Building New Guide
New Homes and Duplexes
This popular three bedroom home design (28' x 42') features an open
concept living room, dining room and kitchen, gleaming hardwood floors,
custom pine trim. The poured concrete porch forms the roof of
a 8' x 42' storage area off the main basement.
Sandstone brick keeps out winter's cold and buffers summer's
The textured vinyl siding on this duplex give it a unique look.
Each three bedroom unit features hardwood floors, two and a half baths,
and patio doors opening onto separate decks. The decks were built
on opposite sides to provide privacy for backyard barbeques and hammock
Canada Housing and
Mortgage Corporation (Ontario)
New Housing Rebate (Revenue Canada)
Workplace Safety and
a New Home
There are many things to consider when
starting the building process. Often it is impossible to complete
one step without thinking about the steps ahead, but
jumping ahead can lead to costly errors and painful assumptions. It
takes time and patience, so take it slow.
Choosing the Site
to picking decor colours, this is probably the most exciting
step. Whether you choose property in an urban or rural setting,
will be determined by your family's preferences and lifestyle.
From a builder's point of view, building in urban
areas means less work in terms of water and septic. Homes in
urban areas connect to existing water and septic systems. Gas,
electric, telephone and cable connections are also close by.
Though property values tend to be lower in rural areas,
servicing costs become more expensive as you move away from main
roads. Check with the municipality's building inspector to
determine whether lot levies or development charges will apply.
Also determine the approximate costs of extending roadways and winter
maintainence before committing to the purchase.
costs to consider are:
- Well drilling
- Septic system installation
- Installation of culvert and driveway
- Installing hydro poles, transformer, and additional
cable if necessary to the property
- Installing telephone cable
- Extending gas lines (if available)
waterfront properties, always check with the building inspector before
buying. By-laws and provincial regulations affecting the location
of buildings (in relation to waterfront), flood zones, and the water
table can add thousands of dollars to a project. In many case the
property will need to be back filled in order to keep the basement
dry. It's always best to know this beforehand.
Property insurances are also a consideration. Prior
to purchasing the property, contact your agent to discuss what, if any,
effect proximity to the water will have on coverages.
Contacting your agent at the start of your property
search will give you an idea of what costs will be involved in the
building and later insuring of your home. The basic insurances
you'll need are: fire and windstorm for the building process.
(Builder's insurance rarely covers this) and coverage on the completed
home. Distances from water sources and the fire department can
affect the premium you'll pay.
Some insurers are skittish when it comes to wood heating
appliances. Check with your agent to avoid unpleasant surprises
if you are planning to install a wood burning device as a heat source.
Check to determine if you need additional liability
insurance to cover workers and guests that may visit the site.
Tort laws hold the property owner responsible for ensuring the property
is hazard free, to prevent injury to innocent parties such as
children. New home builds are a magnet for the curious.
If you are planning to act as your own contractor, you are
required to cover workers on your site. The Workplace Safety and
Insurance Board website has everything you need to know about temporary
Protect yourself by requiring that your builder and sub trades provide
certificates of coverage.
You should also request certificates of private liability insurance and
of personal injury insurance if the contractor or business owner is not
covered under their WSIB insurance.
Tarion Insurance, formerly the New Home Warranty Program,
requires all Ontario builders
of new homes to carry this insurance. It is meant to protect new
home owners. The website: www.tarion.com/home/
has several excellent resources for homeowners whether you are hiring a
contractor or planning to DIY. You can also download a copy of
the Construction Performance Guidelines. The guidelines provide
information about what warrrantees are mandatory and the length of time
each warrantee remains in effect.
Arranging Financing and
Most banks offer a pre approval tool available on line or
by contacting your banking representative. Pre approval should be
considered a guideline only. Approval of the actual amount will
be determined by the home and location, as well as your financial state
at start time.
