Friday, January 30, 2015

How To Build The Most Energy Efficient Home

How to build the most energy efficient home

I’m going to explain how I would build the most energy efficient home possible, to do this I will not be working off a budget and I will only be using products that are readily available to me. I also will be only using products that I have used before on other homes that I have built. As a company we have been building custom homes for over thirty years and have found the best ways to build homes and some of the products to avoid. I will be relying on this expertise while I explain how to build the most energy efficient home possible.

I will be doing this in parts, breaking down the actual home piece by piece so you understand why I am doing it. I lot of the times it is the little details that make the biggest difference.

Let’s start with how the home will be built.


Exterior Walls

I would build the basement out of ICF (insulated concrete forms). This is a product that is 2.5 inches of foam on each side of a concrete core that is poured in place. I will be using these walls throughout the entire home, from the footings all the way to the roof line. The standard ICF wall for residential houses has the foam on the outside and inside and then a 6 inch concrete core; I would use the ICF that has a thicker core at least 8 inches. The reason that an ICF wall works so well is that once the concrete core is either heated or cooled by the heating system inside then it stays that way and radiates the heat/cold back into your home. ICF walls resist what is called wind wash; this is when a strong cold wind lowers the temperature of the interior of the wall cavity, this change in temperature affects the inside of your home by making the heating system work harder to keep the temperature up as this new colder air starts to penetrate the walls into the home at a faster rate than usual.

The ICF walls do not require another wall to be built on the inside of them, the foam blocks are all the insulation the walls require, because they are poured concrete you don’t even have to install vapour barrier over them like a traditional wood framed wall. There are also plastic webs that are embedded in the foam block that allow the drywall to be hung off of them.

Because we are using ICF forms we will not even have to worry about having the rim joist of the home sprayed as there is no exposed rim joist on a home that is built with ICF.


Under the concrete floor of the basement I would place 2 inches of polystyrene foam that is t&ged, this will help stop the cold in the ground from cooling the concrete slab and thus keeping the basement warmer. I would place heating lines in the floor that would be fed from the furnace so that the basement is always warm, once the concrete floor has warmed up to the appropriate temperature it will continue to radiant heat even after the heat lines have been turned off and are not hot. Over top of the polystyrene you would then place your vapour barrier to help keep the moisture out of the concrete floor.


The home would have a walkout basement as this allows more livable square feet thus allowing me to have less square footage above ground. It is easier to heat and cool a walkout basement then trying to heat/cool multiple stories above ground that don’t have the luxury of the thermal mass of the ground around them. The walkout would have a lot of windows and doors in it to allow as much natural light in as possible and the home would face as south as possible.

The walkout basement would have frost walls that would be made out of ICF that would give it adequate frost protection and make it easy to heat.

Sump pump

Every home needs a sump pump. Sump pumps can use up a lot of energy if they run all the time. First thing that should be done is there should be a gravity drain installed so that the water that collects in the weeping system has a chance to flow away naturally without the use of electricity. The gravity drain is easily installed with a home that has a walkout as most homes with walkouts are built high on a hill which is the perfect scenario for a gravity drain.

As a backup or as the primary source of power to the sump pump I would install a solar panel on the outside of the home that would power the sump pump. This would allow the sump pump to continue to move water even when the power has failed in the home.

Above grade floors of the house

Exterior walls

All exterior walls in the home would be the 8 inch ICF forms. The outside of the building would be covered in a sustainable product like natural stone. Natural stone as long as it is installed properly will last a life time and also should protect your home because of its hard surface from flying debris, natural stone also has the ability to help keep a home cooler and also cut down on wind wash. Natural stone has no nutritional value in it, this means that bugs do not eat it or wear it out by tunneling into it.

Because the exterior walls are ICF the electrical boxes that are placed into the walls do not expose the wall to letting air penetration in like wood framed walls do. There is no reason to worry about light or electrical plugs needing foam or tape they will never allow a draft into the home.


I would build the roof so that it is high and steep, this will allow the snow to slide off the roof. I would build large overhangs on the roof. Large overhangs help shade the house against the sun and the harmful UV rays; it also sheds snow and rain water farther from the foundation of the building. I would keep the amount of hips, valleys, dormers and eyebrows to a minimum only having them were needed and not just to make the roof look more aseptically pleasing. I would not have any flat sections or low sloped area’s that will affect the longevity of the roof.


I would install aluminum soffits because they will not fade and they have less chance of having
animals or rodents chew on them as there is no food value in them. They are also able to withstand strong winds and flying debris.

Roofing materials

You might wonder why when talking about an energy efficient home I am talking about the roof, well if you were to stick to just asphalt roofing this could limit what you want to do with insulation and air flow as asphalt shingle degrade faster without the proper ventilation below them. Other products like steel or Enviroshake are more forgiving and will withstand a hotter sub structure on the roof.

Home with Enviroshake Roofing

The roofing material itself would have to be Enviroshake or steel depending on where you were building your home. Enviroshake is a product that is made from recycled materials and ethanol waste from the making of ethanol fuel factors. The product looks like cedar shakes but has a 50 year warranty and has the ability to shed snow well. Steel has the same kind of warranty but will shed snow easier then Enviroshake, also if you live in a place with extremely high winds both of these products will stand up to the challenge with steel being a little better. The colour on new steel roofs will last the lifetime of your home not like old steel roofs that were installed on barns that rusted.

Under steel roofs there is a reflective foil product that I would install on the roof; this product helps deflect the heat that can build up under the steel from the sun, allowing the home to stay more of a balanced temperature throughout the year.

Insulating the roof

Insulating the roof/attic space is an art in itself. If you have parts of your home that are cathedral then they should be spray foamed solid between the roof rafters. The amount of insulation that you will be able to install between the rafters will be dictated by the depth of the rafters.

If you have an attic space then I have a very specific way that I would insulate it.

