Friday, February 28, 2014

Come see us at the spring cottage life show


For the first time Village Builders is going to have a booth at the spring cottage life show.

The spring cottage life show is being held at The International Centre in Toronto.

The show runs from Friday March the 28th to Sunday March the 30th.

The show hours are as follows
11am to 8 pm on Friday March 28th.
9am to 6 pm on Saturday March 29th.
10am to 5pm on Sunday March 30th.

Our booth is 207 in Hall 1. The booth is located near the Forest Entrance on the airport road side of the show.

Come visit us and let us help you with your building and renovating needs.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager

Village Builders Inc.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Don't ever let your clients compromise your site safety-safety tip

Safety Tip

In today’s residential construction environment safety for the workers on site is at the forefront of everything that is being proposed and completed. Nothing is done without an eye and ear to the safety of the tasks.

That must be extended to external forces that will try and compromise your site safety, your clients.

It might sound like a strange thing to have to tell people to make sure that their clients they are working for do not compromise their site safety but it’s true enough and it must be talked about.

Today’s rules and regulations when it comes to site safety are a far cry from what they were ten to twenty years ago and it is a good thing because no one should get hurt at work. But with increased safety comes a couple of negatives that will create stress and friction between you and your clients.

Here are a couple of side effects to today’s increased site safety;

The recording, talking and implementing of safety on a residential construction site requires workers to be paid for the time that it takes to achieve them. Time taken for safety means the client (homeowner) has to pay for this and when the client pays for something that he can’t see (compared to seeing windows installed) then the general contractor starts to get pressured to curb costs. The more costs incurred by the homeowner for safety the more pressure they will put on the contractor to reduce costs.

Time. Safety takes time, since safety takes time then the time it takes to construct someone’s house takes longer than people think. As safety is something that can’t be seen or measured by the homeowner then they can start to put pressure on the contractor to speed up the job which can compromise safety.

Clients will bring you workers and companies that they have used before or had friends recommend to them. The problem with this practise is that they might not have the proper safety training required and when someone thinks that they are hired by the homeowner then you can have trouble getting them to conform to safety standards.

Homeowners can and will constantly violate your safety standards. Clients on residential construction sites routinely showup uninvited without safety footwear and hardhats and do a walk around. They also show up on the weekends and walk around when there is no one present. Residential construction sites do not have high security, it is virtually impossible to keep a client off of your site, especially when they own the property. The worst is when your clients come up and work on the project when no one is around. It’s hard to enforce safety when the person that is breaking your safety rules is the one that is paying your bills.

The renting of equipment like knuckle booms and man cages to make the work safer can be a constant source of stress as the client sees the monthly rental bill come in and has to pay for it.

Installation of security fencing around worksites, open holes, open stairwells adds time and money to a build, since these things are something that will be removed and never seen by anyone after the home is built homeowners will complain about the costs and time delays.

The number one thing that you need to remember is that safety has to come before everything else in today’s construction world; there is no way to be perfect all the time especially when dealing with clients that won’t follow the rules. All you can do is try your best and be hyper vigilant with what you can control. No matter what the pressure from your client do not ever compromise the safety of your employee’s or sub-contractors on site. It is better to be removed from the project because you refused to cut corners then to bend to a clients will and have someone hurt or even killed.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How to stop your chalet septic line from freezing


My septic pipe froze in my chalet this winter, what can I do to stop that from happening next winter?


This is a common occurrence in cottages and chalets that are not used as often as a normal home.

To understand how to fix the problem you must first understand why it happened. Your septic line froze because the frost penetrated through the ground far enough that it froze right around the pipe. Once the ground has frozen around the pipe the frost causes the ground to shift or heave, when this happens there ends up being flat spots in the pipe where the waste water and material will sit instead of running downhill the whole way to the septic tank. Combine this flat spot with the fact that your chalet does not get used everyday means that the waste water has a chance to freeze. In a normal home hot water is sent down the pipe everyday a couple of times a day warming up any standing water or waste and moving it along. The odds of your septic line freezing in a home that you use all the time are slim compared to your chalet. The pipe has a chance to stay warm depending on how much use it gets and this helps keep the ground around it from freezing as quickly also. Once that water gets the chance to freeze then the next time water is released down the drain it hits ice and starts to back up waste and debris until it is completely blocked. Once the pipe is completely blocked then the waste water starts to come back up through your drains.

What you have to do in the spring or summer (as long as you have been able to get it unfroze) is you need to dig up and expose the entire pipe from the house to the tank. You need to remove all the backfill from around all sides of it. If the pipe was frozen then you might want to have a new pipe installed just encase the existing pipe was damaged. You have to install a bed of sand underneath the new pipe, level your new pipe with a consistent slope from the house to the tank. Then back fill all around and on top of the pipe with sand.

On top of the sand you should install a couple of layers of polystyrene foam sheeting. These sheets should be about 2 feet wide and cover the entire distance of where the pipe runs from the house to the tank. This will prevent the frost in the future from penetrating through the ground to freeze around the pipe.

Cover the foam with topsoil and finish your grading accordingly.

Doing this should stop your septic line from freezing in the future, there are other ways to do it but this is by far the cheapest and most effective way.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

2014 kitchen trends in custom homes

2014 trends - Kitchens

Now that we are into 2014 there are emerging trends in kitchens that are being installed in new custom homes and custom renovations. A lot of the things that we did in the 2013 construction year were the same as in previous years, there are definite trends that have arose and more that have become popular because of the growing number of people using them.


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

Viking and Wolfs are the most popular ovens and cook tops in high end kitchens.

Islands are still the most popular way to create counter space in kitchens. The size of islands continues grow.

Multiple dishwashers which were only a novelty and an excess in years previous are now the norm in large kitchens that plan to see a lot of traffic.

White is a colour that is back in for kitchens, it has rapidly replaced the darker bolder colours of the last couple of years, you can’t open a magazine or watch a television show without seeing one.

