Both Sides of the Wall

Equal parts function and flair, a husband-and-wife re­no­­ firm
puts homeowner education at the forefront

Photo: John Dias and Stefanie Coleman-Dias

STEFANIE COLEMAN-DIAS knows homeowners care—a lot—about the bling: the finishes, fixtures and furnishings that make a home pretty. But from her perspective, equally important are the things you don’t see. “The things behind the walls, like insulation and air seals, have a huge impact on indoor air quality, operating costs and home comfort,” she says.

As co-owner of Coleman-Dias3 Construction Inc., her goal when working with clients is to bring both interior design and building science into one conversation. It’s also the driving philosophy behind the company’s tagline, ‘Pretty Smart Homes’, summing up a conviction to meld design, science and craftsmanship in every renovation project the company undertakes.

Coleman-Dias worked in the fashion industry as a women’s clothing buyer before she and husband, John Dias, started the residential renovation business in 2005. They had moved to St. Thomas to be closer to family after their son, Alex, was born (the cubed symbol in the company moniker refers to the three family members).

“As design-build renovation contractors, one of our goals is to raise the bar for professionalism in the residential renovation industry” — Stefanie Coleman-Dias

With a background in construction, Dias handles the onsite work and all it entails. Coleman-Dias looks after everything that leads up to it—working with clients on the design and ­decision phases, right up to the start of the ­physical project work.

“The first thing I did was take courses to get my residential air system design technician designation,” says Coleman-Dias. “I was really interested in energy efficiency and took courses to be ­certified as an energy advisor, and we continue to take training to stay current with technology and keep our finger on the pulse of what is happening in the industry.

“We have won awards for our design work, but we also focus on the functionality of floor plans and practical ­considerations,” she continues. “For example, for aging in-place.”

With little in the way of legal and ­regulatory requirements to guide homeowners, hiring a renovation contractor can be a daunting challenge for many, says Coleman-Dias. “There are zero barriers to become a renovator, and every renovator has different skills sets and does things differently.”

And on the flip side, homeowners themselves are often unprepared for what a renovation entails. “You are always going to have to deal with dust, and usually there are a few surprises, often from previous renovations, like buried electrical junctions.”

After encountering a number of homeowners with stories of terrible experiences with past renovations, she and Dias realized it would be helpful for clients to be prepared and to have realistic expectations before the work started. “We’ve developed a series of videos that address various topics, like how to hire a professional, and having a master plan for your renovation project,” says Coleman-Dias.

“As design-build renovation contractors, one of our goals is to raise the bar for professionalism in the residential renovation industry. I’m very involved in the London and St. Thomas home­builders associations, and I currently sit as second vice president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association. We think that homeowner education is important, and we hope that these videos will help.”  Kym Wolfe