M-Squared Contracting understands that renovating your home involves a lot of decision making and that you can use all the help you can get!  On our blog we will post tips and advice to help make the process a little easier.

Build a Deck: Extend your Summer Entertaining

Backyard deck - By M-Squared ContractingOnce spring arrives and the weather begins to warm up, many home owners begin to think about outdoor renovation projects – one of the most important being a backyard deck. A new or updated deck will transform your outdoor space, creating beautiful new spaces where you can entertain friends and family.

Decking Materials

With new advances in technology, there are now more options for decking materials and design than ever before. Determining what material and design you want can seem overwhelming. To narrow down your options, think about these three factors:

  1. Your aesthetic preferences – what overall look and feel do you want for your deck? Materials definitely set the stage here (e.g. neat vs rustic)
  2. The level of maintenance you can commit to (low or high)
  3. Your deck budget (your budget will impact your choice of materials – as artisans, we definitely prefer wood decks)

Natural vs. man-made decking material

Wood is a popular choice as a natural decking material for its beauty and unique characteristics. Wood can be:

  • Left natural to weather
  • Oiled (stained) in a plethora of shades or clear for uv protection,
  • Painted
  • Refinished to give it a facelift  

Wood Choices for your Deck

Our choice of decking material at M-Squared is clear cedar in 2” X 6” boards, but there are more cost effective materials like pressure treated lumber.

Up close decking image: M-Squared Contracting Cedar Decking

Cedar decking has a rich warm aesthetic quality offering a range of natural hues, tight grain patterns and soft textures (and cedar emits a beautiful aroma).

Hardwood Decking

Hardwood comes in an array of natural colours and patterns, is very low maintenance and its natural lifetime exceeds cedar, pine and synthetic decking.

Pressure Treated Decking

Pressure treated material has preservatives forced deeply into the fibers making it virtually immune to rot and insect damage.

Back Decking - M-Squared ContractingComposite Decking

Composite decking is a relatively new material used for outdoor living. It consists of recycled materials and fibers (hard plastics and wood). Composite decking is more expensive than pressure treated lumber, but its long-term benefits will save you time and money:

  • It does not require treating, staining, sanding or other maintenance
  • There is no risk of cracking, splitting or rotting
  • It comes in a variety of uniform colours and textures that give your deck a clean consistent look
  • Because composite decking is made from a combination of recycled plastics and reconstituted wood fiber, rice hulls, bamboo fiber or other organic materials it is an eco-friendly option
  • And composite decking generally comes with a warranty, giving you piece-of-mind knowing it can be replaced if defects or breakdown occur

The cost of your deck will depend on the design, size and complexity of the structure. Before you begin your deck build, think about your goals for your backyard space and the aesthetic you want to create and identify your budget. You are on your way to a beautiful backyard.

Are you thinking of a new deck this summer and have some questions? Contact M-Squared Contracting; we’d be happy to discuss your dream backyard project.

Progress Report | Bamber Road Toronto

If you’ve seen our previous post on the Bamber Road project you’ll be interested in the progress we’ve made.  This project began with the tear-down of a small 1950’s bungalow to make way for a beautiful contemporary 3500 square foot home. Now you can see that cool stair design we mentioned previously.

Kitchen Backsplash Design Ideas

With virtually infinite potential combinations of styles and materials available, your kitchen backsplash can be your arena for creativity. The overall design and feel you’re going for in your kitchen will determine the materials best suited to the job. A couple of key considerations can help to narrow down your best options.

A while back, the backsplash used to be the exclusive territory of tile work. But contemporary kitchen design has expanded into a variety of materials making your kitchen backsplash options much more interesting. Now we’re seeing beautiful design with

  • Full stone slabs
  • Glass
  • A variety of metals

Slab Kitchen Backsplash

Each material comes with their own offerings in style and feel for your backsplash. To achieve an understated visual continuity, use the same material for both countertop and backsplash. This recent kitchen renovation demonstrates that striking minimalist look.

