Key trades involved in planning is very productive.

We get key trade contractors involved in planning as early on as possible. Last week we met with a couple who wanted to replace their en-suite soaker tub with a large shower. In looking around, the Tile contractor said to the Clients, "Your en-suite fixtures and finishes look fairly new, maybe 10 years old? But, the guest bathroom looks 30 years old, so what about remodeling it instead? Take out that steel tub and put your shower in there?" 

And, that is what we are doing. This will bring the Clients' home more up-to-date overall. Plus, the space under the guest room is unfinished making it much easier to plumb than the en-suite which is over a finished space. This shows that having trades in early can be fun, plus very wise. 

Getting those unique materials and getting them installed.

We truly enjoy the challenges our clients come up with, such as: importing hot water radiators from Italy; wool carpets from New Zealand, and hand made tiles from a little island off the coast of Mexico. We have learned how to deal with customs, getting one-off items CSA approved, and even having missing plumbing fixture parts custom made here. Unique needs; bring them on!

Stephen Lentz

Traditional Design Process Results in Double the Budget.

We recently met a very upset couple who had taken the traditional design-bid-build approach. After months in design and paying over $40,000 in design fees, they received 'working drawings' which they took to market, getting contractor quotes that were more than double their stated budget of $300,000. Now the designer was going to charge them further design fees to rework the plans to get costs down.

In the design phase, we bring key trade contractors, experienced experts, into the process at the earliest opportunity. This brings realism into the planning process, so you can make informed decisions - earlier rather than later.

Stephen Lentz

You can not afford a free quote!

Yesterday, I met with James Latham, Capital City Construction to discuss new developments in general contracting and how they serve homeowners.  We found that a repeated theme was how much up front work, such as planning, estimating and design concepts, are expected to be free. Free because, the homeowner can only commit to the next step of process once it has been 'figured out.' A new concept is the Agreement for Preliminary Work which sets out the preliminary services the contractor will supply with a fee for these services. We agree this is a great way to go because the owner gets valuable information from an expert to make decisions on how to proceed and the contractor gets paid for his assistance which goes a long way to his/her truly looking out for the owner's best interests.

Learning how important it is to keep the homeowner informed.

At a job meeting the heating contractor who was replacing the boiler and piping informed us that he had not included the removal of the existing boiler or steel piping in his quote.  After the meeting, the contractor and I went to the basement and looking at the pipes and boiler, the contractor suggested that he could, at no charge, include cutting the old system into lengths which one of my men could take to the recycle and the metal would probably bring enough money to cover our labour costs, thereby no cost increase to the owners.

Later, one of the owners confided that she was disappointed I had not fought for her on the piping removal issue.  A light went on for me!

From experience, I found that going head to head with specialty contractors is not productive. Now, I privately discuss issues with the contractor, asking questions instead of making demands - asking for help. The contractor invariably comes up with an excellent solution in minutes if not seconds. From now on I plan to get news of specialty contractor solutions to the owner ASAP so that the contractor receives appreciation and also the owner will increasingly come to trust getting solutions with peacible, face-saving methods.

Stephen Lentz, general contracting over twenty years and still learning!

Why are there, what are, General Contractors?

As you may know, it takes multiple specialty contractors and multiple suppliers for even a modest renovation. It benefits all these entities to closely work together, however they are not in the same organization. There is no coordinating mechanism. The general contracting firm brings everyone together under one organizational umbrella enabling overall co-ordination to everyone's benefit.

Alpine Spray Foam says their foam is safe

There has been some concern  ....

If you read nothing else, simply understand that Alpine is the only Victoria based company that is a Canadian Urethane Foam Contractor Association (CUFCA) member and as such:

·         uses a CUFCA certified foam 

·         has third party trained CUFCA spray technicians

·         follows a rigid third party administered quality assurance program (which includes training, product, and application standards, daily work documentation and ongoing technician competency testing.), and,

·         has a third party warranty over their work

 This level of compliance and responsibility increases our costs; however, we know that it is important, which is why we have been CUFCA members and have been following these protocols for years - long before any TV show aired. 

 When it comes to spray foam, we are different from our competitors ....

David Lewis & John Ingham

Alpine Insulation Ltd./Island Sprayfoam


The Constructo Way: collaborative design and construction

When starting in business doing home renovations, my clients would ask advice on design decisions they were struggling with. Over time, I developed some design sense, the main sense being respect for design professionals, which led me to begin recommending a design consultant. Invariably, my client would respond that they did not want someone 'taking over’; but wanted to use their own design sense. This left me struggling to provide the level and quality of design support my clients wanted, while not 'taking over.'

Meanwhile, municipal bylaws and building codes became significantly more demanding in response to leaky condo lawsuits, new rules to insure clean air, increased energy efficiency and seismic strengthening measures. Hence the planning and design work for each project has became increasingly demanding, to the point where getting each job organized and ready for the construction is a major undertaking.

With all these factors at play, I began looking for a better ‘delivery model.’  My solution, which may always be a work in progress, is a collaborative design and construction approach. This means bringing in key design and specialty contractors as early in the process as possible, and together listening closely to the client and to each other as well, and, all together, creating a built environment that meets our client's needs and all the regulations.


What is a professional renovator?

From Canadian Home Builders Association

Hiring a professional renovator is your best assurance that you will get the results you want and the best value for your money.

A professional renovator is a general contractor, sometimes referred to as a renovation contractor, who can put your whole project together. The renovator will assume complete responsibility for the work contracted and give you a warranty once it's completed.

·         A professional renovator has an extensive business network of suppliers, trades, installers and experts that they draw on as required for your project.

·         A professional renovator understands the technical aspects of construction in detail and knows how houses work. They can assess your project and explain what is involved, as well as identify potential problems and provide solutions.

·         If your project requires design services, your contractor can advise you on the most suitable approach and recommend a design professional. Design-build renovators offer both design and construction services, and you may hire them for one service or both. Alternatively, professional renovators are also experienced in working with architect's drawings.

·         A professional renovator has extensive knowledge and experience with the latest products and materials. They keep up-to-date and can help you make the selections that will work best for your project and budget.

·         Professional renovators are familiar with the regulations and bylaws in your community and how the system works. When needed, they can look after permits and inspections on your behalf.

·         Professional renovators can work with you on the financial aspects of your renovation. They know what things cost and can help you set a realistic budget to achieve your renovation goals. And they know how to stretch your budget without compromising quality.

·         A professional renovator ALWAYS uses a written contract that clearly describes the work, materials to be used, timelines, price, responsibilities of both parties and other details as appropriate.

·         A professional renovator knows how to organize and manage a project-scheduling workers, trades and delivery of materials; keeping track of expenses; maintaining a clean and safe work site; and minimizing the inconvenience to you. When necessary, they know how to deal with the unexpected and the surprises that sometimes occur in renovation.

·         Most importantly, professional renovators put their customers first. They listen carefully so they know what you want. They provide you with names of previous customers so you can check out the company's track record yourself. They explain the process so you know what to expect, and once the work begins they give you regular updates so you always know what's going on. They also encourage you to voice any questions or concerns you may have as the work progresses. In brief, they work for you and with you to make sure that you are satisfied and happy with the final results.

New BC building code

Homeowners thinking about doing major renovations on their home will need to consider the new building code for British Columbia, which recently came into effect. Significant changes include increased seismic, hazardous material, energy efficiency and air quality requirements. Read More