Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 year in review of the residential construction in the Collingwood, Town of Blue Mountains, Clearview/Creemore, Wasaga Beach and Mulmur townships

2013 review of the residential construction in the Collingwood, Town of Blue Mountains, 

Clearview/Creemore, Wasaga Beach and Mulmur townships

2013 was a far better year in most areas for residential construction then the previous one.
There was growth seen in many areas from new home starts to renovations, but the flow of them was sporadic throughout the year.

There seems to be a trend that has developed over the last several years of homeowners being tire kickers on new homes, additions and renovations but never actually doing the job. A lot of homeowners are even going so far as to paying for plans and then failing to pull the trigger on the job for one reason or another.
Homeowners in general seem to be having a harder time understanding the price of things and end up shocked when they see quotes, so shocked that they don’t even bother to do the project.

There seems to be a disturbing trend of the application for building permits taking longer and longer to obtain. The delay isn’t just from the municipal building departments it is also from overseeing boards such as the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) and landowners that object to anything changing in their neighbourhood. More often than not projects are delayed for no other reason than a neighbour that does not understand what is to be built there, thinking a sub-division is to be built when it is only a single home.

This year was the first year of the new building codes being implemented with higher R value of insulation and you needing an overall plan for your home that tells you how it performs. The overall effect is that it makes homes more expensive to build.


The town of Collingwood has seen a lot of change in the past couple of years. They have had a lot of commercial development and some residential sub-division starts. Overall when it comes to new homes being built Collingwood is not putting up a lot of custom homes, there is a lack of space and most residential jobs being completed are renovations. There seems to be a lot of renovations in Collingwood as Collingwood has an abundance of older homes and a surprisingly hot real estate market this past year. You seem to be able to find houses being renovated on every street in the town of Collingwood this year, this because an aging population continues to move to the Collingwood area looking for homes and having the money to spend on fixing them up.

Where Collingwood has stumbled is in the multi-unit developments this year, several projects where either delayed or abandoned because of indecision by the Town of Collingwood on what they would grant a permit for.

Collingwood has spent a lot of money in infrastructure to attend to the needs of a growing and aging population. That should help the future of Collingwood as it continues to become a retirement community for people leaving Toronto in their later years.

Town of the Blue Mountains

In previous years the town of the Blue Mountains has had a real slow down of custom homes being built, this year wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination the best but it was certainly better than previous years. The town of Blue Mountains had a slow start to the year but had a strong 2nd and 3rd quarter of the year to end with a better year than the previous years in the amount of permits issued and the total dollar amounts they were worth.

Some of the larger custom homes developments in the town of the Blue Mountains have had a lot of trouble gaining any traction since the 2008 crash, but this year seemed to show some genuine signs of life with a lot of the developments getting new homes built or started in 2013. It’s a good sign because the town of the Blue Mountains has an abundance of lots and land that can be developed. Most of the land is slated for single family home construction and a lot of the developments are set up so that the homeowner buys the lot and then goes out and finds their builder.

The real estate market seems to be really heating up with a lot of supply early in the year and then a rush of selling in the second half. This is good for the construction industry; new homeowners usually want to renovate and or add an addition to their new purchases and with the sale of vacant land comes the opportunity for custom homes to be built.

The building department did inform me that the permit applications coming in were surprisingly slow for the end of the year, but that might be because of the early winter that has arrived and could be putting a damper on a lot of projects.

Wasaga Beach

Wasaga Beach has by far one of the strongest construction economies right now; this is a trend that has sustained itself for several years. You can find residential and commercial development in every area of the town of Wasaga Beach.

How is this possible? There are a lot of factors that go into this, the permit and development fees are lower in the Wasaga Beach then in a lot of the surrounding townships. Wasaga Beach seems to have made it a priority to attract permanent residents and it seems to be going away from the beach tourism community that it has been for most of the last century. With an abundance of older homes in prime locations people are buying regularly and tearing them down to build a new home to retire into. Once you are away from the beach front property taxes in the town of Wasaga Beach are very reasonable compared to its surrounding municipalities.

There is also still sub-division development going on in Wasaga Beach, this allows people to get into the market at a lower price point and still end up with a fairly new home. This can’t be said for many other municipalities around them. A lot of the people that actually work for Village Builders live in Wasaga Beach because it is one of the few places that they can afford to live and still are able to drive to work.

 Mulmur Township

This is the first year that I am reviewing Mulmur Township; Mulmur is on the south side of Clearview Township and has caught our attention because of the amount of growth and property turnover in the area. We have always serviced the Mulmur area but the work has always been fairly slow and inconsistent.

The Northern side of Mulmur Township has seen a lot of change over the years and this year was no different. With a strong real estate market moving a lot of land, people are coming up to Mulmur to Build or renovate country homes.

Mulmur is one of the few places left where you can still buy large tracks of land if you want privacy or horse farms without having to spend a small fortune. The proximity to Toronto is very enticing for people looking for a second home in the country. Caledon has become so expensive that a lot of people have realized that driving a little farther north can get you a whole lot more bang for your buck. Large custom homes are starting to appear in Mulmur on every side road and with the abundance of farm land so are horse farms.
Construction in Mulmur seems to have gotten better because of all this with more jobs to be found then previous years in new home construction and older homes being renovated and converted.

Clearview Township/Creemore

I’ve left this area for last because it is actually the area that Village Builders is based out of and so I have the most experience in its workings. I could go on and on about this Townships and their building and development plans or lack thereof!

I plan to write a separate article just on this area later but for now I will just give you the facts that you need to know.

Clearview Township as I have said in previous years has successfully created a have and have not community. With the high building/development fees and also high taxes they have driven out most of the middle class in the area. What is left are people that have the resources to stay. This means that the only building that happened this year in Clearview was the building of high end custom homes. The renovation market in the township is very poor, it is very poor when you understand the amount of older homes that already exist in the township and should require remediation.

Heavy restrictions and confusing building rules have successfully stopped a lot of building whether it is commercial, industrial or residential in the township. Almost all commercial development has happened on existing buildings, this allows people not to fight with the township on zoning, parking and infrastructure and still keeps their business functioning.

It has become so obstructive that Clearview actually has a negative growth rate in an area that has nothing but positive growth all around it.


Overall for the year in this area when you consider all its townships and municipalities the construction industry in a whole saw very little growth compared to the previous years. More new custom homes where started but a complete drop-off of the renovation market was surprising for everyone, especially when you look at how strong the real estate market as a whole has been in the second half of this year.

A lot of municipalities that were hoping that the building departments would bring in large profits for the growing budgets of the municipalities where disappointed. Even with the increasingly higher fees being charged it isn’t helping, in fact the higher fees are probably hurting more than anything.

With ever increasing safety rules, government regulation, higher taxes on workers, businesses and the work you do the underground economy is growing faster than any of us would like it too. The cost of doing business in the province of Ontario especially in construction is getting to the point where the average person can’t afford the services and is almost being forced to turn to the underground economy. When this happens nobody wins. Homeowners end up with bad workmanship, no warranty and the government loses out on much needed tax revenue. If something doesn’t change in this province I shudder to think what this industry will look like in 5 years.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 year in review for Village Builders Inc.

2013 year in review for Village Builders Inc.

It was a good year for Village Builders Inc in 2013, the year was full of starts and stops with periods of time where the phone never stopped ringing and sometimes you would check the phone to make sure they were still working. Even with the ebbs and flows we were kept busy all year with new homes, renovations and repairs for customers in 6 different townships and three different counties.

2013 has seen Village Builders now offer our services to the Bruce Peninsula for the first time, while keeping the rest of our current area’s as well.


