Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Can I build a custom home and sell it and make money?


Can I build a custom home and sell it and make money?

This is a question that I am asked more and more in this current market and economy.

The fact is that it can be very tricky to try and make money from building a custom home and then trying to sell it right away.

A lot of people think that the way to do this is try to build the custom home without the use of a general contractor. The reason that they think this is because contractors charge you a percentage on the whole project, this is their profit. It is true in principle that you would save money without using a general contractor expect that it isn’t true if you actually sit down and way the pluses and minuses of trying to build without a general contractor.

Here are some of the problems that you will run into if you try to build your home without a general contractor;

Building a custom home is a full time job. You will have to take the 8 to 12 months off to build the house just to organize and supervise the trades.

Builder discounts. You will not qualify for these at the local lumber yards, tile suppliers and construction material warehouses.

Sub trade priority. Trades such as electricians and plumbers are loyal to contractors because contractors will give them work year over year. You are a one time job and since you are the general contractor they will look at you as a hassle, because you will not know as much as a general contractor. If your not there every day to talk to them they will leave every time there is a decision to be made and there is no one around to make it.

Sub trades charge more to homeowners then they do to contractors. There a couple of reasons for this; one is because contractors will give them more work, the other big reason is the risk that you will not pay them. This is a real worry for sub trades; collecting money is not a fun thing for sub trades.

Knowledge. You will not have as much knowledge as a contractor. You will end up doing things that will cost you more money than if a contractor had organized them. The contractor with experience knows the pit falls and will save you money steering you around them.

Safety, safety, safety. If take on building your own house you have to give every trade a safety tour of the house. You as the owner of the property have to ensure all safety standards are met and if anyone is hurt on the site you will have to answer to the labour board. Any lawsuits (because of injured workers) will be directed at you because you are in charge of the site.

Clean up. One of the major concerns about work sites is how clean they are kept. Sub trades don’t always clean up after themselves. You will have to do it, or you will have to pay someone to do for you. If sub trades find a site to messy they will charge you more for hassle or walk away because of safety concerns.

Code. You better memorize the code book. A lot of sub trades will give you exactly what you want, even if it’s against the code. You will find this out when the building inspectors fail it. Since you asked for it, the sub trade gave you exactly what you wanted and now you have to pay to have it done again.

Building officials. You better learn when you need all your building inspections and you will have to take the whole day off to meet with the inspector. They will not give you a time they will be showing up, they will just confirm the day that they are going to show up.

I have seen home owners that have tried to build their own home to save 50 thousand that the general contractor would make and blow that 50 thousand in mistakes that they make before the house is half built. I have seen homeowners hire sub trades to frame the house under their direction and then have the building inspector come in and fail it. Forcing the homeowner to bring more sub trades in to fix the problems and then get it engineered because the inspector doesn’t trust what the home owner did. This is well within the building inspector’s right to force you to pay 5 to 10 thousand in engineering costs to prove to him that the house is structurally sound.

Things such as the order of how the trades are called in to install things in the house can cost the homeowner money. I have seen homeowners call the electricians in before the heating contractor to wire the whole house. The electrician is happy because there is nothing in the way of their wiring, but when the heating contractor shows up to run all the duct work and finds that the electrical wiring is in the way, they will simply cut it out. This will force you to get the electricians back to rewire the house. This will cost you money, because it’s your fault. To sub trades time is money, if you cost them time because you didn’t know what order things should be installed in your home then they will charge you money for all the time they lost during installation and for every hour that they are forced to redo something because of your poor scheduling. It is not a sub trade’s job to give you advice on how to build a house; it is your job to hire a general contractor to do that for you.

The way you finish the house will be only as good as the people you hire to do it. The best finish carpenters are already employed and are kept employed by contractors. It will be hard for you to hire the best which means that you won’t get the best job. The other thing is when you finish a custom home it is finished in your tastes, it is customized to you. This will be a major problem when you go to sell it. People who are looking to buy a custom home are looking to buy a home that meets their tastes. So right away you have removed a lot of the market that will be looking to buy a house in the price range you will be asking.
Also when you are selling your custom home you will be asking more then it cost you too build it because you will want to make a profit. Here lies the problem with custom home building. Why would someone buy your custom home for more money than it would cost them to have one built themselves? They could have one built and have it customized to them not you.

One of the biggest reasons that it is almost impossible to make money by building a custom home and then selling it right away is the warranty. If you do not have a contractor build your house then you don’t qualify for the warranty. In a custom home, warranty is a big issue because there is a lot that can go wrong. In Ontario we have Tarion (the new home warranty program) that is a 7 year warranty on all new homes, as long as they are built by a registered Tarion builder. It is actually illegal for a builder in Ontario to build a new home without being registered as a Tarion builder. This all costs money and is built into the percentage that a contractor charges the homeowner to build the house. Imagine walking into a car dealer and the salesmen says, I have this car that you could buy for $20,000 with a full 7 year warranty or this car for $19,000 with no warranty. I think for the small percentage more, most people will be asking for the more expensive car that has a warranty.

