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Ask Ailsa

Got a question about your Reno Project? Is it yo' spouse?! ha,ha,ha! You can ask me pretty much anything that you're wondering about, from Construction to Relationships to Children, or anything else that's on your mind. I'll give you an honest answer, and if it's something I know nothin' about, I'll just make it up! ha,ha,ha! (In honour of one of our favorite funny men, Dave Barry!) No, no. I'll consult an expert -- they always know everything...It'll be fun and informative!

Sooo, e-mail me, then wait to see my response in Ask Ailsa. Talk to you soon. Ailsa! (to learn more about me, check out my biography.)

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Man, I have to get new pictures of me on my site... I'm living in Los Angeles, California, am 47 (!) and in great shape (woohoo!!), and loving my new life. For some reason, I can't seem to get the pictures on my site, anymore, so must call my old Webmaster, Steve, to see if he can help me! (Remind me of stuff I'm already supposed to know! haha!) (Oh, there's a new picture of me on my Money Frog page -- a great page if you feel like making more money! lol! I'm far too lazy to put another pic on this page, right now -- maybe later! haha!)

Here I am with our cute little dog, Tia! (In case you're wondering what a 'Building Girl' looks like!) This picture was taken in our Sunroom right after we moved into our new house. I've since lost 27 lbs. (WooHoo!), so I'll need to get some new photos so you can see me and the new Sunroom beautifully Decorated -- Tia always looks her same cute little self!

Desperate to see more pictures of Tia?? Click Here for Tia's own Page!

Then make your way over to 'At Home With Ailsa', My Daily Update Page -- lots of fun!

To Save Build Your Own House to Your Favorites, Right Click on your Mouse, and click on 'Create Shortcut'. Or just click on the 'Favorites' box on your Top Bar!

Date: Tue, 22 Jun 2010
Subject: Your beautiful house


I saw your website and was really impressed. Did it only cost $40,000
to build that mansion!? I presume that's without all the interior
details,tiling,baths,etc? At some stage I'd like to purchase the plans
from you when I'm in a position to buy.Well done,very impressive!


Hahahaha! Noo, we came in $40,000 under budget, but I WISH the house only cost $40,000! Wouldn't THAT be fantastic?? haha! But you can save soo much money by building your own house, so I'm thrilled you're thinking about it! Just remember, you're basically building a great big box, and it's the toys on the inside that add most of the costs, so find your land, choose your shape of a box, build away!! You don't even have to develop it all at once.. we developed the lower level the second year we were in the house... I think -- hard to remember how long we waited, but the house was so big, we really didn't need the extra space, but it was fun to have, for sure!

Ttys, Kevin! Where are you? How are land prices in your area?? I'm always curious, in case I'd want to move there! haha! Thanks for writing, you gave me a great laugh, tonight!

Ailsa :) Ailsa Forshaw

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The Scottish Diet Question...

Hi Ailsa, I ran upon you website this last week and more importantly, for my love of sweets, your Apple Crumble for 1 recipe!!!! I would like to firstly say how delicious it really is, and secondly how right you are about others sneaking a “little” bite; my 3 year old eats hers and then heads straight for mine!!!!

Anyways, just a quick question…did you use this as a supplement to your meals or as a replacement for your breakfast and lunch? I know it’s loaded with fruit and fiber, so I’m not concerned on the nutritional side of it, but just wanted to know how you incorporated it into your food plan. Also can one use regular oats as opposed to the quick oats in it, or do they stay too dry???

Thanks so much Ailsa…and my belly thanks you too!!!!! Cheers, Janeen

Hi, Janeen! What a cheery wee message! I'm glad you like the Apple Crumble... you can make it in a big dish with cut apples or pretty much any other type of fruit, too, and it's delicious!

I always use the quick cooking rolled oats because I never have time to wait for the old fashioned oats to cook, properly... I'm all about things that I can make in about a minute! haha!

When I am really in 'weight loss' mode, I'll have the apple crumble for breakfast, lunch, and sometimes little snacks in between. And now I make it even faster, when I'm at work -- I just fill the bowl half way with applesauce, pour on the oatmeal and then pour on the cinnamon.. into the microwave for 120 seconds, stir and eat. I'm really fond of it, now, and I feel a bit stoic eating it, but I do enjoy it, and it's fast and easy... and don't forget that the cinnamon helps to moderate your blood sugar, so I feel like I'm doing myself a big favour by choosing this as my breakfast or lunch!

I have another little snack I really like that I should put on my site that you might like to add to your day... I got a container of dried cranberries and a container of almonds, and mixed them in a big freezer bag... and I took a wee baggie of it to work. Tasty wee treat, and really healthy. (Especially tasty if you need a chocolate fix -- just pop a wee bit o' chocolate in your mouth with the cranberries and almonds -- yum!)

Are you a Gym Girl, at all? I have a huuge belief that if you can get your large muscles to do a lot of the work for you in terms of managing your weight, life is much, much easier... that's why I like to do a lot of leg exercises... check my fitness pages and you'll see what I mean. I really need to update those pictures to me in the real gym, but every time I forget the camera! How crazy is that, forgetting a camera for years on end?? haha!

Happy Eating! Ttys, Ailsa

P.S. If you've been a particularly good girl, and I know you have, AND you happen to like Cheesecake, do yourself a giant favour and try the cheesecake on my site -- it's my most famous secret recipe, and fabulously delicious! Are you married? If so, your husband will go mad, and who knows what you'll get in return! hahaha!

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Subject: Cost to build in Okotoks
Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2008 23:40:21 -0700

Hi, Ailsa!

First of all: fantastic name. "Ailsa" was my first choice for a
daughter, but somehow didn't happen with either of my little girls.
Love it, though!

Secondly: great web site, thanks for all your work and time!

Finally: Truly hope you're enjoying Southern California..... if ever
in doubt, picture us poor Okotokians suffering through a week of
minus 50 degree weather recently! Ack!!! Good for you for escaping...

On to my point (and yes, I do have one):
Hubby and I are getting ready to build on 5 acres northwest of
Okotoks (my parents subdivided parcels for their daughters, I'm a
very lucky kid). We'd rather not mortgage ourselves into the next
century, but are unsure what to expect in terms of "cost per square
foot" and that info seems impossible to find on the 'net.

I've been seriously looking at Viceroy, and they said they could do
it for around $150 if my husband (both handsome and handy!) put in
sweat equity after lockup... tiling, hardwood, etc.... but to "ask
the bank" for $250/sq ft. in case we don't want to lift a finger.

$150 sounded like a lot of money to me, $250 made me spit my Timmy's
double-double across the room....

We'd like to build a barn for our horses and actually have a life,
too.... $250/sq ft will make that a tough sell. It is boom time in
Alberta, so is that actually a reasonable budget? If not, what do you
think we ought to use as a ballpark to get a house built on an
Okotoks acreage? We don't want a McMansion, and don't need fancy
fixtures and finishings - just want a comfortable, nice country home
in which to raise our family. I'm thinking a 2000 sq ft two-story (to
get a good view of those Rockies - do you miss them?) on a walkout
foundation, we'd probably do the basement development ourselves. I'd
be a hero to my husband if we could get it built for under $400,000
(and he'd marry me all over again if that included septic, services,
> Am I dreaming? Any recommendations??

Thanks so much, Ailsa. Looking forward to your response!!


Hi, Celia! Too bad we didn't meet while I was still livning in Okotoks -- you sound like you'd be a lot of fun to hang out with! Yes, you should be able to build a 2,000 square foot home in the $400K range, no problem. I have all the steps on my site to manage your house build if you do it on your own. You can use a Viceroy plan, if you like, but I would advise checking some of the sites on my website, just to see what plans are out there, then go buy the lumber package, yourselves.

The trickiest part of the build is often just money -- access to plenty of it, as you need it, but if that's not a problem, at all (or you can get a good Building Loan in place), I say, "Go For It", and be a hero to your whole family!! haha!

Choose wisely with your style... if you like a country house, do you want a two-storey, basically square building (I think of houses as big boxes, and the outside of the box is surprisingly inexpensive to build, so if you want a somewhat bigger house, or much bigger garage, now's the tie to add it in and get a bunch of quotes... maybe a quote for one size, and a quote for the bigger size, and see what the price difference realy is, before you make your final decisions.

If the interior is pretty basic, you should still be able to come in around $175.00/sq. ft. Or you might be surprised at it coming in much lower... and buy your windows through Geinow Windows. Tell them you are a builder, and you want the Builder Rate, then show them your house plans. Doesn't hurt to wear something low-cut, that day! hahaha! Oh, and get the Builder Quality Windows... don't fall for al the hype about other windows. They're good enough for Builders for a reason, right??

Okay, Celia. Let me know what house plan you choose. Watch your roof lines -- simple is inexpensive. When you see a complicated roof, think $$. Keep it simple, nice, and comfy, and you'll be fine. Ttys, Ailsa, Ailsa Forshaw

Click Here for the COOLest house plans on the 
Internet!! A great place to start dreaming -- and planning!

January 14th, 2008. Hi, my name is Clint and I want to build a house in a little town called Sedgewick, Alberta. It is 1 hour east of Camrose. The house will be a 2500 sq/ft two story Ranch style home. It will consist of radiant heat in the basement, garage, kitchen, and two bathrooms (1 main, 1 upstairs). I would like 9 foot ceilings all the way around, and if at all possible a 10ft-12ft ceiling in the garage. It has a wrap around veranda in the front. If you go to, my house plan is 17-147. If you could give me a quote, that would be great. I have also made a few very minor changes to the plans that the draftsman is currently changing as we speak.

Thank You Very Much, Clint

Hi, Clint. Thanks for writing to me. I am living in California, now... I moved from Alberta a year and a half, ago. I'm drawing a blank on where Camrose is in relation to Calgary. I used to live in Calgary and out by Okotoks.

I'm thinking that your best bet is to go ahead and get a few quotes for the main aspects of the house, if you are running the build on your own, or get three quotes from Contractors, if you are hiring a builder. Are there any independent builders in your area? Any that you know, personally?

I love that you are planning a 9 foot ceiling on both floors-- great idea! If it's a Ranch Style, are you going to vault the upper level? Your quote will be dependent on the type of finish you want, and a variety of factors about the exterior finish, as well.

Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you, to help you with your build. Good Luck! Ailsa

Click Here for the COOLest house plans on the 
Internet!! A great place to start dreaming -- and planning!

January 24th, 2007. (I know -- I've been extra-busy... sorry about that! I'm back, now, and today we have a Fitness question from Martha...)

Hi!! I've been having a great time looking all around your site. I found the anti celullite exercise with the bench and the weight very interesting. What I'd like to know is how long it'd take me to see good results, considering that I exercise almost every day and I could do those exercises at least 3 times a week.

Thank you! Martha.

Hi, Martha! I'm glad you found my site! I loove these exercises. You'll find it really effective, and should start seeing results in the first month. Start with 10 pound weights, see how easy that is, then gradually increase 5 pounds at a time until you get up to 35 pounds. This is not a fast process, so I don't want to make you think you have to get anywhere near that final weight any time soon! Take your time and do what feels comfortable but challenging for you! I tend to do 3 sets of 20, unless I can't find someone in the gym to place the weight for me (I use the 35 pound weight), then I'll just do 2 sets of 20.

Oh, and I always bring a pair of big men's socks (really, who knows what size the man is... hahaha! It's just the socks you need!), and wrap them around my ankles to protect my ankles from the side of the weight. Just makes the exercise more comfortable.

Have fun with this, and let me know how it goes! Ttys, Ailsa

October 11th, 2006.

Dear Ailsa,

In Canarsie, New York, How much will it cost to build a two family brick house that has a 4 bedroom, 3 bath, a full kitchen and a finished basement and a two car garage? Please respond. Thanks!

John P.
Woodhaven, New York

Hi, John. Including the land? Where in New York State are you? Everything depends on how fancy the home is, but if it's fairly basic, no extra-fancy roofline and architectural features, you should be looking at about $350,000. plus the land. Don't hold me to that, of course, because labor might be hard to come by where you are (one of the biggest problems in a building boom), and materials might be higher if you are closer to New York City... but you get the idea.

The best thing to do is go and get a few quotes from the really big expenses in the house -- cement, framing, plumbing, electrical... okay, get quotes on pretty much the whole house, especially if you are leaning waay over to the side of building it yourself.

Land could easily be your biggest expense, so watch out for that!

Let us all know what you decide! TTYS, Ailsa

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Hi, Ailsa. I have designed a house that my husband and I hope to build next fall. We have to sell the house we have (in the Spring after some renovations), find some land, etc. so Fall 2006 will be the earliest we are going to be ready to start.

I have designed the house using Punch Super Home Suite. We have a friend who is a carpenter (teaches for the NS Carpenter's Union) and have already discussed having him build the house with my husband helping and me working as general contractor. My husband helped construct a house in Victoria, BC for my mother, and built his own garage, so yes he can build with guidance.

Will we need to have blueprints created from my design for the building permits? We will be building near Chester, NS if that will help. We are also going to go with the insulated concrete blocks for both the basement and 1st floor levels. This house will be semi-wheel chair accessable (3' doors, 4" hallways). (Note from Ailsa -- I'm thinking this is a typo, and 4 foot hallways, rather than the 4 inches.... lol)

I have attached the house plan in case you are curious. I know I love looking and house plans, especially unusual ones. I love the Super Home Suite program and have even added my furniture to scale to help in designing it. I would be interested in hearing any comments or hints you may have.

Love you column, it is very informative. Thanks, Dale W.

Hi, Dale! Thanks for the kind words -- I love an accolade! The quick answer to your question is, yes, you will need to have Blue Prints professionally drawn up by an Architect or a Draftsperson. If you haven't gotten on this, already, find somebody right away. Often this can be a 6 - 12 month wait, depending on your area. Often I will advise people to buy their House Plans online -- you can search for any house design,and even have it altered, for a fee, to suit your needs. Might be faster and cheaper. Professionl Blueprints usually run around $2,000. and up. Sometimes, waaay up. It's not all that unusual to pay $18,000. for Original Blueprints. Something to consider.

I checked into the ICF Blocks for this house (Insulated Concrete Blocks), but because we knew for sure we were going to sell it down the line, we decided against them. When you are looking at resale in the Housing Market (and that's any time you are not completely sure you are going to live in the house for the rest of your life, and who knows that??), it's sometimes wise not to stray too far from the beaten path on the Build. Buyers are less likely to buy a home with New Products than with the Standard Concrete Basement. That goes for a Wooden Basement, too -- the Concrete Basement might be a better bet.

Also, and this is not to say that ICF Blocks aren't worth using, but sometimes the price is insane, and much more expensive than concrete. There is a risk of 'blow out' with the blocks, too, where the blocks literally 'blow out' when they are pouring the concrete into them. If the person who is selling you the ICF blocks doesn't happen to mention that, I'd think twice about them. Get quotes for the ICF Blocks (including the cost for the concrete), and get a couple of quotes on a regular Concrete Basement. Frankly, you'd probably be better off spending the extra money on a 9 foot basement, which is nicer to develop and will be better for any possible future sale.

Oh, and there was one more problem we encountered with the ICF Blocks -- it was next to impossible to find skilled workers to install the ICF Blocks. That might be different, now, but don't foget to find the labour, first, get a Quote, and go see their other work. This is too big a part of your build to go on trust. Check with your Permitting Office, too, to see what the requirements for Air Flow in the house are, so that is accounted for with the Blocks. You could ask your Mechanical Contractor, too -- anyone with the correct information before you make a big purchase.

I love Nova Scotia -- so beautiful, there. Make sure you figure your Land Costs into the build -- and if you can score a Lot with the Services up to the road, all the better! That's a savings of about $25,000., right there...

Good Luck with your Build! Let us all know what you decide, and how much you get your Basement for... we all love numbers on houses! Ailsa

Click Here for the COOLest house plans on the 

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Hi, Ailsa my husband and i are going to build our own home, i would like to know what permits for my state i will need to get started on construction? Karen K.

Hi, Karen! Yahoo, you're building your own home! You didn't mention what State you're from, but Building Permits are pretty much the same no matter where you are. Go to your nearest City Hall, or Town Hall, and they'll have all the information yo'll need. You can look them up online, too, but you might as well go and familiarize yourself with the folks who will have your Building Life in their hands for the next few months.

The most important thing to remember with Building Permits is that they can often take a lot more time than you would believe to be humanly possible, so prepare to wait. Building Permits can be quite expensive, too, so add a fair bit into your Building Budget for all the necessary Permits. (Time and Money -- two of the biggest elements to any build...)

Good Luck with your Build! Let us all know what style you're building, and where you are... we're all curious! Ailsa

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Hi there i have a quick and easy question for you. I
have a friend here in Simi valley that is going to
sell her house and she has a little lot next to it and
i am trying to talk her into letting me by the lot so
i can build my own home. I dont know the size of what
it would be and i dont even know if i can subdivide it
to build on. Please let me know where i can go and how
i can accomplish finding this out. It might be the
only way i can get my family into a house here in So
Thanks a bunch for your reply in advance,

Hi, Bo! Oh, I love Southern California! Wonder if there's an extra Lot for me, too?! Lucky you to have a friend with 'lots of land', so-to-speak... The first thing is that there's nothing you, yourself, can do except be incredibly nice to your friend, and maybe give her a drive down to the City Planning Offices to find out if she can Sub-Divide her property. This can be a fairly costly and time-consuming ordeal, but well worth it when Land is worth so very much. You might want to ask her, after she finds out for sure that the Lot can be sub-divided, how much she would want for her Lot. Make sure this is a Cost you can really afford, since you have to pay for any Building Lot outright before you can even submit your Building Plans to the City.

Now, on a personal level, make sure this doesn't become an issue in your friendship, since she might very well find out how much she can make from Sub-Dividing, and of course will want to sell it at Market Value, not 'Friend Value', if they are different. She needs to get the best price possible so she can afford to buy her next place... and the prices there are insane, so I kow fer sures she's gonna need a lot!

In terms of the size of the Possible Lot, there are some great House Plans for Small Lots. I've checked into them, myself, on the offchance I ever found a teeny-tiny Lot in So Cal! (We should all be so lucky!) ha,ha! Most of them are Two-Story Homes that can fit on a Lot around 25' Wide. Always remember to find out the Lot Allowance, too (how far away the house has to be from the Lot Line), to make sure you find the right House Plan.

Good Luck, and let us all know what kind of pie you plan to make for your fabulous friend! ha,ha! Ailsa

Click Here for the COOLest house plans on the 

Dear Sweet, Competent Ailsa,

We have lived in our present home for 5 years which is the longest we have lived anywhere. Unfortunately, our carpets are a clear indicator of how long we have lived here. Since we haven't lived anywhere for more than 2.5 years, we have not ever been faced with the prospect of replacing flooring. So - 5 years in the same house with three dogs and two teens, and the carpets to show for it, we are looking to clean our slate.

Oh, the carpets were off-white to begin with, if memory serves me right. Although, that point is completely irrelevant.

I have been contemplating having the carpet ripped out and replaced with hardwood flooring. Naturally, I have called flooring people, who came recommended, and can't get them to show up even for an estimate, or they show up for the estimate, do all the measuring and don't ever send the estimate...which seems to me to be a complete waste of time for the estimator (and me) but that point is moot.
So I was hoping, in all your glorious wisdom, that you could just give me some advice on the type of wood flooring that would be most suitable/practical. I am partial to dark wood and I am pretty cheap...did I say cheap? I meant frugal/money wise/stewardly/Scottish.
Ideally it would look just fantastically awe-inspiring, perhaps close to the floor you might find in the Windsor Castle, and be I am looking for something close to that.
Also, short of sneaking onto a construction site and roping me a fine craftsman, dragging him/her home, blindfolded, in my car then forcing an estimate and then 'encouraging' quality workmanship, consistent and punctual work habits with the use of a powerful taser, how in the world do you get someone to A) Show up, B) Work C) Finish to Satisfaction.

Oh, and how much to you pay the tasered bloke when he's done?

I live in Ohio, but from the people I have talked to this seems to be a global problem! (note the misplaced exclamation mark...demonstrating exasperation/desperation.)

Fondest Regards,
Your biggest fan and friend,

Hi, Kim!! I'm your Biggest Fan and Friend, too, but I swears I'm getting slimmer at me Gym!! ha,ha,ha! So you've gots yourself a wee Flooring Dilemma, eh? (I had to do a quick Dictionary Check for 'dilemma'... was sure there were two L's!) Hey, outta curiosity, have you tried shampooing the rugs with a regular Carpet Shampooer with OxyClean instead of the regular Cleaner? I'd do that, first, just in case the carpets look like new, again, then you don't have to do any more work...