The trend for custom homes over the last several years is that the homes where becoming more expensive per sqft because of the needs and wants of the homeowners. That seems to have finally leveled off, the prices per sqft has not come down with people all wanting the same high end finishes and doesn’t look to come down anytime in the future. The thing that is changing is the size of the houses; houses are now starting to grow larger again. This growing of homes is a drastic change to the market, since the crash of 2008 the growing size of homes had leveled off, houses stopped getting larger and in a lot of cases they had gotten smaller, more compact and more space efficient. The houses now are growing larger and it showed in new custom homes in 2013.

Every year we as custom home builders are able to offer our clients more energy efficient products, here is a brief list on things that our clients opted for in 2013;

Furnaces in 2013 continued to be high efficiency natural gas for customers in town and geothermal is now the norm for customers in rural properties with no access to natural gas.  Radiant in-floor heating was really popular in 2013 with homeowners opting for it because of the efficiency and the ease of use of the system.

All the homes that we constructed or bid on in 2012 ended up having either natural stone or manufactured stone on the exterior.

All the homes that we constructed had a main fireplace in the living room, the homes that had access to natural gas installed gas fireplaces and the country properties where wood burning.

Asphalt shingles where popular this year, with less people installing steel or other materials on their roofs, people building larger houses found they couldn’t justify the higher expense for the steel roof systems.

Decks that were built this year where mostly composite decking. But there is a definite shift towards thermally modified decking. Village Builders now has a direct supplier for the product and is able to supply and install the product at a better price than ever before. Thermally modified wood is cheaper to buy then composite, it will last just as long and is almost easier to install.

The trend of larger and larger fireplaces continued in 2013, with both gas and wood burning fireplaces growing in size. The more modern style of gas fireplaces, the ones that are low and long are being installed more often, even these modern gas fireplaces are growing in size and width.

The trend of painted trim from the previous years has stayed the same, more and more people are opting for simple painted trim, it’s a classic timeless way to finish off a house.

Large windows or French doors are the trend that has continued from previous years. Windows and doors seem to becoming more and more expansive with less exterior wall space facing southern exposures or water views. Aluminum exterior windows with pine finishing’s inside where the most popular in 2013.
Most people wanted the coloured aluminum or wood windows instead of the white vinyl clad ones.

Garages continued to stay large as in previous years; people want places to store all their cars and toys. The height of garages stayed exceedingly high as well with most people opting for bonus rooms above their attached garage.

Large master suites have become the norm as year over year they are getting larger. Master suites have large ensuite bathrooms, larger walk-in closets, large main bedroom area, make-up areas either in the bedroom or in the ensuite and sitting area’s near the exterior where the most windows are located.

The trend of homeowners becoming completely over loaded from information and products from internet and television shows continued. The process of building custom homes keeps becoming longer from the planning stage, through the permits to the actual building of the home. Homeowner’s indecision during the building process is by far the chief problem that causes custom homes to be constructed slowly and municipalities are asking for more details about the home and its overall use than ever before.


2013 was a year of flux with employees in Village Builders. With our estimator off for the year one of our Carpenters moved in to the office to take over the estimating. With some larger projects being built in 2013 the company took on more employees to complete the work and most of these employees where of the skilled labour kind.

Design Department

This is the 3rd year for our design department. With our design department concentrating more on renovations, the design department has had a growth year doing more business than in the previous two years. The design department has taken over the organizing and running of a lot of the renovations that they are hired to design.

The design department was also helping custom home clients of Village Builders with the layout of their bathrooms and also their kitchens.  They were also shopping and pricing a lot lighting and plumbing fixtures for our clients.

Overall 2013 was a prosperous year for Village Builders, the homes and renovations taken on this year went well and the future looks bright for the new year.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, December 27, 2013

When is a leaky roof not a leak in your roof? Condensation problems.

When is a leaky roof not a leak in your roof? Condensation problems.

When the weather turns cold and everyone turns their heat on contractors start getting calls from people claiming that they have a leak in their roofs.

I couldn’t tell you the amount of times that after some investigation we find no evidence of the roof leaking at all. Yes we found water in the house but not because the roof was leaking.

The easiest way to discover if the roof is leaking is to go into the attic and check the underside of the sheeting in the area were the water has appeared in the drywall below. You have to check as big an area in the attic as possible because water can have a tendency to travel before it finds a place to leak through into the house below. Once you have established that you can’t find any water on the backside of the sheeting then you need to start looking at other ways water appears on the drywall. A prime candidate is condensation.

What we do when we are trying to identify condensation problem is we start looking around where the water is showing up on or staining the drywall on the ceiling or walls in the finished area of the home. Once we have found where there is an excess of water on the drywall we then start cutting holes in the drywall. What we usually find is either compromised vapour barrier or a lack of insulation behind the drywall.

When you have a lack of insulation or a compromised vapour barrier you can have a problem where the hot air from the inside of the house meets the extremely cold air from the outside of the house, at the point where they meet you will have condensation form. Condensation forms as water droplets; the more hot air comes in contact with cold air the more droplets of condensation form. The colder the outside temperature the more condensation will build up at the problem point.  After awhile the condensation will soak through the drywall, typically at a tape joint. The affect on the inside of the house is a bubbling of the drywall tape and a water stain.

The only way to find these condensation problems is to cut holes in the drywall and inspect the insulation and vapour barrier on the other side.

Once the problem area is identified you most cut enough drywall out to be able to properly re-insulate the area and re-vapour barrier it as well. Once that is completed you can then patch the removed drywall area. If you did your repair properly then you shouldn’t have any more condensation problems.

Don’t be surprised if you find more than one problem area in your home when you start looking for condensation issues.

There are many reasons why your home could have a condensation problem;

When the home was constructed the builder made a mistake and left an area that was not properly insulated or it lacked vapour barrier.

Some modern house designs can have condensation problems if the designer of the home did not take into consideration the ventilation of the roof and attic spaces. Sometimes designs become so complicated that it makes it near impossible to properly ventilate a space and spray foaming the area solid is the only way. Spray foaming seals the area so that it doesn’t ventilate but it also stops any air penetration as well. Without air penetration there is no condensation issue. The problem arises when the homeowner does not have foaming in their budget and will not spend the extra money to have it installed.

Older homes never had proper vapour barriers or a high degree of insulation. Condensation issues are quiet common.

Renovations to older homes, where the renovated part of the home is upgraded with a higher R-value of insulation can cause condensation in areas that have never had such problems before.

Renovations that are improperly completed where insulation or the vapour barrier was removed and never properly replaced.

The point in a home where a renovation ended and the non renovated space meet. This point can easily have a comprised vapour barrier or inadequate insulation.

Animals or rodents can make a home in the insulation; this can cause condensation problems as they pull insulation around to make nests or beds.

I have inspected people’s homes that had a brand new expensive roof system installed because they thought that the roof was leaking, the leaking returned the next winter and the homeowners were trying to blame the roofer for an improperly installed roof. I come in because everyone is looking for a second opinion, an independent opinion and what I usually find is that it is a condensation issue and that there might have never
been a roof leak at all.

So the next time you think that you have a leaky roof talk to a contractor because it could be as simple as a condensation problem, a condensation problem can be a lot cheaper and easier to fix then re-roofing an entire house.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Does your house whistle when the wind blows?

Does your house whistle when the wind blows?

Anybody that has an older house knows what I’m talking about when the winter months settle in and the cold north wind starts to blow against their home. The house starts to whistle like an aging musician sitting in a rocking chair attempting to pass the time.

What your hearing is the wind finding holes in the house to penetrate; this air infiltration is moving at such a high speed that it whistles while it is passing through the small openings.

These openings are usually around windows and doors. There are other places that it will whistle around like dryer vents, exterior hose bibs, electrical sockets, the joint between an addition and the original building, the joint between where the framing meets the foundation and any holes or knots that might have appeared in older wooden siding materials.

