Friday, April 22, 2011

Insulated Concrete Forms the better way to build a wall!

Twenty years ago we started installing what are called ICF homes. ICF stands for Insulated Concrete Forms. The basic premise of these homes are that you assembly polystyrene blocks that fit together like Lego. Then you pour concrete down the middle of them and that forms your outer walls. What you end up with is 2.5 inch’s of foam on the inside and 2.5 inch’s of foam on the outside with a 6 inch concrete core. There are plastic webs that hold the foam block together and become your fastening points for all interior walls, drywall and anything that you want to hang like cabinets or pictures. This creates an ultra air tight house to the point were most people do not require air conditioners depending on how often you use the doors and windows.
If you heavily insulate the ceilings your heating/cooling costs will be miniscule.
Because ICF forms have a concrete core, the concrete does not allow wind chill's outside to affect the inside of the house. Your furnace does not have to work significantly harder to keep the house warm. The concrete core does not fluctuate in temperature as much as wood walls. A concrete wall with insulation on both sides only changes temperature a couple of degrees no matter if is winter or summer. Compare that to a conventional wood wall, when the temperature outside goes down the temperature in the wall drops with it and a windchill cools the wall down even more. The point of fibreglass insulation is to slow the air penetrating through the wall enough so that the furnace can warm it up to the desired temperature. An ICF wall does not allow any air to penetrate it, those the furnace is only warming the air that comes through the HRV.

Let's dispel some of the myths associated with ICF construction
  • Myth 1: ICF restricts the design of your house to square boxes.
    Actually ICF can give you some advantages over conventional wood construction like cathedral ceilings with no collar ties.
    They can be installed in any shape or height of wall you require, angled walls to rounded walls.
  • Myth 2: ICF is only used for basements.
    ICF makes for a wonderful basement that is dry and warm, but that isn't the limit to the product. You can build your whole house out of it, right up to the roof. You can build a three or four story house if you really want too. A house is more energy efficient if you do every floor.
  • Myth 3: ICF limits your exterior finishing to stucco
    You can actually put anything you want on the outside of an ICF form, from wood or vinyl siding to brick or stone.

If you are like me and you are worried about the rapid rise of electricity, the ever rising cost of gas and oil, then an ICF house is for you.

If the extreme weather that seams to be the norm in North America is worrying you, then an ICF house is for you. ICF houses have been known to be the only house still standing in Hurricane zones, also ICF houses have been known to be the only house's left standing after tornadoes rip through the country side.
ICF houses are used to help meet the high standards in earthquake zones.

Insulated Concrete Forms are used in more then just residential construction. Here are some benefits to using ICF for houses and other projects.

  • Used in Potato barns to keep the temperature within a fee degrees so that the potato's do not sprout in storage.
  • They are used for high rise condo's that are trying to achieve maximum R value and comfort for the condo owners.
  • Used on houses in high traffic area's to cut the noise to almost nothing.
  • Used in area's with high winds to keep energy costs down because of high wind chill.
  • Used in areas where there is a limited building window for the speed in which they can be constructed.
  • Used in areas where people are worried about the noise from inside the house affecting people or animals outside the house.
  • Used in areas were there are rodent and bug problems. With concrete and polystyrene foam there is no nutritional value for rodents or bugs to eat or live on. Plus with a concrete core no animal or rodent would ever be able to eat or borrow there way inside the house.
  • With webs in ICF every 8” there are double the screw points in your interior or exterior walls.
  • ICF construction does not require a vapour barrier, reducing costs and speeding up of construction.
  • ICF houses have a longer life expectancy then wood walls. Even if a house has a fire or a flood, or loses it's roof in extreme weather the walls do not move and do not grow mold. Simply remove the drywall, clean up the mess and start building without changing the exterior walls.
  • ICF are self extinguishing so they do not burn like wood walls, they will extinguish a fire and not feed it.
  • ICF walls can be installed even if the house plans are drawn with wood walls, there is almost no change to your house plans.

If an ICF house or addition sounds like what you are looking for then please do not hesitate to call at 877-866-3202 or visit our website at

You can also email me at

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What does it mean to be green?

Here's a question I get asked all the time by everyone. What does it mean to be green?
In an era of buzz words, there is no bigger word that causes more debate in the construction industry then “Green”.
A little back ground for you, the construction industry has always had a section that considered itself green. It was just never called that, it was referred to as “best practice”. What you need to understand is when it comes to construction you have to pay the green to get the green.
The products and practices that create your green project usually cost more and take longer to install or build. But in the long run they save you money with energy efficiency and longevity.
Here are some factors that I as a builder look for to help clients to determine if the product is to be considered green:

  • If the product claims to save energy, does it save enough energy to justify the extra cost. Because money spent on this item may restrict you from buying something later.
  • Spend your money on your heating/cooling system. Its the biggest cost but has the biggest impact on your monthly bills and your “carbon footprint”. If your in a rural setting installing Geothermal ground source heat pumps instead of propane or oil is one way and if your in a urban setting installing a high efficiency natural gas furnace is another.
  • Insulation, Insulation, insulation. When it comes to insulation there a million different options. Adding a little insulation to the walls or the attic above the standard 5 1/2 inchs of pink in the walls and ceilings will go a long way to reducing heating and cooling costs. Foaming around windows and doors, foaming of rim joist and insulating basement floors will help. But the amount of insulation should not exceed the potential return in energy efficiency.
  • Your flooring should come from a recognized green supplier. Your flooring choices are an area where you have the choice of going with a greener products. But be careful that you don't get caught up in following trends, you need to investigate the product. Flooring from the big box stores might be cheaper but can come with a cost. Hardwood flooring can come from places that don’t re-plant trees. Some flooring products like bamboo can have chemicals in it like formaldehyde or finishes that off gas for a period of time after there installed. Wood products from Canada usually come from suppliers that are by law forced to re-plant forests or use other methods like selective cutting that have less impact on the wilderness.
  • In a global world were products are shipped to our shores from all over the world, a simple thing to do is buy Canadian, even buying from the United States has left of an impact. Also safety standards are higher in North America with respect to what chemicals are used and how they are produced compared to places like China and other developing country’s.
  • Water conservation. The picking of your plumbing fixtures as in shower heads and toilets can be a simple way to save on water and should not cost you to much more then the conventional ones.
  • Hot water. From replacing your old hot water tank to installing tank-less hot water or water on demand, you can potentially save money over many years.
  • Roofing, simple fact in today’s roofing is to stay away from asphalt shingles altogether. Asphalt shingles are made from petroleum and have a limited life cycle. Products such as steel roofing or composites that are made from environmentally friendly products are a better way to go for the environment and for longevity. A steel roof will last 50 yrs or more and is completely recyclable at the end of its life.
  • Something most people don't think about when they are building or renovating is where there trim comes from. If you are installing wood trim a little research goes a long way in being green. Instead of going down to the local big box store look around for a trim supplier. The good ones will be green certified, to the point were they can tell you where the wood that made the trim came from. If the place it came from has been selectively cut or if it was clear cut and replanted. Also what they do with there wood waste? Do they use it to heat the buildings? Or do they compress it into wood pucks and sell it to gardeners.

If you are truly wanting to be green a well educated and well researched contractor can help you go along way to creating a wonderful space for you to live in and is easy on the planet.

For more help in this area give me a call at 866 877 3202 or

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR when it comes to construction

Everyone at one time or the other as been faced with the decision of how much they want to spend on an item. What is the right price, do I pay for the expensive one or do I only need the cheaper one. Now add hundreds of these choices together and turn them into one big project. Out of these hundreds of items which ones do I need to be the best, highest price and which are the ones that can be of lesser quality and of a reduced price. This is the dilemma that everyone has struggled with if they have ever had a house built for them or had a renovation done to there existing home.
In the home building and remodelling industry the old adage ``You get what you pay for`` never rings truer.
When reviewing bids for a project do not always take the lowest bidder. Especially if the price is significantly lower then other bids. A well run construction company pays it employee's well, pays its sub contractors well and pays all fees and taxes. It also follows all safety regulations and training regulations. That means that there is a certain price that the contractor has to charge to breakeven and then add a percentage on top to make a profit. A good contractor makes a profit, while not over charging or gouging the customer. So when reviewing bids the couple of contractors near the top of the price scale are probably the better ones to use. They will make sure the project gets completed on time and on budget. Also they will make sure that all the employee's and sub contractors get paid. The last thing you want is a sub contractor not getting paid for work he did and being forced to lean your property.
Also another way cheaper contractors can show you a lower price is using the cheapest materials. So cheapening out on certain items will lower the cost, but will cost money to replace down the road when they fail and need to be replaced. A good contractor who stands behind the warranties of all his products will want you to use the best products so that they do not have to come back in the future to do repairs that cost them money.
Its not just the durability of the product, certain products that are ultra cheap can be hazardous to your health. For example the difference between $4.00 a sq ft of bamboo flooring and the .55 cent sq ft bamboo flooring is that the cheaper one has formaldehyde in it. That's right formaldehyde, so it off gases. This is something that you do not want to be breathing in everyday of your life.
A good contractor will research these products for you so that you have all the information to make your discussion.
Another reason to do your research is that paying a little more for things like energy efficient furnaces or appliances can save you money in the future because they tend to use energy.
Using quality products that have a longer life in your home will help the resale value.

So the next time you are weighing the options of price versus quality remember the saying “YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!”

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Why can't my house look like a magazine!

A question women ask us all the time is “why can't my house look like the one in the magazines!”

It's a good question, one I have wondered over the years. That was until I talked to our Interior Designer. She would have a client hand her a picture or pictures from a magazine and they would say “I really like that room”. She would reply “do you like everything in the picture, the lamps, the sheets, the colours, the window treatments?”. If the answer was yes then the only other question she would ask would be “what's your budget?”.
An Interior Designer won't just design you a wonderful environment, she will actually go and source all the products from lamps right down to the furniture. With your approval she'll purchase and have delivered all the items to finish off your space. Then when you walk in after the room is completed you'll feel like you walked right into the magazine.

The realization you need to come too is that it saves you money to pay someone to shop for you.
A well qualified designer will save you money by being able to buy from wholesalers and receive good discounts from stores.

I have witnessed home owners spent weeks looking for flooring, plumbing and lighting fixtures. I have seen a whole custom home project worth a million dollars shut down because the home owner thought that they could save money by finding there own fixtures and not have to pay for a designer.

I have had home owners admit that they really don't like the things they chose after the project is completed, they gave up looking because they ran out of time and energy.

So after all the money, time and stress of going through hiring a contractor, opening your home up to strangers you come away unsatisfied because you didn't find what you wanted to finish the space off to your taste and standards.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.