Financing your new home is three part. The first
financing is a construction mortgage, the second is a line of
credit. Both of these are converted to a regular home mortgage
after the completion and final inspection of the build. Unlike regular
mortgages, construction mortgages do not pay out in a lump sum or upon
presentation of an invoice.
The lender's concern is primarily what the property resale
value would be (at a particular point in time) if foreclosure is
necessary. Each stage of construction is rated with a percentage of
payout. Well, septic, and basements are generally rated at
0%. This means, 0% of the total mortgage is paid out upon
completion of these steps.
This presents a quandary for the property owner since the
contractor and subtrades will expect to be paid on schedule. For
subtrades, this means after each stage is complete.
The stages are generally:
Builder's are required to allow a 10% lien holdback on any building
- 5% downpayment (optional with builders);
- 45% after rough-in inspection (2-3 weeks after
- 40% at completion (4-6 weeks after
- 10% within 30 days of completion.
Therefore, at the rough-in stage for a home with a
construction mortgage of $100,000, you would be expected to payout up
to $50,000 (50%).
The bank will extend approximately $35,000(35%) at this point,
creating a shortfall of $15,000 (15%).
A credit line of 20% or more of the construction
mortgage is essential to cover these shortfalls and reduce headaches.
This is the most
commonly overlooked step in building and the most important step in
ensuring that your home has an adequate supply of potable water.
It also determines where you situate the house both in terms of lot
location and where the kitchen, bath and laundry facilities are
located. To minimize costs, these rooms are generally located on
the same side of the house and closest to the well.
Well drillers use topographical maps to guesstimate how
deep they may have to drill. Canvas the owners of neighbouring
properties to get an idea of how deep their wells are sunk and of the
quality of water. Bear in mind that the depth of a well depends
entirely on the availability of underground rivers and
reservoirs. Even if you find a good vein, it may not be
potable. In this case the driller will try again.
Estimates on drilling are next to impossible to pinpoint
since drilling is part science and part luck. Industry averages are
about $20-$25 per foot. The average well is approximately150'
deep. Therefore, a cost of $2000 is not unusual and can run as
high as $5000. This is where that extra line of credit comes in
An average of 2 gallons per minute is necessary to supply
the average household. If you're planning on installing a water
furnace, you'll need a rate of 6 gallons per minute for the unit to
Designing the Home
With the staggering
array of homes to choose from and the number of different approaches,
you will want to consider what style of house suits your current
lifestyle and budget, then consider your future plans.
approach you choose mainly depends on the amount of time and experience
you have to commit to the project and, on the degree of control you
wish to have over the project.
- Hiring an architect and or designer
- Ordering prepared plans
(available from store and on-line catalogs)
- Ordering a package from a home
Open concept homes offer the most flexibility in terms of
room usuage, but can be limiting when comes to future additions.
Grow homes offer the best flexibility if you anticipate
needing more space in the future.
In this time of rising fuel prices, there is a special
emphasis on energy efficiency. The design of the home can be
maximized to allow for air circulation and zone heating. A few
things to consider are:
- location of home
- location of living space in relation to the
movement of the sun and services access
- size and number of windows
- insulation and vapour barrier
- alternative energy sources
If environmental allergies are a concern, there are a
number of products and processes that can be used to reduce or
eliminate allergens in the home.
Door openings and hallways can pose a barrier for those with limited
mobility. Look for designs that include 36"
openings. Upgrading from a smaller opening can be costly and may
involve restructuring of walls and layouts.
Although it is not important to pick a specific product at the design
stage, it is important to have an idea of how the materials used in
your home will affect the building systems. For instance,
flooring is an area that can affect the functionality and cost of your
home after building has begun. The builder should have a good
idea of what materials will be used where so underlay needs can be
Fixtures such as tubs, shower units, toilets and laundry may need
special wiring or require floor reinforcement. The position of
these items may also require adjustment of the floor joists or wall
systems to accomodate the plumbing. These issues are much more
effectively addressed in the design stage than at the installation
stage and will prevent cost overruns during the building stage.
