Friday, June 24, 2011

Where to start when you want to build a house?

How much does it cost to build a house? There is one sentence that contractors here all the time, it actually makes them roll their eyes.
People that are thinking about building a house search the internet or the phone book find a builder and call them up and ask that eye rolling question. This will probably surprise a lot of people that this question is the number one asked and it is never responded to with a straight answer. There is a good reason for not answering the question; the reason that it can’t be answered is that it is a trick question. It’s such a trick question that the people asking the question don’t even realize that it’s an unanswerable question. Asking that question like that is the same as asking a car sales man how much a car cost without pointing to one.
Let me explain, there are so many options to houses these days that it is vertically impossible to tell someone what a house cost. A couple of times when I was young and naive I quoted the average price of the homes that we build to a customer. When we finally estimated the house it was 1/3 more then what I had told them on are first conversion. They left thinking that I had lied to them just so that I could get the job. The fact was that the house they asked us to price wasn’t just bigger then I originally thought, it had every high end feature that you could find in a house at that time. The way a contractor will quote a house is as follows;  they will take your plans and quote every piece of the house separately, so they will get a framing price for walls, the roof and the floor.  They will get prices on the plumbing, electrical, drywall, painting ect, ect.  Then they add up all the prices, put a profit on top for themselves and all appropriate taxes. Before they present the quote or budget to you they will usually break down the cost to a sqft price so that they can understand where there pricing is taking them. For example if you routinely build houses that are $500,000 and are 2000 sqft then they are charging $250 a sqft for a finished house. So if they quote a 2000 sqft house and it comes in over or under $500,000, then what they do is go back through your estimate to make sure that they didn’t miss something in the plans.  If there estimate is over the normal sqft price then they look for something making the quote more expensive and remove it if it doesn’t need to be included in the build. The big thing that changes the sqft price of a house is not just what you put outside on the house (siding, brick, and stone) it’s what is put inside the house. It’s amazing how fast the finishing’s in a build raise the price of a house. Upgrading your flooring in a house can add $10 a sqft to a house depending on what you choose.
So the best way to go about finding out the price of the house that you want built and the process that is required by you to go through to get that accurate price is as follows;
1.       Find out what you can afford, what your total final budget can be and what you can get financed.
2.       Find a contractor that you trust and hire him to help you do everything. For a small fee a good contractor will help you through the tough process of getting ready to build a house.
3.       You with help from the contractor can find a lot to build on; the reason for involving the contractor in this process is so that you purchase a lot that will suit your needs, like size of house. Depending on where the lot is, you might need to install a septic system, a well and probably a driveway. These are all extra costs that most homeowners don’t realize they need to include in there building budget.
4.       Have your contractor find out the fees for building in that area, there could be development charges, building permit charges, sewer and water charges, conservation authority charges and in some places you might have a homeowner association that will have fees to build.
5.       Get your plans drawn up by a professional. Your builder should have access to professionals that can draw up your home for you. You need to use either an architect or a drafts person; both these professionals (in Ontario) will have a government appointed design number. This number allows you to take their plans that they have drawn for you to the local building department to get a permit.
6.       Give the plans to your builder and have him give you a price on what it will cost you to build your home. There is a good reason that I recommended you pay your builder the fee for helping you with the process that leads up to you having plans drawn.  It is so that you own the plans and that you will not owe your builder anything when it comes to getting a price on the building of your home. This allows you to take the plans to another builder if when you get the price from your builder and you believe that they are too expensive. You have that right because you paid for the plans and legally you own them. Any builder will tell you that it’s a good idea to get a second quote. But one word of caution, do your research on the other builder, so that you know exactly what they will be quoting you and the quality of their work. This also should restrict you from going out and getting 3 or 4 other builders to price the job. This is a major mistake that a lot of people make, they think that the more prices then the more options you’re going to have; actually all it does is confuse you. Every builder will quote in a different way and add or omit certain things from the build depending on what they believe will get them the job. The builders that give you the large multi page estimates that show everything in detail are usually the best ones to go with because it means they are going out of their way to show you that they are not hiding anything. A lot of builders will be vague on their estimates trying to show you they have the lowest price and it’s only later that you realize that you’re not getting everything that you assumed you were getting.
7.       Sometimes you will have to get the plans redrawn or altered because of the price or because the municipality has an issue with the size or height of the building. This doesn’t cost you a lot and a good builder will help with this process.
8.       Now that you have your builder, you need to apply for your permits, a lot of times if there is a conservation authority involved which means it could take you up to 6 weeks to get your building permit approved. There could be other permits that you have to apply for as well, such as if there is an existing home on the property that you want to demolish. This requires the services to be disconnected and reconnected at a later date before they will grant you a demolition permit.
9.       The building of your house should be left entirely to your builder. That means he does all the organizing, he talks to all the sub trades and he does all the quality control. You as the homeowner should be involved to a point, you should only deal with the builder, there is nothing worse than having a homeowner show up on the building site and start questioning sub trades about what they are doing. It doesn’t just cause confusion for the trades on site, but it can be a major safety issue for you the homeowner not having the proper safety equipment. Many a homeowner or their family member has been injured by showing up on the building site unannounced and wandering around without an escort. Injuries from simply stepping on a nail, to falling down a hole, or standing in the wrong place and having something heavy fall on you can be devastating and life altering. What homeowners have to realize is that residential construction is extremely dangerous and no matter the best efforts of the builder there will always be unsafe areas in a construction site.
10.   Once the home is built and finished, you and the builder will do a walk through and list any problems minor or major that you have with the home. The builder will work through the list and then when everything is satisfied you can pay the builder the holdback that you owe them.
Don’t be afraid of paying them the final amount, you don’t have to worry about something going wrong in six months, because (in Ontario) your home carries with it a 7 year Tarion new home warranty. Which means you’re insured against anything serious that could go wrong.

