and create jobs.
  • Recycle: consider re-using materials and appliances where possible, and donating what you can. Buying new costs money and increases your carbon footprint, and throwing away items only adds to our landfills. Consider using that old wood flooring to wrap the island in your new kitchen, like we did for our recent Passive House, Urban Green, which won the 2017 CARE Award for Best Multi-Family/Townhouse Project.
  • Going “Passive”? We would love to hear from you, contact us to discuss your renovation goals!
Urban Green – recycled hardwood used for island

Stay tuned..

We will keep you updated on the progress of our office renovation, thanks for reading!


Construction Stage: Excavation

We know how difficult the construction process can be, and how many lessons are learned in the process.  In an effort to save you time and energy learning these lessons the hard way, we’ve put together some key advice on what to expect from each phase as well as what pitfalls and surprises could be lurking around the corner! If you haven’t already, check out our Demolition post.

Preparation

If you’re building a new home, adding on to an existing one, or needing to make improvements to your drainage or foundation, you’re going to need to excavate into the earth. Even putting in a new water main or other municipal service is going to require some excavation to create the service trench from the house to the connection (typically at the street).

There are many sizes and types of excavating equipment. From the powerful machines that will dig through almost anything, to little more than an arm on tracks which can fit down walking paths to dig in your cramped side yard. It’s almost always best to have the biggest machine that will fit on the job with room to work.

No matter what size machine does the excavating, it will make some mess. The material that is dug out needs to be piled up for re-use, or carried out for removal. The trucks and excavators need to drive back and forth in their working areas.

Talk with your contractor about moving plants or landscape features if there are things you’d like to save that are in the way of the machinery. Sometimes areas can be partially protected by plates or temporary materials. This is not always cost effective or possible, so it is often required to replace lawns or garden areas after the work is complete. Check with your contractor as that replacement may not be included in the excavation costs and may need to be considered in future landscaping plans.

There are underground mapping technologies available to find potential complications in advance of excavating. However, they do have an upfront added cost and don’t reduce the costs associated with dealing with any discovered issues. It is a sensible economic option in cases where the possible risks would result in a redesign of the plan if they’re discovered in advance.

What to Expect

Excavation machinery is loud and the exhaust can be unpleasant in close quarters. There will usually be large trucks bringing machinery and hauling materials in or out throughout the process. Depending on the room to work and the street and driveway access, there can be times when the street is temporarily blocked by equipment. The driveway will almost certainly be occupied and street-parked residential vehicles may need to be moved away for the trucks to have access.

Expect to replace or have some abrasion on unprotected surfaces in the work path such as the street, driveway, walkways, lawn, or patios. Even protected surfaces may see some disturbance depending on the level of protection and the amount and weight of traffic. Remember, these are heavy, very hard working quasi-tanks built to get a lot of tough work done quickly – they’re not built to be polite about it.

Excavation work is often in tandem with filling and soil compaction, all of which can occasionally make for a dust filled environment that doesn’t respect your property lines.


Prepping, Coating & Maintaining Wood Decks

Hi Russ, we want to freshen up our wood deck and are a little overwhelmed with the different advice available online.  Could you help? – R.N.

Hi R.N., I’ve submitted your question to one of our professionals at Kingfisher Painting who was more than happy to help. – Russ

To Consider

  • Walking surfaces should be regularly maintained, we recommend annually or bi-annually depending on exposure.
  • Different coatings will specify different maintenance cycles.  Use the product recommendation as a guide coupled with your own inspections.
  • A walking surface that is not exposed to sun or standing water and has little traffic could go 3 years or more.  Inspect regularly.
  • Keep deck free of debris, specifically vegetative debris like rotting leaves, pine needles, etc.  It is important to keep gaps between boards open and clear to allow for proper drainage and air flow.  This is something to especially pay attention to in the fall.  Don’t let water pool and stand.

  • If you have a north facing or heavily shaded deck it may be prone to mildew growth.  Mildew should be cleaned every 6 months to a year.  If left it will stain and could eventually compromise the coating.  Mildew can be treated with a mild bleach solution (5-10%).  Soak the mildew with the bleach solution, agitate, leave for 10 minutes and then thoroughly rinse.
  • Decks that are built too close to the ground and do not have sufficient air flow will be prone to coating failure.
  • If building a deck from scratch, coat all six sides of the material with your coating prior to construction.

Prepping a Weathered Cedar Deck with no Coating on it

First we apply a wood conditioner such as Cloverdale Sharkskin Wood Conditioner and Cleaner.  This product is a concentrate which can mixed to various strengths depending on how dirty and greyed your wood is.   We apply it with a garden pump sprayer.  Once you have soaked down an area with the conditioner you need to keep it wet while it works.  This is done by misting the area periodically.  If you’re in direct sun, you’ll have to stay on top of it!  Give the conditioner 10-20 minutes to work and then agitate it with a stiff brush.  Don’t get too far ahead of yourself – alternate between applying the conditioner, agitating, and pressure washing (see below):

The next step is a controlled pressure wash.  The key here is to set your pressure wash at a level where you are going to scour the surface of the deck without damaging the wood.  For soft wood such as cedar between 400 and 600 psi is good, but given that many pressure washers don’t have a gauge on them, proceed with caution.  Start with your wand at least 18” away from the surface you’re working on and move in closer until you can see that you are cleaning and scouring the deck.  You should not need to get any closer than 8”. Keeping the pressure washing wand a consistent distant from the deck and moving at an even speed, you will methodically “scrub” the deck.  The combination of the conditioner and the pressure wash will renew and recolour even the most weathered deck.

