Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Don't build a larger kitchen, build a more efficient kitchen

A new survey on the popular website houzz has found that only 37% of people that are thinking about remodeling their kitchen want to make the kitchen larger.

The reason for this is that for decades the kitchens got larger, grander and more open. This was in response to the closed off spaces of the 70’s and 80’s where who was ever working in the kitchen was in a room to themselves and would not be able to interact with their family or guests. So kitchens were opened up and made larger, with more space in the middle of the room to help create more principal counter space around the perimeter and allowing more room in the middle for guests, children and pets too flow into and out of the kitchen without disturbing the food preparation.

This thinking worked, it allowed more counter space and freed up area for the flow of people and pets to come in and out of the kitchen. But overtime what people started to realize is that when they were working in the kitchen they had to do a fair bit of walking. The space between the stove, sink, refrigerator and counter prep area had grown farther apart then was practical. When preparing a large meal people found that a lot of time and energy was being wasted walking around the kitchen to the farther spaced out work stations.

Enter the new kitchen designs; making kitchens smaller but more efficient and designating space for the many different activities that will go on in a modern kitchen and a modern home.

How did they achieve this?

They added islands in the middle of the kitchens, in the island they installed another sink, more storage underneath and an ample supply of preparation area. This island eliminated the need for more storage around the perimeter of the kitchen and the counter tops that go with them. The kitchen is now able to become smaller, shrinking around the island, the kitchen then is redesigned so that the stove and fridge are closer together and the extra sink in the island allows for less travel from stove to fridge to preparation area.
Locating the fridge around the side away from the main preparation area allows people to walk into the kitchen to retrieve snacks or drinks without walking into the space of the food preparation.

The other design trend that has come about from this shrinking of the kitchen is the creation of stations for people to streamline the use of the kitchen. Putting all the morning coffee and breakfast needs in a certain area of the kitchen allows people to retrieve what they need without having to interfere with anyone that is cooking eggs, bacon or pancakes. Placing the main large sink next to the dishwashers and a large counter area allows all the used dishes to come to one area where they can be rinsed and placed in the dishwashers or sink for cleaning. This thinking allows people the freedom of movement around the kitchen even though there might be several people working in one area of it.

So when you are planning that new kitchen remember that bigger isn’t always better, think smarter and use your kitchen more efficiently.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

How much do permit requirements and codes vary from place to place?


 How much do permit requirements and codes vary from place to place?


While all jurisdictions require a building permit for structural work, others require a permit for every job and still others set their requirements somewhere in the middle. All municipalities in Ontario use the same Ontario Building Code which gives the building inspectors the minimum building requirements. Every municipal building department interrupt the building code differently and demand that builders know and follow their guidelines.

The only way to know the local guidelines, rules and regulations is to have experience in that area. This is one of the main reasons why I always recommend hiring someone that is familiar with working in that municipality, a professional that knows what the local requirements are before you start the building process.

Depending on the municipality there are other permits that you could be required to apply for and receive before you can actually start your renovation or building your new home. There are some municipality that require you to have a road occupancy permit to do any heavy construction or demolition.

Your best bet is to hire a professional that has worked in that area before or call the building department yourself and ask the appropriate questions.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Creating those fall decorating scenes

Fall is one of the best times to step out of your comfort zone and experiment with vibrant colours!  Earth tones, oranges, reds, browns, greens and golds blend well with each other and often look great in any home.

Colourful flower arrangements, interesting vase display's, fireplace mantel assortments, candle centrepieces for Thanksgiving, the list is endless.

Don't forget about your outdoor space, pumpkins, gourds, squash, wreaths, mums, can be added to elements you already have.

There is no right or wrong way to create a fall display but for those of you who don't know where to start or just don't have the time, hire someone! There are many companies out there that for a little bit of money can help create those displays and depending on your budget can even set the scene for you.

You will be Thankful you did, every time you come home.

