Friday, September 30, 2011

Buying Gas VS Buying Diesel pick up trucks

Gas trucks verses diesel
As the operations manager of growing construction company one of my responsibilities is the buying and maintaining of company vehicles. We own gas and diesel pickup trucks. All trucks in our fleet are Ford trucks. The reason is not because I believe that Ford is the only truck maker, or because they are simple the best. It is more about the relationship that we have had with the local Ford dealer in our area for the past 25 years. We have been buying new trucks from him that whole time. It’s not the price of the vehicles that takes us there but the service for customer and vehicle.
For the first 8 years that we bought trucks, mostly F-150’s and they were all gas. That is the half ton version that Ford makes. The first F-250 that we purchased was in the early 90’s and it was a gas truck. The F-250 is the ¾ ton version that Ford makes. What we found is that the cost of driving a gas truck was more than we were willing to spend, especially when towing heavy loads.
So in the early 90’s we bought our first Ford diesel. It was an F-250 super duty. For the next 14 years all the company bought were F series diesels, the F-250 and its bigger brother F-350. These trucks were truly workhorses, great on fuel and long on low end torque. In other words exactly what you want when hauling big loads or pulling large trailers.
These diesel trucks were abused every day and survived very well. Every diesel truck was kept until it had 300,000 km’s on it or more before it was traded in for a new truck. The only reason the trucks were traded in were because the bodies were so beat up that they weren’t worth fixing.
In the middle of the 2000’s things changed with diesel trucks, they became so popular with pickup truck owners that Ford and every other truck maker started to add more and more power to the trucks. They did this by adding turbo’s, single turbo’s and then dual turbo’s. Gone were the days that you left the stop sign and slowly gained speed in your diesel, now the trucks would smoke the tires if you weren’t careful. Up went the horsepower and torque, down went the fuel mileage. It got to the point that in the mid 2000’s the diesel's that we owned were almost un-drivable.  They were so bad on fuel that we were putting $100.00 of fuel in them every day!
So this brings us to this year (2011) were I was stuck with the decision of buying a new truck for myself to drive as the operations manager. I was driving a 2005 F-250 diesel 4x4 lariat. A lariat is the trim level inside, leather seats and all the creature comforts. The truck only had 212,000 km's on it. But we had spent $4,000.00 fixing it in 3 months and it was having engine problems again. It had come to the point where the truck was almost un-drivable from a safety factor. I put 60 to 70,000 km’s on a truck a year and I am pulling or hauling material and trailers about 20 to 30 percent of the time.
So when I started to compare buying a new diesel verses a new gas truck. This was a radical idea in our company; we haven’t bought a super duty gas truck in almost 20 years. I started by talking to my sub trades, friends that had bought new trucks from Ford and the local Ford dealer. What I found was the following;
·         New diesel trucks were better on fuel then the diesel trucks made in the past 5 years.
·         New diesel trucks had more power and torque then diesel trucks in the past 5 years.
·         The option to buy a diesel engine for a Ford truck had grown to $9800.00 over buying a gas engine.
·         The new gas engines from Ford had no turbo’s on them and make 80% of their power below 2000 rpm’s.  This means that the gas trucks don’t take off as fast from the stop sign, but they do have lots of power for pulling and hauling big loads. Without turbo’s and making so much of their power at such a low rpm level they are really good on fuel, better on fuel then have been in years. Better on fuel then even diesel trucks.
·         Diesel and gas prices are close to the same price now.
·         The maintenance costs on the gas trucks are cheaper overtime then the cost of servicing diesels.
So I priced a 2011 F-250 Lariat 4x4 FX4 6.8L diesel and a 2011 F-250 lariat 4x4 FX4 6.2 L V8 gas.
These were the year end clearances so they had large discounts on both trucks. It worked out that the gas truck was $6,000.00 dollars cheaper than the diesel one. Another thing that I have come to realize is that diesel trucks do not hold their trade-in value like they did even 6 years ago. It use to be that you could sell a diesel truck no matter what the shape for a reasonable amount of money, but because of the fuel mileage problems, engine problems in the past couple of years and the overall popularity of diesel trucks there is not much of a market for them. The market is flooded with 2000 era Ford diesel trucks.
The gas truck drove nicer, because it was a lighter without the big diesel engine in it and a lot quieter. The gas truck didn’t even need to be turned off when going through the drive through. Something that gas truck owners don’t know is that when you own a diesel truck there are two things that you have to be aware of at all time:
1.       You can never run a diesel truck out of fuel, if you do you will have to have the truck towed to a garage and have the lines bled of the air in them before you can restart it.
2.       You have to be very careful were you purchase diesel fuel from. Diesel engines cannot handle any kind of water in there fuel. In a gas truck if you have water in the fuel you might not know it until the temperature drops below 0. Diesel trucks will have trouble running with any kind of water or moisture in there fuel. Diesel owners have to use diesel fuel conditioner and have the water drained out of them during oil changes. This means that you have to plan your driving routes so that you always fill up at a station that you trust or know does not have a history of water problems in there fuel tanks.
In the end I opted to buy the gas F-250, not just for the price but also for the maintenance and ride differences. Since we seem to have more problems with the bodies of the trucks then the engines, I figured that the body would go before the gas engine ever did.
We will always need diesel trucks in our fleet to pull the bigger items like excavators, but for driving around and hauling tools it just doesn’t make sense anymore to waste money on a diesel engine.
Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Getting a proper budget on your custom home from your contractor is important