Oddly enough, I was just talking to our Finishing Carpenter, Albert, who does incredibly beautiful work (he just finished the Fireplace Mantels, and they're gorgeous!), so I asked him if he had a favorite type of Wood Flooring, and he said he likes Brazilian Cherry. He says it's moderately priced, looks great and wears well, so that's good to know. Plus, I think you'd like the deep, rich color of the Cherry Wood. Albert says the Cherry gets darker as it ages, so that sounds nice, too.

I asked him about the new Bamboo Flooring, which I really wanted to try, and he seemed concerned about the amount of glue required to hold it together, since the 'strips of Bamboo', if you will, are quite narrow, and it would take a lot more glue to hold that together into a solid sheet than a regular piece of wood. Personal taste, though, and I still like the idea that Bamboo is a renewable source...

Here's what I would do for the Estimate: I'd measure out each room, myself, and take the measurements right into the Flooring Store, or check it out online (much faster, often nicer...) to get the basic price for the Flooring. Then I'd find out about the Time Frame for getting the Flooring in, and the Labor Costs. Then I would swing by the Liquor Store to stock up on Lemon Gin, so the waiting process for your Flooring doesn't seem so very bad, anymore, in fact, you quite like sleeping on the Livingroom Floor Carpet -- maybe you'll just keep it... but that's just me. You can buy Wine, but if you spill the Red Wine, pour White Wine right on top of the Red Spill, then dry away your tears with a nice White Rag, so's you don't stain the carpet even more with the dye from, say, a Green Towel... a think you get the point! ha,ha,ha!

Okay, if I'm gonna be a much smaller Friend, I better get to da Gym! Talk to you soon, Baby!

Much Love & Luck, Ailsa!

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Hi Ailsa!! (what an interesting name!)

I find myself lucky to come across your website, and lucky to find you and your advice!!
My fiancee and myself are thinking about buying an older house in North Vancouver. We were thinking of perhaps buying a subdivisible lot and building 2 houses. We found a house that sits on a lot that is already sub-divisible and is around 7800 sqft. My question is that there are also several other houses in the very same neighborhood, literally a few blocks in each direction, that are cheaper and have bigger lots - but no indication of sub-divisibility. My few questions are: 1) does the fact that a lot is already sub-divisible 'significantly' add to the purchase price? (i'm talking like 20-40%?) 2) what are the difficulties in buying a large property and getting it zoned as divisible? (does that fact that another property close by (in the same real-estate district) has already been approved for subdivision make it more likely?)

Thanks Soooooooooooooo much for sharing you expertise!! So much appreciated!!

Hi, C & S. I'm guessing there's more to your names than meets the eye! First of all, you must be loaded to buy a Subdividable Lot in Vancouver, since Real Estate Prices are through the roof out there -- mostly, because everyone wants to live there, too! Is the house 7800 square feet, or the Lot 7800 square fet? It breaks me up when Realtors give the square footage of a Lot -- seems so silly. Just give me the basic dimensions, Baby (35' X 110', or in our case, our Lot is 495' X 115', or 1.23 Acres... soo much easier to figure out what size house will fit on the Lot, and what shape it can be). (Oh, and the 'Baby' in the last sentence, in case you're trying to follow along, but you've already started drinking, Baby is the Realtor involved in the Sale of said Lot...)

Okay, so your Two Main Questions are Is a Subdividable Lot More Expensive than a Regular Lot and How hard is it to get a Lot Subdivided. Here's the Real Deal with any piece of Real Estate -- the Owner can charge pretty much anything they want, and if someone has the Cash (then they're not dependent on some idiot Bank Appraisal -- I have little time for a certain portion of 'Appraisers' out there, and that's why we loved The Sopranos Plan for Appraisers... ha,ha,ha!), they're welcome to buy it. When it comes to the ability to Sub-divide a Lot, you can ask whatever you like, depending on the Area.

Now for the Down-side... it can be extremely difficult to get the 'Powers That Be' (usually City Counsel Folk, or the Land Offices in your area, to agree to your big Sub-Division Plan. Sometimes it's a quick and painless process (I'd like to hear that story, since it'll be the first one I've heard, yet...!), or it can be long and drawn out. I'm thinking it might be faster in The City than it is in The Country, but you should ask a few questions to the Land Division Folk before you make that purchase. Unless you are loaded, you're pretty sure the Lot can be Sub-divided, and there's a long line of Buyers nipping at your heels...really, I would imagine you can't go wrong with buying Land in any City, particularly Vancouver, B.C.

The fact that there are some nearby Properties that were subdivided may make it easier, but the Zoning for your particular Lot is one of the biggest factors. Oh, and if you are thinking of subdividing Land in The Country (like a larger Acreage), I have it from a Good Realtor Source that if you put in the Well and the Access Roads before you apply for Subdivision Status, the whole process will be much faster. Slight problem with this idea: sometimes they still won't let you sub-divide, and now you've spent a small fortune on Wells & Roads, and you're starting to really hate the Town Offices...(hey, I tells it like I sees it!), and now you just want to get the hell out of there, 'cause they're sooo incredibly annoying, and you think you might have an aneurysm if you have to ask (beg) one more time to please let you go ahead with the subdivision they said you could do ten years ago... I think I've painted a beautiful picture of how it can sometimes be...

Anyway, after all that rambling, buy what you love and can easily afford, then you won't mind the wait. Let us know what you decide to do, 'cause we're all a wee bit nosey about things like that! ha,ha,ha!

Happy Sub-Dividing! Ailsa

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Sept. 2nd, 2005.

Ailsa, How much land/acreage is needed to build a 5000 square one level home? Any suggestions? Thank you, Earthwyre
Alicia W.

Hi, Alicia. Nice name! Oh, I have all sorts of suggestions, since I love a Giant House...! Let's see -- our house is 2714 feet up (Main Level), and Fully Developed Down (Walk out Level) -- total of 5400 square feet developed, so your intened house would be my whole house all spread out.

We're on a 1.23 Acre Parcel, and a 5000 square foot home, all on one Floor, would fit in this space, so I'd say at least an Acre. The Shape of the Lot and the Shape othe the Footprint of the ouse are critical, though, so the two would have to be compatible. A 3-acre or more parcel would be the most likely size for a home that size, but it depends on whether you're in a city or out in the country. It's extremely rare to find any Building Lot over a third of an acre (half an acre, if you're exceptionally lucky and filthy stinkin' rich, for 'city land') in any city, so I think it's probably safe to say you're looking at Country Living.

Now, you can get the same amount of space (5000 square feet) in a Bungalow with a Walkout, so you have two Floors to deal with, or a Two-Storey with a Walkout, then you would need even less land... lots of choices.

Have you already chosen your House Plan? Ooooh, we'd all like to see it! Send me the info if you're buying it online...

Happy Land Searching! Don't forget that you have to buy your Land outright before you can build on it, or take out any Permits for the Build, and you won't be able to access any Mortgage Money until your at the Sub-Floor Stage, at least. Better to know in advance, right??

Thanks for writing to ! Ailsa

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August 26th, 2005.

Hi, Ailsa. I came across your email online and was wondering if you would help me on a dilema? We a re building a new home that is a modified bilevel. The living room is sunken. Two steps above, are the dining area and then kitchen. Right now the house plan shows railing seperating the LR and dining room,. I am thinking that railing is somewhat dated, is there any other way to separate the spaces, and leaving a cleaner, more open looking space? Carrie

Hi, Carrie. Good question. We used to have a Bi-Level, and it was a very practical layout for a house. Have you seen the 3-sided Fireplaces? They can look like a 'peninsula' (as opposed to a free-standing 'island', and can be a very nice way of creating separate spaces. They aren't too expensive when you're still at the building stage, and it would make your Dining Room really stand out.

Another idea to replace the Railing is to create a Half-wall using Wood and Drywall, with a really nice, heavy, Top, so it creates a Bar. It could be fairly narrow (say, 8 inches), and be great for leaning on or using as a plant stand, or you could make it much deeper (18 inches), then it could be used as a 'real Island'. Or it could be used as a Buffet for serving dishes at a larger Dinner Party... I love a Buffet! Keeps the table clear of any clutter...

If you want the space to appear more open, but still need the railing as a barrier system, you could consider building a Half Wall,like above, but build in frames to put windows in so you can see through it. We actually did that with this house for the Surround around the Stairs going to the Lower Level, but our little guy, Aidan, was two when we built this house, and we thought he might take a flying leap through the glass panes, so we covered it in completely, and decorated around it with Plants and Artwork. I desperately wanted to have a Mural painted on the one side (it's 11 feet by 4 feet, I think...), but Dwight wouldn't go for that, so plants it is! ha,ha!

Those are a few wee ideas you can consider. Keep in mid that there are all sorts of beautiful Railing options out there, now -- I am particularly fond of the Wrought Iron Railings -- gorgeous. Fun to consider the options though, ain't it??

Thanks for Writing! Let us know how your Build is coming along, and what you choose for the Space. Ailsa

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June 30th, 2005.

Hi, Ailsa! Thanks so much for the quick reply. Anyway, here's the situation with California land - it's a rip off. :) Well, that's what it is..honestly. If you can manage to build a home out here, you'll probably make a killing on it, and it will sell quickly.

I've been looking at parcels of land that are within a 20 mile radius of Los Angeles. I'm actually from Simi Valley, which is a suburb of Los Angeles, in Ventura County. You can expect to pay between $150-200k easily, for a SLOPED piece of land with a view, in a nice area, that's roughly 5000 sq ft. Ideally, you can find full utilities right up to the lot, for that price. (These are in prime areas where the home can easily go for between $750-950k)

If you want a flat piece of land, those are actually really hard fo find, and they cost a lot more..especially if you're looking around los angeles and ventura county. I've seen some lots that are flat, but they're dead in the center of los angeles, and in terrible neighborhoods.. those go for probably around $125k on average, but not eevn worth building a home on.

So I'm still faced with the dilemma of finding a good piece of land that doesn't have problems. I'd rather build my own home and learn the process, instead of buying a home for an outrageous price. I almost bought a piece of land in Woodland Hills, right by my work.. it was sloped with a beautiful view of the valley, and had expensive homes all around it. But then I checked the soils report and it showed there was bedrock exposed, and that it would require casons ALL around the house! They're really strict around here when it comes to hillside development.

I'm honestly a little bit discouraged at the moment, but thankfully I have a few realtor friends that let me use their tools to get the "inside scoop" on MLS listings and hidden info. If you ever want a fresh listing of land parcels or homes for sale (around here) , let me know.. because I have "realtor level" access to live MLS listings (homes and land). I'm still looking for a decent piece of land for myself though. :(

So yeah.. Your site is really cool and full of good stuff. My contractor friend (Ed) has been in the business for almost 50 years (he's 70 now), and he was even amazed at how detailed you were in your documentation. We used your web site for a reference on a lot of things, as he's teaching me the building process.. I even ordered a few books on it.

Anywaaaaay... I'm linking to your site, I made a section called "Home and Garden" that I placed you in. You're not sharing the folder with anyone else since I just created it. My Site is <Houses for Rent Houses for Rent: Search for a rental home, condo, apartment, or town house >.

Oh yeah, I've also attached a photo of myself to this email, since you're a "matchmaker".. Haha.. and I am single... so let me know if you have any contacts out here near Los Angeles. :)

Keep in touch, ok?! -Tom

June 29th, 2005.

Hi Ailsa!

My name's Tom, and I just wanted to let you know how much help your site has been to me. For the past five months, I've actually been looking at land with hopes to build my own home. I'm only 27, and I've been saving up for quite a while now. (The land here in Southern California is really expensive!)

When I first went through your site, all the tasks seemed daunting! But the more I looked at it every day, it seemed like it might be something I can manage with the help of my contractor friend. I was intimidated at first, but the more I read your articles, the more things made sense to me. You're really lucky to have a husband that has so much experience with it.

Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for having such a DETAILED and INFORMATIVE web site. I can imagine there are TONS of people using your site every day to learn the process of building a home. You guys made such an awesome house too, so congratulations on that.. I hope you guys make a killing when you sell it.

So I was looking at the site again today and noticed you have a lot of ads on there. I have a website for rental homes, and I was wondering if I can put a tiny text ad on your home page (just a few words of text). It's a completely free web site, but I just need some visitors.

Anyway, thanks again, and hope to hear from you.


Hi, Tom! Congrats on deciding to take the leap into building your own home! Where in Southern California did you find Land?? I was desperately looking for land down there last September -- a little tiny attempt, really, since I was too busy with a bunch of other stuff...

Are you South of L.A.? Let me know how much the Lots are, and the location -- maybe I can buy one, too!

I'm happy to link with your site -- it's the best way to increase your traffic. Send me the info to go along with the link, and I'll pop it on my site.

And if you're Single and looking, let me know -- I'm a terrible little matchmaker -- can't help it! ha,ha!

Thanks for the lovely compliments! Talk to you soon, Ailsa

< >

June 30th, 2005.

Hi, Ailsa! Thanks so much for the quick reply. Anyway, here's the situation with California land - it's a rip off. :) Well, that's what it is..honestly. If you can manage to build a home out here, you'll probably make a killing on it, and it will sell quickly.

I've been looking at parcels of land that are within a 20 mile radius of Los Angeles. I'm actually from Simi Valley, which is a suburb of Los Angeles, in Ventura County. You can expect to pay between $150-200k easily, for a SLOPED piece of land with a view, in a nice area, that's roughly 5000 sq ft. Ideally, you can find full utilities right up to the lot, for that price. (These are in prime areas where the home can easily go for between $750-950k)

If you want a flat piece of land, those are actually really hard fo find, and they cost a lot more..especially if you're looking around los angeles and ventura county. I've seen some lots that are flat, but they're dead in the center of los angeles, and those go for probably around $125k on average.

So I'm still faced with the dilemma of finding a good piece of land that doesn't have problems. I'd rather build my own home and learn the process, instead of buying a home for an outrageous price. I almost bought a piece of land in Woodland Hills, right by my work.. it was sloped with a beautiful view of the valley, and had expensive homes all around it. But then I checked the soils report and it showed there was bedrock exposed, and that it would require casons ALL around the house! They're really strict around here when it comes to hillside development.

I'm honestly a little bit discouraged at the moment, but thankfully I have a few realtor friends that let me use their tools to get the "inside scoop" on MLS listings and hidden info. If you ever want a fresh listing of land parcels or homes for sale (around here) , let me know.. because I have "realtor level" access to live MLS listings (homes and land). I'm still looking for a decent piece of land for myself though. :(

So yeah.. Your site is really cool and full of good stuff. My contractor friend (Ed) has been in the business for almost 50 years (he's 70 now), and he was even amazed at how detailed you were in your documentation. We used your web site for a reference on a lot of things, as he's teaching me the building process.. I even ordered a few books on it.

Anywaaaaay... I'm linking to your site, I made a section called "Home and Garden" that I placed you in. You're not sharing the folder with anyone else since I just created it. My Site is <Houses for Rent Houses for Rent: Search for a rental home, condo, apartment, or town house >.

Oh yeah, I've also attached a photo of myself to this email, since you're a "matchmaker".. Haha.. and I am single... so let me know if you have any contacts out here near Los Angeles. :)

Keep in touch, ok?! -Tom

Hi, Tom! Good to hear that the Land Prices in the Los Angeles Area aren't nearly as bad as I thought they would be. I know when I was down there last September, I really didn't have enough time to check out Land. I did have a look at some Properties (not in person... just in pictures!), but I was shocked at the prices. There was a house I pulled up beside, God Knows Where, since I was completely lost and had only pulled over to the side of the road to check my Map...), and the house happened to have a For Sale Sign on the lawn with the Price right on it. $549,000. U.S., which is basically the same price as MY House up here (since you have to add 25% to the American Price to convert it to Canadian Dollars...). Ugh. It was a yucky little house, too. And the Street it was on was actually on THE NEWS when I got back to my Hotel, all covered with Police Tape... hmmmmm.

I have a hard time even considering buying something for over a Million Bucks when I know how much it would cost me to build a much better house (better and bigger ... my favorite type of house ... ha,ha!), so I see you're in the same boat.

Very interesting that so many of the Building Lots are on a Slope. What is the process to 'shore up the homes'? I would imagine you would have to bore a sereis of 10 foot to 20 foot (would you have to go 30 feet down??) holes to pour cement posts -- can't think what you call them -- I'll have to ask Dwight... anyway, I would think that is a standard anywhere in the Southern California Region (or any other Earthquake-prone Zone...) to prevent damage from the shaking.

I love that your Contractor Friend (Hi, Ed!) is 70! Experience is a fantastic thing, so learn whatever you can get Ed to teach you! If everyone would open their minds and hearts to people in general, regardless of Age, Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Religion, Special Preferences... think how many more great friends they'd all have. I have pals at ever age range, and always have. As I get a tiny bit older, I've realized that I don't see myself as very much different than I was when I was in my Twenties (although, not nearly so naive, and dare I say it, Stupid...! ha,ha,ha!).

And yes, we would love to have access to your 'insider connections' in L.A. for Land... me and all my 'Home-ies'! But me, first! ha,ha,ha!

Oh, and I'm thrilled that you're Single (and for my Readers who are also Single & Looking, I do have Tom's Picture, and I'll send it to you if you like! And for the record -- he's very cute -- and likes to Build... what could be better than that??). I'll be calling my Contacts to see who is 'available'!

More Ask Ailsa Questions & Answers...

Kathy from Colorado, U.S.A.

Liz & Arduino from Southern Ontario, Canada

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Hello there! Your site has a lot of info. I own a 38' wide lot in Windsor, Ontario, and I was wondering if you have any helpful info on building a narrow lot home? I hope to build this coming year, though this will be my first home I build.

Any info would be great. Thanks, Josh S.

Hi, Josh! You know what? A 38' Wide Lot is no longer considered a Narrow Lot -- in some cities that would be a fairly large Building Lot! Seriously... Now, the first thing you will need to know is the allowable space between the Lot Line and the house, so you will know exactly how wide you can go. In an Older area of Town, it may be the old standard of 10 feet on each side, which I hope is not the case. More likely, it'll be between 3 - 6 feet on each side. That would give you anywhere from 26' - 32' in Width for the House.

There a ton of House Plans, now, designed specifically for a Narrow Lot -- and if the Architectural Controls in the Neighbourhood will allow for a Two-Storey, that's the way to get the most house in the Lot. You can go with a Bi-Level, too, but if you are looking down the road at potentially selling it to build again (which I hope is the case!), a Two-Storey is an easier sell.

You didn't mention how deep the Lot is, so drop me a line to let me know. Most Lots are at least 100 ' Deep, so that would still allow for a nice size Front and Back Yard. If you can attach the Garage at the Back, or have a Detached Garage, that will let you have more interest at the Front of your house, and will probably be more in-keeping with the existing homes in the neighbourhood.

Take your time searching for an Existing House Plan -- I have great Sources on my House Plan Page. Just key in the Width you need, and you'll have plenty of choices to choose from. Remember that it's far less expensive to find a 'Ready-to-Go' House Plan than to design one yourself (although, truth be told, I'm designing our next Build right now -- I can't help myself!).

Let me know if that helps you out! Oh, and I think I used to go to a Bar in Windsor, Ontario, but that was waaay back in my 'Drinkin' Days', so it's sooo hard to remember! ha,ha! Talk to you soon, Ailsa


Hi, I stumbled across your sight looking for prices on siding? We are building and are almost finished but unfortunately the siding put on the house is the wrong color. What is the cost of siding if we had to have it changed.Please email me back to give me a ball park on how to calculate it. Thanks

September 30th, 2004.

Hi, Ailsa.

Thank you for this wonderful web site. I refer to it all the time.

I have a question about the labor and materials. My bank wants the builder (the owners) to break down the cost of the home.

I have quotes on lumber, but the form wants everything from decking to roofing.

When you calculate a job, is there a rough estimate for amounts (%)? The home is going to cost approximately $300,000 to finish (not including land) Or do I need to get exact quotes from every single contractor? Rough percentages would be a great help. Can you help?

For example:
lumber = 14% of the total cost

framer labor = 2%

wiring, plumbing, preliminary, Foundation basement, Siding, Rock, Insulation, Heating/air, Floors (mainly hardwoods), Trim, Windows, 2 masonry fireplaces, Painting, inside, outside, Circular drive, decks, Appliances, Cabinets, Landscaping, Overhead...

Thanks, "Gasque"

Hi, Gasque! That's a neat name -- I've never heard it before. Are you in Quebec or the Vermont Area of the States? I'm glad you are enjoying the Site -- I hope you find lots of information to help you through your House Building Process!

The very short answer when you are dealing with the Banks is that the Bank wouldn't accept general percentages, since they would be inaccurate. The Bank can be real sticklers, depending on the person you're dealing with. If your Banker is impossible to deal with, consider going through a Mortgage Broker -- they are typically easier to work with, and a little more lenient. For some reason, sometimes you will come across a Banker who is a total Control Freak, or they are so caught up by the Zillion Rules at a Regular Bank that's it's next to impossible to get the money you need to Build your House.