So the next you are thinking about picking up the phone and calling, or emailing your local builder to see what your new home will cost you, remember the list I have left you with, it will help stop the builder from rolling their eyes at you and help you get the answers you need more quickly.
Remember that the more planning you do, the easier it will be for you to get proper and accurate quote on your building project.
If you can any question about the building process or are looking for a quote please feel free to call me at (877) 866-3202 or at

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Renovating vs. Demolition/new build (part 2)

Renovating vs. Demolition/new build
Part 2     Looking at the benefits of demolishing an older house and building a brand new one
It’s easy to think that fixing an older house is cheaper then demolishing it and building a new house. That is true but only to a certain point. A lot of older houses that are extensively renovated can end up costing you more money, especially in the long run.
Most older homes that get renovated, end up being renovated more than once. Even doing a whole house renovation usually leads to contractors coming back at a later date to replace or improve different things in the house because you’re making new things work with existing older things in the house. An example of this is when you are redoing the bathrooms in your house a plumber will replace a lot of the plumbing that is close to the bathrooms, but will usually not replace all the plumbing right back to where the water service comes in to the house. So after installing all of this new plumbing equipment in the house the plumber has to come back and do costly repairs to the existing plumbing because it has been over loaded by the new plumbing fixtures. This is not a warranty issue because the plumber never touched those plumbing lines. Another example of this is the electrical. In most renovations the electricians are not able to replace every wire in the house, they replace as much as they can but in older houses with custom stucco ceilings you don’t want them tearing holes in them. So there end up being wires in your home that are old and may not be able to support new modern electrical needs.
When talking about warranty’s renovating an older home can be a nightmare for getting things warranted.  Because a lot of the time the problem is not with what was replaced but what still exists. New homes come with what is called the Tarion New Home Warranty, which is federally insured program that your builder pays for and registers you into that is good for the first 7 years that you own the house.
Another large problem is that when you add new furnaces and hrv’s in older houses that never had them, you can get shrinkage in the wall studs, this is especially bad in the stairwells. So this will cause drywall pops and drywall cupping even in newly installed drywall. This means that after a period of time you would have to bring the drywallers and painters back to do some costly repairs.
With new houses they all have to be done to a certain building code that is monitored by the local governments. Older houses were not built too today’s standards, which can cause some problems when trying to get permits to renovate older houses. Also certain things like fireplaces and electrical you will be forced to replace or fix because of the licences and the insurance that the contractors have. Also insurance companies when coming and doing a reassessment on the property will force home owners to do certain things to qualify for their insurance. This is especially serious when it comes to fireplaces.
With rising energy costs the norm these days, spending a little extra money to build a new energy efficient house instead of trying to bring an older house up to those standards will save you money for the length of time that you own your house. This can really add up with the new technology that is coming out for new houses.
Renovating an older house gives you a renovated old house. So the old foundation is still old, the roof is still old and will probably need to be repaired in the future. They are old to start with and will not last forever so there is a risk in doing a lot of work near and around them.
Old foundations can be difficult to tie into if you are putting an addition on and can also restrict what you can do with the addition, as in you might not be able to put a full basement in an addition depending on the basement in the existing older house.
The best thing that you can do when deciding where to renovate or build new is to work with a contractor that you trust. They should be able to tell you by inspecting the existing property if it’s better to renovate it or tear it down.
If you’re thinking about this and want to talk to a professional contractor feel free to drop me an email at or call me at 705 466-3202.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Renovating an older home VS Demolishing and Building New (Part 1)