While some of the big questions about kitchen renovations are relevant here (classic vs. modern; rustic vs. sophisticated), the middle space occupied by the backsplash makes one question most important: will it provide smooth visual continuity, or stand out as a vibrant, eye-catching feature? With this in mind, you can start to examine the available materials:
Kitchen Backsplash ideas 1

Stone (marble, granite, quartz)

  • This previous kitchen renovation post contains an in-depth discussion on physical characteristics and merits of stone types
  • Whether matching or contrasting your countertop, stone provides texture that blends equally with almost any design motif


  • Glass options are endless. Better suited to the modern kitchen, back-painted glass can complement a calm aesthetic with soft colours and basic patterns, or grab the eye with bold colours and flamboyant patterns
  • Etched glass can add an even more pronounced personal touch

Metal Backsplashes

Metal backsplash idea

  • Embossed tin embodies rustic elegance and brightly yet subtly draw the eye, depending on the ‘busy-ness’ of the pattern
  • Bronze is pleasantly subdued, and can gain patina over time, for a classic, rustic warmth
  • Stainless steel is modern and versatile. It can calm a busy visual scene with its clean efficiency, or be patterned (with great variety) to add a smart flair to any modern kitchen.

Once you’ve decided on the effect you’re going for, decisions about material become easier and more straightforward. Within material types, specific decisions about design and coherence await your personal stylistic touch!

Browse our kitchen renovation gallery to begin making some design decisions. And to discuss your dream home or kitchen renovation with an expert from M-Squared Contracting, contact us.

Wood Kitchen Floors, Part 2

Design and Aesthetic Considerations for your floor 


In a previous post on kitchen flooring, we discussed the merits of a few types of hardwood flooring. The last post focused exclusively on practical considerations. In this post we’ll talk about design and aesthetic elements.

Your aesthetic goals will influence the type of wood best suited to your kitchen renovation, so it is worthwhile to familiarize yourself with the wood types discussed in part 1.

Floors play a similar role to kitchen cabinets in the overall design scheme.  Even though your kitchen floor might take a background visual position to kitchen countertops and fixtures, they support and unify the overall feel of the visual space.  And, like cabinets, flooring can be used to visually calm a busy environment, or add flair to an understated motif.

Hue and Finish of your Wood Flooring

The Hue

As a general rule of thumb, darker wood hues convey traditional elegance, especially when the overall theme for your kitchen renovation incorporate darker tones. To create a more informal, modern atmosphere, dark flooring can be married with light features (cabinets, countertops).

  • Oak is available in a range of natural hues, and lends itself well to dark stains
  • Bamboo, while typically light in colour, can also hold a dark stain, blending classic and modern looks.

Light hues, on the other hand, tend to feel rustic, domestic, and do well to complement sleek, modern designs

  • Ash falls on the sleek end of the spectrum, with a characteristic light hue and subtle grain
  • Pine, on the other hand, offers the rustic feel, with its naturally knotty appearance. We also mentioned in the previous post that its long history of use as flooring means that authentic character can be found in the form of reclaimed antique floor

Painted flooring as an option for your kitchen

A less conventional option, painted flooring allows for maximal colour creativity, and a variety of feels. Bright colours can liven up a heavy visual atmosphere, or softer greys or browns can calm a busy aesthetic. Patterns in the paint allow for even more creativity and personal flair.

Wood Finishes

While finish is more practical than aesthetic, its importance can’t be understated! The kitchen floor is highly trafficked, spilt-upon and frequently swept and mopped. Wood flooring is an investment worth protecting. Make sure you select a quality finish that is up to par with the flooring itself.

Your kitchen floor is an investment both from the aesthetic point of view and resale value of your home. A well-chosen floor will serve both practical and aesthetic functions for years to come, making your kitchen a place people will want to be!

Are you thinking of a kitchen renovation in 2014? Contact M-Squared Contracting to discuss your kitchen or home renovations with an expert.

Wooden Kitchen Floors: Underline Your Renovation Design

wood flooring for your kitchenIn previous kitchen renovation posts, we’ve written about kitchen cabinets and kitchen countertops. In this post, we’ll walk you through some wood flooring options for a custom kitchen renovation. If you’re looking for some renovation inspiration, why don’t you check out our kitchen renovation gallery?

If we wrote about all the kitchen flooring options available to you, this post would be more like an e-book. We’ve chosen to focus on wood flooring because in the last 5 years almost every custom kitchen renovation that M-Squared has completed, the call has been for wood flooring.

Think wood floors for your kitchen

Whether used to subtle or bold effect, the choice of flooring material for your kitchen has a powerful impact on the overall feel of your kitchen renovation. Wood floors span the mid- to high-end of kitchen flooring, but warrant the investment through what they offer in durability, character, and warmth.