So when you add up all the costs associated with a custom home you can clearly see that building a custom home and then selling it will not net you any great profit. Now if you waited 5 or 6 years as house prices and building costs continue to rise then maybe you would have the chance to make a profit on your custom home.

If you are thinking about building a custom home please feel free to check us out at www.villagebuilders.ca

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Common construction terms 2 (Framing houses continued)


Common construction terms 2             Framing houses continued

Have you have ever been on a construction site talking to your contractor and been totally lost in the terms that they are using? Well I’m here to help; here are some common terms that contractor’s use that you might not understand.

Sub-floor. This refers to the floor that is below the finished floor. It is made of plywood or OSB. The plywood sits on top of the floor joist.

Rim-Joist. Rim joist is the board placed around the perimeter of the foundation; it helps form the outside walls. The rim-joist holds the floor joist up. All the floor joist are nailed into the rim-joist.

House Wrap. House wrap is placed on the outside of the building while the house is being framed. It is a thin material that is usually stapled on the outside sheeting of the walls. It is an air barrier; it helps slow down the air and moisture from penetrating the house.

Spikes. These are typically 3.5 inch hand nails; they are used when framing all walls. Typically they are used to attach the top plates to the wall studs.

Framing Gun. A framing gun is an air driven nail installer. The shape loosely resembles a gun. It installs nails to attach two pieces of lumber together.

Gun nails. These are nails that are used for framing; the difference is that they are fired out of a framing gun. They are also slightly slammer then spikes; they are 3.25 or an inch.

T&G plywood. This means Tongue and Groove plywood. Tongue and Groove plywood is between ¾ to 5/8 of an inch thick. It is used to frame the sub-floor. The T&g interlock when laid next to each other. You strike one end of the plywood with a sledge hammer driving the two pieces of plywood together, basically creating one continuous piece of plywood. This helps reduce lifting at the corners and squeaking.

Glued and screwed. This refers to the process of installing the t&g plywood for the subfloor. The floor joist are applied with glue and then the plywood is laid on top. Then the plywood is screwed down to the joist.

Header. This is a piece of wood that is turned on its edge and runs horizontally across the top of a window or door framed opening. Its job is to take the weight from above the door or window and transfer it onto the studs at the side of the door so that the door does not get crushed from the weight of material above.

Slip studs. These are the studs that are installed beside the window and doors. They only go up to the height of the window or door because they are holding up the header.

Jacks. This is commonly named the same thing as slip studs.

Rafters. These are pieces of wood that run from the outside walls to the midpoint of the house. They are installed in regular intervals and it is what the plywood is attached too to form the roof.

Ridge beam. A ridge beam is a large wood beam that runs down the centre of the roof. Its purpose is to hold up the rafters that attach to it. The Ridge beam helps make the peak of the roof.

Trusses. Trusses are an engineered wood frame that makes up the roof rafters. They are built and designed by a Truss company and then delivered to the site.

Metal Gusset. This is a flat metal piece that is designed to be installed to hold the wood that makes up the trusses. Gussets are installed in the factory of the truss company. They have metal protrusions that pressed into the wood so no nails are needed.

Plywood gusset. This is the same thing as a metal gusset just made out of plywood. This is usually installed on the job site when you are building a roof with rafters. It needs nails to be installed to hold the pieces of wood together.

Sub-facia. This is the piece of wood, usually a 2x6 that is nailed to the end of the rafters or trusses. It runs perpendicular to the rafters and trusses. Every rafter is nailed into it. This forms the backing for your finished facia and this is also where your gutters will attach too.

Hips. A hip is a point in the roof where two pitches intersect. They intersect not on the top or peak of the roof but on the vertical face of the roof. These two pitches meeting, creates a high spot in the face of the roof, this is called the hip. This usually happens on an outside corner of the roof.

Valley. A valley is just what it sounds like. It is where two pitch faces in the roof meet. Usually they meet at the inside of a corner, where one face is coming from one way and the other is coming from another. This creates the “valley”.

Gable. The gable refers to the area at the end of the roof; it is not actually on the roof but below it on the end wall. This area is defined from the top of the last floor ceiling to the highest point of the wall, where the wall meets the peak of the roof.

Dormer. A dormer is jut out that comes through the pitch of the roof. This creates another small roof system in the roof face. Dormers usually are to allow a window on an upper floor. Dormers have vertical walls that create the protrusion out of the roof face.

Cantilever. A cantilever is when a floor or roof system extends past the outside walls into empty space.  A cantilever is held there by framing placed back in the house that holds the protrusion from falling to the ground.

Bird’s mouth. This term refers to the cut that you make near the bottom end of the rafter when you are making it. A bird’s mouth is cut into a rafter so that the rafter can sit on the outside wall but still continue out past the outside wall to make your soffit. The bird’s mouth is designed to transfer the load of the roof and rafter down to the outside wall while properly securing the rafter to the wall, stopping it from sliding off the wall onto the ground.

Soffit. The soffit is the area that is from the outside wall out to your facia. This flat or angled area is called the soffit. The soffit is an area that helps vent the air from your attic space.

