Connected Devices Leave You Vulnerable To Attackers

Dwayne Smolnicky blog

The Internet of Things (IoT) is slowly taking over consumer markets in every category, from coffee makers to fitness trackers. Yet while smart automation might seem like the ideal for consumer convenience, when it comes to home security systems, connecting to the Internet can lead to increased vulnerability.

The home automation market was worth $78.27 billion by 2022 CAGR of 12.64% between 2016 and 2022 according to; there’s been an explosion in products that promise to make our homes “smarter.” The best known is Nest, a thermostat that monitors inhabitants’ activity, learns their schedules and temperature preferences and heats or cools the house as it deems appropriate. Many of these products have smartphone apps and Web portals that let users operate devices, cameras, and locks from afar. Getting to live the Jetsons’ lifestyle has downsides though; as we bring the things in our homes onto the Internet, we run into the same kind of security concerns we have for any connected device: they could get hacked.

What if that IP-enabled door lock or garage door opener could be hacked by someone outside your home and made to open on its own? Breaking and entering just got a lot easier. Or, what if a HVAC system could be hijacked and remotely disabled or forced to operate in ways that would damage the system or even cause a fire or electrical short in the home? With control over vital systems that we all rely on, home automation systems would need to be very secure, right?

Dangers of a smart home only arise when they’re connect to a single portal or application. Hijacking smart homes is not a major concern as of writing this post, but in the near future it may present a serious problem. Default passwords on appliances are easily broken when a hacker has access to everything through a connected portal.

Protecting yourself from attacks is fairly easy if you’re aware you can be attacked. The simplest way to protect yourself is by using complicated alpha-numerical stringed passwords on all your connected devices. For example instead of “password123” use a scramble of letters and numbers like R2d5jK25JS1s90. The second layer of defence is to remove your devices from your primary wi-fi. Simply, only allow your connected home devices access to a “guest” network on your wi-fi that uses a different password. Do not use the same wi-fi as your home computers. Commonly an infected home computer will be the gateway to access the rest of your homes connected devices. The final layer of protection is to routinely check for security updates on all of your devices. If a device does not offer security updates it may be advisable to remove and replace it with a product that does.
Routers more than a few years old should be replaced. And don’t use the router provided by your Internet provider, as they are notorious for having security flaws.
Turn on your router’s encryption — WPA2 is a trusted standard in most router settings. If any of your devices signal that it’s time for a software update, do not delay. Install the updated software immediately in case any security vulnerabilities were patched.

We hope this has shed some light on the growing issue of smart home hijacking.
Check back soon for more insightful posts from HDMI Designs.

Renovations With A Return On Investment

Dwayne Smolnicky blog

Renovating is about living in the home of your dreams, but getting a return on the cash you’ve invested can be confusing. If you don’t plan to retire in your current home, but you know its time to update focusing on areas that give you a good ROI you can recoup thousands of dollars from your renovation.
Recently made a great post on ROI. Researchers scrutinized 29 popular home improvements in 99 markets nationwide, polling contractors on how much they charge for these jobs as well as real estate agents on how much they think these features boost a home’s market price. From there, they divided each project’s upfront cost by the home’s resale value; the resulting percentage gives you a sense of how well each particular reno “investment” pays off.

The perennial chart toppers for ROI are the cheapest to pull off. This year the No.1 finisher was installing loose-fill fiberglass insulation in the attic. Not exactly sexy, but boy, is it cost-effective! In fact, this is the only project that regularly pays back more than you invest, with an average 107.7% ROI.
The returns will vary by project adding a bathroom, for instance, will bring only a 53.9% ROI when you sell; a master suite, 64.8%.

This is a great starting place to get a sense of what will give the greatest ROI, but understand every situation is different and can vary wildly. For the greatest return always think practical and keep it simple. Overly elaborate construction can cause a negative impact on ROI.

We hope this helps in deciding your renovation process!

Carbon Monoxide — The Silent Killer In Your Home

Dwayne Smolnicky blog

Each year many people die from unintentional CO poisoning. Even more will visit the emergency room and be hospitalized due to CO poisoning. Fatality is highest among people 65 and older. Sadly, the number of deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning continues to rise yearly.

Here is a quick list of symptoms, causes and what to do when the alarm sounds.