These whistles are extremely cold air penetrating the house creating unwanted drafts, these drafts rapidly cool a house down and drive the heating bills up immensely.

But never fear there is a way to stop your house from whistling;

Start by caulking any holes or cracks around the outside of the building. The more holes and cracks you find and fill the less chance air can penetrate the exterior of the building. The rule on old houses is that you can never caulk enough.

Spray foam any area’s or use batt insulation where it is needed in larger cavities, especially in unfinished area’s like the basement or crawlspace. A lot of older homes where never insulated below the main house floor and you would probably be surprised how much air penetration there is down there.

You need to insulate around all the windows and doors. To do this you need to remove the trim, once the trim on the inside of the building has been removed then you can insulate the space between the window and framing. The most effective way to do this is to use a handheld spray foam can, just make sure that you don't put to much in or your windows and doors could have trouble opening from the pressure of the foam.

In older homes it might be better to replace the windows, if you have older windows then insulating and re-trimming  them can be a waste of time and money. It might be more beneficial for you to spend the money to have new windows installed, they will help lower your heating bills and raise the value of your home for future resale.

If you can’t afford to replace your windows or you simply do not have the time, then another cheaper option is too install heavy curtains over them. The curtains will help slow down the heat loss through the older windows and control the drafts that can turn a comfortable room into a cold unwelcoming place.

If your home is anything but brick or stone then a great option is too to remove the exterior material and install a layer of polystyrene insulation over it. This insulation gives you not just the added value of stopping drafts but it also raises the R-value on the whole house, this saves you money on your heating bill and easily eliminates drafts that are hard to find. In some areas there are grants for doing this to help make your home more energy efficient.

Houses built today should never have whistle problems, if they do the contractor that constructed them did not take the time to do the job properly or used an inferior product that failed.

Good luck with the whistling.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Holiday wishes from Village Builders

During the Holiday season more than ever, we would like to say thank you to our clients. We value our relationship with you and look forward to working with you in the new year to come. We would like to wish you a Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a wonderful New Year filled with Peace and Prosperity.

Village Builders will again be sponsoring the Christmas Dinner on Dec. 25th at the Station on the Green in Creemore. All are welcome regardless of age or personal circumstances.

Enjoy a social hour, with music starting at 4:30 p.m. before sitting down to a traditional holiday meal at 6p.m. in the warmth of a festively decorated, fully accessible hall.

Village builders would also like to thank the volunteers, community groups and the many other caring individuals that come out to help with the dinner and make this a memorable Christmas for everyone.

To all of our sub-contractors, tradesmen and suppliers we would like to extend Christmas wishes and holiday greetings on this wonderful holiday season and also to say thank you for a job well done and helping us achieve another successful year in 2013. We look forward to another great year in 2014 with all of you.

Village Builders operations are shutting down for two weeks for the holiday season, are employee's have worked hard and have earned sometime off. Operations will shut down from Saturday the 21st of December to Sunday January 5th 2014. We will continue operations on Monday January 6th, 2014.

The office is open during the holidays for meetings, questions, visitors and business by appointment only. To make an appointment please send us an email to me, Doug, Ursula or at and we will get back to you on a date and time we can get together.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Radiant In-Floor heating in the basement

Radiant In-Floor heating in the basement

If you are planning to have a fully finished basement in your new custom home you should put some thought into putting radiant In-floor heat in the basement concrete floor.

Radiant in-floor heat is a wonderful way to turn a cold basement into a warm and cozy liveable space.

What is Radiant in-floor heat?

Radiant in-floor heat is a heating system that is installed in the concrete of your basement floor before the concrete is installed. Pipes are attached to wire mesh that sits on top of sheets of polystyrene insulation and plastic vapour barrier. The pipes are run to a central place where they are hooked to a manifold.

Once the concrete is installed you hook the manifold up to the heat source, the heat source is usually a boiler that heats water and then circulates the water through the piping in the concrete floor. The concrete is warmed by the super heated water, the concrete as a thermal mass once warm stays warm for prolonged periods of time. The concrete floor absorbs the heat from the lines and then radiates the heat up and out, this pushes heat from the floor to the ceiling continuously over time, this means that you are always feeling warm air rise past you while the heated floor is in use.

Having warm concrete floors means that you don’t have to put carpet in the basement; you can have tile or hardwood. We actually recommend that you don’t install carpet over in-floor radiant heat because it can block the heat from the floor. The best material to install on top of radiant in-floor is engineered hardwood flooring.  The reason for this is that engineered hardwood will stand up to any dampness  in your basement while still allowing the heat from the in-floor to pass through it and warm the air in the basement. If you don’t want hardwood you can install ceramic tile or natural stone, it will warm up nicely but if you ever turn the in-floor off then the tile or stone becomes very cold and can be hard on the lower body when walking around on it.

What heating system do you need?

The heating system that you will require is what we call a flash-boiler. You can use conventional boilers as well but they aren’t as efficient.

These boilers can run on natural gas, propane, electricity or they can be hooked up to work with your geo-thermal units if you live out in the country.

So when thinking about what you plan to do with your basement if it’s more than storing boxes look into some radiant in-floor heat. It can turn your basement into a warm, livable and cozy part of your home.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Is there a standard ceiling height in custom homes?


I’m dreaming about building a custom home, is there a standard height for ceilings in a custom home? I was told that most custom homes are 9 ft ceilings, is that right?


In a custom home there are no standards when it comes to anything, that is why it’s called a custom home. But for economical concerns you should stick to 8 ft, 9ft or 10 ft high walls (the walls will set your ceiling height). That is the standard stud lengths, if you stick to 8 or 9 ft high walls then you can save money on the buying of your material. When you go over 10 foot walls you start to get more expensive for the material and also its installation. The higher the walls the higher the labour cost will be, higher walls require that framers do one of two things;

1. They build smaller sections so that less men can lift them,
2. They have more men onsite to lift the heavier walls.

If you are building a two story house then you have to consider what the height restrictions are for residential construction in your municipality. Most municipalities have height restrictions; if you have higher walls then you need to have a lower slope on your roof to be under the height restrictions for the peak of the roof. One of the first things building departments check on a new house plan that has been submitted for a building permit is the total height of the house. If your house is to tall your plan will be rejected and you will either have to re-draw the house plans or go through special meetings and hearings to get approval to have a house that violates the local height restrictions.

The major trend in custom homes these days is to have higher walls on the first floor and then down size the walls on the second floor. This allows you to stay well under the local height restrictions and keep the roof
slope to what fits the home the best.

Even though high ceilings are nice to have, making them too high can give the feeling of a cold unwelcoming house. High walls can be good and they can be bad, there are some rooms in your home that you don’t want to feel dwarfed, that’s the reason a lot of people have lower height ceilings on the second floor. Bedrooms are usually on the second floor so lower height ceilings help the bedrooms feel more warm and welcoming.

So in custom homes whatever you want for wall height you may have.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

ECO-Flow Septic systems

ECO-Flow Septic systems

For decades in rural homes septic systems have been installed the same way, the biggest thing about a septic system is that you needed to leave a lot of room for the system to be installed limiting the available area you have left after the house has been constructed. Out buildings, decks, pools, driveways and playgrounds all had to be kept away from these area's.

This has changed with the ECO-FLOW system. The Eco-flow system takes up a lot less room then conventional septic systems, the reason that Eco-flow takes up less room is that there is no septic bed.

The basic septic system is a three part system; a concrete tank, followed by a large septic bed that is basically perforated piping, the piping is encased in sand that is referred to as the septic bed.

The Eco-flow system doesn’t have this septic bed or the perforated pipe that is encased in it.