Building new vs. Renovation/addition Part 1

Here is a question that is posed to me at least once a month. Do I renovate my existing home or do I demolish it and start from scratch with a new build.
Part 1 will focus on the benefit of renovating/additions aspect of it.
Part 2 will focus on the benefit of demolition/new building aspect of it.

Most people always think that it’s cheaper to renovate an older home then to knock it down and rebuild it. This is true to a point.
There is a fine line when you are renovating were you need to know if you’re going to start wasting money fixing a house that is not worth fixing.
If your home is structurally sound, the outer shell of the home has been properly maintained (the roof, the siding/brick and the foundation) and it was properly done at the time of the construction then there is probably no need to demolish it.
If most of the changes that you want to do are inside the house and are more cosmetic/ updating then you should renovate. Tearing down interior walls and moving plumbing and heating lines is not that big of a job and can be down in a moderate budget. With new dust stopping protection and floor protection a lot of the work can be down without causing damage to the rest of the house that isn’t being altered. Plus this allows you to leave your furniture and other possessions in the house while it is being worked on.
Depending on your financial situation this option allows you to do the work on the house over many years instead of all at once. One thing that some home owners do when they are doing multiple renovations over many years is that they do some of the work themselves to save some money. These tasks should be limited to small demolition, cleaning up and painting. If you deviate away from these three things you start to open yourself up to problems that you will have to pay a professional to fix later. Also there is safety issue; if you start playing electrician you could hurt yourself or someone else.
If you want to add square footage adding an addition or several additions can easily be done, as long as you have adequate space on your property. Additions are an easy way to make your house more enjoyable and add value. It allows you to do something completely different than the rest of the house which would allow you to leave more of the original features in the existing house. This would allow you to bring a modern touch at a lesser cost then trying to reshape the whole existing interior.
If you have heritage laws where you live you might not be allowed to demolish the house and renovating might be the only option you have. Additions can allow you to do what you want, where a heritage society might not let you change much on the outside.
Permits for a new house are more expensive usually then the permits for renovations because of ever increasing development fees for all new buildings.
There are government grant in Ontario for raising the energy efficiency of the house from insulating to new furnaces. These grants can add up to a lot of money and are usually exactly what your house requires. They are not hard to attain, you simple need a pre renovation inspection by an energy auditor and a final inspection when your renovation project is complete.
By renovating an older house it allows you to keep the character of the house and the history of it. There are unique features in older houses, like stained glass and wood that you just can’t find any more. Sometimes taking a large older house and renovating it can add superior value to the resale of the house that you just wouldn’t get out of building a new house.
If you have to build a new house, you will be required to replace the septic system (if you have one) and sometimes you will have to drill a new well (if you have one). Renovating a house does not require you to do any of these things.
There can be a strong emotional attachment to an older house; it might be very difficult for the neighbourhood that the house is in to deal with the loss of this house. You could experience delays when applying for your building permit because it would first have to go through several committees and be open to public comment. Simply renovating the house can easily speed up the process; it will also put you in good standing with your neighbours and the community at large.
If you have an older house that is already a century old and has been properly looked after then there is no reason that the house should not last another century with proper maintenance and upkeep.
Look for part 2 of renovating vs. Demolition/new build
Part 2 will deal with the benefits of a new build.
If you would like to discuss this or any other topics in the construction industry, please feel free to email me at
Or visit our website

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The "HIDE A HOSE" the evolution of central vacuum systems!

