Thursday, December 29, 2011

Village Builders 2011 year in review

2011 the year in review for Village Builders Inc.
It has been an interesting year for Village builders Inc in 2011.
For the third straight year the overall work taken on and completed has grown. We have grown every year since the credit crunch and stock market crash of 2008.
2011 was the year of the house for Village builders, we started and completed more houses in one single year than ever before in the company’s 30 year history.
Renovations on the other hand were down compared to the previous two years but still ahead of the pre 2008 pace.
The trend for houses seems to be that they are getting more expense per square foot. Houses now have all the bells and whistles in them and every feature imaginable to make life a little easier. Things such as rough-ins for elevators and generators are now a common theme in all our houses. Electronics and automation is on the rise with more tech savvy clients wanting to be able to control their house functions from there smart phones.
The trend for pre 2008 was that the houses grew in size, but were close to the same price per square foot and tended to be in the chalet or country style. The trend in 2011 was houses of all sizes, shapes, styles and locations but with an ever rising price per square foot.
·         Energy efficiency in all the aspects of the home is growing year over year, 2011 was no different. High efficiency gas furnaces are now the norm and if the property allows geothermal heating seems to be the only sensible option for houses in the country that have no access to natural gas. More insulation is being added to houses, in the walls and in the attic with the rising cost of electricity and gas.
·         A larger percentage of houses that we built or were building in 2011 are getting away from wood siding and are turning to stone or brick. Also cement sidings popularity has continued to grow.
·         Steel roofs have become the most popular option for at least half of the houses that were built. With the uncertainty of the quality of shingles these days and the extreme weather steel will continue to grow in popularity.
·         Decking is undergoing a major revolution with so many new products and options. Builders are being asked to look into products that they have never even heard of or seen before. Composite decking is becoming the most popular because of its longevity and new materials that are making it look more appealing.
·         Fireplaces are growing in size, especially natural gas fireplaces, with so many options out there people are being buried by choices and so are builders.
·         Painted trim is the most popular way to finish off the house in 2011 and reclaimed floors that are finished on site were also the most popular.
·         Window sizes seem to have grown in size. Also the amount of different manufactures that we seem to be using has grown as well.
·         Houses with attached double car garages seems to be the norm again in 2011, this is a trend that has continued for the last couple of years, even with the space for a detached garage people are opting for the attached version.
·         Master suites are now the norm in all houses built in 2011. Suites commonly all contain a large bedroom, large Ensuite bathroom and an ever growing walk in closet with custom shelving units installed.
Overall it seems that homeowners are becoming more and more confused with the over abundance in choices that they are able to find on either the internet or in the stores. There is a growing lag on the building process because of homeowners being bogged down with choices.
Village Builders as a company now employs more people than they ever have before. This is in every department from the operations, office staff and the design.
With the prospect of large new projects in the spring and the current ongoing projects the operations side of the business looks to grow even more in 2012.
With the increased management and growth of the business, perspective clients are being identified earlier on in the building process. Instead of being identified months before there project starts they are now being identified years in advance. This is allowing Village Builders to take a more active role in the planning process of their perspective client’s entire project. This is one of the main reasons for the growth in 2011 in Village Builders.
Overall the year of 2011 was of growth and change with so many new employees.
2012 looks to be another year of growth with less change to structure of the company and more infill around the current structure.
Design Department
This year marks the 1st anniversary of the interior design department at Village Builders. The prospect of growth in this sector seems to be very large as not only new clients are using our service, but former clients as well are taking advantage. The design department has revolutionized the renovation side of the business with new modern designs and out of the box thinking. They are also giving our clients more personal attention than ever before and being able to help keep a strict eye on all the purchasing of materials and order tracking.
2011 was one of the most successful years for Village Builders Inc. and 2012 looks to be even better!

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village builders Inc.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Buying local series: General Contractor