I would not install a vapour barrier on the bottom side of the roof trusses (which is usually a standard in most homes), I would install the drywall first, then on the back side of the drywall (the attic side) I would install a layer of spray foam 2 inches thick right to the back of the drywall covering the whole attic space. Doing this qualifies as a vapour barrier and also acts as an air seal that is far more effective than any other type of insulation. On top of the 2 inches of spray foam I would install blown in cellulose insulation, I would add it till I reached about R-70.Depending on the type of insulation that you use for your blown in will determine the depth of what is required to reach R-70. This exact process of spray foam and blown in will limit the air flow through the attic from the house to the outside world. This has the ability to save you more money on heating and cooling than all the other insulating you can do combined.


Windows are a huge heat loss to any home. I would install windows that where aluminum skinned on the outside and wood on the inside. The aluminum outside will stand up to the harsh eliminates and having it transition into wood on the inside (I just like the look of wood it being a natural product).

The windows should also be triple pane windows, triple pane will greatly reduce the affect of hot/cold temperatures from transferring inside. On the southern sunny side of the building I would also have solar limiting glass in the triple pane windows and on the northern shadier side I would have solar gaining glass in the triple pane windows. This will help balance the temperature of the house and allow the heating system an easier time at heating and cooling the home.

The windows would be installed with spray foam installed around the window. Because of the depth of the ICF walls it allows me to install double the normal spray foam insulation around the windows insuring the maximum amount of air leakage protection.
One other trick to stopping future drafts around windows is to caulk the trim around the window to the drywall. This is the last measure to stopping drafts from penetrating the home.

Having as may windows as possible that face where the sun will be able to shine in is good because it reduces the amount of energy you have to use with lights but if an area of the home will not receive a lot of sun light then making the windows smaller in that area will help with the heating/cooling demands.

Window coverings

Blinds, drapes and curtains should be used for every window; this is a simple technique to help keep the temperature regulated in the home. If you have windows that are high up and you have trouble reaching them then have them wired for an electrical motor, this will allow you at the push of a button to lower or raise the blinds. The savings on heat/cooling loss will out way the cost of the electricity that is required to run them. A lot of the time windows coverings are more about the comfort of the people in the home then the actual temperature in the home. If you feel colder in a certain room because of the amount of windows then you are more apt to turn on the heat, window coverings limit that problem allowing you to keep the thermostat at a more consistent temperature.

Heating systems

This is the big one, spending the appropriate amount of money on your heating system will save you more money over the long run (using less energy) then everything else I have talked about.

I would install a geothermal heating system. The geothermal heating system would be a dual system that would allow it to supply in-floor heat and also air heat to the duct system. Geothermal works by absorbing the heat/cold from the ground and transferring it into the home. I would install either the ground loops or install the loops right into a large body of water (lake, river, and ocean). If I didn’t have the room then I would opt for the drilled well (vertical loops) variety.

All the floors in the home would have in-floor heat; every room would be on its own zone. This would allow me to turn down the heating in any room that I wasn’t using saving on energy. This would require thermostats in every room of the house.

I would also install ductwork throughout the entire house for the furnace to supply cooling throughout the home as in-floor does not have the ability to supply cooling. This duct system would also be used to supply heat when needed; in-floor heat can take a while to warm up a large slab of concrete to radiate heat, this way you would have a way to immediately heat an area up. This would require that all the thermostats in the home are smart ones and be programmable. I would then install electronic low voltage dampers; these will allow the furnace to only heat individual rooms instead of whole areas of the house. This really comes in handy when cooling the home, the southern side of the house will be hotter than the northern side so using more energy on one side and less on the other will help balance the environment of the home. Less energy is used for the overall heating and cooling this way and the house is kept at a perfect temperature everywhere you go in it.

The thermostats in the home would all be linked through the internet so that I could adjust the home temperature from my phone or computer anywhere in the world allowing me to lower energy use when it isn’t needed.

I would have multiple hot water tanks installed; the great thing about geothermal heating is that it supplies you with almost free hot water. The first hot water tank would be pre-heated (for free) by the geothermal system and then the second hot water tank would keep it at a constant residential appropriate temperature until it is used.

An HRV in the home is a must; this recycles the air in the home reducing the need for a lot of air to be constantly brought in from the outside. I would install what is called a complicated HRV system. This is a system that has ducting running to all bathrooms in the home, not just the normal furnace returns. The ducting that is run to the bathrooms will remove the moist hot air from the bathrooms and feeds it through the HRV system instead of the typical ceiling fans that are usually installed. This limits the amount of penetrations through the outside walls and is also more efficient then using the fan system in each individual bathroom. The bathroom fans only have a small piece of metal between your home and the outside world, with enough air pressure from outside cold air can penetrate into the home.

Auxiliary heating

I would install at least one fireplace, they should be wood burning. The most efficient fireplaces are hand built Rumford fireplaces. These allow you to place wood vertically inside the fire chamber and also will allow you to have a fire in above zero conditions. If you don’t have the room for Rumford’s then sealed fireplaces should be installed. These will have doors on them so that there isn’t any way for a cold draft to work its way into the home.

Having fireplaces can cause a little bit of heat loss when they are not in use but the benefits far out way the negatives.

Having fireplaces allow you to warm up an area of the home without having to use the heating system. Burning wood is a natural thing and is not harmful to the environment, especially if you are not heating your entire home with it. It is also a great backup if the power fails and you require immediate heat, it doesn’t need gas or oil to keep going and will work no matter what type of weather is outside. A fireplace can keep your home warm and safe for as long as you need it too.


I would install low voltage LED pot lights throughout the home. These lights use such little power that all the low voltage LED pot lights in a large home equal out to a couple of normal halogen pot lights. Any other lights that you install should be at minimum some form of LED lighting.

Lighting should all be wired to smart controls, this will allow you to access the lighting via internet so that lights do not have to be left on at all times. This will also allow you to control all the lighting when you are in the home, when you go to bed you can hit the command to turn off all the lights and any light you forgot to turn off does. This is a great feature if you have children who like to leave bathroom or closet lights on after they are done using them.

Dimmers should be installed on all lights, this limits the amount of power that the lights will used especially if you are using them as a night light or accent lighting or for security purposes when you are not at home.

Ceiling Fans

In any room that has high ceilings you should install a ceiling fan, this will help the heating system reuse the air that can get trapped in the high ceilings of the home. It also helps in the summer to move air helping limit your need to run the air conditioning.


