Apples to Apples: Comparing Home Improvement Project Estimates Gets Peachy Results

Comparing apples to apples, it’s a phrase that comes up regularly on both sides of the buying and selling opportunity. Here we’ll look at it in terms of the home improvement market, but the thinking applies from chicken coop to opera house—if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. And doing it well has everything to do with the earliest stages of a project: the planning and the pricing.  Continue reading

To Permit or Not to Permit: Is This the Question?

Whether you know it or not, most areas in Canada require a permit for new construction and structural repairs. Curiously, as builders and restorers, we’ve found that the first question that comes up in a discussion of building permits with homeowners is not the cost of, or necessity for, a permit. It is, instead, whether homeowners agree with the process of obtaining a permit for work taking place on their own homes. Continue reading

Building Addition Roofs: Thinking From The Top Down To Ensure Headroom

Adding a room onto an existing home is probably the most cost effective way to increase a building’s usable interior space. In this article, an addition means what a colleague calls a “three sided” addition. This phrase intends to avoid confusion with other sorts of home additions such as raising a building to create a new ground level space, or raising the roof to create a story between a ground level space and a roof area. The three sided addition means that the new and existing building will share an interior wall. Continue reading

How to Add a Hot Tub to a Sundeck

Although they may increase property value, the main reason to build a deck is leisure; sundecks are about creating a space for family and friends to make the most of leisure time in the great outdoors. And one of the best ways to maximise this leisure potential is to include a hot tub in your deck plans. In my opinion, there is no experience so grand as the opportunity to soak in a pool of warm water while staring up at the night sky, sipping a glass of wine, enjoying good company. Continue reading

Construction Drawings: This All-important Map for Building Projects Starts With Sketches

Most people wouldn’t dream of traveling somewhere they’ve never been before without a map. Why? Because not having directions is the best way to get lost. The same is true in building. Construction drawings are the “map” homeowners and builders need to show the best route to where they’re going with a project. And anyone with a pencil, paper, and a dot of imagination can get a building idea rolling. Continue reading

Contractor Down: How to Ensure Great Contractor/Homeowner Relations

Some believe that an “honest contractor” is a contradiction in terms. As a contractor, I have and continue to run head on into the occasionally correct belief that the chief contractors’ aim is to do as little as possible for as much money as possible. An operative for our design/build company jokes that whenever a contractor trips or otherwise falters on the rocky ground of the jobsite, a broad cry of “Contractor Down!” echoes loudly throughout the community, attracting disgruntled homeowners from near and far, who waste no time in coming to kick that contractor while they can do so easily. Continue reading

Deck Design and Leisure Time: Designing and Building a Custom Deck That Works

Most sundecks beyond the simple BBQ deck included with many homes will be custom additions to an existing structure. And like most custom building projects, the more thought you put in, the better the result. This means your new sundeck doesn’t begin with the first nail, but instead, with the first pencil line made in your sketchbook. Continue reading

Taking the Time to Tamp: How to Start Buildings Off On a Sound Footing

When it comes to structural building projects, I don’t have many pet peeves. Most conventional wood-frame structures feature tried and true building practices that will stand up well to most environmental stresses short of severe quakes and tsunamis. Good materials well braced and supported are generally sufficient, even when used by less experienced builders. If there is an area of neglect, it is that many builders, professional and amateur alike, often forget that a substrate – the ground – is also a building material. Continue reading