This should help you understand what your contractor is talking about the next time you have a meeting with them. Look for part 3 of common construction terms, coming soon.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Common construction terms Part 1 (framing houses)


Common construction terms  (Part 1)  FRAMING OF HOMES

Have you have ever been on a construction site talking to your contractor and been totally lost in the terms that they are using? Well I’m here to help; here are some common terms that contractor’s use that you might not understand.

Plates. (Not what you ate off for dinner) A plate is either a bottom plate or a top plate. They are horizontal pieces of 2x4 or 2x6 that are placed in the top or bottom of the wall. They help support the wall from racking and keep the wall straight. All vertical placed pieces of 2x4 and 2x6 (studs) are nailed into the plates.

Stud. (not the guy dating your teenage daughter) A stud is a piece of wood that is either a 2x4 or a 2x6 that is vertically placed in an inside or outside wall at a regular interval of 16 inches. This forms the outside wall and anything from drywall to siding will be nailed or screwed into them.

Pre-cuts. Pre-cuts are studs that come from the lumber yard a certain length so that when you place it in the wall between the bottom plates and the top double plates the wall ends up with an exact height such as 9’1” or 8’1”. No cutting of the pre-cut studs is required.

Exterior sheeting. Exterior sheeting is the plywood or OSB that is installed on the outside of the walls, nailed to the studs. This helps keep the wall square and stable.

Bearing wall. A bearing wall is a wall that has been built in a certain exact spot to hold up the roof or floor above. If you are being told that’s a bearing wall by your contractor they are probably trying to explain to you why you can’t remove the wall! Listen to them.

Code. This refers to the building code. The building code supersedes all other things; it supersedes your ideas and even common sense. So if the builder tells you its code then they are telling you that legally they can’t change it.

Rough openings. This refers to the hole that is framed in the wall for your windows and doors to be installed later. The Rough Opening is a different size then the actual window size. The rough opening is also referred to as an RSO and is always bigger than the window or door size.

Blocking. This refers to pieces of lumber that have been installed between the wall studs to help anchor things such as shower doors, towel bars, handi-cap bars, hand rails, TV brackets, ect.

TGI’s. TGI’s are the floor joist that span your foundation to create your floor. After they are installed they are covered by plywood. The TGI is a common name for TJI. TJI stands for Truss Joist I-beam. They are also called wood I’s. They are the most common form of floor joist.

Squash blocks. These are solid pieces of wood or “I” joist that are installed in specific areas of the walls and floors where there will be a large heavy load. They are installed to prevent the floor or walls from being squashed by the weight above from second floors, roofs or bearing walls by transferring the load to the bearing wall or footings below.

Point Load. A point load is a point in a wall, floor or roof where there is an increased pressure that the conventional framing will not support on its own. You have to install squash blocks, extra studs, beams, posts or even footings.

Footings. Footings are placed below your concrete floor or walls. They are engineered to a certain size and dimensions. They sometimes have rebar installed to help strengthen them against heavy loads. They are installed to help take the weight of loads coming down from the rest of the building. They are built in a way that will spread the weight over the ground below it so that there is no shifting or cracking in the walls and structures above.

Pitch. (Not from baseball) A pitch is usually referring to the slope of a roof. The pitch is the angle that the roof runs on. So common terms for this is 9-12 pitch. What this actually means is that for every twelve inches that you travel across the roof horizontally the angle of the roof rises nine inches. Those giving you a 9-12 pitch.

Back framing. This is a term referring to installing blocking after you have framed all your walls, floors and roofs. Back framing is usually pieces of wood that are installed to help drywallers when they install there ceiling board. It gives them somewhere to put there screws when they get to the edge of the wall or corner.

I beam. An "I" beam is a steel beam that is in the shape of the letter "I" when looked at from the end. They are used as load bearing beams. They are usually placed were a load bearing wall or point load needs to be supported.

Hangers. (Not your closet clothes hangers) Hangers are a term used to explain joist hangers. They are a galvanized piece of metal that is manufactured in a way that encircles a floor joist or beam, allowing for nails to be installed into the surface of the wall that the joist butts into. The function of a joist hanger is to hold the joist from ever moving up, down or side to side. Joist hangers are part of the building code to hold joists up, which means they are mandatory to install on any floor joist that is not sitting on top of a wall.

LVL. Means Laminated Veneered Lumber, LVL. LVL’s are used when framing houses. They are used as beams to carry floors, roofs or load points. They act the same as steel “I” beams. They are made from laminating many layers of wood together. They can come in sizes that range a lot larger then convention lumber.

This should help you understand what your contractor is talking about the next time you have a meeting with them. Look for part 2 of common construction terms, coming soon.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Where to buy your construction tools


The importance of buying your tools from a tool dealer.
Most construction companies are guilty of walking into the big box store and spending hundreds of dollars on a tool. We do this because it’s simple, everything is on display and the big box store has the cheapest price.
What you don’t realize is that you shouldn’t shop for your tools by price. Sure price is always a factor when you are buying tools, but it shouldn’t be the only factor.
A few things you should look for when buying tools;

Warranty service or after warranty repairs. You want to buy your tools from a place that has the ability to fix your tool regardless if it’s under warranty or not. You should look for a place that has the ability to fix the tool in house or at least send it to someone locally. This will cut down on the amount of time that you are without your tool. Every day that you are without that tool, that’s a day the tool wasn’t able to make money for the company. If you buy a tool from a big box store and they send it to another part of the country to be fixed then you could be without the tool for months. You also want a place that will tell you if the tool is worth fixing or not. It might be cheaper to just buy a new tool instead of fixing an older broken one.