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 www.robabbott@villagebuilders.ca

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager

Village Builders Inc

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fireplace trends for 2013 in custom homes

Fireplace trends for 2013

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

Custom fireplace trends in today’s custom homes

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

The majority of fireplaces have large wood mantles.

The majority of fireplaces have stone facings whether it is natural or a manufactured product.

Gas fireplaces are the most common fireplace being installed, the ease of use with only having to flip a switch to activate it appeals to peoples busy lives.

Great room fireplaces continue to grow in size no matter whether they are wood or gas units.

Hand built masonry fireplaces are almost always Rumford’s for their looks and how well they function.

Gas insects built into the wall are the most popular, free standing wood or gas stoves are almost never installed in new homes anymore.

Most inserts are still black with black trims.

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

Tiling fireplace faces is becoming increasingly popular. Whether it is a tile surround around the fire box or the entire lower half up to the mantle. This is usually down on smaller fireplaces.

Multiple fireplaces in the house are more popular, with fireplaces in not only the living rooms but also in the master bedrooms.

The long and low gas fireplace that is closer to a wide screen television look then the more traditional square fireplaces is growing quickly with homeowners looking for a different feel then the conventional square box style.

Remotes are all the rage now for gas fireplaces with homeowners liking the ease of use and the ability to turn the unit on from anywhere in the room.

Gas fireplaces with interior lighting are the new popular option. It allows you to light the fireplace without having to burn gas and adding unnecessary heat to a room, especially in the summer months when the air conditioning is been used and the homeowner is looking for ambient mood lighting.

After years of decline natural stone finishing has made a big comeback. The availability of thin stone veneer has allowed homeowners to have natural stone without the cost and the weight issues.

Manufactured stone is predominately made by Eldorado stone whether it is the Eldorado line of stone or there other lines like Dutch Quality. Their ability to make a manufactured stone that looks so much like natural stone is making homeowners choice between the two more difficult.

Asian tiling of the face of fireplaces has started to become popular with people looking for an alternative to the stone look and do not want to install tile.

With the more modern look and the placement of fireplaces in bedrooms and bathrooms more gas fireplaces are being installed without hearths, this gives a cleaner look that also fits into smaller spaces.

Trims for gas or wood insects are starting to trend to chrome or back towards brass as people look for a little colour on their black metal fireplaces.

With fireplaces it comes down to personnel choice, wood fireplaces especially are subject to personnel preference and usually an overall grander look then gas fireplaces.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cold weather heat pumps

Cold weather heat pumps

The new generation of cold weather heat pumps are producing phenomenal cost savings even compared to natural gas heating.

Tests comparing the efficiency of new cold weather air to air heat pumps show that the new generation of heat pumps result in 49% energy savings over heating with natural gas. These results don’t even take into consideration the savings of a heat pump compared to a conventional air conditioning unit that run on electricity. Heat pumps convert to air conditioners in the summer and do it more efficiently than normal air conditioning units.

The thinking on heat pumps in the past is that they do not perform below zero very well because the old theory was that there wasn’t enough heat in the air to remove to create significant amount of heat. When a heat pump cannot remove heat from the air outside it is unable to produce heat and must rely on the homes furnace to produce the necessary heat. These furnaces can be oil, propane or natural gas. The new science on new heat pumps tells us that even air at -18C contains 85% of the heat of air at 21C. That means that when it is cold outside the heat pump still can remove enough heat from the air to heat your home, thus putting an end to the thinking that below zero heat pumps do not work very well.

If you’re wondering how a heat pump does this I will explain;

A heat pump transfers heat by circulating a refrigerant through an evaporation and condensation cycle. The refrigerant flows through an outdoor coil where it absorbs heat from the air as it is evaporated. It is then compressed at high pressure at a second coil where it condenses, this releases the heat absorbed earlier in the cycle, this then has accomplished bringing the heat from the air outside to the inside. Once the indoor coil has this heat it circulates it through your duct work to your entire home.