One key thing to know is that very few (if any) Banks of any sort will Loan you any money on Bare Land, which just means the Building Lot. You have to use your own money for the Land. And it's very wise to have enough of your own funds to get all the way to Lock-Up, just in case your Bank doesn't come up with the Money they might have promised, and then have yourself a Back-Up Plan for where else you could get the money you need for Completion in case there's a total screw-up. God Knows that happens all the time, so it's best to be prepared for the Worst-Case Scenario for Building, money-wise.

Generally, you shoud be able to tell them how much you think your house build will cost ($300K), then plan to borrow that amount. You will most likely have to produce Blueprints and maybe even the Permits for the Build -- each Bank is different in what they need to see to prove what you are intending to use the money for, and to make sure the Value will be in the Home when it's done. Banks never take any chances, what-so-ever, so be prepared to be put through the ringer! The Bank will assign you an Appraiser who will come out at various times during the build to slowly mete out the money you are borrowing. (That's called your Builder's Loan.)That money rolls over into your new mortgage when the Build is done and you've moved in.

Hope that's helpful -- oh, and if you can't get anywhere with your Bank, it's not a bad idea to consider having another Builder Build the House for you -- generally, you just have to put down a certain amount ($20,000. is a standard amount to get you going), then you just have to get your Mortgage for the New House the usual way by having the House Appraised by the Bank before you move in. You can always save up your money from then to do your own build the next time around.

Talk to you soon and let us know what Style of Home you're building -- we're all interested in what we're all up to! ha,ha! Ailsa


< >

Hi there:

We purchased our home 1 1/2 years ago and we were told by seller that lot is 11, 310 sq. feet- showed us the markers on lot of property line. We are planning to sell the house in next 12 months- applied for home equity line of credit and required appraisal on property. Appraisal came up with 9325 sq feet on lot size. Watched appraisal person measure our house but not lot- said they use data base (artificial Intelligence program) . My husband has same measuring tool he used and went ahead and measure our property lot and came up with conservative 11,310 sq fit. Called city and was told it shows property acreage is .22. If this is right, how does it translate into square feet? Assessors office rep can't help, at least the one who took my call.

Thanks ,
Merlinda in California


Ailsa, we are in the process of building a new house and would like some information regarding the use if ICF blocks to build a basement. We had one concrete man tell us to stay away from them. He said the "Concrete Contractors Magazine" has articles saying they are deteriorating. Can you give us some advice on this subject?

Thanks for your help.

Charles and Dodie Gholson


Hi Ailsa,
I live in Edmonton Alberta and have a question about cleaning white stone stucco - its the type with tiny white stones embedded in the cement stuff!

A previous owner had nailed boards to the front of my two-storey house in a faux Tudor style which made the house look strangely tall. Some of the boards had rotted so I removed them all. Where the stucco had been covered, you can now see an outline against the weathered surfaces. I have tried pressure washing with water but had only marginal effect.

Can you recommend a cleaner which will do the trick or should I paint all the stucco? If painting, what prep/paint is needed? A friend suggested using a coat of "block fill" to smooth out the surface first. Do you agree?

I'm planning to sell the house and have been told that it lacks "curb appeal". Do you have any (cheap) suggestions on how to improve "curb appeal" please?

Thanks in advance, Jenny


Hi Ailsa,
Hoping you can help husband and I have decided to build our 'dream home'. It's a farm house style, so we will be using vinyl siding. Where can I get ideas for matching my siding/roof/trim etc....I'm confusing and have driven around everywhere trying to get ideas. Do you have any suggestions?? (besides hiring an expert and surfing the net for siding manufacturers - I've done the latter already.)

Looking forward to hearing from you!!

Pauline in Peterborough Ontario

Hi, Pauline! Peterborough is quite close to where I grew up -- in the Quinte Area (Frankford, Bayside & Belleville, Ontario). Beautiful area! Have you looked into a Product called HardiPlank? That might be a good option for you. Also, there are Manufacturers who make Vinyl Siding that has the appearance of a Wood Finish. We have a friend who put this on his Lake Front Home (it was a Chalet Style Home), and it looked fantastic. You wouldn't have known it wasn't real wood unless you went up to touch it.

Is Stucco out of the question? It's a nice finish, has a high-end look, and it comes in a huge selection of colours. Maybe a Cocoa Shade, White with a Red, Blue or Black Trim, or an Olive Colour might work with the Farm House Theme. Something to think about, anyway.

Drop me a line and let me know when you and your husband are planning to start 'the build'!

Oh, I just renmembered! I used to go to the Gym with a guy from Peterborough who had been a Feature Model (right in the middle pages, I believe...! ha,ha!) of PlayGirl Magazine. Good Looking guy! I still have the poster he gave me of himself somewhere around here! How funny is that?? ha,ha,ha!

Talk to you soon, Ailsa


< >

Hi there!

I am looking for some plans to build a couple homes. I am looking for plans that are about 6000-8000 SF, home. It doesn't have to be a full home at that area, but at least have a guest house or another living area that they both add up to the area requested. I would also need a material list for the plans. If you can help me please email ASAP, with the cost of the plans.

Thank You and I hope you can help or know somebody that can.


Hi, Rebecca! Wow, that's going to be a big house! Did you see my house plans? This house is 5400 square feet, fully developed. You could always build a Granny Suite in the Garage, if that were designed into it. Or Create a Separate Entrance and a whole other Floor above the Garage if you're building in an area without strict Architectural Controls in terms of Height.

Actually, if you're building in any area, check to make sure you can build the size of home you want without running into problems with the Architectural Controls. In our Estate Area, you can only build up to 6,000 square feet, and you can't have more than a 1,000 square foot garage, which is annoying to us, since we want to build a house with a Five Car Garage, which I would strongly advise if you are going to 6,000 - 8,000 sf home, anyway. You can never go wrong with extra space in the garage, and it's relatively inexpensive to make a garage bigger while you're still at the building stage.

Check through the House Plans on my House Plans Page -- there's a little explanation about how to read Blueprints, too, that you might find useful. Have you built before, or will this be your first Build? You can go through my Business Page, too, to find Local Contractors to help you with your Build -- you know I always want to 'go local' whenever possible!

Let us all know where you plan to build -- it's fun to find out where my Readers are!

Talk to you soon, Ailsa!

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July 12th, 2004.

Hi Ailsa,

Seems as though you would know how to build it or where to buy it so here goes ...

I need a (verryyy reasonably priced) surround or over mantel. Not sure what it is called but it looks like 2 wooden fireplace mantels one on top of the other. You can put a mirror etc. in the middle of the top one. Anyway ... I have hit so many websites offering these but all are either in the States or BC - frankly the majority is BC - must be a run on fire place mantels there. Anyway - I need one yesterday. If I can't buy it I figure we'll build it from scratch - do you know how to do this and about how much materials will cost? Don't have specific measurements to give you but just figure it would fit around your standard fireplace ... so rough estimate good.

Your help muchly appreciated. Your Tia should meet my Riley ... they're both little darlins.

Sincerely, C.W.

Hi, C.W., or can I just call you 'C.'? You may or may not have read our trials and tribulations over building a couple of Fireplace Mantels, but the short story is that Dwight and I don't agree with what they should look like -- Dwight thinks there shouldn't be any at all, and if there is to be one, it has to be short and squat -- those are my words, not his! ha,ha! Anyway, we did get a sheet of MDF Board and cut all the pieces out of one board for the Fireplace Surround. I painted them all white -- I'll get those pictures on the site one day, soon -- I'd forgotten all about that!

We bought some really nice Crown Molding, too, to go along the Top Edge of the Mantel. Really, it's a matter of MDF and whatever Trim and Crown Molding you happen to like. They have some really nice wooden Glue-on pieces in a variety of shpes at any Home Improvement Store. Are you in Alberta? Check out Totem -- that's my favorite Store, here.

Oh, I think I just assumed your Mantel would be painted White -- if you want Wood, just buy the sheets of wood that you like. Now, we have an oversized-fireplace (one of the largest you can buy -- we're just a tad excessive like that! ha,ha,ha!), so everything we do has to be Custom made, but if you have a normal-sized Fireplace, and it sounds like you do, you can go and buy a Fireplace Mantel 'Kit' with all the parts in there that you need. I've seen some really nice ones at Home Depot and Rona -- worth checking out.

So Dwight and I are at a complete stand-still with our Mantelplaces, so I think I'm going to go ahead and call the Finishing Carpenter who put in our particularly lovely Bannister to come and help me with the Lower Level Fireplace, first, and see how Dwight likes that, then we'll 'proceed with caution' with the Fireplace in the Great Room. These things take a lot of time when you have a disagreement...! Frankly, I don't see the big deal -- once the job is done, I'm pretty sure Dwight will like it. You can easily hire someone to put your Manelplace together, too -- just call up any Finishing Carpenter in the Local Papers. If you're in Calgary, by any chance, you can check out Trevor or I can pass along my other guy's name!

Hope that helps you, 'C.'! Write back and tell us your whole name!

Talk to you soon, Ailsa

P.S. What kind of dog is Riley? I have to assume an extremely cute wee dog! ha,ha! Oh, and I consider any dog 'wee' if it's shorter than me, otherwise it's a 'great huge beast'!

Home Improvement Shopping


June 18th, 2004.


Is there a software program out there you suggest? A book? I am curious.


Hi, Brett! There are some great Books and Software Programs out there -- check these out and let me know how you like them. Also, if you happen to buy your House Plans online, quite often the House Plan Company will have an 'in-house team' who can prepare a list of all the materials and the general prices. The important thing to remember, always, is that prices for Products and Labor can differ significantly from place to place, and of course, you need to figure in the Costs of The Land, Permits, and Services if you're outside of Town.

< >

< Check Out These Great Construction Books!>

< ConstructionCalc: The POWER TOOLS of Structural Software!



There are some great Books at Amazon, too, and some good Real Estate Books on my Books Page.

Hope that helps, Brett!

Take Care, Ailsa


June 15th, 2004.


It was so great to finally see you! I feel as though the forces of the universe are bringing people like you and Dwight into our lives so that we can actually do this project! My challenge always is to avoid self-sabotage. I have to ask, “What happened in my life that makes me put the kibosh on good things?” I keep thinking that it must be harder to do than it appears. When I was younger I certainly accomplished much more, and with a lot less introspection. I firmly held the belief that if even only one other human being could do something, then so could I. What ever happened to that confidence? I don’t know either.

Anyhow, you are a breath of fresh air, and I’m looking forward to seeing you all again. You are certainly welcome here and might enjoy seeing the construction zone we live in. (Although things have considerably calmed down on our block.) Mostly I’m impressed with your certainty and that you go for what you want regardless what some moron might say. Too often I let someone who is argumentative get their way because I only get that worked up when I know that I am right. It’s disastrous for me to give that much blind credence to other people.

I feel much inspired, in all areas of my life, since I started reading your site. Keep up the good fight!

Hi. Heather! It's so much fun to meet My Readers! And it's another great 'excuse' to have a little Coffee and Baileys, too! ha,ha! It's funny how your confidence will come flooding back once you make the big decision to do what you know is right for you -- it must be the adrenalin rush you need to get you into the next phase of your life... You're in a unique position that you have a few really great options for moving on -- it's an upward direction any way you look at it!

For My Readers, Heather and her family have mande a big chunk of money on their House, so the options are to sell the house off completely, buy a Brand New or Nearly New Home (one that they'll all enjoy living in...) or to tear down the house and build something new in it's place. The thing about the second option is that it is very difficult getting Bank Funding for a project like that, so you would have to have cash up the waaazooo to accomplish that task without going mad -- and that's a good Goal to keep in mind with any Project -- "Try not to go mad!". ha,ha,ha!

Talk to you soon! Ailsa


Hi Ailsa,

I saw your house on your site. It's beautiful. My wife and I are building a house and simply love the color of stucco that you chose.

Do you mind if we "steal" your color? What color is it? It look's like a salmon/orange/pink blend.

Look forward to hearing from you. (From one teacher to another)


Hi, Ray! That's my Father-in-Law's Name, too! And I'm thrilled that more and more Teachers are Building their Own Homes! WooHoo! I actually just found your letter -- I have thousands of e-mails in this one account, and I happened upon yours when I was deleting all the lovely Ads offering me all sorts of magical things and experiences -- no thank you... (you have to say that with a wee chipper voice, for extra fun...) and there was your question, so that was lucky.

Our Stucco Colour was a real 'Bone of Contention' when we were building, because we actually wanted a Light Grey/ Dark Grey Combo, but the Condo Board wouldn't go for it... the Board has Architectural Control over the neighbourhood. (You're Canadian, so I'm using the Canadian Spelling, just for you...!). I finally was completely fed up with the whole thing and said to Dwight, "Go down there and ask them what colour our house will be..." Anyway, it ended up being the 'shade of cream' acceptable in our neighbourhood at the time of the Build. It isn't so tight, now, because we havee enough people out here to have Voted in a New Board -- which is good to do if there are any problems... they're all ironed out, now, but that's a whole other story...

So our House Colours are from the Imasco Stucco Series, and we have Cream Empire and Sand Quartz. (#135) It's always nice to use a Contrasting Colour around the Base of any Pillars, or at the Base of the House... and anywhere else you might like a little contrast. It costs a wee bit more for the Contrasting Colour, but it provides a really nice finish.

Oh, and here's a little Stucco Tip -- make sure your Stucco Guy (or person...) waits for a Dry, Warm Day to put on the Scratchcoat (the first layer for a Stucco Finish...), and the same again for the Finished Stucco. It can peel away from the walls if it's put on at the wrong time. We had to wait until well after we moved in to get the Final Stage of the Stucco Done, but it's better to wait a bit during the Build than have a big bother later, right?

What Stage of the Build are you at? (I know... preposition at the end of the sentence... at least I didn't say, "Where you be at wit' yo' house...?" See, it could've been quite a bit worse...! ha,ha,ha!) Drop me a line and let me know -- here's a much better Contact Address -- .

I just remembered -- one thing about Stucco that is kind of cool is that the Colour can appear to be different shades depending on the Light during the Day -- so our house takes on all sorts of tones, which is nice! And the Greys can often look light Blue shade or a Violet Colour -- good to know!

Talk to you soon! Ailsa!

Hey, I was 'talking' to Jonathan at, this morning (really, I only communicate by e-mail...!), and he said it was OKAY for me to ask you to please Click Through on this Ad. Here's the deal -- I make 10 cents for every click -- so that's a whole dollar after only 10 clicks -- you can see how quickly that can add up to 3, maybe 4 dollars! ha,ha,ha,ha! Given that I have thousands of visitors every day, I'm hoping this will start to generate a 'Living Wage', so go ahead and "Gimme a Little Click!" Thank You -- now I can buy that extra bottle of wine I've had my eye on! ha,ha,ha,ha! Ailsa!

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Hi Ailsa,
It's me, Kara, your first reader to visit you at home :-)
Thought I'd say hello, let you know that my house is really coming along. It's all framed and we're getting into the more complicated stuff now. Fun, fun. I've got to go out and say hello to my plumbing who is roughing in all that starting today. (Oh as a side note I get the "your lucky you don't work" line a lot too, yeah, sure like building a house is NO work, I just eat bonbons all day long) Anyway, I'm excited that things are progressing, but I do have a question for you. Where did you get your door hardwear? I've got to go out and buy some locks (so I can say I truly have "lockup"), and I just have a feeling that the home depot isn't the cheapest place. I'm thinking if I buy ALL the door hardwear at once I should get a better rate, right? I was thinking totem, any thoughts?
Thanks in advance, hope you had a great weekend!


PS, I'm still keeping you in mind about the buffs, I promise to forward any business that comes up :-) Too bad you can't make Calgary flames buffs (darn licensing), you'd make a killing!

Hi, Kara! Congrats on how far along your House is! It's exciting, isn't it, when you see the whole thing come together... I always thought of it kinda as having another baby -- it can be painful at times, but the end result is definitely worth it! ha,ha! That's just my little take on Building -- and a very female approach, I'm sure!

You know I looove Totem -- everyone there is so nice and helpful, and if you make your way back into the Manager's Office, you can tell them you heard about the through me and my Site (at the South End Store in Shawnessy, anyway...), tell them you're Building Your Own House, and plan to buy a lot of Product at Totem, and they'll probably give you a Discount.

Have you chosen your Cabinetry, yet? We went through Totem and you've seen our Cabinetry -- it's gorgeous! They had the best Prices and the Best Service that we could find. We bought all our Door Knobs and Locks through Totem, too -- and you can get your Tile there, too -- it's endless. Oh, and they gave me a great Price on the Baseboard, too -- and that can be thousands of Dollars, so that was a huge Savings!

Oh, and we bought a lot of Plumbing Supplies there, too -- our Double Jet Tub, the Single Jet Tub in the Family Bathroom, and the Medicine Cabinets ... Dwight got the really fancy Plumbing Supplies at his Plumbing Supplier ... and we got a bunch of Lighting there, too... it's a great Store! Say hi to the Guys for me!

Every time I see all those Fans in the Stands and down on 'The Red Mile' after the Calgary Flames Games, I think of the Buffs! That's funny that you mentioned that. I actually wrote another wee note to someone 'in the know' with The Flames, yesterday, to see if they'd like to try putting The Flames Logo on a Buff - I know they'd sell a ton of them! And every other Sport and College, too, but that's a whole other story!

Okay, better get my Daily Update written! Hey, maybe we can swing in and see your New House -- we're giving some thought to moving back in your direction ... more on that later!

Talk to you soon! Ailsa


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WOW! Your site is wonderful! You sound like a fun person to know – I would love to meet you.

My husband, John, and I are seriously thinking that we need to take advantage of the house prices and building boom happening in our neighbourhood. We own our existing home on two legal lots. You may already be aware that these bungalows in Altadore are being bought by developers, hauled away, and then replaced by either a duplex or two in-fills. Current price on each new home is about $440,000. Because there are already six new in-fills, and one duplex facing the street on our block alone, I’m not worried about obtaining the necessary permits.

Our current bungalow has had an addition put on the front (in the late ‘70’s) which I fear will make the house unmovable. I’ve been told that the house movers will pay between $1 and $5000 for a home, but if the place needs to be knocked down and taken to the landfill, the cost to us would be $15,000 to $20,000.

I also worry that with so many developers already working in the area, we would have trouble finding trades people or even a sub-contractor; wouldn’t they make more money developing a property themselves, so why would they want to work for me?

Other than that little bit of info, we are clueless as to what such a project would entail. Your site seems like a great place to start, but I’m not sure that I even know what questions I need answers to.

Can you help me?

Heather W.


I think I’m addicted to your website. I thought I saw it all the first time, but I’ve been back at least three more times (in less than 12 hours – and I slept for 7 of those) and I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I’ve barely scratched the surface. So Dwight is the guy I’m looking for? Shouldn’t I get 3 quotes? Ha ha!

I had to run and turn on my TV to see that yes, it really was the last Wayne Brady show. I’m shocked. How could that happen?

I also am struggling with my fledgling business that will provide me with a huge residual income in the future...

I went looking around the web for other help. There isn’t much that is intelligently applicable, but the city of Calgary was helpful with a flowchart for the building and permit process. I think our biggest worry is that we're such neophytes we'll spend too much because we don't know better and the nefarious will take advantage of us. Did you really lose weight eating apple crumble? I am embarking on Atkins yet again. I keep falling off the diet because of my love for beer and Tostidos. Have you tried the Quesadilla? Don't. You'll just be kissing your waistline good-bye. Carbs are definitely my downfall. Hoping to hear from you, Heather

Hi, Heather! I laughed out loud when I read your 'interest' in Beer and Tostidos -- and my daughter, Cara, loves those Quesadilla ones -- they are yummy, so I must be on the look out not to eat too many of those! ha,ha!

And yes, I did lose 30 pounds on my Apple Crumble Diet. God Knows I'm addicted to chocolate (which I rationalize as being better than, say, Crack... ha,ha,ha! Welcome to my Brain!), so I knew I had to come up with something that was delicious enough and healthy enough to work, and that's how the Apple Crumble came to be. I still have it once or twice every day...

I'm waiting for the paving contractors to show up to give me a couple of quotes for the driveway -- come out and see it, if you like -- we'd love to meet you guys! You sound hilarious, and that's a key quality to getting through a build! That and a big pile of money...!

What an amazing opportunity you and your husband have for building, with a double Lot. That's highly sought after, as you know. You have the option of selling that for a great price, and buying something new, (lots of money in that, and it's particularly easy...), or gather all your money together to build on your Lots.

