Get It In Writing

Let me start with a true story. I met a lady selling a lot and she started to share her story. Their plan was to subdivide, build a custom home on the one side and sell the other lot to pay for the cost of building their dream home. They would be mortgage free and could coast into retirement. A wonderful plan; one we would all like.

They found a contractor who had solid references and had many years in the industry. He was the kind of man who was a man of his word and his word was his bond.

To the homeowners, he was a remarkable find. He charged less than other contractors. In addition, they could save additional money since he was willing to do cash deals, and was willing to deceptively build the home under the owner builder exemption and save the 2/5/10 warranty fees. By hiring this experienced, character contractor, they would receive a quality house for less money. Who wouldn’t like that.

Sadly, the story did not end well. When I met her, the house was 85% complete and they had moved into the home. They had fired the contractor and were finishing it themselves. They had given him several hundred thousand dollars but he could account for a little over one hundred thousand dollars. There was no record of cash purchases. Sub trades and suppliers were knocking on their door and asking to be paid. Explaining that they paid the builder did not sit well and they received numerous liens. Lawyers fees were quickly climbing. In the end, they didn’t save any money, they had no warranty, hated the build and they didn’t sleep at night.

Is the risk worth the cost savings? We all look for value and want the most quality for the least amount of money. Price is important.

What competitive advantage does a professional builder have when they have already lost on price?

There is good news.

Protect yourself from inexperienced or unscrupulous contractors by getting it in writing. Demand to see the following seven items: budget, contract, permits, schedule, specifications, warranty and insurance.

A quality builder will build your home in such a way to protect you by providing those seven required items. Let’s look at each of those areas in a little more detail.

1.Budget
Whether it be a fixed price contract or a cost plus contract, keeping track of costs and change orders is critical. An experienced builder with solid business systems will be able to track costs and change orders so that you always know where you stand financially.

2.Contracts
The contract sets the parameters for the build and details your agreement. In the event the relationship goes sour, lawyers can quickly assess responsibility making it less expensive to resolve. And who doesn’t want to save money.

3.Permits
Your work will be done under city permit and inspections. In the event you sell your home, you will need to declare any improvements. If not done with a permit, it will not only hurt your selling price but you may be liable if something goes wrong.

4.Schedule
An experienced builder will give you a schedule so that you know when to make decisions. You can track the progress of the build and plan your move in date.

5.Specifications
There should be no question about the specifications for your home. You will not enter a build and start to notice inferior materials on your home.

6.Warranty
When you have your home built you will receive a 2/5/10 warranty. One year on everything; That will cover nail pops, floor squeaks, smells, and the like. You will receive 2 years on mechanical, 5 years on the building envelope or water ingress and 10 years on structural.

7.Insurance
A professional builder will have commercial general liability insurance, course of construction insurance and Worksafe insurance. In addition, he will make sure his sub-trades have the appropriate insurance. You could be liable if there is an injury on site and the builder or sub-trade does not have insurance.

Before I close, I would like to share a story.

Farmer Fred was looking for a farmhand to help with the chores. He interviewed several young men. He asked them why he should hire them. One of the young men replied, “You should hire me because I can sleep at night.” Farmer Fred ended up hiring this young man and was always stuck by his answer, “I can sleep at night”

Several months later Farmer Fred was woken up by thunder and lightning and a gale force wind. He ran to the barn to check on the animals. The cows were securely tied up in their stalls. The chickens were calmly perched on their roost. The tractor was parked in the barn. The pasture fence was securely fastened as was the barn door. Lastly, the farmer checked in on his helper who was fast asleep and it was then the farmer understood what the young man meant when he said that he could sleep at night.

Let me finish with a second couple who also built a house. They found a builder who was a member of their local home builder association. The builder presented a budget, contract, permits, schedule, specifications, warranty and insurance. They also received weekly financial reports, daily updates on the progress of the build and a warranty.

The couple went shopping every day, loved the build process and slept every night.

The Perfect Wall

Your choice of wall assembly will not only affect the energy efficiency and the longevity of your home but will also affect the air quality through the presence of moisture and mould in your wall. A small investment into this wall assembly will provide benefits to not only the operating costs but more importantly the air quality and longevity of your home.

The wall assembly is comprised of the cladding, framing structure, insulation and air/vapour barrier. When considering the best wall assembly for your home the following issues need to be addressed: how do you prevent water from getting in, how do you keep air from getting out, how do you establish insulation levels as high as possible and how do you construct the wall assembly to increase its ability to dry out in the event water gets in?

One challenge of our traditional wall assembly is that almost ¼ of the wall is comprised of wood that has an R-value of 1.5/inch thus degrading the effectiveness of the R-value of the wall. This leaves only ¾ of the wall to shove our insulation into. The framing lumber acts as a thermal bridge. Since we are limited by how much insulation we can shove between the wood studs, the next generation of wall assemblies will involve moving insulation to the outside of the wall. This will greatly reduce the thermal bridging and moisture in the wall assembly whilst increasing the energy efficiency, longevity and health of the home.

