Q. My wife and I have just purchased a new Mountainview Home, with our busy schedule between work and the children, how do you recommend we stay in the loop of our home building process?
A. Well first off, answers are always just a phone call away to your sales rep. They are usually on site 6 days a week. Beyond that we also offer an industry first with the Mountainview Homes MyHome Tracker. After an offer becomes firm, we will forward you a user name and password that will allow you access to our data system over the internet. You will be able to see the same information our sales, site, architecture, and décor staff see. With MyHome tracker you will have access to our construction schedule and will be able to see when 85 key items are ordered and installed.
You will have access to all of the quotes we have done and our upgrade book to see what the most popular options are and how much they will cost. You will have access to a summary of all of the change orders and changes that you have added to the contract. You will also have access to our service system where you will be able to track outstanding service items before and after the house closes. On top of that – you can visit the house during construction as long as you schedule the appointment and wear the proper safety equipment.
Q. My in-laws have bought a new construction home and already have foundation leaks! How do I know this will not happen to our new home as well?
A. All new homes in Ontario come with a warranty against leaks for two years. That just means that when a leak occurs, the builder will fix it for up to two years, and damage to contents resulting from the leak are not warranted.
To make sure we don’t get leaks that may need to be fixed we install a drainage system that is virtually leak proof. This system includes a drainage barrier on the outside of the foundation to prevent bulk water intrusion. It may cost more, but we are dead set against basement leaks and the damage to your investment that can result from them.
BUILDING PAPER SHINGLE FASHION
Q. When driving through the Mountainview sites currently under construction, I have noticed that your homes are not wrapped in a weather barrier such as Tyvek as some other Niagara builders do. Will this affect the performance of the house in the South Western Ontario climate?
A. We continue to use building paper because it is time tested and our trades know how to install it properly. A home requires three things to protect its walls from moisture. It needs an air barrier, a vapour barrier, and a weather barrier. Our poly plastic wrap behind the drywall acts as our air barrier and vapour barrier. What we need on the outside of the walls is a weather barrier. A weather barrier’s job is to keep running water out of the wall.
When building paper is installed by a bricklayer or a siding contractor they have to install it in shingle fashion as they work their way up the wall. This technique sheds water out of the wall through drainage holes at the bottom of the wall. At times I have seen house wraps installed in such a way that they actually direct water into the wall, are damaged by the elements so that they can no longer do their intended job, or rely on tape to keep the water out for the next 100 years. Time has shown that our method works and we plan to keep using what works to protect your investment.
FRAMING AND QUALITY CONTROL INSPECTION
Q. I have heard that Mountainview has a great reputation as the premier Niagara builder, but how do I know that I am getting a quality home?
A. We have earned that reputation by analyzing our past mistakes and putting systems in place to eliminate defects and continually improve our product. With several thousand homes under our belts we know what it takes to build to the highest quality standards. We have used our experience to create a 150 point inspection list that we hire an ex framer to use when independently reviewing the framing of our houses. When the framing is wrong, everything that comes after can be affected.
We also have our site staff do a 1500 point inspection prior to the Pre Delivery Inspection with the purchaser to make sure all of our houses meet our high standards. This list took years to develop, and only the highest quality materials and finishes will pass this inspection. Some of our staff have done such a fine job with this inspection that it is not uncommon to have Pre Delivery Inspections with no deficiencies listed on them. If you want to hear first hand about the quality of our product, ask our trades, ask the local building officials, and ask our past purchasers about the houses we build.
INFO SESSION, DÉCOR CENTRE, ELECT. WALK THRU, SALES STAFF
Q. We are about to buy our first new home. We are considering both new construction and resale. We are apprehensive to the building process as we have never ventured through it. If we decide to build with Mountainview, will we be helped and guided through the process as first timers?
A. We at Mountainview have many systems in place to help both first time and experienced home buyers through the home building process. We start with a very knowledgeable sales staff that receive continuous training in new home construction and customer service. We provide home owner information sessions run by the Mountainview owners and department heads where we explain who Mountainview is, how we are set up, and the process of buying a home from us.