Stainless steel is still the most popular for appliances.

Multiple sinks are still popular, usually a large main sink and then a small separate sink that is used to wash fruit. But with larger kitchens two larger sinks are growing in popularity.

Multiple ovens are still popular.

Convection ovens that double as microwaves have quickly replaced the traditional stove with the microwave/hood vent over top.

Granite had been the most popular choice in kitchens for a long time. But with the invention of new manufactured products for counter tops that are comparative in price with the traditional granite, you are seeing a lot more home owners choosing Caesar stone, Quartz and Corian. These products have a lot of the same characteristics as granite, some of them are also cheaper and they come in a variety of colours and styles. Trends right now is to do a mix of manufactured and granite. This adds a little variety to the kitchen and can also solve the problem in large kitchens of trying to find enough granite that matches for every surface in the ever expanding surface area.

Painted kitchen cupboards are still the most popular choice over stained wood.

Under mount stainless steel sinks are still the most popular option.

The main sink is now placed in the island instead of on a wall under a window. The main sink in the island faces toward the living room so that people working in the kitchen can interact with their guests. This goes along with the kitchen being the hub of the home.

Specially designed cabinets are common now to help fit things easier in your kitchen such as pot drawers, spice racks, custom dish racks and small speciality drawers that hold your wash cloths and dish soup.

Custom panels covering fume hoods is a common site in most new kitchens. The exposed stainless steel fume hood is not seen as often as before.

Granite that waterfalls over the end of islands and cabinets have become very popular.

Large kitchen taps with pull out sprayers are common in all new kitchens.

Here are the new trends in kitchens;

People are starting to turn away from buying sub-zero fridges, the size, cost and problems that people are having with them are starting to make homeowners look at other alternatives.

Samsung fridges are becoming a popular option for people because of their reliability and there price.

After years of kitchens becoming more efficient with space the size of kitchens are growing bigger with people looking for more working surface area and cabinet space.

Under mount microwaves were all the rage for the last couple of years but the popularity of the under counter microwave seems to be fading as the motorized door and the awkward way to place food in and retrieve it are turning people away and back to microwaves that are either on the counter or mounted in the cabinetry.

As multiple ovens are popular so has the popularity of multiple wall ovens made a resurgence.

The hottest trend these days in granite counter tops is called Titanium. It is an expensive granite that has a unique pattern that is usually dark with lighter to white stripes running through it.

Wall ovens with microwaves that share the same trims are all the rage right now, making the two appliances seem like one.

A couple of years ago the trend was large white country sinks that protrude out the front of the cabinets showing a finished white face as an apron, this sink style has stayed popular but not in white, the newest trend is in stainless steel.

Wood counter tops on islands are coming back in style. The natural, warm feeling and look of wood tops gives a kitchen a more homely feel.

Stained kitchen cabinets are starting to make a comeback in country homes. The increased cost is not deterring homeowners as much.

Glass in upper cabinets is also making a comeback as designers try to make homes with high ceilings of 9 feet or more seem smaller and more homely in the kitchen area.

With glass upper cabinets in style so is interior lighting of them. This adds an accent to the kitchen and a richness to the home in general.

The hot new colour for appliances is matte grey. It gives the appliances a completely more understated look then having stainless steel. This is for people who like their cabinets to be the centrepiece of the kitchens instead of the appliances.

Large custom kitchens have work areas, having multiple islands is the way that they are accomplishing this.

Kitchen areas in custom homes are becoming larger with the area becoming a more multi use place for the whole family. Sitting area’s for breakfast or homework and adjoining rooms for pantries are making the kitchen area a whole hub for the home not just a place to prepare meals. The wiring for audio/video and the availability of cheaper wireless technology has allowed internet and television into the kitchen. Screens are being installed in kitchens for people to either watch television while they have breakfast or with the advent of the internet and the pvr they are able to prepare that recipe that they saw on a cooking show.

As designs change and styles come and go you must find a balance between what you want as the homeowner and what will reflect well in the value of your home.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The great room in your cottage- designing a cottage

Designing your waterfront cottage: The great room

You’ve bought your piece of paradise in cottage country and now are designing that perfect space to relax and let your troubles drift away. One of the basic things that all cottages need today is a great room. A great room is a meeting place for everyone, a place to gather, to relax and a place to let the days slip into nights.

There are some key ingredients to any great room that you should incorporate into your design plans;

High Ceilings. To achieve high ceilings does not require a cathedral but any ceiling height that is higher than the normal standard ceiling in the rest of the cottage will do. Even a ceiling that is 3 or 4 feet taller will give the room the look of a great room, a grand space where people are drawn to gather.

Ceiling accents. Accents can be as simple as a t&g ceiling or as elaborate as a timber truss framing that gives the room a high grand country look from days of old.

The view. Every great room when designing a cottage has to make the maximum effect to show the view out of as many windows as possible. When you are looking to let light in and allow people to view they outdoors you need windows, the more windows and the bigger the windows the better.  With the great room having higher ceilings it gives you the opportunity to add windows higher up the wall allowing more sunlight into the room. Even on those rainy days a room with a lot of windows will stay lighter and more inviting. Windows are a natural attraction for people to sit and rest and take in the outdoors from indoors.

Fireplace. Every room needs a centre piece that will help bring people together when there is no view. At night, rainy days and in the winter a fireplace is a great gathering point for people. Nothing says cottage more than a fireplace, it gives warmth on a cold night, light during the day and a place to host a party. The fireplace should be sized to the width and the height of the room. A large room with a high ceiling will need a wide fireplace that will run high up the wall.  Large wood or stone mantels help focus the room to the fireplace especially with high ceilings it acts as a break up for the large wall of stone. Wood and stone fit naturally with cottages and a fireplace in a cottage can be gas or wood, the affect will be the same. Fireplaces give a cheap source of heat to warm up the cottage that does not require you to turn the heating system on every night.

