Friday, October 31, 2014

Make your front steps out of natural stone


I’m trying to change the look of the front of my house, what should I do about the steps leading up to the front door?


Great question, for year’s people have been coming up with elaborate front step configurations. They use different types of wood that are painted or stained and then they go about designing the hand rails/railings and the whole thing ends up looking great. What we found is that the more elaborate the front steps the higher the cost and the more maintenance in the future they will require.

What I recommend to homeowners is to try and keep the front steps as simple as possible. What that means is that you use material that will be maintenance free, is fairly simple to install and should be able to blend in with anyone’s tastes and the style of their home.

The one thing that we have found that fits those criteria is slabs of stone. Instead of building wooden steps with fantasy paints or stain jobs you simply install slabs of stone, one on top of the other until you reach the desired height. There are several things that you have to do to make sure that this comes out right;

You need a flat surface with a stone or sand base to set the first stone on, this surface should be dampened or compacted so that there will be no settling at a later date.

You must buy slabs of stone that are cut or sheared fairly flat.

You must buy stones that are not over 8 inches thick (as the building code restricts steps from being over 8 inches in height).

You must hire a professional who either helps you install the stone steps or can do the entire job themselves without your assistance.

The stones are too heavy for people to lift and move around, you will require some equipment to do the heavy lifting and placing of the stone steps.

The stones you buy should be able to be stacked one on top of each other getting smaller as they go higher or at least have the ability to have them staggered to create the steps as they go up towards the front door.

To make things easier you should try and bring the grade of the house around the front steps up to the porch or front door as close to 24 inches as possible. That way you will not require a railing on the steps, if you don’t require a railing then it’s a lot cheaper and simpler for the installation of the slabs of stone.

If you do require railings then I recommend that you go with a metal railing. Either pre-manufactured with glass panels or a railing made by a welder will make a perfect railing with stone slab stairs. The metal railing or posts can easily be anchored into the stone at the base to give it a safe and secure barrier from falling and slipping.

One other way of protecting people from falling off the side of stone steps is to place larger stones on the side of the steps as a natural barrier. These work just as well and can look very nice and will also blend into the natural landscaping around the outside of the home.

Remember that stone should be able to stay in place forever, literally longer then the house will stand there. No maintenance and no repairs.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fireplace trends in 2014 for custom homes

Fireplace trends in custom homes 2014

These are trends in fireplaces that are popular in custom homes, some of these trends started this year making them new trends. There are also trends that started a year or more a go that are considered long term trends.

With the amount of different styles, sizes, shapes, colours, types and exhaust methods in fireplaces I am attempting to educate homeowners and help their decision making a little easier as it can be a daunting choice to make as the fireplace is usually the heart of the home and the one thing that everyone will see and gather around.

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

Mason hand built Rumford fireplaces are the most often installed in custom homes when you want a wood burning fireplace that does not require doors to contain the smoke.

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

Fireplaces overall whether they are wood burning or gas are growing in size.

Wood mantles are still the most commonly installed mantles above the fireplace.

Houses with multiple fireplaces in them are almost the norm, especially when they have access to natural gas as the installation and use of the fireplace units is fairly inexpensive.

The long and low gas fireplace that is closer to a wide screen television look then the more traditional square fireplaces has quickly become the choice of homeowners looking for a different feel then the conventional. It also allows more viewing area for the flame as it is longer than it is tall.

The master bedroom has become a spot where gas fireplaces are showing up. It allows homeowners to have that romantic fireplace glow and the ability to warm the bedroom up without having to adjust the thermostat on the furnace.

Remotes for gas fireplaces are standard now with almost all models of gas fireplaces coming with remotes, this allows homeowners the freedom to be anywhere in the room and still be able to control the flame, fan and heat that the unit is producing.

With the resurgence of wood burning fireplaces natural stone finishes on fireplaces has as well. Most Rumford built fireplaces have a natural stone surround.

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 and leaving the competition in the dust.

The rising cost of energy has made wood burning fireplaces a must in custom homes, they give cheap heat that usually costs nothing more than a little bit of sweat equity to create, especially when you live in a rural setting. It’s also great insurance as a backup heat source when the power fails.

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

The long low fireplace that is about 1 foot high but 5 or 6 feet long has really started to become popular with homeowners, it is a very modern look that also looks wonderful in more traditional settings.

Gas fireplaces with interior lighting are a newer option. It allows you to light the fireplace without having to burn gas and heating up the room. Not all fireplaces have this option.