We have an award winning décor centre where trained staff will help with colour selections and upgrades. We provide electrical and audio/video walkthroughs with professionals on request to help home owners get these important elements just right. We also have experienced construction personnel that are not afraid to meet with home owners to explain the construction process and how the home will be put together.
FOUNDATIONS, SCREW AND GLUE FLOORS, 1X4 STRAPPING
Q. How do I know that Mountainview builds a strong home? As I am not experienced in the building industry I do not know how to tell. I want to ensure that I am purchasing a well built investment!
A. Although I believe that purchasers put too much emphasis on strength and not enough emphasis on insulation, air flow, and vapour flow, I still believe in a strong house. The basis of every strong house starts with a strong foundation. Our foundations are poured using 20MPa concrete instead of the 15MPa concrete required by code to provide a 25% stronger wall. We add two pieces of 15M rebar to the tops of all of our interior foundation walls to minimize the eventual foundation cracks that always occur and to help protect the walls against soil loads. We then brace the foundation walls prior to backfill to make sure they don’t move during backfill operations. We have the stongest foundations in the industry.
On top of these strong foundations we install our wood framing with floor joists that are glued and screwed to the subfloor material to lock the components together and reduce squeeks, then use strapping for support instead of bridging because bridging is more susceptible to improper installation and damage from mechanical trades. All of our garages have exterior plywood sheathing and our houses are topped off with 3/8” plywood sheathing instead of aspenite.
AIR SEAL WITH HEATED SPACE BELOW FLOOR
Q. We are currently considering purchasing a Mountainview Home, however the plan which we prefer features a bedroom over the garage. This room would be a nursery. Will it be cold due to the garage below?
A. Unfortunately, rooms over a garage tend to be a little bit colder than the other rooms on the second floor during the winter because rooms over the garage have more cold surfaces. A room over the garage will likely have a cold surface on its front, on its top and bottom, and on its sides. When five of the six surfaces of a room are cold, the room will be a bit colder than other rooms.
In a Mountainview Home we use high density spray foam insulation around the perimeter of the space below the room over the garage to lock out cold air and leave the space below the floor empty with the insulation installed below it. This space will be warmer than the outside air and will temper the cold floor. Thermal imaging analysis has shown that floors done this way are warmer than floors filled with low density spray foam insulation or floors with an empty space but with no perimeter air seal. When the floor feels warmer, the room feels warmer since the floor is the only surface that comes in regular contact with the people in the room. This system combined with a properly designed heating system will provide the most comfortable rooms over the garage.
Q. We had made the decision of finishing the basement of our new Mountainview home. When reviewing our home insurance details, we noticed that they will not cover basement flooding? Do you know why? What are the chances of our basement flooding now that we have made the investment to the additional recreation space?
A. The chances of the basement flooding in a new home may be much higher than you think. Most new houses built today use sump pumps to remove the water that is collected by the basement perimeter drainage system. Sump pumps rely on mechanical pumps to make sure the basement does not flood. There are no pumps that last forever, so sooner or later all pumps fail. In a Mountainveiw Home we make sure that when this happens there is little chance the basement will flood. We do this by installing sump pumps with built in alarms that will alert our purchasers when a pump has failed so they can get it fixed before the basement floods.
For extra protection we also install an alarm rough-in that includes a line for a contact in the sump pump pit so if a home owner installs a full alarm system they can be alerted of a pump failure in time to fix it, even if they are away from home. There is nothing worse than getting a call on a night like Christmas Eve because someone’s basement has flooded due to a sump pump failure. We have done everything possible to avoid this possibility.
The high end sump pumps we use also have sealed lids to keep the moisture in the pit from getting into the home. During the spring and fall, water can run continuously into a sump pump pit and this running water can increase the humidity in the basement air considerably. We have seen mould growing on wood framing in the area of unsealed sump pump pits and that is why all of our pits are always sealed.
