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Make Your Home Elder Friendly

The following smart and easy ideas are useful to make your home more comfortable and safe for your golden years, and are also great remodels for current homeowners who have seniors/elders living at home:-


Be easy to find – A home address sign should be erected at the front of the house which is visible both day and night in order to make it easy for emergency services to find the home.


Light things up – As we age our eyesight tends to deteriorate, which means that a home with dark shadows and gloomy hallways can become a safety hazard. Low voltage night lights can be erected to illuminate dark hallways, such as from the bedroom to the bathroom.  One can consider motion-activated nightlights that turn on when someone moves.


Getting a Grip – Railings and grab bars along stairs and in bathrooms can make a great difference in the mobility of the elderly.  There are many different types of grab bars, including some high-end products that don’t necessarily look like grab bars.


Keep steps at a minimum – Steps can be a huge obstacle for senior citizens, and a very dangerous one at that. With the brittle bones and stiff joints that come with aging you would best use as little stairs as possible in your home. Where ever you can try adding rams which are less strenuous and is better suitable for those with wheelchairs, crutches, etc. If stairs absolutely cannot be avoided refrain from making them too high, and too far apart.


Make things hand-friendly – Hands that have lost their strength because of arthritis and other health issues may not be able to easily turn doorknobs, faucet and shower handle knobs. Depending on the space around the faucet, knobs can be easily replaced with levers.


Getting Around – For someone who will have to move around in a wheelchair or scooter, life around their house can get difficult. Wheelchair access and proper door passage through the home is essential.  While getting around, carpets and tiles which are placed improperly or unevenly, as well as slippery floor materials are a hazard for the elderly.  Making sure that flooring is slip and trip resistant is important for seniors since falls can be greatly debilitating for them


We would love to know, which one of these tips is the easiest to implement at your house?

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Drainage Matters

Post Tropical Storm Erika, one of the serious issues that our engineers have identified as a contributor to flooding and failed infrastructure, such as walls, is poor or no drainage.

Drainage is the natural or artificial removal of surface and sub-surface water from an area. Many agricultural soils need drainage to improve production or to manage water supplies.

Drainage and public health


In areas where drainage and sanitation are poor, water runs over the ground during rainstorms, picks up faeces and contaminates water sources. This contributes significantly to the spread of diseases such as typhoid and cholera, and may increase the likelihood of contracting worm infections from soil contaminated by faeces. Flooding itself may displace populations and lead to further health problems.


Designing and constructing drainage systems require expert advice from engineers to make sure that water flows away quickly and smoothly and is disposed of in a surface watercourse or soakaway. Drainage installed by one community should not create problems for other communities downstream, nor should it affect ecologically important sites. Environmental considerations should be given adequate attention: long-term changes to the environment may lead to greater health problems in the future.


In many cases, although there are drains, there is a failure to keep them cleared.  Obstructions in drains lead to the formation of stagnant pools and result in breeding sites for disease vectors, such as mosquitoes, increasing the risk of malaria, and snails, increasing the risk of schistosomiasis. The drains must also be properly maintained and cleaned: it is common to find that new drains become dumps for solid waste or even sewage because of inadequate maintenance. The community should therefore establish how often drains are to be cleaned and who will be responsible for the maintenance. Often, the best solution is for community members themselves to take responsibility.


Storm-water drains


The detailed design of storm-water drains should be carried out by engineers and take into account climatic and hydrological data. These data may be scarce, or may not cover the community where work is to be carried out. In such cases, the community can help by describing where major flood problems occur in the village and providing information about previous floods. Storm-water drains should be designed to collect water from all parts of the community and lead it to a main drain, which then discharges into a local river. The size of the drains should be calculated according to the amount of water they would be expected to carry in a storm. More extreme floods occur relatively infrequently; to provide a safety margin, the maximum flow of water is usually calculated on the basis of floods expected to occur once every 10 or more years. If drains are designed to carry only the amount of water expected from an annual flood, they will not be able to cope with the flow of water from heavier floods, which may occur as often as every 2–3 years. This may make flooding problems worse and increase the health risks. Storm-water drains are best constructed using a concrete lining. Earth drains are more likely to become clogged and overgrown, and cause problems with storm-water flow during minor floods.


