Flooring Basics 101 (By Chad Vankoughnett)

One of the biggest impact renovations you can make is to change the flooring in your home. It can also be one of the most expensive renovations, and can cost tens of thousands of dollars depending on the floor covering you choose and whether you have it installed or do it yourself. It makes sense to learn as much as possible about floor coverings as you can in order to prevent potentially costly mistakes.

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Regardless of the type of flooring you choose, make certain that you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your choices, and make sure the product you install meets of the needs of the room you have put it in. It doesn’t make sense to put carpet in a kitchen or a bathroom (historical practices notwithstanding), and if you are looking for a warm soft landing for your feet when you get out of bed, tile probably isn’t the best choice for your bedroom. Before you even consider what kind of flooring you want, make sure you have thought through the practical issues of what the room will be used for and what kind of floor covering makes the most sense in that application. Once you have made these decisions, then it is time to determine what type of floor is best for you.

There are several different kinds of flooring to choose from, including hardwood, carpet, tile, vinyl, and engineered products such as laminates and engineered hardwoods. We are going to break down this list, give some strengths and weaknesses of each product, and hopefully help you make good decisions when it comes to your floor coverings.

Hardwood

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Hardwood has been growing in popularity for a couple of decades now after going out of style for a time during the 80’s. People love the classic look and feel of real wooden floors, and this popularity is reflected in how many different faux hardwood floor coverings now exist. Hardwood floors are made up of real wood, which has been stained and finished prior to being shipped to the seller. True hardwood flooring has no layers of other material laminated (glued) to it, but is real wood through and through (distinguishing it from engineered hardwood, which is a thinner layer of wood laminated to plywood, fiberboard, or other backing). Hardwood looks fantastic, and is a very long lasting floor covering. It is also a very expensive floor covering, and can easily cost $5 – $10 per square foot even before installation.

One of the real benefits of hardwood apart from its beauty is the ability to sand it down and refinish it when it begins to look worn or scratched. This, combined with the cost, means that you really want to be certain that you want the same flooring for life. A well maintained hardwood floor can easily last 100 years or more, so the cost is somewhat mitigated by the longevity inherent in a hardwood floor.

On the downside (apart from cost), hardwood flooring should only be used in certain areas of the home, and you should avoid using hardwood in any high-moisture area of the house. Bathrooms, basements, and any area below grade (ground level) in a home should not have hardwood installed due to the risk of moisture damage. The other downside to hardwood is installation, as specific tools need to be used when installing hardwood. Unless you are a truly accomplished DIYer, with an investment this expensive it is always wise to leave installation to the professionals.

Engineered Hardwood

As stated above, engineered hardwood is a layer of hardwood laminated to a carrying agent, such as fiberboard or plywood. This allows the appearance and wear of hardwood with the added benefit of moisture resistance, meaning that most engineered hardwood is suitable for any application in the home. Because the expensive material (the wood) is much thinner, the cost of engineered hardwood is considerably less than true hardwood. Engineered hardwood still allows you to sand and refinish the surface of the wood, although for a limited number of repetitions compared to true hardwood.

There are very few downsides to engineered hardwood. Unless you are a purist who needs the wood to go all the way through, there are virtually no technical reasons to choose hardwood over engineered hardwood, and in fact the extra flexibility of application found in engineered hardwood makes it an ideal choice for many homeowners.

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Laminate

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When talking about floors, the term “Laminate” refers to artificial flooring made from layers of fiberboard, plastic, and other materials. Usually, laminate flooring is designed to mimic the look and feel of wood without the pesky issues that accompany wood floors, such as cost and weight. Laminate floors are lightweight and reasonably durable, and come in a wide variety of styles, thickness, and colours. Cheap laminate will not be effective in high traffic areas, but is easy to replace if nothing else. More expensive laminates will still be much cheaper than either of their wooden cousins, will be very durable, and will certainly enhance the beauty of your home.

The low cost of laminate makes it an ideal product if you are the type of person who likes to change the look of your home on a regular basis. It is also an excellent choice if you are looking for something to spruce up your home in order to sell it, as many people change the flooring when they purchase a home anyway.

Laminate flooring can be installed virtually anywhere in the home, and is very easy to install even for the beginning DIYer. Most laminate floors do not require any kind of glue or nails, so the only tools you may need are a pencil, a cutter (a saw of some kind or a special laminate cutter, which are quite inexpensive), and maybe a rubber mallet.