The importance of getting your contractor to give you a budget that is realistic.
The general contractor that you contract to build your dream home should be able to give you a proper budget. What I mean when I say a “proper budget” is a budget that is as accurate and as close to what the cost of your home will be when it is completed.
You want to hire a contractor that can give you this kind of budget because you don’t want to get into the situation where the house is 85% complete and you realize that you don’t have enough money to complete the finishing’s and are forced to stop. This could mean that you will not have enough done on the house for you to get an occupancy permit to move in and will be stuck with a house that you can’t afford to finish. This could force you to have to sell the house and start the process all over again. Usually custom homes that are sold only partly finished are sold at a loss.
The contractor should be able to give you an accurate budget with 5%. That leaves a little room for human error. Every time the contractor gives you a bill whether it is monthly or bi-monthly he should give you a copy of the budget that shows where you are in the budget and how each completed stage is coming in compared to the original budget. Because custom homes can take a year or more to build, you as the customer need to be informed as the build proceeds of the budget and your own spending. Home owners will make the biggest changes to the budget over a year and not even realize it. A normal custom home will have anywhere from 15 to 50 change orders. Change orders are changes to the original contract and budget when it comes to personal choices of the house. Some change orders can reduce the price of a house like down grading the type of windows that you want to install, but most change orders increase the cost of the house. These change orders are usually upgrades to the house that you never even thought of at the time that you asked the budget to be completed. If you have designers involved then the cost of certain things can increase greatly as they help you to see the vision of the spaces in the house that you are trying to create.
When securing financing for your home build, you should always acquire more money then you plan to spend. On average you should acquire 10% more money then you plan to spend. So if you plan to build a $500,000.00 house you should acquire at least $550,000.00. This will allow you to finish the house the way you want it without cutting corners and will help insure that you never run into the situation where you are out of money and can’t secure anymore to finish the project.
A good contractor after getting to know you will understand what your tastes are and where you stand financially. After a while he will know what to offer you in upgrades. The one piece of advice I would give you is not to endlessly tell your contractor that you don’t have any money and that you are at your budget when you are not. I have personally worried for a clients finances and helped them finish the house the cheapest way they could because they kept commenting that they were running out of money. But you get what you pay for and when I had to come back a couple of years later to do some repairs that they had to pay for because of the materials they choose, the comments I received from them where “well if I knew that this would happen, I would have gladly paid for the expensive finishes.”
Contractors are human and can only go on what you tell them, so if you tell your contractor that you don’t have a lot of money then he will not show you the high end finishes that will last longer. He will adjust your choices to the middle of the road or low end finishes because he doesn’t want to waste your time or his. He is also worried that you will run out of money and he won’t get paid. No contractor wants to have to wait for his money; he has employee’s and sub contractors to pay. What keeps a contractor up at nights is the thought of having to lien a job or sue a client just to get what is owed to him.
So remember to get a proper budget from your contractor before starting your project and try to stick to it!