Q. We are very excited about the construction of our new home! My family and I like to visit the site as often as we can, venturing through the house, laying out furniture in our mind as we stand in the framed room. It is very exciting not only to us, but to our children, parents and extended family as we have brought them all out many times after hours to see our house coming together. Last week, when in our home, we were asked to leave by one of your workers. We were very embarrassed in front of our friends and upset of the insistent request. Is this not our home to show off? Do we not have a right to be in our own future kitchen?
A. We believe that every home buyer has a right to view their future home as long as it is done safely. That is why we began handing out two pairs of work boots and two hard hats to every family that buys a house from us. Once we have handed out the safety equipment, we will not allow anyone to visit the site unless they are wearing it. That is the law in Ontario and we are required to enforce it. You will be asked to leave if you do not have your equipment on, or if the trades are doing a job that they believe makes the work area unsafe for visitors. All site visits are by appointment only with your sales representative. The law also requires us to prohibit anyone under the age of sixteen from entering a construction site. You will find that Mountainview representatives can be very accommodating.
We also believe that all of the trades should have a safe place to work. No one wants to move into a house where an injury has occurred to a worker. Mountainview has been an industry leader at implementing and enforcing safety programs on our sites. We were one of the first companies to import “Safety Boot” railing anchors into Canada. We were one of the first companies to adopt safety straps in Niagara. We are also one of the first builders to start installing permanent roof anchors on every house that can not only be used by trades, but by home owners after they move in as well. If we all work safe – everyone goes home at the end of the day.
ROOFING, ROOF VENTS, CAULKING
Q. We have completed our exterior selections at the Décor Centre. Our representative explained to us that our home includes 30 year shingles. As this is not our “forever” house, we requested a less quality shingle to save money. Our request was denied. Why?
A. There are more reasons to use 30 year shingles than the fact that there is a 30 year limited warranty. The shingles we are using look better than other shingles because of their raised profile, which helps make the entire street look better and increases the resale value of the houses in our projects. The shingles we are using set very quickly and perform well against blow offs. It seems that the weather is getting more extreme all the time and we are having increasing numbers of high wind events. The next time the winds go over 100km/h take a drive through our projects and those of our competitors. You should see a big difference in the number of shingles blown off of our roofs. I can’t guarantee that none will blow off at those wind speeds, but I can tell you that there will be much less than with other shingles.
The shingles we are using also have a long warranty that lasts 30 years. Shingle warranties don’t guarantee that the shingles will last 30 years, they warrant that you will receive a small reimbursement of the cost of the shingle material that gets smaller as you approach 30 years. I like to use the rule of thumb that you should buy shingles with a warranty that is twice as long as you want the shingles to last. Most roofs don’t make it to the end of the warranty period before they need to be replaced. Having a longer warranty also helps to maintain resale value. If you sell the house after ten years, the next purchaser won’t be inclined to reduce their offer to pay for a new roof.
The main reason to use good shingles is to prevent roof leaks. We use hurricane roof vents instead of standard roof vents, and when combined with the high end shingles we use we get very few roof leaks. Remember that your warranty does not guarantee that you won’t get a leak. It guarantees that if you get a leak we will fix it. Add a high end caulking such as Dymonic caulking at all of our window openings in brick walls and you get a very leak resistant house.
Q. We are building a Mountainview Home. Our son suffers from asthma and with working within our budget; we would like to make as many alterations as we can to help him live as comfortably as possible. What can you suggest?
A. From the research I have done, there are two things needed in every home to keep the air fresh and clean for those suffering from asthma. The two things are fresh air from outside, and low humidity levels inside. New homes are built very tight to help make them more energy efficient and less expensive to heat and cool. I compare today’s houses to fish tanks. Any contaminants in the tank stay in the tank until they are filtered out or the water gets changed. In a house there are many contaminants ranging from candle smoke, to steam, to off gasing of the chemicals in particle board and carpets. The air can be filtered using a furnace filter or high end equivalent, but the air also needs to get changed on a regular basis, and the best way to do this is by using ventilation. Every Mountainview home includes a ventilation system. We won’t build a house without one.