In our presentation centre there is one new product that seems to continually amaze people every time I introduce them to it. It’s called the “hide a hose”; it’s a central vacuum hose that retracts back into the wall once you’re done using it. That’s right I said back into the wall.
First let me give you some background information about how this came about.
A decade ago all the rage in new homes and additions were installing central vacuum systems to make the cleaning of the homes easier. It offered a more convenient way to clean the home then having to buy a big heavy vacuum and lug it around, especially up and down stairs. You had to buy bags for it and they filled up faster than it would take you to change them. Central vacuums offered a convenient solution to these problems. The hoses were lighter then vacuums and all of the dirt sucked was deposited into a container usually in the garage; all you had to do was empty it into a garbage bag when it was full.
This novelty started to wear off after people had them for a period of time and we ask builders started to see people going back to using the old style vacuums. The issues that people were having were mostly to do with the hoses that plugged into the wall. When you rolled them up they were so bulky that they took up most of the closet that they were hung in. The hoses were made to be durable and bendable so they were manufactured with a corrugated exterior, this caused the hoses to rub on the corners of the wall and could cause damage to the trim and paint. Some other issues were that you had to take the long impractical hose up or downstairs every time you wanted to clean. If you didn’t want to do this then you had to buy a hose for every floor, this required sacrificing more closet space to store them.
This has all changed with some of the new products that have been introduced to the market in the past couple of years. The biggest innovation is called the “hide a hose”. Hide a hose is a system that is installed in the walls of your home before the drywall goes up. It uses the normal central vacuum piping that is installed in all residential homes; the difference is that the hose is actually in the pipe. So all you see is a small white cover about 6” by 12”. You open the flap and pull out the hose. The hose can be installed to extend up to 40 ft in length. When this port is placed in the centre of the house the hose is usually long enough to reach all corners of that floor. When you are done with vacuuming you simply take off the attachment on the end of the hose, place your hand over the end of the hose and the hose will suck itself back into the wall. All you have to do is follow it back to the wall and keep your hand over the end of the pipe until it is completely returned to the port. If you install one “hide a hose” per floor you will never have to lug around a long impractical hose again. No more dragging the hose up and down stairs, knocking end tables over and no more using up valuable closet space. The hide a hose is a remote activated system, so that you do not require an electrical outlet near the hose port. It works solely on air pressure, that the carpet sweeper and all the other attachments do not have a lot of moving parts. They are air driven and this will allow longer life especially for your carpet sweeper.
Another new feature is what is called socks. They are slipped over existing central vacuum hoses; they give the hose a soft outside so that the trim and paint does not get damaged. These come in a variety of colours and patterns to choose from.
So when planning your next project don’t let the old issues with central vacuums stand in your way. Install a new generation central vacuum with all the features that will help make your home a more enjoyable experience.
If you need any advice or are wanting to install a central vacuum in your next renovation send me an email at  Or even better if you want to see the “hide a hose” in action then feel free to stop by our presentation centre in beautiful Creemore.
Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What you need to know about the new asphalt shingle warranties before you decide what to have installed on your roof

There is a new wrinkle in shingle warranties that is going to change everything about the way you shop for shingles.
For decades when you found yourself looking at buying new roofing material, the default was asphalt shingles. What you had to decide was the brand of shingle, the style, the colour and what quality of shingle that you wanted to pay for. The quality of the shingle was determined by the amount of years they were warrantied. So cheap shingles were 10 or 15 year shingles and they went up in 5 or 10 year increments until you got to 40 year shingles that were considered premium.
The big shingle companies have changed there warranties starting this year, they have done away with year warranties on there shingles. They have gone to limited lifetime warranties on all of there shingles. This means that they will warranty the shingles and replacement of the shingles for about 10 to 15 years. After that they only replace the shingles, but you have to pay to have the old ones removed and the new ones installed. It's also a sliding scale on the value of your shingles, so if you spend $10,000.00 on a roof if they replace that amount of money in 15 years you will not get enough shingles to replace the shingles that you took off because of inflation.
It sounds like this system would cost the shingle companies more money because they would have to pay out money for the life time of the home they are installed on because the shingles will eventually fail. Here's the catch, the warranty on the shingles is not transferable if the home is sold. The average homeowner only lives in there homes for 7 years. So on average shingle companies now are banking on the percentages to only have to warranty there shingles for 7 years. That means that they have actually down graded there warranties to below the cheapest shingle they used to sell.
The shingle companies are now promoting this lifetime warranty as a plus and are even charging more for there shingles on average. So they have figured out a way to lesson there exposure with there warranties and raise there prices without giving the consumer anything extra.

So if you can afford it, you should look into other alternatives other then shingles.
There is an ever growing list of alternatives in roofing with the dissatisfaction of asphalt shingles. Also with the price of oil on the rise the gap between oil based asphalt shingles and all other non oil based roofing products is rapidly closing.

But if you have to buy shingles for your roof, go into the purchase with your eyes wide open.

If you want anymore information on shingles or other roofing products feel free to email me at

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.