Flow. Your great room should flow seamlessly into your kitchen area; if you can make it happen then you should try to make the transition from the great room into the kitchen simple and easy. Cottages are about laughter, joy and eating. Linking the kitchen and the great room allows the free flowing of party goers, family and guests.

Sound insulation. You must make sure that if you have bedrooms that boarder the great room either on the first floor or the second that you make the effort to deaden the sound that will come from that room. You can insulate the room to reduce the noise but you must also use sound dampening material on the wall so that the vibration will not transfer into the sleeping quarters.

Flooring. The flooring should be sized to the width and height of the room. A large room can handle wide planked hardwood floors or large sized slate or tile floors. If you have a smaller room then you should use smaller material, if you make the material too large then the room will feel small. If using hardwoods make sure that you pick flooring that will hide dirt and not show scratches and dents, it’s a cottage you don’t want to worry about what the floor looks like when friends are coming over.

Lighting. When lighting a great room pot lights are usually only good at lighting up the walls because with high ceilings the light washes out before it ever gets to the floor. Table lamps are the best thing to place in a great room when you want to read or write something, this means that you should install floor plugs in key places where your furniture will be placed. A large chandelier in the middle of the room or if the room is very large a couple of chandeliers are the best way to light up the room in a general way. The other way to light the area is to have wall sconces installed around the perimeter of the room which adds accent lighting. If you have timber framing you should install up lighting so that you are able to highlight them to help make them a show piece. If you place the lighting on different switches then you will be able to have many options to set the mood.

Entertainment. It use to be that having a television at the cottage was sacrilege, but that was when cottages where simple and only used in the summer. Today’s cottages are built to be used in all 4 seasons and that means that you are going to be at the cottage more often when the weather isn’t going to allow you to enjoy the outdoors. Since you are coming to the cottage to enjoy yourself then having entertainment that is more than a good book is a must. Wire your great room for television and for sound. The sound wiring is important because it will be used far more then the television. Every party or gathering you have you will want to be able to set the mood with background music. Pre-wiring speakers gives the room a clean look in the room and allows you to move furniture around where ever you want it.

When designing a cottage remember that it isn’t your primary residence so make sure that you treat it that way. You’re not going to be living there every day so you can try something different, something unique. You should also plan and design the area so that it is easily cleaned up and can be left for many days or weeks without someone being there.

Remember that cottages are made for relaxing so design the space accordingly.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Insulating a 100 year old home with blown-in cellulose

While renovating a 102 year old home in Collingwood we discovered that the upstairs of the home had virtually no insulation in the outside walls. There was a little blown-in cellulose insulation that had been added some years ago to the attic but there was nothing in the outside walls.

Normally when you find this the simplest thing to do is to remove all the lath and plaster off the outside walls and then either batt the walls with fibreglass insulation or since the wall cavity is 2x4 then (if the budget permits) we spray foam it all to maximize your R-value. But his century old home was built so well that it had wire lath and plaster on the outside walls (extremely hard to remove) and 1x6 t&g on the inside and outside of the 2x4 walls. So it wasn’t possible to demolish the interior of the walls without affecting the structural integrity of the home.

We opted to drill holes in the outside walls every four feet vertically in the outside walls and into every stud cavity. Once the holes were drilled then the insulators used blown- in loose cellulose to fell the exterior walls.

Using blown-in cellulose is a very efficient and cost effective way to fill wall cavities that you can’t see into. Blown-in cellulose is a loose product that will settle itself behind electrical wires, around blocking and into small spaces that regular insulation would not fit into.

There is a chance that some spots might get missed but the overall effect is that you will have a much more comfortable home to heat and enjoy in the winter.

The attic also received blown-in loose cellulose to help stop heat loss on top of the existing older material.

The best thing to do when you think you are lacking insulation or suspect that you have no insulation at all is to call either a general contractor or an insulation contractor to have a look and give you some options on how to remedy the situation.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Monday, February 17, 2014

What is a home energy audit?

What is a home energy audit?


Home energy audits have become popular as homeowners seek ways to lower their home energy bills. A typical audit, performed by a trained and accredited local professional for a few hundred dollars, will test the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling equipment and water heating system, identify leaks or other inefficiencies in the building envelope and ductwork, and suggest ways to reduce your energy use with lifestyle changes and home improvements.

A lot of mortgage companies (especially when dealing with first time home homebuyers) will require you get a home inspection. A home inspection is different then a home energy audit. A home inspector has nothing to do with a home energy audit, sometimes you will find a home inspector that does home energy audits but don’t think that getting one qualifies you for the other.

In the province of Ontario when you resell a home you must have a home energy audit completed. This is suppose to help the potential homebuyer to understand how much energy the home uses.

In Ontario when a home energy audit has been completed the inspector will place a sticker with the rating and the inspectors name and number on the hydro panel. This slicker should never be removed unless a new energy audit is done to the home and a new slicker is to be applied in the old ones place.

The rating on an energy audit will depend on the heating, windows, insulation and the overall air tightness of the home.

Custom homes always rate higher on that scale then track built homes, the level of care and quality of materials that are used in a custom homes make the home extremely more energy efficient.

For the cost of the energy audit when buying a home it’s well worth it, it will save you money in energy costs in the years to come.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

I have some old timbers, should I turn them into flooring or just buy it instead?


I have some old timbers, should I turn them into flooring or just buy it instead?


There is something to be said for taking old timbers and having them milled down for flooring, it is unique and creates a wonderful talking point for you when you are having company at your new home. There are some downsides to doing it as well;

The process of having your timbers turned into flooring can be more expensive than buying the product from a company that has it in stock. Having your own timbers made into flooring is a limited run and will be done at a premium.

The time it takes to have the timbers milled and kiln dried can take longer than your construction schedule will allow. You could end up having to wait for the flooring to finish your home.

Depending how much weather the timbers have been exposed to over the years you might not be able to get enough material to make all the flooring you require.