The easiest way to move a house is to offer it for sale at an incredibly low price, then you say, "You Move". Then the new owner is responsible for the entire move, and it comes out of their pocket, not yours, so you can focus your energies on your upcoming Build. Everyone wins...

What are the restrictions on the Number of Units you can build? Did you say you can do a Four-Plex? Duplexes are pretty popular, or Two Spearate Homes, which would generate a larger Profit -- use one to pay off the other, if need be... then you can work away forever on your Business! I know all too well what that's like! ha,ha!

Okay, I better go call the Pavers. Oh, and not to worry about being neophytes -- you'll know with the three quotes who is trying to pull your leg -- and you can always tell me the prices, and I'll let you know whether it's a fair price...

Hey, have you looked at any House Plans, yet? That's soooo much fun! (Seriously!)

Talk to you soon, Ailsa


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April 21st, 2004.

Hi, Ailsa!

Do you have any helpful advice for the new home buyer since advantage all lies with builder/developer when trying to get the best price? Thanks, Rick M.

Hi, Rick! Indeed I do... that's always fun to say, and how many opportunities really arise where you can get away with talkin' like a geek, hmmmm? Anyhooo, here's the Deal on Negotiating with a Builder/Developer... First, the Developer is usually the one whoOwns all the Land in any particular Neighborhood, then they literally 'Develop the Land' so it can become Sub-dividable Properties (the Developer is generally responsible for Building all the Raods, bringing Services to the Property Lines, going through the Process of Subdividing the Land...). You would be dealing with the Developer at the very early stages of a Build to Purchase Your Land. Oh, and the Developer will have all the say over Architectural Controls, so you must establish a very good working relationship with said developer, or your life will be a living nightmare...

As far as Negotiating the Price of the Land with the Developer, it would probably go something like this..."How much is your Land?" "It's $150,000.59." "Will you take $150,000.00, straight?" "No." Developer walks away or hangs up the phone. ha,ha! There ain't much negotiation with a Developer, mostly because they're filthy stinkin' rich,and they're in no hurry to sell, and everyone wants to buy Land. That be the truth, according to ME! ha,ha!

And now for the Builder -- it depends on the Size of the Builder, and I don't mean Body Mass, although sometimes that can be intimidating, too...A Small Builder might be more inclined to Adjust the Price, but only if the Buyer is planning to Take Stuff off the Contract, so I guess that really means that there is very little room for Negotiation with Builders, either. That's just the Building Business. The Bigger the Builder, the more likely you are to Pay not only the 'Sticker Price', if you will, but you will also sign an Agreement that you'll happily and readily pay for any extras you ad on (obviously...) or as they are needed to meet the Architectural Controls of the Neighborhood. This can easily go to $20,000. and waaaay beyond, so always ask for updates as you go through the Build,so you aren't shocked by your Bill at the end of the day. Happens all the time.

So, with that in mind, your best bet if you want to Negotiate a Deal is to go with Pre-Built Homes. A lot of Builders sell their own homes (like we do...), and those Homes are always great, because the Builder put all his or her favorite things into them... and you can negotiate on any home that isn't Brand Spankin' new. And if you're in Canada, you'll save even more money, because there is a lovely Canadin GST Tax on every new Home of 7% -- that's a lot of money on a High-End Home.... that Tax doesn't exist with a Home that has been Lived in, so that's a huuge savings. Sometimes the Builder will give you a break on the GST and you can get a rate of 4.38%, I think... something like that. And I think there's no GST Rebate for any New Home over $350,000. -- I know we didn't get anything back... Our House was waaaay more than $350 K to Build, but I think the Canadian Theory is that if you can afford more than $350K for a House, then you can pay all the Taxes... and that's just one of the zillion or so reasons I look forward to moving back to The States, one day... You get to keep more of the money you make... ain't that a good enough reason??

Well, Rick, I hope that answered your question... now we all want to know where you want to Build, and what style.

Talk to you soon, Ailsa

Home Improvement Shopping!

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April 20th, 2004.

Hi, Ailsa.

We would like to build our own home, but I don't know much about pouring foundations or building roofs. Can you help me.

Tom S.

Hi, Tom. Here's an easy answer for you -- you don't have to know anything about any of the Processes in the House Build, technically. It's helpful, but not critical. You just need the wherewithal to Hire the Right Contractor, then the Cash to Pay for it.

You would never take on a Project as critical as the Foundation or the Roof without absolute Skill in that area. Better to Farm it out.

Now, one exception for the Foundation is the possibility of Cribbing the Foundation Walls yourself. My old Boyfriend, Larry (who is still Single, from what I recall... for all the Single Gals out there! ha,ha!) used to Own a Foundation Form Business, so I know they exist. Still, you would need considerable amount of Skill to do that, too. Best to Hire out any Job you're not already skilled at. (I know, there's a preposition at the end of that last sentence, as there often are in regular speech, with the exception of some really annoyink folks, 'n all...! ha,ha!)

Let us know about your Building Project -- we all like to follow along with other people's Builds!

Good Luck with Your Build! Ailsa

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April 17th, 2004.

Hi, Ailsa.

I am looking for some basic info and design specs to build my own partial garage ceiling storage. I am looking to build an 18' by 4' ceiling/shelf to hold all the stuff my husband feels he needs to have in the garage and I am tired of walking around. At least he has a hobby.

So I have spent the last hour on the net and found didly unless I want to buy something. I do all our home renos and have built decks and garages etc. So I can do this if I know what to do.

I was thinking 4 rows of 2x6s 32' centre across the 18' span and two 4' 2x6's on the end. Is this enough to support med weight storage? Also I can't get 18' 2x6s (would have to go with 12=6 or some other combo) so what is the best way to reinfroce? I don't want to do a triangular base frame as this would just create somehting else to run into. Only other soln I see is chains from the ceiling, is that the best alt?


Hi, Toshena! I love your name -- very pretty! And I'm thrilled that you're doing all that work! I love a competent woman! So your tired of all yo' husband's stuff, eh? Hmmmm. I really like the idea of building a 'Top Shelf' in the Garage for extra Storage.

First, how high is your Garage Ceiling? Ours is about 18 feet high, I think -- I'll go find some garage shots to see if I can look at it to figure it out easier... What about accessibility to the stuff? Does he go in and look at it all the time, or is this stuff he wants to keep, but never ever looks at it? And are you planning to Park underneath it, or create a working area -- or just somewhere you can walk through without banging into a whole lot of crap that already annoys you?? ha,ha! Anyway, determine whether it's possible to simply stack the boxes right up to the ceiling, or build a Table-like Structure that spans the Garage length about four feet off the ground. It would be safer, easier to build, and you could easily retrieve the stuff from it.

It's always good to go with the easiest Plan -- how about getting him to 'thin out' his stuff? Could he have a Garage Sale and keep what he really needs, or donate some of the stuff? Just a thought...

I wouldn't go with the Chains from the Ceiling thing -- too risky, with that amount of weight. Also, you would need a lot more reinforcement than the Two 4' 2 X 6 pieces at the end... You would need to reinforce it every 16", at least. Anything overhead, in particular, needs extreme attention to detail.

Dwight is still sleeping (it's Saturday morning...), but I'll ask him what he thinks when he gets up, and we're chatting in the Sunroom ... that's our place for me to ask him all sorts of Construction stuff! ha,ha! And he thinks it's gonna be relaxing!

You know what I would definitely do? When you're out looking at your lumber for the job, check the price on the Wire Shelving. You might be surprised at how comparable the two products are, what with the sky-rocketing price of lumber. We have a fair bit of the Wire Shelving in our house, and it's not only very sturdy, it looks very nice, so that's something to consider, too.

Take Care and Talk to you soon, Ailsa.

Here's more stuff to add to your Garage! ha,ha!

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April 16th, 2004.

Hi Ailsa,

I’ve been browsing through your site for many times and would like to thank you for all the details you provided about building a home. Me and my wife are starting to build a home soon, it’s in Ontario, close to lake Ontario in Burlington. We purchased the land and planning to build a house about 3000 sq/ft big. I’m pretty handy and will be able to do lot of interior work, right now we are trying to pick the plan we like and after that will start applying for permits. I would appreciate if you could share your cost experience, I have a builder that is a good friend of ours but still need to get different quotes just to compare. He told us that it’ll cost us approximate $85/sqft to build a house, is this reasonable price? If you don’t mind please let me know what’s the cost per sq/ft for different types of work like excavation, foundation, framing etc.

Thank You, God Bless! Ned

Hi, Ned! It would be great if you could bring your new house in at $85.00/Square Foot. Everything depends on the Style of the Home -- Bungalow, Bungalow with Walk-Out, Two-Storey... and the Type of Finish, then all the stuff inside. I would make sure you have enough Capital before you get started on the Build for $145.00/sq foot, just in case it goes over Budget. If you keep your Style Very Simple, and the Interior Fixtures very simple. And then you'll be doing a huuuge amount of the work on your own, but you said you are skilled in many areas, so that'll really come in handy.

The best way to get true prices for the Excavation, Foundation and Framing is to get your House Plans in Order, then take them to each of those Contractors and get exact quotes. I generally advise getting Three Quotes for each of the Major Jobs in the Build. Get your numbers together before you start to build, so you can see if you need to build a smaller home in order to stay within your Budget.

Is labour really inexpensive in Ontario? I can't imagine that, having lived there for so long... but definitely check all your Material and Labour Prices before you start to Dig.

Oh, yeah. Qick Tip -- lots of people will come out of the woodwork, so-to-speak, and tell you how much it is to Build a House -- only take their word for it if they have built their own house, and fairly recently... otherwise, they're just making it up, and that's not useful for you to gather accurate information.

Talk to you soon! Ailsa

Home Improvement Shopping ** House Plans

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April 15th, 2004.

Hi Ailsa,
How are things? My husband referred to you as Ingrid the other day, and I
was all "who?!?, do you mean Ailsa?" Silly man. Good recommendation on the
windows, Geinow came in with the best price, $5500. Things are looking
really good the more and more prices on quotes roll in. We break ground
tomorrow...woohoo!! So I guess it begins. The next things on my list are
flooring (know any good places for hardwood?) and cabinetry, and other
finishes. Anyway, just thought I'd say hello, see how things are going.

Hi, Kara! Always great to hear form you! Wow -- great Price on your Windows -- I really like Geinow. They have excellent service, too. Congrats on the beginning of the Build -- it's incredibly exciting, isn't it? Dwight has a great connection for Flooring at Deerfoot Carpet -- tell them we sent you -- mention Dwight and his company, D.K. Mechanical,and tell them you know me from My Site, . That ought to get you a good deal! On Carpet, too!

One of the best places for Cabinetry is Totem Hardware -- they're great, and some of the best Service in the Area! They're all our buddies, now, and come out to our Parties! Now that's a good sign! They have a computer program they'll use to help you design your own Kitchen and Bathrooms, and perhaps the Laundry Room. Lots of Cabinetry. Trevor and Albert would both be great for Installation -- they're both on my site. Say hi to the guys at Totem for me, tell them you know me through the Site, and let them know you're Building Your Own House -- I'm sure they'll 'do you a deal'!!

Talk to you soon! Good Luck with the Build! Ailsa

Home Improvement Shopping

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April 12th, 2004.

Hi, Ailsa!

1st really liked your site--- thanks for being here--!

I wish to build a cottage style 2 bedroom - 1 bath in Southwestern Ontario--- say around Chatham Ontario.
How where is best place to get "free: estimates--
YES - now you can how "cheap" I am-- lol
Honestly-- the internet is my best friend-- teacher- resource centre--- IF INFO IS AVAILABLE - IT'S AVAILABLE IN HERE - I JUST GOTTA FIND "HERE_
A GOOD SITE--- you may be the one-- you and TIA that is.thanking you in advance. John

Thanks for the kudos, John! It's always nice to know My Readers are enjoying the Site! A Two Bedroom Cottage Style Home in Ontario, you say... Have you looked at Land, yet, to determine the Price of the Building Lot? That'll be one of the first thing you should do. See how much that is, then see how that fits in your Budget and how much that'll leave over for the Build.

Let's say you have a Budget of $250,000. If you're Land costs $50,000., and it's out in the Country, you can add another $25 Grand or so for the Services to the Lot (Water, Electricity, Cable TV, Phone...). Now you have $175,000. to build the House. You can put up a nice structure for that amount of money. It won't be huge, but it should fit within your requirements. Please add another Bathroom, though -- at least a Half-Bath, since that is just a practical thing to have.

Quotes are almost always Free -- the only place I've ever heard of charging for a Quote was at Home Depot -- they require a Payment before they'll do a take-off on your Blueprints, probably because they might be inundated by 'lookie-loos' who want to get quotes just for fun, and Quotes are time-consuming, so I'm thinking that's the reason.

Generally, it would be bizarre to ask for Quotes when someone is just doing that for fun -- I suppose that does happen from time to time, but most Contractors and Suppliers can tell who is really ready to do the work. If the Client or Customer seems uncomfortable (or is in shock...) when the Contractor or Supplier uses numbers like $40 Grand for this, $25 Grand for that... when $2,000. is the lowest Price for anything... if the Client shows shock or dismay, then they aren't prepared for A Build. Any Build.

But when you are ready to Build, and you know the True Costs of Building are probably not what you might hope they are, you can start getting all your info together (Land, House Plans, Permits...) and head out to the Differrent Suppliers (Lumber, Windows, Drywall, Cement...) and go get some Quotes. Think of a Quote like a Job Application, if it's from a Contractor, since really, they're bidding for your Job.

You can add up all you Quotes to see how much the whole Build will cost you -- remember to add at least $20,000. to your final number, so you're prepared for s few of the extras that happen along the way.(The bigger the house, the more you should add for extras...)

Oh, and I'm glad you like Tia -- she is the sweetest little dog!!

Talk to you soon, and let me know when you Buy Your Land and Get Your House Plans! Ailsa

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Wednesday, April 7th, 2004.
Hello Ailsa, I am continuously enjoying your website and increasing the wealth of my

A quick one for you. How much effort it takes to pass the building
inspection during the build phase. Do we have to call a home inspector
during every phase of your build? How does all that thing work.

Please advise. Have a great day and thanks for all the efforts you are
putting in to lighten us with your knowledge and experience.

Best Regards, Bhupinder

Hi, Bhupinder! Have you started with your Home Build? You call up the Inspector when you're finished certain aspects of the Job -- if you've hired an Electrician (which is necessary if you aren't a Licensed Electrician yourself...), The Electrician will probably go ahead and phone for the Electrical Inspection. You can say to Each Contractor as they complete their work if they will call in the Inspector for the job at hand.

Also, you can ask at the Permitting Office exactly when you need to have the Inspections in your Area -- some places seem to have tighter Inspections than others. Then you typically need a Home Completion Inspection whenthe whole house is done, then your Mortgage will go through and you can move in! Sound good?

Take Care and Let me know how things are going with your Build! Ailsa!


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Saturday, April 3rd, 2004.

Hey Ailsa,
i really enjoyed browsing your wife and i are seriously considering emigrating to canada...once we'v tied up all loose ends here in the uk!!

i would rather do a new build like yours than pay twice the price for one we might want to change anyway. do you have a list of contractors you have used plus prices?

what are the canadian authorities like over building with bales of straw? also i would like a more feung shui friendly design = lots of rounded-off corners, bull-noses and radius work...maybe even a doughnut design with the 'hole' being a central garden that all rooms - with glass walls - look out onto?!

thanks anyway

your sincerely

steve and chris d.

Well, Hello, Steve & Chris! Isn't that ironic that your letter would come in just after I wrote my response to David's letter right below this one... it's all about building and immigrating to Canada! Read on, my friends, Read on!

Oh, and the Donut House Idea is waaaay cool -- and very similar in idea to a House I designed should I ever be building on a smaller Lot in the City, let's just say in Los Angeles, since we're in my imagination now, anyway...I want to do a Two-Storey with an open Center Courtyard, perhaps with the Pool in the middle, so you can look out onto it from any of the 'outside rooms' in the house.

Remember, Round is Expensive, since it takes a lot more work to round off all the Corners and walls than you might think, so that would add considerably to your budget. Also, you'll only save half of the cost of buying from a Builder or a previously built house if it's an absolutely enormous house (the general rule is "The Bigger the House, the More You Save..."), so the old stand-by rule still is in place, "If you can't save at least $50K by building on your own, let the builder do it...".

Aaaand, you would have to buy a piece of land in the middle of no-where with absolutely no Architectural Controls, because regular Architectural Controls would never allow for a Round Structure.

I actually know of a Round House -- it was built in a wee town in Ontario, Canada, (Not Bloomfield, but somewhere near there...) on my way to Sandbanks Beach... can't think of the name of the Town, right now... but the House was Round, and a Two-Storey. Pretty Neat, but when the family was ready to move, they could sell the thing -- it was too tight a demographic for them to find a buyer. So you would have to choose your Location carefully, and maybe go with an Octagon, which would be waaaay cool, too!

Can't wait to see you in Canada! My Mum and Dad are due to come back soon -- they have a house in Scotland, and stay there about 3 or 4 months out of the year -- nice lifestyle, eh? You'll have to get used to saying that -- I'm pretty sure it's part of the Canadian Rules! ha,ha,ha!

Talk to you soon, Ailsa!

(Still for Saturday, April 3rd...)

Dear Ailsa
Hello my name is David Fuller and I am a journalist for a British based publication called Canada News, which is aimed at intending migrants to Canada.

For the May edition of our publication I am writing an article on building your own home in Canada.
While surfing the Internet I came across your website and was wondering if you would be able to answer some questions on the process. Your website and/or contact details could be included on the article, and who knows, you may get some interest from it.

If you are interested in this - I promise there won't be many questions and it won't take to long to answer them - then let me know and I'll get some questions off to you.

Thank you for any help you can give me, I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Kind regards
David Fuller

David Fuller - Journalist
Outbound Publishing

Focus on France
World of Property
Australian News
Canada News
Destination New Zealand
Going USA
South Africa News

I wrote back to David that I would be happy to help, and that I am an Immigrant to Canada (and then to the United States of America, then back to Canada,and with any luck what-so-ever, back the the U.S.A.!!).

Hi Ailsa
Glad you're happy to help, it should be an interesting piece. The following questions are in no particular order, but if you think I have left off an important question that a person building their own home may need to know the answer to, feel free to include it.
1) How popular is building your own home in Canada? Has it increased in popularity in recent years?
2) What kind of permission do you need to do it? Is it hard to obtain?
3) How would someone go about starting the process? I.e purchasing the land on which to build, finding the relevant materials etc.?
4) On average, how much does it cost to complete the whole process? (A rough ball-park figure will be fine).
5) For a newcomer to Canada, what would you suggest are the advantages of building a new home as opposed to buying?

Thank you for your help with this, it is much appreciated. If you let me know your address I will send you a copy of the paper when it is published - which will be mid-April.

Talk soon

Hi, David! Here are some Answers for you!
1) How popular is building your own home in Canada? Has it increased in popularity in recent years?

Building Your Own Home is a huge undertaking, and it requires a lot of Cash and access to even more money, so that limits the experience to a small percentage of Canadians. However, that still leaves Thousands of Canadians who DO Build Their Own Homes, and Hundreds of Thousands of Canadians and Americans who want to have a solid understanding of how a house is built when they have a Builder Build a New Home for them.

I think Canadians tend to be a fairly self-sufficient bunch, so the idea of Building Your Own Home has been around since the Pioneer Days. It's perhaps more practical now because Money is so inexpensive to Borrow, these days, what with the Low Interest Rates and the Availability of Mortgages through sources other than the Standard Banks (Mortgage Brokers), who are far more likely to Lend Money for a Build. A Builder's Loan is a Risky Loan, and if the people haven't had any experience Building on their own before, they might not be able to secure the Funding. In answer to your question, yes, it is a more accessible process, so therefore more popular.

2) What kind of permission do you need to do it? Is it hard to obtain?

You need to first Own the Land where you Plan to Build. Occasionally, you'll find a Developer who will carry the Financial Costs of the Land with a small Deposit until the end of the Build, but this is rare.

Then you need to Get Your House Plans, have them Passed by the Architectural Controls in the Area where you intend to Build, then you head off to the Permit Offices. There's no point in bothering anyone about Permits until you have the complete permission from everyone else involved, and you've secured your Funding for the Build.

Permits can be difficult to obtain when you're new to the Process, because of the vast amount of information you have to submit to get the Permits Passed. I always suggest to New Builders that they Hire a Contractor to handle that part of the Build if they get stuck in all the Paperwork.

And then you have to squeeeeak open your wallet and hand them a fair chunk of money for letting you Build in their Municipality! Just one of the many, many Joys of Building! ha,ha!

3) How would someone go about starting the process? I.e purchasing the land on which to build, finding the relevant materials etc.?