Damage to roads


Damage and wear to the road can be reduced if the flow of water is controlled. Minor damages can easily be repaired as part of the regular maintenance provided to the road and its structures. If the flow of water is not properly managed, the deterioration of the road will be more serious and occur more rapidly. This will lead to higher maintenance demands and in the worst cases result in serious damage which may obstruct the passage of traffic.


Various drainage measures are applied to effectively deal with the water arriving at the road. Surface water arrives directly on the road as rain, as runoff from the surrounding areas, or in streams and rivers. In flat terrain, the entire area around the road may be inundated with water during the rainy season. In addition, water also travels underground which can have an impact on the quality of the road.


An efficient drainage system is therefore essential to allow water to flow off and away from the road as quickly as possible. This is achieved by a system consisting of the following components:

  • road surface drainage which enables the water to flow off the road surface,


  • side drains and mitre drains which collect and lead the water away from the road,


  • road embankments in flood prone terrain, lifting the road surface well above the highest flood levels,


  • catch-water drains which catch surface water before it reaches the road,


  • scour checks, preventing erosion in the ditches by slowing down the flow of the water,


  • culverts which lead the water from the side drains under the road to the other (lower) side,


  • bridges and drifts which allows the road to cross rivers and streams in a controlled manner throughout the seasons.


In addition, different arrangements may be required for drainage of high water tables to lower the levels of underground water.


Drainage should be taken very seriously within our communities to reduce the incidence of flooding and to curb the spread of diseases related to poor drainage of water.

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What is a typical construction timeline?

Every construction job is different, and from our previous article we discussed the different variables that can affect the construction timeline. However, there are some steps in the process that are standard when it comes to building a home. A construction timeline tailored to the house you are building should be provided before the project begins. If one is not provided there is nothing wrong with asking for one.

According to Home Building Smart, here’s what the average construction timeline might look like:

Pre-construction period

Before you begin, the construction plans and cost estimates should be finalized and your finances (loans, etc.) should be sorted out. This can take one to two months maybe even longer.

Preparing the lot and laying the foundation

This includes clearing out trees, leveling the lot, construction of the foundation and starting the flooring. A month is about the average timeline for this step.

Framing the house and building the roof

Framing usually takes about two months, but can be delayed by the weather. Once the roof is completed: framing and covering, weather is generally less of a hindrance as it allows for different activities to be undertaken within the structure during rain.

Siding and services: electrical and plumbing

Workers will erect internal and external walls of the house, which takes about a month. With the walls in place, rough plumbing and electrical wiring works, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (if included) can be done but the installation of services will be ongoing.

Surface finishing

This is when the inside of your house starts to look like a house, with the work completed. Expect about two months.

Fixture installation and finishing works

In the final two months painting is done in addition to finishing the plumbing and electrical work and hanging of ceiling fans, if any.

Punch list

This is a critical step where you do a final walk through and you and your contractor create a to-do list of little things that still need finishing up to ensure that the work meets your expectations. Make sure you go into this with a critical eye and question anything that seems inconsistent with these expectations.  This is your chance to get your contractor to fix mistakes before you move in.


Some of these steps can overlap, of course, and as previously stated delays along the way can make the job take longer than anticipated.


Have you experienced the home building process? What timeline did it take? Share with us in the comments below.


If you need any clarification on this topic, feel free to email us at

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Variables That Can Affect Your Construction Timeline

Anyone looking to buy a home knows that it is all about compromise. You may find a good home, but the kitchen is smaller than you want. Or the price is within your budget, but the layout is nowhere close to what you are looking for. If you have searched tirelessly and simply cannot find the right home, you may need to have the perfect home constructed. One of the most common questions we get asked is, how long will constructing a home take?


