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Finally... My Overdue Overview (on the progress of our Custom House)

Where are we at?

The house has been going very well. After a summer of building, framing, digging, grading, retaining, roofing, prepping, installing, insulation and dry walling among other things, the custom built house in Montgomery is taking shape.

It's hard for me to believe in my last update I was talking about the gorgeous spring that we had. Although our progress has been great we did have some hiccups; with an unusually wet summer, and Hardy, who worked with me for more than a decade, decided to change careers which was a big blow and then, even more rain.


At last report we were just about to start framing the second floor. We did get to the second floor, the roof and windows and doors. The exterior finish of EIFS stucco and Board and Batten siding is about ½ way done at this point.

We decided to have Beyond Foam insulate the house with BASF’s Walltite Eco® a revolutionary spray foam insulation. BASF utilizes recycled materials as well as renewable resources to make the first 2lb spray foam to be given the EcoLogo® and it is purple.


At Durango Developments we feel that durable and energy efficient homes are extremely important especially with Calgary's climate. Using high efficiency furnaces, appliances, ICF foundation walls, spray foam insulation and triple pane low E windows throughout will all help keep the warmth in during the winter months and help the house stay cool in the summer. Keeping the weather outside with these and other eco products and materials also help the structure of the house by not allowing air, which carries moisture, through the walls. Moisture issues are becoming quite common building problems due to air moving through walls and preventing this helps stop moulds and other moisture issues from occurring.

We are weather tight and warm with temporary heat. We do not use our new furnaces to heat the house until closer to completion so as not to prematurely age and/or damage the new equipment. The drywallers have been busy boarding and now they are doing the finishing touches with their mudslinging and tape.

We are getting ready for the winter by completing some of the retaining walls and garage. After the weeks end we should have the garage framed and be back inside to start the finishing!


Give us a call to start planning your new custom project. We can make your current home better or start on a fresh set of plans...

White House progress report.

Thought I better provide an update on our latest custom home.

We have had a gorgeous spring in Calgary and have been building away on our latest custom home.

The sloping lot started to take shape with the energy efficient ICF foundation blocks. The concrete was poured on a cloudless day.

But it wasn't really until the main floor subfloor went on and we backfilled around the house that the lot and house took shape.

Most of our main floor walls are now up showing window and door openings. The very large opening on the front will have an impressive 14' Kolbe folding door system that will open the wall of windows up onto the not yet present deck.

We are now ready for the second floor engineered floor system to be delivered and in a few days we will be able to walk on the second floor! I can hardly wait to see the view from a little higher up.

Contact us now to start discussing your project ideas.

Here we go!

Let the building begin.

After 8+ months grinding through City Hall we now we have made some forward moves.

First step was to have the surveyor come and layout the elevation and basic location of the house on the lot. On April 19 we broke ground. We didn't have much topsoil- we basically have a sand pit and after the top layers are removed- the digging really begins. Because of the sandy soil and due to our intended house location closer to the east property line and the fact that neighbouring property has some structural issues we have had to shore up the east slope for safety and so that we do not undermine the neighbours' house. This shoring has taking a little more than a week of delays and a lot of dough ($).

Kent has been a very skilled excavator operator. He has been patient and actively problem solving. It is quite mesmerizing watching a skilled earth mover. Once the lot has been carved out the surveyor returns to mark out the corner locations for the footings.


Footings are the connection point for every house to the earth. Footings are placed on undisturbed native soil and in this case they have an engineered design. They are placed and designed to support the foundation and they resist any pressures from soil, water and the freeze/ thaw cycle that we have to contend with in Calgary homes.

Contact us to talk about your dream project.


It's no joke...we have permission to build!

After 8 months of grinding through city hall we now have a development permit and all necessary building permits.

We have faced all of the scrutiny that the city planning department could throw at us. No comments at all about the house we intend to build. But we had to make sure the house fits into the overall community plan, respect the privacy of our neighbours, analyze the soil and slope we are building on and prove we are building a house that meets the current building code requirements.

The whole process took about 5+ months longer than we anticipated but now we are good to go! Let the building begin.


Waiting, waiting, waiting... now the smart thing to do is postpone.