Carbon monoxide, also known as the silent killer, is an odorless and colorless gas produced by many house hold appliances that use combustion.
Carbon monoxide can be produced by the following:
– stoves
– lanterns
– burning charcoal and wood
– gas ranges and heating systems.

Many people mistake the symptoms of CO poisoning for coming down with the flu.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide include:
– Headache
– Nausea
– Dizziness
– Vomiting
– Confusion

Surprisingly most homes do not have a carbon monoxide alarms. Standard fire alarms are placed on the ceiling and do not detect carbon monoxide that does not rise to the ceiling. It’s safe to say that most people are unfamiliar with the sound of a carbon monoxide alarm. For this reason it is important to know that when your CO detector goes off it will emit a universal pattern of high pitch chirps, not beeps. The sound will be much like a smoke detector when the battery needs to be changed. NEVER assume a alarm is broken or low on power; “fixing” the alarm should never be a priority. Always assume the alarm is functioning as intended. When this alarm sounds it means the gas has been leaking and has reached a dangerous level.

First thing – DO NOT ignore the beeping of the alarm!!
follow these steps immediately:

– Call 9-1-1 — seek medical help symptoms can become dangerous fast.
– DO NOT re-enter the home until emergency services have indicated it is safe to return.

Staying on top of Alarm maintenance is more then just replacing batteries and running a test every month. It is recommended to replace your alarm units every 10 years no matter the circumstances. Be aware of your alarm models and be on the look out for recalls.
Recently 1.5 million Kidde NightHawk smoke detector, carbon monoxide alarms have been recalled. Here is a link to check if you have a recalled detector – Kidde Nighthawk Recall List


Dwayne Smolnicky blog

The materials used inside the door compose its core. The type of core used affects the weight of the door, its ability to withstand impact, fire rating and sound transmission. The decision between solid core and hollow core needs to be made based on a cost vs benefit analysis. While hollow core doors are lighter and less expensive, solid core doors look and feel better, are more durable, and are much better at insulating sounds. If immediate cost and location are the only determining factors for purchasing an interior door then a hollow core might be the better choice. However, solid-core doors have much longer life spans. The cost of replacing hollow-core doors when they break will inevitably cost more money in the long run.
Should I buy a solid core or a hollow core door? Which is right for me? Many people are faced with these exact questions.

Hollow Core — Lighter in weight and more affordable than solid core doors. Hollow core doors are a good choice for areas where sound transmission is less important, like a closet or pantry.
Hollow core doors are lighter. This is because the interior core of the door is hollow, sometimes made of a honeycomb material. Being that they’re lighter they may be easier to handle and install.
A big advantage that hollow-core doors have is their immediate cost. Because these doors require less material and workmanship the cost of these doors will be less expensive than a solid-core door.
The major disadvantage is the durability of these doors. A major impact could easily puncture the veneer skin leaving a hole in the door.
Another disadvantage for this type of interior doors involves the finish. After painting these doors the veneers become wet and more flexible. Extra care is needed to support the door to prevent a bow or twist while the finish is drying.

Solid Core — Heavier and more resistant to normal wear. Solid core doors are commonly used in areas where more privacy is preferred. If interior noise reduction is a priority, consider a solid core door, which reduces sound transmission by up to 50 percent when compared to a hollow flush door.
The major advantage for these doors is their durability. These doors were built to last and will need less maintenance then its hollow core counterparts.
Another advantage is that these interior doors have noise cancelling abilities. Solid core doors are also more fire resistant than hollow core doors and could potentially isolate a fire.
Last but not least the quality of solid core doors is completely unmatched by hollow core doors.
The biggest disadvantage for a solid core door is that they are heavy and may cause damage to the frame if carelessly slammed closed. The door can pose a challenge to handle and transport all the way to your home.

Choosing the right door material for your project should be fairly clear now. Hollow core for lower traffic areas where they will receive less ware and solid core for privacy and higher finished quality areas.

If you know anybody who is planning a renovation please direct them to our website @

Inspections – A Corner Stone Of Renovations

Dwayne Smolnicky blog

It’s all too easy to overlook how important it is for inspectors to be diligent about safeguards and guidelines. If you’re preparing for or in the middle of a renovation make sure to be ready for the inspections, compliance orders and yes, even costly delays that can sometimes accompany them. After all they’re ultimately there for you and your families safety.

