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Renovation & Design

MIKE HOLMES: Wrong remodelling invites a load of trouble

Postmedia/It is crucial point loads are properly supported when moving doors or adding windows.

Most people would agree that open space and natural light are good things to have in a home. They are also two of the top requests I hear when it comes to home renovations. But projects to bring both of these into your home can cause a lot of problems if they aren't planned and done right.

Knocking down interior walls and cutting into exterior walls to add more windows or make doors wider are not easy jobs, but they sure look easy on TV, don't they? That's part of the problem.

People get these great ideas for their homes after watching a design show. They're inspired, excited, can't wait to have it. Then they hire someone to do it. Before they know it, they have an unstable house, no money and no options. I've seen it happen a thousand times.

Don't fall into this trap. Learn what it takes to do it right.

For example, you need a permit to move windows and doors or to make them bigger. Not many people know it, but any time you change structure you need a permit. If you're cutting new openings for windows and doors, guess what? You're changing structure.

Moving, adding or changing windows and doors are becoming popular projects. For instance, now that baby boomers are getting older, doorways will need to get wider so wheelchairs can get through. And moving windows or making them wider increase natural light coming into your home. Plus, if the windows are of good quality, installed and insulated properly, it can also reduce your energy bill.

But, like I said, these aren't easy jobs. You can't just move a door. You have to think about the structure -- above and below it.

Each side of a door carries a point load, which is weight focused at a specific point in a structure. So when you move a door, you move the point loads.

It is crucial both point loads are properly supported. To do that you need to bring in a pro who can look at what's holding up either side of the door. They should be able to tell what needs to be done so the door can be moved without compromising structure.

What you want is for the weight to be properly transferred to the foundation. But if moving the door moves one of the point loads over an area that can't support the weight of the point load, you're in trouble.

Recently, I was working on a house that was of brick and block construction. It had two sets of doors -- one on the first floor and one on the second floor. They were stacked one on top of the other, so both sides of the doors lined up with each other. That meant the door headers were supported by block.

The homeowners were renovating the second floor and part of the renovation was moving the doors on the second floor. They hired a contractor who did it wrong. They moved the door not thinking about structure. Now only one of the point loads was supported by block; the other one was supported by the glass of the door below. Can you imagine all that weight held up by just glass? Talk about showing the cracks of poor construction.

When you bring in someone who doesn't know what they're doing, all they do is contaminate your home and screw things up. Knocking down one wall the wrong way -- not to mention the wrong wall -- can open up a can of worms.

The way the laws are set up, it would take years and boatloads of cash to go after poor contractors and tradespeople.

Save yourself the time, trouble and money. Do your homework -- even if it takes months -- to make sure you hire the right pros. No exceptions, no excuses.

-- Postmedia News

Catch Mike Holmes in his new series, Holmes Makes It Right, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV.

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