Stamped or poured and grooved concrete has started to become popular with people looking for something different that will also catch the eye once they enter the room.

Faux concrete panels that are backed with spray foam insulation and a custom exterior finish on them have started to become very popular. As they are light enough to be lifted by two people and cut with a skill saw they are easy to install and the ultimate in personalization when designing a fireplace surround.

The overall size and height of stone fireplaces has started to grow again, this is a change from years past as the size has stayed the same or actually gotten smaller because of the heavy cost associated with building them.

Custom metal fireplace doors that are made to look like pieces of art that are one of a kind, designed for the fireplace are becoming more popular as people look for something to make their homes unique.

With fireplaces you have to remember that they are entirely customizable, you can have any combination that you want and any size or dimension that you require. This makes fireplaces a wonderful and personal thing to have installed in your home. Make sure that you take your time choosing it, your going to have to look at it everyday and so will everyone else.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Can I be absent from the building of my custom home


I want to build a custom home in the Collingwood area but I live in Toronto and I travel a lot, with me not being around all the time is that going to be a problem for your company when you build my new custom home?


A large percentage of the people that Village Builders builds houses for are not from the area and are not able to be around all the time during construction.

If you have done your research of custom home builders in our area  then you would have found that we routinely work with people that are either too busy to be up at their build site or live too far away to physically attend the site often. With modern technology we are able to keep in touch with them wherever they are in the world.

The biggest thing about building a custom home is all the choices that you get to make about your new home. As long as you are organized enough to make these choices before we need them or in a timely manner when we ask the questions then the build should go rather smoothly. 90% of choices that you will be asked to make can be made before the project even starts.

Village Builders has a great team to help you with those choices, we have access to top of the line interior designers and architects that will help you with all the personal choices and design ideas while you are away from the area. With email or Skype we can have discussions while looking at the same drawings or pictures no matter where you are in the world. Interior designers are able to create full colour renderings of bathrooms and kitchens that can be emailed so that you get the feeling of being in the room even though you are nowhere the building site.

We as a company are set up to buy everything for you from your plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, appliances to even your furniture if you need us too.

One of the most successful builds we took part in was where the homeowner was not around or readily available, we built a house for a couple in the hills of Creemore and they were living in the Pacific Rim the entire time that construction took place. They came over twice in a year for about 2 weeks total to see the place and to make some personal choices. They also brought us some custom tiles to install that where from different parts of the world that they had collected in their many travels. The job was a complete success and the people now live in the house full time as they have retired into it becoming full time residents.

With a lot of companies you as the homeowner being absent from the build process would slow things down and be a major roadblock, at Village Builders it’s a normal day at the office, nothing we haven’t dealt with before. The process of building your home is the same, all it requires is for us to make sure you are properly informed, you understand your schedule and you stay within your budget.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Thinking about building your custom home in the spring?

Thinking about building your custom home in the spring?

In the last couple of months I have talked to several couples that want to build a new custom home but don’t want to start construction of it until the spring. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to start the build in the spring as it gives them the ability to take the entire winter to have the plans drawn up, the permits approved, find the right custom home builder and make as many choices as possible before construction starts in the spring time.

The problem is that when most people think about starting construction in the spring they are thinking about starting in April or early May. In a lot of years that was possible, but after this last winter things have changed. Last winter was long, cold and heavy with snow, what that did is push back construction starts on new homes by as much as two months in a lot of areas in the province.

Why you ask? Because in most rural areas where custom homes are being built there are “half load restrictions” that are placed in effect by the local municipalities. Half load restrictions are restrictions on the size of the loads that heavy trucks and transports can carry over the municipally controlled roads.

The reason for these restrictions is because when spring arrives the rural country roads become soft as the snow melts, it starts to rain more and the frost starts to slowly come out of the ground. Without these restrictions municipalities would have to spend thousands of dollars every year fixing the roads from the damage the heavy trucks would cause.

How do these restrictions affect you wanting to build a custom home you ask?

Excavators, concrete pumpers, transports delivering supplies and concrete trucks will be banned or restricted to only half full loads coming and going from your home building site. With excavators the restriction wouldn’t allow you to dig or backfill the hole for the basement of the home (as they won't be aloud to drive down the road to your building site), with concrete trucks they are only allowed to deliver a half full load of concrete. This ends up costing you a lot more money as the concrete trucks have to charge more money than normal for the amount of concrete they are delivering.