With this new technology it makes more sense to have a heat pump added to your heating system, this will allow you to save money on heating and cooling and depending on how little or how often you use it will tell you how fast it pays for itself in energy conservation. On average a heat pump pays for itself in under 5 years, which is a very quick turn around when we are talking about heating and cooling units.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Information for this blog came in part from the solplan review NO. 170 May 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

Where is the most potential to save water inside a home?


 Where is the most potential to save water inside a home?


 Bathrooms are the best place to start. Conventional toilets, showers and faucets combine to consume an average of 41 gallons per person per day, or about 60 percent of a home’s daily indoor drain, according to the American Water Works Association. Installing low-flow toilets, showerheads, and faucets can drop daily consumption by 36 percent, a potential savings of 12,500 gallons of water a year per household.

The old stigma that low flow toilets do not work as well as the higher flow toilets does not apply anymore.

With new government legislation forcing companies to make more low flow toilets available to the consumer the industry responded. New low flow toilets are designed in a way that allows a low flow toilet to function as well as their water wasting cousins. Gone are the days of flushing multiple times to make sure the waste has been deposited down the drain. Other ways to save water with toilets are with dual flush toilets; these are toilets that have two different flushes, one for urine and one for solids. The one for urine uses less than the one for solids. Toilets are flushed many more times for the former rather then the latter.

There are showerheads on the market today that use far less water but deliver it with far greater pressure. This puts to rest the problems people had with low flow shower heads in the past with limited pressure and eliminating the common complaint of not enough water pressure to wash the soap out of long hair.

Even bathtubs are into water saving. Today’s bubblers and jetted tubs have in-line heaters to heat the water in the tub as it is re-circulated around you. This helps keep the water warmer longer and eliminate the need for you to add extra hot water because of cooling water.

A lot of these lower water usage items are not anymore expensive then their heavy using cousins, all you have to do is a little research and you could save a lot of water and in time a lot of money.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How to get inspired to start that design project


People always ask me, where do I start? My answer is always the same...start with what you know you love.

If you love the beach, that is your inspiration! Look to the water, rocks and sand for colours, textures and moods.

Look through websites, print out the pictures that you like, dig through magazines and rip out the pages of rooms or anything that inspires you. When you put it all together side by side you will see a pattern emerge, the unconscious mind is a powerful thing, working in the background all the time that you are looking at these images. It inspires you, it drives you and gives you your inspiration without you even knowing it.

Next, think about what you are using the space for? If it's a family room, you will need a comfy couch, a coffee table and most likely storage for all those DVD's and blankets to cozy up to. The space needs to be practical. It needs to be comfortable. Don't ever try to design or decorate a space for someone else, you will never be comfortable in it. It's like wearing a evening dress to the gym.

Be true to yourself and your style and you will reap the benefits for years to come.

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 www.robabbott@villagebuilders.ca

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc

Monday, October 14, 2013

Central electrical metering for your custom home

Central metering

If you are planning to build a custom home in a rural setting and your plan includes placing your home a fair distance away from the road then you should think about central metering.

Central metering is when you install your hydro meter next to a hydro vault instead of placing the meter on the side of your new home.

There are a couple of things that this allows you to do;

You do not have to worry about finding a place for the hydro meter on the side of your new home. They are not the prettiest piece of equipment.

If your home is to be built a long way from the main power lines that are at the road then it can help save you money. The primary cable that comes from the hydro pole to feed your property is very expensive to buy and have installed. If you install a “vault” (basically a large steel junction box placed on a concrete base near your driveway) that’s where the primary electrical cable ends. You install smaller secondary electrical cable to the house that is cheaper to buy and easier to install.

You can run multiple secondary electrical lines out of the vault, depending on the amount of out buildings you require to have electricity. You can run secondary cable to the house, garage, barn, drive-shed, shop, stables, wood shop, pool house or a secondary residence. All that is required at the other end is an electrical panel with breakers.