All the appliances should be energy star or better rated appliances. You should only have as many appliances as you require. For example: if you have two or three refrigerators and they are all partly full then you are wasting energy by having all of them plugged in and running.

You should have a cold storage room in the basement that will be cooled naturally requiring no electricity for those types of goods. The wall between the cold room and the rest of the house will require an ICF wall and an insulated steel door to keep the cold from penetrating the home.

Well and water

Your well pump should be a constant pressure pump. This kind of pump keeps water pressure constant in the line from the well to the home all the time. This allows a smaller pressure tank and also for the pump to work less frequently saving you money on electricity.

All taps, toilets and plumbing fixtures in the home should be low flow or low water use. Modern plumbing fixtures that use less water are engineered in a way that you should basically not notice that less water is being used. It will save on your well pump being used and the amount of liquid your septic system would be required to handle.

Options for you

You could install small scale wind and solar panels to offset your electricity use. I would not try to rely only on this power source to run a whole house, the electricity needed to run the heating system will probably be more then the renewable energy generators are able to create without taking in the need of the rest of the home. What you can do is have a transfer switch that you could flip when the power goes out and you would be able to power parts of the house without using a generator.

The other thing you could do is have the wind and solar energy feed the grid (you being compensated for that) offsetting any electricity costs that you use and still use it as a generator when the electricity grid goes down.

You can also install a system that in low electricity times of the day or year will run your entire home off the solar and wind, it then kicks back to the grid when you require more electricity as your usage and demand throughout the day changes. This would also help offset your electricity bills.

In conclusion

You now have the most efficient energy saving home possible, all of what I have mentioned is being used today in residential construction, like I stated at the start I have designed and built this house using no budget. A lot of the items that I have mentioned are expensive but they do work as energy savers. You do not have to use them all to save energy (because of the cost most people do not) but using some of them will help you save money in the long run and help keep those energy bills and your consumption of resources to a minimum.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Don’t be afraid to try something different with your backsplash

Don’t be afraid to try something different with your backsplash

Are you designing a new kitchen and trying to figure out what kind of backsplash to install why don’t you try something different then your typical subway tile, try something unique;

Try a pattern that you designed yourself.

Mix and match different types and colours of tiles.

Try installing a natural stone backsplash or a manufactured stone backsplash. It will fit on the wall of most kitchens and behind there sinks and taps.

.• There are new tin patterns, these are squares or tiles that fit together to make a solid surface and in the right kitchen can look impressive.

Natural stone backsplash
If you have a bigger budget try;

Hammered copper. This can be installed by a coppersmith and can be down so that the entire backsplash has almost little to no seams.

Back painted glass. Back painted glass can be any colour you want and can be installed with very little seams.

Granite or marble. The same companies that install granite and marble counter tops will also make you a solid surface backsplash, depending on the kitchen this can look quiet striking.

Brushed Stainless steel is a clean look that is easy to maintain.

Well I do encourage free thinking when you are trying to be unique there are some rules you should be following, especially around your oven;

1. Never use anything that is easily flammable. Do not use cloth or a paper product that will end up close to the stove top.

2. Gas stove tops legally cannot have anything flammable within a certain distance of the open flame. This includes drywall, you have to install some type of flame resistant material (tile,steel) or it will not pass a gas inspection.

3. You should be making the choice of your backsplash when you design your kitchen. The material you decide to use for you backsplash will affect the depth that the electricians set the boxes of your electrical plugs. If you change the material your electrical boxed might not be set far enough out. Also there are some products that require a different product then drywall as the sub-surface.
Natural stone requires that you use cement board.

The only other thing I would recommend is that if you are planning a unique or colourful backsplash then you really should light it properly with under counter lighting so that everyone else can enjoy it.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Monday, January 26, 2015

I want to remodel my bathroom what should I lookout for?


I want to remodel my bathroom what should I lookout for?


Bathroom remodeling is the bread and butter of the renovation industry. The bathroom is one of the most used places in a home. It is also one of the places where people spend the least amount of time (unless of course you are a teenager). Because of this problems in bathrooms usually go unnoticed for years before anyone tries to fix them or correct the problem before it causes damage.

One of the biggest things that you need to lookout for when doing a bathroom remodel are the places where water has been leaking. In a large bathroom there are a lot of places that water can leak and collect without you the homeowner ever knowing that it has happened. Water can leak and collect in and around the following locations:

Behind, around or underneath the toilet.

Behind, around or underneath the tub.

Behind, around or underneath the shower.

Underneath or in the bottom of the cabinet of the sink.

On the walls because of humidity.

The first house that I ever owned was built in the fifties and had been re-faced a couple of time but never completely remodeled. I started by gutting the entire bathroom (the only one in the house), my plan was to do demolition all day having the toilet re-installed and working by that night. This would give me a working toilet (a place too read my book among other things). Boy was I wrong.

After gutting half the bathroom I got to where I was going to remove the toilet and set it outside until I could re-install it later that day so that it would function as the remodel continued. What I found when removing the toilet was that the toilet had been leaking for probably at least 10 years, because of this the floor was completely rotten around where the toilet was sitting (I had only owned the home for 18 months at the time). The only reason anyone never fell through the floor into the crawlspace below was because the plumbing was well fastened to the floor joist. Basically the drain for the toilet was holding up the toilet (and anybody who sat on it), the vinyl flooring and the rotten plywood.

The removal of the rotten floor and reframing the area took several days, I also had to bring a plumber in to re-pipe the toilet because I was forced to cut the plumbing out of the way to repair and replace the damaged plywood sheeting. I ended up having to stay with my parents for a couple of days while all of this happened. Luckily for me there was not a lot of mold created from the leakage of the toilet and that the toilet was the only fixture that had been leaking. It also helped that there wasn't a finished basement underneath to damage just a dirt floored crawlspace.

I have found worse things in other bathrooms, I have opening up walls behind showers and found mold. Mold  to the point where we had to spray a water-downed bleach solution all over the inside of the wall cavity just to kill it before we could continue working safely. I have found living snakes, mice and other creatures that like damp places and have found whole rotten rim-joist on the outside of the walls in houses where the shower drain was leaking. Rotten rim joist that were in such bad condition that when you looked at the outside of the home you could see that the wall and the roof were sinking in the area.