With the growth in popularity of media rooms and the extent to which we
use electricity, ensuring an adequate supply and access of electrical
fixtures requires some forethought.
Typically, a room would be wired with a receptacle every 6 feet around
the perimeter of the room and a light switch at each doorway or
entrance. Small rooms such as water closets may need special
breakers if electrical outlets are less than 6' from a water
source. Bed rooms are also subject to new regulations designed to
prevent accidental shocks and fires.
Attention should be given to locations that will host multimedia
appliances such as computers, television/stereo/surround sound units,
and telephone hook ups. Surge protectors and ground fault
interrupt receptacles and breakers are common precautions for these
types of hook ups.
Other fixtures that require specialized wiring may include:
Dimensions and Overall Size
- secondary lighting switches
- ceiling fans
- sensor lights or lighting that requires dimmer
- exterior fixtures and receptacles
- large appliances (ranges, heating or
cooling devices, washer/dryers)
- kitchen or bath fixtures (whirlpool
tubs/saunas, dishwashers, some refrigerators)
- security systems including fire alarms
In considering room sizes and dimensions, there are a
couple of facts to keep in mind. Often rooms are discussed in
terms of square footage.
Square footage is simply the length mutliplied by the width. ie
10 feet long multiplied by 14 feet equals 140 square feet. In
real terms, this is the average size of a bedroom. The average
bungalow is generally 26 feet by 40 feet or 1040 square feet.
Basements or sub levels are not considered in this measurement.
Estimates are often based on this measurement and to build in some
municipalities or subdivisions the home must fall within square footage
requirements. These requirements are determined for a variety of
reason mainly related to safety codes.
The easiest way to start getting an idea of what size is appropriate is
to measure your current accommodations. Consider the furnishings
you will use in the new home and start rearranging it to your
satisfaction. This will help you to orient windows and doors,
accent walls and features.
Keep in mind that multiples of 12 and 14 will minimize waste when
installing materials such as linoleum and carpet. Rolled flooring
is manufactured in 12' and 14' widths. Since walls are generally
framed on 16" OC (on centre) and lumber is sold in 8', 10', 12', and14'
lengths, it is most convenient for the builder and most economical for
the home owner.
Hiring a Contractor
Like finding the
right doctor or the right mechanic the decision is one part
personality, one part skill, and one part history.
Both the Canada Housing and
Mortgage Corporation and Tarion
(New Home Warranty program) have excellent guides on how to choose a
Why hire a contractor?
The terms carpenter and contractor are often, and in error, used
interchangeably. A carpenter is a person trained in building,
while a contractor mainly acts as a coordinator or manager of
activities. Though, in many areas the contractor also acts as a
carpenter on the site, it is important that the contractor be an
experienced builder and the carpenter be a competent manager.
Generally, the contractor's responsibilities include:
- acting as liaison between the client, trades
people, suppliers, and other agencies
- providing estimates based on blueprints
supplied by the client
- gathering and approving estimates from sub
- hiring subcontractors and ensuring that all
applicable insurances have been obtained and documented
- determining and providing materials to be used
in the project
- obtaining appropriate permits
- supervising all work on site
- resolving issues related to the building
- ensuring all work is carried out to or above
- arranging schedules
- arranging inspections
- ensuring payment schedules are observed and
providing receipt documents for payments to suppliers and sub
- carrying out the post delivery inspection
- providing warantee support
Start by asking
friends, relatives, and acquaintances for references.
While contractors are generally happy to show off their
work, few clients are comfortable with the idea that their home might
be used by their contractor for advertisement purposes. Most
clients are more comfortable showing off (and talking about their
experience) with someone they know.
Look for quality of work and ask about the amount of time it took for
the project or stage to be completed.
