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Renovation tips

6 min read

Adapting & renovating a home for the elderly

By: Karine Dutemple

Renovation tips

6 min read

Adapting & renovating a home for the elderly

By: Karine Dutemple

Renovation tipsInterior renovationsAdapting & renovating a home for the elderly

Home elderly care is becoming a growing concern in our society, while many want to live in the comfort and warmth of a family home. 

In order to provide a safe and accommodating environment, it’s imperative to carry out certain renovations or modifications in the home’s interior. So, how can you adapt your home to the needs of a senior?


Renovating a home to suit the needs of the elderly

elderly home

Source: Canva


A functional entrance without risks

Around the front door, opt for strong lighting that will limit the chances of a fall if a person has a hard time seeing the staircase. If there’s an eyehole, this element should be placed at an accessible height so that there’s no need to stretch to be able to see through it. 

In the case of the hearing impaired, pair the doorbell with a visual ring indicator, offering a level of convenience when expecting guests.


Kitchen safety

If there’s a gas stove in the home, it’s a good idea to consider switching to an electric hob or an induction burner. Indeed, induction plates or electric plates with a control mechanism greatly reduce the risk of burns. If you absolutely must keep your gas stove, make sure to install an automatic cut-off device for the gas. 

On another note, consider that a countertop and cabinets installed at eye level will help to limit exaggerated movements when reaching for kitchen objects as well as the risks involved in dropping them. When storing objects in cabinets, avoid placing heavy objects higher than eye level. Having to lift objects any higher than at arm's length will greatly increase the risk of injury. 

Ideally, care should be given to minimize the number of objects at ground level. In this regard, it should be noted that it may be appropriate to integrate garbage cans and recycle or compost bins inside of a cupboard specially equipped with rails. This can then be concealed under the waste basin following use.


An accessible bathroom

If possible, we’d recommend installing a walk-in shower. The advantage of this shower is it doesn’t require a step-up, reducing the risk of falling. 

Two support bars should be installed inside the shower for convenience. Also, the addition of a non-slip mat is strongly recommended, whether dealing with a bath or shower. A wall seat would also be useful to help in the moments when standing in the shower is simply too large a physical effort.

An elevated toilet is another way to ease the amount of physical effort, the ideal height would be around 50cm. For those who wish to avoid replacing the current toilet, know that it’s possible to opt for a bench-raised toilet. Some models include armrests, allowing anyone who uses it to sit safely. 

Although it’s not well known, the type of faucet simply referred to as the thermostatic mixing valve is particularly useful to avoid the risk of burns. Specifically, it works by adjusting the water temperature with a single control and automatically blocking any temperature over 38 degrees celsius. The water temperature is maintained for the duration the tap is in use. Even if the water supply is briefly cut, it will be restored once the water has been turned on again.

It’s also relevant to know that if cold water is no longer available for any reason, the water will automatically stop flowing to prevent the user of the device from getting burned.


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Remove obstacles from stairs or corridors, such as bulky flower pots or boxes of things. Computer, lamp or television wires should be secured to the floor with adhesive or grouped together in a wire rack (housing or pipe when bundling wires together).

Ideally, staircases should have step nosings, which are baseboards or rubber covers placed on the edge of a step to provide a better grip. Be sure to secure your carpets to the ground to prevent their flaps from causing a fall. 

In corridors, it is recommended to install a few grab bars, the number of which will depend on the length of space to be covered. It is indeed important to limit the length of distance without one in order to avoid too much physical effort. 

Although everyone can appreciate the aesthetic of a standing lamp, these should be avoided. Indeed, they may easily fall or break at the slightest touch. Instead, we’d suggest increasing the strength of the other bulbs or prioritizing the size of the base of standing lamps. Place these lamps on a coffee table so that they’re accessible.

Although wheeled furniture can provide valuable help, as it’s movable, not that there’s risk involved if they’re used as support objects.


Adapt a home for visually impaired seniors

For seniors with visual impairment, some special precautions apply. At first glance, it’s imperative to have good lighting well dispersed throughout the staircase. When several are on at the same time, they should be kept at the same level so the eye doesn’t have to adjust constantly. 