So when you are asking me what you should be looking for when you remodel your bathroom  you should plan on having a contingency fund. You are almost guaranteed to need it. Remember also that you should plan to spend the money fixing things properly while you have the opportunity, waiting to do it later will only cause you more of a headache and will also cost you more money.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

I have an old kitchen, should I reface the cabinets or should I replace the whole kitchen?


I have an old kitchen, should I reface the cabinets or should I replace the whole kitchen?

To answer this question there is certain things that you will have to decide on first. These decisions will help shape the best way for you to proceed.

What is your budget?

One of the biggest questions is your budget. If you are working on a tight budget then you should think about re-facing them. The re-facing of a kitchen only works on the cheap if you do a lot of the work yourself. You could remove all the cabinet doors and the drawer fronts, sand them down and then either repaint them yourself or have a professional repaint them. If your budget is a little bigger you could pay a professional to do this work for you.

What work do you want to do?

The basic facelift to a kitchen is usually repainting the kitchen cabinets, doors and drawers, changing the counter tops, sinks and appliances. You can change the flooring, repaint the walls and change the lighting.

Remember all that work and you still have an older style kitchen that looks newer; but it won’t be a new kitchen.

Removing the entire kitchen and starting again is by far the most expensive option, but it is also the option that allows you to have the kitchen that you really want. With a new kitchen you get everything you want and depending on the age of your old kitchen a new kitchen can function a lot better with a new layout and a lot of the new things that go into kitchens. Things like soft closing drawers, specialty in cabinet and under cabinet lighting, multiple sinks, multiple dishwashers, on demand hot water taps, spice drawers and newer corner cabinets that are hinged to waste little to no space. A new kitchen also gives you the maximum amount of life; you should easily get to 15 to 20 years of use out of your kitchen. A re-faced kitchen will require constant maintenance and updating as the years go by.

Remember that if you just face lift your kitchen you will be working on replacing the appliances in the existing holes, this can limit the size and shape of the appliances you can buy. Most older kitchens are poorly laid out, re-facing a kitchen doesn’t help the poor layout or the fact that a lot of older kitchens are cut off from the rest of the house, giving it that claustrophobic feel to it.

I would recommend if you have the budget to demolish the kitchen and start from scratch, redoing a kitchen is a big deal and a big hassle, do it right and you won’t have to worry about it for decades.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Who will be in charge of my renovation job?


Who will be in charge of my job?


This is an important question to ask.

In small remodeling companies the owner of the company is onsite physically doing the work every day, but in a professionally run renovation company that has more than a couple of employees and has several renovations on the go of varying sizes at any time there will be a management structure.

The management structure is there to ensure that your home renovation is completed in a timely manner, the job is completed with the proper fit and finish (high level of quality) and that you receive exactly what you paid for.

In my company (Village Builders) we have a lead carpenter that acts as the Project Manager (PM). Depending on the size and scale of your renovation the PM will make every attempt to meet with you the homeowner every time you require a site meeting or site visit. The PM is also in charge of all the Village Builders employee's that are working on the job and any sub contractors that are working there as well.

There is someone overseeing the operations of all renovations going on in the company and that is the Operations Manager. There job is to ensure that the appropriate manpower is allocated to the different jobs to maximize efficiency and also to help the PM’s meet there timelines.They also are the ones that will order the proper materials and see that extra work is charged accordingly or quoted for the specifications that the homeowner has asked for.

This structure allows the homeowner to have two different people to voice concerns or questions too. It also allows greater flexibility for the homeowner when scheduling meetings because they have two different people that they can schedule with depending on their needs and personal schedule.

The structure lends it to having a checks and balances as the operations manager that isn’t physically doing the work is able to step back and look at the overall big picture and make sure everything is completed according to the approved contract.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Have you ever built an English Post and Beam style home?


Have you ever built an English Post and Beam style home?


Yes we have, in the hills of Creemore we built a beautiful English Post and Beam custom home for one of our wonderful clients.

The home was built more than a decade ago and still looks wonderful after all those years, a true testament to the craftsmen that we had work on the home.

The home sits on 40 acres in the hills of Creemore with a view of rolling fields and the valley that the town of Creemore is so famous for.

Some of the features of the home are a mason hand built Rumford fireplace that is finished in natural stone, it rises from the floor to the full height of the great room as it is situated in the middle of the soaring 25 foot ceilings. There is a balcony that overlooks the great room that also connects the master wing with the rest of the second floor sleeping quarters. This great room has large reclaimed hand built wood trusses that dominate the ceilings and massive North facing windows that give you a view of the hills and valleys in the area.

The home has real plaster finished walls with antique reclaimed Elm floors, stained wood trim with solid antique reclaimed wood doors and large wood windows. There are curved walls and curved plaster finishing on the back of all the stairs in the home.

The exterior of the home has barn board siding, cedar shakes on the walls and the roof and a skirting of field stone around the foundation that rises to the bottom of the windows.

The entire basement of the home is finished with Mexican tile floors and the home is heated with Geothermal in-ground heating that has 1000's of feet of loops that extend into the field underground.

The home has 4 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms, all of them very large and spacious with high ceilings and grand windows to let nature and the view in. 

The master bedroom has wood beams and cathedral ceilings as do the rest of the second floor bedrooms. The bedroom is large enough to hold a king size bed, storage for the homeowners close and have a sitting area beside the large windows. The master suite also has a large master ensuite bathroom complete with a glass shower, sink, toilet and a large claw foot tub that was savaged from a and old farmer in the area and re-finished to work in the new home.

The kitchen is painted and built in a typical English style with wood butcher block counter tops and finished with a special oil that resists bacteria growth.

There is a second fireplace that is just off the kitchen in a sitting room that is a mason built Scandinavian fireplace kit that is finished in brick with a pizza oven built above the firebox to heat or cook food on. The fireplace has the ability to heat the entire home once it has been burning for a couple of hours.

There is even a hidden door on the second floor that leads to a third floor that has two eye brow windows, these windows allow the natural breeze outside air to draw the hot air out of the house acting like a natural air conditioner in the summer. This third floor is a room that the kids like to play in and spy down on the rest of the house all from below.