This could change your starting schedule from the early spring till the first week in June. That’s what transpired this spring, the half load restrictions were placed on the roads near the end of the March and weren't lifted until the first week in June. They lasted almost 10 weeks one of the longest periods that we could remember in the last couple of decades.

The outlook for this winter looks a lot similar to the last winter with cold temperatures and heavy snow forecasted for the length of the winter. This means that there is a good chance that the long half load restrictions will be put into place this coming spring potentially delaying the start of your custom home build.

To avoid this problem you should adjust your thinking about when you want to start your home. You should adjust your timeline so that the digging of the foundation will start in early march instead of April/May. This simple adjustment of 1.5 months will allow your builder to not only dig the hole for the house but have the foundation installed as well.

This then allows the framing of the home while the half load restrictions are in place, speeding up your building schedule by as much as two months compared to everyone else who attempts to start in the spring. When you are a head of the normal building schedule you have the ability to get trades before they become bogged down in everyone else's building projects.

To talk more about starting house construction in the spring email me at and I’ll see if I can help.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How do I find a custom home builder in my area?


How do I find a custom home builder in my area?


Finding a custom home builder takes a little bit of time and effort, you need to search all types of media and you should pay special attention to local advertising. Local advertising includes billboards, lawn signs, radio ads, newspaper ads, magazine ads or articles, on the side of trucks and or buildings with builder’s names on them.

Talk to people that you know in the area that have lived in the area, find a new custom home and knock on their door (if they are happy with their contractor they’ll be happy to talk to you). Custom home builders run on referrals almost more than all other media and advertising.

Stop in to the local building supply store and have a talk with the guys that work behind the contractors desk, they will know every contractor in the area because they supply the material for all of them. They might not be able to give you a recommended contractor as they might not want to damage the relationships with different contractors (customers) but they will be able to give you a short list of custom home builders that build the size and scope of the house you want constructed.

Architects that work in the area can help you a find a builder especially if you have retained their services to design your new home. They have the unique position in the way that they have worked with almost all good quality builders in an area and will have an opinion about their level of finish and their process in building a home.

Look on the internet to find local builders or to do more research on a builder that you are interested in or have heard about. You want your custom home builder to have some status on the internet this means that they are able to communicate fairly well with email instead of only over the phone.

Once you have found a builder that you believe fits your criteria you should take the time to interview them.

It’s more important that you find a custom home builder that is right for you, it’s going to take 8 months to over 1 year to build your custom home and if you can’t get along with them then you’re not going to enjoy the building of your home or that 1 year that it takes to construct it.

So take the time and do the research, the more research you do the more likely you are going to be able to find that custom home builder that fits you and will also be able to construct the custom home you are dreaming about.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Try metal stairs in your custom home

Want something different for your stairs in your new custom home? Try having the stairs built out of metal instead of wood.

In a recent project we installed a set of metal stairs in a new custom home that we built. The stairs went from the 2nd floor of the house to the 3rd floor of the house.

The stairs were built with a winding treads on the bottom and open risers, the upper portion of the stairs went straight up to the door leading to the next floor.

The treads were solid oak, we used a router to create lines in the treads for traction. The stringers where made from a single piece of metal I joist. All manufactures marks were left on the steel and the metal was bolted together with 1/2 inch bolts that were zinc coated at regular intervals.

The railings were made out of metal and directly welded to the stringers. Between the metal supports that held the railing up there where large panels of glass installed to comply with safety regulations and to allow the maximum amount of light into the stair openings.

The whole metal frame of the stairs was painted a dull dark grey colour which was in stark contrast to the white walls and ceilings throughout the home.

The overall look was very modern and helped give a small room that housed the stairs a feeling of openness that you usually don’t get from a stairwell.

The railings underneath the stairs that protected the opening of the stairwell leading to the 1st floor got the same treatment being made out of metal painted a dull dark grey colour. Large pieces of glass where also used to help bring the railing to code and to allow the maximum amount of light into the stairwell.

The glass in the railings didn’t just help the railings with the building code, light and safety, it also helped the metal steps look cleaner. If you had to use all metal for the pickets then it would have looked like a jail cell. Using glass always helps open up a room and gives it a feeling of being larger than it really is.

To complete the dramatic look a light pink stain was applied to the oak treads. The overall look was quite striking when it was completed.

The metal work was done by a local welder who built them and installed them with the help of the carpenters of Village Builders Inc.

All the oak treads were glued up, planed, cut to size and routered to fit by the carpenters at Village Builders Inc.