Well, a good place to start is right here at My Website, . You should be extremely familiar with the entire Home Building Process before you even Purchase the Land, so you can make an informed decision about how hard it will be,and whether you can really afford the whole process.

Once you've looked around at the Homes that are currently available on the Market and make the big leap to decide to Build Your Own House, you can set a Reasonable Budget (it's not cheap to Build a House, and that's a common misconception...), decide on a House Style that you like (Bungalow, Walk-Out Bungalow, Two-Storey...), then start looking for a nice Piece of Land. You can buy an 'In-City Lot', sometimes (they are difficult to come by, and you'll have to have the Cash in your hand to buy it immediately before a Developer Buys it...), and more likely you would look for a suitable Lot in the Country.

When you're looking at Property in the Country for Acreage Living, it's critical that you find out how much Water is 'to the Lot' -- 5 gallons/minute is a reasonable amount of water for an easy lifestyle. Less than that amount and you will forever be watching your Water usage, and that's a very unpleasant and stressful way to live, no matter what anyone else might tell you...

We were very fortunate to find an Acreage with 'Town Water', which means we get our Water from a nearby Town, just like the 'City Folk' do! ha,ha,ha!

Finding the Materials is what this whole Site is about, so that's hard to put in a couple of sentences... suffice it to say that you would get your House Plans, have at least 10 extra Copies of them, distribute those Plans to all your Major Material Places (Lumber, Cement, Roofing, Contractors for the Services -- Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning, Electrical, Sewage,'s endless!), and gather up all your Quotes and see if you can still afford to Build the House...

Do you see how it always comes back to the Money? That's because there's soo much tied up in the Project, so if you're not comfortable discussing money in the $20 Grand range like you would talk about buying an Ice Cream Cone, you want to take another look to see if you're ready. $20 Grand is nothing in the Building Industry.

That's why our then 2 year old son, Aidan, was going around saying to everyone that he "Jus' needed 20 Grand", because that's what he heard his Father, Dwight, say pretty much every night at Dinner during the Build of this house! ha,ha,ha!

4) On average, how much does it cost to complete the whole process? (A rough ball-park figure will be fine).

The basic equation for the Possible Cost to Build is The Price of the Land + $145.00 X The Square Footage of Development +( Services to the Land, if you're on an Acreage) + (Any Fancy Extras...) + The Cost of the Build.

Land Values vary greatly depending on whether you're in the City, in the Country, Waaaay Out in the Country, Close to a River, the Amount of Water to the Property, Services that are Readily Availabe -- see all the Variances? There are about 500 more... ha,ha!

You can build a nice Family Home in the 2500 square Foot Range here in Canada for about $300,000., sometimes Less, sometimes more... That's a great Price when you're coming from Britain and you've already Owned a Home over there and are working with some serious Equity! Come on over! We'll make you a Pie!! ha,ha,ha!

Every House is Different, from the Land, to the House Style & Size, and most importantly, to the Interior and Exterior Finish. You would be hard pressed to build an Acreage Property for under $275,000.

5) For a newcomer to Canada, what would you suggest are the advantages of building a new home as opposed to buying?

For a Newcomer, it might be best to Buy something already in existence until you're settled in and really know which areas you like. But you could easily Rent or pick up a Property with an easy Re-Sale while you get yourself ready for a Build.

The extreme upside that the vast majority of Immigrants have is a big chunk of money to play with, and a relatively low Canadian Dollar. What might be considered expensive to us is a steal for someone coming from the U.K. -- I know that from experience! ha,ha,ha! When you move here with U.S. or U.K. money, it's a whole lot of fun to go to the Bank with yo' cheques! (Checks, for our U.S. Readers!!). They're worth sooo much more than in 'The Old Country'!! Plus, you're gonna love our Steaks and BBQ's!!

Hope that answered your questions, David!

Talk to you soon, Ailsa

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Friday, April 2nd, 2004.

Hello again!

I’ve got a couple new questions for you.

1) what did you guys do for construction/building insurance? Any suggestions?

2) What’s the deal on inline fans and furnaces? I get sooooo much conflicting information about this. One guy says increase your bathroom fan, don’t waste your money on the inline fan. The next guy says DON’T, definitely use an inline fan. DO you have any opinions on this one?

I hope your hot tub is back in its home. I’ll have to check in on the website to see what’s new J


Hi, Kara! I had to ask Dwight about the 'inline fans', because I wasn't exactly sure what that was, and he says that's where the Fans are actually hooked up to an Exhaust Thing in the was a long and somewhat dull discussion, so I can't say I listened all the way through, but the bottom line is that the 'inline fans' will only work for about Two Bathrooms per floor, so you would need Two System for a Two-Storey Home like yours (remember that Kara came over to visit me at my real house, not just online, and of course she brought her House Plans -- I loves me some House Plans!! ha,ha!) And the 'inline fans' are generally pretty expensive.

Dwight thinks your best bet is just to pop into Home Depot and check out their Fan Section. He said for you to check out the Prices and the amount of Exhaust Power for each of the Bathroom Fans -- they should start at 50 something something (I can't remember the name of the Units of Measurement, but you'll see it on the Packages...) and go up to about 120 Units per beat (okay, I made that up, but just the name, not the number -- that bit is correct!)

The Costs of the Regular Bathroom Fans usually ranges from about $20 to $200. I think I would be inclined to choose something in the Upper End, but the decision is based on Budget and How Smelly you really think your Bathroom is likely to get -- which reminds me -- if I were ever to put in another Nursery (very slim chance of that, but Kara is 28 and a young Mother...), I would definitely put a Fan in the Nursery, too. Well worth the investment, and all the parents will knw why!! ha,ha,ha!

In terms of the Building/Construction Insurance, you should have that in place the Day you Purchase your Land, since if, God Forbid, someone walks over your Land and trips, you'll be covered for Liability. You can get Builders/Construction Insurance through your Regular Insurance Company -- just tell them what you're up to and have them add on the Premium for that. I think we paid about $30/month from the Day we Bought Our Land, if that. Now if you're not happy with your current House Insurance Provider, you can look around for Prices, which is a good idea in general, just to make sure you're getting a Fair Price.

And, yes, our Hot Tub (poor girl!! ha,ha!) is back in her rightful place in the Sunroom Deck. Dwight and I went out to clean it (me -- I'm the cleaner, then Dwight was mad because I threw the Water from the Tub where he was working, thus creating a big muddy mess, but in my defense, I thought he was working on the other side of the Tub... ugh.) But we put the water in, Dwight made me turn on the Electrical Stuff, which I didn't want to do --"Can't you find someone else who's as old as the hills to do this, rather than me, your lovely young wife..." I'm a little melo-dramatic when I'm worried about mixing Water and Electricity...! ha,ha! Anyway, I turned on my bit on the Electrical Panel in the Furnace Room, and Dwight turned on the Switch on the Hot Tub, and nothing happened. At all. So we had to look at all the connections, again, and it turned out the Big Breaker hadn't been put in -- Dwight's decision to save about $150. bucks 6 months ago... annoyink! So now he has to deal with the Breaker issue before the Weather turns cold, again. I'll keep you posted, though!

Talk to you soon, Ailsa!

(Here's what I wrote back to William, who is thinking about Building in Southern Ontario, Canada...)

Hi, William! I just posted a response to your letter on my Ask Ailsa Page. Sounds like you're doing very well! Let me know what style of home you're thinking about building.

If you feel comfortable with it, you can let me know the size of home you're hoping to build, and the budget you would like to spend -- that way I can tell you whether it's realistic.

Hi, Ailsa.
I was thinking about a couple acres... 5 maybe. Rural area 15 minutes from town. 2 story brick or brick facade with that new styrofoam and cement wall design they have now. 2 bedroom, maybe a deck (though I can build that later on.) treed lot. Standard amount of windows. Basement (unfinished... again I can do that over time).
Need to find out in broad strokes what this kind of build costs before going any further.

Okay, let's see. I don't have a clue how much a 5 acre parcel would go for in that area of Ontario -- I would hazard a guess at between $65K to $120K. Let me know how close I am to the reality, when you start looking into Lot Prices. So start with your Land Price. Then add about $25K for the Services to the Land. It might come in lower, but it's better to estimate on the higher side, just so you're prepared for the Bill...

A Two-Storey Building with 2 Bedrooms is a tough sell, should you ever want to move on to another home (!), so it's a good idea to look at putting in Three Bedrooms Upstairs, and then you can just use the extra one for an Office or whatever...

It doesn't sound like you're after anything ludicrously extravagant (My Favorite Style of House! ha,ha,ha!), so I'm guessing you would be in the 2,000 to 2500 square foot size, so multiply that by $145.00. That'll give you a good Base Price. You will probably be able to shave a good bit off that price, especially if you're doing some of the work yourself, but I can't stress enough how important it is to be prepared with Back-Up Cash for a higher Price than you were hoping for... it's like going to Walmart for Milk, then you leave with a Cart-load of stuff you hope will come in at $121.37, but the actual Bill is $347.92 -- or maybe that's just me!! ha,ha!

The new ICF Blocks will add to your bottom line costs, as will the Brick. You might want to consider a Stucco Finish with Brick or Stone Accents. Brick and Stone are waaaay less expensive in Ontario than they are out here in The West, where we have to import it, so the cost might not be too bad.

As for the Deck, generally speaking, you have to build the deck onto the House before the Final Inspection, if it is attached to a Doorway, which it clearly would be, unless it's 'outstanding in the field'... or you have more than one deck. It's a safety issue, in on the off-chance that some of your drunken friends stumble over, open the Back door, and tumble right out... I think I've painted a fairly accurate picture! ha,ha,ha!

Does that answer your question, William? Let me know!

Talk to you soon, Ailsa

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Monday, March 29th, 2004.

Hello, Ailsa.

I am answering question by question...

Hi, William! Congrats on the money thing! Yes, you should abslutely Build Your Own House! And I love the Quinte Area -- sooo beautiful!

I like it too. This is why I stayed in Kingston after graduating.

Are you thinking about land on the Water? Let me know all the areas you're really thinking about, so I can visualize where you are, and the size of land you're hoping to get.

I was thinking either off hwy 15 between Kingston and Gan. or off hwy. 2 between Kingston and Napanee.

What year did you Graduate from Queen's? That's a very cool connection!

I got a Ba.H. from Queen's in '94. I now write books and articles (Macleans and a few other periodicals).

What I would like to know is the cost of building versus buying. Also, do you know anything about the styrofoam block building they are doing now? There is a law office on Clergy at Queen St. that was just build using this technique. I hear it is inexspenive and very durable with a high r-factor. Know anything about it?

Thanks, William

Hi, William! Sounds like you've done well with your Degree from Queen's -- it's a great University! If only they would buy the Buffwear to raise Funds for the University! You never know... I Graduated in '83/'84 (Two Degrees), so that probably makes you about 10 years younger than me... whatever that means!

Anyway, the bottom line on Building on your own and saving money is that the Bigger the House you build on your own, the more you save. If you're planning to build a fairly moderate Home, it would be wise to check and see if there is a Builder who builds a similar style for a reasonable price -- if you can't build it for at least $50,000. less than the Builder, it's probably not worth the hassle of building on your own. Does that sound like a lot of money?

I'm soooo familiar with Clergy Street in Kingston -- I used to love that street -- lots of gorgeous big Trees. As for the Styrofoam Building Blocks (ICF, I think they call them), I did some serious research into them before we built this house. I desperately wanted to try that, but then the voice of reason wouldn't shut up (I'm talking about Dwight, in case you're new to the Site!! ha,ha!). But mostly, I investigated the Total Cost and the situation for Re-Sale, and the Cost was at least Double the Cost of a Cement Basement and Wooden Walls (the old tried and true method for home building), the Risks were very high for a 'Blow Out' (when the Styrofoam Bricks literally blow out when you're pouring the cement in -- they're filled with cement...), and on top of that, it's next to impossible to find skilled labor to do the work. That was enough to make us stick with good old Cement!

How much are the Lots that you're looking at? It's been a long time since I've looked at land in those areas... be interesting to see how much the Land Values have gone up.

Talk to you soon, Ailsa

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March 27th & 28th, 2004.

Hi, Ailsa. I was looking up how to get a house built on the web. I found your page, then read your bio and thought "Sounds like someone I should ask advise from". Then I read that you had lived in the Quite region, and thought "Hey, she will know about the area I want to build in". Then I read you were at Queen's and, presumably, in Kingston. Queen's is my alma mater and I am also in Kingston. Weird how these things work.

The long and short of things is: I am about to get a good chunck of cash and have (likely) decided to build rather than buy a house in the Kingston/Napanee/Gan. area. This is all very preliminary at the moment. What I would like ot know is a cost estimate versus buying a house. I want a semi-rural area (hwy 15 or 2 or some such). Single family dwelling with a veggie garden and maybe a pool/lake access. Please let me know what you think of this versus buying pre-built or older house. I imagine from your site that you have tons of information, so please feel free to innundate me with information if you can.

Thanks, William H.,Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Hi, William! Congrats on the money thing! Yes, you should absolutely Build Your Own House! And I love the Quinte and Kingston Area -- sooo beautiful!

Are you thinking about land on the Water? Let me know all the areas you're really thinking about, so I can visualize where you are, and the size of land you're hoping to get.

You know what I would do, first? Go and look at everything that is currently available where you are interested in Buying, and check everything out thoroughly. Maybe there is a Home already on the Market that you'll fall in love with -- and then if there isn't, get yourself some House Plans and we'll start a-buildin'! (You'll probably be in the Country, tending your Veggie Garden, so I'm just getting you accustomed to the new country vernacular! ha,ha,ha,ha!)

What year did you Graduate from Queen's? That's a very cool connection! We might already know one another! Now wouldn't that be a fun coincidence?? Of course, Deepak Chopra would say it was meant to be! Must finish reading his new book!

Talk to you very soon! Ailsa

Hi Ailsa,

Thanks for your response. I am back again with another request. Can you please outlined all the points/procedure we have to follow up to getting permit or before you start putting on the foundation for your new house. I have a old house and want to build over the same piece of land.

Can I use my home equity money to build a new over the old one. Can you suggest any Canadian/Greater Toronto area website helping to walk through the permit process.

Thanks again for all your help. Bhupinder

Hi, Bhupinder! I'm thinking your best bet is to head right down to City Hall, or wherever your Permit Offices are, and talk to the people in charge directly. I would imagine you'll need a Permit to Remove the old house before you can get started building your new house. I hope you're not in a big hurry, because Permitting can be very time-consuming...

It would be very wise to discuss your exact plans with your Banker, too, to make sure you will be staying within their Guidelines.

Have you checked out your Local Government Websites? Often you will find the exact information you're looking for in there -- just follow the Links to the Permit Office, so-to-speak. And I have a good Link on my Links Page to a fellow I know, Mike, who has a Site Devoted to all things relating to Permits, so check that out, too.

Make sure you have a solid understanding of what you're getting into, though, before you even start the job. It might be a wise idea to have a Contractor come in to have a look at your Project to give you a Price Range of what the Whole thing might cost you -- that way you can take that info to the Banker, and you've established a good contact should things go terribly wrong and you need to call in for Support. Just a little precaution you might like to take.

And in General, remember that Building Your Own House never means actually doing every single part of the work -- that's virtually impossible, not to mention 'unwise' (I'm sure you know the word I'm really thinking of! ha,ha,ha!). Building Your Own House means organizing the whole job, paying for it (and paying and ain't a cheap proposition...), supervising it, and where ever your Skill area may be, doing that portion of the work -- except for areas that are extremely time-consuming, which you might be further ahead hiring in... it's a big juggling game, but well worth it in the long run!

Let me know how that works out! Ailsa


March 26th, 2004.

Hi! Unfortunately I haven't been able to find a similar plan. However, I get my inspiration from the William E. Poole Collections( His plans are much bigger than mine, but I condensed them to siut my lifestyle. The homes are plans #'s are: Saint Remy 520nc and Provence 519nc. I don't know if I can describe this to make any sense, but I'll try!!! There are 3 rooftops in the Provence. I am using the idea of the far right one with the stone extension attached on front for the main part of my house. Then my garage would be attached on the left with a front like the saint remy garage, also with the garage extending out into the front and a side entrance on the opposite side. My entrance is between the two. Is that confusing enough? I
won't even try to descibe the interior. It is designed between those two roofs and needless to say because my roofslant is so steep it cuts of my second story space. I am developing the 2nd level of the garage to use more space wisely. Our budget keeps us at 250,000 and under. We can purchase land for anywhere between 15 - 25,000. I have spoken with a couple of realtors and
they are multiplying square footage with 110 right now and that is not doing it yourself price. I know the size of house is in our price range I just don't know if my custom ideas are, like 10 foot main floor ceilings, stone masonery like on the provence picture and so forth... I appreciate whatever help you can offer and if this is too much work please don't worry about it.
You have given me so many leads already. Have a splendidly wonderful day and I hope this hasn't worn you out just
reading it!!!!

Hi, Kyla! Your letters are very enjoyable -- I'm always happy to answer them! As for listening to the Realtors when they tell you how much a House will Cost to Build, unless they have actually built their own home, and are completely familiar with Lumber and Concrete Pricing today (not to mention the zillion or so Other Prducts you'll need for the House and the Labour Rates...), they're not a good source for information. The worst thing that can happen is you can get in too deep with the finances and lose everything, which we definitely want and need to avoid, so only base your decision from Real Information, not misinformation.

I have a major Pet Peeve with folks who will tell you information like they really do know it, but they're talking out of a totally different body part, if you know what I mean... Ugh. I like people who say, "You know, I'm not sure about that...let me get back to you on it...", or "Let me refer you to a Builder...".

Actually, now that I think of it, why not run your Plans by an Real Builder to get a Full Quote from them, then you'll have a really good handle on how much the House will cost. Yes, there's a Builder's Mark-Up, of course, but still it'll give you a Ballpark Figure to keep in your mind.

Here are the biggest things that will cost you a lot more than you might think -- the Steep Slope on the Roof, Three Roof Lines, a Slate Roof, the Stone Front, and then the typical Accessories to go along with the French Provincial Style...

What's great is you seem to have an excellent handle on the Building Process, you just need to make sure you have all the Information and Prices before you get started. You might want to Scale back a little... and don't forget to find out how much Water is at the Land waaaay before you buy it -- it should have 5 gallons/minute for an easy life -- anything below that and you'll always have to watch your water usage, which ain't no fun at all -- been there, done that, won't do that again!! ha,ha!

Hey, how about you Build a nice and comfortable house that is a little more moderate in size and shape, live in it for a couple of years, or so, sell it and then use the Equity (and yes, you'll build lots of Equity...) to put toward what sounds like your Dream House? Then you'd have a little more time to set more money aside, and that'll make the ride a lot more comfortable... just a thought!

Talk to you soon, Ailsa

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March 25th, 2004.

Hey, Ailsa!
Thanx for responding so quickly! We will be building in rural southern Alberta (most likely Barnwell). The house is a French Country style. I would like to have it authentic as possible with slate roof and stucco siding. The main floor is 1215 sq. ft. and the upper is 995 sq. ft. The lot size would probably be about an acre, so we would be putting our sewage lines in. Is
this enough info? I know what dollar range we can handle, I just want to be sure this is in it before I go too far. Thanx again so much!!!

Hi, Kyla! I'm quite familiar with Southern Alberta, but I'll have to have a wee look at my map to see where Barnwell is... since you're that far out in the Country, an Acre of Land might be difficult to get (they tend to break pieces of Land off in 3-10 Acre Lots -- the more remote the area, the bigger the lot size...but if you're fairly close to a Town, then it's more likely to get a One-Acre Lot.). And the Price per Lot should be waaaaaay less expensive than Buying Land in or around a City, so you'll save money right there! Lucky!

The Stndard amount to set aside when you're Building an Acreage for the Services to get to the house (Water, Gas, Sewer, Electricity, Cable, Phone...) is about $25,000, so add that into your Costs.

A Slate Roof is one of the most expensive Roofs out there, so you might want to price it out, then look at something like a Renaissance Roof (that's a very pretty Tile for the Roof -- it comes in all sorts of colors and styles), and then make your decision. Sometimes being true to an Old Style requires soooo much extra money that you'll end up with no house at all, so that's when a slight compromise can do the trick and get you into your beautiful new French Country Villa!!

Oh, I just thought -- much of French Country Architecture has a Significantly Sloped Roof -- it looks like there's a 'curly-cue' at the bottom of the Roof... going with a Straight lined anything will always be less expensive than curving any line in building, just so's you knows!!