You still have a concrete septic tank where the waste water is collected, after that the waste water flows into a fiberglass holding tank that is filled with pete moss. The pete moss removes all the bacteria and then releases the water. The water isn’t released into perforated pipes, it is released into an area that is filled with sand.

There is no piping needed and the sand area is a lot smaller than the typical septic tile bed system.

The reason that it doesn't require a conventional septic bed is because of the pete moss in the fiberglass tanks. The pete moss helps absorb the harmful bacteria allowing the waste water to be released directly into the sand bed without any harmful affects to the environment.

This type of septic system is one of the most advanced residential septic systems in today’s market. The only down side to this system is the cost, it is one of the most expensive systems that you can install.
Another advantage to this system is that for larger homes instead of installing multiple septic systems to handle the larger capacity you simple add a second or third fibre glass tank that is full of Pete moss. The system is quiet easily upgraded at later dates.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Scotiabanks Home Renovation Poll results

The new Scotiabank’s Home Renovation poll.

In a new poll commissioned by Scotiabank about home renovations in Canada showed some very interesting results for the construction and renovation industry.

The number one item on Canadians minds for renovations was the bathroom at 38%, followed by the kitchen at 33%.

Of some concern is that people who are planning to renovate are planning to do nearly half the work themselves at 45%.

Only 2 out of 10 people that are planning to do renovations in the next 12 months plan to do the entire renovation themselves.

The top sources for inspiration and ideas for renovations comes from television at 35%, followed by friends and neighbours at 34%.

84% of Canadians that are planning renovations in the next 12 months are planning to hire a professional to do some or all the work for them.

Overall the poll was positive for the renovation industry in Canada; some of the more disturbing results are people attempting to do more of the work themselves instead of leaving it qualified professionals. I’m not saying that homeowners should not be allowed to work on their own homes but when the top two items on most people’s list are bathrooms and kitchens it makes contractors like me a little nervous to have homeowners playing in area’s that require a lot of different trades and skilled companies for the project to come out right.

For example here is a list of trades that you should and usually require on a typical bathroom or kitchen renovation:

1. Plumber
2. Drywaller
3. Electrician
4. Cabinet maker
5. Tiler
6. Painter
7. Glass company (mirrors and showers stalls)
8. Carpenter
9. Mechanical contractor (for moving ductwork, installing gas lines, stove hoods)
10. Counter top manufactures

With all of these trades required to have a proper renovation completed why wouldn’t you spend money on a general contractor do all the organization, planning and to receive a warranty at the end. The other thing most people don’t realize is that you should have a permit every time you touch the plumbing in a house whether it is in the bathroom or in the kitchen. To receive a permit the building department requires detailed drawings of the work proposed, a general contractor will help you with that also.

For all those people out there planning to renovate their homes, I urge you to contact a general contractor to help with serious renovations that involve kitchens and bathrooms. The cost of them will be offset by the speed in which the job gets completed, the quality of the finished product and the advice they bring so that you are not wasting money on things you do not need or want.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Information for this blog was found in issue #6, 2013 of Homes and Cottages magazine.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Window trends in custom homes 2013

Window trends 2013

Here are some trends in windows being installed in custom homes for 2013. Some of the trends have started this year (2013), a lot of trends where started in the 2012 construction year and continued into this calendar year. There are trends that have been sustained year over year as well; they are considered the long running trends.

Window trends in homes for 2013

Here are a list of trends that have stayed the same over the last couple of years;

For renovations the most popular window to be installed as replacements is still vinyl clad windows.

Higher end homes are still opting for windows with clear pine finishes on the inside allowing them to be either stained or painted, leaving a higher end finish.

Most popular still in custom homes is aluminum clad windows on the exterior of the home with wood finishing’s on the inside.

Crank opening windows are by far the most popular form of windows in custom homes, far exceeding single or double hung windows.

Because most windows are crank opening windows almost all the windows we install have the screens on the interior side.

For vinyl clad windows white is by far the most popular window colour for the exterior finish.

For aluminum clad windows, dark colours have become the most popular, the aluminum allows for dark colours to stand up to harsh environments and will keep its colour longer.

In larger windows, transoms above the windows are still the most popular way to let light in and also help dress up a larger window giving it more character.

Large or oversized French doors leading outside to a deck or balcony are a standard thing in custom homes; they are an upgrade on the look and function of patio sliding doors.

Patio sliding doors are usually made by Pella doors for their reliability, beauty and functionality. The interior finish is usually a clear pine.

Full round or half round windows are being used as an accent and also to help break up the standard square or rectangle bank of windows in homes today.

Here is a list of newer trends for this year;

UV coatings are becoming increasingly more popular as people look to protect their furnishings from the harsh sun especially on the Southern exposure of the home.

Solar gain and solar limiting are increasing in popularity, these new types of windows help balance the homes heating and cooling and reduce the utility bills overall.

Tilt and slide or roll and slide patio doors have really started to become popular, people wanting more of a view and the ability to let the outdoors in without the heavy cumbersomeness of an oversized patio door.

Vanishing screens have become a lot more popular lately; the screen rolls up into a holder at the edge of the door out of the way, these screen types are less likely to be damaged from children, animals and harsh winter storms.

Nano or folding doors have become all the rage, instead of windows on either side of a patio or a pair of French doors, nano/folding doors can be as wide as you want them to be. I have seen plans for a folding door system that was 28 feet wide. It’s like a wall of windows that fold in on themselves to create an outdoor space.

Banks of windows is the fast evolving trend in custom homes. Instead of extremely large windows architects are drawing many smaller windows in series.

Instead of bay windows that hang out of homes, architects are designing the floor plan to hang out like a bay window allowing for the creation of a unique space and increasing the view and the angle of which you can accept sunlight.

Solar powered skylights are all the rage right now, the solar unit powers the opening and closing mechanism on the sky light. This allows you in a renovation to not worry about wiring the skylight with electrical supply power.

These are some of the trends in 2013 that I have noticed, as like all trends things are constantly changing and evolving.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Can I move the interior walls in my custom home


I’m going to have a custom home built but I’m worried that the placement of the interior walls isn’t exactly where I want them on the plan. Is it possible to change there location when the house is being built or do they have to follow the plan exactly?


This is a common problem for many people when they are designing a home. They have trouble visualizing the space when it is a 2 dimensional item on a page.

When we build a custom home for people, once we start building interior walls we usually give the homeowner a walk-through of the potential wall locations as per the plan. When you build a custom home you frame the outside walls first and then you work your way in assembling some essential interior load bearing walls and then the roof. Once the roof has been framed we then continue the interior wall framing of the non bearing walls. Its at this point we have the homeowner walk through with us to make sure the locations on the walls as per the architectural drawings work for them. This walk-through helps the homeowner get the feel for the flow and size of all the rooms before the interior walls have been installed.

During these walk-through's we typically find that homeowners make a lot of changes; changes are usually door positioning, closet placement, closet sizes and overall flow from one section of the house into another.

Changing wall locations after this time is when it will start costing you extra. Moving walls after they have been framed and stood up in place requires cutting of nails and depending on how much change is required to the length and height can force us to completely re-frame some walls. Even when there is a change that costs money because of the moving of interior walls it is not a large charge, it is mostly the time for the workers to cut the nails and move the wall to it's new location.

My advice to you would be not to get too wrapped up in the smaller details like the interior wall placements.

The only walls that can’t be moved during the build process would be the walls that are load bearing, load bearing walls are the walls that are essential to holding the structure of the house up. As long as you can live with the placement of the load bearing walls you can almost have whatever layout you want inside for your interior walls.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Choose Your Remodeler Wisely

Choose Your Remodeler Wisely

The low-bid, budget company may cost more in the long run. Here's why.

