Sunday, August 30, 2015

2015 Deck Trends In Custom Homes

2015 Deck Trends and Porches of Custom Homes

Here are the Deck and Porch Trends of 2015, some of the trends are long running trends that started in previous years and continued into this one. There are other trends that have started more recently and are gaining in popularity.

The planning and design of decks and porches has changed so quickly that you should really take your time and work with a professional so that you don’t waste time and your hard earned money.

Decks and Porches of Custom homes

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

Composite decking continues to be extremely popular with new deck tops. The longevity of the product, the amount of different colours and the many different textures that are available has made it a desirable decking material.

Hidden fasteners are now the norm when installing decking. People like the smooth simple look of no fasteners. The hidden fasteners work by applying the fasteners to the joist and then screwing into the bottom of the decking boards. It’s a little more labour intensive but the look is well worth it.

The structural framing that is assembled to support decks and porches are still mostly pressure treated wood. It is still the most cost effective way to build the structural component and have any sort of longevity.

The foundations of decks and especially porches have changed. In the past normal sauna tubes where used by burying them and then filling them with concrete. Today the trend is to use a “bigfoot” or “footing tube”, these are premade molded plastic forms that you bury in the ground and then fill with concrete. They have a large bell on the bottom of them that create a footing at the bottom, this helps spread the weight of the porch or deck and reduces the likely hood of frost heave in the winter.

Less people are using pressure treated for the topping on the deck. This is a trend that has over the years become the norm.

LED lighting is a normal thing now in decks. You can find the lighting installed in the top of deck posts, the end joists, the stair treads and around the doors that enter and exit the house on to the deck or porch.

Glass railings with metal posts to help increase the view from elevated porches and decks is the most common form of railing when considering any kind of view.

The fastest growing segment of material for the tops of decks has to be torrefied or thermally modified wood. This is a decking that is placed in kilns and dried until there is virtually no moisture left in the wood. It turns the colour of the wood a brown colour and is guaranteed to last a lifetime. No chemicals are needed and there are a variety of woods that you can get it in, your choices include most hardwoods like maple and ash and some soft woods like pine.

The last couple years has seen the evolution of the deck joist, we are now constructing what is called the 100 year deck joist. This is when you wrap the top portion of the deck joist with a waterproofing membrane so that the part of the deck that comes in contact with the most moisture is protected from water penetration.

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

Powered bug screened porches are now on everyone’s must have list for custom homes. This allows a homeowner to at a push of a button have a bug screen lower out of the ceiling so that the outdoors becomes a bit friendlier to be in.

Masonry hand built pizza ovens, Rumford fireplaces and stone patios have become all the rage. Everyone wants to sit outside and relax in front of a real roaring fire during the summer.

Brown pressure treated decking is wanted by more and more people as it resembles cedar (well until it fades to silver after a couple of months).

There are a lot of people that are going back to stone patios instead of wooden decks. The longevity that comes with a stone patio over the wood deck helps justify the higher cost of the stone patio.

Gas fire pits are popping up in decks as people are looking for that excuse to stay outside on their decks longer into the evening and there is nothing that is more of a gathering point then a fire pit.

On larger homes that are on smaller lots architects are having core slabs installed and then having the decks installed above it. This allows the home to have a large outdoor section to entertain but also to have livable space below. This is extremely important when you are living on smaller lots in town where space is at a premium.

Whatever you do for your deck or porch you need to remember that there are new products and techniques that are coming out every year and that working with a professional will ensure that you have access to them.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Value Engineering Your New Home

Value Engineering: A Short History

General Electric introduced value engineering to its factories during WWII. Supply shortages during the war forced GE to get creative to meet wartime demand. To their delight, replacement alloys for steel often led to better production at a reduced cost.
These value-engineering campaigns were so successful that GE continued this approach after the war in their commercial lines. Other industries followed suit, and value engineering made it into the home construction industry in the early 1970s.

Value Engineering when dealing with residential home construction is about the same as any other industry.

When you are building a custom home for a client you are going to want to stepback and take a big picture look at the home and what you and the client are attempting to achieve. You want to make sure that the money you spend in one place will pay itself back in the future either through resale or through savings ie: in energy.

For example;

When constructing your new home your home builder will give you the option to adding more insulation into the building envelope. There are all kinds of ways of doing this and they all come with pro's and con's and also with differing price tags. What you and your building need to decide on is how much more do you want to spend on your insulation to save future money on energy use. If you spend the maximum on insulation then you will be saving the maximum amount of money on energy use going into the future. But because you spend a larger portion of money to install all that extra insulation the time that it will take to be paid back to you will be longer. Some options of insulation are so expensive that you will have to look at recouping your loses decades into the future where spending less on the insulation might have a payback of only 5 or 6 years. It all depends on what you are using for energy (gas, propane, electricity) and how you think the overall price of that energy is going to rise and at what rate. If you heat your home with electricity and you believe that the electricity rate is going to climb significantly then you might want to spend a lot more on insulation so that the return is better on your lowered electricity costs. 