So when you are wondering how to liven up your design in your new custom home, try having metal stairs installed, the effect can be very satisfying.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What does house wrap do?


What does house wrap do?


The housewrap, or weather-resistant barrier (WRB), is applied to the wall sheathing before the doors, windows, and siding are installed. It acts as a secondary watershed if any water gets behind the siding, while also keeping unwanted drafts out of the home.

But while it’s impermeable to air and liquid water, it’s permeable enough to let water vapor from inside the structure escape to the outside. This keeps moisture from building up in living spaces and wall cavities, where it might condense and encourage mold or mildew. There is at least one sheathing product with a built-in protective overlay that eliminates the need for a separate housewrap.

When using a conventional housewrap it is important that the installers pay particular attention that the housewrap has every joint properly tapped with tuck tape. Tuck tape is an engineered tape that is designed for housewrap applications. This ensures that the housewrap is consistent all the way across the wall. All cuts, rips or joints in the housewrap must have this tape applied to the seams to guarantee the product works at its maximum potential.

It also should be noted that the house wrap (when it is being installed) should be stretched tight and be stapled with a smooth finish. This helps later when siding is being installed and the strapping does not have to ride over folded housewrap making an uneven surface.

There are new warranty concerns if you only install housewrap with conventional staples, to be fully covered by the manufactures warranty it must be installed with staples that have 1" plastic washers attached to them. This helps minimize ripping in the housewrap around the staples and maximizes the holding potential of the staples in high winds.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Avoid Common Mistakes When Doing A Renovation

Avoid Common Mistakes

How professional remodelers avoid some of the most common construction mistakes.

Most homeowners judge a quality remodeling project by the obvious: a design that’s a joy to live in, a streetscape that wows passers-by, great natural lighting, and lots of storage. The list goes on.
But some less obvious details have as great an impact on the homeowners’ satisfaction over time. While the homeowners have little control over these details, a professional remodeler with a sustainable business will make sure they get done right.

The possibilities for bad work are too many to list. A few examples should make the point.
Poor moisture control

Mistakes here can potentially raise the chance of mold, mildew, and rot. Steve Easley, a California-based building consultant who investigates moisture problems, sees the same errors again and again.

Three common ones:

Horizontal valleys. Such valleys include where a roof slopes into a chimney or wall. The detailing here needs to be close to perfect to keep water out.

Lack of overhangs. In a Canadian study, 80 percent of examined homes with moisture in the walls had no roof overhang, making it easy for water to flow down the siding and into the wall.

Improper housewrap. When water gets behind the siding, flashing and housewrap should direct it back out before it can get into the structure. Mistakes here are rampant. Take the example of a piece of flashing that laps over the one above it. Anyone with a basic grasp of gravity will understand that if water dripping down the wall hits this intersection, it will flow into the structure rather than out. Shockingly, building science experts say that it’s one of the most common errors they see in the field.

Under-performing mechanicals

Modern heating and cooling equipment is very efficient, but efficiency doesn’t guarantee comfort. Equipment must be well sized and ducts properly sealed. Sadly, these aren’t always properly done.
Some HVAC contractors still use rule-of-thumb calculations to size furnaces and air conditioners. That may have worked for old, drafty structures but with today’s tighter homes the result is often oversized equipment that costs more to buy and operate, and leaves the home less comfortable than it could be. Smart remodelers work with HVAC companies that carefully calculate the home’s heating load and precisely matches the system to that load.

Another rampant problem is leaky ductwork. If the leak is outside the main living area, such as in a basement, living and sleeping spaces won’t get the air they need. There will be resulting comfort issues, and the equipment will have to run longer to satisfy the thermostat. If ducts run through a totally unconditioned space—for example, a hot attic in summer—leaks will create a slight vacuum that pulls unwanted outside air into the house through leaks in the floors, walls, and ceilings.

Sloppy insulation

When insulation is installed without enough attention to detail, the home can end up with hot and cold spots and uncomfortable drafts.

John Tooley, a nationally known building science consultant and energy expert, says that the most common problem areas he sees are attic kneewalls and vaulted ceilings. In the former the insulation usually gets installed without backing and so falls away from the wall; in the latter it’s stuffed into the ceiling cavity, leaving heat-sucking voids. “Insulation has to touch the surface of the drywall to do its job,” he points out. “That’s obviously not happening in a lot of cases.”

The thread running through these situations is that the remodeler lacked a quality system and process to make sure insulation was installed right, mechanicals properly sized, ducts sealed, and the home protected against moisture. And if those tasks escaped scrutiny, chances are others did as well.