There is a large deck built out of cedar off the dining room that allows people to sit and take in the wonderful view of the fields and valleys.

There is an abundance of wildlife on the property; you can routinely see dear standing in the yard snacking on the grass and all manner of small wood land creatures playing under the trees.

Not far from the home is a wonderful English style garage that keeps the feel of the home with cedar shakes on the roof and rough sawn boards for siding that were cut from locally harvested trees. There is also a field stone skirt around the bottom couple of feet of the garage and one whole end of the garage is windows and doors to allow the maximum amount of light into the workshop. The roof has a large eyebrow with windows in it that matches the homes eyebrows, these windows allow natural light into the large second floor that is ideal for storage.

The home is large and spacious and is able to accommodate a large family gathering or just the owners up for a relaxing weekend in the country.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What's the difference between a garage and a boathouse?

Do you want a garage or a boathouse at your cottage?

You might be wondering what the deference is between a garage and a boathouse, well to you there might not be much but to the local municipality there’s a huge difference.


A garage is considered an accessory building under the building code. As an accessory building it cannot have any real livable space. The difference is that you can park a car or boat or any of your other toys in it but there is no place in it for people to sleep.

Garage’s can be multiple rooms, they can be beside each other or behind each other, the one thing that they cannot have in most municipalities is two stories.

Garages can have power and water in them, they can have heat and the space can be used for more than storing boats, vehicles and toys. You can use it to store furniture, repair things and have a hobby room or a wood shop. There is almost no limit to what you can do with your garage as long as you don’t create bedrooms in the place.

Garages must have certain setbacks that must be observed when placing the building on your property. You must be a certain ways back from your lot lines and also from the high-water mark established by the local municipality or by the local conservation authority. Usually there is thought put into the placement of the garage so that it won’t affect your neighbours.


The boathouse is exactly what it sounds like; it’s a place to put your boat. Boat houses have heavy restrictions on what they can look like and how big they can be built. If you submit plans for a boathouse that has more rooms then just the ones to hold your boat and the gear associated with boating then it will be rejected by the municipal planning and building department.

The benefit to calling it a boathouse is that you don’t have to adhere to the setbacks of your property line or stay the appropriate distance from the high-water mark.

This allows you the opportunity to place a boathouse where it would be most useful; near the water.

Depending on the municipality you are building in will determine the size and extent of the boathouse you can build. It will also determine how close to the water you will be allowed to build.

In cottage country you don’t own the waterfront that your cottage is located on, the waterfront is owned by the government and controlled not only by the local municipality but the ministry of fisheries and oceans. This means that there are more levels of restrictions and approvals that you will require to receive permission to build a boathouse. You will be attempting to construct a building on the governments land for your own personal use. The restrictions not only apply to the size and placement of the boathouse but also on how it is constructed (to protect the environment).

When you are thinking about building another structure on your property think long and hard on what you want it for, is it a boathouse or is it a garage, the decision will not only cost you time it could also cost you a lot more money.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, January 16, 2015

UV coatings on new windows come with special instructions

UV coatings on new windows come with special instructions

One new option for people building a custom home is the ability to order your windows with a UV protective coating. This coating limits the amount of UV rays that are able to pass through the glass in the window. This limiting of UV rays helps protect the interior of your home from the harmfulness of the sun.

UV harmful rays are only getting worse; UV’s are already affecting the lifespan of many products on the outside of your home.

The UV coating is a good idea especially for people who want to build custom homes with a lot of large windows that face the southern sun.  Some of the things that can be damaged;

Furniture materials.
Rugs and carpets.
Paint on the walls.
Paintings and other art items.
Curtains, shades and blinds.

Those are the pro’s for buying the UV protective coating, there are some cons that you should be aware of before purchasing windows with this coating;

There is an increased cost for buying windows with this protected coating that is on top of the cost of the windows.

There are many different types of UV coatings depending on what type of window and also which manufacturer you choose. Some UV coatings work better than others.

Some of the more effective UV coatings require special cleaning instructions that are very different then how you normally handle cleaning windows. A lot of stronger chemicals cannot be used on the inside of the windows as it can damage the coating on the windows.

Some of the UV coatings can be easily damaged by anything sharp (finger nails or scrappers). This can be a real problem when it comes to protecting the windows on the inside during construction from drywall mud and paint splatter as you will be hard pressed to remove it without the use of a scrapper or a razor blade.

Talk to your general contractor about the options and the costs when choosing your windows and whether it is really worth it for you to purchase UV protection on your windows.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Steel Siding On Your Modern Custom Home

Steel Siding (want something different?)

If you planning to build a custom home and are looking for something different on the exterior as a finish and you aren’t very impressed with the normal vinyl or wood siding that is readily available then maybe you should think about putting steel on the outside of the home.

There are many different steel siding products on the market that you could pick from, some of them are better than others and some of them look just like their vinyl or wood competition. If you are building a custom home and you truly desire it to be custom and unique then you should try putting steel roofing on the walls of the home. That’s right the same steel that goes on the roof of your home can be placed on the walls as well.

There are many benefits to using steel roofing on the walls of your home;

It will never rot, twist or split.

New steel roofing is guaranteed to never rust for the lifetime that you own your home.

The colour on most steel roofing is warranted for up to 50 years, which means you should never need to repaint or replace it in your lifetime.

There is no food value in steel, which means that bugs won’t eat it or want to live in it. You should never have to worry about termites or carpenter ants.

Steel is so strong that it will withstand hurricane force winds. Flying debris in strong storms will not penetrate the material if struck at a high speed no matter what type of debris it is.

Wind and snow will not penetrate it. Most steel comes in large sheets so there are actually less joints to worry about, which means less chance of water penetration.

Steel is installed with colour screws with rubber washered heads. This gives a superior hold then nails and is also more weather resistant.

There are a wide variety of patterns, colours, textures and designs for steel siding. You should have no problem finding something that appeals to your taste.

If you are designing a custom home that is more modern then you should think about steel instead of something like stucco. This is especially true if you are planning to build in a colder climate, cold climates are especially hard on stucco exteriors and the maintenance of stucco can become expensive over time. The maintenance with steel is almost nonexistent.