Sanding is optional.  The process of restoring your deck with a controlled pressure wash/conditioner can “fur” the deck, meaning raise patches of wood fiber that look a little like fur.  If there is lot of furring, these areas may show differently and darker if you are applying a pigmented translucent stain.  If we sand the deck we usually take it to 60 grit with orbital or belt sanders.

Prepping a Weathered Cedar Deck with Coating on it

If the deck has a coating that you want to remove, you will need to strip it.  The stripping process can be done in a similar fashion as described as above, except instead of a wood conditioner you would apply a stripper.  Cloverdale Sharkskin Stripper is one such product.  It may require multiple applications to fully strip the deck and you may need to manually scrape and/or sand some areas.  We recommend landscape fabric or mesh to capture the paint debris… Save yourself some time cleaning up!

If the deck has a coating and you intend to recoat with an opaque product you will need to ensure that any areas where the existing coating is unsound are thoroughly prepped.  In most cases we could go about this through a process of scraping and sanding areas where there is paint failure and ensuring any coatings that remain are sound.

Kingfisher's Preferred Products

Timberpro

Great looking, green product, relatively easy to apply.  Comes in Transparent, Semi-Transparent, Semi-Solid, and Solid.  Can be applied to wood with up to 21% moisture content which is great for a quick turnaround after your washing.  Available through Lumberworld in Victoria.

Sansin

Great looking translucent stains, wide colour range, custom tints, green product.  Available through Pacific Paints, Keating X Rd location only.

Sharkskin

One of our standby options is Cloverdale Sharkskin Deck and Siding Stain.  It’s a waterborne alkyd making it fairly durable, and it’s a good bang for the buck. It is less prone to flashing (sheen differences where paint has overlapped) than other waterborne alkyds such as Flood or SuperDeck.

FLOOD

Surface preparation is a crucial first step to ensure a beautiful and lasting wood finish. FLOOD® Wood Care offers products for preparing  all types of wood, and for cleaning stained or resurfaced wood between applications.

Thanks for reading,

David at Kingfisher Painting

Check us out on Facebook


Construction Stage: Demolition

We know how difficult the construction process can be, and how many lessons are learned in the process.  In an effort to save you time and energy learning these lessons the hard way, we’ve put together some key advice on what to expect from each phase as well as what pitfalls and surprises could be lurking around the corner!

Preparation

In most cases, demolition work cannot be started until a municipal permit has been obtained. Generally, this is part of a building permit, but in some cases a special demolition permit can be obtained to start deconstruction in advance. It is the property owner’s legal responsibility to have permits in place, but their general contractor can be employed to obtain them on their behalf. There are always fees and time required to create the documentation and paperwork to apply – and there are always municipal fees associated with obtaining them once they are accepted.

Prior to heavy demolition starting, it’s worth considering taking time to salvage anything of value for reuse. In many cases this adds to the project schedule, but if done extensively the salvage time may reduce some demolition costs. There are often people willing to spend their time removing certain items from an old home for free. Everyone wins – they save on buying new materials, you save on disposal, and the world is better for your sustainable building practices.

What to Expect

Once demolition is cleared to start, you’ll need to jump in with both feet. The Demolition Phase is possibly the scariest and most complication fraught stage, but it’s also the exciting starting gun before the great race to the finish line.

If an entire building needs to be removed, heavy equipment and machinery will be brought in to crush the structure and haul it away to be sorted and disposed of. Municipal services would need to be disconnected or capped off prior to a complete building demolition. There are often service fees charged by your service providers for disconnection and reconnection. Once the demolition starts, it all comes down and is removed in the span of only a few days. Generally, a lot of the same equipment can stay on site and be used to continue to the excavation stage.

If you’re undertaking a renovation, your demolition is going to be a lot more manual. Depending on the type of renovation, a crew will come in to strip out every part of the structure necessary to prepare for the new construction. This could take one person a single day, or many people many weeks, depending on your project requirements.

Demolition is loud, it’s messy, and it’s highly disruptive – even for small projects. For mid to large renovations (and all full demolitions), the home will lose power, water, sewer, and potentially other services for extended periods of time. Most renovation projects of mid to large size will require that you move out of the home before demolition starts and until all construction work is completed. Personal belongings will need to be packed away and in many cases, removed from the house entirely.

Now that we’ve cleared out the old, it’s time to bring in the new!


Caring for your Hardwood Floors

Dirt and debris can quickly become like sandpaper on a hardwood surface! We wouldn’t ask you to stop the flow of traffic in your home, so we’ve included some tips below on how to protect, clean and maintain your hardwood flooring.