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I want to build a custom home but I don't think it's big enough for a custom home builder


I want to build a custom home but I think the home I want is not big enough for a custom home builder, is there a size that custom home builders will not construct?


Absolutely not. Custom home builders will build homes at any size, shape or price range.
The reason that they are called custom builders are because they don’t have a standard set of house plans that they build from, they will build any style, size, colour and build it wherever you want it put.

The common misconception with custom home builders is that they are extremely expensive, custom home builders are only as expensive as their clients want to be.
What custom home builders do is build a home no matter how big or small to an extremely high standard. Custom home builders do not limit their clients to certain products, basically chb (custom home builders) will build, finish or install anything the homeowner can think or afford. We as chb’s will give you our opinion on the product or the way you want it installed but ultimately it is up to you on how you want your home to be constructed and what the final fit and finish will end up being.
Chb’s basically charge you a management fee for constructing the home, in the end the price of the home is dictated by you the homeowner. You decide on the level of finish, because the cost of construction is the cost of construction you basically have the control of what the cost of the home will end up being.

Since it’s a custom home you the homeowner pick every single thing in the home;

Windows and doors.
Insulation (above the minimal code)
Heating systems
Siding and stone
Eve trough
Electrical outlets (above minimal code)
Interior doors.
Size of home.
Shape of home.

As a custom home builder I have built houses as big as 8000 livable sqft and houses as small as 1400 livable sqft. The cost of them varied not just from the cost of the size but also the cost per sqft because of the finishing’s in them.  If you were to bring me plans to a home no matter what the size of the home was I would give you a price to build it.

Custom home builders build homes and there is no house to small, there are homes where the homeowner does not have a big enough budget and that is the only reason that a chb would not be able to build you a home.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders

Monday, October 13, 2014

I want to build a new house but the prices seem to be really high right now, I was thinking about waiting a year and seeing if the prices come down, would you recommend this?


I want to build a new house but the prices seem to be really high right now, I was thinking about waiting a year and seeing if the prices come down, would you recommend this?


The cost of construction is always rising, so if you think that you can wait and the price of your new home or renovation will go down your going to be disappointed.
Routinely when planning and designing custom homes it takes 8 months to 2 years from the time that we start designing, adjusting and then pricing the home out to the point where those services that were priced start to be billed to the homeowner.

A lot of times once the company that priced the job finally gets approval to go ahead with the job they have to go to the general contractor and ask for a change order because of price increases to either the material being used or their labour rates have gone up in that time period.

In most cases waiting to do any kind of construction does not result in a reduction in costs, in fact in most places (because of inflation alone) the cost of construction rises 2 to 3 percent annual per year.

Then you need to add in that the price of raw materials has a tendency to go up year over year almost regardless of what the economy is doing, this is because the demand for raw materials like wood and concrete is always strong somewhere in the world and the supply of it is always limited. This limited supply is only getting worse as big companies are working more on a supply and demand business with less stocking of product then they ever did before to help reduce overall costs.

To give you a scenario, where we build homes in Ontario the cost of construction has risen more than 10 percent in the last 2 years alone. There have been several factors to this increase and most of them are completely out of the contractor’s control. Here is a brief list of the cost increases that contractors have been saddled with in the last 2 years in the province of Ontario;

8% rise in the cost of WSIB which is the workers compensation insurance board. These costs have to be paid if you have employees; this is a dramatic cost increase.

The minimum wage has risen 15% in the past 2 years. I don’t employ anybody making minimum wage but when the bottom wage goes up there is a raise of wages that has to go through the whole company so the employee’s have a fair wage. This does affect the costs of a lot of my suppliers and sub contractors as they will employ some people at the minimum wage boundary.

Anything made with oil has gone up in the past couple of years as the cost of oil has risen. A lot of the things that are used to build a home are made from oil or delivered with vehicles that consume oil and gas.

The rules and regulations of safety in the province of Ontario have gone through a dramatic overhaul. With new rules and regulations businesses have had to rewrite health and safety manuals and retrain their employee’s. This all costs money and this drives the overhead of the company up. As the overhead goes up the contractor must charge accordingly to cover their overheads.

The building code in the province of Ontario went through an overhaul, the insulation value in all residential new homes, the windows and the heating system have all had to become better. This means that the actual cost of the building has gone up even at the basic level.