Buying local series: General Contractor
When building a new home it is always best to buy from the local businesses in the area or community that you are constructing the home. No matter if it’s your summer home, second home or your primary residence buying locally always makes more sense. This time I’m writing about the reason you should be having your project managed by a general contractor locally, I’m talking about the local general contractor.
General Contractor:
Of all the different trades that I have written about in this Buying Local Series there is no more important part of building or renovating your home then the general contractor. Without a really good contractor it wouldn’t matter how good the rest of the trades are, the project will not run smoothly or at a high quality if the general contractor doesn’t know what they are doing.
A really good general contractor is not that hard to find, all you have to do is your homework. Since you should be trying to find a local general contractor you can start by talking to the local lumber yard and any local trades that you have had previous experience with and you trust. Check the internet, a good general contractor will have a website and this will tell you a lot about how organized and professional they will be. Ask for a list of references so that you can talk to their previous clients, the longer the list that they will give you, the more satisfied clients they will have.
Here are some reasons why you should look to hire a local general contractor;
·         They will know the trades that will give you the quality that you need and deserve.
·         They will know the local weather conditions and be able to advise you on what products do better in this climate and what products perform poorly.
·         Since they are local they use a lot of the same trades over and over again. This gives them some pull when it comes to getting the job done on time and when you require warranty work done on your house years later.
·         In the future once the project is finished, you will not have to go far to get repairs or warranty service.
·         If you plan to do a series of renovations overtime then they are always close to help you with the planning and executing of these projects.
·         They will know the ins and outs of the local building rules and can help you navigate through it to get your permit in a timely manner.
·         When they give you an estimate they will be able to factor in certain things like weather working conditions, soil conditions and some travel problems. These could end up costing you more money if you went with an out of the area contractor who will charge you extra.
·         You should be able to get them to give you tours of other projects they have done in your area so that you know the quality of work they do and the style that they are use too.
·         They employ local craftsmen; this can help you get to know the community and make new friends and neighbours.
·         Since they use local trades, they will be able to cut down the build time; they will know what trades are busy and what trades are available to do the work.
·         They will know where to get the best price on materials and the best quality of material.
In a world that keeps talking about going green; there is nothing more green then using local businesses. They do not travel as far to work, cutting down emissions, the money stays in the local economy and a lot of the material used on the project will not travel as far because it can be shipped from the source instead of being shipped to different locations.
Remember that the most important decisions that you will make when building a new home or renovating an older one is who you choose for your general contractor. The general contractor will be the one that makes or breaks your project and will be the one that helps it come together in a timely manner.
If you want to see what a quality general contractor should be check out our website
If you require more information on general contractors email me at or if you have a project that you would like us to general for you feel free to contact me.
Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bostich, Hitachi, Paslode which are the best framing nailers?

Pneumatic air nailers for framing
Framing pneumatic air nailers are the life breath of any residential construction company. Nothing can bring the construction of a house to a grinding halt faster than the failure of the pneumatic framing nailer.
As the operations manager at Village Builders Inc. I do all the tool purchasing and I have tried most of the different manufactures of air nailers on the market.
Being a custom home company we frame all our houses ourselves.
For the first twenty years we only owned Paslode guns. A couple of reasons why; they were one of the only guns available on the market, they lasted a long time and they took a lot of abuse. But in the last 10 years the market has been flooded with companies making pneumatic air nailers. The prices vary from the cheap to the expensive.
First things first if the price of a pneumatic nailer is too good to be true then it probably is, that means that it is make cheaply. Too many nailers are made with a lot of plastic to help keep the weight down. This might sound like a good thing, except when its -20C and your labour drops the air nailer off the top of the ladder and it smashes on the floor. When you pick it up it rattles and pieces have fallen off it.
Here are some guild lines that I use when shopping for Pneumatic air nailers;
·         When buying a framing nailer you want something made of metal and this means that it isn’t going to be the lightest tool to handle. Remember that what you do is work and that is what your employee’s are going to have to do with it, work. A framer built from metal will last longer in the hands of your carpenters and especially your labourers that don’t realize how much the tool there holding costs.
·         Don’t be afraid to try a different brand if you think the tool looks better and the price is right. Also different nailers have different options. So pick the nailer that suits your needs.
·         Buy your nailer from a place that you will be able give you warranty service and repairs after the warranty has run out. Make sure your buying it from a business that isn’t going to take your tool when it breaks and send it away somewhere else in the country. Every day you’re without your tool is a day that you can’t make money with it. If you have a local tool dealer that might cost you a little bit more but give you better service then go with them. Service always should win out over price.
·         Research your nailer. Look on the internet for tool reviews, look in trade magazines, talk to other people in the construction industry and talk to your local tool dealer. He will be able to give you feed back on what nailers are popular and what nailers are coming back for too much service.
·         Ask your employee’s. This is a big one, your employee’s will tell you if they like the nailer or if they don’t. Maybe they know of problems with the tool that you don’t.
Now for my choice of pneumatic air nailers;
1.       Hitachi-We have owned a few of these guns. They seem to last the longest, because they are made of metal. They are by far the heaviest nailer as well. These guns are a little larger than normal guns, so sometimes they are hard to fit between the studs. But this gun takes abuse and just keeps driving nails. It also toe nails better than most other guns on the market.

2.       Bostich-This gun is a very good quality gun and it is also made from metal. What makes this gun come in as high as number two is that this is one of the only framing nailers that I have found that will shoot framing nails and joist hanger nails. All you have to do is change the head on the end of the gun and it will shoot the joist hanger nails. This has saved us hours of work and many fingers since you don’t have to do it by hand. Also you don’t have to buy a pneumatic nailer that just shoots joist hanger nails. When the heads wear out they are easily changed and are not expensive to buy. The cons with this gun are that the service record though good is not as good as the Hitachi. These framers don’t take the abuse that the Hitachi’s handle. Also these nailers are a little harder to use when toe nailing. A plus for them is that they are a little smaller then the Hitachi’s so they fit between the studs a little easier.