If you sell your timbers to a company that recycles barn material then you will get paid for it, then you can turn around and buy the flooring material from a company that sells antique flooring. The cost difference will be close to a wash. Doing this is also being “green”, you are recycling the material from your old barn by selling it to someone that will reuse it and the buying of antique flooring that was created from old timbers is the exact same thing that you would have gotten by having your old timbers turned into it.

The antique flooring should be ordered so that it is tongue and grooved and not square edged. The t&g will help hold the flooring together especially if the flooring has wide and long pieces.

You need to understand that antiqued flooring comes milled as flooring but is not ready to be finished immediately. You have to sand the floor until it is smooth with a floor sander, then you can apply the finishing coats, you will need at least 3 coats to finish the floor so that it will stand up to wear and tear of everyday life. Make sure that you have several different stain samples applied on different parts of the floor, they can be sanded off so don’t worry about damaging your floor. Antique flooring never looks uniform that's why you need to have several different stain matches, make sure that you pick a stain that will allow the true character to show through.

Remember that you will need to order more than normal waste or overage for the flooring, with antique flooring you don’t want to end running short.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Things are looking up, ceiling design ideas

People often overlook the ceiling when deciding on paint, light placement and speakers.

The ceiling is your fifth wall and should be treated with the same respect as the other four, people tend to notice ceilings that have something wrong with them before they notice something wrong with the walls, that’s why it so important to make sure that your ceilings will look good.

Often pot lights are used in excess, you can never have too much lighting options but there are many other lighting options out there to explore. Change it up with different accent lighting and you will be able to create many different moods in one room just with your lighting.

Ceiling speakers should be aligned with central fixtures to help them disappear, today’s choices of ceiling speakers allow you to hide them in the ceiling with only the grill that covers the speaker showing, painting the grill of the speaker to match the ceiling colour helps it disappear.
Return air grills should be placed above doors or windows where possible, they still need to be functional but you don’t want them to stick out and be the focal point of the room, a little paint to help them blend in with the wall colour is also a nice little trick to make them vanish.

If you want to use white, add 25% of the wall colour into the paint to soften the look and give a warmer cozier feel to the room instead of plain white.

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
Posted by Ask Rob at 8:11

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I’m having old barn timbers turned into flooring, do I need to have them t&g or can I just install them with a square edge?


I’m having old barn timbers turned into flooring, do I need to have them t&g or can I just install them with a square edge?


You really should have them t&g (tongue and groove) when you have them milled, there are several reasons for this;

No matter how old the flooring is it will shrink and expand as the humidity levels change in your new home. If you do not t&g the flooring then you will see large gaps in the flooring. Things can full in these cracks and restrict the movement of the floor when it swells from the humidity in the warmer seasons. If a floor cannot freely move back and forth it will deflect.

The t&g will help keep the old boards straight and also give the boards a tighter fit during installation.

T&g helps the flooring act as one large sheet of wood. The flooring becomes stronger when it is linked
together with the t&g, it helps it span any dips and rolls in the sub-floor and also will help reduce the squeaking in the floor from individual boards.

If you don’t have the boards t&g’d then you have to face nail the boards which costs a lot more money, t&g’d flooring is nailed through the tongue into the board at an angle. This nailing helps in two ways; the first is that it drives the boards together for a tighter fit and the second one is that it gives the floor the look of no fasteners and a clean finish.

A lot of companies won’t warranty a floor if the common practises aren’t meant when installing in a new home.

When using older wood even though it is kiln dried you need to make sure that when it is delivered it sits in your new home for at least a week before you try and install it. The floor needs time to adjust to the humidity level of the new home and you also need to make sure that there is a dehumidifier in the room. This is the easiest way to help the floor to adjust to the humidity of the home. After the flooring is installed you must take great care that you manage the humidity in your home, if you allow large fluctuations from one season to the next you will end up with a damaged floor. Wood is a living things no matter how old the material is and being a live it reacts to the moisture in the air expanding and contracting, use heat when it's cold and air conditioning when its warm and humid.

Make sure that when you have the timbers milled down for the flooring that you will have enough of it to do all the rooms that you want to do, make sure that you add 15% at the least to the order as extra. Old timber flooring has a lot of waste; there is a lot of holes, knots, cracks and problem spots that you will need to cut out when installing. The one thing that you don’t want to happen is to run short of a flooring material that you will have trouble getting quickly or at all.

Remember that your flooring will come raw and you will have to have the flooring sanded and finished onsite, make sure that you add this to your budget and your time line. When a floor is sanded and re-finished no activity can happen in the house, the more activity in the house the more dust and debris is thrown into the air which will end up in your finish.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How long will my renovation project take?

How long will this take?

Remodeling contractors hear this question a lot. The answer, of course, is “It depends.” But on what?
People who haven’t remodeled before may not understand how long it takes to plan, budget, and complete a big project. Many variables affect the timetable, but three stand out: project design, budget, and permitting.

Design. A kitchen remodel using stock cabinets in an existing footprint will require less time than one with custom cabinets, a bump-out addition, and a steel beam to support the wall opening for that addition.

Budget. Cost is a good indicator of how long a project will take. Imagine two 1000-square-foot additions, one with a cost of $100,000 and the other with a $400,000 price tag. It’s a good bet that the latter will be more complex and take longer to design and build.

Permitting. The legal approvals required for projects have multiplied over the years. Signoff will be needed from the zoning board, the building department,  the health department,and possibly the conservation authority. For exterior renovations in older towns, the design committee or historical commission may want a say. These bureaucracies can move slowly, but the contractor should be able to estimate the time required in a particular jurisdiction.

Fortunately, there are things the homeowners can do to keep things moving. These include heeding deadlines, providing the designer with good details, and minimizing changes.

Insist on deadlines. Designers and contractors work hard to get work done promptly, but without firm dates things can slip. Homeowners should make sure there are firm dates for meetings and project milestones. “The plans will be done in a couple of weeks” may leave too much wiggle room. Compare that to “The plans will be ready on March 15,” which provides needed accountability. Similarly, homeowners who postpone scheduled meetings will also throw off the timetable.