It allows the electricity company to easily read the meter without having to drive all the way to your house, this is can be a problem if the home is a seasonal property and the road isn’t always maintained in the winter months.

If there is ever a problem with either the primary line or the secondary then you only have to replace it up to the vault instead of all the way to the road.

Allows you to add more out buildings that require electricity later on, all you do is dig to the vault instead of to the finished house with all its landscaping.

If nobody has brought up central metering in your preconstruction meetings then maybe you should, it’s easier and cheaper to do before the house is backfilled and the electrical lines are ordered or installed.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, October 11, 2013

What is a "rough-in" when talking about construction?


What is a "rough-in"?


“Rough-in” is a term that refers to plumbing, electrical, structured wiring, vacuum or gas piping installation when it is at its basic and simplest installation. The installation to be considered a rough-in must be without finishing’s on it.

A rough-in is installed when the home is at its bare-bones stage, meaning that it is without wall finishing’s and usually before any insulation has been installed.

A rough-in is installed without finishing’s so that it can survive the construction process that has to happen around it, a rough-in can be installed and then have to survive for months until it can have the finishing’s installed.

A rough-in usually consists of the bare material with an end cap on it to prevent anything from entering the piping or hose such as dirt, dust or debris.

Once the drywall has been installed and the walls have been primed with paint then the tradesmen will come back and add the finishing’s to the rough-in.

When you see a rough-in do not worry if it looks ugly or unfinished, at the end you will never see the rough-in once the finishing’s are installed.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Eliminate Surprises by Clearly Defining the renovation

Eliminate Surprises by Clearly Defining the Job

A major remodel is a big event for most families, and may be an even bigger financial investment. So it's no wonder that when it comes to getting their home remodeled, no one likes surprises. One way to avoid upset and frustration during the project is with a well-crafted contract. The contract is the document that spells out the detail and helps set expectations for both remodeler and client -- it's the roadmap that defines the destination, describes the detail of how the project will proceed, and steers everyone clear of obstructions and delays.

The contract is crafted so that it protects both remodeler and client, and clarifies everything about the job. It is organized into a number of sections, including information about the project, permits, contractor insurance, project timetables, and payment schedules.

While all of these details are important, most remodelers find that if conflicts arise during the project, they're usually caused by misunderstandings over the "who, what, and how" of the job. An effective contract works to clarify these issues.

Who makes the decisions?

This should be one person -- for instance, the husband or wife, but not both -- who will act as the remodeler's main contact for approvals, changes, and questions. Having one homeowner representative helps eliminate confusion and makes communication more efficient.

What, exactly, is the client buying?

The project description defines exactly what the homeowners will be getting for their money. The more detail the better. Most contracts accomplish this by referencing the project plans and specifications.
The plans are the visual description of the finished project, and include floor plans, drawings, and all electrical and mechanical systems. The plans should note who prepared them and when they were signed. They should also have gotten all necessary approvals -- for instance, from the building department and the zoning board.

The specifications, or "specs," are the written description of what will be done. They list all items that will be installed to complete the project. Depending on the project and scope of work, they may include specifics about carpeting, flooring, door hardware, and light fixtures; the model numbers of kitchen appliances, furnaces, and water heaters; and the brands and colors of paint and roof shingles. The project budget is based in part on the specs, so the clients should study these carefully to confirm that they understand what they are getting before signing the contract.

How will discretionary funds be allocated?

Discretionary funds include allowances and change orders. It's important that both be crystal clear.
Allowances cover parts of the job that have yet to be fully specified.

The contract should also clearly explain the remodeler's change-order policy, including what types of changes can be made at each stage of the project, who can sign off on changes (the owner and contractor reps), and the administrative cost for preparing change orders. It's in everyone's interest for even small changes to be documented in writing.

A contract that clearly defines the details goes a long way toward steering the project clear of the most common minefields. This will help ensure that the homeowners get the result they want, on the timetable and for the price they were expecting.