Tool knowledge. The salesmen in the big box stores might sound like they know everything about the tool that they are selling you, but do they really? If you asked them what was the rate of return for warranty or after warranty repair was would they know? Probably not, they don’t work in that department. If you go to a tool dealer who wants your repeat business he will be able to give you advise on what tool brands will work for your needs and how the repairs are compared to the price you have to pay for it. It might be that buying the cheaper table saw will cost you money in the long run because it’s not built to survive a lot of abuse. So spending 50 dollars more on a table saw that is a better quality might allow you to own that tool repair free for a longer period of time.

Bulk buying. If you buy a large amount of tools at once you should be able to get a better deal on the entire package from a tool dealer. If you go to a big box store, it wouldn’t matter how much money on tools you spend, the price will never change.

Delivery. Most tool dealers will deliver large or oversized tools to you instead of you rounding up a couple of men and a truck just to pick it up. It’s all about repeat business; they want you happy and coming back for more tools.

Tool dealers are usually able to get you almost any tool brand that you need. They don’t carry exclusive lines of tools, or exclusive models of tools that are only made for them like a lot of the big box stores. I have brought in a portable table saw that was purchased at a big box store to a CERTIFIED repair person for the big box store to get new brushes for the motor. This is a very simple thing, it’s a repair that most people can do themselves. Except I was told for that table saw (because it came from that big box store and it was all of 5 years old) that you couldn’t buy just brushes for it. You had to buy a whole new motor to get the brushes. It worked out that it was the same price to buy a new motor versus buying a whole new table saw. So I ended up throwing away a perfectly good table saw because I couldn’t get brushes for it.

Look for a tool dealer that will do onsite delivery and pick up of tools. This will save you having to haul tools to them every time you need a repair.

Most tool dealers will record the serial number of every large tool that they sell you. This is good for you because it allows them to access your account records for warranty. It also allows them to check to see if the tool that someone brought them for repair is stolen. I have known tool dealers to not give a tool back that came in for repair because it had been reported stolen by one of their other clients. It’s a great way to deter the underground economy in stolen construction equipment and might even allow you to get your stolen tools back.

When buying your tools in the future if you take a little time to look around for a tool dealer that you can build a relationship with it can save you money and time in the long run. Don’t just wander in to the big box store and think that you are getting a great deal. Remember you get you what you pay for!

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bosch, Dewalt, Makita, what is the best sliding compound mitre saw?


12” sliding compound mitre saw
Twenty years ago the most used saw on site was the skill saw. Carpenters used it for absolutely everything.  Times have changed, today the number one used saw when building custom homes is the sliding compound mitre saw. The most popular size is the 12”. It is the biggest saw that is made and can be used for framing the house, trimming the house, cutting the floor joist and even doing siding on the outside of the building.
A mitre saw is a stationary tool that is mounted on a bench or a set of sawhorses with a couple of planks laid across it. It will give you angled cuts and sloping cuts to the exact degree that you require.
As the operation manager of Village Builders I buy all the tools for the company and have owned almost all of the different makes of mitres saws on the market. Here are my top three mitre saws as I see them;


3. Makita. Makita’s new mitre saws have a lot more options on them then they used too. They also have a new dual slide system that allows the saw to cut wider boards straight across and on the angle. The saw blade and motor also sit higher than normal saws allowing you to slide larger items like 6x6’s in to cut them square. This is also handy when you are cutting large crown moulding on the angle, it gives you that clean cut so that your corners fit together tighter.  The saw has lots of power and never really gets bogged down when cutting through a dense material.
A couple of things that I disliked about the saw; it is a very heavy bulky saw. It is heavier than most of the other saws that we own and the wider base on it makes it hard to carry through doorways. This saw is usually carried by two people around a house that is being trimmed because of fear of damaging wood doorways. The other major thing about this saw is that the dual sliding rail system has a propensity to become gummed up with sawdust. When you are cutting for a long time and you don’t take the time to clean off the two sets of rails the saw builds up sawdust until the slides barely work. Many a time we have been cutting something wide and the saw does not reach all the way through the board because there is a build up of sawdust restricting the rails. You have to clean the rails 2 or 3 times a day and you will be able to avoid the rails from gumming up.


2. Dewalt. This saw is probably the saw that we have owned the most. We have owned multiple generations of the saw. Dewalt has been good at making slight modifications to the saw without compromising what works really well. The saw is lighter than some saws and easier to transport through doors and into the back seat of trucks. The single rail system works like it’s suppose to and is smooth and easy to use. Over all the Dewalt saws seem to be the easiest to use with little thinking about how to use them. Everything seems to be right where you would want it to be. Things such as the tilting button or the degree finder are simple and easy to use.
The one big problem that I have with Dewalt saws is the company itself. Dewalt has been bought out by a larger company and they are going through some restructuring. It is actually difficult to get Dewalt replacement or warranty parts right now for almost all of Dewalts tools. It can take months to get your saw fixed if it breaks down, that means that you have two months were you can’t use the saw and that’s two months the saw can’t make you any money.