3.       Paslode-They were the industry leaders for years, but the rest of the world caught up to them and in a lot of area’s passed them. I have found that not much has changed with paslode framing guns over the years. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. There track record for tools is very good but a lot of the things like ease of loading and ease of use are just not there compared to the rest of the industry. But paslodes have a great service record and seem to be able to take abuse. The price point of these guns is the big one for me; paslode always seems to be more expensive than any other manufacturer. I have a hard time justifying the price I have to pay to own one.
There are hundreds of framing guns on the market; the only way really to know is by trial and error. But if you start with the 3 that I have listed above you will have a better chance of finding the right one sooner rather than later.
Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders inc.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The 100 year deck joist

The 100 year deck joist
In today’s world of deck building, everyone is talking about the top of the deck. Should your deck be pressure treated, cedar, composite material or some form of wood that is suppose to last you the lifetime that you own your home.
When building custom decks, gone are the days that you figure the deck will only last 15 years and you will have to tear it down and build a new one. Now if you are spending large amounts of money on the top of the deck then doing a few things to the actual structure of the deck will ensure that you never have to replace it.
First things first. You need to install proper footings to make sure that the deck never moves. The best way to ensure that the deck never shifts is to install FOOTING TUBES. A proper footing tube will come with a flared bell on the bottom, or sometimes called a big foot. A footing tube will start at the bottom at about 24 inches and taper to about 8 to 16 inches at the top. When these are placed a minimum of 4 feet in the ground the frost will never be able to get underneath them and heave the deck. Once they are backfilled and concrete is poured into them you can be certain that they will be there for a lifetime.
A couple of things you need to do before you build the frame of your deck on top of your footing tubes. You should lay filter cloth underneath the entire area where the deck will be constructed. This will ensure that you do not get weeds growing up under the deck. The more organics that you can keep away from the deck the less likely they are to rot. You need to weigh the filter cloth down so that the wind will not roll it up. Usually most people get a small load of gravel and have it placed over the filter cloth.
You will want to make sure that the framing of the deck will be at least 1 ft off the ground. This will allow airflow under the deck which will intern allow the deck joist to dry when they get wet.
If you are hanging the joist off beams or a ledger board, make sure that every joist gets a galvanized joist hanger bracket. You also should only use galvanized hanger nails to fasten the hanger to the joist. This will allow the joist to take a larger load without any movement at the ends.
For all your nailing you should only use galvanized nails and if you are using screws they should be either coated to reduce corrosion or be ceramic screws. This will help extend the life of the fasteners and help minimize repairs in the future.
Once you have placed the joist in the framing of the deck, before you install the top, there is one more thing that you need to do. Install a piece of waterproofing on the top of the joist. You want the waterproofing to be wide enough that it covers the top of the joist and wraps down the side of the joist. The waterproofing should only go about half way down the side of the joist. It should go half way down on both sides. This should be placed on every joist in the deck. The reason that you want to waterproof the top half only of the joist is because this will allow the joist to dry naturally. If you waterproof too much of the joist or all of it then any moisture that the joist does absorb will not be able to evaporate or drain out the bottom. The reason for the waterproofing on top of the joist is because all your fasteners will penetrate the top and on the upper sides. The waterproofing will coat the fasteners going in and stop the water from penetrating the joist. Also the space between the deck boards can be prone to holding water, because the air cannot dry that space.
Once you have the top of the deck on, you should install skirting around the deck from the joist down to the ground. You should use open lattice not closed lattice. This will do a number of things;
·         it will stop animals from making their home under the deck
·         it gives the deck a nice finished look
·         it will allow airflow under the deck to dry the joist.
So there you have what we call the 100 year joist. If you are having a custom deck built and you are planning to put a material on the top to last a life time then make sure that you ask your contractor about the 100 year joist.
Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Get your building permit before January 1st 2012

Get your building permit before January 1st 2012
If you are in the process of having a house designed, interviewing builders or you are ready to build but have decided to wait until spring to start construction then you should submit your plans for a permit NOW! If you wait until the New Year your house will cost you more money!
The reason for this is because the Ontario Building code is going through some large changes that will affect you. They have decided to raise the energy efficiency on all new houses. There are going to be certain things that your contractor doesn’t do now that they will be forced to do in the New Year.
The system that is coming out is a columned system. Which means that you pick a column from A to M and you have to follow it through the constructing of the building. This means that if you deviate from the column you will fail your final inspection with the building department.
This new system has to be agreed too when the designer is drawing up the plans. There is a lot of paperwork that the architect will have to prepare for the house plans. If the paperwork isn’t done properly then the building department will not issue a permit for the building.
So any house plans that have been drawn up in 2011 and submitted in 2012 will not be approved. All 2011 plans will have to be completely revised to meet the new code standards. Also the plans will have to be revised showing the column you have decided on.
Another thing that will happen is that you will have less room to change your mind about certain things as the build process progresses. The minimum standards in a lot of areas in the new code are close to the maximum standards in the old code. So in 2011 you were able to pick and choose where you wanted to spend your money, in the new code you will basically only have the choice of spending more money or sticking with the minimum code of 2012. This will probably end up costing you about 20 to 30% more across the board for insulation and heating equipment.
If you want to avoid all of these hassles, you should submit your building plans now before the New Year rolls around. Your plans don’t have to be approved this year; they just have to be submitted so that they are in the system as 2011 submissions. The design costs you save alone will be worth it.
Another major concern is that because the code is changing, the building departments have to relearn all the things that they are looking for in building plans. This means that you will have delays in getting your building plans approved in a timely manner. With a large number of people trying to beat the January 1st deadline with their plans, the building departments will be overloaded. So if you want to start your build in the winter months and you don’t submit your plans until after the New Year you will be waiting a lot longer for approvals. The building department will have to clear the 2011 permit applications before they even start looking at the 2012 applications. Since the 2012 applications are all under the new rules there is bound to be a lot of confusion with what exactly the rules are going to be and how they should be instituted. You could be looking at least a month delay just to get your plans approved by your local township. This doesn’t take into consideration if you have to deal with a conservation authority or a commission who will be even less knowledgeable about the new code changes.
So do yourself a favour and submit your building plans now before the January 1st 2012 deadline. It will save you money from the design end all the way to the finished building.
Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Be advised there are changes to the Ontario building code as of January 1, 2012