As for Price, I just did the basic formula (Square Footage X $145.00 per Square Foot + $25 Grand for Services + the cost of the Land), and it looks like you should be prepared for about $400,000.00. The chances are really high that you can bring that number down substantially, depending on your Building Products, or add to it (also substantially...) if you were to choose Wooden Windows (waaaaay more work than Vinyl and generally at least Double the Price... you constantly have to refinish them -- I'm only going to go with Vinyl in any Future Build -- they're neat and clean -- very crisp looking, and no extra work outside of just cleaning them...). Don't forget to have a good look at every Product -- the Doors on a House can cost a reasonable amount, or an arm and a leg -- and you're gonna need all your limbs for Building, so try not to bargain them away...

The best thing to do is to Establish a Clear Budget, then add about $20 - $50 Grand onto that, because generally that's how far over you might go, then make good decisions that you can live with and stay close to your budget... Good Luck with that! ha,ha! But seriously, Folks, you really can get a gorgeous house and still have it LOOK like the Style you had in mind. And the other thing is, if you plan to stay in the House for quite a while, build the Shell of the House, put in the Basics, and Upgrade later -- I'm not really sure I would do that, but at least put in nice stuff, first, get into the house, then see how you feel about the Louis the 15th Fireplace Mantel or the Eating thing...ha,ha,ha! I'm sure you'll work it out!

There are all sorts of little tricks for Product Selection that can keep the house looking great and your overall costs down, so let me know what you like for Product, and maybe I can tell you about a possible alternative. You gotta keep the Toilets, though -- don't compromise on an Outhouse, even if it is really fancy, what with that Decorative 'Half Moon' Design, 'n all! ha,ha,ha!

Talk to you soon, Ailsa

Now You Can Shop at My Home Improvement Page! YaaHoo!

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March 24th, 2004.

Hey, Ailsa.
I just found your site a couple of days ago and I am finding it really useful.I was wondering if you have any tips on cost of building a home? I have drawn up what I want, but I am not ready to send it to the architect. Is there any rough way of estimating so I know if my dream is reasonable before I start all the hard stuff?
Thanx so much for all the useful tips so far (building checklist was exactly what I was needing!)
Thank you!

Hi, Kyla! Congrats on just thinking about Building Your Own House! Thats the First Giant Step!! You can estimate a relatively 'outside figure' (the cost of the house if you don't have an intense desire for all things Gold! ha,ha!) for the House in Alberta by multiplying the Square Footage by $145.00. So if your house is 1800 quare Feet, the basic costs of development would be about $261,000. Now, when you're building on your own, you can shave a fair bit off of that, but you should always be prepared for the top end of what the house might cost, since it often gets more and more expensive as you go -- just a good rule of thumb (ugh, hate that phrase -- must find another one to use in it's place!) to discover your potential price.

Also, if you're planning to Develop the Lower Level, use the same $145 per square foot so you'll know how much that will cost. Generally, the Lower Level is developed to the same level as the Upper Floor (or floors...). And then keep in min that extra-fancy features (like our favorite Steam Room, and other nice little luxuries like that!), can really add up, so watch out for that.

And since you haven't sent your Plans off to an Architect, yet, it's waaaay less expensive to poke around On-line to see if you can find a House Plan that is similar to what you want -- that can save you anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000 and much higher, depending on the House and the Architect. Just click on the House Plan Page to find some great House Plans.

Talk to you soon, Ailsa

Overstock Stuff!!


Hi, Ailsa. I am in the process of finishing my basement and I was wondering what the going rate was for a drywaller and taper.--Sq.foot or by the hour? Thanks, Dan

Hi, Dan. It's difficult to say whether a Drywaller would give you a number based on either the Square Foot or by the Hour. Some Drywallers are soooo fast, they just fly around the room and it's done before you know it. Others are painfully slow, to the point of distraction -- and slow doesn't always mean it's a great job -- it's all dependent on the Contractor...

So the best thing to do is to get Two or Three Quotes to see how they Price it, themselves. I've mentioned before that we had two quotes for out Finished Garage -- it's almost 1000 square feet in area, but with a realy high ceiling. Anyway, one quote came back at $9,500., and the other one came in at $2,500. -- see the disparity? We laughed about the first quote, of course, and it has provided us with a reat story for the Building Crowd... And try to go by Word of Mouth, if at all possible, when it comes to Drywallers, since your Walls will never look good if they're done poorly. And a Painter can refuse to paint the walls if they aren't smooth enough, because then the Painter can be accused of not doing a good job... so you can see how it all works together...

Let us know what your quotes are, so we can see if they are reasonable quotes, if you like.

Oh, yeah. A lot of Pricing is dependent on how busy the Contractor is, and how busy the Construction Industry is in at the time you require their Services.

Hope that Helps! Ailsa

Dear Ailsa. A Buddy of mine has been transferred to Vancouver and needs to sell his house. He had it built for his family with many custom features (the move wasn't planned when he built). The house is less than a year old! Beautiful house!10194 - West Springs NW Check it out and tell anybody you know who is moving! Thanks and have a Great Day!

There you go, Jack! That's a nice neighborhood in Calgary, so I'm sure they'll find a buyer in no time at all!

Happy House Sales! Ailsa

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March something or Other -- just decided to put a Date along with the Letters!

Hello, Ailsa.
Thanks for sharing all your experience with people. Excellent work and
very helpful. I am one of those people who has the dream of building my
own house/home. Few things always scared me to make up mind but since I
found out your site, I am really excited and it has build a lot more
confidence in me.

My father ask me one question all the time that why I want to build my own
house when there are all kind of styles available in market? I have no
ground to prove him in terms of Finances except that it's my dream.

Can you please give a bit idea what does it take(Money) to build a house
approx 2100 sq feet if you have your own piece of land in Toronto area.

Best Regards, Bhupinder

Hi, Bhupinder! I'm glad you wrote. It's hard, sometimes, to go ahead and follow any dream when there are nay-sayers around you -- and typically, the nay-sayers are the people closest to you (your spouse or family members...). That always breaks me up when I hear people on a podium, thanking everyone around them for their constant Support...I think my speech would be closer to ,"See?? Ha,ha! I did it, despite what you thought! Ha,ha!" and then I would have to grab the Award and quickly run away, then apologize to everyone later... har, har! Isn't that what we really want to say in those Acceptance Speeches?

Anyway, onto your Building Question. Do you already own a piece of Land in the Toronto (Ontario, Canada) area? You're already a very lucky man, since land in Toronto is hard to come by... Houses vary in Price according to the Individual House Plan, whether the 2100 square foot area is in a Two-Storey or a Bungalow, whether it's a Walk-Out Bungalow, and then, of course, what you put in it. The actual Shell of the House is relatively inexpensive -- but if you have a penchant for Gold Taps and Sinks, then the costs will be considerably higher...

Seriously, there are different levels of almost every Product you can put in your House, from the Flooring to the Cabinetry, and all the other zillion Fixtures. What you choose is largely dependent on your budget and your choices should also reflect an intent to Sell in the Future, too, since a Higher End Product is much better for Re-sale.

In terms of the Cost of a Bungalow versus a Two-Storey, the Two Storey is a less expensive way to gain more Square Footage, and they are generally found on a smaller lot, that's why Builders love putting these up in the City. You can get a lot of living on a relatively small amount of land. The Roof is typically half the size on a Two-Storey than it would be on the same square footage of a Bungalow, and so is the Basement. Those are two main areas with Significant Costs attached. Again, by raising the Main Floor on a Two-Storey, you will create an Open and Airy Fell, and the house will be fabulous! And if you happen to Vault the Rooms in the Upper Level, now you've got the best of both worlds! WooHoo!

A Bungalow is spread out and feels very spacious, so if your Budget will allow it, and you have the land space, it's a very nice way to live. (Our house is a Walk-Out Bungalow, and man, is it spacious and a lovely, gracious way to live... can you tell I loooove my house?? ha,ha,ha!) The Roof is double the Size of the same square footage of the Two-storey, and the Basement will also be double. Now, if you're building a Walk-Out (which I would greatly encourage if you're going with a Bungalow, since the extra cost in the development stage is not that much in the scheme of things, and it will add a huge amount to your Property Value in the Future. When you develop the Lower Level of a Walk-Out Bungalow, that is now included in the size of the Home.

Frankly, I think any space that is developed should be included in the square footage of any home -- there are some people (and I use that term in the place of what I would say if we were alone, and happen to have been drinkin'... ha,ha,ha!) out there who think it shouldn't be included, but if it increases the overall value of the home, include it. That's part of the reason so many people are choosing to Sell on their own, now, since they are tired of being told what is of value in their house and what isn't...puhleeease...there's a limit in how negative some folks (yes, they're the same ones!! ha,ha!) can be and still be involved in a House Sale, right? Stand up for yourself and your house, I say!

A number that is often used out here in Calgary for a Build is about $145.00 per square foot. Now, that price will go up or down according to the Style of the Home, the Architectural Features, the Costs of Labor (this is huuuge and varies according to the area and level of construction activity...), the fixtures (the stuff you put in the home), and the Heating and Cooling Systems, which can run from Basic to very Involved. Of course, we are partial to In-Floor Radiant Heat and Air Conditioning (my husband Dwight's particular area of expertise...), but that can add some serious coin, so that would change the price, too.

<Find Heating and Cooling Contractors>

The chances are really high that you could bring the house in around $100.00 per square foot, possibly lower, depending on your choices and the basic Costs of Materials and Labor. It's important to plan for the most you think it'll cost, so you're prepared and you don't take any chances and lose the house -- that would be disastrous.

A good thing to do to get a solid idea on how much it would actually cost you to build the house, is gather up your House Plans and get at least 10 Sets of the Plans in a working size (16" X 24" or something like that...). Hand out a Set to each of the People where you will get a good quote on the actual house. Lumber, Cement, Electrical, Plumbing, Heating & A/C, Drywall & Painting, Kitchen Development, Windows & Doors... all the basics. Don't forget to get quotes on the Labor, too, since the Lumber Package is the starting price.

Does that give you plenty to think about, Bhupinder? Don't be scared off, though -- Building a House is primarily a matter of Money, Organization, Knowledge, and the Ability to Keep Things Moving -- that's where your Personality comes into play. It's not a game for the weak or indecisive, since you have to be prepared to accept all sorts of things, change and make split decisions on the drop of a dime. And the money has to keep flowing through it all. The beauty of Building it yourself is that you will hopefully save a good amount of money (if you can't build it for less than $50,000. under what a Builder would build it for you, it would probably be better to let the Builder do it for you...).

The other Option is to have a Contractor run the Job for you -- Dwight does this here in Calgary when he has time. He primarily does Commercial Work (giant Heating and Cooling Systems for big businesses and Industry), but sometimes he can fit in a House Run. Typically, you would pay the Contractor on a month-to-month basis and they would run the whole show for you. You actually come way out ahead, because the cost of the Contractor is less tha what you would have to pay in materials alone, because of their Contractor Discounts.

<Find a Home Contractor>

Oh, and speaking of Contractor Discounts, some folks get annoyed when they go into the Supplier to buy materials for their new home or renovation project, and find they don't get any Discount, or only a tiny one. It's always worth it to ask for a discount, especially if you're buying a lot of Material... but a Contractor might give any particular Supplier a million dollars in Materials a year(that means he or she purchases a tremendous amount of Product per year from that Supplier for their business...), so of course, they'll get a preferred rate. Same thing for Mortgages and pretty much everything else in life...

Remember that the bigger and fancier the Home, the more you will save when you build it yourself. Now that's good, right?? ha,ha,ha!

Good Luck, Bhupinder!! Write me anytime! Ailsa

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Hi, Ailsa!

Well, we've jumped off the deep end, bought a lot in Feb, and just finally got our blueprints on Friday. I'm very excited, but nervous about all the work ahead (I know it will be worth it in the end) Anyway, my husband and I were talking about how we should set up contracts with our sub-trades. Do you have any suggestions? We are also building in Alberta (Calgary actually) . Did you use your own contracts or did you just go with whatever your subs came up with?
Thanks very much in advance for any suggestions.
Hope things are very good with you and your family.

Hi, Kara! My daughter's name is Cara -- I know you must be lovely and ever-so-smart, because your names are so close! ha,ha! Well, congratulations on leaping into the Building Pool! you'll love it! You'll end up with a fabulous house, and I guarantee you, you'll never tire of the thought that you accomplished such a big 'task' on your own!

In terms of the whole 'Contract thing', that's pretty much a myth in the Building Industry. The thing you do is get about three quotes per job, meet with the Contractors and decide on who you're going to Hire based on the Price, the Time Frame involved (you might have to wait for 3 months for one contractor, but another will be available in a couple of weeks... also, and this happened with us with the Framer, we weren't in any particular rush to get into our new house, and the Framer we chose was $5,000. less than the other guys because he had a smaller Crew, so it was going to take him 3 weeks longer than the other Framers with huge crews... we figured 3 weeks time was worth it for 5 Grand!) and how comfortable you are with the Contractor. Check my Tips for Dealing with Contractors Page for more info on that... The main thing is to make sure each quote is for the same project, so you can make a fair decision.

Have you got your Permits in Order, already? That can take a while -- hey, you're in Calgary, Alberta, Canada! You should swing out and see us! Oh, and hey, I know a good guy for your Heating and Air Conditioning! ha,ha,ha! (It's Dwight, of course!)

Let me know what area of Calgary you're Building in ... maybe we can come and see your house, and put it on the Site! Wouldn't that be fun?!

Talk to you soon, Ailsa


Hi again!
Thanks for the quick reply! It's so nice to have a sounding board with someone who been there/done that. And of course us Cara/Kara's are all naturally talented ;-)

I've been on your site several times, using your ideas and reading up on everything I can. I figure the more I prepare, the better. Right now we are just trying to apply for permits. What a hassle that is. We still need the grade slip from the developer, and to get that we need all the exterior finishes finallized so we got the plans on Friday and are now madly trying to get it sorted out. At least we can get a partial permit and get things started. But it's coming along, just picking out the exterior stuff today with a couple contractors my husband knows. You don't by chance have a name for that framer you used? I've got one guy working on a quote, but like you said, 3 quotes is what I'm after.

We are building in Cranston Estates. It's not our ideal spot (but not bad), but I had been pounding on every developers door in the city and it was the best we could come up with. No one seems to want to sell lots directly, go figure, cash in hand and they still turn you away. I figure this will be a learning ground, and we'll maybe do it again sometime in the future, depending on how it goes. I'm just nervous about losing money in the end, but chances are that won't happen, I mean these home builders can't be getting THAT big a discount for doing things in bulk, can they? (I say with a bit of hesitation). Anyway, I've rambled on long enough. I'd Love to see your house sometime, or even just grab a coffee some day, you obviously are a wealth of knowledge on this topic and others. I feel like I know you after reading your website, but I'm just some wacky stranger sending you e-mails, so I don't blame you if you don't :-)

Thanks again!

Hi, Kara! So nice to hear from you -- only a hadful of my Readers are a little wacky! ha,ha,ha! No, no, I think I clearly have the smartes Readers out there, since here they are, popping in to find out how to Build a House (you gotta be pretty smart to do that, right??), Invest in Real Estate, Manage Their Money Well so they can all become filthy stinkin' rich, then we can all meet one day on some Cruiseline...maybe in Hawaii...or that 3-Day one off the Coast of California that goes to to the Baja...! Okay, now I'm just thinking about my Vacation possibilities...! But that would be fun for a bunch of us who all love Building and Money 'n Stuff, to go on a Cruise or something... maybe we could get a Group Rate -- and we'd never run out of stuff to talk about, either! ha,ha,ha!

Permits can be a big hassle -- they can take a huuuge amount of time, too, depending on the size of the Town or City, and the amount of Construction in the Area -- Calgary is booming, as always (it's a money-town...), so it takes even longer to get the Permits through. Dwight was saying that Builders and Contractors have an easier time of it with the Permits, but that's probably because they already know all the million or so requirements they need to acquire the Permits, and already know the time-frame involved. When you're new to the field, it can be a bit shocking how long it takes to get certain pats of the job done. Just goes with the territory, though, and something you get used to...

I'm amazed that you were able to buy a Lot in a 'Pre-Structured' Area -- the vast majority of Estate Areas and other 'Pre-Determined' Neighborhoods are bought up by the Big Builders in the Area, and they rarely open up their Lots for Private Builders, so you're one of the lucky ones! That's a nice area, up there, too, and only about 12 minutes from our place... I stopped working in the actual distance from one Destination to Another when I lived in L.A., and it would take 45 minutes to Drive 10 miles, so the actual space is irrelevant to me -- it's just time that matters!

Our Framer is still on my Business & Classifieds Page, so you can get his number on there. He has moved since he worked for us (to Build again, of course!!), but his Cell Number should be correct.

Have you already chosen your Lumber and Window Packages? We have some great Contacts (there's a big surprise!), so we can help you out with that. And yes, Contractors and Builders get substantial Discounts because they're in the Trades -- they often get the Trades, themselves, at a lower price, too, because they use all their own 'people'. You would most likely be hiring smaller, Independent Contractors.

Oh, and in terms of the Contract question you asked me, yesterday, I asked Dwight about it, and he says you may be given a 'Contract' to sign that is really more of an Agreement with the Contractor that the Buyer understands the costs involved and the Payment Conditions -- usually you will pay a Deposit at the beginning, a little something in the Middle, then the Final Payment upon Completion. Time Frames are not usually included, because there are many, many factors involved in how long any project will take. You can get a general idea, of course -- the most common reason for delay in almost any Home Improvement or Building Project is indecision on the part of the Home Owner, so you can keep things moving by knowing what you want (or something very much like that idea ...) well in advance.

Swing out and see us -- I'll make the Coffee -- do you like Baileys with that?? ha,ha,ha!

Talk to you soon, Ailsa

Hi Ailsa,
Okay, so the coincidences keep pilling up with your fun website! I was just browsing your list of contractors as I am calling cribbers today (already called several, but wanted to see who you had also - Midoram? DId they do all the concrete work?) Anyway I see that you have Terrex as an excavator. Small world! Warren's parents (and Warren) are good friends of my husbands Dad (Kim Johnson). Infact they were at our wedding in 2000. Chad's Dad gave Warren his old one-tonne truck a while back when he was starting up Terrex. GO figure that we also happen to be using him to do OUR excavation. Small world!!!

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Dear Ailsa,

Words cannot express how happy your website has made me. It has some of the most helpful and simple information that even a rock could understand the building lingo!! You make everything sound so gratifying that it puts the icing on my cake as I have been toying with the notion of building our own home. We currently own a home which we purchased before the big price boom. Now, we may have the opportunity to make an approx. 80 percent profit from. It would be a dream come true for myself and I am wondering if you have any tips for the Edmonton area and if you think it is best to sell your own home first, then build a new one after purchasing a piece of land? We may have an opportunity to stay with a relative while the building took place and I am on a maternity leave which would enable me to oversee all of the hussle and bussle you described. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you so much for your inspiriation.



Hi, Jodie! First of all, congratulations on your new Baby -- man, I loooove babies!! And an extra congrats on buying a home before the 'Boom' and making a massive Profit -- bet you didn't see that kind of profit in the Stock Market, right?? Real Estate is almost always a safe and lucrative bet!

In answer to your big question, "Should you Sell Your Own Home First, then buy some land and Build on it", it's a resounding YES! Especially right now when you have a lot on your hands (I used a lot of Baking Soda and Anti-Bacterial Soap to take care of that problem... ha,ha,ha!), it is much less stressful to know your House is Sold, and you know exactly how much money you have to deal with before you run out and get in too deep with a new Property.

Now, that said, I would definitely be out looking at all the potential properties, so you can make a swift decision as soon as you have a firm Offer on your Home. A Firm Offer is one that has been to the Lawyer and they say everything is fine.

When you're out looking at Land, know in advance what size of Property you want to Build on -- and be sure there's ample water to the Site, since you'll have a lot of laundry in your future, and a lack of water will cause many tears (yours and then the baby's... then your spouse... you get the picture!) -- and no, you can't just save up the valuable water from your tears to wash one more Baby Item! ha,ha,ha! The Edmonton Area (that's in Northern Alberta, Canada, for our Readers further away...) has a few areas where there is NO water to the Site. No matter what anyone says to you about that, don't buy there. It's just a nightmare waiting to happen, on a personal level. Try to find a Lot with Town Water, if at all possible (it's very rare, but we're on an Acreage with Town Water, so it does happen from time to time..), or Water that's on a Co-op, then water that's at least 6 Gallons/minute. With a new Baby, you won't want anything less than that.

Then, after you have a good handle on what type of Land you'll buy, find out the Architectural Controls for the area, then go ahead and choose a couple of Styles of Homes that you really love. I have more info on House Plans and Blueprints (pretty much the same thing -- the paper is different...!) on my House Plans Page. I have some good likns there for you to browse through. It's waaaaay less expensive to Buy Your House Plans On-line than to have them Drawn for you. You can always find a House Plan you really like, except for one aspect, and in that case, they can generally make modifications to the plan for you at a nominal cost.