In the next edition of the blog, we will be looking at carpet, tile, and vinyl flooring as options for your renovation. Remember, regardless of the style of flooring you choose, the type of material will determine longevity, comfort, and practicality. Take the time to make the right decision and you will be happy with your floors for a long time to come.

– Chad Vankoughnett

Get Fired Up! By Chad Vankoughnett

It seems hard these days to find a new home that doesn’t have at least one fireplace in it. Whether it be in the living room or master suite, a fireplace adds functional style and beauty to virtually any room. A fireplace can be the centerpiece of a room’s decor or a subtle accent intended to provide warmth without intruding on the living space. If you are looking to add a fireplace to your home, there are several important things to consider.


The first thing you need to decide is what the main purpose of the fireplace is to be. Are you looking for a decorative touch, or a primary heating source, or a combination of the two? Most fireplaces will provide heat of some kind, but there is a wide range of heating capability, so if you are in the market for something to get that basement warm, it is important to consider just how large an area the fireplace will heat. Alternatively, if you are wanting something primarily decorative, then aesthetics will definitely be on the forefront of your mind. Whether you are looking for something ultra-modern or classically styled, chances are there is already a fireplace out there waiting for you.

The second thing you should determine is what kind of fuel you want your fireplace to run on. There are three primary fuel categories you will need to consider. The first is what I will call wood/combustibles. This category would include pellet stoves, wood burning fireplaces, and other non-gas type real flame fireplaces. These fireplaces require you to feed the flame with combustible material. The advantage of this type of fireplace is primarily aesthetic (unless you live in a cabin in the woods, in which case the plethora of free fuel is also appealing). Nothing beats the sound and smell of pine logs burning in the fireplace. It brings up images of cozy winter nights, hot chocolate, and romantic getaways. Unfortunately it also brings up images of ashes, soot, burn marks on the carpet, cutting and chopping wood, cleaning the ash pan and chimney…you get the idea. Wood fireplaces tend to be much more labour intensive than other types of fireplace.

The second type of fuel is natural gas. Gas fireplaces have become extremely popular in the last several years for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they are an economical way to heat a space. Secondly, they are attractive, coming in a wide variety of styles and designs. Thirdly, they have actual flames and realistic looking logs, mimicking the aesthetic appeal of wood fireplaces without the mess. And finally, they are affordable and can be installed virtually anywhere in the home. A gas fireplace can be turned on and off with a switch, meaning that you don’t need to wait for a log to burn out before leaving the room. They are convenient, safe, and best of all, they look great. They can be placed in walls so that people in two or even three different rooms can enjoy the flames. There are even fireplaces that can be placed in an outside wall so that they can be enjoyed from both the living room and the deck. Gas fireplaces are, in a word, versatile.


The third type of “fuel” is electricity. Electric fireplaces have come a long way in the past several years, and now represent an affordable, attractive alternative to true flame fireplaces. Electric fireplaces generally have heaters that can be turned on to help warm a room. They are easy to install, and can often simply be removed from the box and plugged in for instant fireplace gratification. They can be great for smaller rooms or rooms where venting a gas fireplace would be difficult. While they lack the true flame of a wood or gas fireplace, most modern electrics do a fairly good job of mimicking the appearance of flames, although they will never truly be able to replace them.


Once you have determined the purpose of the fireplace and the type of fireplace you wish to install, you need to figure out which fireplace will look best in the space you are designing. It is a good idea to determine the design theme of the room first, then shop for a fireplace that will complement that theme. There is a vast selection of fireplaces to choose from, and customizing the overall look of your fireplace is fairly easy with your choice of hearth, mantle, and surface treatments such as stone, tile, or wood. It is a good idea to speak with a professional who understands the advantages and disadvantages of each type of fireplace, not to mention the options and styles available. They will be able to direct you to a fireplace that is perfect for your needs.

At J&H Builder’s Warehouse, we sell high quality Montigo and Dimplex gas and electric fireplaces. Our salespeople are experts in their field, and will be able to help you make the best choice for your needs. We will also install any fireplace we sell, so if you are concerned about getting the work done or finding a contractor you can trust, you can rest easy knowing that your renovation is in good hands. Let us help you find that perfect accent to your home today.