Think things through. The more detailed the plan, the less chance of delays. Electrical plans are a good example. The homeowners should think through their furniture and decorations so the right number and type of lights and outlets can be specified in the right locations. For instance, a piece of artwork above the fireplace may need a certain type of lighting. Waiting until the job is underway to consider these things could cause a hold up while the new wiring is installed and the framing altered to accommodate it.

Minimize changes. Change orders require time to plan and coordinate. Changes made late in the design stage can extend design time, while those made after project kickoff can extend build time.

The bottom line is that, if completing the project by a certain date is a priority, the homeowners need to be absolutely clear with the remodeling contractor about it, and they need to get assurance that the contractor is on board. Then the homeowners, contractor, and designer can discuss ways to make sure it happens.

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

Sunday, February 9, 2014

I have an old barn that I want to tear down and use the material in the new house I am going to build, how do I do this?


I have an old barn that I want to tear down and use the material in the new house I am going to build, how do I do this?


Taking down an old barn can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing, there is a certain way that you need to take down a barn so that no one gets hurt and also so that you don’t damage any of the material that you will want to use.

The best people to contact to remove a barn are Mennonites. In our area we use Mennonites to remove barns and also to cut and saw beams and flooring. If you find the right ones you can even have them kiln dry the material.

If you can’t find Mennonites then you need to find companies that specialize in demolition, as before you need to make sure that when they take the barn down it’s done in a safe manner that will not damage the material.

There are companies out there that do custom cutting and kiln drying, you just have to look around to find them. Since you are building a new house you should ask your contractor if they have a company that they work with that can do this for you. They are usually called custom millwork or custom lumber milling.

Since you are on the West coast you shouldn’t have to much trouble finding lumber mills, a speciality mill will do custom cutting and kiln drying for you. The cost is more than just buying the material for your flooring because you are asking the mill to do a small custom run for you, the set up fees for you will be higher than when they do a larger order.

I have done this custom milling and kiln drying for my clients before; in a house that we built in a beach community we removed several large pine trees because the new house was going to be much larger than the old cottage that it was replacing. We took the large pines to a custom mill worker who sawed the trees up into 1x6 tongue and groove boards and then kiln dried them and stored them until we required them in the new house. We installed the 1x6 on the ceilings of the dining room making a beautiful wood ceiling that became a talking point for the clients when they had people over for dinner.

Another way to find a company to mill the timbers for you is to call companies that deal in antique flooring, that’s what old barn timbers that are made into flooring are called. If you call them they should be able to help you by either doing your custom order for you or pointing you in the right direction.

The wood that you recover from the old barn can be used in many different ways, it can be used as flooring, trim, decorative panels, barn board walls in a rec room or den and the some of the beams can be used in the new home as either decorative or actual structural supports. You can take some of the beams and mill them into actual timber trusses to use in the great room of your new house.

Whatever you end up using the timber for it will give you a wonderful talking point in your new home and will help make the home a truly custom one for you.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

I’m rebuilding our home on the existing foundation, do you have any tips to make the home as green as possible?


I’m rebuilding our home on the existing foundation, do you have any tips to make the home as green as possible?


Since you are re-building the entire structure then you have a lot of options to make your home “green”.
The term green basically means that you want your home to have as little impact on the earth as possible, this can be taken in many different ways and you can also take this to the extreme when building a home. The problem with this is that the farther you go to be “green” more it will cost you at the start. If you build it smarter and keep it realistic then building “green” shouldn’t brake the bank.

You said that you are re-building your home, the first thing you can do is try and re-use as much of the old building as possible. I’m not talking about re-using every stick of lumber in the whole house to rebuild the old one, but there are ways you can re-use parts of the house to lessen the impact and the amount of material that you have to buy new. Here are a couple things you can do with re-used materials in your new home;

Trim. Saving old trim can be a great way to save money and give your home some character. A lot of trim that you will find in older homes you can’t buy anymore, large baseboards and the species of the wood can be hard or impossible to find today. You don’t have to save enough trim to outfit the entire new home but you can save enough to finish a couple rooms in the house.

Cabinets. You can save old cabinets, paint them and install them in your basement or laundry room as storage.

Old windows can be salvaged and reused inside the home. Not used as windows to the outside but used as decorative pieces inside the home.

Interior doors. Old homes have solid hardwood interior doors, these doors will last a life time and as long as you frame the new openings to fit the old doors it will be an easy installation.

When you are building a home and wanting to make it green then you should make sure that you build your new home with foam insulation. Foam rim joists, wall cavities and any place in the roof that you think that it will be hard to insulate or difficult to ventilate. You can use sheets of polystyrene foam on the outside of the home to help eliminate the heat loss through the wall studs, using less energy is better for your heating bills and better for the environment.

The roofing of your new home is another way to make an environmentally friendly choice. Using products such as steel that have long life spans are a great way to reduce the need to ever replace it. Another way is to use alternative products for your roofing; a product like Enviroshake is a great one. Enviroshake is a roofing product that is made from recycled materials such as old tires and ethanol waste that is predominantly from corn. Staying away from products such as asphalt shingles that are predominantly made from oil and have a short lifespan that doesn’t stand up to inclement weather is a must if you are wanting to be green.

When planning the finishing’s of your new home there are smart ways to help make environmentally friendly choices. Sticking to trim that is made from softwoods means that you are using a wood that replaces itself very quickly. Popular is a fast growing tree that allows trees to be harvested and replaced in less than twenty years. Other finishing’s such as hardwood flooring made from bamboo or a certified supplier that is guaranteed to harvest the raw material in a sustainable way is another way to stay green. Hardwood flooring that is full depth allows for the product to be sanded and refinished dozens of times. A quality hardwood should easily out last you and your children if they are to live in the house after you’re gone.