Indeed it is better to postpone, lest either we complete too little by hurrying, or wander too long in completing it. Tertullian

In earlier blog posts I talked about how I was trying to hurry along the planning process of our new inner city Calgary home so I could try to get it into the ground last fall. I was hoping to have the framing up by xmas. But alas it was not meant to be. When things don't go the way we want it is tempting to force a solution that may not be the best for the new circumstances...patience and experience help us make tough choices and thoughtful solutions.

Building in the winter has special considerations. There are two rules I am unwilling to bend when I put in new foundations. First that the footing is placed on undisturbed soil and the second is that no frost gets under the footing, this is the rule I am a little worried about now. We have built custom homes in the winter before, but we had enough time in the fall to get the foundation in and a source of temporary heat on before any risk of frost getting under the footings.

We still do not have our permits from the city. After the eight week process for a development permit the city decided to ask for a slope stability report, even though our slope was under their threshold for requiring one.

This report took another 5 weeks to have completed and then we resubmitted to the city. We were also asked to take any permanent landscaping (our retaining planters) off of the city land on the front setback and show it on the plans as natural landscaping. They also wanted a financial deposit to ensure that we take out the sidewalk cut that was existing from the previous front car parking pad. Seemed like a funny condition...but I think the city would prefer all future development on our street to have rear garages off the alley instead of the front street, which I tend to agree with. The report and the changes have added about $15000 to the cost of the build.


Now we will wait and see how much longer the city will be and how long winter will be. Fortunately we have had a warm start to the winter and only had cold overnight low temperatures for a couple of weeks so the ground is not frozen as deeply as it has been in other years in January. I am now waiting and hoping for an early spring so we can get started.


In my job, it seems, that unforeseen obstacles and expenses can pop up at any time. I have learned over the years to stay flexible in my approach so that I can solve the issues as they come up without forcing the outcome by ignoring the realities of the situation.

Contact Me if you would like to start discussing your project.


Catalogue Houses- you order it and then you build it

In the 1920s and 30s you could order your house from a catalogue.

All you had to do was pick your house out of a plan book, put in your order and pick up the pieces at the train station. Get your neighbours together and build it.

My experience with renovating old catalogue house kits has been determined by two things; whether or not someone with carpentry skills had built them, or just someone handy and how many times they had previously been renovated since they were built. These catalogue kit houses are very small by today's standards and so very few of them have not been added onto, had basements added or new have had windows installed. I find fairly often...

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10 Things to Ask Your Contractor Before You Start Your Project

Here is a good article from Houzz to get your renovation or build off to a good start and stay positive throughout. Listed are 10 great questions that will set a good foundation for communication throughout your renovation or building process.

Communication between you and your contractor sounds like it should be straightforward... but there can be some miscommunications that could complicate the process.


"The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

George Bernard Shaw


Over the years I have found that a common barrier to good communication is our individual expectations. Sometimes there are routine issues that come up for me, but they are not routine for the homeowner. And because they feel routine or normal to me I may not communicate enough of the details that a homeowner might need or be expecting, which can lead to unnecessary worries for my clients. I have tried to learn to anticipate and discuss more events, I am not always successful, but I am trying.

If you find that you are worried, or not expecting something, curious or think something was forgotten, it is important to talk with your contractor ASAP so that you both can talk it through and clear it up right away. Communication is a two way street.

Likely, there is an easy answer.

Contact Us to start discussing what we can do with your ideas...

Exterior fail- what does it really look like?

Have you ever heard of a "leaky condo"? Well it doesn't just happen to condos.

The exterior of a house is a system that is called the building envelope. The building envelope is comprised of everything that is keeping the weather outside of the house, including siding, stucco, windows, doors, chimneys, etc. The details of the building envelope are more complicated when there is a hole in the structure... but admittedly windows and doors are pretty nice to have...

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Winter is coming! Why aren't we building yet?

What are we waiting for? Permits...how long does that take?

Behind the scenes and the timing of a custom build.

It is important to know the timing you can expect when planning your Calgary custom home. Even after you have taken the time to design a home that will fit your needs, there will be some waiting. But what are you waiting for?

At the very minimum...

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Getting Permits...permission to build

Here we go...off to the city for permits with our plans!

After all of our planning and all of the work by Nick Flood Design we are ready to apply for permits from the city. It takes hours and hours of time planning, drawing and making most of our decisions before a house ever gets built. All of this advance preparation goes into the planning of a house so that the problems get solved before the wood gets cut. I have to admit that throughout this planning stage my brain gets very busy thinking about how I will actually build it...

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