The building permits and the development fees associated with construction have risen dramatically over the past two years. Municipalities are strapped for cash so they are trying to make it up by charging more to people who want to build homes. Some of these increases are as much as 25% depending on how long it had been between increases.

Waiting to do anything in construction never seems to reduce the cost; it is the nature of the business. Since construction is an ever evolving industry of making better and better houses the costs will always be going up. If I were you I would take your time to plan and design what you want and then build your home when you are ready not when you think it will be cheaper.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What kind of changes can I make to my renovation once it has started?


What kind of changes can I make after the job has started?


Most contractors have clear policies about what changes can be made, and when.

For instance, changing the bedroom paint color probably isn't a big deal (as long as the paint has not already been purchased by the painter), but don't expect to be able to alter the bathroom layout once the walls have been framed and the plumbing roughed in, or change the cabinets after they have been ordered without there being an extra charge.

Be aware that changes can affect the schedule as well as the product prices, and the fee will most likely reflect this. In construction time is money that means people bill out their hours to your general contractor for every hour they have to be on your renovation changing something that they have already installed once before. If you change something after it has been installed and approved you must pay for the time of the people doing it.

It's another reason to spend the necessary time making firm decisions before construction starts. The best way to avoid being billed for extra’s or changes during the construction process is to have all your decisions made and have precise plan of where everything will go and what it will look like, then as your job progresses instead of you making snap decisions you can look back at the original plan and stick to it. This isn’t just a good idea from a money saving standpoint it’s also a good idea from an overall design standpoint.

Moving things like light switches, or the location of pot lights before they are ever installed should be fine (in that it doesn’t cost you anything extra), but don’t expect to add lights or extra switches without incurring any extra cost.

When renovating homes there are always surprises that require a revision of the original plan, usually it is a slight change with an extra piece of wood added for support or an electrical line being relocated, these little things should not raise the price of the renovation as most professional remodelers will build a little bit of that into the price because it’s common to have those things happen on a renovation. The extra’s come into play when large scale changes are made that cost the remodeler extra time and material, these you can be sure will raise the cost of your renovation.

Remember to stick to your plan, the better you do that the less extra’s you will end up paying.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The cost of construction is the cost of construction

The cost of construction is the cost of construction.

I have met with countless people who want to build a custom home but can’t understand why it has to cost so much to build what they want.

The conversation usually goes something like this; first they ask what the average cost per square foot is and I give them a pretty big range that doesn’t really tell them anything. I tell them that they need to give me a set of detailed plans and I will be able to give them an accurate quote on the building of their home.

They then tell me what their budget is and it is usually is too low for the size, style and level of finish that they want. I tell them that they can’t have what they want for what they want to spend and this usually brings on another discussion of why that can be?

I have one simple answer for them; the cost of construction is the cost of construction.

Usually I am not the first contractor to tell them the exact same thing (about the price)but from watching television or talking to their friends they have convinced themselves that they can have what they want for the limited budget they are proposing.

What I explain to them and to a lot of people is that being a general contractor, doing it legally, following all safety rules and regulations, building with premium products and doing it at extremely high standard costs money. Those costs are fixed costs there is no way to get around them no matter how many contractors you talk too.

Unfortunately for most contractors it doesn’t pay nearly as much as you would think it would, we make money but not nearly as much as we should for the amount the houses that we construct are worth.

But we enjoy it, we’re good at it and it pays the bills.

So the next time you are talking to a contractor about building a home remember this simple saying, “the cost of construction is the cost of construction.”

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Make sure you have a fire extinguisher on your construction site

Safety Tip: Fire Extinguishers

Every construction site whether it is residential or commercial should have fire extinguishers onsite all the time. It is actually required by law that you have at least one fully operational fire extinguisher onsite and more depending on the overall size of the project.

It’s not just a good idea to have them onsite but you need to also train your people on how to use them and where they are located within the project.

Because in North America we still predominately build houses out of wood there can be a lot of wood cut-offs and sawdust around, these are extremely flammable and can easily catch on fire from a spark to a cigarette disposed of carelessly . This is why fire extinguishers are so important in construction, a small fire can easily be controlled with little to no damage to property, person or equipment if a well trained employ can extinguish a fire before it becomes out of control.

There are 4 different classifications of fire extinguishers;

Class A- for fires in ordinary combustible materials such as wood and paper where you need a quenching, cooling effect.

Class B-for flammable liquid and gas fires such as oil, gasoline, paint, and grease where you need oxygen exclusion or flame interruption.

Class C-for fires involving electrical wiring and equipment where you need a non-conductive extinguishing agent.

