Saturday, September 30, 2017

Cottage Renovations Can Be Like Pealing An Onion

When you are renovating an old cottage a lot of the time you have to start by pealing back the layers like an onion before you are able to get to a point where you can start putting it back together.

In old cottages there are usually half a dozen renovations over the years that have happened, so of the renovations could have been done properly, but a lot of the renovations where done by people with small budgets and limited knowledge of what they were doing.

The last renovations are the kind that are considered cosmetic and happen over and over again in cottages just to make the place livable, workable and a little more enjoyable.

These renovations pile one on top of the other until there is no way to know what is behind the wall coverings or the drop ceilings. What makes it worse is that the cost to remove all the layers rises for every time some renovated it cosmetically. This increased cost and scale of job can be a road block to a lot of cottage owners as it becomes to big a job to think about and to large a cost to pay for.

What usually ends up happening is that the renovations finally get done when the cottage is sold to another party who has put it in their budget to renovate and restore or the cottage gets transferred to the next generation in the family that comes in with fresh ideas and want and need to fix the cottage up to make it more habitable.

When planning the renovations with your contractor you have to leave some wiggle room with your design, the contractor will have be given a little freedom to do as he thinks best because as they peal back the layers the plan for what is to happen can change slightly.

A lot of the time when contractors start demolition they find things hidden behind walls and ceilings that require fixing or repairing. One of the big things that ends up happening is that we find there is a lack of insulation or the insulation that was there is damaged or outdated. Rooms can be come slightly smaller when you have to add insulation to the outside walls and more studs are needed or the ceiling needs to be built done to accommodate spray foam on the roof.

This is your cottage and chances are you will not be around for a lot of the work because you live somewhere else and you really don't want to be there for all the noise and dust that a renovation causes anyways. So you will have to trust your contractor will do the right thing, you can still have input into the renovation as your contractor can send you pictures and emails but a lot of what happens when it comes to what is behind the walls and ceilings your contractor will have to use their best judgement.

Remember that you hired your contractor because you trusted them, so let them do their jobs and fix your old cottage. If you don't trust them, well that's another blog for another time....

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Is Your New Cottage Addition Below The High Water Mark?

Are you planning to build an addition on your lake front cottage?

Well depending on where you are and how high above the water you are you might be surprised at some of the restrictions that you will have on the design of the building.

One of the big restrictions is the distance your current cottage is from the high water mark. 

What is the high water mark? The high water mark is an elevation that building departments use that assumes the highest point the water has risen in the body of water that your cottage is located on. That level could have happened last year or 100 years ago.

The point of the high water mark is that they want all structures built behind that mark so that if the water was to rise then it would not swamp the house. (as long as it never rises above the high water mark that is).

New builds are affected because you have to build far enough back to be behind it or build up to end up above in low lying areas.

But with an addition they can't make you move your whole cottage back or out of the way and so they can't make you move your addition up or away. What they can do is have certain restrictions on how you design the addition and the openings in that addition.

One of the big ones is that you cannot have any openings within a certain distance of the high water mark. That means no access to crawlspaces, no doors and all your windows will be forced to be a certain height off the floor.

Another thing that you will have to do is have an engineered grading plan, this will show the existing cottage, the new addition and the elevation and slope to the entire property.

This is important in that it confirms that there will be positive drainage away from the cottage and its new addition. This helps to ensure that there will not be water damage to the new addition every time it rains.

Just because you have no openings that are below the high water mark doesn't guarantee that you will not have a flood if the water in the lake rises to the high water mark, it does how ever give you a fighting chance if there is wind blown waves that rise up and strike the cottage.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Should I Water Proof The Foundation When I Raise The Grade On My House?

A reader of my blog asked me a question the other day and I thought it was worth writing about.

The question was as follows;

"I am raising the grade on one side of my house, do I really need to extend the waterproofing up that side of the building? The grade will have good slope away from the house."

The simple answer is yes you should, you should always waterproof foundation walls below grade even though you don't think that there will be a lot of water in the ground.

Adding a waterproofing to the wall like a blueskin or something else is not that expensive and in small area's can be done by yourself or a contractor that is doing the raising of the grade. All that you have to do is the following;

  • Makes sure you clean the foundation wall of any dirt, rocks or mildue. The adhesive on the back of waterproofing needs clean surfaces to stick too.
  • Make sure the foundation wall is dry, better adhesion for the waterproofing.
  • You can add a dimple board in front to give the waterproofing some protection from rocks and debris.
When your contractor back fills over the waterproofing makes sure there aren't any large stones or stumps that will be pushing on the foundation. This can damage the waterproofing.

The reason that you should waterproof the are isn't just to stop any kind of flooding into your foundation its also to keep all the moisture out of the foundation. When water saturates either block or concrete overtime it will start to break down the foundation, especially with freezing and thawing. This will crack and shift the foundation until it starts to crumple and then you are into a big repair bill.

A little bit of waterproofing goes a long way.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Do Not Trust The Custom Home Builder Who Has The Lowest Price

If you are looking to build a custom home, be prepared to spend money.

I know that sounds like an obvious statement but to a lot of people when they start looking around for a custom home they aren't looking to spend a lot of money they are looking for that one custom home builder that will give them a deal. A deal that will allow them to build their dream home, put everything they ever wanted into it and still be within their limited financial means.

This is called shopping for the builder, this is a really bad idea.

There's nothing wrong with looking at several builders to build your custom home, but if one of your sole purposes in interviewing builders is how much they are going to charge you to build the house then your setting yourself up for failure.

If your budget is so tight or so small that you have to shop around to find that limited few builders that you can afford then there's a several things that you need to realize right away;

  1. Your budget is too small for what you want to build. When you budget for your custom home you should have at least 15 percent more money's then you need above the budget. This is for contingency.
  2. Construction of homes has a lot of standard costs, so a builder being a lot cheaper then his competitor is a major red flag. The finishing of the home is were most of the costs vary, the finishing's are the one thing that you control. If you are having trouble fitting the house in your budget then downgrade the finishing's.
  3. You get what you pay for. A builder that is going to be cheaper then everyone else is going to have cheap labour. Cheap labour does cheap work, its just a fact. A builder who is cheap will have a very poorly run job and very poor fit and finish.
  4. Maybe you can't afford to build a custom home. Not everyone can afford to build a custom home its just a fact. Better you come to that realization now then later when your house is half finished and your looking at bankruptcy.
Custom home builders build homes because it's their business, its how they feed their children, that means that they want to make money when they do it. If they are charging too little then they aren't making money, there are several reasons why they are not charging enough and none of them are good;
  • They don't understand the real cost of building your home. Custom homes all cost differently because they are custom. They might not understand how to properly budget a custom home.
  • They never planned to stick to the budget. They only gave you one to get you to sign a contract.
  • If they aren't charging enough then they probably are not financially stable as a company or in life. That means that they will have money problems which will affect how your home gets built and who they hire to work on your home.
  • They will already be in trouble for other builds that they did, either financial trouble or legal trouble.
When you look at a budget from a builder and its to good to be true, then it is. Walk away. It isn't hard to find legitimate builders that have solid reputations, do your research and don't be in a hurry. And whatever you do, DO NOT HIRE A BUILDER BASED ON THEIR LOW PRICES.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.