Tips & Tricks

  1. Vacuum or sweep regularly with a soft-bristled attachment or broom
  2. Learn to manage traffic by managing your space (mats, rugs, runners, furniture pads, etc.)
  3. Look out for glides on the bottom of furniture that can severely scratch and scuff your flooring
  4. Avoid abrasive backing on decorative rugs which can scratch your finish
  5. Use protective window coverings to reduce fading and excessive heat
  6. Rearrange rugs and furniture periodically to balance aging
  7. Keep your pet’s nails trimmed and paws clean (scratching, staining)
  8. Use a humidifier in hot months to reduce wood shrinkage and humidity
  9. Wipe up spills immediately with slightly damp cloth
  10. Avoid walking on wood floors with cleats or high heels in disrepair. A 125 lb woman walking in high heels with an exposed heal can exert up to 8,000lbs per square inch – what an impact!

Cleaning

  • Cleaning depends on the type of finish
  • Avoid harsh chemicals and cleaners
  • Vinegar and warm water is often best
  • Avoid waxes unless otherwise instructed
  • Avoid excess water, resist wet-mop/damp-mop, steam cleaners
  • Don’t use oil soaps, liquid or paste wax or products containing lemon, citrus, tung oil, or silicone
  • Don’t use 2-in-1 cleaners containing acrylics or urethane polish to restore gloss
  • Wax or gum stuck to the floor? Use ice to harden it first, then gently scrape with plastic scraper or credit card, wipe clean with soft, slightly damp cloth

Maintenance

  • Frequency depends on type of floor and finish
  • Can the floor be sanded and re-coated?
  • Is sanding required prior to refinishing?
  • What are the commercial vs residential requirements?


Power to Play

Interactive Construction is proud to have participated in Power to Play 2017; an action packed team-building adventure race that guides you across land and through water, pushing your limits to fundraise and work together in support of Power To Be! Interactive Construction raised $5,745 between our two teams (The Nailers & The InterActivators), and the event raised $223,000 in support of Power To Be programs! We could not have asked for a better day and a more rewarding fundraising experience; it’s truly a great cause that we are thrilled to be a part of for the third year and counting.

Power To Be began in 1998 with an idea: help people living with a disability or barrier access nature. The idea grew into a community, connecting participants to adventures and supporters to opportunities, collectively redefining our definition of ability.

SPECIAL THANKS to Power to Be, all of the wonderful volunteers, Jim Edwards at Slegg Lumber, The Guys at RC Roofing and Lori Chartier at MD Esthetics for your incredible sponsorship and support!


Hiring a Professional

WHAT SHOULD A CONTRACTOR DO FOR ME?

Every project is composed of thousands of different steps and pieces. There can be literally hundreds of people involved in a custom house construction project – from delivery people and technical product support reps, to a huge variety of tradespeople and their managers. A good contractor knows how to work with these people to get you to your goals in the most efficient way. A well-orchestrated project avoids costly issues that would arise from a poorly planned one.

The industry standard is for a contractor to charge a percentage of the cost of the project as the fee. This percentage varies, but for a qualified professional contractor it is commonly in the seven to 15 per cent range for the Greater Victoria area. This fee is often offset by the contractor’s ability to leverage lower pricing on materials, increased efficiency of trades, and the ability to determine the most cost-effective solutions for all situations.

Custom home construction or custom home renovations are a big expense. A contractor can help make sure that expense delivers value.

 

HOW TO IDENTIFY A PROFESSIONAL

Choosing a contractor can be the most agonizing stage for the first-timer. How do you know who will be the best fit for you? How do you find out? You need to trust that even the parts you don’t understand are put together right. You need to trust that the people in your house know it’s your home.

The Internet is full of articles and opinions and by the time you’ve read them all you will know 100 ways and hear reasons why each one is wrong. There are two tried and true methods that rarely let people down.

  1. Get to know your contractor a little. Meet with him/her a couple of times to go over some details of the project. Talk to people who know your contractor. Past clients especially, but even the guy behind the desk at their primary supplier will know the type of person they are.
  2. Go with your gut. Have a bad feeling? You’re probably right. Have a good feeling? That’s probably a sign you are on the right track.

Digging through contractor websites? Andrea at Dyggz has some helpful advice in what to look for in a construction website.

 

Lead tradespeople working for your contractor should have Industry Training Authority (ITA) certification, which helps ensure they have been educated across the full scope of their trade. Also, the contractor you choose should be registered and in good standing with WorkSafeBC, otherwise you could be liable for insurance premiums for the work performed on your behalf. If in doubt, you can look them up for yourself.

The contractor you choose should hold general liability insurance. You have the right to request a Certificate of Insurance or a copy of the policy, and your insurance provider should be able to review it to ensure it is satisfactory. If the worst happens, and part or all of your property is damaged during construction, an uninsured individual will not be able to cover the costs of replacement. It is also important to check that your own insurance policy allows for the renovations you have planned.

For more on insurance check out this CHBA article.

For more on hiring a professional, get some tips from the Canadian Home Builder’s Association.