Class D-for fires in combustible metals such as sodium, magnesium, and potassium.

For most construction sites a 4A40BC extinguisher will cover all the work that is progressing.

Fire extinguishers will only usually work for about 60 seconds, which means that when you are attempting to extinguish a fire you most make sure that you are accurate with your direction of fire and not wasteful as it has a limited capacity.

Proper training is the best way to ensure that everyone is safe and gets to go home at the end of the

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Do you have to let Cedar dry before installing it in a sauna?


Do you have to let Cedar dry before installing it in a sauna?


There are a lot of woods that you should let acclimatize to the interior environment of the building that they are going in, but cedar is usually not one of them. Cedars measures in usually around 13% moisture content when it is stored properly out of the rain, that is a lot higher moisture content then other wood species. Pine for example if stored properly will have a moisture content around 8%, if for some reason it measures higher then it will have to be allowed to acclimatize until it reaches that 8% point before installation.

With cedar if you let it dry it will actually become brittle and can break or splinter when installed.

The reason that you dry a wood is so that it will not shrink in a warm dry space. A sauna is not that at all, it is a warm wet space; this means that the cedar will take on moisture, expanding slightly making the joints between individual boards tighter. You also have to remember that when using cedar it will move (shrink and expand) because it is in a room that is not temperature and moisture regulated.

Do not be surprised if the cedar shrinks a little bit (after initial installation) showing gaps between the wood at the joints. This is normal because the room that it has been installed in is currently dryer then the wood. Once you start using the sauna on a regular basis then the wood will expand as it takes on new moisture and the joints will tighten back up. Remember that a sauna is made to give off excessive moisture and heat, since wood is a natural product it will shrink and expand depending on the level of use that the sauna receives over time.

The nice thing about cedar other then the smell is that it has natural resins in it that allow it withstand moist climates like sauna’s and hot tub rooms.

So unless the cedar has been soaking in a ditch you should be able to install it as soon as it arrives on site with little to no acclimatization needed.

If you are worried about what moisture content within the cedar you have bought then have your contractor test it with a moisture meter, this will give you an exact measurement of the wood when it is placed in the home. Once you have an accurate measurement of the cedar then you can make the decision on what you want to do with the wood.

Remember that your cedar will move (shrink and expand) regardless of what you plan to do.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Heating system trends in your custom home for 2014

Heating system trends 2014

The trends in custom homes and renovations coming in to 2014 are always changing with a lot of the trends that we saw in the 2013 construction year being the same as in previous years. But there were things that became trends in 2013 with more and more home owners opting for them that they become almost the norm in 2014. I am focusing on the heating systems that are being installed in new homes and renovations, not just what’s currently trending but what has become the norm in today’s custom homes.

Since custom homes are a very personal thing so is the selection of your heating system, I create these lists for people so that they have the ability to ask their general contractors about the many options out there when wanting to heat their new home.

Heating Systems

Here is a list of things that have stayed the same over the last couple of years;

In town where people have access to natural gas high efficiency gas furnaces are still the most installed system.

Air-to-Air heat pumps are one the most popular choices lately to make your heating system more energy efficient whether you live in town or in the country. This system is becoming so popular because it is basically an add on to your existing furnace without too much interior renovation needed

New homes that do not have access to natural gas are all by a rule installing geothermal heating, either ground loops (if they have the space) or vertical loops (which are drilled wells).

Conventional hot water tanks are still the most popular way to heat hot water in town and in the country. This is true especially in properties that have geothermal as the units help give free hot water for parts of the year.

Flash boilers that run on natural gas are growing in popularity for new homes. There is a rise in people wanting in-floor heat; with in-floor heat you require a flash boiler which also gives you on-demand hot water.

HRV’s are standard in all homes now built.

Heating of bathroom tiled floors is done with electric mats that are controlled per room, making for a more enjoyable experience when stepping out of the shower on to warm tiles regardless of what the thermostat on the main home heating unit is set at.

Smart thermostats are more popular in custom homes than anything else, it is now basically the norm; with the growing smart phone/tablet market people want to be able to control the climate in their home from anywhere in the world, smart thermostats do that with a phone or internet connection.

Fume hoods in kitchens have become so large that mechanical contractors are being forced to install “make up air” systems in the furnace. This system helps stop the depressurization of the home when all the air is being sucked out by the fume hood by adding more air then normal into the duct system to make up for it.

