A guide for homeowners doing renovations.

Specifically - Hiring Contractors, How to Save Money and Disaster Prevention.


Literally whoever you hire, should have these basic requirements.  I mean, it's no wonder sometimes people get burned because this sort of criteria or lack thereof is a flag and, no offense, but if you did your homework, your chances of having a blown up project starts to go down.

"The Basics" Criteria

  • Insured
  • Bonded (Only commercial or bigger jobs like general contracting a home)
  • Writes a clear contract
  • Writes a clear pricing agreement
  • Asks for a reasonable deposit
  • Has a verifiable licence.  Red-Seal.  Don't over weigh experience, diversity counts for a lot.
  • Safety Record
Now there's a whole customer service basket you should look for too, but you only learn that after meeting with them.

Why isn't WorkSafe Coverage included in the basics?  Well it is but it matters more that they safe and the coverage clearance letter should be checked before the job starts.  This is a thing that depends a lot on the scale of the job and some trades - especially sub trades might not have WorkSafe because the general has agreed to pay for it.

"Extras" Criteria you should use to make your hiring decision

  • Check reviews.  The problem with this is that someone can have their friends and family all give them 5 star reviews.  Also, quite often the reviews won't be consolidated on one platform or they are repeated over several platforms.  Some reviewers are more harsh than others.
  • Check Relevant Experience.  There are major pitfalls with experience checks.  I'll list them in another article.  The point is, you need to make sure they are diverse, knowledge and experts.  Having done one kind of job doesn't mean they can't do another kind and vice versa.
  • Cost - but more importantly trust.  Don't get smart quoted.
  • Quality, 
  • Value,
  • Availability, 
  • Project Duration/Scheduling

Basically, make sure they have the basics, and check the big picture on the extras.  If they don't have the basics, that's a red flag!

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Note there are constantly new caulking products that mix recipes or overlap usages.  Their drying times, health hazard/risk, traits and usage significantly change by caulking type.

Silicone, Acrylic, Butyl, Polyurethane & 2-Part Epoxy are all kinds I'm familiar with.

This article is about Silicone & Acrylic caulking (see below).

To decide which you need to use, there is one critical piece of information you need to understand: usage.

Caulking purposes in residential:

  • Waterproofing, (Most Common)
  • Gap filling (Most Common)
  • Vapor Sealing
  • Soundproofing (not going to cover that in this article)
  • Fire Rating (not going to cover that in this article)


  • Are used primarily in "finishing" environments,
  • Are "waterproof" but not recommended for the primary waterproofing,
  • Are paintable (hence "finishing") but comes in a variety of colors,
  • Great at Gap Filling,
  • Easy to clean up with water,
  • Comes in a variety of colors.


  • Is typically NOT paint-able BUT you can buy expensive ones that are,
  • Typically Clear, Translucent or Transparent but you can get them is different colors as well,
  • Is sometimes great as an adhesive for things like back splashes, counter top anchoring, mirror anchoring, and other smooth surface to smooth surface "blob" gluing,
  • Highly flexible, 
  • Resistant to shrink/expansion,
  • Doesn't want to dry out or crack.
  • Smells powerful and is hard to clean up.
  • Used as the primary waterproofing caulking.
  • Resistant to mold.
  • Reacts with neoprene washers (turns yellowish).
  • Can get Fire Rated Silicone based caulking.

Here are some quick test questions to help you understand the differences.


1. Question:  What kind of caulking would I use around a tub surround?

Answer:  100% Silicone

2. Question:  What kind of caulking would I use with a window installation?

Answer:  Behind flanges for example, use silicone.  Behind any trim use either silicone or acrylic.  Visible sections around trim or flashings, use acrylic.

3.  Question:  What kind of caulking should I use around a sink?

Answer: Use Silicone.