Your wood flooring options (with some pros and cons)

m-squared-kitchen-29Oak floors

  • Oak offers good quality for reasonable cost, as well as the natural character of a distinctive grain pattern
  • Grain consistency is a general measure of quality, and as it increases, so does the cost

Ash flooring

  • The exceptional hardness of ash makes it a lasting investment
  • Its light hue and subtle grain make it versatile in a variety of kitchen designs, and suitable for further customization

Pine flooring

  • Pine has an intrinsically rustic feel, characterized by its pin holes and knots
  • Although its categorically a softwood, it is available in a spectrum of hardnesses, the strongest of which is the heartwood of the pine tree
  • Pine tends to gain character with wear, though it does maintain a pristine appearance
  • Because of its long history of use as a flooring material, there is an abundance of reclaimed, antique pine floors that combines a cost-effective kitchen flooring solution with authentic character


  • Bamboo floors are about equal in hardness to oak, and generally comes in lighter stains suited to displaying their fibrous grain pattern
  • The unique pattern is best suited to modern kitchens, although the growing use of darker stains with bamboo lends a more classical appearance
  • Bamboo is stable and wearable, however, because it is engineered rather than solid, it is crucial to ensure a sufficiently durable topcoat to protect it. Owners of large dogs, take heed

Engineered Hardwood as a kitchen flooring option

We couldn’t write a post about wood kitchen flooring without mentioning engineered hardwood. Available in all types of wood, engineered hardwood flooring has a core of hardwood and an outer layer of HDF. Engineered hardwood is considered more stable and versatile than traditional hardwood and does well in below grade installations (read that as – not your kitchen).  There is so much we can say about engineered hardwood that we may have to devote a post to it.

Thinking of renovating your home or kitchen?

M-Squared Contracting has the comprehensive expertise and experience to make your custom renovation a personal and enjoyable experience. Contact us to discuss your project.

Kitchen Cabinets: A Visual Frame for Any Kitchen Renovation

Kitchen_01Kitchen cabinets are one of the first-noticed design elements of a kitchen and they can convey a multitude of stylistic and aesthetic feels.

The options available in styles and materials provide ample (sometimes, overwhelming) space for creativity and personal taste. Traditional and modern motifs each have their merits, but characteristics of both can be mixed and matched to achieve your preferred feel and effect.

During a kitchen renovation, take stock of the quality of materials for kitchen cabinets much in the same way that you do for kitchen countertops. Consider manufacturing quality, finish quality. Your overall aesthetic must be integrated with your stylistic goals.

Your kitchen cabinets capture the overall visual motif of your kitchen and frame the visual space

Oak Finishes

  • Oak is highly durable, and natural characteristics of the wood give it a unique feel
  • Oak has a wide grain that makes it less suitable for painting, but its primary offering is its rough-hewn, natural appearance, and the variety of colours still allow a great deal of aesthetic options, matching comfortably in both traditional and modern kitchens

Maple Cabinets

  • Maple is fine-grained and light in colour, lending itself well to a clear finish, offering a natural look
  • Maple’s tight, even grain also makes it ideal for painting, especially considering its pale natural hue. It is important to note that it tends to absorb darker stains less evenly than light.


  • Cherry’s hardness allows it to stand up to knocks and marring, and gains character over time, as it naturally darkens and reddens while maturing
  • Cherry is typically used to convey traditional elegance, but its high durability and compatibility with finishes make it highly customizable, while its dark hue makes it quite suitable for a more contemporary-style kitchen

Exotic, Imported, and Rare Woods

  • For truly personalized kitchen cabinets, a variety of ‘exotic’ woods provide premium quality, and a unique array of aesthetic offerings
  • Teak has a warm, natural feel, that can be modernized by contrasting with light, solid colours, but can also encapsulate a classic, vintage feel in a more traditionally configured kitchen
  • Mahogany has a deeper hue than teak, best-suited for achieving a timeless, traditional design scheme

Design considerations for your kitchen cabinets OR How to achieve the look you want

There’s a staggering range of design options available. Whether you’re going for a completely modern, or traditional look, or (more likely) a combination, there are two main ‘layers’ to consider. To blend contemporary with classic, use prominent elements like colour, material and door style set the overall tone, while capitalizing on dramatic details to inject your personal touch.