1.Bosch. The Bosch saw has to be the nicest saw that we have ever purchased. The weight of the saw is not that heavy compared to the competitors. It is also easier to move around because it is a little smaller all the way around. The reason that it is lighter and smaller is because it has no sliding rail system. It has an articulating arm that extends the blade and motor toward you when you pull on it. This is a revolutionary idea in compound mitre saws. You have no rails to worry about getting gummed up and because the arm folds flat when you push the saw back to its rest position you can place the saw right up against a wall. In places where you have limited space this is a great option to have because you save yourself 6” of space and you never have to worry about the rails smacking into wall behind it. The arm works smoother then the sliding rail system. Without the sliding rail system hanging off the back of the machine it allows you to move the saw through doorways a lot easier. The saw has endless amounts of power and cuts all the angles and degree’s that the rest of the saws do.
The only down side to the Bosch saw is the price; it is the most expensive saw on the market today. But with this saw the old adage rings true YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!
The mitre saw market is crowded with company’s all making mitre saws, but you want a mitre saw that makes you money not costs you it. If you stick to these three saws then you will be starting ahead of the game.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

General Contracting what does this mean?


General Contracting what does this mean?
This is one of the most asked questions by people that read my blog. I decided when I started this blog that I would try to answer everyone’s questions to the best of my abilities.

So the question is what does General Contracting mean?

From my point of view, it means a company that manages and constructs residential and/or commercial construction projects. A general contractor is a construction company that builds and manages construction projects for their clients.

A few things about a general contractor that you should know;
It is there job to construct the building to the best of their abilities by following the local building codes and the approved drawings.
A general contractor is hired by the owner of the project or someone working on their behalf.
A general contractor is responsible for all safety standards and the following of all safety procedures on the site.
A general contractor will use their own employee’s or qualified sub contractors to complete the project.
A general contractor is responsible for all budgeting, bill payment, sub contractor payment and change orders.
A general contractor is to make sure that all appropriate inspections by building officials are completed and approved.
A general contractor is responsible for quality of work and materials that are used by their employee’s and the sub contractors.
A general contractor is responsible for creating and adhering to a schedule weather, client and sub contractor permitting.
A general contractor is responsible for all warranties that need repairs after the project has been completed.
A general contractor must be properly insured against any loss or damage that could occur.
A general contractor is responsible for getting and keeping any appropriate licensing or accreditation that is required to construct the building project. For example; to build new homes you have to be a licensed new home builder in certain parts of North America.

If you are planning to build a new house you should hire a general contractor. They will help you have your plans drawn up, they will help you get approval from the local government to build the house and be able to give you a proper budget on what they believe that the house will cost you to construct.
They will organize the whole job, the material, the workers, the inspections and the timeline of when this will all happen. They will consult with you as the building is being constructed on any over runs, under runs, changes and upgrade options that you may need.
They will organize onsite and offsite meetings with you the homeowner and give you timelines of important decisions that you will have to make to keep the project moving along.
They make sure that your vision of what you want your custom home to look like will come to life and that you stay in the budget that you have approved.
A general contractor will make sure that when they are done all they do is hand you the keys so that you can move in and enjoy your new home.

I hope this answers the question of “what does it mean to be a general contractor?”

If anyone requires more information feel free to email me or post a commit and I will get back to you.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The main types of foundation walls


The different materials you can build with to make the foundation walls of your custom home.
Block Walls:
Block walls have been around for a long time. They are made of cement and are hollow on the inside. Block walls are constructed by placing one block on top of the other, staggering the block ½ a width every row as they are laid. You mortar between each block as you lay them and then pour concrete down the holes to stabilize it. The blocks are hollow making them lighter to lift and place, it also makes them cheaper to buy. Block walls can be cheaper depending on your labour rate, but with today’s labour rate ever climbing block walls have become the same price as other types of foundation walls.
Some drawbacks of block walls are that they are only stabile when they have pressure from above straight down. If you have a large amount of pressure on one side of it like water soaked ground without support on the other side of the foundation the wall will fail and collapse. Insulation has to be added to the inside of the wall to keep heat in the basement. If the waterproofing fails on the outside of the foundation, water will penetrate the block and fill the cavity in the block. Overtime the water will make its way up to the wood rim joist where it will eventually rot it out.
Block walls that are above grade have to be parged to ensure water does not penetrate the block and cause damage; also it is to give it that finished look. If water is allowed to penetrate the block and then it freezes it will cause major damage with cracking and shifting in the wall.
Concrete Poured Walls:
Concrete poured walls are poured concrete into wood forms that are placed on top of the footings. Usually forms are made of plywood with 2x4’s as backers and reinforcement. Once the forms are assembled to the desired height and width then the concrete is poured into the forms and allowed to set. Once the concrete is dry, the wood forms are stripped away and what you have left is smooth concrete walls. Concrete can be more expensive then block walls but it is less labour intensive so it can end up being the same cost as a block walls. The difference with a poured concrete wall is that it has strength to take pressure from all sides. Concrete walls are good at withstanding large loads vertically and horizontally. Unlike block walls, concrete walls do not need to be parged when they are above grade, they are already finished.
Poured concrete walls need to have insulation placed on the inside of the walls.
Concrete walls can be easily engineered to act as retaining walls, take extremely large loads and can be shaped into curves or rounds.
Concrete walls when properly engineered can withstand shifting, cracking and poor soil conditions.