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
 Village Builders inc.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wet basement? Why your eave trough and down spouts could be the problem!

Most people take for granted there eave trough exist on their house until it falls off or something goes wrong with it.
I have showed up at client’s houses that have water problems in their basements and want a price on re-waterproofing the whole foundation of the house. This is an expensive endeavour; it requires a machine to dig around the whole house, removing all flower beds and decks/porches. Then you remove the existing waterproofing and install new waterproofing. You also check the weeping tile to make sure that is working properly.
Before I give a homeowner a quote on a project of this scale there are a few things that I want to do first. I have to establish where in the basement the water has shown itself, I then go outside and do a circle check of the perimeter of the house. There are a lot of things that can cause a basement to leak that are not the water proofing’s fault. 
-If you do not have negative grade away from the house, water will run to the foundation and not away from it.

-Window wells are not properly connected to the weeper system at the house footings. Or weeping pipe is blocked in window well, allowing water to pool in well.

-Damage to the foundation wall from impact (trees, vehicle, lawnmower and animals) creating cracks and tears in the waterproofing.

-Backfill was not sand, stone or other fill that would allow water to seep down to the weeping tile, allowing the water to pool on the surface and back up against house.

-Sump pump in basement is not properly working, as in does not pump, or the level the pump is set at is above foundation floor.

-Sump pump line is not far enough away from house and is creating a cycling affect, where water pumped from under the house is deposited directly to the outside of the house.

If all these things are not happening then there are two other things that I check. The first is if the eave troughs are blocked on the roof, filled with leaves or other debris. Also if there is a proper slope on the eave trough so the water will run to the down spouts. If any of these things are happening then the eave trough will not properly be able to drain and the water will fill the trough until it spills over. All that water will spill down next to the foundation soaking the wall and creating pressure on the waterproofing and foundation.
The second thing that I check is if the eave trough gutters are clean and draining to the downspouts. Then the downspout and the exhaust are inspected. This is one of the big keys to keeping a basement dry. Where your downspout travels down a vertical face on your house and meets 90 degree turn at the bottom, this water coming of the roof gathers speed as it falls down the pipe until it impacts the 90 degree elbow at the bottom. If that elbow is broken or damaged, or not properly secured then you have a fire hose affect on the side of your house. Whenever water comes of the roof you are soaking the side of the foundation, saturating the ground around the house creating hydrostatic pressure, allowing water to invade the basement. If the elbow is ok then you check the distance of the run off pipe. A lot of runoff pipes are only 3 or 4 feet long, this does some good if you live in a fairly dry location. But if you are having water problems extending your run off pipes as far away from the house as possible is an easy first step.
On many a house after extending the run off pipes 20 feet away from the house (installing them underground until the end of the pipe) the homeowners reported no more water problems.
What most people do not understand is that waterproofing on your house foundation is just that “waterproofing”.  It is not designed to stop all water, but slow water down enough so that the weeper system and sump pump in and around your house can relieve hydrostatic pressure before it becomes too great for the waterproofing to withstand.
So with proper eave trough and run off pipes you can remove a lot of water that your sump pump and waterproofing would have to handle.
So remember, when you have water problems, digging up around the house is not the first option to fix the problem but the last.
If you require help with your water problems, feel free to give us a call (705) 466-3202 or email me at

