Jul 042015
 

[UPDATE MARCH 2016: since this post was written, Leanne and I have entered into a contract dispute with Ridgewater Homes. For more details, click here.]

I only want to name people if I can say something nice about them.

I have a few nice things to say about Kingswood Builders Group but we’ll never know how good a company they really are because I can’t get them on the phone.

Let me clarify that they are not the contractor that we hired this year (but they could have been). We hired Ridgewater Homes after some careful research this year and I’ll tell you about that next week.

I can only guess Kingswood were sick and tired of giving me quotes and didn’t believe our project would ever actually happen. Fair enough, we did get two quotes and three meetings out of them over the course of three years without going ahead. They were the only company to do that for us and we appreciated it. It’s just too bad they went off the radar when we finally got our ducks in a row this year.

Anyway, here is their quote from January 2014, insulated concrete form (“quadlock walls”), insulation, interior finishing and all:

KINGSWOOD BUILDERS GROUP LTD

2655 KINGSWAY AVE PORT COQUITLAM BC V3E1P8
TEL. 604 941-4849 FAX. 604 941-0241

ESTIMATE
NAME JAMES ROWLEY

THE UNDERSIGNED PROPOSES TO FURNISH ALL MATERIALS AND PERFORM ALL LABOR NECESSARY TO COMPLETE ALL THE DESCRIBED WORK
REQUIREMENTS
THE SCOPE OF WORK IS AS FOLLOWS.
TO LIFT THE EXISTING HOUSE AND REMOVE ALL THE EXISTING FOUNDATION
TO DIG DOWN APPROX 1’9” PLUS FOOTING AND SAND AND DISPOSE
TO SUPPLY AND INSTALL QUADLOCK WALLS OVER FOOTING AS PER PLAN
TO FRAME ADDITION AND NEW ROOF LINE AS PER PLAN
ALL SIDING AND TRIM AS PER PLAN
ALL HOUSE SERVICES FROM CITY HOOK UPS TO HOUSE
R/I PLUMBING & ELECTRIC
INSULATION & DRYWALL PLUS PAINT
ALLOWANCE ON VANITIES $3000.00
ALLOWANCE ON BUILT-IN DRAWS ETC $2500.00
ALLOWANCE ON LIGHTING $2500.00
ALLOWANCE ON CERAMIC TILE $1600.00
ALLOWANCE ON PLUMBING FIXTURES $4200.00
ALLOWANCE ON FLOORING $800.00
THIS HOUSE HAS BEEN PRICED WITH OUT THE SPECIAL ITEMS THAT THE OWNER WOULD LIKE TO HAVE IE: HEAT RECOVER ITEMS ETC,AT THIS TIME

TOTAL PRICE $314,789.00 PLUS GST

ALL PRODUCT TO BE CONFIRMED BETWEEN BUILDER AND HOME OWNER IN WRITING
HOPING THIS IS THE INFORMATION THAT YOU REQUIRE AND PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE TO CALL.
YOURS TRULY
PETER
________________________________________________________________ ALL OF THE ABOVE WORK TO BE COMPLETED IN A GOOD AND WORKMANLIKE MANNER

ANY CHANGES IN THE WORK AND THE PRICE SHALL BE MADE IN WRITING.

THIS PROPOSAL IS MADE ON THE CURRENT MATERIAL AND LABOUR COSTS
A DELAY IN ACCEPTANCE OF MORE THAN DAYS WILL REQUIRE A
REVIEW OF THE PROPOSAL AND RE-DATING BEFORE THE AGREEMENT
BECOMES BINDING.

As I mentioned before, setting a goal of obtaining 5 or 6 quotes is all very well, but finding 5 or 6 contractors who are interested enough in meeting us, let alone submitting a quote on the project, is another matter entirely.

I can understand that contractors are hesitant to provide quotes. It’s not that they are unscrupulous or trying to cheat you. Putting together an estimate that is at all accurate takes time. How many times have they worked for a week on an estimate for a customer only to never hear back from them? I imagine after a few experiences like that you might start getting a lot more vague with your numbers.

That’s why I really appreciated Peter of Kingswood Builders Group coming out and giving us some solid numbers for us to get our heads around. The first estimate was for a simple bathroom and kitchen remodel but after we engaged Annabel the Architect, Kingswood gave us a second quote based on her design.

