Tuesday, February 19, 2019

New Home, New Baby, New Beginning

The Hartland plan was perfect, not only for their growing family but for their future. As a farming family they wanted this to be where they would raise their family and they knew they would be here for years to come.

From Andrew and Heather Towns’ kitchen window, the neighboring dairy farm is in view while the land they farm and nearby fields spread as far as the eye can see. They’ve just said good-bye to family and friends who gathered here for the holidays and Christmas dinner. This is their dream home where they love holding family gatherings... but it was only two years ago that the family farmhouse standing on this very spot and everything they owned was lost in a fire.

It’s been a whirlwind of changes for this young family who have come full circle in 24 months from the fire, to the birth of their son Landon, to the rebuilding of their home and their lives.

Heather and Andrew lived in the family farmhouse in Norwood when fire struck taking almost everything they owned. Everything, except the support of family and friends and a whole community.

Norwood is a small rural farming town just northeast of Peterborough, where everyone knows each other by name. In the spirit of a barn-raising from decades past, the community banded together to help this family in need bringing everything from food and blankets to toothbrushes. “One neighbor even offered their farmhouse to us to live in... we received unbelievable support. It was such a humbling experience”, explains Heather.

When the smoke settled they knew it was time to rebuild. Andrew, a long-time fan of Beaver Homes & Cottages, knew where to find the plans for their home. Almost instantly, their hearts settled on the Hartland. It was so similar to their lost farmhouse that there was no question this would be their new home. Even the artist’s rendering setting it in farmland, surrounded by pastures, reflected their own property in the countryside of east-central Ontario in Peterborough County.

Their first and only call was to Chemong Home Hardware Building Centre in Peterborough where the Beaver Homes & Cottages Program is offered. Consultant Wayne Sellars was there to answer their questions and walk them through the home building process.

They developed an immediate rapport and a bond of trust with Wayne. He put together the package with one price, which was especially helpful with budgeting and when dealing with insurance issues. Standard features were impressive and considerably upgraded from what was expected, making them perfect for their needs. They customized their home by adding pine trim for a rustic look and Chemong Home Hardware Building Centre designed the kitchen as well. By May, construction had begun.

With decades of experience building homes and working with families under many different circumstances, Wayne remembers the Towns’ very well. “They’d lost everything right before Christmas and yet they had such a positive attitude and just wanted to move forward. They were a breath of fresh air.”

The Towns’ hired all their construction trades from the local area. “We wanted to give back to the community for being so supportive of us.” The entire process was seamless. Supplies were delivered by Chemong Home Hardware Building Centre as needed. The Beaver Homes & Cottages’ capability to send product in stages was key so there was no downtime and no storage issues, ensuring construction remained on schedule.

“We work with the same suppliers and know their lead times so we’ve got our finger on the pulse when it comes to ordering supplies. That keeps everything right on time,” explains Wayne.

Heather and Andrew agree that building their home themselves through Beaver Homes & Cottages and Home Hardware Building Centre was one of the best experiences of their lives. Another past customer of Wayne’s passionately agrees that building with Beaver Homes and Cottages is as stress-free as it comes.

The Hartland plan was perfect, not only for their growing family but for their future. As a farming family, they wanted this to be where they would raise their family and they knew they would be here for years to come. With this in mind, the main floor master suite and laundry were ideal. “We can age in the house so it can accommodate our needs years down the road,” says Heather.

Tough decisions along the way? Not a one. “Wayne, Beaver Homes & Cottages and Home Hardware Building Centre made it so easy for us.” Andrew’s parents live and farm from the neighboring property where they stayed during construction, making it convenient for Heather to take on the role of general contractor. She had a great vantage point and was always accessible for instant decision-making.

“We loved the plan as it was so we didn’t have too many changes,” says Heather. One request was for a walkout basement. “Wayne said it was ‘not a problem’ and drew in the change within five minutes.” Since it changed the elevation of the back of the house, he suggested adding a porch to the master bedroom and a new balance was achieved. Other minor changes were also made, something that is frequently done and is included as part of a Beaver Homes & Cottages Package.

The Towns’ now enjoy this modern re-creation of the home they lost but without the creaks and squeaks of their previous farmhouse. This is where the Towns family have farmed the land for decades past and will continue on for years to come. Giving her stamp of approval is Andrew’s grandmother, matriarch of the family and of the home that was lost. “She loves it, and that says a lot,” says Andrew.

