Planning a Dream House From the Ground Up – An R2R Case Study


I’ve spent my career renovating properties in order to help people reach their financial goals, and truth be told, planning for a client is pretty easy. You make the designs, hire the crew, get the permits, etc. I’ve done it hundreds of times and it’s almost become second nature. There’s very little emotion involved.

Planning my own home was a very different story. From the beginning I knew that every decision I made would have a lasting impact on mine and my family’s future. And when we discovered that we were going to have to tear down an entire structure and start building new, it added a whole other layer of complexity. If you’re planning on building a home from the ground up, here are some things I suggest.

Scott Turkstra

Do Your Research

The first step to planning your dream home is knowing what you want, and that requires some research. You need to think about location, the style of house you want, your wishlist for the interior and exterior, and how you want your house to function. Spend some time exploring your options and don’t rush into anything before you’re ready.

Hire the Right Builder

Finding the right builder is key to your success. You need someone who has experience building the type of home you want, someone who knows the area and can make recommendations, and someone who can execute your vision while giving you the benefit of their expertise. Find out who has built other homes in the neighbourhood, check references, and ask questions until you’re satisfied.

‘Reno to Reveal’ Callout

Hiring Peter McCarthy and his company Hard at Work was a no-brainer for Scott’s dream house. Peter has built numerous homes in the area and is more or less responsible for the neighbourhood’s revitalization. “I know a lot about return on investment when renovating, but Peter knows everything there is to know about houses in this area – he’s built most of them!” Peter was able to offer not just a quality build, but with his expertise in building this kind of home in this particular area, he could ensure Scott was getting the right value for the neighbourhood. “Peter is as much of a perfectionist as I am, so it was a perfect match.”

Scott McGillivray and Peter McCarthy

Use the Right Materials

Using quality materials is paramount to creating a strong foundation. What’s behind your walls, under your floors, and above your ceiling is hugely important. Usually your builder will decide on these types of materials, but you need to be aware of what’s being used and discuss the details with him or her. This information isn’t just important to your builder, it could be useful down the line if you’re making changes or upgrades.

Roxul MTM

‘Reno to Reveal Callout’

Because Scott is a real estate investor and contractor by trade he knew he wanted to use the materials he’s trusted to hundreds of other projects. Some of his trusted products included Turkstra lumber for framing the entire structure, Roxul COMFORTBATT® for the exterior walls, Roxul SAFE’n’SOUND® for the ceiling, and a variety of CertainTeed drywall products for finishing the walls . “Since this is what I do for a living I’m very familiar with what products work best.”

Craft Room Drywall

Hire the Right Trades

People who don’t work with trades on a regular basis tend to get confused when it comes to who to hire and how to hire them. Ultimately your builder will have regular trades they work with who are properly licensed and skilled. However, if you’re involved in hiring subtrades, there are a few key things to consider. The main ones are to make sure they’re properly licensed, they’re familiar with the type of dwelling you’re building, and they’ve worked in the neighbourhood before. If you’re unclear about how to hire people check out this article on how to hire your renovation team.

‘Reno to Reveal Callout’

With intensive HVAC requirements needed, Scott went to a company he knew could get the job done. “Thermal Concepts  has been a big part of this build. They have been responsible for determining the needs for not only heating and cooling, but the distribution of hot water throughout the house, installation of the hydronic floor heating system, all the gas lines, installation of all the exterior radiant heating, and the  installation/needs of the generator.” They were the right choice for a few reasons. Peter works with them regularly so they came highly recommended, but they also know the area very well – they’re Scott’s new neighbours!

Uponor and Thermal Concepts

Think About ROI

In order to maximize your return on investment, the house has to be in keeping with the neighbourhood. This goes back to the importance of hiring a builder who knows the area. Things you might not think are necessary, or might not want to put the money towards, could be vital in getting you top dollar when it comes time to sell your home.

‘Reno to Reveal Callout’

Because Scott was building his home in an area with a specific type of house with specific characteristics, he had to make decisions based on ROI for the neighborhood. “In the basement I had a radiant floors installed because I knew that was one of the “luxuries” people in this neighbourhood would be looking for. I used a hydronic system from Uponor that can actually heat the home using less energy than a traditional forced air heating system. In the long run it might actually save money, so it’s a win-win.”

House In Progress

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Don’t forget about decorating. Just because the contractor’s done it doesn’t mean your job is over. You still need to buy furniture, window treatments and accessories. Make sure you’ve included these in the budget.