Due to difficulty in quickly identifying where light switches are located, motion detectors are required to provide automatic lighting at the right times. 

As we’ve previously identified the importance of installing stair noses, we should emphasize the fact that it’s advisable to install coloured bands on them in order to create visual cues, as this will help someone with visual impairment. If possible create colour contrast to help identify each object in a room. 


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Financial assistance or subsidies for renovations for seniors and people with reduced mobility

elderly home

Source: Canva


Home care for seniors (Quebec)

There is financial assistance provided by the provincial government to those over 70 years of age. This funding can be used toward home support expenses. In addition to nursing services, day-to-day activities and domestic chores, the expenditure eligible for this tax credit also includes minor work services outside the home. This can include telemonitoring and GPS tracking.  The maximum annual amount for this funding is $19,500 and $25,000 for a senior who’s lost his or her independence, or 35% of eligible expenses. 

However, do note that this credit is reduced according to the annual income of the senior and his or her spouse if it exceeds $56,935 (except if the senior is no longer independent).

For financial subsidies or tax credits in other Canadian provinces, please check with your local government in order to stay on top of what is currently on offer. 


Tax credit for the purchase or lease of property to extend the independence of the elderly

This credit is for those 70 years of age or older and is a refundable tax credit equal to 20% of expenses in excess of $500. The tax credit relates to the acquisition, rental and installation of property in his place of residence. 

For example, this may involve the purchase of a rail device that assists in getting up and down the stairs, the installation of a bath or shower, the purchase of a hospital bed, a system facilitating the use of a bowl, a remote monitoring device or GPS tracking. 

It’s important to mention that the fees involved must not be refundable (unless the refund is taxable) and must not give rise to any other tax credit or deduction. 


Home accessibility tax credit

Financial assistance from the federal government is available to fund some renovations or upgrades in order to make housing more accessible to those 65 and older. The home accessibility tax credit (non-refundable) is equivalent to 15% of the amount spent, though the amount cannot exceed $1500.