All of these choices need to be decided on before you build the entire home, adding in the type of heating system, the positioning of the house on the property, the material that is used to build the house and quality that it is all done will all come in to play when value engineering your new home.

Make sure that you hire a general contractor that can do this for you and you will be able to balance the spending of monies and the savings of monies well into the future.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

How to brighten up a dark loft

How to brighten up a dark loft

There are three ways to brighten up a dark loft when you want to do it using natural light; it has to be done with windows.

There are three different ways to install windows in a loft to brighten it up;


When you place skylights in the room you allow light into the top of the building envelope, this light filters down from the top of the cathedral ceilings that are prevalent in loft style second floors.

The skylights should be placed facing south if it’s possible, this will maximize the amount of light that can come into the loft.

Skylights should be spaced out in the roof to allow for the proper amount of waterproofing around the skylights.

Enlarge windows in the gable ends

Most loft style windows have there windows in the gable end walls. Usually they are the only windows in the loft. If you were to add more windows in the gable ends or increase the size of the existing windows then more light will be able to filter in.

Depending on the pitch of the roof this will limit your ability to install larger windows. Gable end walls are usually not load bearing walls, this allows you to place larger windows in the gable as they do not have to worry about load bearing points requiring smaller headers.

Roof windows

Velux the skylight manufacturer makes a product called roof windows. They are literally windows that are installed in your roof. They even open like a real window. This gives you light and also ventilation that helps cool down hot lofts.


This is the biggest expense and also the most work but it also is the best way to allow more light into the loft. One of the great things about a dormer is that it also adds livable space in a loft and they are a great place to install window seats or reading corners.

Dormers can be built as high as the peak of the roof will allow you too and you can go as wide as the trusses will allow as well.

Whatever you do you can never go wrong adding more windows to a dark loft area.

Rob Abbott

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Radiant heating radiators in century homes

Radiant heating radiators in century homes

Sometimes the way they used to do things is still the best way to do it. That goes for how they use to heat homes 100 years ago.

I’m not talking about fireplaces; I’m talking about hot water radiators that were placed throughout the home. The modern equivalent of this is still radiators placed throughout the older home, the efficiency, style and the effectiveness of them has increased dramatically.

The way a hot water radiator works is that there is a hot water flash boiler placed in the home, the water is fed to the radiate through water lines. Then the radiator heats up and radiates heat out into the room. It is extremely efficient way to heat a home and it doesn’t involve a lot of destruction to an old home. The radiators can be made to look like the original ones that were used to heat the home or they can be made to look more modern and stylish. The choice is yours.

If you aren’t worried about air movement and air conditioning then hot water heating through radiators could be just what you want for your older home.

The modern equivalent of this in new homes is in-floor radiant heating which instead of using radiators to produce the heat they heat the entire floor below you. The science is basically the same the only difference is that the radiant in-floor gives even heat throughout the entire space.

So when looking to renovate your century home think about heating it with the radiators that used to heat it when it was originally built. The finished product might be just what you wanted.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Can We Put A New Foundation Under Our Cottage?


Our Cottage is on wooden piers, can we put a new foundation under it?


Yes you can. It’s not an easy thing to be done, but it can be done.

A lot of cottages were built on piers or they were built slab on grade. Over the years with the winter frosts the cottage moves up and down. This causes damage to the inside and the outside of the cottage, the level of damage can vary depending on the overall construction of the cottage and the finishes that are used inside and out.

What you are going to have to do is hire a company to jack the cottage up off of its original piers.

This is accomplished by using house jacks and long steel beams that are placed under the cottage.

Once the cottage is suspended above the ground and the existing piers then the existing piers are removed and a perimeter trench is dug around the foundation. It is usually done in sections for safety reasons instead of all at once.

Once you have your trench new footings and foundation walls are installed either using concrete or concrete block (for the walls).

Once everything is installed for your new foundation then the cottage is lowered down on top of the new foundation.

Because of the risk factor this process is not a cheap one, things must be done slowly and carefully to insure that nothing goes wrong so that there is limited damaged to the cottage and any of the workers that are doing the work.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Optimizing The Budget When Renovating Your Home

Optimizing the Budget

The ability to ‘value engineer’ the project is one hallmark of an experienced pro.
Stretching to get the most value for the dollar is a sport we all love to play. This certainly applies to a home remodeling project. It’s not unusual for the homeowners’ vision to be out of sync with the budget. Although this can be discouraging, a professional remodeler can suggest creative solutions that reduce costs while still delivering that vision.

The method for finding these solutions is called ‘value engineering.’ This is really just a fancy term for doing everything in a way that optimizes the return on every dollar—but pulling it off is easier said than done.

One of the differences between a merely competent remodeler and a real pro is the understanding that value engineering is not a random cost-cutting exercise; instead it’s a systematic and thoughtful approach to satisfying the homeowners’ most important needs using the funds they already have.