Ontario Building code is changing as of January 1st 2012
To most people this is probably comes as a surprise, but to builders it is not. We have known that this was coming for about a year. What has caught everyone off guard is that as early as 6 months ago we were told that the government wasn’t ready to implement the new changes. So to everyone’s surprise the government announced that the new rules take effect on January 1st 2012. Like usual the Ontario government is so disorganized that they can’t even give there building inspectors literature on the new changes to the building code yet. As I write this it is the week of December 12th to the 23rd the inspectors just started receiving there literature. I talked to a local building inspector who said that they had just taken a course on it, but the government was so ill prepared that they couldn’t even give them any literature to take home with them.
The changes are all upgrades involving energy efficiency. The bottom line to people that want to build a new home or renovate one in Ontario is that it will cost you more across the board.
I am all for energy efficiency in new homes and I have long been a proponent in raising the new home standards, but to do it in such an unorganized way is ridicules. I personally attended a meeting put on by the local homebuilders association where a government employee presented some of the new code requirements. But she warned us that none of this was set in stone yet and could change. That was in May of this year.
At the moment we are pricing 3 different new home projects for the spring. We just got a look at some of the changes to the building code and have had to call these clients and warn them that we will have to re-estimate there projects because of the changes.
As a custom homebuilder we already do a lot of the new changes in the code as habit. But there are a lot of things that we don’t do because the client has not instructed us because of cost. Because of this we could end up having to raise our prices in some areas of the building as much as 20 percent.
I will give an example,
·       New building codes state that a new house with an attic space must have a minimum of R50, the current standard is R40. That is a 20% increase in cost.
·       New wall insulation is R24, the current code is R22. This means that you might have to install foam on the outside of the building to meet code.
·       Basement insulation has gone up and now you will have to frame 2x6 walls, the old code was 2x4 walls, that’s a 30 percent increase in framing material and insulation.
These are just the tip of the iceberg with the new code changes. We are sitting around wondering how we are suppose to continue estimating if we don’t even know the rules that we are using.
So if you are thinking of building this spring be warned that your costs will be higher!
Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, December 9, 2011

