Saturday, May 28, 2011

The education of home owners for the betterment of all parties!

Having had to deal with all kinds of different people as clients in the construction industry you start to develop a process that helps build the relationship between the client and the contractor. The easiest way to achieve this is to educate the client. This means that you are giving away a lot of trade secrets, but if you do your job right then they will be your client for life and it wouldn’t matter.
By educating your client you can help dispel any misconceptions that they may have of the construction industry. There are a lot of people who view the construction industry with a sceptical eye and for good reason. There are a lot of rough and shady people in the construction industry and allowing these people to build you a home or come in to your existing home and do a renovation can be a scary thing. Especially when you don’t know the person, or the people that work for him.
When we do a project we try to get the homeowner involved as much as possible. This doesn’t mean that I want my clients on site swinging hammers, but it does mean that I’m going to want them on site at least two times a month if they are building a new home or doing a renovation. I want them on site with either the operations manager or the project supervisor. I do not want them wondering around on their own. This is not because where trying to hide something, it’s has a lot to do with safety and education. Construction sites are a dangerous place for a person that doesn’t understand what is going on. We take safety measures to ensure the law is followed and that all people are working in a safe environment, but if the clients show up when there is work going on then they may stand in an area that has been deemed as off limits and not even know it. On a residential construction site it is not possible to protect people from EVERYTHING. If the clients show up and the trusses are being installed, then the swing of the truss by the crane could cover the whole site. All the workers know this and take precautions and were safety gear.  They also make sure that the site supervisor knows where they are at all times. A client should not be allowed on the site that day until the work is finished or the site is deemed safe.
So when the clients show up for a scheduled appointment with the contractor, he is able to take them through the site safely and is able to show them the progress that is being made and any issues that they may be encountering that could slow down the build. Also the drawings of houses are down on computers and a lot of times not all things work out when it comes to real life applications. So it a good time to show the clients these and give them options to fix or change them. Educating them on why it’s happening and what you will have to do is a great way to build trust. If there is a fee to fix these problems it can be worked out on site and not handed to the client at the end of the build with them having no idea why they are being charged extra.
With the speed in which new products are being brought to market for new homes and renovations, it is most likely that the clients will not have heard of the many new products that can be installed in homes. So if they are mentioned as the building process is running along then it allows the clients the option to search them out and see if they like them. Also the homeowners might have found some products that they are curious about and will want to ask your opinion. Sometimes they have found good products and sometimes they find products that you will reactamend that they stay away from.
The worst thing that can happen is when your clients are not involved in the decisions, not educated by you and their friends come along and ask that question “why did they do that!” and your clients have no answer. Then that all important trust that you have worked so hard for starts to slip away. Having to explain what you did and the reason for it is always harder then explaining what you’re going to be doing and why you believe it has to be done that way.
Educating your clients will leave them with the feeling that they were a part of the building process and that it truly is there home and it is exactly what they want. This will lead to happy clients that will tell everyone that asks how positive an experience it was to work with you.
You do not have to go far in Village Builders to find out that this formula works; we have a reference list that is so long that sometimes it’s hard to choose whose name to give out when people ask for references. It’s got to the point that we don’t wait for people to ask for references they are presented to the potential client with the quote for the project.
It also leads to repeat clients. A large part of our business is repeat clientele. We have some clients that we have done 10 projects for, from the small like building a tree house, to building a multi-million dollar residence.
So the next time you are thinking about doing a project whether it is big or small make sure the contractor you hire is willing to educate you.
If they are not, then give me a call and Village Builders Inc. Would be happy too.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, May 20, 2011