Now, before you do any of that, go look at the New Show Homes, and check the prices very carefully. Some of the new Builders are so competitive, it's better to have them either Build the House for you, or to buy one directly from them. Remember, in an Acreage Home, you're going to want to be able to save at least $50,000. to make Building it Yourself worthwhile and viable. The other good thing about Buying from or through a Builder is that you won't have to part with so much of your own money. Generally, it's $20,000. Down, then the Builder will carry the costs 'til Completion, when your Mortgage would take over.

When you're Building on Your Own in Alberta (and in most other places...), you have to have the Land Paid in Full before you can get any Permits for the Build. That's a lot of money, right off the bat. Then you'll need enough cash to get you to the end of the Subfloor, unless you have a crappy appraiser like we had who won't release your Building Loan First Draw until the House is at Lock Up. We would have lost this house if we hadn't had enough money saved up to get us all the way to Lock Up. (No, that's not prison -- ha,ha! Lock up is the Stage where the House is Up and the Doors and Windows are in. Then it can be 'Locked Up'...)

The other thing is that when you are building on your own on an Acreage, you can often build a muuuuuch bigger house for the same money that you might spend on a new home in the city. So be sure to compare apples to apples... And put on at least a Triple Car Garage when you're in the Country. The difference in cost from a Double Car Garage to a Triple Car Garage when you're building yourself is almost always under $10,000., if anywhere near that, so do the mat very, very carefully to amke that good money decision. A Home with a Triple Car Garage has a much higher re-sale value than a home with a Double Car Garage. Plus, you're gonna need the extra room for the Stuff you accululate out in the country -- a riding lawn mower, old pieces of furniture you plan to restore.... your husband, when you've had enough of him after the build...ha,ha,ha! Better heat the garage, too, just in case! Oh, and skip the Radiant In-Floor Heat in the Garage -- it's too expensive and not as effective as a Forced Air Heater hung from the ceiling.

And if you can possible have a Walk-Out Basement, choose that, too. It usually adds a cost of under 10 grand to develop it when you're building, but it'll raise the house price by at least triple that... always a good investment!

Well, wasn't that a long answer?? It happens to be one of my favorite topics!! I wish you all the luck and success with you new project! Good for you to follow your Dreams!!

Love and Luck, Ailsa!

Oh, I just had another look at your letter and you mentioned about staying with a relative during the Build. It takes a long time to Build a House, because things don't always go smoothly (often just getting the Permits can eat up a few months...), so you could easily be looking at a year-long process. If you can manage it at all, buy something little that's really easy to sell when you're ready to move into the new house (might as well make a little more money on real estate while you're waiting for your dream home (!), and you would save the $800/month that would have gone to Rent...), or Rent something without a Lease for the duration of the Build. Living with Relatives is really hard, and it could cost you waaay more in the long run than you ever want to pay... get my drift?? ha,ha,ha!

Talk to you soon, Ailsa!!

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Hi Ailsa, my name is Dave and I live in Rapid City, South Dakota. I guess I
have about three questions for you. We are thinking about building a house as
opposed to buying something new in order to save $. We have been looking at
deltec houses ( for a while now and really like them. 1)
I'd like to know if you would skim their website for a minute or two and see if
you think it's alright or maybe see if anything raises a red flag in your mind.
I'm new to all of this stuff and wouldn't know if something sounded screwy or
not, like you would. 2) We've been looking at 10 acre lots around here and
they all seem to be going for around $30K to $50K, unless they are in town or
something - you can get out into the country here in about two minutes flat...
Most of them come with power, water, and phone services "to the lot line".
Nothing has sewer access around here unless you are in town. Most everybody
where we have been looking has septic systems. My problem is that I can't think
of anything that I should use to weed out certain lots. They all kind of look
the same to me, and they are all in the same general area. What should I look
for that is of importance enough to weed out certain lots, or certain
developments for that matter? I know this may be a bit of a hard question since
you are not here, but, if you had 10 developments in your area that were selling
lots, and they were all the same basic price, what things would you use to
seperate out the good from the bad? 3) I love your double dishwashers! My
question is, do you run them at the same time? If so, did you have to upgrade
your hot water heater to compensate for that? I'd hate to deplete my hot water
supply in 15 minutes flat and then not have hot water for a half hour or
something. Did you have to use larger than normal drain pipes in that area
(sink, dishwashers x2, etc)? I guess I should have said, what adjustments must
a person make to own two dishwashers? Maybe two hot water heaters? Thank you
so much for developing your site and answering questions. You ought to write a
book on "How to Build Your Own House" and sell it over Amazon or something! I'd
buy it!

Dave - Rapid City, South Dakota

Hi, Dave! What a great letter -- I'm thrilled that you're looking carefully before you Build or Buy! Firstly, than you soooo very much for the kind words -- I wish beyond wishes that I could find a Publisher to put my Material into a Book, too --

In terms of the Double Dishwashers, which is a feature in this house that I absolutely loooove, and will definitely do whenever else I possibly can in any future house, I highly recommend them. I rarely run them both at the same time, but it means you cna have one empty to fill any time, so you don't have the pressure to hurry and empty the dishwasher before you can refill it -- and we can all use less stress, right?? They were easy to install (I say that, of course, because Dwight did it, and it appeared easy enough! ha,ha,ha!) -- you just need to use a 'Y' Pipe thingee -- your Plumber will know what that fitting is!

You wanted to know if it's a good idea to have Two Water Heaters, and I personally think it's always a good idea.You never run out of Hot Water, and it's relatively inexpensive when you have them installed during the Build. It's wise to weigh out the convenience to you and your family over the added expense at the beginning, but quite often you'll find that when it's put into the Mortgage you're only looking at $5.00/month or less for a much more comfortable lifestyle.

Now, about how you can tell what is a good Lot to buy and why. The easiest answer is Buy the one that you love the most, since each Lot has a different View, but the most important thing is the Amount of Water to the Lot. You will find out how many Gallons/Minute, and anything higher than 8 Gallons/Minute is great, but the 3-8 Gallons/Minute can be workable, too. I would be very wary of anything under 3 Gallons/Minute, even though I have heard some folks (only Realtors, actually ... take from that what you like...) say that 1 Gallon /Minute is OKAY, but only if you are completely prepared to build an enormous Cistern and have water shipped in every two weeks or so. And you have to be careful about manageing the water, which is a crappy way to live, so best to avoid that if at all possible.

The other thing is to see what kinds of Homes are already in the Area. Generaly, you match your Home to the other Homes (often because of the Architectural Controls in the Area, but also because you generally don't find a 1000 sq.foot home right beside a 20,000 sq. foot home, since one will dwarf the other...). If the Lots are generally the same price (and $30 - 50 K for a 10 Acre Lot is an amazing deal!!), go to the area where the houses are the nicest. Your Property Value will go up faster, and you get to live beside some nice properties! Sound good??

I'll go have a look at that Site, Dave, and let you know what I think. The Vast Majority of Builders are good -- they don't stay in business if they aren't, so if you really love their homes, and their prices are comparable, I'd go for it, so-to-speak!

Good Luck! Ailsa!

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Hi, Ailsa!

Please would you send me your instructions on tiling countertops in the kitchen? We are going to retile our kitchen floors and tile our countertops (now formica) . We are really into remodeling and are anxioux for some expertise.

Thanks. Vicki

Hi, Vicki! Check out my How to Tile Page -- good step-by-step instructions on there! Good luck with your project!


Hi, Ailsa!

My name is Kaelin. Your site is very interesting. I like it very much.

I saw that you are using snowdrift suede paint in you living room. I was thinking of paiting the same color in my master bedroom. I was wondering would the color be too bright (yellowish) if I paint the whole 4 master bedroom walls to this color. I wanted a color that gives a cozy and warm looking feeling. I am not sure if this color is the right color to choose.

Thanks for your time.


Hi, Kaelin! I love your name! What's your Nationality? I absolutely would do all four walls in your Master in Snowdrift Suede. It's the easiest color I have ever used -- goes with everything!

We actually took the shade down by a quarter, so the bedrooms and Sunroom would be a little lighter, but I wouldn't do that again -- the deeper shade is much warmer. Dwight was a little panicked by the color, initially, but once I furnished and decorated, he loved it!

I'm so glad you like my Site -- it's always lovely to hear from my Readers!!

Take Care, Ailsa

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This is particularly good when you are doing a Renovation or a Building a House, since it's good to have an extra source of cash, and you might as well get something back when you're spending all that money, right??

< >


Now here are some Letters from one of my youngest 'Readers'!! I think she's got a great future ahead of her!! Wouldn't it be great to get this information out to as many Young People as possible?? Maybe we can get Schools to Use for Research Projects! Now that really brings out the Teacher in me!! ha,ha!

I rarely change how the letter is written, since it's more fun to read them 'naturally'...except for some 'special cases', 'cause we have to keep this a 'Family Site', right?? ha,ha!

hi ailsa,
i am trying to figure out how much it would cost for a concrete driveway. The driveway that i want will be 10 cubic yards and i would like to know how much concrete costs per cubic yard, can you please help me?

Thanks, Joyce

Hi, Joyce! The best way to get a Price on a Concrete Driveway is to call a Local Concrete Company to get their Price. You might want to check out the Cost of Stamped Concrete, too, since it's gorgeous!

Take Care, Ailsa

Hi Ailsa,

Thank you for helping me with my driveway problem! I was wondering if u could please help me with another issue. Could you please tell me some information about Neighborhood Covenants? I would greatly appreciate it!

Thanks a bunch!

Hi, Joyce! Neighborhood Covenants are 'Rules of the Neighborhood', like 'No Trucks on the Front Lawn', or 'No more than two old couches on the Front Porch'...little things like that to maintain the property values in the neighborhood. Often Architectural Controls are added in, here, too, like 'All houses will have a Stoned Front', or every house has to have a Stucco Finish in as close a shade of Beige as possible (oh, wait... that's MY neighborhood!!ha,ha!)... It's critical to know and understand the Neighborhood Covenants before you start Building, so you won't have to spend more than you had planned, or have a big neighborhood feud before you even move in...

Are you in the middle of planning for your own home?? Let us know!

Good Luck, Ailsa

hey Ailsa!

Thanks for your information! No i am not purchasing a house,I am actually doing this project for my school (I have to "build" a house, find out what I need, that kind of thing). Thank you again for your help, i'm sorry, but i have another little problem! Do u know any good sites with information on building houses (next to yours of course!) because i am having some trouble finding the information i need. thanks soooo much!


Hi, Joyce! You know what? I began to Develop this Site when I was in the Research Stage of Building This House, and couldn't find anything out there. I found bits and pieces of information, then stuff I could Purchase, but it wasn't all that helpful, either. And that's how was born!! Have a look through my Links Pages, though, and see if there are some specific sites that are useful -- I have a lot of great Links!

What School do you go to? It must be a good one to offer a 'Building Course'!!

Take Care, Ailsa

hi Ailsa,
Right now I go to Middle School in Georgia. Yeah, right now we're working on our 8th grade project (it lasts all year) and it's pretty stressful, but we have to do this or fail 8th grade. Sorry, I was in a rush so I didn't get to look at that page, I'll take a look at that. You're a teacher? I'm sure you're a really good one, where do you teach?

talk to you l8ter,

p.s.- I'll tell my teacher about your site and see what she says about it.

p.s.s-thanx again for your help!

Hi, Joyce! Eighth Grade -- that's great!! My daughter, Cara, is in Grade 10. She just left, this morning, for a Retreat to the Mountains with her Peer Support Group.

Wow, what a great start you're getting. I remember building a replica of a Roman Home in Latin Class way back in High School, and wouldn't you know that's my favorite type of Structure... You never know where you could end up with an early start like this!

How's your project coming along? Let your parents know about the Site, too. Good info for the whole family!!

I've taught everything from Kindergarten to College, but Special Ed was always my favorite. I have a real soft spot for anyone who needs a little extra help -- of course, I love all my students (except for some of the jerky ones!! ha,ha,ha!).

Take Care and Talk to you soon, Ailsa

hey Ailsa,
kewl, Did your daughter have to do an 8th grade project too? I heard that only our county did it, but i'm not sure. Wow, the mountains, I 've never been to the mountains, I've always wanted to see what it's like.

A Roman Home? hmmm, I was planning to take Latin in High school (9th grade). I wonder if I'll have to do that. You built a replica? Like out of Cardboard? Or was it like Life-size? I was thinking that when I presented my project (infront of a board of teachers) I could build a cardboard house and show all the work i did.

Yeah, my project's coming along fine, I'm working on foundations and stuff now. Oh and sry I haven't been writing lately, my computer kind of crashed, but it's ok now. oh! I gotta go, talk to you l8ter!


Hi, Joyce! That would be fun for you to build a replica of the house you're planning for your School Project. Hey, maybe you'll become an Architect or a Builder! Wouldn't that be cool??

The mountains are gorgeous -- have you gone to my 'At Home With Ailsa' Page, yet? I put new pictures on every day, and many of them have shots of the Mountains.

Good for you for even thinking about taking Latin. A lot of schools don't offer that, anymore, so you must be in a good school!

My favorite part of the 'Roman Home' is the Atrium. I'm sure that's why I love to have a Sunroom full of Plants in every house! Now if I could just get a house with a Pool in the middle, that'd be cool!

Are you a Survivor Fan? Cara got us hooked on the very first one! Now we never miss it! ha,ha,ha!

Talk to you soon! Ailsa

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Your website is so great and I really appreciate it! I am planning to build my own house next year. But there is little competition in my area and tradesmen don't even bother working out of town. So I got some ridiculous quotes or estimates such as 7500$ for drywall and 8000$ for electrical for a 1700sqft normal bunglow. If you could give me some rough ideas of typical labor rate (per sqft), mainly
1. dry wall
2. plumbing
3. electrical
for reference that will be greater!

Thanks in advance,

Hi, Ted! Thanks for the lovely compliments! How many quotes have you gotten for each job? We usually recommend getting 3 quotes per major job, since the prices van vary so greatly. Some jobs will have unbelievably high costs -- much higher than you would guess, so good to be prepared for some crazy prices. I know that Lumber has gone up by about 25% since we built this house, so that's a big chunk of money... An easy trap to fall into is to go and look at the actual price of the material at the Hardware Store and think that's the 'end price'. For example, you can buy a Toilet for under a $100., but the installation can cost a big pile o' cash, depending on what needs to be done for proper installation. The average cost of a regular bathroom is $3,000. -- no kidding! And that's just a basic Bathroom -- add a bunch of fancy stuff, and the costs goes waaaay up! Our fancy schmancy Steam Room Bathroom on the Lower Level would cost about $15,000, because the Steam Room is so big, and the labor is intense for it ... and the mechanisms are very costly, too... It adds up really quickly!

I'm trying to remember what we paid for Drywall -- it's slipped my mind, right now, but I know it was a lot! You want to get a really good Drywaller, though, because that will make a huge difference in how nice your house looks. Crappy Drywall means that the Paint won't look good, and you'll be really frustrated with the job. See if you can see some of the Drywallers previous work, if at all possible, or talk to a couple of previous clients.

Are you in a small town? Are there any towns nearby? Might be worth checking into bringing someone from 'outside'...If you only have a couple of choices, go with your gut insticts.

Oh, yeah -- get quotes on the exact job, too. Make sure the Contractors are quoting on the exact same thing -- we got some crazy quotes that din't include basic aspects of the job, just so the price would appear to be smaller -- watch out for that annoying trick! You can say, "Is this a Complete Quote for the entire job?" "Will there be any other charges?" You might be slightly shocked by the type of answer you'll get, but you always want to know up-front ... never a surprise bill at the end of a job, right??

Ted, you know what might be useful in your area? See if there are any Builders who could build your house or if they have a model you like that might cost less than building on your own. Sometimes this happens, especially when you have few choices...

Take Care and let me know how you make out! Ailsa!

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Just in time! My wife and I are contemplating contracting our own house. We would like to go with a builder but wanting to build a bigger house, we figured that the $ we would save doing it ourselves was worth it. I am going to continue reading on your sight but wanted to say thank you for putting this together as a source of support.
What about any tips on interviewing subs and contracts with them? Is it better to pay a sub half before starting and the other half when the job meets your approval and receives approval from the inspector? Is there a standard contract you suggest?

Thanks again!!!

Bill Landt
Sales Manager,
Celebration Mortgage
Celebration, FL

Hi, Bill! How big are you thinking? Generally speaking, the bigger the house, the more you'll save when you're doing it on your own. Florida -- lucky, lucky schucks! How I love Florida!!

One of the best ways to find a good Contractor or Sub-Contrator is to go to your local Lumber Yard or Hardware Store and see who they know. You might be surprised to fing that they have a list of their favorite Trades.

Your Local Paper and Word of Mouth are next on the list, then driving around work-sites. If you see a Crew working (and that means they'll actually Show for the work!!), you can go and get their info. We've found many a Sub-Trade that way.

Occasionally you'll pay a portion of the Fee up front. It depends on the type of job. Often, a larger Contractor will carry the job until your First Mortgage Draw, but I see that you're a Mortgage Man, so that may not be a bother for you! (Again, I'm back to the 'lucky schmuck' part...! ha,ha!)

We don't have formal contracts drawn up for our Sub-Trades. They Submit Quotes to us and then we hire the one we like the best, and by that, I mean personality-wise, too. When you have to deal with someone during a stressful time, it's just better if you like them. You're wife should be in onthe meetings for the aspects of the house where she will be dealing directly with the Sub-Trades -- there are still some old jerks (and some young ones...!) who are bizarre with women (See: 'Dick' on the Time Line Page for details!). She can give those Contractors the okay!

Let us all know what style you want to build, too! There are so many great house plans out there! If you haven't been to my House Plans Page, pop in and have a wee look!

Talk to you soon! Ailsa

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Hello Ailsa,

I ran a Google on building custom house in Ontario and your site came up. I found it quite interesting and informative. I would like to run my raw ideas by you and get your feedback on it, please.

My wife and I live in Toronto and are currently renting. We are looking to 'buy' a house for us and my parents (in-law suite). My plans are to have a house built (approx 2500 - 3000 sq ft, incl the in-law suite). We are thinking of having it built in Brampton, ON (not sure how well you know Ontario).

I have no idea where to start (in terms of pricing out the project)! We have about $65k in our savings + about $15k
in credit line. Our idea is quite simple; No intricate styling or 'high' quality finishes and products (tiles, lighting, etc).

I would love to get your feedback/thoughts on

Thanks. Jay.

Hi, Jay! I'm very familiar with Toronto and the Surrounding Area. I taught in Toronto right after University. It's a beautiful city!

That's great that you are planning to Build Your Own Home! There are lots of different house plans that are quite simple in terms of Roof-line and Design that should be quite reasonable to Build, money-wise. Do your Parents have Funds to Contribute? This is the time to gather all the money you can, because it takes a big chunk of money up-front to get 'in the ground'.

Speaking of 'the ground', do you already have your Lot purchased? Generally, the Land needs to be Paid in Full before you can start to Build, so keep that in mind. Your Builder's Loan will kick in (probably) after the Subfloor is on, but ours didn't kick in until after Lock-up. Thank God we had enough cash to carry us through!

It's a very good idea to check with your Banker or Mortgage Broker to see how much you can borrow. I would recommend that you and your family have a look at new homes in the area to see what's available and the Price Range. Often a Builder will carry the Costs for you with, say, $20,000. Down. You'll still have some say over the house, but have less of a financial constriction. It's just good to examine all your options so you can make a really informed decision.

Let me know how it goes!!

Talk to you soon, Ailsa!

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Hi, Ailsa!

Well, the clock just struck "midnight", so I can't take long , but I just
wanted to drop you a line and tell you how much I enjoy your website !

I "stumbled" across it while doing a search in Google for "gold sheers".
It's truly amazing what you can find on the web, isn't it???

I was cursing a minute ago when I read that Elton John was on the Ellen show
today !!! Drats, I've seen a few of her shows and really enjoy her, but I've
missed the past few episodes, and didn't know he would be on !

I live in Fort St. John, B.C. My hubby and daughter (10 now) moved up north
from the Vancouver area over a year and a half ago (first to Dawson Creek
for 9 months, then to FSJ last year).

I spent so many years in Vancouver, working in various office environments
where the conversation was fast and furious, and you could cover about 18
topics in 10 minutes flat, and I really miss it !!!!

Reading your website, with SO many different topics scattered through REALLY
reminds me of that environment, where you go from talking about TV, recipes,
breast cancer, tooth decay, decorating, tips, etc., all within a few

It's great !

Can't wait to make it part of my daily routine....

MUST go now, I have to get up early tomorrow to help out my daughters school


Lisa C.

Fort St. John, B.C.