How to build a hot tub room

How to build a proper exterior hot tub room
Hot tubs have never been more popular than they are right now. The price of hot tubs has come down from even 5 years ago. If you want to get the maximum enjoyment out of your hot tub then you should build a hot tub room for the tub to be placed in.
A hot tub room doesn’t have to be fancy and it doesn’t have to be built into your existing house.
Place your hot tub far enough away from your house that when you build the building over it, it will not conflict with the existing architecture of the house. The hot tub room does not have to look anything like your house, in a lot of situations we build them so that they are completely opposite to the house. Building them out of all cedar, or pine and the house is brick, can give people the feel that the hot tub building is an oasis from the world. You want the hot tub far enough away but not too far. If you have to shovel snow, or walk through a biting wind you don’t want a 5 minute excursion. If you can manage to plan the room along with a deck or patio that will help give everything a linked feel, it will seem like it was always suppose to be there.
How to build your hot tub room;
1.       Strip off the top soil and make level the ground for a concrete pad. The pad should be 4 inches bigger than the hot tub itself. This allows you to move the hot tub when you set it in place a little. Depending on the size and weight of the hot tub your pad should be a minimum of 6 inches thick.
2.       Then install footing tubes where you think you require them. If your hot tub room is a square you probably need four of them, but if it has more corners or you’re spanning more than 14 feet you should probably add in centre posts to take the weight.
3.       Once the concrete has been poured and backed filled, it’s time to install the tub. Place the tub on the concrete pad centring it in the new building. This has to be done before you start constructing the deck or you will never get it in.
4.       Set the height of the deck. You want the height of the deck off the ground so that there can be air movement under it. This will allow the joist to air dry every time they get wet. The higher you can get the deck the better for getting in and out of the hot tub. The best result if you can build the deck 4 to 5 inches below the top edge of the hot tub. This places the deck below the plastic moulded edge. It will show a little of the tubs side material which is usually cedar. This allows the cover to be properly installed when the tub is not in use. The other thing that this allows you to do is keep the floor joist above the access to the motor and pump. If you can’t get the deck joist above the motor and pump area then your going to have to frame a spot in the deck that will allow you to work on the this area.
5.       Frame the deck around the hot tub. The actual joist should be left 2 to 3 inches away from the hot tub, the hot tub once full of water will settle and shift a little depending on the season. You want to give it this room to do that.
6.       The top decking can be whatever you want, a lot of people use cedar or a composite decking material. This will give the decking longer life as it will be getting wet from people exiting the tub. Try to leave a minimum of 1 inch around the tub with the decking so that it has the ability to move. You can always cut some of this decking out in the future if you think the tub needs more space.
7.       Frame the walls and roof beams, if you are putting a roof on this room/building then you can use spruce lumber, but if you are going to leave the top open air then you should use pressure treaded lumber. The walls only have to be framed out of 2 x4’s. Put large 6 x6 posts in the corner to transfer the roof load down to the footing tubes.
8.       Frame in some windows and a patio door, this will give you maximum light and something to look out when your relaxing in the tub.
9.       You can clad the outside of the building in whatever you want. My hot tub room was done in tongue and groove cedar inside and out, installed vertically. I put no treatment on it and allowed it to go naturally grey.
10.   When you frame the roof, try to frame the roof so that you can leave it unfinished.  Use a nicer wood then spruce. Pine or cedar is fine, if your budget allows it use a beautiful hardwood to show off the contours of the roof.
11.   Skylights are always a nice feature, one reason people own a hot tub is so that they can stare at the stars. Depending on size of your room and the size of your budget you can install as many as you want. One other option is to have a custom plastic sky light made. My hot tub room has a 5 x5 foot plastic clear dome in the middle. This requires some tricky framing, but an experienced carpenter should have no problem figuring it out. Plastic skylights are actually cheaper then glass skylights. They also do not come with a flashing kit like a glass skylight, so when you shingle the roof you will have to spend some extra time making sure that you have the plastic domes edges leak proof.
12.   Finish off the room with some electrical outlets and at least one light. When the electrician wires up your hot tub he should mount the GFI breaker panel outside of the hot tub room so that anyone coming to service the tub can easily turn it off.
13.   If you can, install windows that will open so that you can create cross ventilation. Hot tub rooms will become very warm and stuffy if there is no ventilation. If you can’t install windows that open then install louvers. These will allow you to create even more ventilation keeping the temperature relatively comfortable.
14.   Do not enclose around the bottom of the deck where it sits off the ground. You want airflow under the deck to allow the joist o dry when they get wet. Instead install lattice, this will allow airflow to the underside of the deck, keeping animals from living in there and it gives it that nice and finished look.
This will give you a hot tub room that will allow you to use your hot tub all year long. If you bug proof it with big screen then you can use it in the spring when its mosquito season.
Another benefit to a hot tub room is that it will protect your hot tub cover from the elements, wind, rain, snow and the sun age the cover quickly and being inside should extend the life of it. It is also a great way to keep animals from walking on the cover and if you have small children then a lock on the door will give you added safety.
For more tips on hot tub rooms, or if you would like a price on one from Village Builders Inc. Please email me at
Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why you should buy tools from Hilti!