Most of us are familiar with the poly plastic sheeting placed between the insulation and the drywall. This traditional approach has the poly performing two functions: the air barrier and the vapour barrier. Unfortunately, this poly can trap moisture inside the wall assembly. A better approach would be to move the air barrier to the outside of the home sandwiched between the plywood sheathing and exterior rigid insulation. Removing the poly will allow any moisture that penetrates the wall assembly to dry to either the interior or exterior. Since moisture promotes mould, a wall assembly that remains dry will be healthier for its occupants. Cutting edge builders embrace positive change.

Joe Lstiburek a world-renowned building science expert has coined this wall, the “Perfect Wall.” Any builder familiar with building science will be able to advise you on the best wall assembly for your current and future needs.

vapor

dry foundation

8 Steps To Achieve a Dry Basement

by Larry Clay

Case Study
I met with homeowners this week whose home had water coming into their basement. They were stressed from the potential costs and inconvenience to their life. Remediation after the fact would be exorbitant.

This home was typical of many homes where the builder’s only goal was to pass inspection, build to code and make money. Building to code is the lowest level of construction you can legally build in Canada. This is a minimum standard.

8 Steps to Success
Below are eight procedures completed on the exterior of a home to prevent water from entering the basement. Ideally, this is done during construction.

  1. The footings must be placed on a healthy bed of free draining crushed rock. This allows for ground water to make its way to the drainage piping around the perimeter of the foundation. Secondly, it keeps water from wicking up to the concrete foundation.
  2. Use superior PVC perforated drainage pipes. They cost a little more but in the event of a blockage, they can be snaked and cleaned. Big O drainage piping should never be used. In fact, some municipalities have banned the use of Big O drainage piping.
  3. The foundation is sprayed with a dampproofing asphalt. A thicker water proofing spray is better. A superseal drainage mat is placed over the asphalt spray. Backfill material will butt up to the drainage mat. In the event water gets past the dimpled membrane mat it will flow freely down to the drainage pipes.
  4. For builders, it is cheapest to backfill with the native material from the site. This is often unsuitable material. Material that is not free draining will not allow water to flow down to the drainpipes sitting at the bottom of the foundation. Often we need to import free draining material like crushed rock or gravel.
  5. Lot grading must take water away from the house.
  6. Gutter downpipes should never deposit water at the foundation. You may run the downpipes into solid PVC pipes and take the rainwater into the city storm if allowed by your city. Alternatively, you may run the downpipes into a large rock pit located away from the foundation. If site conditions allow, you may be able to run down pipes into a ditch or gulley if slope allows.
  7. Driveways and sidewalks must not guide water towards the house. In the event the house is lower than the road, trench drains must be installed to transfer water away from the house.
  8. Landscaping must not impede the flow of water away from the house.

Doing It Right From The Start
While a house is under construction, there are a number of upgrades that will potentially save thousands of dollars in the event of a wet basement. Penny wise, pound-foolish. Most of us cannot afford the maintenance and remediation costs of a poorly built house. Smart and strategic spending on the construction of your house will ensure a healthy, efficient and solid home built for the generations.

Clay Construction team at BC Georgie Awards

2014 Customer Choice Georgie Award Winner

Customer Choice Georgie Awards® Powered by AVID™

Clay Construction is very pleased to announce that we have won the much coveted Customer Choice Georgie Award. This Grand Georgie was presented just this week (27/02/15) at the Canadian Home Builders Association of BC’s award gala. Chosen through a recognized program of Avid Ratings Canada, builders were rated solely by homeowners, measuring customer experience and loyalty.

Customer Satisfaction Award
Just to be a finalist for this award a builder must rate in the top 25% nationwide on customer feedback surveys. Award winners represent the best of the best with the highest satisfaction ratings amongst builders. All aspects of the homebuilding process were considered from construction to warranty service experience.

Thank you
We are grateful to the homeowners and community for their recognition of our work. This award truly represents what Clay Construction strives to accomplish – building quality homes with integrity. We are proud of our team for their enthusiasm, hard work, high standards and ability to really engage with our clients.

2013 Best Custom Home Builder
The CHBA BC’s Georgie Awards® program began in 1992 with the desire to recognize excellence in the home building industry. In previous years, we have been honoured with many Georgie awards including last year’s 2013 Best Custom Home Builder in BC. Learn more about all our awards on our award page.

More Information
For more about the Avid Ratings system and the Georgie Awards®, visit CHBA BC

Larry Clay at the Georgie Awards

Georgie Awards Winner

Georgie Awards come in all sizes with 45 categories ranging from best renovation under $100,000 to the best overall builder in the province. These awards, bestowed by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of British Columbia (CHBA), reflect the dedication of the winner to have done their best whether the job was big or small.

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