When you remodel or add on to your home you are most likely re-routing electrical and plumbing, moving walls, adding foundation or changing the structure of the home. Even when using a professional and having the appropriate permits filed, having an inspector “pass” or “fail” the work in various stages is a smart thing to do.
Keep in mind the home inspector is looking to check and ensure the work has been done up to code and is safe. Improper construction habits or safety oversights can have devastating effects. They will not assess if the builder or contractor is doing a good job or not.

All home renovations should include home inspection intervals. A qualified builder or contractor will be familiar with this process. In general, the inspection should occur after major steps are completed, like electrical work.

Of course, waiting to have each stage checked by a home inspector can add to the overall schedule. The original schedule, drawn up prior to construction, should include each inspection stage.

HDMI Designs is committed to creating both an experience and a space that is positive and supportive to our clients, employees, sub-trades and suppliers alike, and to see our customers dreams come true.
We hope that the above has been helpful. If you would like to book a consultation with HDMI Designs to discuss your home renovation or home addition, we would be happy to arrange a time to meet.

Compare Pricing for Home Renovations?

Dwayne Smolnicky blog

Over the years many have asked, “How much do you charge per square foot?” When remodeling, this is typically asked about home additions.

Some homeowners believe that the answer creates a platform to compare remodelers and their estimates. However, this general question would be like asking a automobile dealership, “How much is a car per pound?”

When estimating the cost of a room addition the first level of distinction is what type of room is it? One should not expect a family room renovation to have the same square footage cost as a kitchen renovation. These two additions may be the exact same size, but the components and work involved in each is vastly different, therefore a square foot price comparison cannot be made.

Also consider an estimate for a same-sized family room addition from two different design build remodeling companies. The price or the square foot basis does not tell the whole story. One remodeler might include finished flooring, painting, recessed lighting, utility jacks and extra receptacles for TV and computer, plus several larger windows. These are all items that are commonly selected by homeowners for new family rooms, but not necessarily included by a remodeler up front in their estimate making the square foot of an addition skewed.

Compare that to an addition that involves a kitchen and/or bathroom. These projects have dozens of variables with tremendous potential price swings for each. Items such as plumbing fixtures, appliances, cabinets, tile and granite counter tops. Each of these items can have a significant difference from a low, basic budget estimate to a top selection estimate.

Combine that with the fact that some items might not even be included initially makes that square foot remodeling estimate as relevant as purchasing a car by the pound, groceries by the bag, or wine by the bottle.

I suppose anyone could get or give a square foot price for a remodeling project over the phone, but that number would not much help and could even lead to much confusion, misconceptions, and an overall unpleasant experience.


There are many reasons why one remodeler may be more expensive or much cheaper than the other!

Selecting a remodeler based on price alone is riddled with pitfalls. For example, a cheaper price can end up costing you dearly in the long term if your remodeler is not using quality materials, experienced trades, or has hidden costs. A cheap quote may seem better at the start, but may cost you more in the long run if quality is compromised, or the hidden costs add up as your project progresses.



Provide All Remodelers With The Same Starting Point.

To ensure that you can fairly compare quotes from multiple remodelers, make sure you provide each with the same brief, the same plans and specifications. This will even the playing field and make it easier for you to compare.


Do All Quotes Include The Same Items?

Are you comparing apples with apples? That is, do the quotes that you are comparing include the same items? Is it clear what is included and what is excluded?

Check That Quality Materials Have Been Specified.

Building prices can vary due to different types and grades of materials specified. If a remodeler is very cheap, and their quote seems significantly low, you will need to ask more questions about the materials supplied. You want your home renovation to be in high in quality so that it stands the test of time.


Is The Quote Lacking In Detail?

If a quote is lacking in detail, or doesn’t list everything you have requested then proceed very carefully. If an item is not listed then chances are it has not been costed into the quote. This potentially means a nasty surprise lurks further down the track.


Watch Out For Hidden Variation And Administration Fees!

Has the remodeler specified what they charge as an Administrative Fee for Variations? If this is not specified then you need to ask. ALL renovation projects have variations. This type of cost can end up adding thousands of dollars to your project and blow your budget.


A Home Warranty Is Offered On All HDMI Designs Home Renovations And Building Projects!