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Reclaimed Wood Flooring

What is old is new again.
Reclaimed wood from old barns have become the staple in custom homes. They are being used for flooring to mantles, to trusses or even trim, what is old is new again.
Gone are the days when old barns were tore down and burnt on the spot. Now a days old barns are carefully pulled apart and brought to mills, where they are run through the mill and turned into beams and flooring.  Sometimes the beams are left virgin, which is weather worn grey colour and used for timbers and mantles, to give a room that rustic look.
The flooring that is produced from reclaimed wood is completely unique in every way. The floors average an age of 100 years and have been weathered, damaged by animals and attacked by bugs. But hardwood is hard to rot and harder to destroy, so what you end up with is a floor where every board is unique compared to the boards that are laid around it. You will see boards with knocks, cracks and worm holes in them. You will find mortise and tannin joints cut in the floor, scares from axes and hammers, saws and sledgehammers. It’s a floor that is a great thing to have if you think that your floor will take a beating from children, pets or furniture. If you scar the floor you might not even know it, people that see the scar will just think that it has always been there and is part of the uniqueness of it. Most of these floors are installed without any finish, then are coated by hand with 3 or 4 coats of varathane. This allows the home owner to pick the colour, or shade they want and to match the rest of their home. The great thing about these floors is that you can make them any colour you want and because there hardwood, if you ever have severe damage to them, you can have them sanded and refinished to look wonderful again. You can have them sanded and refinished several times giving you the option of keeping these floors for decades and having them look refreshed and new.
The types of wood these floors come in vary considerably. Barns were built with what was available in the local mill and or the closet forest.  I have seen Elm, cherry, beech, maple, iron maple, pine, birch, hemlock, spruce, black ash, white and red oak, apple, douglas fir, alder, chestnut, walnut and cedar. So with a little research you can have almost any type of flooring that you want.
Couple of things that you have to understand if you are thinking about a floor like this:
-          The floor will not be perfect and will not look brand new.
-          You will not have any control of the size, lengths and widths of the boards you receive.
-           You will have no control of the quality of the boards that you receive.
-          There is a lot of waste compared to buying a brand new floor, so you have to order extra material so that you will not run short.
-          You will have to lay the floor with a pattern of widths and sizes, so if you have more 8” boards then 6” boards, then you will have to lay more rows of 8 “.
-          The board widths will come in at least 3 different widths.
-          The floor will have cracks in the boards, other cracks will form over time as the floor shrinks and expands depending on the season and weather.
-          Reclaimed flooring will cost more than normal flooring to buy and it is also more labour intensive to install and sort.
-          If you have new wood material in your home such as trim or sills, you will not be able to have the floor match this.
-          Your floor will be completely unique and will not look like the showroom or any other reclaimed floor that you looked at.
-          Reclaimed floors can be smelly when being cut and installed until they are properly sealed with the finish. This is due to the animals that where in the barn and place the wood was used in the barn.
Reclaimed floors are the ultimate green floor. You are not only reusing a wood product, you are allowing in a lot of cases people to see a species of wood that doesn’t exist in your area anymore.
Reclaimed floors can give your home that sense of warmth and that lived in feel. New floors can come across to a lot of people as cold and sterile.
For people that don’t want their house to look like their neighbours and want it to have something that is unique, there is nothing more unique then reclaimed wood floors. You are guaranteed to have a floor that is not exactly like everyone else’s.
If you are thinking about installing reclaimed wood floors in your existing house, or you want to install them in a new build feel free to look at the pictures at our website
If you have any questions about reclaimed flooring feel free to email me at

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders

Thursday, September 1, 2011

From asphalt to Enviroshake, here are the main options to choose from when looking for a new roof

If it’s raining while your reading this and you keep looking up at the ceiling expecting to start seeing water drip down on your face, that is usually a good sign that you need a new roof.
These days there are a lot more options for your roof then just asphalt shingles. Here is a list of some of the products available to you:
-          The traditional asphalt shingle has not changed much, sure they are using different materials in them like fibreglass backing, but the actually shingle has not changed much. It is still basically an oil based product. Asphalt shingles are becoming increasingly less reliable. It has gotten to the point were a lot of shingle companies will not even honour there warranty if and when the shingles fail. The average asphalt shingle will be lucky to last 15 to 20 years these days. Because of the changing weather, acid rain and heavy UV light, asphalt shingles curl and fall apart. It has gotten to the point that roofing companies are now installing waterproof products like “Grace ice and water shield” that are installed under the asphalt shingles directly on the plywood sheeting of the roof. This is so that when the asphalt shingles fail you have protection from water penetration into the inside of your house until you can get shingles repaired or replaced. High winds are also hard on asphalt shingle roofs, after a couple of years asphalt shingles stick together so in high winds not just one shingle comes off. The high winds lift and rip the whole large sections of shingles off the roof. Usually when this happens the whole roof needs to be re-shingled. The reason that asphalt shingles are the most widely used roofing product out there today is simply because they are the cheapest. In other words YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!