While experts believe that it takes somewhere between 5 months and a year to build a residential building from scratch, there are a lot of variables to consider which can affect the construction timeline, the biggest of which are:-

  • The number of efficient workers on the job each day – the timeline in which your home is completed heavily depends on the amount of individuals working on the construction site. For instance, if you have a large crew more work can be accomplished in a shorter period of time compared to having a small group of construction workers.


  • Type of materials – the materials you choose can also impact your construction timeline. Based on the home you want built, whether it be made of concrete, brick, wood, or a combination of the above mentioned, the time taken to complete will vary. Also whether you desire a concreted roof, galvanized roof, or a tiled roof can affect the timeline.


  • Arrival of materials – one holdup that can be out of your contractor’s hands is the arrival/availability of materials. It is beyond the control of anyone except the company providing the construction materials as to when they will be available. Not having the necessary items when needed can cause your construction project to get off track.


  • The state, location and accessibility of the lot – in instances where there may be an existing building in need of being demolished or the ground where you want to build is in bad shape or steep more time will be added to the duration of the construction project. If the land is located in an area with poor access, transportation of materials can be difficult and result in work being slower.




  • The weather – weather is probably one of the most common factors that can delay construction, especially at the beginning of the job, before the roof is complete. Constant rainfall as well as many other acts of nature can delay your progress. Once you have the walls and roof finished, bad weather isn’t as much of a concern.

What is most important is that you find a contractor or construction firm who you can trust and who communicates with you every step of the way. You need to trust that you are being given a reasonable time estimate. If something feels like it is taking too long, ask your contractor about it. There could be a good reason, but you will not know unless you ask.

Have you experienced the home building process? Are you a contractor yourself? What are your thoughts on the variables shared? Did you experience another factor that affected the timeline of your construction project? Share with us in the comments below.

If you need any clarification on this topic, feel free to email us at

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Tips on Making Your Home Energy Efficient

With the effects of climate change and global warming around us increasing, it is important to be environmentally friendly and aware of the impact our domestic activities have on the environment. It is also highly beneficial when you consider how much money can be saved by building or making your home energy efficient. In order to have a productive energy efficient home, you need to be able to cut costs when required. This means using less electricity and trying to eliminate the products that have a negative impact on the environment, which eliminates the stress that comes with paying high monthly bills. Here are few ways you can convert your home into one that is more energy efficient:


Smaller is Better:  A small home built with eco-friendly techniques has less environmental impacts compared to a larger home.  A house that is too large is likely to cost more to heat and cool. Try to keep your home manageable and cost effective.

Energy Efficient Equipment:  ENERGY STAR label on a piece of equipment states that particular product has been deemed as energy efficient by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Switching to these appliances offer significant cost and energy savings without compromising performance.

Use Sustainable Building Materials:  Use environmentally or eco-friendly products to reduce the impact of construction on the environment. Each and every part of your house such as roofing material, building material, cabinets, and counters to your flooring can be environmentally friendly. Use products such as recycled glass or natural products such as bamboo which are made of natural, renewable materials.

Install Solar Panels:  Solar energy is a clean and renewable source of energy. Solar panels may be expensive at first, but the long-term savings you can put into your pocket is worth the upfront costs. By taking advantage of solar power you can bring down your energy consumption and supply more energy.

Water Conserving Fixtures:  Low flow faucets, toilets, showerheads are few of the ways that you can use while building a green home to conserve water. They can cut down on your water bill cost and make your home much more environment friendly.

Rainwater Harvesting Systems: Install a rain-water harvesting system while building your energy efficient home to collect rainwater from roofs and then storing it in a tank. The collected water can then be used for other purposes such as flushing toilets.

Tank-less Water Heaters:  Tank-less water heaters heat only the amount of water needed as it is passed through electric coil. This provides two benefits. Firstly, it eliminates excess energy costs as it heats up only that much amount of water that is needed and secondly, you can get ample storage space by eliminating the hot water tank.

Eco-Friendly Lighting:  Both LED and CFL cost more upfront but use less energy and last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Since they offer significant cost savings in the long run, they can be ideal for your energy efficient home.


