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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...

Do you believe in magic?

How can an Interior Designer help you on your next project?

What do Interior Designers really do? This question comes up a lot in my building and renovation business. From my perspective, they can be a real help in the process of helping a client realize their own tastes and style without being overwhelmed and bogged down with all of the options available today. They can help prioritize what is important for their clients in the scope of their project.

There are probably as many stories about crazy interior designers as there are about horrible renovation or contractors. Over the last 15+ years I have worked with some really talented and some not so talented designers.

A designer who listens to their client and susses out the salient information will be able to save their client time and money. A good designer will have a plan before the project starts which will help a good contractor organize the ordering and timing of all of the items and colours. This way the client has a team working together for their home improvement. A designed project does not mean an expensive project, but that all of the aspects of the project have been considered and planned for ahead of time. A good designer brings the project together like magic!


When Interior Designers tend to fail is when they have a plan but it is not necessarily what the client wants. They ignore budgets or they don't even discuss them so the client is shocked when the contractor comes up with an estimate. Weak Designers sometimes will try to contract out their own projects with no knowledge of the construction process and often depend on the trades to know what to do and when to do it. It often ends in chaos, with things easily missed or having to be redone because there was no qualified oversight.

As a general contractor I have found that the best combination for my clients is to work together with an talented Interior Designer and Quality Contractor and an Invested Client. I can help the client liaise with the designer, and I can discuss the "how to" with the designer, so that the unique ideas can be realized and work. Together we all have different strengths and working together we can achieve the best quality and best representation of our clients ideas into the reality of their renovated space.

Contact us to get our experienced and talented team of experts to help you with your upcoming project!



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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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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Making Plans...

"Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now" Alan Lakein

We have been working for a few weeks now with Nick Flood Design for our upcoming custom inner city home in Calgary. Nick is great! He listens patiently and he has so many great ideas.

Planning is such an important part of the process. It is much easier to change a line on a page rather than to move a wall.

These plans have not been finalized, but I thought it would be interesting to show the process of developing ideas into a working set of plans that we can then build.

Go to the blogpost to see the latest version of the floorplans...

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Having a custom built home doesn't have to cost you more

It is true that a custom home may require more design time and sometimes there are added features that can take more time to build. But is it really fair to say that it costs more if you are getting more?

By the time your design is finished and your product selections are chosen the cost of your custom home can be quite accurately estimated. In order to keep the costs for your custom home in line...

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What is a custom built home?

And what are the differences with a custom home?

“One of a kind”- designed and built to suit your personal and family needs.
A custom built home is a collaboration between you, a designer/architect and your builder. You are involved throughout the design and building process. You help with many of the decisions: layout, exterior features, extra storage, built in closets, home office, bathrooms…your ideas shape your house.
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