By the end of the year, every special occasion had been hosted by Andrew and Heather, with plenty of space for overnight guests. “It gives us a great feeling to be able to host all these family dinners in this wonderful home,” says Heather. “Most family members talk about moving in or building their own Beaver Home. In fact, Andrew’s parents are looking through plans right now, with talk of moving in with the ‘neighbors’ while it’s being built.”

Cottage Country Couple Make Their Retirement Dream a Reality

Retiring to a custom-built cottage country home is a beautiful dream and an incredibly smooth experience when you work with Beaver Homes & Cottages

Retiring to a custom-built cottage country home is a beautiful dream and an incredibly smooth experience when you work with Beaver Homes & Cottages, according to Mary Ann and Randy. The couple began retirement planning back in 2015 and always knew they wanted to spend their golden years in Ontario’s Cottage Country. “We had options to renovate, demolish and rebuild on an existing family cottage near Washago or look for suitable real estate.”

A sentimental connection to the pie-shaped family property and a friendship with local builder Charles Chartrand of Chartrand Carpentry, made the decision easy. By spring 2017, plans were set in place to build from scratch. “Charles had worked with a few Home Building Centre clients before and spoke highly of their customer service, along with their one-stop design and quality materials package approach,” says Randy. The couple interviewed two other home builder/materials package suppliers but ultimately they chose Beaver Homes & Cottages after their first in-store meeting.

“Our Beaver Design Consultant at the Gravenhurst Home Building Centre, Jim McMillan, was clearly well-informed,” says Randy, adding that they left the store with a thorough understanding of the process and the latest Beaver Homes & Cottages Design Book. Just two days later they’d already chosen two designs and had accompanied Jim on tours of a couple of construction projects underway in the Gravenhurst area. “It’s not always easy to visualize plans. Visiting the homes under construction was invaluable and helped to add scale, perspective, and realism compared to just looking at photos and drawings. The on-site visits were the determining factor in our design selection.”

Randy and Mary Ann wanted a design that ultimately made the most of their waterfront view. They chose the Rideau Model (pg 46) and Jim helped them to modify it by adding a lower level to the bungalow, along with wings on both sides that showcase the view of the nearby river while offering expanded space for a sitting room and the master bedroom. “He also gave us a great idea about building out the deck between the wings so that it had a covered portion.”

“While we made extensive design modifications,” adds Randy, “Jim was always very positive, enthusiastic and confident Home Hardware’s Architectural Solutions Group (ASG) would be able to meet our requirements.” Despite the unique lot shape and side-yard set-back restrictions, McMillan says that ASG was indeed able to make the plan work and maximize the footprint. They were also able to position the home in such a manner that beloved trees didn’t have to come down.

“Since we’re novices in home building design, Jim’s building experience and personal knowledge was extremely helpful in setting design parameters and keeping our expectations realistic,” adds Randy, who also valued, in addition to Beaver’s price guarantee, the strong communication throughout design iterations with their builder, Chartrand. “On several occasions, Charles would speak directly to Jim on our behalf to clarify items on our wish list. It was reassuring to have consensus from both the design and construction side of the process.”

The design was finalized on time by August 30 and picking the finishing products were simple and straightforward with Jim’s help. This included meeting specific requests from Mary Ann for areas such as the cathedral ceiling, trim and interior doors. The only real challenge proved to be with nature, as the builders encountered unexpected rocks that required a lot of blasting work. Combined with delays in the permitting and surveying process, the start day was pushed out a month to November 1st. “But in the end, Jim worked with Charles to adjust the delivery schedule and it worked out seamlessly. In fact, they still finished on the original schedule,” says Randy.

The couple felt comfortable taking a winter vacation and they appreciated the regular updates that came from both Jim and Charles. “When we returned in April, it was remarkable to see how far the home had come along,” says Randy. The couple was wowed by the nearly finished home and loved how it suited their needs and style. “We love how the front is very subtle and blends into our treed lot, but when you see the back with the gorgeous windows and deck, it’s really breathtaking.”

Randy adds that Charles spoke highly of the quality of the materials supplied in a Beaver Homes & Cottages Package. “He told me how he was impressed with the consistently high-quality supplies, specifically lumber. He was also impressed with how positive and pleasant the Home Building Centre team was during the winter months. Their coordination of materials allowed him to focus on other important work such as coordinating sub trades and the execution of the building process,” says Randy.