When buying appliances, heating systems and lighting the ones that use the least amount of energy but still do what you need them to do is the smart choice. The less energy that they use the cheaper your bills will be and the less stress it will put on the environment.

A couple other things that you can do in your new home is to pre-wire or prep for future alternative power options. If you run conduct to the roof for solar panels or wire your panel so that there is room in the future to install a transfer switch then you will save yourself a lot of time and renovating when you have the ability to purchase them. In the future solar panels and their components will come down in price and you will want the ability to install them to either feed the electricity grid or to help you get off the grid entirely.

These are the most common environmentally friendly options or choices that you can make when constructing a new home. There are more ways to build a “green” home but the price rises and the inconvenience level also rises. Things such as only buying the material that goes in your home from the local area to reduce the transportation and fuel usage, too using only materials that come from sources that are guaranteed to be from green companies can sound wonderful but in truth can raise the cost of your home astronomically. Stick to the simple things that are easy for you to control and will allow you to build an environmentally friendly home while still enjoying the build process.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

How to properly frame an exterior wall with doors and windows in it

How to properly frame an exterior wall with doors and windows in it

Framing a house part 2

In part one; I explained how to properly frame an exterior stud wall that had no doors and windows in it. In part two; I will explain how to frame that same stud wall when you have to account for doors and windows. To properly understand the basics and the terminology it is recommended that you read part 1 (posted 1/3/14) first to understand some of the things I will be talking about in part 2.

You need to start by taking your bottom and upper plates and cutting them to the appropriate length, then turn them on their edges and place them together just like you did when framing a simple wall. Once you have the plates together and lined up you can start the layout process for the wall.

To properly layout a wall that has windows and doors in it you need to start by laying out where in the wall the windows and doors will go. To do this you will need to get all your measurements from the house plans.
When reading house plans to discover where the doors and windows are to go you need to check several

1. The floor layout, it will be a top down view of the floor that you will be framing. This view will show you where in the wall the doors and windows will be located.

2. The elevations. The elevations are the picture of the house from the outside. Turn to the view that shows the side that has the wall that you want to frame. You need to measure the height of the windows off the floor. This is important, this is the only way for you to discover at what height your windows will be placed at.

3. Turn to the window and door schedule. This will tell you the size and shape of the windows and doors that are to be installed in your wall.

Once you have the measurements you will need to add between 1 and 1.5 inches to each measurement, this will allow you to properly level, shim and insulate the window at a later date.

Back to the laying out of the wall plates;

Start from one end and measure out the distance to wear the centre of each window and door will go. Make a centre mark and if it helps you can write window or door there to remind you. From the centre mark go an equal distance each way so that you have the edges of the windows and doors marked with the extra 1.5 inches included. Take your framing square and mark these with a straight line. A framing square has one side that is exactly the width of a stud 1.5 inches. From your window/door mark place the 1.5 inch end of the framing square on that line so that it is on the side of the line that is not in the window, draw a line on the opposite side of the framing square. To make this simpler let’s say that you started on the left side of the window/ door mark, you would be moving the framing square from that mark 1.5 inches to the left to draw your second line. You now have two lines that are exactly 1.5 inches apart and are parallel to each other. Move the framing square over again to your left 1.5 inches, line up the right side on the previous line and draw another line. You will now have three parallel lines exactly 1.5 inches apart on the left side of the window.

In the space between the two parallel lines next to the window draw a J, in the second space between the parallel lines draw an X. The j stands for jack and the X represents your stud. Some people call the Jack stud a slip stud.

You must mark a J and an X on both sides of the window/door openings. Every window and door gets this; mark sure the mark is on both plates and that they line up.

When laying out window and door locations remember to always measure from the same end of the plates, this will help make sure that no mistakes are made.

Now that you have your window and door locations you need to do your stud layout. Remember to start at one end and layout the studs at 16 inches on their centres. As you are laying out the studs you will mark the studs on their centres even through where the window opening will be, this is important later for your sheeting. The only place that you do not place a layout mark is where your doors will be placed. Leave that space unmarked.

Now that you have your studs marked out place your plates on the floor, place them on their edges parallel to each other with enough space so that the studs can be placed between them.
Before you start placing the studs between the plates you need to first cut and assemble your window and door edges.

For every J that you have on your plates you are going to have to cut a stud down to make the jack. Cut your jack to the height of your door; remember that there is a bottom plate so you will have to deduct the 1.5 inches off the overall height. Once you have the jacks cut for each side of your doors you then place them at each j and only nail the stud to the bottom plate.

For the windows you need to cut studs down to make your jacks, the jack height will be the height of your window plus the distance that the window will sit off the floor. Remember to deduct the 1.5 inches for the bottom plate. Place those jacks on each side of the window.

Now that the jacks are all in place you can go ahead and nail all your studs in their positions. When you come to the side of the windows and doors there will be that X that you place right beside the J. Place a stud there, nail it to the plates and then nail the Jack to the stud. Make sure that edges of the studs and the jacks line up, remember the jack is going to be shorter and that the jack starts at the bottom plate but should never reach the top plate.

When placing and nailing the studs do not place any studs in the window openings even though you marked studs there, those marks are for something else.

Take a 2x6 and cut it the width of your window opening plus 3 inches. Then nail this piece of wood on top of the jacks, if you measured properly it should run from one stud to the opposite stud across the opening for the window covering the top of the jacks. You nail this piece to the top of the jacks.

Now that you have the studs installed you need to install the headers for the windows and doors. The headers are pieces of wood installed above the windows and doors so that the weight of the roof or the floor above does not crush the opening.

To find out what size of header you will require for each window/door opening you will have to look at the house plans again, look for the header schedule, it will tell you the size and bearing that is required for the openings. To keep things simple let’s say that all the openings require 2 pieces of 2x8 above them and the bearing is only 1.5 inches per side.

Since you have the sizes of windows and door openings you framed then all you have to do is add the 1.5 inches of bearing per side. That equals out to 3 total inches longer then the width of the openings you just framed. Cut 2 pieces of 2x8 material to the proper length and then nail them together so that they make one piece of wood that is 3 inches thick. Make sure that the pieces of wood line up on all sides before you nail them together. You have just constructed your first header.

