Category Archives for Useful for Homeowners

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Different Types of Contractors – What’s the Difference?

Tradesman, skilled labourer, builder, general contractor, commercial contractor, craftsman, handyman, what’s the difference between all these types of contractors? It’s valuable to know, so you can make the best choice, when selecting a company to work in and on your home.

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There are two main categories of contractors:  Commercial and Residential. 

A commercial contractor usually takes on medium or large commercial projects and they are chosen through a tender and bidding process which is overseen by governing bodies. Price is generally the main factor that decides which company is hired to complete the project. It is also slightly political and business relationships are very important between contracting companies and development businesses who oversee hundreds or thousands of projects.  Most commercial contractors are incorporated and hire labour that is unionized. The nature of union work is that workers must qualify through achieving different certifications and once they are hired, their hourly wage is dependent on seniority and experience level. They do exactly what they are asked to do and no more. They clock in and clock out and they are fairly reliable, however don’t care much about the quality of their work, as long as it meets minimum standards.

Residential contractors come in all shapes and sizes, and pricing is not always the best way to determine who does the best work.  Many homeowners want to pay the cheapest amount possible with their after-tax dollars, but they have trouble determining the best company to hire.

  • Tradesman have gone through an apprenticeship program with a certain number of hours to complete. These are businesses that specialize in a specific trade: eg. electrician, HVAC, plumber, plasterer, drywaller, concrete rebar setter, tile setter;
  • Skilled labourers don’t generally run their own business, but they are hired by companies for their basic skill set;
  • Builders are companies that organize new-build projects for homeowners and small business. They must hold a builder’s license from Tarion;
  • A general contractor is not a builder. They do all the same things as a builder, but only for accessory structures like additions, garages or cabanas: not new-build homes. Generally they are the ones who will oversee a renovation project. They have their own skilled labourer employees, and long-term trusting relationships with subcontracted tradesmen. As with any small business, there are differing standards of customer service provided: some are excellent communicators and organized with documents and invoicing, and others are not as organized. You get a good feel for their standards when you first meet them in person for your initial interview;
  • A handyman generally takes on small jobs that a general contractor won’t do. Their skill level is usually low and their costs reflect that skill level.  There are some highly competent handymen and their reputation is what keeps them busy. A handyman who has lots of availability is probably not the one you want to hire;
  • A craftsman is a skilled tradesman who has achieved mastery in their chosen field, such as carpentry, plaster work, tile setting, or artisan painters.

If you hire a handyman or general contractor who is not a skilled framer/drywaller or plasterer himself, then he should subcontract that work out to an expert. Any contractor who lacks knowledge because they have not been properly trained does not know the difference between low quality and high quality work.

Some of the results you will see that result from low quality work:

  • Walls that are not plumb (straight on the vertical plane);
  • Walls that are not level (straight on the horizontal plane);
  • Inconsistent finishes that include plaster and paint will be easily noticed;
  • Low quality framing often causes undulations in the walls from crowns and bows;
  • Improperly filled joints cause visible joints on both trim and drywall: joints should be seamless.
healthy family home

Does Your Ceiling Contain Asbestos?

Dealing with Asbestos Properly

It is a little-known fact that the material used by builders to produce the stippled look for ceilings sometimes contains asbestos, a very hazardous material with serious potential health consequences.

Asbestos is most hazardous when it is friable: meaning it is actively releasing its fibers into the air. Sprayed-on asbestos insulation and ceiling stipple are highly friable, but asbestos floor tile is not. Damage and deterioration will increase the friability of asbestos-containing materials. Water damage, continual vibration, aging, and physical impact such as drilling, grinding, buffing, cutting, sawing, or striking can break the materials down, making fiber release more likely.

Because it is so hard to destroy asbestos fibers, the body cannot break them down or remove them once they are lodged in lung or body tissues. The fibers remain in place where they can cause disease (Asbestosis, Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma are the diseases mostly commonly associated with exposure to Asbestos fibers).

At Fine Finish Wall Systems, we care about health and safety. We think it’s important that homeowners know about the health risks of the materials used to build their home. Because of demand, we now offer Asbestos testing for your ceiling, through an accredited laboratory that will tell you if your stippled ceilings contain asbestos. Results can be collected in as little as 24 hours.

If we discover asbestos in your ceiling then we will not sand it down, due to the health risk. Instead we will seal the ceiling and apply a level 5 plaster system directly over it. This is an advanced technique.


Asbestos Lab Testing Cost: This includes collection of sample, delivery to lab, emailed report.
5-day turnaround $250
24-hour turnaround $450

Woodpecker in stucco

Dealing with Nesting Birds in your Exterior Wall System

Woodpeckers will create holes in your wall system to look for food.

Woodpeckers are always looking for food, and they will peck a hole in your exterior stucco in the springtime. When they realize there are no worms or ants inside your wall, they will move on to another spot.

Small birds such as sparrows or swallows will spot the hole and go into the hole and pick the foam out, to build a nest inside the wall cavity. This hole will cause damage to  your entire elevation if not repaired.  This occurs due to water infiltration at the breach, saturating the foam. Come winter the water-logged system expands as it freezes and pushes the coatings away from the foam. This causes giant blisters and in some cases entire elevations to fail. If left unchecked these little holes can lead to major problems from substrate rot to interior water damage and mold.

There are 2 ways to fix holes in your stucco: 

The cheap fix  is to pump polyurethane into the hole, grind it back, add a mesh, base coat and finish coat. This patch will become thicker than the wall itself because it’s layers do not integrate with the underlying system. The result is a “bull’s eye” bulge, which will only last for 1 or 2 years, and you’ll be at risk for patch failure and further surface and potential structural damage.

The correct fix will cost anywhere from $250-$450 per hole, which is much cheaper than fixing an entire elevation (the eventual result of not doing anything or performing cheap fixes). We cut a 1’x1′ square and replace with new foam, a new moisture barrier if necessary, and then grind the finish coat back on existing wall about 3 inch apply a 5oz mesh, scratch coat and finally a finish coat. In the event the wall has been imprinted with carbon (pollution) or has been bleached by the sun, we guarantee a minimum 90% colour match or better. with the proper procedures followed.

Done properly the result  will be a seamless patch that will last the life of your wall system.