New hiring trends in the construction industry and where they are leading us

Let's talk about the construction industry and were some of the trends are turning toward. The one I'd like to talk about today is the type of employee's in the industry itself.
When I was young my father always hired older men, who had lots of construction experience. Also as the construction industry was very seasonal, labour's were usually students who were looking for a job for the summer.
Oh how things have changed, first of all the residential construction industry has become a 365 day a year business. So the trend of hiring people to work just for the summer is dying a slow death. I can count on one hand the amount of people I have hired in the last 5 years to work the summer or even part time. The industry evolving past a seasonal business has allowed me to hire long term employee's. That means that when interviewing people for any position in my company I have to take into consideration the length of time I see this person being able to work in my company. So I have changed everything about the way I hire people and I started this with the bottom positions of the company. The bottom position in most construction companies is the “Labourer” position.
In the past when a company got really busy they hired anybody with a strong back and some experience was a plus. These days when I hire for the labourer position I start by hiring the person before I actually need them so that I am not under pressure to hire someone quickly. Every person that sends in an application is given an interview even if they are over qualified for the position. It's a amazing the amount of businesses that will hire a person sight unseen over the phone.
I prepare a standard list of questions to ask people so that every applicant gets asked the same questions. This is one of the big deciding factors in picking some one for my company.
What a lot of people don't understand is that if you hire the wrong person, even someone making the minimum amount in your company, it will cost you somewhere above $10,000.00 before you come to the realization that they don't fit in your company. Training, time lost and starting the hiring process again are the factors that contribute to this figure of $10,000.00 and up. That’s a lot of money for any company and if you make that mistake to many times you'll either be out of a job yourself or out of business altogether.
One of the biggest things that is affecting my hiring of people these days is if they are willing to grow beyond there station of labour in the company. This usually means that they have to go to school for an apprenticeship while they work for me. To raise yourself up in my company you need want to become a crew leader. This is a person that usually starts as a labour or carpenter's helper and goes to school and gets there carpenter's ticket. This means that you just don't want to be a professional carpenter but also a team leader that can organize other people, control costs and make quick decisions that effect profits and schedules.
So all of this goes through my head when I interview people for a simple labourer's job!
Where this has lead me too is the hiring of a younger group of people, who are physically fit, intelligent and are also goal and career oriented. This is a tall order to look for in most people that are applying for a construction labour position. Especially trying to find this in today's young people.
What I do now is never turn down a chance to interview a person even if I have no intention of hiring someone. This has worked in my favour more them once, where I was so impressed with a person that within a couple of months I was able to make room for them by either creating a position in the company or freeing one up.
I also never throw a person resume away, especially if it's sent to me by email. It allows me to email them back when I am hiring and ask if there still interested.
So when speaking of trends, putting these rules and practises into effect have brought me to hiring people who should have went to university or college but weren't able to because of funding, personal choice, family issues or lack of schooling.
It has also brought me young people between the age of 20 and 35 that are intelligent and driven. The one trend that I believe is going to continue to grow in this industry is the hiring of women in the trades for all positions. I find that women that apply for my company tend to be very driven, high energy and extremely hard workers. Changing the all male demographic in our company has had such a positive effect on the people and profits that I don't understand what some old school men have against the hiring of women in the construction industry. I think that this trend has been long overdue in coming and I hope that more companies will jump on the bandwagon.
This doesn't mean that I never hire older people, it means that I hire older people for the more experienced positions in my company, people that already have those special set of skills and do not require training in them. This helps train all the younger people properly and help bring new ideas into the company.
So if you are looking for a job in the construction industry, look for that company that will help you grow into a qualified professional.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Why pricing your project is NOT about finding the lowest price!!!

Pricing your project. Here is a simple thing that a lot of people seem to screw up. The scary thing is that if you get this wrong then the rest of your planning for your project could all be for not. Pricing a project sounds like it would be a simple thing, but a lot of people don't understand the reason that you price a project out to multiple builders. There are several reasons to price a project out to multiple builders.
One of the main ones is to see what the cost of your project will be. Pricing the project is NOT for finding the lowest price. This might sound strange to people that are used to looking for the bargain, but in the construction industry there is no such thing as a bargain. Remember what I just said, there is no such thing as a bargain. It is more important to trust the builder and the quality of his work then it is to find the lowest price. Remember the old addigh “you get what you pay for”. I have talked about this before but people need to understand that is true.
If you were to price out to a house to 10 builders you could get prices from $800,000 to $500,000. Now your probably sitting there saying how is that possible? Why would I pay $800,000 when i can get the house built for $500,000! If you asked 10 builders to price it then there is no way that you did proper research on all 10 builders.
It should take you a long time to pick your builders, you should check out there website (if they have one).
Ask for references, call the references, make sure that the project that was done for them is relevant to your project. As in if all the references are for renovations and additions and your pricing a house then that is a red flag. You should disqualify this builder from the bidding process.
Have the builder take you on a tour of houses that he is already built so that you can see the quality of home he builds, what type of home he builds and were they are (city or rural). You see if the houses are small and your looking a large home then you should probably disqualify this builder. Also if the builder has only built in one setting like the country or city then you could have problems because each setting has different challenges that could arise. Also if a builder has problem getting permission to show you houses that he has built, then that should be a red flag that maybe the builder does not have a good relationship with his client after the project has been completed. A lot of new homes can take over a year to build,so if you can't get along with your builder that is a long time to have to put up with him. It also can create a lot of unneeded stress.
Check the Tarion warranty website, this is the new home warranty program website. If a builder has had a problem with a house in the first 7 years of it being built and never came back to fix it then Tarion will come in and fix it and post it on there website. The more times that the builder is listed on the website the more problems the houses that he has built have had and he hasn't warrantied them. Most good builders will not have even one, because they stand by there warranty.
Find out what other services the builder provides. A lot of time a good builder will include in there price the designing of bathrooms and kitchens so that you don't have to go out and hire an interior designer.
Check where the builder is from, you should always hire a builder that lives within about an hour drive of you, the reason for this is that then the builder will usually use local trades. This allows having any problems that arise in the future to be fixed quickly.
How legitimate is the business the builder is running? Is he working out of the back of his truck, does he show up to meet you and is dirty or un kept? These are clues to the kind of product that puts forward. You are spending a lot of money, you want someone that is going to give you a professional job, not just the building of the house but the estimate as well.