Items that can be value engineered include the project design as well the materials and products that go into it. The remodeler will scrutinize the plans and specifications (or the homeowners’ concept, if plans haven’t been drawn yet) and suggest alternatives that lower costs while maintaining quality.

The goal is to support the homeowners to make informed choices.

Most people only understand these types of tradeoffs in broad terms. They know that granite countertops and solid wood cabinets will cost more than laminate counters and wood veneer. But obvious contrasts like that aren’t what we’re talking about.

Real value engineering is more subtle. It’s not unusual to be able to shave thousands of dollars off the budget for a big remodeling project by making a lot of small adjustments that only minimally impact the way the new space looks and feels—if you know how to do it right.

How does the remodeler know where to make those adjustments?

By asking the right questions in the right way, identifying patterns in the answers, and reading between the lines. A remodeler who is good at this can often uncover priorities that the homeowners weren’t able to articulate. Solutions can then be tailored to those priorities.

For instance, it may become clear that some spaces can be altered while others can’t. If the homeowners have more enthusiasm about the master suite than the kitchen, they might be amenable to less-expensive fixtures in the kitchen but not in the bath. Where substitutions must be made, the trick is in knowing which lower-cost materials and design features will deliver the needed performance, aesthetic, or warranty features, but without increasing maintenance costs or reducing the home’s longevity.

If the project is an addition, value engineering may include reducing exterior wall space by simplifying the facade. Exterior walls cost a lot more to build than interior walls, so a facade with fewer corners, nooks, and crannies will require less materials and labor. Changes could be as simple as moving windows or doors a few inches to eliminate framing members, or as complex as adjusting the footprint of the new space to make more efficient use of materials.

It can even mean working with subcontractors to rethink pipe, wire, and duct runs. In fact, good value engineering is a team effort, and a good team of subcontractors will be accustomed to helping make it work.

Remodelers who do this well are able to draw on deep design and construction experience, solid business processes, and very good people. Those attributes are, of course, the hallmarks of a pro.

Warm Regards,

Doug Abbott
Village Builders

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Can I install radiant heating in my older home?


I’m renovating an older home, can I install radiant heating on the first and second floors of the home?


Yes you can install radiant in-floor heating on the first and second floors of your home when you are renovating it. There are many things that you will have to do before you can do this though, to do this you should be doing a very large renovation to the home. Radiant heating is basically water lines that are placed on top of your sub-floor and then are covered in a “gypcrete” which is a type of concrete.

Usually the gypcrete is about 1.5 inches thick. There is a brief list of the things that you will have to do to the home so that you can install radiant in-floor heating in to it;

You will have to completely remove the existing flooring regardless if it’s wood, tile or carpet from anywhere the radiant heat is going to be placed.

You are going to have to make sure that the floor joist are strong enough to take the extra weight that comes with installing a inch and a half of gypcrete over the heat lines.

You will have to remove all the trim that is near the floor. Baseboards and door trim will have to be removed to get a smooth finish.

You will have to remove all interior doors that will be in the way. When they are reinstalled they will either have to be cut down by 1.5 inches or the whole framing of the door will have to be moved up.

You will have to remove drywall in certain areas of the home to install manifolds in the walls and also to install the thermostats that run the system.

There will have to be holes made in walls and wall plates so that the piping can come from the basement (usually where the boiler is placed) to feed the upper floors with heat.

Any hole in the sub-floor from anything like old wiring or old plumbing that was moved must be plugged or the gypcrete will leak through.

You will have to install wood barriers at certain area’s like at the top of the stairs to create an edge where the gypcrete will stop.

The installation of the piping and the gypcrete should be installed by qualified professionals that are experienced in this field of work, if this isn’t done right it can cost you a lot of money and wasted time.

After the in-floor piping has been installed and the gypcrete as well on top of it then you will be able to install your flooring and all your trim. You will probably have to repaint the walls as well because gypcreting can be a messy business and your walls will be a little dirty from workers touching it or leaning on it while they are doing the installation.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

How Will Zoning And Deed Restrictions Affect My Renovation Project?


How will zoning and deed restrictions affect the project?


The answer is that they can cause major headaches for people who don't take the time to understand them beforehand.

 Restrictions can be imposed by local government agencies (zoning boards and design committees, for instance) or by a homeowner associations. These restrictions can include setbacks (how far the home must be from the property line), height restrictions (these can restrict not only the overall height of your home but the amount of stories that you are allowed to build above the ground or grade line) and in some instances it can even restrict what finishes can be used on the house. Other restrictions can have an effect on the actual work that is to be done; there are places that have heavy restrictions on when workers can be on the site, how much noise they are allowed to make and what type of vehicles area allowed on the streets. In some places you are not allowed to leave trailers or material in driveways overnight and also the place must appear every weekend to not be a construction site at all.

A professional remodeler should be familiar with the local restrictions and be able to successfully navigate this mass of red tape. If they are not able to then they could end up in a scenario where there projects are delayed or even stopped.

Make sure that the contractor that you are hiring for your renovation understands all of these rules and regulations and can successfully navigate through them without a lot of hassle.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.