Why you should buy Hilti tools!
As the operations manager at Village Builders Inc. I buy all the tools for the company. The busier we are the more tools that require for the growing number of employee’s. The busier you are the more your existing tools get used and abused, thus you have to repair and replace them more frequently.
If you have ever been in a big box construction store you would know that the verity of tools and tool companies has exploded in the last 15 years. Other than the price for a lot of people it’s really hard to tell what good tools are and what are cheap handy man tools. In a business that relies on their tools to bring in the money, buying the wrong tool or tool brand can cost you a lot of money.
The next time you are in one of these big box stores and see dozens of different tool brands, look closely and you will see a lot of similarities in the tools. Parts on one drill look like they’d fit on another that is a different brand, the reality is that they probably would. Those dozens of tool brands are actually owned by only a couple of companies. I will give you an example; if you buy Dewalt tools you are actually buying from Bosch. Bosch bought Dewalt in the last couple of years, Dewalt was owned by Black and Decker. Which means Bosch now also owns Black and Decker. There are other tool brands that Bosch also owns, more than you would think.
All these companies have one thing in common, volume sales. If you buy these brands they come with a warranty of about a year. If you want that warranty the tool has to be sent to facility that repairs them. The average turnaround time to get your tool warranted is about a 4 to 6 weeks. To people that just use their tools on the weekend that probably doesn’t sound like a long time. To a construction company that is an eternity. If I have to lose a tool for 4 to 6 weeks, that means I have to go out and buy a new tool to replace it for that month. Then when the tool returns I have two of them, when I might only need one. If you have ever rented a tool for a week or longer from a rental store you would have realized that for the price of the rental it’s actually cheaper to buy the tool outright.
So for construction companies like Village Builders I found the solution, it’s a company called HILTI. You probably have heard of them, they are the company that pioneered the powder activated nail gun the “HILTI GUN”. It basically uses a 22 gauge load of gun powder to shoot nails into concrete and steel, saving you the time of having to drill a hole and drive or screw a faster in. They are also famous for their large breaking hammers and drills.
Hilti sells a wide variety of tools now days. They are heavily invested in the cordless tool market. Hilti is a company that is constantly striving to perfect their tool and are never afraid to reinvent a tool or tool design. Hilti tools are known in the construction industry as an extremely well built tool. But where Hilti stands head and shoulders above the other tool companies is there customer service. I will give you an example, if you send in your cordless hammer drill on a Monday by Purolator, they will assess the tool and if it’s under warranty still fix or replace the tool and have it back in your hands for Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning. If it’s under warranty even the shipping back and forth of the tool is free. I the tool is not under warranty, they will call you on the Tuesday and tell you the price to fix it. If you agree to the price of the repair then you will still have the tool back to you by Thursday morning. This allows companies like mine to have tools repaired or replaced in less than 4 days instead of months.
A lot of the tools that Hilti sells come with multiyear warranties, so there are a lot of times when the tool is a year and a half old and it is fixed or replaced for free. This comes in handy for cordless tools because the warranty applies to the batteries and the charger as well.
If you send them a tool no matter how old and the cost of the repair is too high for the age of the tool. They will offer to buy the broken tool from you if you buy a new tool to replace it. That’s right Hilti will pay you for the broken tool!  There are a couple of reasons for this;
·         Hilti wants to encourage you to buy more of their product
·         Hilti believes that happy customers will spend more money with their company, recreating customer loyalty.
·         Every Hilti tool that is bought from Hilti has a serial number that is recorded in their computers. This helps them track your warranty, it also helps stop theft. If you take a tool you bought to Hilti, they will first check to see if the tool is stolen or not! If it is they will give the tool to the police. So they don’t want you selling Hilti tools to other people that aren’t in there system.
·         The bigger Hilti tools have a record of use; this will give Hilti valuable information on how the tool performed in its life time and changes that need to be made in future models to extend life.
·         Hilti doesn’t want you selling a tool to someone else if it’s faulty because that can reflect negatively on Hilti.
To add to the customer service of Hilti, they have reps that service the area in which you run your business. Once the rep gets to know your business, he will stop in and let you know of any deals or sales that are happening. He also carries around in his red truck all the latest Hilti tools, big and small. So if you want to try out a tool for a couple days before you buy it he will lend you that tool. He will also be able to give you the Hilti catalogue. Hilti doesn’t just sell tools; they also sell a wide verity of construction materials, such as spray foam and different adhesives. They sell blades for every cutting and grinding tool that they make. The Hilti rep can also show you how to properly care for and proper operate your tools, to extend the life of the tool. I am on a first name bases with my rep, his name is Chris and I’m pretty sure he has me on speed dial these days for the amount of product and tools that I buy off him.
Hilti also allows you to buy anything you want from them on their website, allowing you to purchase anything they sell hassle free, shipped straight to your door.
So the next time you are looking to buy a tool, try looking at Hilti, you will be surprised!
Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, November 25, 2011

How to install windows in a new house

The proper way to install a window;
If you standing near a window in your home and you can feel a breeze blowing across your cheek and the window isn’t open, well it might be because the window was never installed properly. Here is the way that Village Builder’s installs a window so that you never feel a draft.
Just to be clear there are as many different kinds of windows as there is houses in Canada. There are different companies, different shapes, styles and different ways of making windows. I will try to explain the way to install windows in a new home using the most common windows.
Installing a window in a new home;
First you need to frame the opening correctly. This might sound like an easy thing, but a lot of window manufacturers will tell you to frame the opening leaving a ¼ all the way around or less. Keeping the window opening tight might sound like the right thing to do, but actually it is the worst. You need to leave ½ an inch all the way around the window at a minimum!  That means if the window is 40 inches by 30 inches then your framing size should be 41 inches by 31 inches.
Once you have it framed and sheeted then you need to install your house wrap. Pull the house wrap in and around the framed opening stapling it as you go. This helps keep the house wrap tight on the sheeting and also will help keep the air penetration down around the window.
Then you install a strip of waterproofing that is about 9 inches wide on the bottom of the window framing. It should go from one side of the window opening to the other and run up the side of the opening about 12 inches. This will ensure that if and when the window fails the framing will not be rotten when you replace the window.
You then install the window. Depending on the type of window you are installing this could mean a bunch different installations.
·         If installing a window with nailing fins on the outside, you level the window horizontally and move it in or out so that the outside of the window is where you want it to sit. You adjust the window level with shim shingles, placing them 8 inches from the top and bottom on all sides of the window. Depending on how big the window is you might require more shim points. Then you use roofing nails to nail the nailing fins on the outside of the window.
·         If installing a window without nailing fins, then you do everything the same except that you either screw or use finishing nails at the points where you installed the shims to hold the window in place. Remember to countersink them so that they can be filled when finishing later.
Now that the window is where you want it, you then use low expansion spray foam and fill the void between the window and the framing. You must not fill the whole cavity right away, spray in the foam around the whole window moving constantly never stopping in any one place and let it dry. Once it has dried then you may proceed to fill more of the cavity around the window, you will have to do this several times before the cavity is completely full. The dangers of putting too much spray foam around the windows all at once are pretty serious! You can actually break the window if the foam expands too much. Or if the window is an operator you can jamb the window so tight that it will never open.
Some key things to understanding the insulation around the window;
·         Only use spray foam around the window, do not use fibreglass insulation, or roxall. The reason is that fibreglass insulation and roxall are designed to allow air to pass through them; they just slow it down to allow the furnace in the house to warm it up. Spray foam allows no air penetration.
·         Only use low expansion spray foam. I am repeating myself for a good reason. The high expansion spray foam will break the window you are foaming; also low expansion spray foam is denser and is able to restrict the flow of air easier.
·         Make sure the window is in properly because once you spray foam the window it will never move. Spray foam holds so well that you could take out all the screws and nails that are holding the window in place and the window wouldn’t move. Trying to remove the spray foam to move the window later will be a nightmare.
·         Make sure the window is set at the proper depth on the outside of the building not the inside. It’s more important to get the window in the proper place relative to whatever you are placing on the outside of the house. It doesn’t matter if the inside build out doesn’t end up where you want it, if it’s too short then you add a jamb extension on later.
Now that the window is installed and properly secured in its final resting place you can move on to the outside of the window. If your window has nailing flanges then you simple take you’re waterproofing and start by covering the nailing flange to the edge of the window. The 6”to 9” waterproofing will then extend out and cover said distance creating a water and air barrier. You put the bottom piece of waterproofing on first covering the piece of waterproofing that you have already installed and then the sides. The last piece is always installed above the window. This will give you a perfect water and air tight seal around the window.
If your window doesn’t have a nailing flange, then you install a drip cap first on top of the window, and then put your waterproofing over it. This will help direct the water away from the window. Unfortunately you cannot install waterproofing on the sides and bottom of this window because there is nothing for the waterproofing to attach to at the window. So installing the waterproofing becomes a waste of time and money.
All windows should have a drip cap installed over them regardless of where they are installed in the house.
When you complete the siding or stone around the building, you’re going to want to go around and caulk all the windows and the trims that are touching or placed near them, especially any trims above the window. Use a good quality outdoor weather resistance caulking. Caulk all joints that you can. This will help stop all air leakage around the windows.