Beyond the final project, Randy and Mary Ann are most pleased with the personal relationship they developed with Jim as he guided them through the design-build experience. “That trust, combined with The Beaver Homes & Cottages Material Package Guarantee - that the materials package price does not change over the construction period, there are no shortages and that design and engineering meet or exceed building codes - really allowed Mary Ann and I to focus on many other activities in such a major project,” says Randy. “I would recommend Home Hardware’s Beaver Homes & Cottages Program to anyone who wants a truly positive, secure and smooth home-build experience.”

Friday, February 09, 2018

Cottage Threes

Ask both homeowners and Home Hardware design consultants what they love about Beaver Homes and Cottages’ Dorset II and they will give the same answer: its versatility. The spacious, 1300-square-foot home allows owners and designers to bring their vision to life—from bigger windows to more bedrooms to, yes, even secret passageways! Let’s look at how three families with very different needs adapted the Dorset II to make it uniquely their own.

The Retirees

Danny, a retired industrial engineer, and Janet, a dental hygienist looking to retire within the next few years, were looking for a cottage that would also become their permanent home. The Dundas, Ontario couple had purchased an existing structure in Oliphant four years ago, but soon discovered it had been rotting away and needed to be torn down. They went to the Wiarton Home Hardware Building Centre and talked to Design Consultant Jason Stevens about their options. The Dorset II gave them the space they wanted, the flexibility to get the most from their picturesque location, and options to make it a home that will work for them as they grow older. With only one level, they won’t have to trek up and down any stairs. They also opted for a propane fireplace to avoid the strenuous task of collecting and carrying firewood. Danny also explains, “We moved the fireplace from the south-facing wall, and instead added a third window for an unobstructed view of the lake.” Because everyone seems to gather in the kitchen, Danny and Janet wanted to add a few extra feet of space. They also upped the ante on their exterior with rich Fraser Fir shingles. After five months, their new cottage was ready to go. Over Thanksgiving weekend, they celebrated with family while their golden retriever, Muskoka, got to chase raccoons outside. “We moved the fireplace from the south-facing wall, and instead added a third window for an unobstructed view of the lake.”

The Permanent Residents

Erik Carlson, Design Consultant at the Espanola Home Hardware, had met the Sabourins five years ago when they were looking to build a custom home. When lakefront property on Manitoulin Island became available, their plans quickly shifted gears. And work began almost immediately. Sarah Sabourin is a manager of The Island Jar, a health food store, and her husband Kyle is a instrument technician. They have two daughters who are 4 and 6 years old. They chose the Dorset II because, “It gave us the flexibility we wanted, and it fit within our budget,” Sarah explains. “It was just as easy as buying a pre-built house, but a lot more fun!” Erik worked with contractor Shawn Taylor, of Taylor & Son Construction, to add a full basement for additional living space for the young family. And Kitchen Designer Derek Sisson helped create a kitchen that was both beautiful and functional for everyday use. The features and fixtures have a sleek, modern look. Sarah would see something in a magazine or online and send it to the Home Hardware design team who worked to bring her ideas to life. “It gave us the flexibility we wanted, and it fit within our budget.” Sarah explains. “It was just as easy as buying a pre-built house, but a lot more fun!” “I feel lucky to have had such an amazing team,” she says. During construction, she came to Erik with an odd request: “In our old house, the girls shared a room. But here, they each have their own. We still wanted them to share some space, so I asked Erik if he could build a secret passageway into each girl’s room through their closets.” Erik was happy to accommodate, but Sarah expressed a concern: “Once the girls are teenagers, I feel like I will be asking him to plaster over it again.”

The Siblings

“My father bought the property in 1954 as a bachelor getaway that soon became a beloved family retreat. I’ve spent all my summers here, gazing at the same rocks and water of my childhood,” she says. But, with three families now wanting to share one cottage, they needed something bigger. Maggie explains, “The Dorset’s layout and size were what attracted me. Thirteen hundred square feet was just right.” The three siblings worked together to create a space that accommodated the tastes and needs of not just one family, but three. “I closed in a porch overhang to make a screened porch –much appreciated when blood-thirsty mosquitoes are swarming outside, and I turned a second porch overhang into a mudroom. My brother chose the pine flooring, and he and my sister-in-law planned the kitchen, while my sister chose the door and closet hardware.” But getting the three siblings to agree was the easy part. The cottage’s remote location provided some unique challenges for Design Consultant Dave Traviss and builder Tim Hodges. “We had to clear a passage through the thick forest to drag all the materials up to the top of the hill by Bobcat. And because it’s only accessible by water, in the winter months we had to slide the materials across the frozen lake,” says Dave. Furthermore, Maggie lives in Peterborough, so she and Dave had to quickly develop a sense of trust when communicating their ideas solely over phone and email. She says, “Dave was terrific to work with. He had practical suggestions, and he always wanted to hear my opinion. He was quick to return calls and emails.” But all the effort proved worth it, with their uniquely stunning cottage resting on pillars on top of a lush mountaintop overlooking 6 Mile Lake.