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 www.robabbott@villagebuilders.ca

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc

Monday, October 7, 2013

Designing your custom fireplace

When you are planning your custom home you should pay special attention to the homes certain features that most people will see when they enter your new home. These features are called showpiece items, these are parts of the home that are naturally appealing to the eye.

One of these main feature areas in most custom homes is the fireplace that is located in your great room or main living space. There are certain things that you should remember when planning for this;

Design the fireplace surround around the fireplace you purchased. Never try to make a fireplace work around an existing design.

Always do an onsite visit with your general contractor when the fireplace is installed before they start installing stone or they begin finishing the framing around it. Fireplaces always look different to people when they are installed, a showroom or internet picture never really gives you that true sense of what it will look like in your new home.

Remember to listen to your general contractor and the mason or carpenter that is going to be doing the finish work around your fireplace. If they think that there will be a problem with your design then you should find a way around the problem immediately. This will save you time and money in the long run.

Look at other people’s fireplaces, look on the internet and look in home magazines. If you have an interior designer then have them mock up some drawings for you. This will save everyone time when you have your onsite meeting and will give you a better idea of what the end product will look like. Having a drawing allows your contractor to order the appropriate material required speeding up the project and with a drawing everyone understands what is being built.

Most fireplaces have mantles these days. If you are going to want a mantle then your contractor will tell you the minimum height above the fireplace that it can be placed. Every fireplace has different restrictions; there are different restrictions depending on the size and type of fireplace. Don’t be surprised if the distance that you want the mantle installed is unacceptable and has to be raised.

The hearth on a fireplace has restrictions that are placed on it by the building code. These can change depending on where you live. Your contractor should be able to tell you what your minimum requirements are. There will be a minimum for the height off the floor and the distance the hearth comes out. If you want a one piece stone hearth then you will be limited by the size of stone that is available and the limitations of moving it into the house. If the stone you want weighs say 1 ton and you already have the roof on your house the likely hood of getting it in there is slim. If you choose your hearth before the roof is framed then you can have a crane set the hearth in place no matter what the size might be. Certain fireplaces like gas fireplaces do not require hearths.

If you don’t want a hearth then you will still require a non combustible material installed in front of the fireplace for wood burning fireplaces. There are a number of things that qualify as a non combustible such as concrete, stone or tile.

If you want a more modern look you can forgo the mantle and drywall the entire fireplace box. You can then have the drywaller do the detail work such as texturing, corbels and designer patterns. It is a very modern look.

You should try and stay away from mounting a television above your fireplace. Even though it might be trendy there are a lot of reasons that it shouldn’t be placed there. TV warranties are voided if placed over a fireplace; damage can be caused to the TV if the fireplace is left on for prolonged periods of time. To mount the TV high enough over most fireplaces forces people sitting in the room to be looking up at the TV instead of straight ahead which is the normal angle for viewing television.

Whatever stone work is done to the outside of the home should be continued on the inside. If you have used natural stone on the outside of the building then that’s what should be installed on the fireplace, if you used manufactured outside then the same rule applies.

Design the fireplace to be proportionate to the room and viewing area, if you are in a large room then you can design a large fireplace. If you are in a tighter space then try and minimize the size of the fireplace so that it doesn’t over power the room.

If you are planning for a wood burning fireplace then you should incorporate a place to pile the firewood and kindling.

These are just some of the more prevalent things that you should be considering when designing the fireplace in your new custom home. You should remember that the fireplace in your home is going to be where everyone gathers, visitors will see the fireplace before anything else so make sure it makes a statement.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, October 4, 2013

What are "replacement" windows?


What are "replacement" windows?


Replacement windows are windows that are made specifically for a single customer; they are ordered to fit the exact size and shape of a given opening in a particular house. This is so that you can precisely replace the home's existing, usually outdated or damaged windows.

