Friday, February 09, 2018

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.”