-          Steel roofing materials have been around for a long time. They have been traditionally used on agricultural buildings and commercial buildings. But with new products and almost an unlimited number of colours to choose from steel roofing has become extremely popular on residential houses. Steel roofing usually comes with a life time warranty not just on the steel but also on the colour. So gone are the days when you have to call a roof painter every 10 to 15 years to repaint your steel roof. Steel roofs are ideal for places that have high winds and extreme weather conditions. Steel roofs when properly installed can be rated to withstand hurricane level wind and rain. With today’s installation methods and insulation you do not here the rain on a steel roof like you used too. If you have a lot of trees with low hanging branches steel roofs are great because it is strong enough to withstand large branches scrapping against and even falling on it. Dirt, leaves, pine needles, branches and anything else that collects on a house roof will not rust or corrode a steel roof. In heavy snow country steel roofs outperform most of its competitors. When snow builds up enough it slides off the roof onto the ground. This is a good thing and a bad thing. A good thing because it doesn’t allow snow to gather, melt and allow water to backup and create a leak. The down side is that if you want to have rain gutters they might get ripped off the house when the snow slides. Also you have to be careful that you do not end up with large snow loads building up above your main entrance door. This can injure people if they slam the door and the snow comes down on their head. Not all roof pitches and configurations lend themselves to have steel installed on their roofs. Depending on the style of the house, steel might not look appropriate. Steel roofing is more expensive then asphalt shingles but it will be the last roof you ever install on your home.

-          A classic product that has been used for generations is cedar shake shingles. They are what they sound like; they are made of cedar and cut into a varying array of widths. Usually there are 3 or 4 different widths that are installed randomly in straight horizontal lines on the roof. After less than a year cedar shingles fade from there light brown colour to a silver colour. Cedar shingles are a wonderful classic look on a house and can give a house a real cosy cottage feel. Cedar shingles used to be the thing to install on your roof for long life. They used to last up to 50 years on house roofs. Not anymore, in today’s weather, UV and acid rain cedar shakes usually don’t make it to 30 years. Also all cedar shingles are cut from new growth tree’s not old growth trees. The belief is that this is a big contributor to why cedar does not last as long.  With dormers and fancy roof lines dirt and leaves can build up and rot the cedar shakes creating leaks. Cedar is prone to mold, mildew and insects. Cedar shake is labour intensive to install; it requires that you put a layer of felt paper between every row of shakes that you install. The product is also expensive to buy. Cedar shake shingles are more expensive then steel and asphalt shingles as a roof system.

  • Enviroshake is a product that is new to the roofing world. It has only been around for about 20 years. Enviroshake is made from recycled materials, such as recycled tires, waste plastics and waste products associated with making ethanol from corn and wheat. Enviroshake is manufactured with a grain stamped into its face that looks like cedar shakes and comes in different sizes just cedar shakes. They are also installed like cedar shakes; the only difference is that you have to cut them with a power saw instead of hand knives or hatchets. Enviroshake has a lifetime warranty and is said to last 50 years when installed properly. Enviroshake comes black but fades to silver in 6 months and looks just like cedar shakes. Enviroshake will with stand winds up to 110 mph and water pressure infiltration resistance in wind velocity tests of 105 mph.  Enviroshake is actually rated to withstand a level 1 hurricane. Enviroshake is an extremely slippery product like steel, snow does not sit on it for very long. You have to take the same precautions that you do with steel roofs related to gutters and snow slides. With the world moving toward sustainable products that are easier on the environment and your conscience, Enviroshake is the roofing system that will be that one more and more people turn too. Enviroshake is more expensive then asphalt and steel roofs, it is even more expensive then cedar shakes.
There are many other different kinds of roofing available, but these are the most popular in Canada and the northern United States on residential houses.
So whatever roofing system that you choose, remember that there are a lot of different products out there to choose from, the best way to choose a roof system is with a qualified contractor that can give you proper quotes and install the roof with the appropriate warranty.
If you are looking for a new roof or you need help picking a new roof feel free to email us at

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.