Hi, Lisa! Thanks sooooo much for the lovely comments -- I'm so glad you stumbled in -- now, were you drinking a little, and that's what caused the stumbling??? ha,ha,ha! No, I'm sure you don't drink after Noon ... or is that before Noon?? Sooooo hard to remember! har, har! See you soon, and bring a zillion of your friends!!

Hey, what room are the Gold Sheers for?? We all want to know! :)

Later Baby! Ailsa!


Hi, Ailsa!

Very neat , I greatly enjoyed your site. We are planning on building a house in rural Arkansas. Was very informative going through your building process step by step. You have a very beautiful house, gave me some great ideas, not planning to build quite that large but want to do some of the same things on a smaller scale. Enjoyed your narratives also - very funny. Thanks Karen J.

Hi, Karen! Thanks for the kudos on my site! I've been thinking about having this house re-drawn between 1800 and 2000 square feet, with the garage at the frontin an L-shape. I think that'll fit better on a city or town lot, and, of course, be a lot less expensive to build. Your letter just reminded me of that! Let me know what House Plans you find!

Take Care, Ailsa

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Wed, 10 Sep 2003

I'm currently in the US Air Force and I'm retiring in Jun of 2004. My wife
(Anita) and I are moving to San Antonio, TX and want to build our dream home
instead just picking one a builder has available. Can you please tell me how
long the process takes and what kind of savings we may be looking at?
Thank you VERY much for your time, and GREAT web page!!!


Hector R.

Hi, Hector & Anita!
I'm so gald you enjoy my site! Tell all your friends! Wow, almost ready for retirement -- thanks for working at a noble job for all those years. I have a lot of friends in the Military -- there's a piece on the Relationshilp Page (no kidding!) that I got from my good friend, Wayne, who is a Major in the Canadian Forces. Just goes to show you that a Major has a sense of humor, too, no??? ha,ha,ha!

Anyway, good for you to start looking at Building Your Dream House waaay in advance. The first thig you'll want to do is Establish a Budget, and allow for a $50,000. 'Overflow', since 'Dream Homes' rarely come within Budget! They might, but you always want to be prepared...

To Establish a Budget, you'll need to Price Out the Land you're interested in -- look at different areas and Lot Sizes. If you're ever planning to sell it, try to find a Lot relatively close to a City or Town (easier to sell). An Estate Area will Appreciate faster than an remote country lot, so keep that in mind.

I have some great Home Plan Site Connections on my House Plans Page, so have a look through to see what style of home you'd most like to build. Keep an open mind so you can match your new home to your actual budget. It's mch less expensive to buy House Plans that are already drawn (and you can have them changes to suit you, too...) than to have them Drawn up from scratch, although that IS what I do! Next time around, I think I'll use Pre-Drawn Blueprints, unless I reconfigure this house ... it all depends on the Lot and Life Circumstances.

You'll probably need all the money you have in Equity from your current home, and whatever other savings you have accumulated. When you're building yourself, you need to have all the funds up-front. There are some great sources for Builder's Loans, but you need to watch out that the money will actually be handed over when you really need it, not two months later...

When you've found the House Plans you both (!) love, you can take them to the Lumber Yard, Window Wholesaler or Big Home Improvement Store where you could get a complete quote for the entire home. Use my lists to make sure you cover all the costs, because skipping the Septic System or something like that can add many thousands of dollars.

The most important thing is to be very comfortable with the whole picture before you get started. You're well on your way just by thinking and learning about the whole process.

Thanks so much for writing, and let me know what you decide on! Good Luck!! Ailsa

Take Care, Ailsa

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Hi Ailsa-

My name is Jackie and I just wanted to tell you that your site is really
great! It's perfect for someone like me who is thinking about building
a house. I'm getting married next September and my fiancee and I know a
lot of people in the trades and are also looking to pitch in ourselves
to help us save money. I said that I would do the roof since I've done
roofs with my brother-in-law for 5 years now. There aren't a lot of us
women in the trades so I was thrilled to come across this site and here
some women's comments on it. Well, I also checked out the page with
your dog since I am a dog person myself. VERY cute! Anyways, take care
and keep doin' what you're doin'.

Jackie T.

Hi, Jackie! Thanks so much! I'm thrilled to hear you're 'in the trades'! You know I'm getting a lot of 'site traffic' from Teens, which is fantastic -- we need to get the message out there to everybody that having at least one functional skill (physical) is a great way to make yourself employable anytime. And you can use the skills for your own home!

I can hardly get any typing done, today, because Tia keeps nudging my hand to make me give her a wee clap (cuddle, for the Non-Scottish Readers! ha,ha!). She's VERY insistent! Also very cute, so it's all good! Send us a picture of your wee dog and I'll put it on the site! I think we all love pictures of our beloved dogs!

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Hi, Ailsa!

Gosh, my other half found your site, and wow! it's full of great information! if someone hasn't patted you on the back lately for it, please, let me, lol.
I agree with the buy now theory. really couldn't afford to do it, but found ourselves an older, well updated mini-home out of town. it's a start, considering we weren't going to be making any money renting. even if it, as some mobiles do, depreciates, well, it's more than we would have had living in the apt. paid off in 5 years (2 to go) and a chance to put some more money away, that loan money, or start on the purchase of a piece of property.
thanks for sharing your story though, and all the advice that goes with it. the site is definitely on the favourites list.

Theresa ( & Mike )

Thanks, Theresa and Mike! It's always great to get feedback from my site readers like that! I'm sooooo glad you made the big leap to owning your own place! It's so true that it really doesn't matter WHAT you buy, as long as you buy something...there's always a time in your life when renting makes more sense, but if your ultimate goal is to own your own place, you'll be much better off for the future!

Take Great Care and Thanks for Writing! Ailsa

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Hi, Ailsa.

Probably an easy question but,
I just have a question about raised floors. On a mediterranean house, the
customer wants to raise the foyer so they can step down from the entry into
the rest of the house. I was just goin to raise it 6". Does this sound
ok? I guess you would not actually have a step with only 6" or would you
build a step? Also, if you built the step, would it be a concrete
foundation step, or just build a wooden step. This is something I've never
done, so any help would be appreciated, thanks. Steven

Hi, Steven!

How big is the Front Entry, and is what height is it?
Would they go for the entire front entry beirn raised, then one or two 10" stairs
going into the Living room? That would look better, be safer -- no-one
expects a stair right as you enter the house, so there would be a greater
tripping liability -- we're always thinking 'liability'! Let me know what you think!
Oh, yes. You would just include that in the Subfloor with Engineered wood
floor, which I would assume you have, unless the house has no basement
(where are you located?), in which case it would still be raised with
Talk to you soon, Ailsa

I just found your website. It is great. My sister and I are just starting to
get the information to build our own home. I am an IBEW electrician and have
been for about 20 years. Just thought I would drop you a line and let you know
there are more and more women in the trades all the time.

Hi, Shery,

Hey, isn't this fantastic?? Man, we've got to get the word out to women everywhere that there's great work in The Trades! What I would love to see is every High School Student with at least ONE useful skill that they can always use to make a good living. Male and Female. (Well, I've got lots of ideas on what I would add to the High School Curriculum...Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher!) And the Teachers and Assistants, too -- the School System just doesn't pay them enough... and that's one of the many reasons I'm in Construction, now! ha,ha,ha! That and I happen to really looove Building!

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Dear Ailsa,

I am planning (dreaming) about building my own home up here in Edmonton and
found your website. Wow it is great and I am happy to find that you are
local, (quasi local).

I have a question for you. How on earth did you find time to build a
beautiful house AND a great website?????

Take care,
Greg ;-)

Hi, Greg!

I'm so glad you found us! Thanks for the kudos -- it's always great to know that we've got a really useful site!

We loooove our new house -- it's everything we'd hoped it would be! Now if only I could make our website turn a profit to help pay for the Mortgage! ha,ha,ha!

I'm taking a break from the seemingly continual job of painting Trim for the house to work on the website, today (plus I have a very small boy, Aidan -- he's on the Foundation Page, I think(!) -- and Dwight likes the House to be 'Show-Home Clean' all the time, so I'm very busy all the time! I guess you just do what you have to do, and I'm the one who designed the house, so I had to be the one to keep it all flowing along!

I hope you find the Check Lists useful -- took me ages to figure out the exact order things have to go in! That should save you a fair bit of time...

Let me know what kind of House you'd like to build, and what size of Lot, so we can all follow along with your big Build!

Take Care and Happy House Building!


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Hi, Ailsa!

How is square footage in a house calculated. When I have looked at house plans the square footage of the individual rooms added up seems to come much smaller than the advertised square footage of a plan. Also, in a two story room like a Foyer that is say 10x15, do you add that twice in the square footage calculation. Thanks for your help.

Jody B.

Hi, Jody! That's a good question -- it took me years to really get a good 'feel' for square footage, so that when you hear the number you know exactly what size the home is. The basic calculation is just to multiply the two numbers of the room or the basic dimensions of a house. So in a room that's 10' X 15', it would have a square footage of 150.

The area above the Foyer that is just open space is not counted. Only actual floor space is counted.

One area of discrepancy is the Lower Level of a home. It is generally counted in the total square footage of a home when there is a Walk-Out, and it's Fully Developed. However, we think that if the Lower Level is NOT a Walk-Out, but is Fully Developed (since you required a permit to develop it in the first place, and it cost you 50 grand to develop the thing...), it should be counted. Really, the only people who should be concerned about this are the owners of the home and any potential buyers.

Hope this answers your question! Let us know what kind of Property you're looking for! Take Care,


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Dear Ailsa,

Hi there, we are planning to add a second story to our cottage. The house is about 958 sq ft. We will be embarking on this construction project ourselves and would like to know about how much should we expect to have on hand. We live in Northern Westchester.

Talk to you soon!

Edwin and Marilyn G.

Hi, Edwin & Marilyn! I've given your letter a lot of thought -- it would be easy to say you should have access to at least 50 Grand before you start on your venture, but a lot depends on what needs to be done and what your areas of skill are... I think your best bet is to have a couple of Contractors come in and give you complete quotes for the job at hand. That will give you three things -- the real knowledge of what needs to be done, the amount it will probably cost you, and two possible contacts in case you get in too deep -- it can happen to the best of us!

If you need to get a Home Improvement Loan, you can use the quotes to show the Banker involved the projected costs. Of course, I'm partial to Mortgage Brokers, and we have some great ones on the site, so you might want to key in your info on-line to find out what kind of money you could borrow and at what rate.

Take Care and Keep in Touch! Ailsa

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Hola alisa,

mi nombre es Roxana soy venezolana no se si sabes hablar español, pero de todas formas te pregunto...Yo estoy muy interesada en saber todo lo referente a el proceso de construir mi casa ....Somos venezolanos y tenemos aqui en New Jersey 4 años pagando renta, asi que queremos saber si tenemos la posibilidad de onstruir nuestra propia casa....segun lo que he podido averiguar mi esposo tiene la posibilidad de construir la casa en 1 y algo mas de acres pero no se nada en lo que se refiere a lo legal, la compania de construccion donde la consigo, ellos que hacen solo construirte la casa a pueden tambien ayudarte en lo legal, es verdad que sale mas economico? bueno amiga espero entiendas lo que deseo y me envies algun material que yo pueda entender, si hablo un poco de ingles, asi que te agradeceria lo que puedas hacer por mi...

byeee Roxana

Hi, Roxana!

Man, my Spanish is so rough (it's been years since I lived in Los Angeles and actually used any Spanish!) that I could only translate a tiny part of your letter...Hey, any readers who can help me out with the translation, please write to me at so we can help Roxana out!

Thanks, Ailsa

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Hi Ailsa!!

You're soooo right on the spouse thing!!! My husband and I are planning to build a house soon. The only problem is that we can't agree on the type of house. He wants a two story chalet with decks on top and bottom floor. I want a cottage style home with white vinyl siding, two bedrooms, an open floor plan for kitchen, dining and living room, all on one floor.

Are there any sites out there with homes and floor plans that may be offer a happy medium for us???

Your website is great!! Very informative!! Thanks!!!


Hey, thanks for writing! Yep, there are lots of great sites for checking out different House styles, and buying house plans on-line is waaay less expensive and time consuming than having them professionally done for you. Click on our BluePrints Page in the Photo Gallery -- there are some banner links on that page, and there are some sites on our Links Page, too. Maybe you'll be able to compromise on a One and a Half Storey with an Open Balcony to the Main Level -- I'm trying to convince Dwight of what a great style that would be for our next house! Let me know what you decide on! Take Care, Ailsa

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Hello Ailsa,
I am in the process of possibly obtaining a business loan however, am unsure of some of the terminology that is being used. You came highy recommended by a friend whom was quite pleased with the help you had given him. He was extremely impressed & pleased with your ability to answer his questions throughly and promptly. As per his suggestion, I am certain that you can provide me with answers to the following questions.

I would like to know what the following terms mean: 1) Closing a loan 2) Full loan amount ballons at the end of the 10th year. 3) Must show proof of liquid assets & Finally, I need to know what is the terminology that is used when a loan is totally paid off.?

If at all possible, would you please get back to me a.s.a.p?
Your valued time and efforts are most appreciated.

Thanking you in advance


Hi, "L." Thanks for writing to us at . Thanks for the words of praise, too! 1) Closing a Loan is when the Deal is completed and is funding, or in a position to fund as all parties accepted the terms & conditions of the loan or it could mean that the lender wants the loan closed before they proceed with their own loan.
2) I guess that depends on whether the word 'ballons' is 'balloons' or 'balance'! ha,ha! If it's 'balloons', it means a scheduled lump sum payment at a certain time in the life of the loan, usually in the 3rd or 5th year. This is rarely done in Canada. If you mean 'balance', it just means to pay out the balance of the loan at the end of the ten years.
3) Liquid Assets are anything that can be quickly converted into cash: GIC's, CSB's, Stocks, Mutual Funds, T-Bills, etc. Things that are NOT considered Liquid Assets include Vehicles, Office Equipment, Inventory, Furniture, Crack Cocaine ... okay, okay, I'm kidding! We all know you won't be at the Bank pleading for money if you've got that kind of dough! ha,ha,ha! (You'll be too busy checking to see how you look in a lovely orange jumpsuit!)
As for the terminology about the loan being paid off, it is often pretty much like "The Loan is Paid in Full" or, for lack of any more words of the same effect, "Paid Off". Nothing tricky, here. Hope that answers your questions, "L"! Maybe you'll write back and tell us your first name! Ailsa

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Hello Ailsa, how r u? I hope u r fine and everything is treating you well, I have not had a question for you in a while and I haven't e-mailed u for quite some time, so here goes, what does the term "soft costs" mean in the financial industry ie: if I am borrowing money from a lender and I say I want the loan to include all soft costs so I don't have any out of pocket expenses, what does that mean. I would appreciate your feedback. Gotta go hope to hear from you soon ...........Brian .........txs.

Hi, Brian! Nice to hear from you, again! How's your Subdivision Project coming along? The term "Soft Costs" refers to any costs that don't add value to the property (according to the Banks!...), which would include Permits (without which you won't have a building!), Legal Costs, Architectural Costs, Subdividing Costs, etc., so that ain't good news for you!
I've never heard of a Builder who didn't have any 'out of pocket' expenses. If you're planning a big development project (or even a relatively small one!), it would be wise to have at least a Hundred Grand on hand to manage whatever expenses come up. If that's not a comfortable number for you, scale back your project until you're in your comfort zone. Remember that Banks won't lend any substantial amount of money to a Builder (or anyone else) without a proven track record and a ton of money in the Bank -- that's the irony. They're happy to lend you money when you really don't need it, anymore...! Keep us updated on your project! Ailsa

Just for the record, "Hard Costs" are the Building Materials and the Labor.

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My father-inlaw just gave my wife and I about 2 acers of land just south of San Antonio, Texas, Im about 3 and half years left to retire from the Navy and plan on building on the land giving to us 6 mos before retirement. one of our big concern is once I get a lender to give me the money to build the house when will I have to start making payments.

My wife and I plan on paying all debts off before i retire how much money should I have in the bank if im going to us my VA.


Hi, Richard! Congratulations on getting free land! Man, wouldn't we all like that?! So you don't even need to worry about paying off the land before you start to build! (We'll have to change your name from 'Richard' to 'Mr. Lucky'!) Often, you have to start building the house before you can get any money from a lender, so be prepared for that by selling your current home before you get started building (use the Equity from your current home). I would imagine you've been saving over the years, so add all the money you can (at least $20,000.00) to the 'Building Pot' to get your project started. Sometimes you can borrow family money that won't come with as many restrictions (hopefully!) as the Bank. Try to find some Trades who will wait until you've received your first Bank Draw so you can get started with a little less money. Worth a shot!

Also, the amount you need is huuugely dependent on how big the house is, and whether you need a Basement Foundation or just a Four Foot Base Wall (otherwise known as a 'Frostwall', but probably not in Texas!).

I would check with your local Bank (or someone right on the Base) about the VA.

Good luck with your project! Ailsa

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Hello Ailsa my name is Brian and I find you absolutely comical and I think you must absolutely be a charmer and a joy to be around, just judging from your web site. I also have some have some questions I am hoping you may be able to answer for me. Firstly the cost per square foot of building a house in the Newmarket Ontario area? secondly if I am given a quote by a contractor on this subject, is he including his profit line in the cost per square foot quote? Lastly would you be able to get (or steer me in the right direction) a check list of tasks that as the owner of a subdivision being built (I as you, have aspirations for building properties) I would have to follow, both before, during and after the project is underway, the answer to these questions are extremely important, so I would be extremely grateful if you can help, also as a potential land developer is there any sort of grant or incentive that the federal or provincial government could/would provide for me to build. Thank you for your very valuable time and consideration to these very important questions. And keep up that sense of humor ha! ha! Brian

The Sopranos Group Shot w/ Logo T-Shirt

Hi, Brian! Thanks for sending us your letter! That's funny that you're thinking of building in the New Market area of Ontario, Canada -- I almost moved there, myself! Most homes in Canada will have an average cost per square foot of between $65.00 to $120.00, depending on the type of home ( Bungalows are more expensive to build than Two Storey Homes, because of the Roofing and Foundation costs...). The costs are probably not going to vary all that much in the States, either, but everything is dependent on the cost of materials and what level of home you are planning to build.

Any quote from a General Contractor to build your home would include his (or her!) profit. If you are inclined to try building on your own, you should be able to garner enough info on our site to do that successfully. Just go through the entire checklist, get quotes for everything, do the math, and see if the difference between you doing it and the General Contractor building the house is greater than $25,000.00. If it's pretty close, hire it out, but if you're saving a huuuuge amount of money (generally speaking, the more Higher End the home is, the more you'll save...), give some serious consideration to building your own home. Keep the Risk Factor in mind, though, and the amount of cash you'll need to have on hand to get the project to the Lock-Up Stage. A Builder or a General Contractor will be able to offer you a Payment Plan that could be a lot easier to work with. Check with your Banker or Broker, first, to make sure you can access the cash when you actually need it, too!

As for the Subdivision Development -- man, I looooove that idea! -- just go to the local Town/City Offices to get their info packages for their Rules and Regulations. If you haven't purchased the property yet, be sure to check out the rules, first, to see if you're even allowed to Sub-Divide. It can be a long process, but definitely worth it in terms of the pay-off at the end of the day!

Ha,ha,ha,ha,ha! Grant and/or incentives from the Canadian Government! Now that's funny! The only thing I can think of right now is the GST Rebate for Builders. Not toooo bad. I'll look around for you to see what's out there. Each Province will have information on this, if you want to check the local gov't sites. Lucky American readers can click on the Gov't Grants Banners on our site, to see what's available in The States.

Hey, thanks for your kind words, too! Always good for the ego! ha,ha,ha! Hope this info helps! Later, Ailsa

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Dear Ailsa,

I could never love anything more than my slurpee, but the woman who sold it to me comes close. I guess my question is: how do you say 'I am a Webmaster, join me for coffee!!' in russian? Thanks.



Dear CantGetaDateToSaveMyLife,

I can only hope you're referring to the Giant Slurpees you buy at the 7/11 corner store, and nothing more ...ha,ha,ha! If you want to ask the Attendant out, try saying, "Hi, I'm a rich Webmaster. Would you like to have a coffee with me, sometime?" Try to avoid the overly eager 'pleeeeze...' that is sooo easy to throw in there, to help convince her of your plight to get a date. I'm pretty sure that 'rich' is Russian for 'guy who needs a date really badly' -- try not to focus on the facts, too much, though. You'll just hurt your head, then you won't want to go on the the very least, you can just quietly look at her from behind the Slurpee Stand -- be careful not to leer -- then make uncomfortable small-talk with her as you pay for your Slurpee. Repeat daily until you get up the courage to ask her out. Let me know how it all works out for you! Ailsa

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