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    • The Right Tool...

      January 16, 2021

      When it comes to great weather, we've had it pretty good here in the Shuswap over the past stretch. Our crews working in the elements have enjoyed some pretty mild and relatively dry conditions during the past few weeks. But that's all about to change next week, if forecasts are to be taken seriously.

      At our Turtle Valley project, two of our staff carpenters, Chuck Beaton and Mark Orchard, are hoping to beat the cold weather as they strive to finish the exterior of this two story, off-the-grid custom family home. To help them complete the siding, we've rented a SkyTrak zoom boom telehandler. Not only does this versatile tool help us get the job done faster, it's also a lot safer -- particularly during winter on a two story home such as this.

      Meanwhile, inside the home, kitchen cabinets are in the process of being installed (see inset photo). Later this month, flooring installation will get underway. We're on track to complete the home for the new owners at some point in March.

      Incidentally, many of our staff and subtrades say this is the most tranquil and relaxing place they've had worked at!

    • We're Cleaning House!

      January 08, 2021

      Literally. In fact, we're always cleaning our under-construction homes. Here at Copper Island Fine Homes, a clean construction site is critically important -- for safety, for worker moral, for accuracy and quality, and just because it's the right thing to do.

      We obviously can't guarantee that all of our worksites always look like the photos below, which were taken yesterday at one of our current projects, a stunning West Coast style home on the lake shore in Eagle Bay. Construction is a messy business, and sometimes work takes precedence over neat and tidy. But we're always striving to keep our projects this clean, and encouraging our staff and sub-trades to clean up after themselves so that the next trades who come along don't have to deal with a mess.

      The home was cleaned by our father and daughter Project Supervisors, Dean and Heidi Friesen. The timing was perfect, as the spotless house was ready for our cabinet company to come and mark out all cabinet locations yesterday. And the clean site is being greatly appreciated by our plumbers, who arrived on site this morning to start their plumbing rough in.

      A week from today, Heidi and our electricians will be doing a virtual electrical walk-through with our clients using FaceTime. In preparation for the meeting, we fully expect the home to look very similar as it does in the photos below!

    • Tear Down....Build Up!

      January 05, 2021

      Sometimes we think we're in the demolition business! A growing number of our projects involve teardowns of older homes around the Shuswap, followed by a modern new home build. And the majority of these extensive projects are located on lakefront lots, which is the case for this new one we're now fully immersed in, in the North Shore community of Scotch Creek.

      The images below give you a great idea of what we're going to be doing. The existing structure, a single level cabin that's undoubtedly helped create some amazing holiday memories in its time, will soon be levelled to make way for the stunning two story home that you see in the conceptual drawings beneath the photo. At some point later this year, we'll proudly hand over the finished project to the owners so they can move forward with creating a entire new set of memories on the property, in somewhat more luxurious surroundings. Interestingly, the project is right next door to a similar one that we completed a few years ago for their neighbours.

      These are challenging yet highly rewarding projects for us. We work hand in hand with the home owners every step of the way, using our extensive experience to help them secure all necessary assessments and permitting for demolition, septic systems, riparian, and new home construction. It's a bit of a juggling act, but we've been through it successfully many times.

      All permits are now in place for this project, and we'll be immediately moving forward with a safe and efficient tear down, followed by our award-winning new home construction. Check back to see our progress on this exciting new project. Our thanks to the home owners for entrusting us with their updated Shuswap dream!

    • Building Blocks

      December 24, 2020

      As our crews book a few days off for the holidays, we’re happy to report excellent progress on one of our projects on the north shore – a custom lakefront home that is now taking shape after significant delays obtaining our permits.

      We’re particularly pleased to be building the foundation with ICF blocks. ICF, which is short for insulated concrete form, is technology that was developed in the late 60s and uses interlocking polystyrene blocks which act as forms for the concrete foundation – and then remain in place to provide a higher degree of energy efficiency than a standard foundation.

      Despite their excellent track record, we really thought that, by now, we’d be building more homes using ICF blocks. After all, not only are ICF foundations more energy efficient, they’re also less prone to moisture intrusion, and less sensitive to cold temperatures than poured concrete foundations. It’s true that the cost of ICF is modestly more than traditional methods of construction, but the cost savings in the form of reduced energy bills over a lifetime of ownership more than make up for the initial outlay.

      There’s also research that suggests ICF walls are stronger because the ICFs contribute to better and more stable curing of concrete.

      If you’d like to know more about construction using ICF, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us – no other builder in the Shuswap has as much experience as we do using this innovative and green approach to house construction.

    • Watching Paint Dry!

      December 14, 2020

      Normally, watching paint dry is as boring as...well...watching paint dry. But we’re very relieved to be watching paint dry at one of our new home builds in Turtle Valley.

      Why? Well, this stunning new home is being built without any hydro or natural gas availability. And since we typically use a ton of electrical heat and fans to cure drywall (particularly in the fall or winter), we were a touch apprehensive about how long it would take us to work through the drywall stage in preparation for painting. One of the options we considered was renting an industrial diesel generator to power our 220 volt heaters. But in the end, we didn't need to.