4. Question:  What kind of caulking would I use on a metal roof?

Answer:  Drying times, UV(Ultra-Violet) ratings & specific usages make a difference here.  Typically Silicone is handy, especially with flashings however,  a Butyl caulkings is sometimes better.  For shingles, a Polyurethane caulking is more preferred.  However, there are cases where either can be used however, pay attention to UV rated products, drying times and what you're adhering to.  Epoxy caulkings are also an option however, they are way more toxic, cost more and are good for mortar/concrete solutions.  

A lot of the time you just need to know about Silicone and Acrylic because it's the most common for homeowners.  

You can read the backs of the tubes for the more specialized, usage specific types.

Don't use acoustical sealant (because it's black and water resistant) on a roof!  That's for sound & vapor barrier penetrations!

Please "like" this if you found it was helpful and leave a comment if you have any questions.





It really drives me crazy sometimes when I hear "professionals" treat quotes like estimates or vice-versa; so much so, I decided to write about it.

What is a QUOTE?

A quote is a "fixed" price contract.  This essentially means, you can write me a check for the amount of my quote before I start the job.  Once the job is completed, you could give me the check without having to re-write it.

If I give you a quote, I take ALL the risk if something goes wrong during the scope of work as stated in the quote.  Sometimes, there may be clauses to mitigate certain risks.  For instance, I might put things in the quote like "not liable for damage to sprinkler heads".  Quotes can be high risk for certain kinds of jobs.

So what's an ESTIMATE?

An estimate is a flexible price.  It's purely a guess at the costs a project entails and ultimately you could pay more or less than an estimate when the job is completed.  One major thing to note, there's absolutely nothing to fall back on to determine what's actually going to be charged.  Some might say "customer service" is the only thing that you as a client has as leverage.  Quite often estimates create conflict between contractors and homeowners who use the terms quotes and estimates interchangeably.

In Summary:

Complicated, unpredictable jobs should never use estimates or quotes for the contract. (There are other more appropriate contracts out there).

Jobs like a framing a deck or doing a foundation are jobs that can be quoted as there are specs/drawings that show all the necessary information.

Estimates should never be used for "the contract" but instead for determining a "budget" where your actual contract should be "time & materials" or a "mark up".





These are all very important, and whether you like it or not, you're paying for these things in some way. 

TIP #7 - Give your contractor ample notice and freedom of schedule.  

You catch more bees with honey so they say...
"Be Nice".

The more available the project is as filler, the more likelihood overtime will not need to be paid AND the more the schedule can be more easily filled up to keep crews busy(sometimes an added perk).  At the same time, you need to COMMIT to the job way ahead of time.  Jobs that come up in peek demand get quoted high if the schedule is too full.

TIP #6 - Don't offer or say you're going to do some of the work yourself.  

Contractors don't want to work with DIYers.  If a DIYer wants to even paint or do demo themselves, that means I need to pad MORE for delays in scheduling, excessive demo work.  I might have higher standards than you and I have to put my name on it.  How can I warranty your work?  Also, in some cases, I need to start dissecting things more thoroughly since some jobs have the profit divide up to sub-scopes and if you're doing part of the work, well now I need to know how much that in theory should take off.  This is a whole lot of work, especially if we are trying to make changes with square footage rates.

TIP #5 - Don't pick your contractors sub-trades for them. 

Quite often I'll have regretted not spending the extra time vetting a client's own "go-to" and in hindsight, a lesson learned is I should add minimal padding if they request to use someone I'm unfamiliar with for warranty, liability, & double/triple checks for QC.

TIP #4 - I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Get drawings.  

I do cheap, to scale drawings if not for the permit, for communication purposes and also as a record to sign off on so that we are in agreement on spec.  This is guaranteed to save you and your contractor money from better communication and organization.  This increases my margins without charging you extra.

TIP #3 - It's ok to change your mind.  

The thing is, some jobs it's expected and some it isn't.  Make sure your contract reflects the kind of job that is being done.  Bathrooms, Kitchens & Additions all are prone to mind changing and the contract should clearly and easily reflect that.  Don't get "Smart Quoted."