So after going through all of that background information and detective work you should be able to get down to just a couple of builders.
If you after all of that are still at 4 or 5 builders then let me give you a couple of things to think about.

A professional builder will give you a professional estimate. That means that it will be a very large document and will list everything that you get. It will explain everything you get in simple to understand terms. If the guy hands you a single sheet of paper with the amount on it, walk away. You are spending a lot of money and you need to know everything that you get for that price. Think of it like buying a car. You can go to a dealer and ask for a price on a car and the dealer doesn't just tell you the price, he gives you a list of everything that is in the car, the options and the warranties. This should be the same as your house quote.
The way some builders keep there quotes low to win the bid is that they under value a lot of the higher ticket items in your home. What builders do in estimates is that they give you a allowances for certain parts of the house. For example one builder will give you a quote of $500,000 and will not give you a lot of detail, then he has given you low allowances for things as kitchens, bathrooms, flooring, lighting and plumbing fixtures. These are the things that can really add up in a house, good builders in a estimate will give you a proper value for these things while others will under value them to get the job. Then when you get your kitchen designed fully he tells you that he only gave you a $10,000 kitchen allowance and your kitchen you want is $40,000. That is one room of the house and you are already over budget $30,000. Pricing flooring at $1.00 a sq ft and you picking $6.00 a sq ft, in a 3000 sq ft home adds up to a $15,000 add on. So it doesn't take long to add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So if you have more then two builders bidding on a house, how can you possibly figure out what you are being getting?
If you have to have 4 bidders and you get the quotes, they should all be close to the same price if you did your background checking on them. If there is a builder that is a lot lower then the rest, I would discard this builder right away.
To put this in perspective I have bid on a 1.4 million dollar house and me and another builder were only $10,000 apart. The other 2 bidders where $200,000 cheaper. We were awarded the house because we had a opening in are schedule that aloud us to start immediately.
The only other thing you do need to find out from the bidders is when can they start? So builders will be so busy that you could wait up to a year for them.

Remember that builders do not charge for estimates, it costs builders money to give you a proper quote, so don't think that your being nice when you allow a builder to bid on a house when you know that you will not award the house to them regardless of there bid.
A good builder will ask you how many bidders there and usually will refuse to bid on it if there are already 3 bidders. They understand that they will be one of the higher bidders because they are giving you a superior product and that with so many bidders you wouldn't be able to figure out the great from the poor. So they will choose to focus there time and energy on a bid that they believe they can win.

If you have questions about getting estimates, or you want an estimate on a project call me at 877 866 3202, or email me at

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

What your builder needs to know about your new appliances!

When building or renovating a home, something that people have a tendency to over look telling there contractors about the appliances they plan to install in the house. When buying new appliances for your home there are certain things that you need to tell your contractor before he gets past the drywall stage of the project.
New washer and dryer's have some special needs that have to be addressed before installation. A growing trend is toward steam washer and dryers. This can require an extra water line run to the dryer and a metal exhaust pipe and hood instead of plastic. If there stackable the exhaust might need to be run up the wall to a certain height. Some dryer's have a down draft that has to be placed in the floor at a specific point so that the dryer can sit right over it. Some washer and dryer's have special shelving that has to be installed or want a laundry tub installed between them. If they are low slung machines you might want your contractor to build you a platform so that you don't have to bend over to assess the machines. Laundry counter tops need to be ended at a certain point so that they don't interfer with the installation or operation of the machines. Some people like to install washer/dryers on the second floor, so most contractor's will install a waterproof basin with a built in drain so that if the washing machine ever overflows, or the water connection fails the whole house wouldn't receive water damage.
In the kitchen, appliances have changed some much in the past couple of years contractor's are having trouble keeping up with the changing times. There now oven's that use steam to cook with, so they require a water line to be run to them. Ovens that are not just gas or electric are gas cook tops and electric ovens underneath. There are slide in ranges that require a normal stove plug, there are wall ovens that need the stoves to be hard wired by an electrican. There are kitchens with multiple ovens and multiple dishwashers. Kitchen's with 2 or 3 sinks are not special anymore they are becoming the norm. Some kitchens have the microwave mounted above the stove with a built in exhaust that needs to be piped out the wall, some have exhaust hoods that require large piping, specific dimensions and special electrical lines.
Fridges now have water dispensors and need water lines ran to them. Some kitchens have side by side stand up fridge/freezers. Alarm lines can be installed on these waterlines so that if they ever fail you are warned about it before it is to late.
Instant hotwater systems now can be installed underneath the counter next to the sink. These allow someone to have a cup of hotwater to make tea or coffee as easily as turning on a tap. This requires the contractor to install electrical under the sink, a water line under the sink and a water line leading to a tap that is next to the kitchen sink.
So when your planning your project and your contractor asks you if there's anything they need to know, think about the applainces that your planning to buy or have already bought. Because those applainces could cost you money near the end of the project if the contractor has to start opening holes in the walls or cieling to run extra water, electrical, gas, drain or exhaust lines.