      As you can see from the photo below, we are now, in fact, at the painting stage. Heidi Friesen, our Project Manager, explains how we managed to complete and cure the drywall without any hydro except what we had available from the home’s new array of solar panels.

      “We ran the solar to power the plugs in the house that had heaters plugged in to them,” says Heidi. “We also had a wood burning fireplace going everyday. And we had rented a propane construction heater to help when we needed that extra heat.”

      She adds that all the interior trim has been completely finished, and that our painters are now prepping and spraying all the trim. They will then carry on and paint the whole house. Cabinets are due to arrive in early January, with flooring to follow mid-January.

      This stunning home has provided us with an excellent opportunity to learn more about off-grid construction—something we believe we’ll be doing more and more of in coming years, considering the alternative energy sources now viable, and customers’ increasing desire to live in our area’s beautiful rural and wilderness settings.

    • Race Against the Weather

      December 07, 2020

      After months of delays obtaining demolition and building permits from the CSRD, we're finally underway with this teardown/new build in St. Ives. As you can see from the photo below, we're taking advantage of the weather to get our footings poured this week, and once that's complete, we'll be racing against the thermometer with the foundation and framing.

      Unfortunately, it's a not a race we're likely to win, despite the fact that we've bulked up our foundation and framing crew with extra personnel. You can only hold off the typical Shuswap winter weather for so long, and that means we'll no doubt be shovelling snow from the job site in the near future. Needless to say, it will be vital to get a roof on this project as soon as possible. But even keeping the snow off doesn't prevent cold weather from interfering with the building process -- for example, it's likely that our foundation and slabs will require insulation and even heat to cure properly.

      Of course, we're used to facing challenges with most of our jobs, so we're confident we'll have our clients in their beautiful new West Coast lakefront home in time to enjoy some summer in 2021. Stay tuned for more updates.

    • Marrying Steel and Timber

      November 27, 2020

      Lumber is one of the most amazing construction materials -- it's tough and durable, and allows for incredibly flexible house designs. But sometimes, it's just not strong enough.

      That's the case at one of our current projects on Eagle Bay Road. This waterfront West Coast beauty features a great deal of glass to take advantage of the amazing Shuswap vistas. And because of that, our engineers prescribed steel to replace lumber in one particularly critical area of the home. It provides a great deal of extra strength for the entire structure, which will be particularly important during those occasional high wind events we get throughout the year.

      You can see the steel section in the photos below. It's called a moment frame -- a rectilinear assemblage of beams and columns, with the beams rigidly connected to the columns. Resistance to lateral forces (for example, high winds) is provided primarily by rigid frame action -- that is, by the development of bending moment and shear force in the frame members and joints. Now that it's been craned into place and secured, our expanded crew can get on with the rest of the framing and sheathing, hopefully before winter arrives in earnest.

      The entire site and garage have been backfilled with gravel which improves cold weather compaction and creates a nice clean working space with excellent water drainage -- ideal for fall and winter construction. Trusses, roofing and window installation are scheduled in the weeks ahead.

      One of the challenges with this build was the steepness of the driveway in the original plan. We made a decision to change the location after careful consultation with our onsite teams, in order to reduce the grade. To achieve this, we are taking advantage of the public access road west of the home and creating a simple U-shaped driveway. Not only is it much less steep, it's also less expensive for the home owner and allows for more room for the septic field.

      This is yet another challenging and amazing project that we feel privileged to be working on. Watch for more updates in the weeks ahead.

    • Red Tape Delays...

      November 19, 2020

      We’re finally underway with this new lakefront build in St. Ives. The problem is, we’re getting started so late in the season. The reason? It’s taken us six months get our final permit approvals from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, or CSRD. We started the permit process for this home on May 7, 2020 and have only received our approvals.

      We believe these types of delays are being experienced by other builders. The reasons are unknown to us, but we’ll concede that some of the problems are likely due to COVID-19. We hope to work with the CSRD and see how we can all figure out some ways to improve permit turn-around time-frames.

      This home involves a teardown of an existing house. We received our demolition permit on November 2, and we were then able to complete the teardown last week. That allowed us to proceed with digging the new home’s foundation. We’re now working to get ahead of the upcoming snow and winter weather with larger-than-normal foundation and framing crews standing by.

      Meanwhile, we’re working through other challenges. A tight location and challenging soils requiring additional geotechnical assessment have been necessary for the septic system design, to ensure ground water does not mix with effluent. Another problem that’s been resolved deals is creating sufficient fire code separation—this requires fire-rated plywood for the east and west walls.

      We’re pleased to say that our structural engineering has passed inspection, and as soon as we’re able, we’ll start footing forming followed by the basement foundation walls using ICF Fox Blocks.

      The design selection process with our homeowners is underway for all major finishing components inside and out.

      Some of those features include Eldorado Cliffstone Boardwalk stone veneer, Charcoal Elite overhead doors with glass panels, custom-stained timbers from Daizen Joinery, stained Douglas Fir T&G soffits, vertical HardiePlank siding, black metal clad windows, stained fiberglass doors, and a standing seam metal roof.