The Importance of Hiring an Architect

Designing and building a home, office or investment property can be particularly complicated.  Each task entails exceptional skills and disciplines in order to get the job done perfectly.  If you are planning a home extension, conversion or are building a new property, it is more than likely that you will need the assistance of an architect.


  • An architect works with you on an intensive examination of your requirements, to help you accomplish your vision. He will help you characterize and create what you want to build, as well as present options you may never have considered.


  • An architect will help you set a practical and rational budget, and help guide you through the planning process. They design in accordance with set standards and provide assistance in obtain permission from the necessary authority, in Dominica, Physical Planning Division.


  • They are knowledgeable about building materials and practices and are also familiar with new building technologies and materials, and their application, to create efficient buildings that are airy, comfortable and stylish.


  • An architect knows how to plan rationally for best environmental performance, they can give advice about placing the building on the site to enhance views and features, to catch the sun, provide shade, promote natural cross-flow ventilation, reduce and conserve energy.


  • Architects produce outstanding solutions to often complex residential and commercial needs. Creative thinking, attention to detail and functional performance underpin everything an architect does.


  • An architect manages the construction phase and all the work if necessary. They manage consultants like surveyors. Critically, your architect will inspect the work right through the construction period to facilitate you in getting the quality and level of finishes you deserve.
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5 Common Rationales for Designing and Building Your Own Home

The decision of whether to buy a home or to build a home is one faced by many individuals.  Being involved in the real estate component of our businesses, we come across many people looking to buy a home, most with the justification that it will be much more convenient to buy the house and move in immediately, avoiding the construction process and period.  On the other hand, we have the privilege of witnessing our architects serving clients who are adamant that building their home is the best way to go.  Today we share with you five (5) common rationales from clients choosing to design and build their own home.


  1. You get your dream home

The biggest advantage is that you can build your dream home or something very close to it. When you are searching for a home, it is often impossible to find one that has everything you desire, you most likely have to make compromises.  When building your own home, there will be far fewer, if any compromises to be made. You have a lot more control over the design and function of your home.


  1. Your home will be brand new

When you work with design and building companies, they will build you a beautiful brand new home. Whereas, when you buy an existing home, you may find that it has not been treated with care by its previous owners or that it has alterations that are not pleasing to you. A new home is a blank canvas with which you can do whatever you want.


  1. New homes are more efficient

Any property built these days must adhere to the current efficiency standards. These standards cover elements such as heating, cooling and ventilation, and many others which results in more efficient and stronger homes being built.  Not only does it lead to comfortable living conditions but it can also be an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to live.


  1. Choice of materials

With the increase in availability of different types of building material including environmentally friendly material you get to choose your building materials.  Most new homes are designed to use more environmentally friendly materials and energy efficient systems to create a home that is far more sustainable.


  1. Government Fees

The government fees payable by a buyer on a typical property transfer is 7.5% of the sale price or value, whichever is greater.  You can buy land and pay associated fees on it then build, avoiding payment of government fees and often lawyer fees on land plus house price or value.


If finding that perfect home has proven to be difficult so far, why not consider having it built?

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What is sub-contracting?

A contractor awarded a construction project may hire another person or company who will report directly to him, to perform some aspects of the work listed in the construction specification.  This is similar to outsourcing, where a business hires an external party (company or individual) to perform general tasks like typing. On many projects, particularly building projects, it is common for work to be performed by subcontractors.  Common reasons for doing so are:


  • It costs the contractor less money than if he were to perform the work in-house
  • He requires specialist advice or expertise e.g environmental specialist
  • His team is not able to perform the job as well as a specialized workman
  • The contractor may need to focus on other crucial aspects of the project
  • He may require additional resources e.g. if he is working on a multi-site construction project
  • To avoid problems in construction – specialized workers tend to have more knowledge and training in their field and will most likely perform the work better.


A typical example of subcontracting is a contractor who builds a house and hires a painter to perform the painting aspect.