Rob Abbott
Village builders Inc.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Why being your own general contractor can cost you!

The problems with being your own general contractor.

When thinking about taking on a large renovation or project there are some things you need to know before you try to general the job on your own.

  • First things first, insurance. If you don't have a general contractor your going to have to make sure that your insurance company will cover you if there is damaged caused by you or the trades that you hire, this usually comes with a fee and can be a real headache if something does happen.
  • You have to check every trade person you hire to make sure that they have the proper insurance, not just the insurance to protect your property but that they are wsib covered. If your trades are not covered by insurance or wsib (workers safety insurance board) then if one them gets hurt at your home they will not be covered for there lost time or medical bills, they could end up suing there employer and you to make them hole again.
  • Something that most home owners don't understand about hiring there own trades is that without a general contractor if someone gets hurt or killed you are the general contractor. This means that under Ontario law you are liable. This means that if you witnessed say someone working on the roof without any safety lines on and they fell off the roof and died you could be charged with criminal negligence causing death or even man slaughter. You could do up to 20 years in prison and or face large fines.
  • Dealing with trades will be difficult because you only represent a finite amount of money. This means that you are only one job out of many they are doing. This means that when a contractor calls a trade he has more pull with him because he can generate work all year long for that trade were you can only generate a one time job.
  • If you don't keep up with all the new building methods and products you could end up using out dated products or methods. Also you could end up not understanding what the trades are doing and end up wasting money on things you do not need or want.
  • When you are scheduling trades you are going to have to make yourself available to them most of the time they are on your property. Your time you have to put a value on, if it means taking time off work, there will be days when trades don't show up because of emergency calls or scheduling conflicts.
  • Warranties are enforced by general contractor's, when contractor's buy materials they understand the warranties and where they can get the product fixed or replaced, home owners are left to do this themselves. This can cost you money and more time lost.
  • Trades will take instructions from the home owner, so if the home owner tells the trade that he is worried about the cost the trade will help lower the cost by using cheaper less reliable products. Home owners don't realize that by complaining about costs they can be putting themselves at financial risk with sub standard equipment.
  • The actual hiring of trades can be a difficult process, where do you find them, how do you know they are reliable and that they have a high standard of work. If you think that you can call them in for an interview you will be lucky to have them show up.
  • What do you do about permits? Do you apply for everything in your name? Contractor’s will do all this for you, if you have to do this you will have to meet with building inspectors and you will have to take responsibility for all there work. With electricians you can't call for inspections, you have to rely on them for this.
  • If you have problems with trades bills and you do not pay them you could end up in court or with a lean on your home. General contractor's get quotes, even if there is no quote they will know what fair market value is and can force trades to stick to them.
  • General Contractor's employ people to do the general labour things that are required in a site, things such as cleaning up. This might sound like a simple thing but when you have multiple trades in your home at one time not everything will be cleaned up like you think it should. It will fall to the home owner to do the clean up and removal of waste. This can be a safety issue as well, because drywallers will not work in an area that has not been prepared for them, especially if they are walking around on drywall stilts. Things such as signage to warn people of hazards in the site are your responsibility and installing temporary railings and stairs are also up to you.
  • General Contractor's know in what order trades should be aloud to install in a home. If a home owner gets the order wrong he could end up having one trade remove another trades work and have to get the first trade back again to redo his work. This will cause you money and time. It also causes ill will with the trades as they all believe they should be in a job first.

These are just SOME of the issues that you will run into if you make the choice to general the job on your own. So please before taking this route, sit down and consider the money you could waste, the time you would waste and the stress you will go through. If you do the numbers you will probably come to the realization that it will cost you the same amount or less to get a contractor and will allow you the free time to enjoy the renovating process without all the stress and headaches.
If you want a quote or need some advice you can reach me at

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.