      HVAC selections are also complete, with heating and cooling provided via a Lennox furnace, a 16 SEER heat pump, zoned heating and cooling system (both floors independent with own thermostats and ducting), Merc 16 pleated air cleaner, heat recovery ventilator, flow-through humidifier and furnace acid condensate neutralizer (prevents acid damage to septic fields – not a Code requirement but just another caring detail that we take of).

      As you can see from the plans below, the style is all West Coast, with extensive use of glass and timber. More updates to follow for this gorgeous new build.

    • Off the Grid!

      November 05, 2020

      This past summer, we started construction of a new custom home in tranquil Turtle Valley. Our clients, a wonderful young family from the Lower Mainland, wanted to relocate to the Shuswap as a lifestyle choice, and fell in love with the property when they first saw it. After purchasing it, they contracted Copper Island Fine Homes to build their new family home.

      The major hurdle that we all discovered was energizing the home with hydro. Together, we explored options with BC Hydro, but when we finally got an estimate of $80,000 to bring power to the property and learned that it would take a year or more to design, a decision was made to build the house off the grid using renewable energy.

      Part of that means a stunning solar array, already installed at the property as you can see in the top photo below. In addition to solar power and rechargeable batteries, the home will also utilize a propane furnace heating system during the colder months.

      We’re currently running three weeks behind schedule due to delays in foundation and framing construction, but we’re now making up time and working hard to get back on schedule. Fortunately, we are now entirely weatherproof, just in time as the snow begins to fly in earnest. As you can see in the other photos below, our heating and plumbing mechanical installs are complete, as are electrical rough-ins. That’s allowed us to begin insulation, and we’ve now spray-foamed our bumpouts, rim joists and exterior water lines. We’re currently installing batts and getting ready for blown-in ceiling insulation.

      The house is at lockup, with exterior doors installed and the garage sheeted for security. We’ve installed a sub-trade access door to minimize damage to the main house entry door. Drywall has been measured and ordered, and a beautiful wood burning fireplace has been installed.

      Outside, soffits are complete, and our siding and trims are on site and ready for installation. Duradek decking has been installed and railings are on order.

      There are some remaining challenges brought by the remoteness of the property. For example, the solar array, while up and functioning perfectly, doesn’t provide sufficient power to operate the industrial space heaters we need for drywall curing. Project Manager Dean Friesen is exploring all options with the homeowners to ensure we get proper heat to maintain construction schedule and proper drying. These options include a commercial generator and an electric furnace with fans. Another challenge is the long dirt road with significant slope and sharp curves -- it poses access challenges for heavy loads such as drywall and cabinet deliveries. We’re doing our best to bring loads in during weather breaks and adjust schedules and trade starts to work around these deliveries. Plow trucks are standing by as needed for snow clearing, sanding and vehicle extrication.

      In other words, we’re all up for the challenges!

    • Rock Solid

      October 31, 2020

      One of our current projects involves pouring quite possibly the most challenging foundation we’ve ever undertaken. Not that we shy away from a challenge!

      The project, a complete teardown and new build on Eagle Bay Road, is on a typically steep lakefront lot. It’s a complex site with a sloping grade that requires us to first form, pour and backfill the lower foundation for the main house, and then form and pour the footings and foundation for the upper garage. The process involves specialized structural and geotechnical engineering – for example, we’re backfilling with two to six inch rock beneath the garage footings, and using 15 mm rebar in a tight grid in the footings and foundation walls due to soil composition and height.

      After initial delays due to permitting, we’re entirely on schedule with the foundation process, thanks to the skills and efforts of our excavation contractor, Darcy Lessard, and our foundation and framing crew led by Steven Neufeld. This has allowed us to complete our underslab plumbing and prepare the basement for radiant heat installation (you can see the PEX pipe laid out in one of the photos below). Our pressure tests and inspections for this plumbing work have all passed with flying colours.

      This week, we’ll pour the basement slab, along with the garage footings and wall. Often we’ll wait to pour a slab until the roof is on in order to provide protection from the elements. But the projected sunny weather this week is allowing us to proceed with the slab now, saving our clients money on concrete heating and hoarding costs if we had waited until the roof was complete.

      This truly is a Copper Island Fine Home. As such, it features premium grade lumber, as opposed to standard construction grade. This lumber is just one step below Japanese-grade lumber, recognized as the best in the world. Using this lumber minimizes stud warping, checking, wall movements and drywall cracking down the road. We’re also employing a steel moment frame for structural stability on the lakefront wall, as prescribed by our structural engineers to limit wall movement due to significant volumes of glass. This is on site and ready for installation once the main floor is sheeted.

      Trusses, windows, exterior doors and roofing are all ordered, and sub-trades scheduled. We’re continuing to place more emphasis on pre-ordering well in advance to curb supply challenges brought by COVID-19.

      We’re extremely pleased with our progress, which should allow us to achieve our goal of having the roof sheeted and the entire structure weatherproofed before the snow really starts to fly.