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Saturday, 16 March 2013

Home show 2013

The Sudbury and District Home Builders home show is March 22-25, 2013, at the Sudbury Arena.  Come and meet some of the Modularman and women crew at booth 70-71.  We will also have on display the Lifestyle Screen.  We can turn your garage into a screened gazebo for under $1500.00 – installed!!  Barné Building and Construction is the exclusive Lifestyle Screen dealer for Northern Ontario. 
See you tube video here:
We are sharing our booth space with the guys from Patrick Roofing (Northern) ltd.  They are featuring Velux’s Sun Tunnel, a fantastic way to bring sunlight to the middle of your home without the expense or space that a full size skylight needs.  See:
See Velux sun tunnel video here:
Barné Building and Construction Inc. will soon be Northern Ontario’s first and exclusive Velux factory authorized installers.  For more information on Velux products please see

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Modular Man’s Options for A Solid Foundation, Part Three:

There are few options that make less practical or economical sense than building a new home on a slab‑on‑grade foundation, at least in our area.
Done correctly, they cost more to build, are less efficient, and they attract fewer buyers on the re-sale market.
Recently, I had a conversation with a local realtor.  He had out-of-town purchasers who were making a list of potentially suitable homes to view.  He told me about a house on a lake in the city.  The photos looked nice, the price was right, but it has been on the market for 2 years.  Something was wrong.  The house was built on a slab with no basement.  His clients wouldn’t even consider going to view it.  This is bad news for the vendors.  Eventually, that house will sell, likely at below the listing price and probably below cost.
People build homes with slab-on-grade or shallow foundations for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes, it is due to site conditions or to avoid blasting rock.  Other times, the prospect of a single level without stairs or in-floor heating is the attraction.  I’ve had many inquiries from people wanting to build “something cheap and fast”.  Somehow, slab-on-grade homes are thought of as economical to build; however, that’s the furthest from the truth.  The economics of building a home is a balancing act of costs versus expenses.  Theoretically, the more money you have to spend on building your new home, the less it should cost to operate.  At one point, you would achieve a net-zero home where the energy produced by the home equals or is greater than the energy consumed.  Very few people have the budget for this type of homebuilding, but it is coming.  So, you make trade offs.  You try to balance the most efficient use of your capital and the long-term costs.

A slab-on-grade house costs more to build because:
1.  Below grade insulation is expensive and must extend well beyond the building footprint to be effective.
2.  Eliminating the thermal transfer at the slab edges is difficult and, at times, less effective at preventing heat from leaking out the edges.  We have seen relatively new homes built on slabs where the grass is green in February.  There is so much heat loss through the edge of the slab that the ground never freezes.  But beware; insulating the slab too well can lead to frost heave!  It is truly a two edged sword.
3.  Slab-on-grade homes need to have a larger footprint to accommodate a utility room and storage on the main floor, the most expensive space to build.
4.  Air conditioning and ventilating ductwork will need to be installed in either the attic or in duct chases around and through the rooms. 
In conclusion, if you are looking for that all-on-one level design with no stairs, or if your site does not accommodate a full basement, we suggest that an insulated crawlspace may be the answer.
A crawlspace is far less expensive to insulate and, therefore, will add to the home’s energy efficiency.
The ducts and pipes can be run in the crawlspace and still be both accessible and concealed.
Furnaces, HRVs and other mechanicals, such as water pumps, can still be installed in an accessible crawlspace thereby avoiding having these noisy pieces of equipment on the main floor.
Main floor in-floor heating can easily be accommodated by installing Onix piping between the floor joists.
You can direct your comments, inquiries or questions to or call us at 705-674-2240

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Modular Man’s Options for A Solid Foundation, Part Two:

Basements and home foundations come in a variety of materials and configurations. We have already discussed pressure treated wood basements.  Now we move on to insulated concrete forms. 
There are several different methods to place concrete in the ground.  Concrete needs to be kept in place.  Footings are traditionally formed with lumber, although fabric, steel and plastic forms are available.  Wall forms can be lumber, plywood, Styrofoam (ICF) or metal.
Steel forms are usually reserved for heavy civil construction projects like tanks and bridges or for high production house subdivisions where the same footprint is used over and over again.
ICFs are hollow blocks, panels or planks made of rigid foam that are erected and filled with concrete to form the structure and insulation of exterior walls.
The composition and make-up of ICFs vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.  Essentially, the foam blocks are stacked and filled with rebar and concrete.  The foam blocks form the concrete until set, and the concrete holds the foam together when dry. Of course, this conceals any voids or honeycombing in the concrete.  It takes an experienced hand to properly place concrete to prevent honeycombing and what is known as segregation. Segregation is when all of the aggregates in the concrete mixture sink to the bottom leaving weak concrete at the top.
After the concrete has set and the braces are removed, the exterior of the foundation must be waterproofed to protect the foam.  There are several products available, and again, the manufacturer will specify the system most compatible with their product.  We have seen spray-on, peel-and-stick and dimpled plastic sheets used as waterproofing.
ICF’s are promoted as energy efficient and DIY friendly.  Although in common use, we have chosen not to use ICF foundation for our customers’ homes.
ICF’s are energy efficient because the two layers of foam insulation sandwiching the concrete also acts as a continuous air barrier, and a continuous air barrier is a very good thing.  Maintaining a continuous air barrier is difficult at best in most construction, except for ICF’s and modular homes.    
The two layers of 2‑inch thick foam insulation only equals about R20.  Not spectacular when most well‑built homes in this area start with R24 in the walls.    
The foam used in ICF blocks is usually expanded polystyrene.  Expanded polystyrene is not water resistant, and, if exposed, will absorb water over a period of time.  Take a piece of ICF block and bury it in your garden for a season, and then go look for it.  What you will likely find is either a sponge saturated with water or a handful of polystyrene pellets.
The weak point to the system, in my opinion, is right at grade.  The ICF foundation is coated or covered with a waterproof membrane from the top of the footing to above grade.  While driving around, you can see Blueskin and Aquabarrier sticking out above the ground on most ICF basements.  The exposed portion of the foundation (between the ground and the wall finish above) is supposed to be finished with acrylic stucco.  It is our experience that acrylic stucco is neither durable nor waterproof.  A cut in either the membrane or the stucco will allow water to seep into the ICF block.  It could be years before a problem becomes evident.

Polystyrene insulation cannot be left exposed on the interior of the home.  When it melts, it produces noxious fumes.  The Ontario Building Code requires that all polystyrene insulations be covered with drywall, at a minimum.  Most ICF blocks have built-in spacers or plastic blocks that allow drywall to be fastened directly to the foam without additional framing.  Electrical wiring chases are cut into the foam.  Basement finishing plans have to be in place so that wiring and piping can be concealed behind the drywall.  Some of our customers either are not ready to finish the basement, or never intend to.  The extra drywall, wiring and plumbing is an added expense that can be avoided with a more traditional foundation.

In conclusion, our experience has taught us that a traditional poured concrete foundation will pay the homeowner dividends time after time.

Want more information?  Call Richard at 705-674-2240 or email at

Monday, 21 May 2012

Modular Man’s Options for A Solid Foundation, Part One:

There are many options when it comes to the material that can be used for your new home’s foundation.  The two main options in our area are concrete and wood.  Both have advantages and issues, but it’s not what you have, but how you use it.
Many of our new homes are built in rural settings.  Freight costs and travel to the home site are issues to consider, as well as the types of soil conditions likely to be encountered, and all must be taken into consideration when selecting an appropriate foundation.
With over three decades of construction experience, we have had the opportunity to work with just about every type of foundation.
Long before concrete became popular to support our buildings; wood was the only practical available product.  In our area, some old homes and cottages are still on their original timber sills, sitting right on the ground.
In Canada, Pressure treated foundations, preserved wood foundations or permanent wood foundations (PWF) have been around for over 60 years.  The system is composed of specially treated framing lumber and plywood rather than concrete walls.  PWF foundations can be installed on either concrete footings or on PWF footings depending on the site conditions and size of the building.  All of the components, including the stainless steel nails, have to be PWF rated.  Waterproofing is handled differently as well.  Typically, the foundation is placed on a layer of clear stone that acts as a drainage layer.  The layer is either pumped out (sump pump) or gravity drained (daylighted).  The PWF is protected from moisture by a membrane or poly film that directs the water to the drainage layer.  It is essential that the walls be protected from water.  Standard 4-inch thick brick and stone are easily accommodated by adding additional framing, or by widening the entire thickness of the wall.  In any event, from the outside, it is difficult to identify a home built with a PWF foundation from any other.  Basement floors can be either a traditional concrete slab or pressure treated plywood on sleepers with a vapour barrier directly on the drainage layer.
Interior finishing is really simple.  Customary 16 or 12-inch on centre framed walls use traditional insulation, wiring and vapour barrier products.  Roxul makes a 7-1/4” batt insulation that is ideal for a 2 x 8 framed wall.  No additional framing is required to apply drywall to the interior face of the walls.
There are three real issues with PWFs.  First is man’s basic instinct to not follow instructions.  Systems work because all the components come together and work together.  Taking one component out of the equation in an attempt to improve the system, or to cut corners and costs, will likely result in failure.  The entire PWF system must be installed as specified using only PWF graded lumber and fasteners.  
The second issue is with the product itself.  In the past, some of our homeowners have refused to have pressure treated lumber used in their building projects, instead opting for natural products like cedar or manufactured products such as Millenium decking.  They expressed concern about off-gassing and leaching of dangerous chemicals into the air, water and food chain.  Ultimately, these valid concerns are, in my opinion, outweighed by the benefits of preserved wood technology.  If building your home with chromated copper arsenate infused lumber is not an option, stop reading here, and look for the next edition of Modular Man’s blog about foundation options.
I believe that the last real issue with PWF is one of perception.  Real Estate agents, appraisers and home inspectors have not been educated about the construction or benefits of a wood foundation.  Therefore, they perceive PWF as being of inferior quality and not desirable, and this is reflected in the value placed on the home by appraisers, the sales pitch by real estate agents at time of sale and the inspection reports produced by home inspectors - none of which is further from the truth.  A well-built wood foundation indicates that an experienced, professional builder, together with an educated homeowner, was involved in the construction of this home, therefore; it will likely be of higher quality and more desirable.  This is why:
PWF have proven to be reliable and are backed by the largest lumber companies in North America.  They meet the Ontario Building Code and do not require a professional engineer to design or approve the installation.
PWFs can be built almost anywhere and can be constructed without concrete.  The materials are easily transportable and are readily available through local retail lumber stores.  The system can be quickly assembled by carpenters without special or heavy duty equipment.  That’s one less trade to coordinate and supervise.
It has been our experience that PWF do not have a significant cost premium, if any, over other types of foundations.
You can purchase pre-made “structural insulated panels” or SIPs for foundation use.  We have not had the opportunity to try SIP panels below grade, because purchasing the panels is less cost effective than on-site assembly.
PWF walls are well insulated, and resulting space is both dry and comfortable.
Common exterior finishes like brick and stone can be easily accommodated.  Interior finishes do not require any additional framing.
Basement floors can be concrete or wood framed.
Although not for every site or everybody, a preserved wood foundation is a viable, cost-effective foundation option for your new home and is definitely an option we like.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Modular man’s guide to tankless hot water heaters.

For the last few years, we have recommended that tankless hot water heaters be installed in new homes that we build, especially when you add any kind of in-floor heating.  Our brand of choice is Navien.  Although somewhat twitchy to set up, they will provide a homeowner with continuous hot water for as long as you have gas/ propane, hydro and water.  Because Naviens are condensing units, they are likely the most energy efficient units available. For more information on condensing hot water heaters see:

How do they work? Tank-less hot water heaters use large burners to heat up water as it passes through the unit.  The burners fire when the tap is turned on taking 10 degree C ground water and heating it to 49 degree C hot water.  Hence the issue and main complaint with tank less hot water heaters.  Tank less heaters are not “instantaneous”.  The process of heating your water takes time and it takes longer than having 30 gallons of water on standby.  You need to let the hot water run until it gets hot.  This can be a real pain if all you need is a little hot water, like when shaving.  However, you will never run out of hot water while filling a large tub or taking several long, long shower.  As long as the output does not exceed 24 litres per minute, you will never run out of water.

Navien hot water heaters are 96% efficient which means that only 4% of the energy consumed is lost.  Navien heaters can be ordered for natural gas and propane.  They are Energy Star rated.
Is it worthwhile upgrading your existing hot water tank to a tank less unit?  The short answer is no.  Unless of course, you need to replace your hot water tank, in which case the upgrade is a few hundred dollars, a US consumer report indicated that the pay back on replacing your hot water tank with a unit like a Navien is 22 years.