Exactly What We Wanted

When Lynn and Roger Delany bought land on Manitoulin Island’s Lake Kagawong 17 years ago, it was the peaceful surroundings and million-dollar view that sold them. “Building a home was not on my bucket list!” said Lynn Delany, laughing. But the Delanys, who both work in the transportation logistics industry in Mississauga and hope to retire in the next few years or so, soon realized that trying to make one of the property’s 60-year-old cottages retirement-friendly or starting from scratch with an architect would both be a huge amount of work. “It made sense to me to pick something and then just tweak it until it was what we wanted,” said Lynn, “and that’s exactly what we did.”

Because building a house can be stressful, “we try to make it as easy as possible,” said Erik Carlson, who’s been a Beaver Homes and Cottages design consultant at the Home Hardware store in Espanola, Ontario, for the past 20 years. “We walk them hand in hand through the whole process, from budgets, to preliminary drawings to builders to sub trades and changes to completion all the way through,” he said. Customers get “a lot of perks with the Beaver packages,” including blueprints, insurance policies, and “the experience that guys like me and other Beaver consultants bring to the table. We’re also super-competitive,” and customers get contractor pricing on many items, he said.

The Beaver Homes and Cottages program offers models in a large variety of styles and sizes. Since Lynn knew she wanted a bungalow the Delanys’ choice was a little easier, and being able to begin with the Glenbriar II model, add 500 square feet and customize it “was a real advantage of the program,” she said.

“One-level living was designed right from the get-go,” with possible age-related mobility issues in mind, said Lynn. “I built the house with wider doors and no steps and the shower so that a wheelchair can get in and out, the far side of the garage has a huge limestone ramp—even the kitchen microwave is in a microwave drawer, not up over your head,” she said. “Beaver Homes was very accommodating in updating the original plans so we could get an overview and look at everything ahead of time.” Especially in custom homes like the Delanys’, it’s very common “to make changes and do two or three sets of plans,” said Carlson, “and there’s no extra charge for that.” And such accessibility changes didn’t add much to the final costs, the Delanys agreed. For their builder the Delanys chose Shawn Taylor of Taylor and Son Construction. Carlson often recommends Taylor and Son for Manitoulin Island builds, knowing that sometimes-anxious customers appreciate Shawn’s reliability, professionalism and calm demeanor. And both Carlson and Taylor understood the challenges that might be posed by the build site’s location, a six-and-a-half hour drive north from where Lynn and Roger currently live. The Delanys met with Carlson in the Espanola, Ontario store, “and started picking doors, windows, exterior finishes—even baseboard,” said Lynn. “But other than me having to pick out colours and making it right, that was it!” The couple were in frequent phone and e-mail contact with Taylor, who’d update them with photographs, but felt very comfortable not being on site. Even during the build when Lynn asked for an interior wall to be changed, “I thought it would be a big deal!” she says. “But they just got the new drawings up, had us check and accept them and then continued on.”

“People told us, ‘You’ll have to ship materials to the island,’ but they really made it simple,” she added. “Erik had everything transferred to the Mindemoya Home Hardware store on Manitoulin Island, 25 minutes from our build. And if Shawn called Erik and said ‘I’ll need this in 2 weeks,’ it was there.”

“Erik and Shawn were both amazing to deal with, always eager to help out in any way they could,” with product ideas and advice about what would work best, said Lynn. “It was personal service,” said Roger. “If I sent an email I’d get one back right away, the following morning if not the same day.”

“The majority of the building materials were above ‘builder’s grade’ and very well done,’” observed Roger, whose own father had been a builder in southern Ontario. The Delanys particularly like that, wherever possible, materials are Canadian-made. “And we’ve been really pleasantly surprised with our hydro bill,” which can sometimes come as a shock to a southerner, said Lynn. “We’ve got 17’ ceilings, so there’s a lot of air to heat and air-condition,” said Roger. “They’re efficient, well-built homes.”

Construction began in June of 2016, and although winter on Manitoulin Island often means issues with weather delays, the Delanys’ home was finished by March this year. “I think Roger and I were both surprised how easily and nicely it went,” said Lynn.