Does your remodeler have the resources and--more importantly--the management systems needed to handle a complex remodeling project? If not, the final cost in dollars and disappointment may be more than you bargained for.

There are innumerable 'horror stories' on the Internet about the downsides of hiring the lone contractor. In the extreme, you may read about solo operators who lack the needed licenses and insurance to protect homeowners from accidents or fraud. They may lack written warranties or have insufficient human resources to complete jobs as promised. The failure rates of home contractors are second only to restaurants, and there is no guarantee they will be around when problems surface.

On most jobs, these types of fly-by-night operators aren't our real competitors. Customers looking for a large addition or an expensive kitchen remodel are savvy enough to avoid these guys. A more subtle, yet often equally difficult set of issues is presented by a company that lacks the internal management systems needed to focus manpower and attention to successfully complete such projects. Understanding the difference between them and us will help you decide who's right for your project.

Understaffed companies typically talk up the personal attention they supposedly provide. This kind of company often has a field staff of one: the owner. If the owner is present on a job all day, every day, who is running the business? Along with managing a project, the owner must market, sell, bid future work, schedule subcontractors, meet with new prospects, pay bills, and on and on. Can anyone spread this thin provide the attention to detail that your project demands?

By contrast, the adequately staffed, well-organized professional remodeler delegates work to a team of specialists. Projects have innumerable details that require the coordination of dozens of employees, suppliers, and subcontractors, all of whom need to start and finish at just the right time. If the home will be lived in during the project, these players must do their jobs with minimal impact on the homeowners' lives. The professional remodeler has the manpower to smoothly manage all these moving parts, including onsite project managers, office contacts, purchasing agents, designers, and others.

This staffing, along with comprehensive communication and project management systems, means that when multiple jobs are underway, no one has responsibility for more than he or she can handle. No one is overwhelmed.

It stands to reason that when adequate human resources are available, customers get better service, jobs stay on schedule, and the inevitable issues that come up during a lengthy project get addressed more efficiently.

Established, larger custom remodelers also have more leverage with suppliers and subcontractors. We provide more work for our subcontractors than the small operator does, so our jobs get priority. Fair or not, the small company and its clients take a back seat to our phone calls, our requests, and our clients.

Homeowners who hire a well-run company ensure that the final price is the one to which they agreed. That's because staffing, systems, and relationships mean efficiency. They enable the professional remodeler to complete projects faster than the competition--often months faster if it's a large project.

The bottom line is that the best company for a complex remodeling project will have the experience and organization needed to handle the work. Hiring a company with the resources needed to do a great job, on time, and with minimal stress can save big and be a better value in the long run.

Warm Regards,

Doug Abbott
Village Builders

This is an excerpt from a newsletter that is distributed to all former, current and future clients of Village Builders Inc.  If you would like to receive this newsletter feel free to email me at

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ministry of Labour announces new safety training for workers and supervisors for 2014

Ministry of Labour announces new safety training for workers and supervisors

The ministry of labour has announced new safety training for supervisors and workers for all of Ontario. The course can be taken online through the Ministry of Labour website.

The course takes about an hour to complete and you are given a certificate that you have to print out at the end of the online course proving that you have taken the course and completed it.

The reason that you have to print it out is because the MOL (ministry of labour) will not be keeping any records of you taking the course, leaving it up to the individual to take the course and keep a record of it encase the a MOL inspector asks them for it at a later date.

You have until July the 1st 2014 to comply with the new law, employers are being ordered to make their employee’s comply. Employee’s can log onto the website from anywhere at any time and should be able to complete the program within 1 hour of starting.

The workers version of the course is a 4 step program addressing ways to stay safe in the workplace and explains the rights that the worker has and who they should address concerns to if and when safety problems arise.

The supervisor’s version of the course is a 5 step program addressing ways to stay safe in the workplace and it explains the rights that the supervisor is entitled too and also the rights that the workers under their supervisor are also entitled too. This course also informs the supervisor of the need for them to be leaders in all aspects of the workplace and also setting a proper example for the health and safety of the people under their command. It also explains to supervisors certain ways that they can address health and safety concerns that are brought forward to them. It goes on to explain the relationship they have with their employers and the need to communicate with them.

This is another way the government is trying to help keep the workplace safer and it is nice to see that this course is free for employers and employees as well.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How does a downdraft cooktop work?


How does a downdraft cooktop work?


Instead of having a typical range hood above the cooking surface that hangs there all the time and sucks air up and out of the building either through the joist cavity or directly through the wall and outside, a downdraft cooktop exhausts steam and odors through ductwork that goes down into the floor first and then out a wall to the outside of the building.

The reason for downdraft cooktops is to allow you to have an oven in an island instead of always putting the cooktop on an outside wall or a side wall of the kitchen. The over the range hood vents that remove air vertically can look out of place in a lot of kitchens and they also can take up valuable cabinet space. A downdraft cooktop only takes up a portion of the back of the cabinet under the island cabinets.

There are different types of downdraft cooktops, there are downdrafts that are fixed in place and are there when needed or there are downdrafts that at a push of a button rise out of the back of the cooktop too remove unwanted air. These downdrafts are motorized and rise up out of the back of the range and are about 8 inches in height, they seem to work very efficiently. They are a modern, stylish and leave the kitchen with an unobstructed view into the next room.

Some thought has to be put into the venting of downdrafts, depending on how far it is to an outside wall you might not be able to properly vent a downdraft without an extra fan to boast the air flow. Other things that have to be considered are which way the floor joist run, this will determine if you require to be in the floor joist or below it to get to the outside of the building. If your below the floor joist then you will require a bulk head in the basement to hide the vent piping.

Downdrafts are a great idea but can be pricey to buy, they do allow you to have a very modern and clean looking kitchen and can help out with cabinet space.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ladder safety on a construction site-safety tip

Safety tip Ladder Safety

Little to know thought is usually put into the equipment that is used every day on a construction site, especially if it isn’t a power tool. One thing you might not think about is something that construction workers use every day, the ladder and the safe operation of them. Well times have changed and so have safety regulations. In the modern age of construction, safety comes before all else when building custom homes.

Ladder safety is not hard to teach and does not take a lot of time.

There are many reasons why you should teach ladder safety:

The main tool for helping workers get off the ground is a ladder.

There are so many different types of ladders and different uses for ladders that safety needs to be thought about every time a different ladder is brought to the jobsite.

Ladders that are not in use can be a safety hazard from falling on workers to a tripping hazard.

Younger workers with little experience on ladders will not understand the limits of ladders.

Government inspectors are looking to flag improper use, improperly stored or damaged ladders in onsite safety inspections.

Here are some simple tips for ladder safety:

Any ladder placed vertically to a higher point (for example: between floors, to a roof) must be tied off at the top.

Any ladder placed vertically that is not to be used and cannot be tied off must be lied down on the ground.

Any ladder placed on the ground must be placed out of the way of main traffic and work areas.

When using a ladder try to always keep three points of contact. That means 2 feet and one hand or 2 hands and one foot.

Never stand on the top of a step ladder no matter how high off the ground you will be.

Never use a ladder as a bridge over a hole.

Always remove damaged ladders; a broken rung can be very dangerous.

Take the time to give a lesson to any employee that has never used a new or different kind of ladder.

Ladders should be inspected for flaws, the larger the ladder the more important it is to inspect before its use.

If you require two hands to work at the top of a high ladder (for example: installing soffits) you should be wearing a safety harness that can attach to the soffit on a retractable reel.

Never work off two ladders as once, crossing from one ladder to the next without returning to the bottom.

Buying a better quality of ladder will allow the ladder to survive longer on a jobsite and cause less safety issues in the future.