Before the drywall is installed, check the vapour barrier around the window, the vapour barrier should stop at the edge of the framing for the window. That edge should be taped with Tuck tape as tight to the spray foam as you can manage. This will help stop air transfer from the walls beside the window even after the drywall has been installed.
Check around the edge of the window with your hand, were you installed the spray foam. You’re trying to feel any drafts or gaps in the spray foam that you may have missed. This is your last chance to insulate, so add spray foam to anywhere you think there could use some more. Be careful that you do not add too much, remember that the foam expands. Once the foam has dried and you have trimmed away any excess foam that protrudes past the window jambs you can install your trim.
Once your trim has been installed and most of the painting has been completed you are going to want to caulk the trim. Caulk all the edges with as thin a bead of caulking as you can manage. This is the last step in stopping air leakage. Any air that happened to seep through all the other measures will be stopped here by the caulking. The trim might feel cold to the touch, but you wouldn’t have any drafts around the windows. The cold air will warm up in the walls from the furnace inside the house.
So if you do everything I have listed here you should end up with a draft proof window.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders inc.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Buying local series: Roofing Contractor

Buying local series: Roofing Contractor
When building a new home it is always best to buy from the local businesses in the area or community that you are constructing the home. No matter if it’s your summer home or a second home buying locally always makes more sense. This time I’m writing about the reason you should be having your roof supplied and installed by a roofing contractor locally, I’m talking about the local roofing contractor.
Roofing Contractor:
Something that is often forgotten about is the material that is installed on your roof and the way it was installed. That is the way it should be on a new home, you should take the roof for granted and never think about it because it does what it’s supposed to do and that is keep the elements on the outside.
Now to be perfectly honest roofing a house isn’t rocket science but there are certain things that should be done by the installer to insure that the roof stays watertight for many years to come. So if you’re thinking that you should be getting a roofing contractor from somewhere else like a larger city you are wasting your time and probably your money. Local roofing contractors wherever you build your home or chalet are probably just as good as the one from a larger urban area.
Some of the advantages of retaining a local roofing contractor:
·         They know the local weather patterns and prevailing winds. This will allow them to be able to properly flash your home so that even in the worst of storms your roof stays water tight.
·         Your general contractor will have used a local roofing contractor a fair number of times and will understand the strengths and weaknesses. This allows him to properly supervise the installation of the roof.
·         They will be able to give you advice on what products perform better in the area that the house is being built. An example is if you have heavy snow loads where you are building the home then you might want to go with a steel roof instead of asphalt shingles so that the roof will properly shed snow and water, keeping the ice build up to a minimum.
·         For warranty they are not far away to come over and immediately do repairs on anything that would be there fault.
·         If you have an emergency, like tornado level winds tore shingles off the roof, they are able to quickly come over and tarp the place to protect the inside of the residence. Then they are able to organize a quick and efficient repair. They are also able to give you quotes for your insurance company so that you can have the roof fixed.
·         Since there local you don’t have to drive far to see the quality of their work on other homes.
·          You don’t have to go far to check there references, just knock on the door of a home they did and ask your questions.
·         If your building in a high area and you need your house shingled in the winter, a roofing contractor from out of the area will be reluctant to come up when it is snowing hard. The local roofer is able to be closer to the site and able to work on the job even when they are not ideal conditions.
·         Because they are local they have a certain reputation to uphold and will want you to be happy when they are done, so the service level should be higher.
If you hire a roofing contractor thinking that you are saving money buy getting him from out of the build area, remember you get what you pay for, that means they are not just charging less than the local roofer, but they are also going to commute to the site too. A company that is willing to do this should raise some red flags for you as the homeowner. It probably means that they are undercutting the job just to get it and will try to make the money up somewhere else in over priced extras that they didn’t include in the quote. Other thing a lot of roofing contractors will do is they will take on a job out of their normal area just to keep their crews working. But if they pick up jobs that are closer to their normal area and they can make better money at it because they don’t have to pay their men to travel then you get put on the back burner.
Waiting for a roofer can cause serious delays in the building of your home.
Mechanical, plumbing, electrical cannot be installed until the roofing material is properly installed. Before any of this can happen, you need to install the windows and no contractor will do that until the roof is properly installed.
So when you are building your new home or chalet, or just getting a replacement roof, it’s better for everyone when you get the local roofing contractor to do it and not someone from out of the area.
Rob Abbott
Operations manager
Village Builders Inc.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How residential elevators are becoming more popular in new homes