Insulated Concrete Forms:
Insulated Concrete Forms or ICF are two pieces of polystyrene that vary in length and height. They are held together with plastic webs making them into blocks that have a hollow core that is filled with concrete varying in sizes from 4” to 12”. They are installed like block walls but do not require mortar to hold stay together. Once the walls are constructed, with rebar as reinforcement inside the forms and the braces in place, then concrete is poured down from the top of the wall. A vibrator is used to make sure that the concrete makes it around all the webs that hold the wall together. Once the concrete is dry you simply remove the bracing that was put in place to keep the walls straight. The insulation stays in place.
ICF blocks are light and easy to manipulate while building the foundation. The labour is cheaper then block walls but slightly more the concrete walls. The ICF blocks are the expensive part; ICF foundations are the most expensive way to construct a foundation. ICF walls are as strong as a poured concrete wall vertically and horizontally.
What you get when you build an ICF wall is a pre-insulated foundation wall that has an average insulation value of R-22, but since there is no air transfer the wall performs like an insulated R-40. Even if you insulated other foundation walls (when building with concrete or block) you would never be able to achieve this level of performance. ICF walls give your basement that feeling of being above grade with the basement being warm and damp free.
You have to parge the ICF block that shows above grade for finishing purposes and to protect the ICF block against UV rays that will erode the foam on the outside overtime.
All three of these main options have to be waterproofed below grade; the waterproofing for all three of them is pretty much the same. The only thing you can’t do with an ICF foundation is use tar to coat the walls for waterproofing. If you are having a house built, you should never allow a builder to use tar to waterproof your foundation.
                These are the main three options you have when you are building a custom home, there are other options but these are the most popular and the most widely used by architects and contractors. All these foundations must be placed on top of footings and inspected by the building inspector before they are filled with concrete.
If you are looking for a price on a foundation, or a whole custom home feel free to email me at robabbott@villagebuilders.ca or visit our website at villagebuilders.ca
Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tips on designing your ski chalet


Tips when you are planning to build a ski chalet
Here are some things that you should remember when you are planning to build a ski chalet that will allow you to get the most out of your investment.
First things first, plan the size and shape of the building so that you maximize the space and the views that are around the building site. If you have a view, plan to put as many windows on that side of the building as possible. You should also plan to put any decks or patios on that side of the building.
Most modern ski chalets are now designed with “great rooms” in them. This is usually a high ceiling room with a large fireplace that becomes the focal point and the gathering area of the interior chalet. Your fireplace or fireplaces in a ski chalet are more important than any other room in the house. In a normal house the most used and most important room in a house is usually the kitchen but not in a chalet. You need to remember that in a chalet you will be returning from the cold weather of the hill and want to have a hot chocolate in front of a roaring fireplace. You want to make the fireplace in the chalet the focal point, a point where the family can gather and relax. You want the largest fireplace in the house installed or built in the great room and a large hearth stone placed in front of it so that people can use it as a seating area during gatherings. If possible, install fireplaces in certain bedrooms will help give that romantic feeling and allow you a warm and cozy area to get away from it all.
In the great room there should be cathedral ceilings; this lends itself to installing large rustic beams in the cathedral ceiling. If you light them appropriately washing the ceiling and highlighting roof features it can bring a warm and cozy feeling to a room no matter how large or small in scale. It can also give your guests the feeling of being in an expensive resort.
Another thing that you need when you are designing your chalet is a large mudroom. A large mudroom is important so that you can have a large group of people stomp in and out wearing their ski boots and be able to change and shed layers. In the mudroom you will want to maximize storage. A lot of the chalets that we have built have walls of cabinets so that you can store all your skis, boots, coats, snowshoes and ski bags. This is the easiest way to control the disaster that is a group of children or teens coming in, dropping clothes and equipment all over the house. Tiling the floor in this area is a most, this will allow easy clean up of melting snow and give the floor the durability to withstand ski boots pounding on top of it.
Every ski chalet should have a garage where you can store snowmobiles and any other equipment that you don’t use during certain seasons. A lot of ski chalets are used as summer homes when the family likes to go mountain biking, hiking or wants to just to be part of nature. Bikes take a lot of room and need to be properly stored during the winter. With so many different winter sports now a days you really need to have a lot of storage for equipment and the best way to do that is with a properly organized garage.
If you are looking to build a chalet that doesn’t need a lot maintenance then having a steel roof installed is a great way to inshore you wouldn’t be hiring anyone to climb up on your roof to shovel it off after a heavy snow fall. Steel roofs are great at shedding snow and ice. Steel roofs also will last the life time of the home. Steel roofs now have a colour warranty that is 50 years insuring you won’t ever have to repaint.
If you want a true ski chalet then you should think about adding two things;
1. A hot tub. Every ski chalet needs a hot tub. The hot tub should be placed close enough to the chalet so that you can walk out a door and get in the tub. Remember some poor person is going to have to go out there and shovel the snow off the top and create a walking path.
2. A sauna. You need a sauna in your chalet. This is a great thing for people to relax in, especially if the weather is too ugly for you to get to the hot tub. A sauna does not take up a lot of room; it can be built in a corner of the house or in the garage. In house saunas are a lot safer than they used to be and if they are built properly you should not have to worry about moisture penetrating the rest of the house.
With modern insulation and modern heating, having a chalet that you leave and come back to without having to adjust the heat is now the norm. With modern chalets, you use them the same way that you use your house at home. You leave the water and the heat on so that when you return next weekend it is ready to go.
A lot of people are building there chalets with an eye to making it there retirement home. If this is the case then you should make the floor plan in a way that you can comfortably live in it full time. Just because it will be your retirement home one day doesn’t mean that you have to spend a lot of money on fixtures now. If you don’t plan to retire into the home for 10 or more years then I recommend that you don’t spend a lot of money on the fixtures. With wear and tear and changing trends most houses should be renovated every 15 to 20 years. This means that when it’s time for you to retire you should do some minor cosmetic renovations, like changing taps, upgrading counter tops and painting. This will give your chalet a homier feel and allow you to move into your home without dealing with the dust and debris of renovations later on.
Remember that when you are planning to build a chalet you should plan the building around having fun with family and friends, this will allow you to enjoy it to its full potential.
If you are thinking about building a chalet feel free to check out some of the chalets that we have built at www.villagebuilders.ca. If you need an estimate on your upcoming chalet project please email me at robabbott@villagebuilders.ca.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Renovating in Creemore