Remember that building a custom home means that you can make your home look like whatever you want, try something new and impress everyone including yourself.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Can I build a two story garage at my cottage?


I want to build a garage at my cottage; can I put a second story on top for more livable space?


In most municipalities they don’t want livable space above garages anymore. This creates the scenario that you have two livable residences on one lot (the other one being the actual cottage), this is one of the main rules that are heavily enforced in cottage municipalities that there should only be one residence on a normally zoned residential lot.

To stop people from doing this some municipalities have put height restrictions on accessory buildings (garages). That height limit stops people from being able to build a full second story on their garage. In the last municipality that I built a garage they set the height restriction so that if you tried to build a second story you would only end up with 6 ft at the peak and then the sloping roof would reduce the usable square footage to almost nothing other than a small portion in the middle.

The only way around the height restrictions is to have the garage directly attached to the house and then the livable space above the garage is actually considered part of the principal residence. Adding an attached garage though is an addition on your primary residence and is not considered a secondary out building (which what the municipality considers a separate garage).

What you should consider doing is building an out building with multiple rooms. This would give you a section of the garage as a true garage to work on your boat or car and then you could have another room that is completely separate that could be a hobby room, sitting room, storage room or an arts and crafts room.

The major concern you will have to address is that the wall dividing the garage part to the other livable space is gas proofed so that no one is injured from carbon monoxide fumes from idling gas engines.

You will also have to ensure that your garage doesn’t end up so large that it violates any of the restrictions or setbacks associated with building secondary out buildings.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Planning to build a garage at your cottage, make sure you’re not too close to the water

Planning to build a garage at your cottage, make sure you’re not to close the water

If you are planning to build a garage at your cottage this year then one of the first things you will have to do is establish where you want the garage to be located on the property.

This might sound like an obvious and easy thing to do but you have to realize that there are setbacks and size limits to the garage (secondary out buildings) that are determined by the local municipal government and enforced by the building and planning department.

A setback means the distance from certain points on your property to the proposed area where you want to build the garage, the measured distance is usually from the outside walls of the building to the points of reference.

The setback limits apply to the following;

There are minimum setbacks to the side yard (this is the two sides of your property that border other neighbours) from the proposed garage outer walls.

There are minimum setbacks from the existing buildings on the property. Depending on what that building is will depend on the amount the setback must be from your new proposed garage.

There are minimum setbacks from the municipal road, this is also usually where your property intersects with the municipalities property that is allocated for the road.

There are minimum setbacks from any road right (a road right is an undeveloped road that is owned by the municipality but has never been developed). Road rights will be shown on the municipalities official plan, a lot of road rights have never been developed and on a visual inspection of the property there will be no physical markers that show that it exists. Road rights might never be developed but planning departments still adhere to the setback rules around them.

There are minimum setbacks from the high water mark (the high water mark is the historic highpoint of what the lakes or rivers have risen to usually in the last 100 years, this is set by the local municipality). This point is usually set as an elevation level number from sea level and found by surveyors.

There are minimum setbacks from your septic system (usually the septic bed and the tank).

There could be other setbacks that apply but they would be specific to the municipality that you are attempting to building in, the best thing to do is to go directly to the building and planning department and ask them for a list of rules and regulations.

The second thing that you have to do is determine the size of the garage that you want to construct.

The size limits to the building will be affected by the following;

The size of the piece of property that you are building your outbuilding on.

The size of the existing other buildings including the primary residence on the property (you can only cover a certain percentage of the property with all buildings) This percentage is set by the local municipality.

If you don’t have enough room for your setbacks to make the building the size you want.

The use of the building (if you plan to have livable space in the building you might not be allowed to have over a certain amount of square footage).

There could be a limit to the height. A lot of municipalities do not want garages with second stories.

There could be size restrictions on secondary buildings in certain municipalities.

When you are submitting your documents for the building permit you will be asked to make an overhead drawing that shows the size of the building and the placement of the building on the property with all the relevant setbacks listed on it. This drawing will be one of the main things that they look at to determine if you will receive your permit. Do not be surprised if you are ask to change certain things before they will approve your garage.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Can I Hire My Own Painter Instead Of My General Contractor?

Can I Hire My Own Painter? 

Or buy my own carpet...Remodelers get these questions a lot. Here's why a Yes answer is seldom in the homeowners' best interest.

It’s not unusual for homeowners to ask their remodeler to use a trade contractor with whom the homeowners (but not the remodeler) have an established relationship, or to let them buy their own plumbing fixtures or other items. The homeowners should not be surprised if the contractor discourages this. Sticking to known subcontractors is a policy that’s in the best interest of the remodeler and the homeowners. The reasons have to do with the business relationships between remodeler, suppliers, and subcontractors.

Purchases from approved suppliers

Lets start with purchases. Allowance selections and purchases are made with approved suppliers, and for good reason. The remodeler who agrees to use unfamiliar suppliers or owner-sourced products in critical applications can’t guarantee the reliability of those products, can’t stand behind the warranty, and risks problems with the schedule and budget.

As an example, imagine the homeowners order carpet from a non-approved carpet supplier, then find out that the carpet they chose is European, only comes in widths of three meters (instead of the 12 feet that the carpet allowance was based on) and is a special order that takes 20 weeks to deliver. Will the schedule accommodate that delivery restriction? Can the remodeling contractor trust the vendor's assurance that all seams will "disappear"?

Builder-selected Subcontractors

There are even more compelling reasons for using known subcontractors. Remodelers depend upon subs as much as they do employees – trade partners are an integral part of the project team. Thus, remodelers tend to award major contracts (the fabrication and installation of custom kitchen cabinets, for example) only to contractors that have proven themselves. With proven subs, accurate bids can be assembled quickly, and the remodeler can be confident in the quality promised by those bids.

A professionally-managed remodeling contractor whose focus is quality will test new subs out on small jobs and then evaluate their work over time. Do they consistently produce work that meets the remodeler's quality standards? Do they work well with the project manager or lead carpenter? Are their bids accurate? How quickly do they respond to service calls? Does their work stand up over a 3 or 4-year period? Yes, it can take several years to determine if a sub can be trusted on a large and complex job. Sometimes a new sub makes a good impression on the first job, only to disappoint on subsequent projects.