A home warranty should be listed as an item in your formal quote. If a remodeler does not specify this, be alarmed!


Contacting Your Remodeler During Construction Should Be EASY!

Ask about the accessibility of the remodeler and/or Site Supervisor during construction. If a problem arises, can you contact the remodeler directly? Is your project manager authorized to make decisions or does this have to go thru a lengthy administrative process back at the office?


Check That Your Remodeler Has A Track Record Of Delivering On Time

Ask whether the remodeler performs formal project planning, and whether they will be able to deliver your project in the time frame that you require. Ensure that any dates promised will be written into your Contract.


Does The Remodeler Use A Standard Building Contract?

Without a contract both parties would be mad to proceed. Furthermore, if the contract is ‘home-made’ proceed with caution. Standard contracts provided by reputable organizations guarantee that both parties are being treated fairly. If a remodeler suggests that a contract is not required and that a handshake will do, run away.


HDMI Designs is committed to creating both an experience and a space that is positive and supportive to our clients, employees, sub-trades and suppliers alike, and to see our customers dreams come true.

We hope that the above has been helpful. If you would like to book a consultation with HDMI Designs to discuss your home renovation or home addition, we would be happy to arrange a time to meet.




Home Renovation Tips – Batteries

Dwayne Smolnicky blog

Have you ever had a junk drawer full of batteries and odds n ends? It can be frustrating to try and figure out which batteries are still good and which ones are used or dead.

Here is a handy way of checking to see if the batteries are still good without hooking them up to a volt meter. By bouncing the battery on a hard surface you can hear a distinct difference between the dead battery and the new battery.

If the battery is a new battery the cells inside have a much greater density, so when you gently drop in on a hard surface, the battery has certain ‘thunk’ to it.

Compared to a dead battery when dropped from the same height, a dead battery will bounce two or three times because the density of the cells is far less.

Check out the video above, and stay tuned for more helpful tips about construction, renovations, tools, and just some general handy tips.


Dwayne Smolnicky blog

Here is a raw and honest perspective from Amy van Meiji over at Dutch Touch Interiors. She explains the struggles arising in her own renovation. As much as I try to explain this to clients who are not in the field, I can’t seem to be able to describe the discomfort of living in the house during a renovation, especially if you decide this a DIY project. In addition to not having hot water for a few days, your bathroom being torn apart for weeks on end, the endless dust, there is always an emotional factor, an impact on your relationships, on your day to day routine. Amy van Meiji is an interior designer, she does an amazing job, she knows renovations, and the process. In the following post Amy opens up and lays it all out on the line, and explains how even a seasoned veteran in the business can get caught up in the world of renovations.

“The Reality Is…

The reality is that this renovation has caused massive stress on myself personally, on my guy personally and on our relationship with one another. Our work styles are different; our planning requirements are different; we have different ideas about how quickly or when things should get done. And these differences are causing a breakdown between us. Our communication lines, which we work so hard to be open and honest with each other, have shut down. We couldn’t escape the work because it was all around us. There isn’t a single room that isn’t being touched and, for a period of time, there wasn’t a single place of reprieve anywhere in our home.

The stress not only took it’s toll on our relationship but my mental game and my drive to create a wonderfully successful business was being gutted like a fish. Every day I’d have to pick myself up, tell myself that “we’re gonna get there” and step into my office in the hopes of, well to be honest, make money. The stress from starting up a business, in a tough economy no less, was fracturing me from the inside out. Worry about how I was going to make it all work, where would my next client come from, am I going to have enough to pay my bills this month – this ate at me, still eats at me, almost daily.

About 6 months into our renovation I had the idea to launch a webinar to help other homeowners struggling with their renovation by giving them solid, useful information and offering a package of services at a smoking price. I was already feeling the stress of our reno and felt that, at that point, my guy and I had been doing pretty well considering. Fast forward a few months and my first webinar was pretty well a no-show but I had a few clients all of a sudden sign on for projects. I set the webinar aside for now since the work seemed to be pouring in.

Then the bottom fell out.”

Read the entire post here…
Dutch Touch Interiors


Dwayne Smolnicky blog

Working as a designer and general contractor, I have learned a few lessons along way, and some of those lessons may help homeowners as well. What you do is as important as what you don’t do, and sometimes a homeowner’s natural instincts and actions can have a negative affect on a home renovation project.