The following are links for more information on Navien water heaters and tank-less water heaters in general.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Modular Man 12 step modular home purchasing process

Barné Building and Construction makes the custom modular process easy. We will work with you from start to finish to make sure your project stays on-time and on-budget. Our 12-step building process has been developed with more than 15 years of experience to ensure that your home is constructed efficiently and correctly. With this innovative process, you could have your new homeowner in their house in as little as six weeks.

1.     Land / Lot Development:
If lot is owned:
·         Check Survey and zoning to determine setbacks and restrictions
·         Determine types and location of site services
·         Conduct delivery survey
·         Conduct septic and well feasibility survey if required
·         Determine budget for site development including services
If lot is to be purchased:
·         Check Survey and zoning to determine setbacks and restrictions
·         Determine types and location of site services
·         Conduct delivery survey
·         Conduct septic and well feasibility survey if required
·         Determine budget for site development including services
·         Make offer subject to financing

·         Select your Guildcrest Home model and options and determine cost
·         Establish financing
·         Complete Schedule “B”
·         Sign-off on approval drawings
·         Establish delivery and construction schedule
·         Secure financing
·         Purchase lot if required
·         Obtain required permits
·         Arrange for site services and lot development
·         Stake out and final building location

·         Order beams and columns if needed
·         Install construction driveway and culvert if required
·         Lay-out and excavation
·         Arrange for geotechnical engineer and footing inspections
·         Form and pour footings and foundation walls
·         Install weep tile system and foundation coatings
·         Install under-floor utilities
·         Install municipal services if available
·         Frame knee walls or walk-outs
·         Backfill and rough grade site
·         Pour basement floor if weather permits
·         Arrange for crane pre-inspection
·         Coordinate well and septic installation if required

·         Foundation and Footings have passed Inspection
·         Obstacles for Crane and Transporters have been Removed
·         Access Route for Crane and Transporters is planned
·         Crane Pad is Ready and Firm
·         Set Crew and Crane Schedules are Confirmed
·         Backup equipment Scheduled and Confirmed if required
·         Utility Crews have been Scheduled for Turn-off / Turn-on (if applicable)
·          Weather Forecast for Set Day looks Adequate
·             Payment for Delivery Day Confirmed and Available

·         Guildcrest Home is Delivered/Received
·         Delivery crew unwraps Modules
·         Inventory of Ship-Loose Materials and back orders checked
·         Delivery crew marks set lines on the Foundation
·         Pick-Points on the Modules are located and the modules are prepared for Lifting
·         The modules are lifted into place with the crane and set
·         The modules are fastened to the foundation
·         Wires, Pipes, Ducts and Stairs are prepared for installation
·         Posts/Support Columns are installed
·         Stairs to Basement  are installed if possible
·         Roof Sections  are lifted into place with the crane
·         Dormers and Other Roof Elements  are put into place
·         Your  home is now made weather-tight and secure

·         Siding and or masonry work is completed including soffit and fascia as required
·         Basement and walk-out windows are installed
·         Shutters and trims are installed
·         Installation of the chimney and chimney box is completed
·         Optional garages are completed,
·         Optional gutters and downspouts are installed
·         Optional decks and porches are installed

·         Install electrical service including breaker panel and service entrance
·         Provide generator panel
·         Connect wiring of the modules
·         Install range and dryer cables
·         Provide wiring for the basement or crawl space as required
·         Connect heating, cooling and ventilating devices
·         Arrange for inspections as required

·         Complete installation and commissioning of municipal services if available
·         Connect plumbing fixtures drains and water lines
·         Connect hot water systems
·         Connect dishwasher and ice makers as required
·         Review and check plumbing fixture installation and operation
·         Coordinate municipal inspections as required

9.     HVAC
·         Complete heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems including duct-work
·         Provide gas lines for heating and hot-water equipment as required
·         Provide gas lines for appliances including fire places and BBQ if required
·         Test and commission as systems
·         Coordinate municipal inspections

·         Complete installation of drywall including crack filling
·         Finish painting of all walls, ceilings, doors and trims
·         Install customer supplied light fixtures if required
·         Install and seam vinyl flooring and carpeting as required
·         Coordinate the installation of the other non-factory flooring
·         Arrange clean up including sticker removal

·         Complete garage floor, steps and sidewalks as required
·         Install exterior light fixtures
·         Rake finish grading
·         Install garage doors
·         Final exterior clean up

·         Final punch list is completed
·         Tarion PDI completed
·         Final building inspections and occupancy inspection performed
·         Owner occupancy