Cabinet doors

Doors are one of the first seen and most visible elements, and are one of the crucial deciding factors between modern and traditional appearance
Kitchen cabinets

  • Slab doors are seamless, sleek, and predominantly modern
  • Raised panel doors vary widely, but in general, communicate a classic elegance, often accentuated by ornate hardware. They also require sturdy hardware to mount (because of their weight). The style of millwork sets the specific aesthetic tone and is a huge topic in itself. What’s important to know is that its elegance is typically used in traditional design, but by no means exclusively.
  • Recessed doors have a visually calming simplicity and provide a relatively blank canvas for either a modern or classic look, depending on the use of other style elements like knobs, natural wood vs. painted, and contrasting vs. unified colour schema.
  • Flat doors offer some of the modern minimalist appeal of slab doors, but with room for stylistic creativity with knobs
  • Glass front cabinets can be married with both classical and modern designs, and virtually any door style (extremely rarely with slab). They can add more of your personality to the kitchen by displaying their contents, or frosted glass can be used to offset white cabinets, or contrast with wood hues

Cabinet Knobs

  • Knobs are a great detail to either highlight, or offset the predominant theme you’ve selected
  • Drop pulls amplify a classic motif, or offer a rustic touch to a more contemporary design. Choices vary from simple and minimal, to industrial, to highly ornate and decorative.
  • Classic knobs simple, understated, they allow the door to convey the motif while adding an element of visual balance. Wood or metal provide room to choose your desired effect.
  • Modern/custom are generally steel, sleek, and matched with modern design styles. Their modernity isn’t sterile. Warmth can be added through choice of rectangular vs. rounded shapes, and custom-made pulls can add unique artistic flair.

The cabinets you choose set the overall tone of your kitchen, so it is not a choice to be made lightly. By breaking down the decision into materials and style (overall and details), you can develop an overall aesthetic for your new kitchen.

With extensive home and kitchen renovation experience, M-Squared Contracting possesses a wealth of expertise. Contact us to discuss any aspect of any upcoming project.

Bramber Road | Toronto

Our latest project involves the removal of a small 1950’s bungalow and the construction of a contemporary 3500 square foot home.

The home has been designed with expansive curtain wall window openings, massive open floor plan, state of the art kitchen, and a very cool stair design.

Construction began in mid September and is scheduled for completion early 2014

» View the progress we’re making…

Your kitchen renovation: make a lasting impression with your countertops

Your kitchen renovation is both an exciting and a formidable undertaking. You need to think about several design elements during the planning and purchasing phase.

In this series of posts, we will cover 5 critical elements – including kitchen countertops, cabinets, flooring, lighting and backsplashes. In this first post, we’ll talk about your kitchen countertop options.

Countertops make the biggest splash in your kitchen design


Do your homework before you choose a kitchen countertop. You want to achieve a “look” and a “feel” but do not forget about functionality. Here are some of our clients favourite countertops – those that create the “wow-effect” and are high-performing:

  • Marble
  • Granite
  • Quartz
  • Slate
  • Soapstone

Each option offers different benefits – making it difficult to choose one over the other. But here are some considerations for each.


  • Marble has a classic, timeless appearance that can give a kitchen an air of elegance
  • Marble ages gracefully – although it requires some care and maintenance, investing this time ensures its lasting quality
  • Marble can be mixed and matched for a variety of looks

Granite countertops

  • Granite provides a unique look for each countertop. The minerals in granite add depth, richness and character
  • Granite is stain-resistant and will not fade
  • Granite is damage resistant – it will actually dull your knives


  • Quartz has a clean, modern look with nearly as much variety in look and colour as granite.
  • Like granite, it is stain-proof.
  • Quartz is more user-friendly, requiring less upkeep than granite or marble

Slate Countertops

  • Slate has a matte finish and lends itself to a relaxed contemporary look unlike marble or granite (highly polished)
  • You are more limited in your colour selection with slate
  • Slate is heat-resistant, in fact, it absorbs heat
  • Although heat-resistant, it is not scratch resistant so you will have to treat it with more care than other surfaces


  • No two slabs or blocks of this stone are exactly the same – making this element of your kitchen design completely unique
  • Like slate, soapstone has a smooth, matte finish
  • Soapstone is one of the hardest surfaces for countertops and will last for a long time
  • A natural stone, you must coat it with mineral oil to protect it from hot oil and grease

Choosing your kitchen countertop can be exciting and nerve-wracking all at once. As a kitchen renovation specialist, M-Squared Contracting provides expert guidance to our clients based on our vast experience and expertise with a variety of kitchen countertops and kitchen designs.

Thinking of renovating your kitchen? We invite you to contact us to discuss your project.