“We designed the house to take a lot of people in and seat people at a huge kitchen counter,” she said, and their Beaver Home is already the focal point of family gatherings, Christmases and Easters. When three dozen of their family and friends came together last year to celebrate the life of Lynn’s 98-year-old grandmother, “that house welcomed those people—it was exactly what we wanted,” she said.

“We had a really great experience—and a really ‘Wow!’ home at the end of it. We’ve already recommended it to others.”

Monday, February 06, 2017

A Smooth Landing

Bruce Durrer has had his share of smooth landings over the course of his career as an Air Canada pilot but possibly none could have been smoother than building his dream home with Beaver Homes and Cottages. Bruce and his wife Sally said the task was the most rewarding experience of their life. “We were building our dream home and it was a dream to build,” said Sally. “The whole experience actually brought us even closer together!”

Bruce and Sally started their journey back in November of 2015 when they knew they wanted to tear down their old cottage in favour of a new home. While going through many design books and not finding the plan of their dreams, they stumbled across the Beaver Homes and Cottages catalogue while shopping at their local Home Hardware Building Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario. Blown away with the quality and the amount of home plans within the catalogue and website (beaverhomesandcottages.ca), Bruce and Sally zeroed in on the Beauport II model. “The home was the perfect size” said Sally, “It was big enough to host our kids and grandkids when visiting but not too big where it’s too tough to keep up”. Although it was the perfect size and feel, they just wished they could make a couple of little changes. That’s where their Beaver Homes and Cottages Consultant, Jim Lewis, came into help.

“The common perception with 99% of the clients who I see believe that the plan is the plan” says Lewis. “That couldn’t be the further from the truth and I want to make sure the Durrers understood that this is their dream home, and we want to make sure it’s perfect for them…so, if you want something changed from the original plan, just ask.” Armed with this new found flexibility, the Durrers added a substantial amount of windows to the back of the Beauport II so that they could enjoy their beautiful view of Lake Huron and their backyard. As Bruce points out, “Flexibility is a key word when building any Beaver Home and Cottage. Flexible on design, flexible on product, flexible on the contractors…that’s what made working with this program so appealing”.

Wanting to be heavily involved with the project, the Durrers decided to become the general contractor for this build and hired a local contractor/close friend to help administer and facilitate the hiring of local trades. Never shying away from work themselves, Bruce and Sally decided to pour in a little of their own sweat equity into their home. Knowing that tradespeople do great work and are expensive talent, they instructed their trades to purely just do their work and that they would clean up the worksite at the end of the day to ensure a safe working environment the next day. “This kept them doing what they are paid to do and stay productive…this would help us keep on schedule” says Bruce. “Whether it was painting trim or running to the store for extra supplies, we did it to keep the project moving and on time”. Bruce also acknowledged another key factor that kept production on schedule was that Beaver Homes and Cottages program guarantees that product is sent in stages so that there is no “down” time.

The Durrers also paid heavy attention as to what product was included in the standard home package purchased and decided to upgrade some of the products. “We switched out the standard batt insulation in favour of spray foam and upgraded the standard vinyl siding to Mabec wood siding. We also upgraded the stairs and trim, and what a difference this has made to the personality of our house,” says Bruce. “What really blew my mind is how we were able to incorporate a piece of driftwood that Sally and I found on the beach one day and use this as our mantel on the stone fireplace…that meant a lot to us,” Bruce added.

The wide range of products available through Port Elgin Home Hardware Building Centre was also an asset for the couple. “I would say around 95% of the products in this home came from Home Hardware! From the paint to bathroom vanities to our beautiful kitchen! Lori from the kitchen department was fantastic!” said an excited Bruce. The Durrers comment on how they felt like family with all the staff at the store and particularly their Home Consultant Jim Lewis. Sighting a delay in production with a window manufacturer, Jim kept production rolling by tarping and applying plywood in the open areas (at no cost) so that they could begin to put up the dry wall. “Jim went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure our project went smoothly. He was amazing and we now consider him a friend…he’s been back several times since we took occupancy.”

The Durrers can hardly believe that two very ordinary people like themselves could accomplish such a feat as building their own home. But with expert advice of the Beaver Homes and Cottages program, it was one of the easiest things they had ever done. “We have an even stronger attachment to our home because WE did it” said Sally. Bruce added, “to have a smooth landing, you first have to take flight…and we are so glad we took that flight with Beaver Homes and Cottages.”

“I would say around 95% of the products in this home came from Home Hardware! From the paint to bathroom vanities to our beautiful kitchen! Lori from the kitchen department was fantastic!”