Renovating in Creemore

If you’re planning to renovate your home in the Creemore area you have chosen a wonderful place to invest your money and your time. Any upgrades you do to your home here will give an immediate return on your investment. Creemore has become one of the premier places to own a home or cottage in all of Ontario.
Since you’re planning to spend your hard earned money on your home then you should be doing it the right way. You should do it in a way that will give you the maximum return on your investment and it should turn out to be the home you always wanted. The worst feeling in the world is when you have spent thousands of dollars on renovations and at the end of the project it turns out not to look like what you had envisioned in your mind.

There are ways to avoid this happening to you. The most important thing you can do is hire a professional to do your renovating, a professional that has the experience to do your job in the high quality that you expect.

Here are some things that you should be looking for when you are going to hire a renovator;
·         Insurance. This might sound like an obvious thing that your renovator will have insurance, but it’s not as simple as you think. You need to make sure that they have the right insurance and the proper amount. What I mean by the right insurance is that they need insurance depending on what they are doing in your home. If they are renovating a bathroom and you are still going to be living in the house then that insurance needs to reflect that the homeowner is living on the property. The right amount of insurance is extremely important, if the renovator has a million dollars in insurance that’s sounds like a lot until you find out that your house and all its contents are worth 1.5 million to replace. If the worst happens you want to be able to have all your possessions replaced and your house rebuilt.
·         References. The builder/renovator should be able to give you a list of renovations that they have done in the area and the email or phone numbers of the homeowners so that you can call to ask them how the project turned out.
·         Quality. Ask around the area and find out what type of renovations that they do. You do not want to hire a contractor that has no experience doing high end renovations. A contractor might mean well but if they have never done a certain type of work they may become overwhelmed.
·         Ask a lot of questions. A renovator that has nothing to hide will welcome your questions. Ask about what they think of what you plan to do, do they have any suggestions that would make the job turn out better? Ask them how they are going to protect your property while their working around it. Ask them how they are going to control dust, dirt and debris.
·         Get a proper quote. Get the quote in writing. Any contractor that is a true professional will give you a written quote that states clearly what you are getting in the renovation and what you are not.
·         Designs. Find out if they do design and what is the charge for design. Try to find a renovator that has an on staff designer or works closely with a local designer. This is one of the most important aspects of renovating. If you can get the drawings done by the builder then you will be able to see exactly what you are getting. This will allow you to work with the designer to make changes before you even start. Every time you change something in a renovation after the renovation has already started it cost money. But if you can get drawings and make your changes before the builder even starts then you can reduce or eliminate that extra cost.
This is the single biggest way to ensure that you get the maximum return on your investment. A designer turns a simple renovation into a work of art, like what you see in magazines. Designers are able to give you that wow factor that everyone wants and most people don’t know how to get.
·         Schedule. Ask when they can start, when they will be finished and when do you as the homeowner need to be there to make decisions. If this is your cottage or second home and you are not going to be around all the time you will want to know when you need to be there. Or when you need to make important decisions like the choosing of fixtures, layouts and colours. A lot of this can be done over the phone or via email, but there are times when you simply have to be there to understand some of the choices that you are being asked to make.
·         Hire a contractor that can communicate in the modern world. A lot of older contractors do not like cell phones and do not use email. You want to be able to communicate with your contractor easily. In today’s world it’s not wrong to ask for a contractor that can communicate with the convenience that you are used too.
·         Hire a contractor that has a support team. A professional renovating contractor will have employees. You want to be able to call them and be able to talk to someone. No matter if it’s the operations manager, the owner or a secretary you want to hire a contractor professional with a support staff.
·         Hire someone that you are comfortable with being in your home alone without you. This contractor is going to be in your house alone without you more then he will be in your home with you. You need to be able to trust them and the sub trades that they are going to bring in to your home.