Do you know if you’re helping or hurting the project? Here are 10 tips that can help simplify your home renovation.

1. Do not delay decisions.

If you want your renovation to go well, the best thing to do is make as many of the decisions as possible before the work even starts. A good builder can talk you through the list of situations that might come up on your job, but decisions about situations aren’t usually what cause delays.

Instead, most of the issues are related to decisions about things fixture and appliance selection, trim, casing, and paint colours. These may seem small, but when your faucet is a two weeks late, the plumber has to be rescheduled and the medicine cabinet door might hit the faucet when it’s installed, you’ll see how something small can balloon into a week’s delay on a four to five week project.

2. Do not change your mind (too much).

Even though it’s inevitable that you’ll change your mind about something on your project, know this: Every time you change your mind, it’ll result in a change order. Although the change may seem minor, there are always added costs — even if it’s only the time spent discussing the change.

Scheduling can be affected too. Everyone working on the job needs to be informed of the change so no one’s working from the old plan. Everyone makes changes, and that’s OK — just be aware of the potential to disrupt and delay the job.

3. Do not buy your own materials.

It seems like an obvious way to save money — a builder is going to mark up the cost of materials and pass that added cost on to you. That’s true, but the builder may get a better price than you to begin with, meaning that even after markup, you’ll pay the same price. The builder will also know how much material is need, what type of material, and they will make sure to get all those little bits and pieces to finish the job of properly with having too many extra trips to the supplier.

4. Do not put lipstick on a pig.

Though a builder will rarely come right out and say this, some houses should be knocked down rather than have money put into them to fix them up. Though this is a rare situation, it’s common for people to put money into fancy cabinets for a house with a sagging foundation, or into a high-efficiency furnace in a house with no insulation. Listen to the professionals who come to look at your job. Be open to their suggestions.

5. Do not work without a contingency fund.

If you find out that the work you wanted to do costs more than you expected or budgeted, you’re in good company. It’s almost unheard of that a person sets a realistic budget for a project. But don’t eat into your contingency to stretch the budget. If you follow rule number one and make as many decisions as possible ahead of time, you can probably get away with a 5 percent contingency if you have a good general contractor.

HDMI Calgary Renovations Blog1

6. Do not let kids and pets get in the way.

Though the people working in your home will often try to accommodate your pets and kids, they shouldn’t have to. It’s just not safe to have children or animals around construction. Every homeowner will be doing walk-throughs from time to time to see the progress of the project. Make sure when you do, you have suitable footwear and you are not wearing thongs or sandals. Do your walk-through, ask your questions, and then let the trades people get back to work. Not every discussion needs to happen on-site.

7. Do not be a distraction.

It may sound harsh, but every minute someone working on your house spends talking to you, they are not working on your house. Is the conversation important and one that will have an impact on the job? That’s one thing, but the electrician on the job isn’t getting paid any more to spend 30 minutes talking about your vacation plans.

8. Do not live in the home.

Most people ignore this rule, and for good reason. Remodeling is expensive, and moving out just adds to the cost. If you can’t move out for the whole job, try to schedule some time away and set up a clean, comfortable place to retreat to when you can’t handle coming home to a messy and stressful construction site.

9. Do not work without a design.

Some projects require an architect; some an interior designer, and sometimes a talented builder will get your aesthetic and help you come up with a good plan.

10. Do not start a remodel without a detailed floor plan.

A lot of elements can interact in one space. Put them all on paper and you will most likely catch many problems before they are built. You may be able to build a functional space without a plan. If you want a functional and beautiful space, hire a designer.

Calgary Renovation Bearspaw Master bathroom Shower shown


Dwayne Smolnicky blog


One of the things that would make a MAJOR difference in your bathroom is including a shower bench. Shower benches can be built-in, fold down, be ‘floating’, or even be a freestanding piece of furniture. The top of the bench needs to slope slightly to allow the water to drain, or have holes in the seat to allow the water to flow through. A comfortable height for a bench is anywhere between 18” – 21” off the finished floor and the depth should be between 14” – 21”.

What are the benefits?

  • A place to sit and let the water rinse over you, wash your feet or use a hand held shower faucet’s massage feature.
  • A place to put multiple shampoo, conditioner and soap bottles.
  • A place to put your foot while you shave.
  • A place to sit for someone elderly with balance, strength and endurance issues.