The header is to be placed at the top of the window/door opening right on top of the horizontal piece of 2x6 you already installed.  The header will sit on top of the 2x6 and will transfer its load onto the jack posts and if you cut it properly then it will fit perfectly between the studs that the jacks are nailed too. Because the header is only on 3 inches deep and your wall is 5.5 inches deep you need to nail the header in place so that it is flush with the face of the wall, that means it cannot be left on the deck and nailed. If you don’t nail it flush with the face of the wall there will be an un-insulated space in the wall that will allow cold to penetrate the home.

Once you have installed all the headers you need to finish off the framing around them. You marked the 16 inch stud centres on the upper and bottom plates, now you need to cut pieces to fit between the upper plate and the header on these marks. If you do it properly then when the sheeting is installed the ends will always end on the middle of a stud.

At the bottom of the windows you need to add the framing, measure down from the top of the framing of the window opening and make a mark where the bottom of the window will begin. Below that mark install a 2x6 horizontally from one jack to the other. This will be the actual piece of wood that your window will sit on.
Once that piece is nailed then you add in filler pieces at the 16 centre marks all the way across between this piece and the bottom plate, this is to catch your sheeting.

You have now finished the framing of the wall and can install your sheeting overtop of it. Remember to square the wall before installing it. Once you have the sheeting installed and nailed you need to cut out the windows and doors before installing the house wrap on top of the sheeting. Cut the sheeting out so that it is flush with the window/door frame. Depending on how many doors or windows are in your framed wall you sometimes will want to leave the sheeting covering a door. That is because the door creates a hinge point in the framed wall. Leaving the sheeting covering the door opening gives more support for the wall will insuring the wall will stay straight when the wind blows. You can always cut out the sheeting later once the roof is installed and the intersecting walls are framed.

Install your house wrap the same way you would if there were no walls or doors in the wall. Stretch the house wrap right over the holes, stapling it all around the window opening.

Once you have stood the wall up and have it properly supported then you can cut the house wrap out of the windows and doors. When you cut it out leave enough so that you can pull the house wrap in and around the window opening, this will help hold the house wrap from being ripped off by the wind.

Now you have framed an exterior wall with windows and doors.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I would like to re-build my home on the existing foundation making it energy efficient for the winter, how do I do that?


I have an old house, I would like to build a new one on the existing foundation making sure it is energy efficient because of the cold winters we have, how do I do it?


First things first, I would recommend that you completely remove the foundation using an excavator and then have a new foundation installed in its place. That is actually more cost effective then removing the wood structure off the top and reusing the existing foundation.

Since that’s not the question that you asked me here is what you need to do to save your older foundation and place a new home on top.

1. You must have an engineer look at the foundation and the cracks that are currently in it. If you are going to remove the wood structure from the top you really should also take of the old floor, the problem is that the old floor is helping hold up the concrete foundation. The ground that is piled up on the outside of the foundation is putting pressure inwards on the foundation and the floor is helping hold the concrete from being pushed inward. The engineer will be able to tell you if the foundation will hold up if you remove the structure off the top or if you need to leave the floor to help brace the walls.

2. Because it’s an older foundation you will need to dig around the entire foundation and re-waterproof it. Since it’s an older foundation you might as well install a new drainage tile around the outside of the home and run it into the house to the existing or new sump pit. Then you have to cover the drainage tile with gravel before you backfill with either sand or stone. This will help make sure that your foundation does not have an excess of water around it that could cause it to leak.

3. Insulating the basement can be done in many different ways. I would recommend that you spray foam all the walls downstairs, the spray foam will seal the walls from the cold outside, you can also foam the wood rim joist while your at it (once the new structure has been built on top). You have to cover the spray foam with something because it is a flammable product, you have two options; The first is you have the insulation company spray a fire retardant overtop of the foam, the second is that you frame stud walls up and then spray foam between them allowing you to cover it with drywall afterwards.

4. If there isn’t a concrete floor in your existing basement then you should install one. Before you install the new concrete you should place 4 to 6 inches of stone overtop of the existing ground, install a vapour barrier and then a layer of polystyrene insulation over top of that. This will help keep your basement warm and dry and also limit the heat loss in the winter.

5. If there is a concrete floor already in your basement you should assess if it’s worth keeping. You have to check to see what shape the concrete is in, is it cracked, broken, heaved? Also if your new building requires you to install more load bearing footings or pads then you will be removing some of the existing concrete anyways. Since your already going to the trouble of having the existing foundation saved you might as well remediate the basement floor so that you do not have any problems down the road.

6. With the removal of the building above taken all the pressure off the foundation you can alter the foundation quit easily. If you want to make the new house larger then now is the time to add an addition, adding a new concrete foundation extension is quite easy, so is the joining in to the old foundation. If you wanted to add windows to the foundation or an outside entrance then now is the time, you can add in the headers to spread the weight above it when you frame the new house. The more windows you are able to add to the basement the less it will feel like a basement.

7. Depending on the height of the foundation you can actually make the basement taller. There are two ways you can do this; The first is that you frame a knee wall on top of the existing foundation, this will take a basement that is only 6’5 to 8 or 9 feet high. The second way is to dig down past the existing footings and install in ones and a new concrete wall that extends down two or three feet. This will also give you a full height basement, full height basements add livable square feet without increasing the overall size or footprint of the home. It is easier to heat livable square feet in the basement then it is in the upstairs because the ground temperature doesn’t change as quickly or as often as the air temperature does.

8. In the basement make sure that the heating contractor installs heat and cold air returns. You want the air to be exchanged in the basement the same way it is exchanged in the rest of the house. If you want to use the basement you must treat it like any other part of the home.