Residential elevators are being installed more frequently in multi-level. With an aging population of baby boomers who desire to be independent, planning for future elevators make perfect sense. So framing an elevator shaft into your new home as it is being built will cut down on the future cost of the elevator installation and cut down on the reconstruction that your home will have to go through.
Elevators can be a large expense when they are installed. One way to get around this is to have just the elevator shaft roughed in when you have your house built or renovated. This allows you to pay for the cost of the framing and rough in while the house is being built and put on your mortgage. Then 20 years down the road when you require an elevator you will have had lots of time to save up for it. Installation of the elevator should be relatively easy because the house has been framed for this application.
 What you have to do is have an engineer or architect design you a future elevator shaft in the home. It usually consists of extra footings made of concrete in the basement, then larger beams that surround the shaft all the way up to the top floor. This will help transfer the load down to the foundation when the elevator is finally installed.
The great thing about roughing in the elevator shaft while the house is being built is that it cuts down on the renovation costs in the future. Also if you designate a certain area in the home for the elevator you can still use that space for storage or closest. When installing a future elevator you don’t leave it as an empty shaft, you install the floor joist, plywood and flooring on all floors. This allows you to use these spaces until you desire to have the rest of the elevator installed.
When they go to install the elevator they simply remove the drywall, floor joist and floor coverings. Then they install the elevator and all the mechanical means that it needs. What you have to make sure of is that you don’t install any heating ducts, water pipes, structured wiring or electrical lines through the shaft. This will make the installation of the elevator easier at a later date.
A couple of things that your contractor might have to keep in mind for a future installation of elevator;
·         No mechanical, water, structural or electrical lines inside the shaft.
·         Easy access to electrical panel for future motors to run lift. A lot of this equipment runs on 240 V so you need a large electrical cable run to were the motors will be placed. If electrical panel is not easily accessed from where motors are to be installed then install a 240 line that is not active and is for future use.
·         Have the shaft designed by an engineer so that it will meet building codes for your future elevator and not just to meet the standards for you sub- floor now. This can be done by the same engineer that specs all the beams and floor joist in the home.
·         Make sure you leave enough room for an elevator in the shaft. Usually you have to leave a minimum of 5 feet square for the elevator. This could have to be larger depending on the kind or elevator and the number of floors the elevator will have to lift. You should have the elevator shaft specifications done buy an elevator installation company. For a small fee they design you a future elevator and shaft.
·         You must leave enough room in the hallways going to the elevator on every floor. So that means that the hallways coming and going from the elevator shaft area must be considered handi-cap accessible. Local codes are all different depending on where you live but usually the code reads that you need to be able to turn a wheelchair in a 360 degree area.
·         Make sure that the door to your bedroom and all bathroom doors that you think you will be using are wheelchair accessible. Again check local building codes for that size.
·         Your going to want to install the elevator in an area that is out of the way but can be accessed from outside fairly easily. This area that you access the house from has to be able to have a future ramp installed. So choice a location that will allow a long ramp to be installed from the outside door.
·         Make sure you keep the specifications for all the elevators requirements in a safe place so that you can show the building department 20 years from now that it was engineered for that purpose.

The last 3 houses that we have constructed have all had roughed in elevator shafts. It didn’t cost a lot of money or take a lot of time to do because we were framing the house from scratch anyways. Hopefully my clients will never need them, but its comforting thing to have if you believe you or your spouse will need it one day.
It is also a positive selling feature for the home, a lot of people are now thinking about building bungalows because they don’t want to go up and down stairs in their later years. This is a smart idea if you live on a big enough piece of property to accommodate a bungalow that has enough space for your needs.
So remember proper planning can help you save money in the future and an elevator shaft rough in can help you stay in your dream home years longer!

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders inc.