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Last modified 2023-08-01

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5 min read 30 Aug 2023

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Why choose timber formwork at the height of steel formwork? Simply because timber has three undeniable advantages: it’s cheap, effective, and safe. If you’re not all too familiar with timber formwork, here’s everything you need to know about this material that guarantees well-built and durable structures. What’s timber beam formwork? Source: Canva Formwork is a structure used to support and shape freshly poured concrete. Its primary purpose is to ensure the weight of the concrete is evenly distributed through the formwork’s grid pattern to the foundation. What can you make with timber formwork? With timber formwork, you can make: Concrete beams Slabs Foundations What’s formwork made of? Depending on the work being done, timber formwork can be made of: Raw lumber boards Plywood Stringers Timber beams Strapping Rafters Structural bracing All these wooden components can be reused multiple times, and have the advantage of being built directly on-site. Formwork Characteristics Timber formwork has the following characteristics: Designed for disassembly Can be reused (5 to 10 times) Waterproof Durable Stable The formwork components are typically connected to one another with nails, which prevents the concrete from vibrating from the outside from the structure’s lack of stability. However, hybrid–timber (wood and steel) constructions can also be built. Are you looking for general contractors for your renovation project? Fill in our form to be connected with top-rated contractors! Techniques Used to Build Timber Formwork Source: Canva The timber formwork building method hinges on three factors: Under-construction unit’s framework Structure’s location Materials and tools available Regardless of the circumstances, the formwork must be durable and watertight. There are three steps to building a timber formwork atop a standard structure (slab, foundation, wall, etc.). See below. Step 1. Choose boards As you’ll come to know later on regarding the current timber formwork standards, the boards used must be at least 1.5 inches (38 mm) thick. This factor ensures the formwork boards are sturdy while preventing warping (or deformation). Lengthwise, the boards used can measure up to 5 m (16 ft). Using plywood may be a better option compared to lumber since its greater dimensions and smooth surface limit the amount of finishing work required. Furthermore, plywood is strong enough to withstand the weight of concrete. Step 2. Outline area Before installing the boards, outline the perimeter of the to-be-built formwork with a string. Nail or screw the formwork boards together. For projects with a relatively low amount of pressure (concrete slab, for example), the boards can be reinforced with pegs at regular intervals. However, for more ambitious projects, like building walls, for example, adding structural bracing is a must. This will prevent the structure from warping or collapsing. Step 3. Prep for strike-off This might seem hasty, but you should prepare to strip the formwork prior to pouring the concrete. How so? Apply a release oil on the interior surfaces of your formwork. Now the structure is concrete-ready! For more technical concrete formwork, like those needed to build staircases or beams, it’s best to use precast concrete forms or permanent shuttering. The latter is also precast with concrete. Which wood species should you use for timber formwork? Source: Canva In Quebec, the three most used wood species to build formwork are: Norway spruce Fir Douglas fir They’re favoured by construction industry professionals because they’re cost-effective and have the following characteristics: Adequate load-bearing capacity Durability Decent mechanical and physical properties These factors make timber formwork a material that has the capacity to withstand tractive, compressive, and bending forces. It renders the worksite safe for labourers, preventing the formwork from collapsing from the weight of the concrete. How thick should formwork boards be? Source: Canva The thickness of the formwork boards depends on the structural analysis that was carried out for the construction project. This means that the required board thickness is entirely dependent on the lumber's concrete load-bearing capacity. However, to make it easier during the course of a standard project (house foundation, slab, etc.), you can follow the guidelines issued by the Government of Quebec, with specific regulations for: Lumber Plywood Nails Lumber Thickness Formwork lumber must be: at least 1.5 inches (38 mm) thick; S4S (faces were surfaced and edges ripped); dry or green dimensional lumber and; green for structural bracing. The National Lumber Grades Authority (NLGA) controls lumber standards. Whatever the species may be, all lumber is evaluated based on the same criteria and given a grade stamp. What matters is that the stamp corresponds to the specific characteristics indicated on the formwork blueprint. Stamps indicate: Grading agency Wood species Grade Dry or green lumber In cases where the chosen lumber has already been used, examine it to make sure it isn’t: Rotten Insect-infested Damaged by chemical products If you detect any of the above-mentioned, don’t build formwork with the affected lumber prior to it being inspected by a member of the NLGA or an NLGA-affiliated grading agency. Plywood Thickness It must comply with CSA 0121-M1978, which mandates: at least 7 plies; 0.66 inches (17 mm) in thickness and; issued from Douglas firs. What type of nails should you use? Believe it or not, nails also have their specifications since they must withstand crosswise strain. Their characteristics largely depend on: Surface Diameter Penetration depth Wood density or moisture For maximum hold, a nail has to be hammered into a dry and hard surface rather than a green and softwood board. Also, it must be hammered in at least halfway. All nail-related characteristics are detailed in Table 45 of the CSA standard CAN3-086-M84. How to Build Circular Formwork Source: Canva Typically, the timber boards used for circular formwork have to be bent. In all sincerity, flexible plywood can’t be used as is. Why, you ask? Because this specific type of plywood only has three plies, instead of the 7 required by the current standards established for formwork. The simplest solution is to go through a carpenter who can build the formwork with the required thickness in whatever shape you want. However, there’s another, easier way to proceed than with bent wood. This method consists of building traditional formwork, but the inside facing surfaces have the desired curvature made possible using polystyrene. Therefore, the concrete poured into the formwork will take on the desired shape. You can even build an arched-shaped formwork using this technique.