If the subcontractor finishes his part of the job as specified or better yet if he performs above expectation, the contractor can hand over the completed project within allotted time and budget.  Efficient subcontractors can also build a reputation of being reliable which means increased possibility and opportunity to be hired for other projects.


Once the contractor and subcontractor form a good and reliable working relationship, and recognize the importance and contribution of each other and the importance of team work, this will no doubt be beneficial to them both.  One benefit of sub-contracting is that it contributes to economic sustainability.  Subcontracting spreads work among companies and persons.  For example, revenue is generated into smaller companies if a larger company, probably dominating the market, sub-contracts one or a few smaller companies. This keeps a flow of money.


The influence a subcontractor has on the project may be crucial in terms of productivity. The contractor remains accountable for successful completion of the project even though he has assigned or contracted external parties to perform part.  The legal agreement between the contractor and sub-contractor and between the contractor and project owner will govern their relationships, but usually the project owner is not involved in co-operation between the contractor and subcontractor.


Although problems may occur, say, for faulty work or late delivery, efficient subcontractors operation will benefit all parties to the project including the project owner.  Subcontractors or subcontracting plays a vital role in the construction industry.

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A Remodel may be Just What Your Business Needs

Is your business in a tug of war with the struggling economy?  Are you yearning for an increase in business traffic?  What about your plans to expand the business; is that on hold? Maybe it’s time to move on to the next best alternative – remodel your store/office?


Remodeling efforts are increasing as business owners’ increase their efforts to outshine the competitors and improve their capital investments.  We are seeing it happening, businesses are making the move, they are improving their businesses, they are changing faces, some are even rebranding.  Just a few years ago the Fort Young Hotel, one of Dominica’s most renowned and famous hotels, remodeled their building which improved the visual appeal of some of its public areas.  We also saw the refashion of National bank of Dominica Ltd and we embrace the new look and feel.


Keep in mind, renovations doesn’t have to be grand. Sometimes the minor changes can catch shoppers’ attention, but you would like to maximize your potential so probably you shouldn’t hold back on the remodel.


If your business has been in existence for some time now and more so has been in the same location, now may be the time to brighten up the doorway.  Invite new customers with your fresh look and entice existing customers to enter to see what’s new.  That in itself is marketing for the business.


For some businesses remodeling is not even an option, you have been leading in the battle with the economy but you have a new micro struggle and that is space.  Your door is always clogged with customers; your reception area can barely hold waiting clients and you have no more storage space for new items in demand.  Sometimes business growth demands extra space.  Customer satisfaction and by extension customer experience may also demand some extra space.  Your business is going well? Expand. Build a larger store/office.


Competition may not be the reason why you may need to renovate; perhaps you’re not even reaching full potential but wear and tear, or a disaster demands renovation.  This is an opportunity to deal with existing issues with the current design and layout.  Is everything in the most strategic location?


Women spend quite some time in the salon or at the beauty parlor; some stores have taken advantage of this and have remodeled to include a food department.  We can well imagine how this can make existing customers happy or draw new ones in.


One thing to note however is that although renovations may increase sales and rekindle customers interest, it is also essential to examine other aspects of the business, like product range, prices, staff/management relationships and customer service, they too may need to be remodeled.

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Cracked Walls: A Sign of Major Structural Problems


The cracked walls and foundations, sagging roof lines and uneven or tilting floors can be symptoms of major structural problems.

Two common causes for structural problem are Differential Settlement (when the building foundation settles unequally) and Poor Renovations (when changes are made to the structure of a building without proper support). These can put great stress on the foundation, wall, floors, ceilings and roof of a building.

If you have observed any of these symptoms, you can save yourself problems and money by calling in professionals that can help you. We suggest you start by contacting a structural engineer to conduct a building inspection.

A building inspection on your home or commercial property is a visual examination of the physical structure and system, from the roof to the foundation, which is designed to identify observed defects within specific components.

Also, if you are planning to renovate, we advise you to get professional help before you start hacking into the structure of your building.

Timely Actions Very Often Prevent Great Losses!