In fact the remodeling contractor who agrees to use unvetted subs risks losing control of the project. The painting crew that is doing just one job for the remodeler may not be as conscientious as the crew that relies on the company for a majority of its work. Even if the homeowner agrees to take responsibility for the end result, the truth is that any problems will reflect badly on the remodeler’s reputation. And remember: a good reputation is likely why the clients hired the remodeler in the first place.

The point is that good relationships between remodelers and subs are crucial to successful projects. Part of maintaining those good relationships is treating subs well, including paying them fair prices and not squeezing them out of jobs they have earned a shot at.

This pays off big when the inevitable problems arise. For instance when schedules change because of a weather delay or an unexpected structural issue that had been hiding behind that old plaster, subs that have been treated well are more likely to change their schedule and do whatever it takes to keep the project on time and on budget. After all, everyone’s on the same team.

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

Village Builders Inc

Monday, January 5, 2015

Construction Safety: Securing loads on your vehicle

Safety: Securing loads on your vehicle

Safety is the number one propriety in construction today. You must think safety of the people working on your construction site and the safety of the site itself before you think about anything else.The other area of concern is the safety of the public around your sites and also around your company vehicles.

You must make sure that when you are loading trucks and trailers that you have the loads properly secured.

There are some major safety concerns when you haven’t secured a load properly;

Workers can be hurt while loading other items if the load is to shift before loading is finished.

Workers can be hurt when unloading trucks or trailers if loads have shifted around while in transport from one location to another.

Another danger is the risk to other motorist on the roads and highways if your load is to shift or fall off of the truck. Studies show that 25 percent of all unsafe highway incidents where attributed to cargo inadequately secured on trucks and vehicles while they are in transport.

You should establish a training program that teaches your employee’s about how to secure loads on company vehicles. If you have an employee whose job it is to move material and tools around in a big truck then that employee should be solely in charge of the final securing of all loads before the vehicle leaves the yard.

Another good practice for your employee’s to get in the hang of is to do is to pull over a couple miles down the road in a safe place where they can get out and inspect the load. A lot of times that moving of the truck a couple minutes down the road allows the load to settle, this settling will allow you to check the straps and chains on the load and see if they require tightening. This will ensure that if you have to stop suddenly the load will not come off the truck or shift enough to damage anything that you are transporting.

Remember that regardless of what you transport in your vehicles you must always conform to the local highway traffic act. This act established by the government and enforced by law-enforcement should be the minimum standard that you work towards.  That means it is the least you should be doing when securing loads, if you exceed it then you are making a habit of being extremely safe and reducing the chance that someone will get hurt or your load will get damaged.

Like with all safety if your employee’s take that extra couple of minutes to make sure everything is secured properly then it will save you time and money when there isn’t an accident later.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Put a Parapet on your custom home to make your roof look unique

Put a parapet on your custom home to give your roof a different look.

What is a parapet you ask?

A parapet is when the exterior wall of the home extends past the roof surface straight up on a vertical plain a foot or two. This means that on the gable ends where these parapets are you will have no overhangs on the roof.

Parapets are usually framed on top of the roof sheeting after the roof has been constructed. If the parapets are large you might want to have a couple of studs drop through the roof sheeting and attach to the wall studding below for added support.

One of the biggest concerns that you have to watch out for is that you waterproof the sidewalls of the parapet properly when you are applying the roofing material and the wall material. You should wrap the entire parapet in ice and water shield to make sure that you do not have any leaks in the future.

Parapets are usually seen on commercial buildings or residential buildings with flat roofs. But if you put them on a sloped roof of a house then you should make sure that the roof is fairly steep, this will help the roof shed water and snow, this will be far less likely to have any kind of leak problems.

When the parapet is designed properly into a residential home plan it can have a dramatic effect, it helps give you that dramatic first impression that most homeowners crave. It is an easy way to guarantee that your custom home will be designed to look differently then its neighbouring homes.

You should always top the parapet in aluminum or steel so that there never will be a chance that the top of the parapet will leak as those two materials have the ability to last a long time even though they are situated on top of your roof and exposed to all the elements.

Parapets are not hard to build but they do take some fore thought when designing them and a homeowner that is willing to try something different with the look of their new custom home.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 residential construction forecast for Clearview, Blue Mountain, Collingwood, Mulmur, Wasaga beach and the Bruce Peninsula

2015 residential construction forecast

The 2015 construction year looks like it will be better than the 2014 construction year. 2014 was a down year for residential construction with a lot of money and time being spent on planning, designing, buying of land and estimating only to see millions of dollars of plans shelved because of the final budgets. This year is shaping up to be a make up year, there is a lot of projects that already have approval with land and plans that could be started if the homeowners are willing to approve budgets.

There were several factors last year that contributed to the down turn in residential construction, one of the major ones was the weather. The intense winter of last year delayed the start of a lot of projects until almost the summer. Those late starting projects will now run farther into the 2015 year then they normally would have helping to create more work than normal going into this winter and spring for certain builders. Because of the delay in last spring starts with the half load restrictions there is a lot of people attempting to start projects in early to late March instead of April/May this year.

The fall season of 2014 saw an abnormal amount of people talking and planning to build homes in the early spring or summer of 2015. This is a promising sign that the residential construction season of 2015 will be a far better one then the 2014 one ended up being.

The promising construction season isn’t only for new home starts its also for renovations as well. As there was little activity in 2014 the demand for renovations seems to be coming around. One part of this is because of a stronger real estate market in home sales in 2014, a lot of people bought homes that they now require repairs and renovations too.

The overall outlook of the 2015 year isn’t going to be the strongest one but it looks to be certainly a lot better than the weak 2014 year that just passed.

Wasaga Beach

Residential construction looks to stay strong in Wasaga Beach like it has for the past couple of years. With a mix of new sub-division homes, older homes needing renovations and a growing retirement community looking for custom homes to be built there will definitely be a lot of building going on in
the town of Wasaga Beach. Last year was a little slower than in previous years but 2015 should be a return to the more robust construction season that we have seen in the past.