9. To help a basement that might be short on height I always recommend that you install pot lights in the basement. The pot lights help give the illusion of higher height ceilings giving the that added head height. Instead of installing pot lights with halogen bulbs spend a little extra money and have them install pot lights that will except LED bulbs. LED bulbs use 1/10th of the power that halogens use and last 20 times as long, they are also much brighter and more adapt to lighting up darker parts of the home like the basement.

When re using an existing foundation your contractor will have too take care that his framing ends up tight to the foundation and that the insulators take the time to get all those hard to reach places. This will cut down on any drafts or heat loss in the cold winter. Nothing wastes more energy than a cold draft.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Working safely in the winter - Safety tip

Safety Tip Working in the winter

Several decades ago most construction workers never worried about having to work in the winter, they worked 6 to 7 days a week from April to November putting in as many hours a day as they could and when the winter came the jobs stopped. At that point everyone either went on unemployment for the winter or found another job like working as a lift attendant at a ski resort.

That doesn’t apply in today’s construction industry; today’s construction industry is a 365 day year round business. In a world where everyone wants everything right away no one wants to wait until the snow melts to build that house, deck or to start that renovation. With these winter work months comes a whole new set of safety issues. Working in the winter can be dangerous so workers have to take special care when working during them.

There are certain things that you have to do when working in the winter on a construction site so that it’s safe for the workers. Here is a brief list of them;

Plow snow from driveways, parking lots and staging areas.

Clean up of the jobsite must be done extremely well because anything left outside will become buried in snow and can be either tripped over by a worker or run into by the snow removal equipment.

All work areas must be properly cleaned of all snow and if ice is present then it must salted or sanded to help with footing.

Gangways and planks leading into and out of work area must be either kept clean of ice and snow or rotated into a warm area so that they have the time to melt.

Any area where there is a significant grade change, hole of any size, trench or other obstruction that will not be seen by the workers once the snow has fallen must be marked in advance.

There should be a warming station if possible where workers can warm up in cold weather and also warm up tools and products such as spray foam or paints that require it before application.

Heat must be kept on in any area where there is water use, freezing pipes or busting ones can be dangerous especially around electrical cords.

You must ensure that all extension cords are rated to be outside and can get wet; snow will melt and can create electrical shock hazard.

You must have a policy that at a certain temperature or a certain weather condition workers are to stop work and retire for the day. There is nothing more dangerous than working outside when you can’t see or can end up with frost bite.

You must set a policy for temperature and weather for the use of some or all your electrical tools. Electrical tools can become a safety problem if they become too wet from snow or if the temperature is so cold that the plastic casings become brittle.

An effort must be made to protect the inside of the foundation from freezing in cold temperatures, this can cause structural damage.

Workers must also watch their own safety and even though it is winter they must still follow safety regulations;

You must continue to wear a hard hat; they make hard hats with ear warmers or insulation in them.

You must continue to wear safety boots. There is a wide variety of safety footwear that is now completely insulated and built for working outside in the winter.

Dress appropriately, the best then to do is to layer, this will allow you to remove layers if you start too sweat too much while working.

Use several pair of gloves, changing gloves half way through the day for a warm dry pair will help ensure that you don’t get frost bite.

Stop for warming breaks, have a coffee or warm up in the warming station.

Know when to quit. If you end up wet and it is cold out then you should quit for the day.

Watch the wind chill; it can be worse than the actual temperature.

Schedule work that will allow you to work out of the wind or weather, the nicer days can be spent working outside.

If you become sick take the day off, there’s no faster way to harm yourself then working outside in the winter when you already have a problem.

Remember when working in construction common sense will go a lot farther than anything when it comes to safety. If you feel like you shouldn’t be doing it then maybe you’re right.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

I want to build a new house, should I use the existing foundation of the old one?


I want to build a new house, should I use the existing foundation of the old one?


You can build a new house on top of an existing foundation, the real question is should you build on an old foundation. That is a question that can only be answered by answering the following questions;

What shape is the foundation in? You will have to get a professional to give you a report on what state your existing foundation is in currently. Is the foundation cracked, is it broken, is it crumbling? These are important questions that you might require an engineer’s report to tell you.

What type of foundation is it? There are many different types of foundations; concrete, block, field stone and even rubble foundations. Depending on the type will depend if you can rebuild on it. A Rubble or field stone foundation will not allow you to rebuild on it. A block foundation can be rebuilt on but you can’t remove the wood floor above it without digging around the entire foundation to take the pressure off the building. A concrete foundation is the strongest foundation that there is, it will have more strength in it to survive the construction around it and the earth pressure once you remove the structure above it.

Is the foundation of the old home functional? If you have a foundation that is not high enough for you to use then why would you bother keeping it. Reusing an old foundation almost guarantees that you won’t be using your basement as liveable space, that’s not the end of the world but it should be tall enough so that you can house the heating system of your home, the water treatment and also be used for storage.

Does the size, shape and layout of the existing foundation conform to what you want to build? You won’t be able to differ too much from the existing building that you are going to tear down.  To make the building bigger you will have to add an addition to the concrete foundation. The other thing that you will have to understand is that when you redesign a building, changing roof lines and load bearing walls you will end up having to add footings and load bearing pads in the basement floor. This will require you to cut and remove parts of the existing concrete floor.

Does the position of the existing foundation work? A lot of times older homes were built without surveys, they can actually be violating setbacks or even over a lot line. Is the foundation where you want your house to sit on the property? Sometimes an older foundation can be too close to the road or to close your neighbours. If you’re going to re-build a brand new house you’re going to want to make sure that the house faces the way you want it too, you might want the house turned so you can watch the sun set at night.
Using the old foundation could limit you and waste potential wonderful views or cause you to lose privacy.

The answers to these questions will answer if you should build a new house on your existing foundation or have it removed and start new. If too many of these answers are a no then you should think about just removing the old one and starting fresh.

If it’s a cost thing that you are worried about the removal of the existing foundation will not be much more then leaving it and building a new structure on top, depending on how and if you need to repair or alter it.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.