8 min read 30 Aug 2023

Cellular Concrete: An Innovative, Durable, and Multi-Use Material

Cellular concrete was invented in Germany during the latter part of the 19th century. Albeit it isn’t ground-breaking technology, it’s still considered innovative as it has contributed to building extremely energy-efficient, modern-day single-detached homes. Come along as we delve further into detail regarding this material, with concrete-like qualities, that’s striving to find common ground on Quebec-based worksites. What is cellular concrete? Source: Canva Cellular concrete, which is also branded as aerated concrete, lightweight concrete, or foam concrete, is a type of concrete that isn’t formulated with aggregates but to which millions of air voids are added. Once hardened, the mixture takes on the shape of closed microcells to prevent capillary rises. Cellular concrete boasts numerous advantages, giving rise to its appeal, not only in terms of residential construction but also in jumpstarting large-scale projects. It’s suitable for both interior and exterior use to build walls, partitions, ceilings, low retaining walls, lintels, beams, etc. How is cellular concrete formulated? Cellular concrete is a meticulously formulated material that includes closed concrete microcells, set apart by thin walls preventing capillary rises. While the amount of each ingredient may vary, the composition remains the same. Sand (44-65%), lime (10-15%), and cement (3-20%) are mixed with water (41%) to make a paste that will expand as a result of the added aluminum paste or powder (0.6%). The voids created as a result of trapped air—hence the term cellular—significantly heighten the volume. After moulding and heating the paste at 180°C, it solidifies into blocks. These blocks consist of 80% trapped inert air, with the remaining 20% comprising solid matter. Who would’ve guessed that we’d be building structures made up of 80% air voids? Soundproofing Properties Cellular concrete is valued for the soundproofing properties in its making. Therefore, it can be used as an insulating base layer beneath a structural slab, relacing expanded polystyrene panels. Phonic insulation increases based on the mass. While using thinner cellular concrete blocks isn’t optimal, soundproofing insulation can be easily incorporated. How thick is cellular concrete? Cellular concrete comes in block, tile, or panel form, with widths ranging from 5 to 30 mm. However, what’s more surprising is its weight. The density of cellular concrete oscillates between 1,100 and 2,000 kg/m3 (that of standard concrete is roughly 2,300 kg/m3). For comparison’s sake, it’s four times lighter than water. If you were to throw a cellular concrete block into water…it would float! Manufacturing Process of Cellular Concrete Making cellular concrete is done according to the following four steps: Prepping, dosing, and mixing the previously mentioned materials. Preparing the moulds, then pouring the paste, letting it expand and harden. Cutting it with a steel wire Curing it, so inserting the material in an autoclave for 10 to 12 hours, at a temperature of 180 degrees Celcius. Are you looking for general contractors for your renovation project? Fill in our form to be connected with top-rated contractors! What are the pros and cons of cellular concrete? Cellular concrete has amazing characteristics, making it an exceptional material. PROS Source: Canva Excellent thermal insulator Cellular concrete, with its million little stable air voids, has impressive insulating capabilities. With it, indoor temperatures can be controlled for higher comfort levels and definite air conditioning and heating savings are achieved. From a global warming perspective, it will be especially efficient during summertime, mitigating sudden spikes in temperature. A wall made with 20 cm-thick cellular concrete blocks, with a 10 cm insulator, has a higher thermal performance than an equally thick, standard-issued masonry wall. While compelling, even this thermal efficiency isn’t enough when confronted with the very cold temperatures that Nordic countries experience. Lightweight Cellular concrete is surprisingly lightweight and weighs twice as less as other, similar materials, which reduces transportation costs and the duration of installation. Quick assembly Since it’s lightweight, it’s easy to work, cut, and assemble. According to experts, this would mean that it requires 30% less time to build a structure (compared to traditional masonry constructions). Cost-effective As above-mentioned, using cellular concrete means reducing construction costs. Reduces carbon footprint Cellular concrete is mainly composed of natural and recyclable materials, which makes it an overall eco-friendly product. Overall, the manufacturing process of cellular concrete solely requires small amounts of natural resources and fossil fuels, meaning it’s non-pollutant. And, 90% of the amount of residual waste can be reused. In a nutshell, its production requires little energy and the water can be reused. Durable Unlike other materials with limited service lives, cellular concrete is as durable as a rock; it doesn’t deteriorate over time. Great soundproofing Sound bounces off cellular concrete, and reverts back to where it originates. A small part of the sound will also be absorbed by the concrete, which means that, overall, noise pollution inside is kept to a minimum. Versatile Cellular concrete is easy to make and is retailed in various forms. Beyond