Did we hem in our design because we were worried about how much it would cost? A little (but not much!). We imagined the existing basement would stay the same even though the ceiling is too low and it leaks air and heat. “We’re not made of money” we said to ourselves.

We’ve had several reality-check moments in our journey and this was one of them.

It’s there in black and white: TOTAL PRICE $314,789.00 PLUS GST

If you’re thinking that you could buy a whole house for that, you’re right (but, ehem, not in Vancouver). We bought the whole property–a double lot with two houses–from Leanne’s Mom for $425000.

What’s the rule again? Don’t spend more than half the value of the house on renovations?

We were proposing to spend over 3/4.

Monte Paulsen, our energy designer, first pointed this out on his first visit. It has been the elephant in the room ever since. “This is a wonderful plan, but how can we afford it?”

I question everything and I questioned that rule. Why shouldn’t you spend $300K on a $400K house? Is this about re-sale value? It’s true we would feel pretty stupid if we sell the property after sinking so much into it, but what if we never sell? It’s been kept in the family this long, why not another generation or two?

Where do we get this idea that we should limit our investment in an existing home? Is this the calculation that lenders (banks, credit unions) and real estate agents will tell you–that you should plan based on the assumption you may have to move in 5 years? This is good for them because it gets you thinking about “upgrading” to a bigger or nicer house, instead of making the one you’re in suit you over the long term. Every time you change houses, they make money.

I would add that the longer you stay in a home, the better for the planet. Your recycling system gets efficient, you learn the tricks of saving energy, water and money that apply to that particular house, and when you make yourself comfortable, you increase the likelihood that the house will not be torn down.

However, my willingness to spend too much on our home renovation in order to do everything at once hasn’t altered one inconvenient fact: Leanne and I don’t have $300K nor can we borrow $300K. Is that going to stop us? No!

Well, maybe, but we’re going to try anyway. If you haven’t noticed, I’m a stubborn person on certain things.

Yes, I want to make our house more comfortable to live in (including adding the bathroom upstairs for the kids) and that may be seen as selfish, but it also means we will be happy to live here longer and that is good for the planet. Every time a property changes hands there is a risk it will be torn down. In this way a more comprehensive renovation is better for the environment than the piece-meal approach most of us are forced to take because we don’t have the up-front cash to go bigger.

Again, making your home more comfortable for you and your family is good for the planet!

Now, if most of us can’t afford to renovate more than one room at a time, we certainly can’t afford to add energy and water saving measures at the same time even if those measures will save us money in 10-20 years. We just don’t have the cash. The result is upgrades like countertops, remodelled bathrooms, new decks, but very little comprehensive insulation or sealing of whole houses.

We can’t expect homeowners to lead the charge and retrofit their own homes when it means borrowing heavily to do it. What would help is if the costs were lowered and I know of at least three ways to do that.

1. Do more of the work oneself. Listed in the Kingswood estimate are things like vanities and tiles. We took those things out of the contract we ended up with (with Ridgewater Homes). We also took out insulation, wiring and other things we can do ourselves. (We’ll see how long it takes us to be truly finished).

Another way is by means of grants and rebates. As I mentioned, these do exist for energy efficiency in BC from BC Hydro and Fortis BC. However, there are large gaps that only a government program, like the cancelled LiveSmart BC grants, could fill. The Federal Government inexplicably ended the popular EcoEnergy Grants in 2012 (but let’s talk more about that later).

Another way that I stumbled upon when I heard Lorraine of Now House speak is economies of scale. Buying in bulk. When Now House retrofit 100 homes in Windsor Ontario, they brought the costs down from about $66K to $11K per house, just by doing the same work on 95 very similar homes. Wow.

So how do we organize something similar in Maple Ridge among individual homeowners with quite different houses? Well, I have concluded (partly out of impatience to get our house done) that a first step might be to share an example to get people talking.

And that’s what Hammond Forever House is. Watch as we challenge ourselves to reduce our energy and water use while retaining the character defining elements of this beautiful old house. Hopefully some of you will start to imagine how your own home could be retrofit. Then we’ll talk.

  One Response to “The Missing Contractor”

  1. […] told you about The Missing Contractor who gave us our first comprehensive quote and then stopped answering calls and […]

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