People don’t think of the shower as relaxing as a bath because you have to stand up. It can be difficult to fully relax while you’re standing. But if you have a shower seat, the shower can be an even better place than a tub to unwind and loosen up.

While sitting in the shower, your legs won’t get tired. That gives you the time to enjoy all the benefits of a shower. For example, by using an adjustable showerhead or body sprays you can have a steady, pulsating, or massage-like stream of water. And if your showerhead is detachable, you can move that flow wherever you want on your body. Sit, relax, and let the warm water soothe away all the pressures of your day.

And ladies, when you shave your legs in the shower, it will be much easier if you’re already sitting. Especially when you don’t have to worry about slipping off the edge of a bathtub.

Support – There are times when you need physical support to take a shower.

Temporary disability.

Sprained ankles, knee surgery, and torn ligaments are just a few of the times when your doctor will tell you to “stay off your feet.” By using a shower seat you can still follow doctor’s orders and take a relaxing shower.

Long-term disabilities.

These range from chronic weakness to arthritis to complete paralysis of the legs. Standard shower seats as well as specially built shower chairs provide people with disabilities access to a shower. By supporting their weight, these people can keep their balance and sit upright when taking a shower.

Sitting in a shower can offer you a new bathing experience. Why not think about taking advantage of the many types of shower seats, shower chairs, and shower benches available?

Types of shower seats – There are primarily three types of shower seats: built-in, freestanding, and shower commode chairs.


This is a permanent type of shower seat. One type is a seat attached to the shower wall, which then provides back support. This seat may be hinged so it can be raised out of the way when not in use.

A more elaborate built-in shower seats may be constructed and tiled as part of the shower stall. These can run the length of the shower wall or just be a simple corner shower seat. The seats that run the length of a shower wall can also be called a shower bench.



Freestanding shower seats and chairs are portable. That is, they are self-contained units that can be moved in and out of the shower. Typical materials used in their construction include teak, aluminum, or PVC. In most models, the legs are adjustable and have holes in the seat for the water to run through.

A shower chair will have a backrest and armrests for supporting your back and arms while you sit.

A shower stool is usually smaller than a shower seat and does not have a back.

A transfer bench is a special type of freestanding shower seat. It allows people with physical disabilities to move themselves more easily from their wheelchair to a shower, and back into their wheelchair.

Shower bench

Shower Commode Chair

A shower commode chair is more like a wheelchair that is specially built to let people with physical disabilities sit in the shower. This type of chair is built of water-resistant materials and has large swivel casters for wheels. Some even have frames that tilt. This allows caregivers to help move the physically challenged person when they are in the shower.

Shower Commode

Considerations When Buying a Shower Seat

Keep the following in mind when selecting a shower seat or shower chair.

Will the chair support your weight? Standard shower seats and chairs usually can support someone up to 250 pounds (113 kg). However, chairs are available if you weigh more than this. Constructed with reinforcement and/or with cross braces, some shower chairs can go up to 500 pounds (226 kg). And there are even chairs with higher specifications for up to 900 pounds (408 kg) if needed.

What safety features does the chair have? Considerations here include:

  • Adjustable legs so the shower seat can be adjusted for your height, thus letting your feet provided added support.
  • Rubber tips or suction cups on the ends of the legs to keep the shower seat from sliding.
  • Backrests and/or armrests to support your back and legs while in the shower.

What will the shower chair cost? The price of shower seats and chairs will vary because of the features you choose and the quality of construction.

For freestanding shower chairs, features that add cost include reinforcement for heavier weights, backrests and armrests, and padding. Transfer benches that allow part of the bench to slide in place will increase the cost. Commode chairs typically cost more because they are specially built wheelchairs.

Construction is another consideration.

Obviously, shower benches that are built into showers will include the cost of construction by a contractor. You may not consider this as a DIY project, unless you are sure you know what you’re doing. If an attached shower seat comes off the shower wall it could be very dangerous – especially because it will most likely fail while you are sitting on it, and chances are you will be naked and wet.

A built-in shower bench will certainly enhance the visual appeal of any bathroom. We would love to meet with you and discuss your vision of a master bath renovation that included a comfy shower bench!