The great thing about a ventilation system is that it also helps to control humidity levels. High humidity levels raise the dew point temperature of surfaces in the home and make it easier for condensation to occur. The more condensation there is the greater the chance of mould growth. High humidity levels also provide the moisture in the air that dust mites need to survive. Dust mite droppings when breathed in can cause asthma in sensitive people by means of an allergic reaction. The only way to kill dust mites effectively is to maintain the relative humidity in the house at under 40%. In the summer time this can only be achieved with air conditioning, and in the winter this can only be achieved with ventilation. Ventilation should not be an option. It is the best way to get fresh clean air from outside, to reduce the chance of mould growth in the house, and to kill dust mites.
The other option to help those suffering from asthma it to upgrade to solid surface flooring in key areas like bedrooms to eliminate the dust that can be collected by carpets.
SQUARE BOXING, TRUSS UPLIFT, VAULTED CEILING CRACKS
Q. I was visiting your site last week and one of the Mountainview sales representatives mentioned metal framing at all the main floor boxing. I would assume that since it costs more that it is a good thing, but what does that mean for me?
A. We have switched from wood to metal boxing and backing to get straighter drywall edges, a more airtight envelope, better insulated walls, and less drywall cracks. We were having complaints about the boxing in our two storey homes not being square and straight and we were also getting complaints that the heat runs that were in that boxing were blowing cool air into the bedrooms above. Almost all houses in Ontario have the duct boxing framed in using wood at the framing stage of construction. That makes it impossible to run the drywall behind the boxing to seal the wall and protect the ductwork in the boxing from air infiltration. We leave the boxing out until the drywall stage. That way we can install the drywall on the walls all the way to the ceiling above to get a perfect air seal to the top of the wall to protect the duct work. We then frame the boxing using metal studs that are more square and straight than wood. You should be able to see the difference.
We also use metal backing at vertical corners on outside walls instead of using a third wood stud there. This allows us to put more insulation in these vulnerable corners, and helps to reduce the size of shrinkage cracks there. We then have the drywallers place metal backing at the tops of the walls where they meet the attic to reduce the chance of cracks at the tops of these walls due to truss uplift. As an extra precaution, we also install special metal backing such as the “X-Crack” where vaults meet flat ceilings to reduce the cracks that often occur at this location.
BEST AIR BARRIER
Q. As my family grows we have decided to build a larger home with Mountainview. What do you recommend will keep our utility costs down?
A. The best way to save on utility costs is to build a well insulated house with a tight air barrier. In many cases there can be more heat lost through a week air barrier than through a poorly insulated wall. We at Mountainview build our houses with some of the tightest air barriers in the industry. We know this because we get blower door tests done on every house we build. This test requires that a negative pressure be applied to the house to determine the amount of air leakage. This test is needed as part of the Energuide program to get an energy efficiency rating for the house. Some of the key areas where an air tight house benefits the new home buyer is at rooms over the garage to keep them warmer, at ductwork in boxing to keep the air in the ducts warmer, and at tubs and showers to keep the water in them warmer when having a bath. Having an air tight house also makes it easier to balance the heating and cooling systems in the house because there is less interaction from the outdoor elements on vulnerable places in the house.
To go beyond the standard high level of construction Mountainview offers, purchasers can upgrade their house with an Energy Star Package or other energy saving upgrades that we offer.
Q. We have purchased a new home before and on closing day were shocked with a bill for closing costs and tree plantings. We are trying to organize our budget now. Should we be expecting this as well on the closing day of our new Mountainview Home?
A. When you purchase a Mountainview home everything that can be included is included in the original purchase price. We will not charge for permit fees, the legal survey, the water meter, the boulevard tree, the base coat of asphalt on the driveway, or any other costs builders can come up with to artificially lower their base sale prices.
With Mountainview you will pay the amount stated in the agreement of purchase and sale, the amount of any upgrades that have been added but not paid for already, the cost of utilities & property taxes that may have been prepaid by Mountainview, the land transfer tax, the Tarion fee, the hydro secondary service fee, and the cost to hire your own independent legal counsel. We don’t want to start your new home experience with the negative impact of unforeseen costs on closing. We also don’t want our purchasers to think that if we cut back there, we must have cut back in other places as well to save money.