Having multiple lengths and types of ladders on a job site allows ladders to be used as they have been designed. This also eliminates the need to share ladders, which in turn eliminates the need to rush or hurry.

Never haul extremely heavy items up a ladder, the combined weight of worker and object being carried can exceed the hung tolerances and cause the rung to break. It is better to use a different piece of equipment
to lift it up such as a shingle lift, crane or zoom boom.

Placing a piece of lumber at the bottom of a ladder horizontally attached to the floor will help stop the ladder from slipping and kicking out.

In winter months be very careful on where you set a ladder up, ice and snow can be extremely dangerous and cause the ladder to collapse or tip over.

Like everything to do with construction safety common sense will help go along way, always take your time and if you don’t understand how something works always ask for instructions.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Designer tips for the christmas season

Decorating your home for Christmas is one of the best things about the holidays. The twinkling of lights, the sight of a perfectly trimmed tree, a crackling fire, the smell of gingerbread cookies baking in the oven and the taste of eggnog are all gentle reminders of the cheerful Christmas season.

Remember that wreaths look great inside the house too. You don’t have to stick to one tree either, we always put up a large tree where it can be admired by everyone but the kids get their own little trees to gaze upon in their bedrooms decorated how they dreamed. Small pots of paperwhites on alternating stairs, white feathered snowballs hanging from the hall ceiling, fresh holly, indoor mini lights and reflective Christmas balls grouped together in a vase will make for a magical holiday that is sure to be remembered. Splurge on ribbons and wrapping paper and keep all five senses in mind when decorating to ensure a warm inviting home.

I hope this helps you to welcome the holidays into your home, for those of you who need help,  OR  just don’t have the time remember that we offer holiday decorating!

This is an excerpt from a newsletter that is distributed to all former, current and future clients of Village Builders Inc.  If you would like to receive this newsletter feel free to email me at

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Need a well, bore it

Need a well?

If you need a well the one mistake that people make is they think the only way to have water is from a well that is drilled.

There is another option; it is having a bored well.

What’s the difference you ask?

For one the price.

I have your attention now don’t I, a bored well is a lot cheaper to have installed then a drilled well.

What’s the difference?

The difference is that a drilled well is completed by using a drilling rig to drill down with a pipe about 5 inches in diameter until you have enough water to satisfy your needs. The great thing about a drilled well is that you can go as deep as you need too in a very short amount of time. Once the casing is installed then the well is completed, all it requires is for you to put a pump and a water line down to the bottom to get the water out of the pipe and up to the house.

A bored well is used when you believe that you have water near the surface. A bored well uses a boring machine mounted on the back of a large truck. The bit is 3 to 4 feet wide, they can actually bore up to 80 feet down. That means instead of an 80 ft well at about 8 inches you would have an 80 foot well at 4 feet wide, this acts as a holding tank for your water.  That allows a lot more water to be held in reserve waiting for you to use it.

Usually when wells are bored they only have to go 25 to 40 feet in the ground. Once they hit their depth and have enough water they install concrete well tiles to fold back the earth. The well tiles are then parged to stop water surface run off from entering the well, which is a safety measure to help keep your well from being contaminated by chemicals or bacteria that is found on the surface. A pump is installed at the bottom of the well with a water line to supply your home with water.

Bored wells have the capacity to hold a lot of water in their large well tiles, this means that the flow rate for a bored well can be a lot less than a drilled well. With a drilled well you want a high refresh rate of water because the amount of water in the well is minimal and with a lot of water usage in a short amount of time it can be run dry. The opposite is needed with a bored well, because of the holding capacity of a bored well you can have a large volume of stored water that will be used before the well runs dry. If the bored well has a low or slow re-fresh rate it wouldn’t matter as much because the amount of water used has to be extreme to empty the reserve. Usually the only restrictions on a bored well with a low flow rate is that they not be used to fill pools or to water expansive irrigation systems.

The key with a bored well is that you want water that is close to the surface for boring to work, if you see signs on your property that you have water close to the surface or springs on the property then talk to a well borer. If you think that you will have to go down a long way for your water then you should stick with a drilled well and call a well driller.

It never hurts to understand your options especially when your talking about something as important as the water for your home and family.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Roofing trends for 2013 in custom homes

Roofing trends 2013

Here are some trends in roofing materials being installed in custom homes for 2013. Some of the trends have started this year (2013), a lot of trends where started in the 2012 construction year and continued into this calendar year. There are trends that have been sustained year over year as well; they are considered the long running trends.

Roofing applications in today’s custom homes

Here is a list of the trends that have stayed the same over the last several years;

Asphalt shingles are still the most common and prevalent material installed on all homes. The ease of installation and the price point make them the simple choice for homeowners.

Grace Ice and Water Shield is installed on the first 2 feet of the roof and up the valleys.

Dark coloured asphalt shingles have and are still the most common shingle installed.

Black valleys are still the most common because they go with any kind of dark roofing material.

Steel roofs are gradually growing more common with the ever changing severe weather.

Enviro-shake has all but eliminated the need or want for homeowners to have cedar-shake roofs installed, with the composite material looking so close to real cedar plus giving a lifetime product, something cedar cannot accomplish.

Here is a list of the trends that have started this year and are growing in popularity;

Large peaked roofs that are now prevalent in most architects plans have brought about growing trend of torch down roof membranes on the top of houses because of height restrictions.

Roofs being covered completely in waterproofing from eave to peak to protect against future leaks has become a fast growing trend.

Strip ridge venting is on more and more roofs that have asphalt shingles, giving the clean look and helping to maximize air flow.

Composite roofing materials are gaining popularity as homeowners look for alternatives to asphalt shingles and are not worried about the higher price.

Heavier duty and multiple ply asphalt shingles are growing in popularity for their longer life spans and warranties.

Using multiple materials on custom homes have started to become a more common practice. Installing asphalt shingles on a high steep roof and then installing steel roofs below on porch or lower sloped roofs helps the longevity of the lower roofs and can be very appealing to the eye.

Standing seam steel roofs have by far become the most wanted and installed look in steel. The standing seam gives a richer look to the roof, making it look less like a barn steel roof and more like a luxury material on a custom home.

Overall people are starting to understand that they need to spend more money on their roofing materials since the weather and the climate has become more unpredictable. A higher quality of roofing material is showing that it will survive the more severe storms and save you money from replacing your roof in the future.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Does spray on rubber membrane products work on older foundations?


Does spray on rubber membrane products work on older foundations?


Good question. The answer is yes, the product works very well on older foundations, rubberized membrane are engineered to stretch and move, they are able to cover small holes and cracks that would allow water to penetrate any other kind of waterproofing. Rubberized membranes are the only thing that I would use on an older foundation to guarantee a leak free basement. . You must prepare your foundation properly for the installation of a rubberized membrane.

To properly prepare an older foundation there are certain things that you must do.

You must dig around the entire foundation of the home if you want a 100% guarantee that the house will not leak. If you are only concerned about one side of the home then you must completely expose that side from corner to corner.

You must dig right down to the footing until it is exposed. The hole must be wide enough that a person can safely work, bend over, twist and turn and the bank must be sloped enough to prevent cave-ins for the workers safety.

When you have excavated the area check to see if there is a weeper or drainage tile, if there is no weeper install one and if there is an existing one check to see if it is working or is damaged.

Once the wall is exposed you must remove any old waterproofing material. If the foundation has been tarred then you must use a pressure washer and blast the wall until any loose tar or (if you have enough time) all the tar has been removed.

With a pressure washer you must remove any leftover dirt, sticks or debris from the walls so that they are clean. You must do this early enough so that the wall is completely dry when they come to spray on the waterproofing.