blocks and panels, you can obtain custom-made shapes (arches, pyramids, angles, etc.). This makes unique constructions a possibility. Fireproof Cellular concrete is both non-flammable and non-combustible, which makes building fireproof structures possible. On the flammability rating scale, it’s A1-classified with a 1,200°C melting point. If exposed to intense heat, the material won’t explode or crack. Due to its low thermal conductivity, it’s not only ideal for building single-detached homes, but also for industrial, agricultural, and administrative buildings. Waterproof Since cellular concrete slows down water absorption, it can also regulate moisture levels inside the dwelling for greater comfort. Additionally, it limits thermal bridges since it doesn’t have any openings susceptible to air seepage. This contributes to better thermal insulation and also reduces energy costs. Rot-resistant Cellular concrete is a porous material, but unlike other materials, it’s airtight and doesn’t allow water vapour to seep through buildings. This minimizes the risks of being faced with a mould or fungi problem. Withstands compressive forces and reduces dead weight The more dense the material, the more resistant it’ll be. By using a material that’s as lightweight as cellular concrete to build the load-bearing structure of a building, the building’s height can be increased as well as the number of storeys. Buildings can also be built on smaller footings, with fewer pilings or smaller pile caps, requiring fewer rebar. This translates into lower construction costs and more space. Self-levelling Cellular concrete is lightweight and naturally self-levelling or self-consolidating. It can fill in even the smallest of cavities. CONS Source: Canva Fragile Cellular concrete is nonetheless fragile and, unfortunately crumbly, which makes its installation process delicate. To prevent degradation, material-specific anchors or sealant must be used. Cellular concrete is also more likely to crack than other materials. A health hazard? The dust created when cutting cellular concrete contains health-hazardous particles. It’s thus recommended to wear a mask to shield yourself. Furthermore, while the related studies are contradictory, cellular concrete may cause cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. Eco-friendly, but… Its production requires the use of non-renewable raw materials and its manufacturing process generates CO2 emissions. Limited coating options Cellular concrete can only be coated with a limited amount of products and material-specific paint. What type of exterior plaster can be used? To safeguard cellular concrete, since it’s a crumbly material that’s likely to crack, it does require a coat of exterior plaster (a plaster compound for rough surfaces like cellular concrete). Once topped in a plaster compound, cellular concrete can be coated with paint, tiles, etc. The surface must be completely dry prior to applying the paint to prevent any surface adherence issues or cracking. Opt for a moisture-resistant and weatherproof paint. How to Cut Cellular Concrete Blocks Source: Canva Given its composition, cellular concrete is easy to cut and doesn’t require any particular tools. A hand saw will work just fine, but remember to wear a mask to protect yourself from health-hazardous dust. Tools to Use Tungsten carbide-tipped hand saws can cut 7 to 15 cm thick tiles, or 20 to 50 cm thick blocks. An alligator saw—a handheld electric saw with a carbide blade—can cut tiles and blocks. A grinder with a 230 diamond blade can cut through, at most, 9 cm thick tiles. How should you go about it? To mark cellular concrete with a cut guideline Lay flat the block or tile. Measure the required length and mark the cellular concrete with a guideline. Extend the guideline over the entire surface of the tile or block using a large carpenter square. To position the material to cut on a support Position the support and item to be cut in alignment with where the intended cut will be. To cut Pile blocks or tiles atop each other to create a makeshift support. Place the item to be cut cantilever-like on the support, based on where the intended cut will be made. Start cutting at the opposite end, meaning the back side of the cellular concrete item. Using a saw, angle the blade downward 45 degrees, then cut through to the underside. Then, reduce the angle so that your cut is shallower yet longer, creating a raised guideline over the original marking. Once the tip of the saw reaches the front edge of the item, angle your blade downward 45 degrees to finish the cut. Can you build a house with this type of concrete in Canada? Source: Canva Cellular concrete is increasingly sought-after worldwide. However, the National Building Code of Canada renders its use a little more complex. It’s best to inquire prior to using it as intended. Right now, cellular concrete has a relatively low MPa compressive strength rendering it non-compliant with the minimum standards required for standard concrete in all things foundation, ground-level slabs, and structural elements with rebar. Also, note that an 8-inch thick (20 cm) cellular concrete wall isn’t especially energy-efficient in Canada since it only allows for an R-8 insulation value, while the minimum requirement is R-24. Despite that, cellular concrete can make some genuinely beautiful structures, here and elsewhere. You just have to figure out which ones.

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