The finishing on the outside of the home will affect how the replacement windows are constructed. Windows that are made to fit in a house with brick are manufactured with what is referred to as a “brick sill” around the outside. A replacement window being installed into wood siding would not have one of these.

When you are installing replacement windows in a house with siding the window is designed to stick out proud of the siding and to have a metal drip cap on top of it. Brick installation of replacement windows are made to fit right into the brick without a metal drip cap, all you do is caulk the windows to the brick and the brick sticks out proud of the window.

When ordering replacement windows you should take great care with the measuring. Since they are made to fit exactly to your measurements you should be making your measurements as accurate as possible. One of the best and simplest ways to ensure this is to have the window installer do all the measuring for you. If you do not have a window installer yet then you can ask the representative or sales agent that you are buying the windows to complete the measuring.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Working with fall arrest safety equipment on the roof - safety tip

Safety tip-Safety Lines on the roof

The construction industry has changed with the manner they work and in the way that they accomplish the erecting of buildings. Along with the new methods and equipment have come new and advanced safety regulations. In the modern age of construction, safety comes before all else when building a custom home.

With newer and larger more elaborate homes has also come larger and more grand roof designs from architects looking to make a statement for their clients to anyone viewing the home from the exterior. The standard custom home roof is a lot steeper than it use to be 25 years ago. With the change in pitch comes a more rigid safety standard.

The steeper the roof the easier it is to have someone fall and seriously injure themselves. To keep your workers safe they need to use certain safety systems while on the roof so that everyone goes home at the end of the day. The simplest and most inexpensive way of doing this is with a safety harness, lanyard, anchor and a safety rope.

There are four pieces of equipment you will require to work on high places safely. You will need a harness, a lanyard, a rope and an anchor.


The harness is a pre-assembled unit that is made from straps and buckles, this wraps around your body in a way that when you are secured to a rope and you fall you will not be immediately injured and the harness will hold you from breaking free and hitting the ground. There are many different types and grades of harnesses; the cost usually is directly related to the comfort of the harness. If your workers are always wearing one then a more comfortable harness should be purchased.  The harness has an expiree date on it, this is to stop the chance that the harness becomes too old and worn out. The harness is something that you can put on at the start of the work day, wear all day long and then take off at the end of the work day. It doesn’t need to be put on and taken off every time you get off the roof.


The Lanyard is the safety system that attaches to the harness; the harness will have a ring attached to it for this purpose. The lanyard can be made many different ways. There are different lanyards for what you need to accomplish. There are limiting lanyards that only allow you to move a certain distance from your anchor point and there are lanyards that are designed to catch you when you fall and give you a cushion with a bungee system. The lanyard attaches to the rope or guide wire when you arrive on the roof. Every time you arrive on the roof or exit the roof you have to clip/unclip your lanyard either from your harness or the rope. With roofing lanyards you squeeze the clip on the rope to descend. Lanyards have expiree dates on them as well and cannot be reused once they have deployed from saving someone from a fall.


 The safety rope that is used has to be a certified safety rope for Canada, there are very specific limits to these and not any rope will do. There are expiree dates on these as well, also you should check the rope for frays or where any foreign particle has lodged itself in them. The ropes come in many different lengths depending on what you require. The ropes are hung on the roof when you start construction of that area and are one of the last things to be removed only after the roof is completed. They are anchored to the top of the roof at certain points. The lanyard attaches to the rope directly.


The anchor is a system that is attached to the top of the roof where the rope will hang from. An anchor has to be strong enough to carry more then the falling weight of a large man, for this reason they have to be certified and stamped. There are many different anchor systems on the market, some of them are metal and screw into the roof trusses and others are a strap design that loop through a hole in the ridge of the roof around the ridge beam. The rope is loped or attached with a ring to them. These should be installed at the start of the project and should be installed by a supervisor. Some houses have the strap type anchor left under the shingle cap for future use from repairs or replacement of the roof tile.

Remember being safe means everyone gets to go home at the end of the day.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.