Before you proceed with the waterproofing if the foundation is a block foundation then you must drill a hole in the bottom block every couple of feet along the wall. You don’t drill all the way through the block, you only have to drill through one side of the block, this will allow any water to leak out of the block that had penetrated the block in the past.

Parge any holes that are in the foundation, whether you made them or they are there previously. Any cracks, brakes or seams require filling and smoothing. Any repairs on the foundation should be done now before the waterproofing is installed. Any raised or pointed area's on the foundation wall must be chipped and smoothed out.

Once the rubber membrane has been sprayed on the foundation, most companies will install a dimple board over top of it. This dimple board is there to protect the membrane from rocks, roots and the membrane when back filling the hole.

When you back fill the hole you must make sure that the fill you are using is clean, clean means no rocks, stumps, construction debris or anything that can cause damage from puncturing the membrane at a later date.

You must grade the back fill so that water will run away from the house.

The cost of rubberized membranes is higher then most other kinds of waterproofing but the quality is also much higher. To guarantee a leak free foundation I would only recommend it.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My new septic system keeps backing up, but I can’t get a hold of the installer, is there anything I can check while I’m waiting?


My new septic system keeps backing up, but I can’t get a hold of the installer, is there anything I can check while I’m waiting?


There is something you can check; in all new modern septic systems there is a filter in the septic tank. The filter is there to stop large objects from getting down into the septic bed and causing damage. Excessive toilet paper usage, or foreign objects will be collected in this filter.

First find the septic tank; it will be the concrete one that will be close to the house, buried about 1 foot down. It should have two lids; you want to access the second one. To access this lid you will need to uncover it, so you will have to dig the topsoil and grass off of it.

Unscrew the lid by the 4 screws that hold the lid in place. Once the screws are removed the lid should just lift off.

If you look down in the septic tank right below the lid you will see a grey filter about 1 to 2 feet long. You need to pull up on the filter, there is a little clip on the inside that you should push down that will allow the filter to slide free.

Completely remove the filter and inspect it, check to see if there are any foreign objects stuck in the filter, these should be removed. Then all you do is wash the filter well with a garden hose until it looks to be clean and clear.

Re-install the filter and put the top back on the lid. Don’t re-cover the lid with dirt because if and when your septic installer comes out they will want to check the filter themselves.

If that doesn’t work then there is a problem somewhere else in the system.

If you don’t get a hold of the installer try calling a plumber to come and snake the drain down to the tank, there could be something blocking it at that point.

Good luck.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How do I know my builder is a good businessperson?

How do I know my builder is a good businessperson?


In residential construction most general contractors started out in the field swinging a hammer before they ever decided to move into the office. Most contractors moved out of the field because their business required more of their attention and the supervision of workers in the field could be left to someone else.

When interviewing a general contractor that you are considering to construct your dream home you should observe everything you can about them. There are certain things that you should look for when you sit down with one of these potential general contractor;

Do they have an office, a building that is not in their home, and a place of business that you can go if there are any problems?

Does it look like they have office staff? Is there someone answering the phone? You don’t want to have to call someone and they have no one to answer the phone.

Are they tech savy? Do they use email? Or are they still using written paper for everything.

Is the place busy, phone ringing, people coming and going? If your contractor has a good reputation one of the signs is that they are always in demand.

Ask to see a copy of a typical bill, can you understand how they accounting is done, is the bill clear and easy to read?

Will they allow you to see the bills from their suppliers if you are planning to build a home that will be time and material?

Ask how long they have been in business, in that area? Are his employee's from the area? How many employee's does he have?

Ask if they are a registered Tarion Home Builder and could they give you their Tarion Builder Number. You can get information on this builder from the Tarion homeowner’s portal on the web.

Asking the builder for an "insurance certificate" from his carrier will prove the amount of insurance coverage on his business.

If a builder ever asks you to set up your own account at the local lumber yard so that he can charge things to it while they build your home this is a major red flag. This basically says that the builder doesn’t have good enough credit to secure enough trust in the suppliers to build a home. A builder with a bad credit rating usually means a builder that is not running a very good business.

You should ask for and follow-up with references to the company's trade partners, and suppliers.

All of these things will help you form an opinion of the person and kind of business that this person is running. Remember to always go with your gut, if you don’t like the feeling of the place or the person keep looking.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The energy efficiency of homes in Canada has risen 66% in the last three decades

The energy efficiency of homes in Canada has risen 66% in the last three decades.

The average home built in Canada today is 66% more energy efficient then a home built in the 1970’s.

In the 1970’s there was an energy crisis that forced the construction industry to start looking at the way homes were built and to find ways to make them use less energy allowing average Canadians to afford to heat and cool their homes in the face of sky rocketing heating and cooling costs.

There have been a lot of theories that have come and gone over three decades, some of them good and some of them bad. But as time marched on so did the technology and techniques to make homes use less energy.

One of the biggest changes in construction practices was in stopping the air leakage coming into and out of the home. In the 1970’s the average home when you combined all the cracks, holes and seams together would add up to 350 square inch hole, that is just over a 29 sqft hole. A home built today would have 1/3 the size at around 115 square inches. That alone cuts down on the heat loss that the average home would lose.

The way this has been achieved has more to do with people paying more attention to the little details, in places around windows, doors, window headers, where the foundation meets the stud walls and around electrical penetrations on exterior walls.

The product that helped stop these gaps was foam. There are many different types of foam, from spray foam for the hard to get to areas, to sheets of foam that are attached on the outside of your home. Sheets of foam help stop the transfer of heat through  the wood studs and help block the windchill that cools the inside of the wall cavity down faster, thus making the furnace work harder to warm up the new colder air.

People living in a home today can except to spend almost $1400.00 less on gas to heat their home then the same people living in a home that was built in the 1970’s.

A custom home built by a well qualified builder will have better ratings across the board then these lowering heating loss and heating/cooling costs to near minuscule levels.

So when you are thinking about buying an older home or building a new one, think about the money that you will save in energy consumption with a newly built home. In the long run the new home will pay you back, where the older one will just make you pay.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Facts from this post where found in the summer 2013 addition of Ontario Home Builder.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What is an escalation clause in construction contract?

What is an escalation clause?


In a contract with an escalation clause, the customer agrees to pay any price increases for specified items that occur between the signing of the contract and the start of construction. Volatile materials markets have made these clauses fairly common today. The alternative is for the contractor to inflate the contract price to cover possible increases. The decision to sign or not sign such a clause is basically a market bet, and will depend on whether or not the customer expects prices for the materials in question to rise.

When a general contractor receives prices for services and materials the proposals are dated the day that they were issued as a bid on the project. In the bid it will state how long the proposed price is guaranteed to stay the same. Usually the price is good for about 30 days. If the bid is successful then the bidder will be asked to hold that price until their services are required on site. When custom home building this could be up to 6 months or more after the date of the bid.

Where you get into price increases is when companies place bids on a project and because of plan changes or client indecisions the project isn’t rewarded to the general contractor until well after the 30 day limit. When this happens the client has to understand that the sub-contractors that bid on the project might have to charge them an extra because their own costs have gone up.

This can make pricing custom homes tricky because with a custom home as a general contractor working on a bid you could end up waiting 6 months to a year before you ever find out if you have won the project or have a finalized signed contract.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How do allowances work when budgeting for renovations?


How do allowances work?


Allowances allocate funds to parts of the job that haven't been fully specified at the time of the contract signing. For example if the homeowner has yet to find the right grade of kitchen cabinets, the allowance lets the project begin by specifying how much can be spent on them. It also sets a date when the decision must be made for the project to stay on schedule.

Most contractors that are experienced at estimating will give their clients an accurate as possible number on the allowances pertaining to a budget eliminating a lot of the shock or surprise at future pricing. There are contractors when pricing allowances will set the number too low on purpose allowing them to be cheaper at the beginning almost guaranteeing them the job.