Multi stage furnaces are more readily available and the bigger the home the more it’s being demanded. The multi-stage allows for better energy efficiency and that is one of the biggest trends in today’s homeowners when talk about heating systems.

Fireplaces have been one of the longest running trends in custom homes. Wood burning fireplaces are so common as they add cheap heat to the most lived in part of the home and also are used to set the mood. Gas fireplaces are used the same way as they are used to heat a room or an area of the home without having to engage the heating system to do so.

Electric space heaters are commonly installed in the kick of bathroom vanities when renovating to allow more heat into a generally cold bathroom. The added bonus of it in the kick is that it is always warming your feet and legs.

Here is a list of the trends that are gaining momentum this year;

Ductless heat pumps are becoming by far the most popular way to heat or cool area’s of a home that have been renovated or added too. This works well when you do not have an easy way to tie the newer part of the home into the existing heating system.

There is a new air to air heat pump that is on the market that is taking the industry by storm. It’s called the Zuba and it is made by Mitsubishi, it is the most energy efficient heating unit on the market today. It is so energy efficient that people that live in the country are opting to install a Zuba instead of geothermal because of the initial cost savings on the system.

There is a growing demand for on demand hot water in the country. With more people making the choice for air to air heat pumps over geothermal there is a demand for more efficient water heating. Propane water heating is very efficient; it is also a wonderful way to heat the basement of your floor with in-floor piping that can run off the same flash boiler system.

Multiple thermostats are a rapidly growing trend; this allows the home to be better regulated with heating and cooling. You can set the temperature of the different zones of the home to whatever you require. The only deterrent for it becoming the norm is the cost of the extra thermostats and dampers. The dampers are low voltage so that they require very little in the way of power to operate.

Steam humidifiers are becoming more popular; people are trying to avoid the overly dry air they end with through the heating season. This is especially evident when installing geothermal heating units as they give a dry heat.

In chalets that are unable to have a ducted central air furnace the trend to install ERV’s to still allow the circulation of air throughout the home, this helps stave off mold and mildew in the home.

These are the main trends in the Heating systems of new and renovated custom homes for 2014.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Custom homes have designated areas today

Custom homes have designated areas today

The layout for today’s custom homes is changing and one of the trends is to group rooms in the together so that they serve as one overall function. Even though they are different individual rooms it doesn’t mean that they have walls between them, sometimes you can have an area that has 3 or 4 rooms but only a couple of walls.

Here are some examples of rooms that are considered “area’s” now in custom homes and serve to function together;

1. Kitchen area. The kitchen area consists of not only the kitchen but a breakfast nook, sometimes dining room, pantry, living room, sitting room and even an outdoor eating and cooking area.

2. Front entrance. The front entrance isn’t just the area that you walk into the home now it can have a sitting area, mudroom, laundry room and a powder room.

3. Master suites. The master bedroom is now grouped with the master ensuite bathroom, walk-in closet, sometimes an entrance hall, makeup area, a dressing area and a sitting room. Also there is a trend to design media areas where couples can watch movies or television away from their guests or children. Master suites are now designed with outdoor space like balconies or decks to enjoy some private time.

4. Entire second floors. With the trend for people to place their master bedrooms on the first floor of the house the second floor of the home is becoming for “guests”. Since the largest percentage of people that are building homes these days are baby boomers most of them are empty nesters. They are having homes built for them where they do all their living on one floor but still want the space that a second floor gives them for when friends and family come to stay over.

5. Games area. Large custom homes have spaces that are designated over a garage or in a basement where you can watch movies, play pool, ping pong or have a bar set up. It’s someplace for the teenagers to go that is away from the adults.

6. Entertaining area. This is usually a large great room on the main floor of the house that has a view or a large fireplace. It could also be several rooms that are open concept of one room leading into the other; this is where entertaining would happen before and after meals or meal preparation.

7. Kid’s area. The bigger that custom homes become the more bedrooms, closets and bathrooms get added. There are areas in custom homes deemed as the kid’s area that are the kid’s bedrooms, their own bathrooms, their own linen closets and hallways. This allows the parents to not have to worry about the noise their children are making or the state of their rooms as most people will not enter that area.

As custom homes increase in size and complexity this trend of creating “area’s” helps with designing of the different spaces in the home. This allows different parts of the home to have a completely different look and feel then other parts of the house. Because they are separate areas then it allows a lot of freedom to the designer when they are choosing colours, flooring, furniture and fixtures.

If you are designing a large custom home, take the time to think of the home as areas instead of one large space split into different rooms.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.