Once you've determined that the referred contractor's work meets your
standard, arrange a meeting. This part could take some time. Many
contractors spend their days on site, so be patient. Remember,
when contactors are on site, they are working for a client. Evening
calls are usually welcome since both contractor and client have time to
focus on the details.
The main purpose of the meeting is usually to discuss the project, but
like a job interview, it is also an opportunity to establish a good
working relationship. Your contractor will be both a guide and a
source of information so it is important to get a sense of their
knowledge as well as their personality. Finding the right fit is
different for everyone.
The first meeting will likely entail viewing the blueprints and
discussing what work would be sub contracted out, and what will be done
by the company's crew. The practice of using the same (dedicated)
sub contractors is gaining popularity. Mainly, it provides the
contractor and the client with a known commodity and can pave the way
to a smooth running project. It is also a good time to discuss on
site practices, scheduling, availability, general company
policies around changes, work hours, and overrun allowances.
Arranging for multiple estimates is an accepted practice, but can be
confusing as well. Different building techniques, pricing
strategies, and materials can affect the costs. And since projects tend
to evolve as it moves along, it can become difficult to determine if
you are comparing apples to apples.
Each estimate should include details such as model numbers, material
specifications, brand names, colours, code requirements, and what
processes are not included.
No estimate is a final offer until it is accepted. If it isn't
quite right, the contractor will be happy to tailor it to your
If you have questions about the pricing, ask what might be different.
Make certain the materials in the quotes are of same quality.
Labour prices are based on a number of factors including materials,
processes, and environmental conditions.
Other items that should be included in the estimate are:
Underground work, like personal choice items, are
extremely difficult to estimate accurately due the unknown. While
fairly accurate estimates can be determined for excavation work under
optimal conditions, unseen factors such as rocks, tree roots, soil
instability, underground water sources, and artifacts can cause
significant delays even relocation once discovered.
- equipment rentals
- permit fees
- subcontractor fees
- materials and labour supplied by the owner
should be noted
- any limitations placed on underground work or
personal choice items like fixtures, flooring, and specialty wall
- payment schedules
Personal choice items such as flooring, specialty wall coverings, bath
and kitchen fixtures, appliances, and electrical fixtures vary greatly
in quality, style, and price. Linoleum for instance can range
anywhere from $15-$60/yard. Lighting fixtures can start around
$20 while others range in the hundreds. Research is the best way
to ensure the limitations you agree upon with the contractor is
reasonable. Make certain that each quote reflects the same
limitations to ensure you are comparing apples to apples.
Make your decision based on which contractor you feel most comfortable dealing with and who
provides the most complete
estimate based on what you've asked them to price.
Always get estimates in writing.
Materials for Your Home
Junk in, Junk out
The old axiom never applied more readily than
to building. In the quest to get the most for the least, basic
sense is often overlooked. Money
spent on materials is money retained by you. This
doesn't mean that the most expensive is the best material for the job
Beware of discount materials such as broken tab shingles, discounted
plywood, economy studs, or rafters that have been improperly stored
outdoors. Each of these items can represent a significant
savings, however, they are more likely to develop problems that will
mean repair or replacement down the line. In addition, they can
also be more time (and money) consuming to install since the installers
may have to make adjustments on the fly.
Similarly, make sure the material you're buying is meant for the type
of build. For instance, you'll likely have noticed interior doors
priced around $40 while the same door in a Fast Fit package retails for
about $90. Both doors are the same quality, often by the same
manufacturer, so what's the difference? The $40 door, also called a
"replacement door" like "replacement windows" is intended to be set
into an existing frame. The Fast Fit door is meant for new
construction to be set into the rough framing. The Fast Fit comes
complete with frame and doorstop. To build these components
separately would cost an average of $60 in materials and an
additional $40 in labour to build the frame. So the $90 door is
about $30 less than the replacement door once installed.
End of lines and discontinued stock is another area to exercise
caution. While the material is often sound, the real problem
Design. Innovate. Build. Experience.