– Chad Vankoughnett

Ready Or Not, Here It Comes… (By Chad Vankoughnett)

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The time has come to start getting your home ready for the cold days of winter. As depressing as that seems, there are some relatively easy steps you can take in order to help keep your house warm and your life easier over the months to come. Not only will these ideas keep you relatively sane, they might even save you some money, and who doesn’t like that?

1. Clean your gutters – taking the time to clean your gutters will ensure that melt water will run freely and prevent you from having water back up into your home. It is also essential to make sure that your gutters empty out away from walkways and other high traffic areas. It may not matter much right now, but with the melt/freeze cycles we see in spring you know you will end up with a skating rink instead of a walkway if you don’t redirect your runoff. Believe me, your backside will thank you for your foresight.

2. Check for air incursion into the home – this could happen any number of ways, from a poorly fitting window or door to a crack in the foundation or lack of vapour barrier around outlets. With your lights off during the day, look for light leakage around your doors and windows. Make sure that they fit snugly and that there aren’t any large gaps around the openings when the door or window is closed. In my first home, the front door had a rotten corner (which the previous owner patched over), so when, in the middle of winter, the patch broke I suddenly had a 1” gap on one side of the door. Needless to say it had to be replaced, and replacing a door in the middle of winter isn’t ideal to say the least. Check the condition of all doors and windows, including frames, before the weather turns too nasty. If there is a bit of a gap around the opening, get yourself some weather stripping to help stop the airflow, or if necessary, replace the item outright.



You will also want to take a walk around your home looking for any cracks or holes in the foundation that might need to be patched or filled. Depending on your situation, repairing something like that could be as simple as a bit of spray foam, or it might require expert repair. Regardless, a crack or hole should not go unrepaired.

An easy way to check to see if air is getting into the house, take a piece of tissue paper or a lit candle around to each window, door, and outlet (on exterior walls, obviously) and hold them an inch or so away from whatever it is you are checking. If the flame or paper flutter or move, you may need to do some work there. If you get really ambitious, you might want to take the casing off the wall from around the windows/doors and make sure that the gap between the frame and the wall studs has been properly insulated. It is a good idea to use an expanding spray foam (available in cans for under $10) to fill the gaps instead of simply stuffing batt insulation into the space.

3. Change your furnace filter regularly – the cleaner your filter, the easier it will be for air to flow through it and into your house. It is a good idea to replace your furnace filter on a regular basis, although how often really depends on the filters you buy and the type of heating/cooling system you have. A good rule of thumb is to follow the recommendations of the manufacturer, but if you can’t find them, go with once a month. It will never hurt to change them more often than recommended, but if you wait too long between changes it forces your furnace to work much harder than it should to heat your home, and that can lead to expensive repairs if you aren’t lucky.


4. Get those Christmas lights up early – if you are the type of person who likes to put up lights for the holidays, it is a good idea to do that before the snow flies and your roof becomes a slippery slope of death. People may wonder why you are doing it so early, but they’ll stop wondering when they are struggling with their ladder in 3’ of snow while you are sitting in front of the fireplace drinking hot chocolate.


5. Clean up the yard before the snow flies – if you have kids, this especially applies to you. Nothing is worse than wondering if there is a bike under that pile of snow, or knowing that somewhere out there is a sprinkler or a hose. Not only is this bad for whatever item is missing, it makes snow blowing a risky venture. It will only take a few minutes to clear off the toys, yard implements, sprinklers, hoses, shovels, rakes, etc, leaving you with a clear path and peace of mind.

6. Lastly, it is a good idea to get your winter gear in order before winter truly hits us. Find your shovels and get your snow blower tuned up before the weather turns. Put them at the front of your shed or garage so you can easily get to them when the snow comes. A few minutes of forethought will save you a lot of grief later on.

At J&H, we know what winter is like and what it can do. After all, we live in Saskatchewan…we know that -40 is chilly, and we know that anything less than 30cm of snow is a light dusting and not a blizzard. Still, it’s nice to stay warm and worry free during the winter. We carry everything you need to keep your home warm, your walk cleared, and your peace of mind intact. If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call. We’d love to help you out (in a “sell-you-a-shovel” kind of way, not a “shovel-your-walk” kind of way).

– Chad Vankoughnett