TIP #2 - If you've chosen to get your blueprints drawn up without consulting your contractor, make sure your contractor likes them.

There's sometimes cases where I've saved my client lots of money because we deviated from the plans to the way I know how to build better.  Not only that, sometimes, people are accustomed to the hard way or old way.

TIP #1 - Be nice to your contractor.  

It's way more likely your contractor will go above and beyond if you've treated them well.  There's been a lot of cases where I could have and should have charged as per our agreement but I gave them a deal!

BONUS: If your contractor is given you a price...don't do these

  • Use prices from other contractors as leverage saying "he'll do it for less"  - this annihilates #1 advantage.
  • Say right off the bat, you're getting other quotes. - This turns the opportunity into a "smart-quote" environment.  This is really bad for your budget!!
  • Ask for line item break downs.  This smells of "price-checker" free consulting.
Any of the above and you become hard to bargain with and ultimately I need to charge more for spending more non-billable time on paperwork and math than I should.  Or I think there's no money to be made here and I quote high for safety and move on.



OK.  This is important.  So the moisture is the problem but what's causing the moisture?

***Flowchart - Coming Soon***

Before I really get into the troubleshooting, you're going to need to know a few things.

We are trying to find a dew point.  It's the point at which the hot air meets the cold air with the humidity typically higher for some reason. (ie: bathroom showers, kettle boiling, fish tanks etc.)

Here's the process of troubleshooting:

STEP 1. Checking for Window Argon Seal

Check for condensation or frost in between the panes If there is condensation on the inside, then the argon fill seal is broken and your window might be covered under warranty.  To my experience the Argon seal breaking has a warranty of 2-5 years.

Keeping your bathroom fans' vents
clean goes a long way!

STEP 2. Check wall insulation/penetrations for air leakage via conduction through the wall or through a breach in the vapour barrier

If there isn't any, then check by feel(or use a surface heat thermometer $30) to see if the wall under the window is cold (properly insulated) look for areas near plugs for cold air in the winter, hot in the summer.  You might have a floor register that is mixing with outside air and creating that dew point OR it might not be causing enough air flow in your home(see #3).  Typically, if it's JUST the floor register and your walls are well insulated, the condensation in the wintertime is from the Argon seal breaking.

STEP 3. Checking air flow - lack thereof

If none of those cases are present then more than likely you have a humidity problem and poor air flow.  Also as mentioned, that can be caused by blinds, curtains and an unintentional "passive solar/heating effect." I suspect your humidity is too high given your airflow.  You may need a dehumidifier.  Check your bathroom fans too...Have some fish tanks?

STEP 4.  Checking temperature consistency in each room. (To figure out if it's one window vs all windows or one room vs all rooms)

Try opening all your vents for a while, enough that your furnace is working to heat each room consistently, grab a $30 surface temperature gun or digital thermostat and check to see if your rooms of a single story are all the same temperature, then check the room with the window.  (might as well point the surface detector at the wall and check a reading for #2 relative to other walls.)

If it's all windows or all rooms, you have a furnace/heating/air circulation problem. Call the HVAC guy.  If it's just one window or room and you're sure it's not #4, then it's #5 below.

STEP 5. Unlikely but poor window installation - specifically between the rough opening (R.O.) and the window.

In some cases, the perimeter of a window installation can be prone to being poorly insulated: either lack of acoustical sealant on the V.B., or no insulation between the window and the rough opening.  Pop the casings off and check, maybe spray some low expansion spray foam in any gaps.  Use silicone caulking around the perimeter if you can't spray foam.

STEP 6.  If you haven't solved your problem, I'd like to know! 

Email me your situation and I'd be happy to learn with you.

PLEASE, DON'T REMOVE SIDING - You don't need to unless you're getting damage from water and the above situation is dew point related - not water shedding related.


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