Since there are contractors that will do anything to land a job, you need to study the quote that you are given. Keep a close eye on the amount of money that is allocated to certain parts of your quote, does the amount allocated appear to low? If it seems to low then it probably is and should be discussed before anything is signed. Remember just because in your budget you were allotted a certain amount of money doesn’t mean that will get you what you want. For example if the contractor allocates 5,000 dollars for your entire new kitchen that doesn’t mean you will get a 20,000 dollar kitchen for the allotted 5,000. You will be given a change order and have to pay the 20,000. The worst thing about contractors that proceed in this fashion is that the cost over runs end up sometimes stopping the finishing of the job when the client runs out of money before the job can be completed. This doesn’t help anyone.

Sometimes the homeowner can end up being their own worst enemy. For example we have given people quotes with what we thought was the most appropriate allowance for the different sections of the renovation only to have the homeowner tell us to lower them. When this happens we do two things;

1. We explain to them why we have set those allowances at that price, what we believe the level of fit and finish that will suite the person, the house and the overall work that is being proposed.

2. We do what they ask and insert the amount that they have requested us to set it at.

What usually ends up happening is that once the job is completed and we look back at the final cost of the job compared to the budgeted cost of the job, we find that those allowances that we lowered ended up at what we originally set them at before the homeowner requested the change.

In the long run when working with allowances on budgets if it doesn’t make sense, if it seems either too high or too low then you should be asking questions and listening to your contractor’s answers.

Allowances are there to help you know the cost and they should also help the contractor when designing and finishing the job.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Can you explain the difference between waterproofing on a roof and the waterproofing on a foundation?


Can you explain the difference between waterproofing on a roof and the waterproofing on a foundation?


There are many different types of waterproofing out there, but I believe what you are asking is what is the difference between a product like Grace Ice and Water Shield (which is installed on top of your roof as a waterproofing layer under your shingles) and a product like BlueSkin VP 200 which is made to be installed on a foundation as a waterproofing.

It’s a good question, both products look a lot a like, they are installed in the same way and are both trying to achieve the same goal, which is to stop water from entering your home. They are both installed by removing the protective back paper which exposes the adhesive, then the product is stuck to the surface that you wish to protect and smoothed out. The self-adhering material on the backside does not require anything else to help it hold on to the surface that it has been applied too.

The differences come when you look at what they have been manufactured to do.

I will start with the Grace Ice and Water Shield, that product is made to protect your roof;

This product is manufactured so that it is soft and pliable. Once it’s installed on a roof shingles are installed over top of the material, as the shingles are installed with nails the product bends and coats the nail as it penetrates through the product. This helps stop any water from running down the nail into the building. The surface of this product is also made with some grip so that the installer doesn’t feel like they are walking on a skating rink. The product is not engineered to be left exposed to the elements for a prolonged period of time; it is engineered to have another material installed over top of it to protect it from the natural elements.

BlueSkin VP 200 which primarily is made too waterproof foundations is installed the same way as Grace but is made to be installed on a vertical surface. The product has a more rugged exterior layer that holds up to exterior pressures and impacts. BlueSkin will not coat a nail like Grave when it penetrates through the surface of it.
The outside layer is also made to be extremely slick. It is not advised to walk on it if it’s placed on a surface because it will be a safety hazard. The reason that the outside layer is like this is because it helps shed water, rocks and roots that might come to rest against it when underground. BlueSkin will survive underground without anything to protect it but it is still recommended that a dimple board be installed over it just encase a large rock impacts the foundation.

If you are thinking about using a foundation waterproofing on your roof or vice versa to save money because one product is cheaper than the other I caution you, by doing this you are taking a large risk. These products have been engineered for the purpose that is stated on the package and you will be voiding any warranty that comes with them by applying them somewhere else.

Thanks for the question

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why the time to renovate is now!

Why the Time to Remodel is NOW

Materials and labor won't be any more affordable in a year or two.

Homeowners who have decided to hold out for price cuts before starting that remodeling project might have a long wait. Remodeling costs may be attractive at the moment, but they're headed upward. While rising interest rates and a weaker dollar could play a role, the biggest factors will likely be supply and demand, particularly of labor and materials.

Demand for remodeling began to surge in 2012, and while expansion fell slightly during the first quarter of 2013, according to the homebuilders associations, nearly every forecaster understood that as a temporary glitch. Consumer surveys are telling the building industry that a very high portion of homeowners will be spending money on renovating in the near future.

More remodeling means more demand for labor, which is already helping to swing the pendulum in favor of workers. After the last decade's housing boom came to a screeching halt in 2008, legions of carpenters and other tradespeople either retired or left for other industries. Now that work has picked up, there's a shortage.  In fact many companies are competing hard for labor, and workers who possess the skills needed by professional remodelers are commanding higher wages.

The supply and demand gap also applies to quality subcontractors such as electricians, plumbers, and drywallers. Because most of these subs work on new homes and remodels, an uptick in new construction has brought many of them more work than they can handle. After years of low profits, it's no surprise that they have raised their prices accordingly.

Labor isn't the only challenge: the next few years should also see higher material costs, and for similar reasons. Lumber shortages drove prices higher in early 2013 , and while remodeling projects as a rule use less framing lumber than new homes, the fact is that lumber is a bellwether: the costs of other building materials, from cabinets to carpet to light fixtures, tend to follow its lead.

There are several reasons why lumber prices will remain volatile. A lot of mills closed after the boom ended, and the survivors couldn't keep up with demand when the market began to rebound. It will take time to bring the needed capacity online. Other challenges include less harvestable lumber and more global demand. Mountain Pine Beetles have devastated millions of acres of timberland in the western Canada and provinces have ordered permanent harvest reductions from healthy forests. Meanwhile China, India, and other countries are bidding up prices for what is available.

Rising costs mean that budget-conscious homeowners may have to be creative. One solution is to work with the contractor on value engineering, which seeks to economize without sacrificing amenities or quality. There are innumerable ways to do this, but one example is reducing exterior wall space on an addition. Exterior walls cost more to build than interior walls, so reducing them will save labor and materials. The ability to value engineer is one of the many benefits of working with a professional remodeling company.

The bottom line is that waiting for prices to come down is a roll of the dice – with odds of winning that are probably less than those at a Vegas casino. Anyone considering a remodel in the near future would be well advised to start sooner rather than later.

Warm Regards,

Doug Abbott
Village Builders

This is an excerpt from a newsletter that is distributed to all former, current and future clients of Village Builders Inc.  If you would like to receive this newsletter feel free to email me at

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I have $100,000.00 can I build a custom home?


I own a lot in Collingwood and want to build a custom home; I want to spend about $100,000.00 is that enough for a custom home?


In one single word NO.

Let me explain a couple of things to you. The building and development fees in the town of Collingwood are dependent on the size of the home between 18 and 30 thousand dollars. Let’s say that you are going to build a small home and you end up paying $18,000.00 for the permit and development fees. That leaves you with $82,000.00; you will need plans drawn by a professional draftsman at the least to receive your permit that will cost you a minimum of $1000.00. Your down to $81,000.00 and you haven’t dug the a hole.

A normal custom home routinely costs anywhere between $200 to $400 dollars a sqft. Let’s say you keep your home as basic as possible and you are able to have it built at $180 dollars a sqft.  That would mean that you would have enough money to build yourself a 456 sqft house. Most people’s garages are bigger than that.

Even if you wanted to build yourself a house that small most municipalities have restrictions against the minimum requirements for a home and that would fall well below it.

I hope that gives you some perspective on how much it can cost to build even a simple custom home.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.