Wasaga Beach’s change from tourism to retirement community has become quite evident and a lot of people are now looking at Wasaga Beach as a place to retire too instead of vacation. The closer you get to the water the larger and more expensive the homes you will find being constructed. With the abundance of older homes that had been used only as run down rentals there is a push to have them removed for newer custom homes. This is happening with the town enforcing a no short term rental policy that had never previously been enforced; only areas that are designated short term rentals are now allowed to have these with everyone else facing large fines if caught. Without rental income these older run down cottages are being placed on the market for sale, this tells me that there will be an abundance of custom homes to be built in the future; not just his year.

As has been the trend in the previous year’s before 2014 you should be able to find construction in every area of Wasaga Beach, whether it is a house under renovation or a new home being built, there is lots of work to do be done in the beach.

One of the largest changes in the past couple of years has been the commercial construction market as there is a lot of new stores and commercial buildings being built in the Wasaga Beach area as more people are becoming full time residents.

Town of the Blue Mountains

As predicted the 2014 construction year was a major downturn for construction in the Town of the Blue Mountains. 2015 looks to be better with the real estate market turning over a lot of homes that will need to be either repaired, renovated or replaced.

That means that the renovation market should rebound for a healthier year in 2015 as there is still a lot of older chalets that need to be repaired or updated.

The custom home market will likely have a rebound this year but it will not be a boom by any means.
The Town of the Blue Mountains has become a place that is increasingly hard to get a new building permit. Internal politics in the township have made it harder and harder to work through the many steps and levels to receive your permit to build homes or attempt renovations to existing homes.

A lot of the current residential construction is happening in a couple of the big developments that are in the Town of the Blue Mountains. These larger developments are not roaring by any stretch of the imagination but they are moving along constructing new homes in a regular manner.

Most of the commercial development is still being constructed around the Blue Mountain resort. There is a lot of commercial property that is sitting on the real estate market waiting for the right developer.

Town of Collingwood  

The biggest possibility of growth in the Town of Collingwood is the commercial sector. There is commercial construction going on all over the Town of Collingwood and the potential for more is almost staggering as there are plenty of projects in design or in the approval process.

The custom home market is limited at best as most existing homes in Collingwood are usually renovated or restored, this leaves the building of custom homes to small areas of the town and as in fill in the older neighbourhoods.

With the emergence of all kinds of contractors almost over night homeowners in Collingwood should be careful who they hire to work on their homes as there is a lot of poor under insured and under skilled contractors running around.

With the endless migration of baby boomers out of Toronto to the Collingwood area the construction whether it is commercial or renovations looks fairly healthy for this year and possibly the next.

Township of Mulmur

Mulmur township has been the place that has seen the biggest amount of growth compared with most of the other areas. The real estate market hasn’t risen as fast as a lot of the other places and that has allowed people to purchase land and older homes at a reduced rate. This is helping to create a strong residential building market in the Township. Property is being bought up for the construction of second homes and a lot of older homes are being renovated.

There are large custom homes being constructed in a lot of the small back roads around the township as people are looking for privacy with there country estates.

The reason for this growth is the proximity to Toronto as it is a much shorter commute it you don’t require to be in the Collingwood or town of the Blue Mountains.

Commercial development is almost nonexistent in the township as it is sparely populated with only small hamlets and villages.

Look for this area to have a banner year in 2015 and also in the years going forward.

Township of Clearview (Creemore)

The Township of Clearview historically has been the black hole of construction whether it is residential or commercial. Most of this was due to the municipalities refusal to allow development and also there extremely high building fees.

The building fees have been reduced for new homes (especially in the rural area’s) and there is a newly elected council that is promising change so that Clearview will appear open for business. Time will only tell if they are true to their word as Clearview Township is one of the few places in Southern Ontario with a negative growth rate.

The real estate market is especially high in Clearview this is going to be a roadblock to the construction industry in the township. There really isn’t a lot of turnover of homes in the township because of the high prices being asked.

Commercial and Residential construction looks to be slow in 2015, it might be slightly higher than the rate of 2014 but not much.

Most of the building that is going on is of large private custom homes in the hills of Creemore and
Devils Glen Ski Club. Other then these two small area’s the township is fairly quiet when it comes to residential construction.

The Bruce Peninsula

The Bruce Peninsula is experiencing a face lift with a lot of older cottages being sold to younger families. This turnover is creating a fairly healthy residential construction climate.

Though there is not a lot of new custom homes and cottages being constructed in the Bruce Peninsula the constructing of secondary buildings like bunkies and garages is fairly brisk. The Bruce Peninsula is a fairly large area that is sparsely populated.

Renovations of all levels are happening with the turnover of cottages, younger people want their cottages to be brighter and more functional then the older darker rustic cottages were that they purchased. This should create a healthy renovation market in 2015.

The Bruce Peninsula construction market should be healthy with lots of work for everyone that works in the area.

The Overall View of Things

The market should be better than the surprised extreme downturn of construction that surprised everyone in 2014. 2015 will not be a banner year but it should be better then 2014 as there seems to be a pent up demand for building services that should be released in the coming years.

One of the most disturbing trends in residential construction is the tire kickers, many people are looking for plans and estimates on new homes and renovations but once they see what the cost is they walk away from it leaving projects sitting on the contractors table. This year was the worst we've ever seen for this as 70% of the projects (new homes and renovations) that we priced in 2014 were cancelled once they saw how much it would cost.

The reason for this is peoples wants has far exceeded there budgets and there doesn’t seem to be any room for compromise with homeowners, homeowners will refuse to do the project instead of adjusting their budgets and compromising on certain items in the home. The actual demand for the construction of homes has not reached critical as homeowners still believe that they can wait to have their project done later even though the prices will not come down they will only go up.

Eventually the dam will break and there will be a flood of construction to fill the pent up demand, when this happens prices will sore and it will be extremely difficult to find qualified contractors to meet the demands. When this will happen is anyone's guess, it could start this year or the next.

What is clear is that the amount of potential work that is sitting on the side lines in limbo seems to be reaching a staggering amount. The question is if it ends up being released all at once or over a longer time frame is anyone's guess.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.