When you are planning to renovate in the Creemore area and you follow the points that I have laid out in this article you should come and check out Village Builders.

We are at 3 Caroline St. East in the village of Creemore. Check us out at www.villagebuilders.ca

If you are thinking about renovating and are looking for a builder or if you are just looking for a designer feel free to email me at robabbott@villagebuilders.ca

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

When should you renovate your home? Every 15 to 20 years


You should renovate your home every 15 to 20 years
If you are looking around your home and wondering if it’s time to start renovating you home think about the length of time that it has been since the house was either been built or renovated last. If you come up with a number that comes close to 15 years then it might be time to renovate. There are certain areas of the house that will require renovating before others.
·         Bathrooms. Bathrooms are used and abused. They are also the one room in your house most open to water damage that can cause mold and rot. Bathrooms are also one of the main areas in the house that are routinely done improperly by handymen and homeowners. With modern building techniques bathrooms have come a long way. Today’s bathrooms are drywalled in a mold and moisture resistance board. The importance of larger fans and HRV’s is well known now to keep excessive moisture from damaging the room. Bathroom trends change faster than any other room in the house. What is in style this decade was not in style last decade and this can make the bathroom looked dated. Also your life style changes will affect your bathroom usage, if you have young children then the function of your bathroom changes with the tub being used more than the shower. When the children become young adults then the shower becomes more important than the tub. Always think about the way you want your bathroom to function when you are thinking about renovating it.
·         Kitchens. The kitchen in your house is the heart of the home. It will take more abuse than any other room. Nowhere else in the house does every single person visit at least twice a day and proceed to do something. Kitchen cabinets are opened more per day than any other cabinet in your whole house in a week. Kitchens need a face lift or a complete renovation with the changing times and trends. As your appliances have to be replaced before your kitchen will then you can end up with gaps where the new appliances don’t fit the exact same as the old ones. Kitchens are the usually the first room that your guests will visit when coming into your home. The kitchen will set the tone for the whole house. A lot of kitchens are not just for food prep anymore, there a gathering place for family’s with spaces to eat meals and do homework.
·         Laundry rooms. Laundry rooms or mudrooms are not just a place to do the laundry, they are a place where countless items are stored and countless people will come and go. They take a lot of abuse especially if you have kids and pets.
·         Rec rooms. Rec rooms have fallen out of favour in new homes, instead of having a room that is designated as a multipurpose space; people want every part of their house to be a defined space. The rec room has been transformed into a games room, or a media room, a movie room or a several smaller defined spaces instead of one large open empty one.
·         Master bedroom. Master Bedrooms have been changed into a personal oasis for the homeowner, a place to get away from everyone else. So master bedrooms now have fireplaces, TV’s mounted on the wall with full surround sound and a lot of light that is put on dimmers to help create any mood that you want.
·         Windows. A lot of low end or inexpensive windows that were installed two decades ago need their windows replaced. Seals go and allow air and water penetration. A lot of the time when windows are replaced rot is found and has to be repaired. Caulking around windows usually only lasts 15 years, even if you don’t replace all the windows you should take the time to re-caulk them.
·         Exterior finishes. Siding, brick or stucco should be either replaced, repaired, repainted or touched up when you are renovating your home. This will help the property value, it will insure that you do not have any leaks were caulking could have failed and allows you to repair any area’s before they get to bad to repair.
The average Canadian will only own a house for 7 years. That means that there will be two to three owners between renovations in a 15 to 20 year period. If the average home is only owned for 7 years and then sold that means that renovating your home will raise your property value when you decide to sell.
Since home inspectors have become the norm when people are looking into buying your house it goes a long way to satisfying people’s concerns when you are able to tell them that the house was renovated by a professional.
Also there is very little education or accreditation to become a home inspector. More than once has Village Builders come to the defence of one of their past clients because a home inspector was confused by something and gave a false report jeopardising the potential sale of a house. A professional contractor will not charge you for any of this after the fact because it’s part of their reputation of quality work that was completed properly and within the parameters of the building code.
So remember if you are wondering if your home needs to be renovated, do a little math and if the number comes in at 15 years or above then it is definitely time to renovate.
If you are looking to renovate please feel free to give us a call at 877-866-3202 or check out our website at www.villagebuilders.ca
Rob Abbott
Operation Manager
Village Builders Inc.