The magazine for Canadian contractors Summer 2011
Satnam Khangura, Khangura Drywall Services, Brampton, Ont.
A simple formula drives a flourishing subtrade business
Also inside Contractors talk Dueling saws Good roofers
11-06-15 1:36 PM
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11-06-22 8:59 AM
Contents features 12
Contractors talk Contractors discuss energy efficient homes and the coming year
Cover Story: Success in a simple formula Trust and respect drive a flourishing subtrade business
departments 5 Editorial
The value of independence
Builder’s Office 6 Work/life balance 10 Builders News Trex…JELD-WEN…Johns Manville Tech savvy
24 The circ saw challenge 28 Good roofers 30 Builder’s Life
Cover photo: Merle Robillard
“Where’d our house go, Martin?”…
Builders Choice Magazine
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REAL WORLD CHALLENGES. ONE CLEAR WINNER. SEE IT ALL AT CHEVROLET.CA MOBILE ENABLED
D H O D A SILVER OLET 2011 CHEVR
EAR速 K OF THE Y C U R T D N E MOTOR TR
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The value of independence Your local lumber supply dealer is there for you.
recently had the opportunity to tour a small town with an independent building supply dealer. It was my first visit but the dealer was a second-generation owner who had lived in the community his whole life.
During the tour I observed several powerful things that separate local independently owned building materials supplier from big boxes and chain stores. 1. LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: The dealer I met recently knew every job site, every trade that was working there and what they needed. In other words, he knew everybody and everybody knew him. 2. SERVICE: Independent dealers pride themselves on getting products to the site when required whether the job is across the street or an hour outside of town. I never heard the dealer I visited recently say “no” to any customer request. This included moving a lady’s garden shed at no cost, despite being very busy. “That’s what you do for neighbours,” he explained.
for the hockey rink, the curling club and the local swimming pool. He was involved in almost every aspect of his town’s life. 4. LOCAL SUPPORT: Independent dealers generally go out of their way to support local businesses that in turn support them. 5. PRIDE: The pride my dealer-friend had for his town and his obvious satisfaction in seeing it grow and thrive was something to see, and common among the dealers I visit throughout the year. Independent business people are the backbone of the construction industry. Who could relate better to the challenges contractors face better than an independently owned and operated building materials retailer? On behalf of The Sexton Group’s over 280 independent owners I wish you a prosperous and safe building season.
3. COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: The dealer of this community was active in service clubs, fund raising
Brian Kusisto, President firstname.lastname@example.org Steve buckle, Vice President/ General Manager email@example.com
Sexton Group Ltd 46 - 1313 Border Street Winnipeg, MB R3H 0X4 (204) 694-0269 www.sextongroup.com
Steve Buckle, Vice President, Sexton Group
Summer 2011 Volume 8 Number 2 Builders Choice magazine is published by Sexton Group Ltd., Winnipeg, and Canadian Contractor magazine. For advertising inquiries. please contact Lynne LeBlanc at (416) 442-5600 x6780 firstname.lastname@example.org or Gillian Thomas at (416) 442-5600 x6784 email@example.com Canadian publication mail agreement #40069240. Return undeliverable copies to BIG Magazines LP, 80 Valleybrook Dr., Toronto, ON M3B 2S9 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Builders Choice Magazine
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Do you have your
LIFE ce? n a l a in b
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If you find it difficult to balance the different roles in your life, youâ€™re not alone. By Greg Peterson and Mike Draper
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ccording to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), “58 per cent of Canadians report ‘overload’ as a result of the pressures associated with work, home and family, friends, physical health, volunteer and community service.” It might be time for you to take stock of your work/life balance. Take the CMHA Work-Life Balance Quiz below. Tally up your total and read on:
What Your Score Means
0 to 3: Your life is out of balance. You need to make significant changes to find your equilibrium. 4 to 6: You’re keeping things under control – but only barely. Now is the time to take action before you’re knocked off balance. 7 to 10: You’re on the right track! You’ve been able to achieve work-life balance – now, make sure you protect it.
Getting out of balance Why do contractors get their lives out of balance? We often hear about contractors who are working 60 and 70 hours per week, sometimes more. They work nights and weekends making sales calls and meeting with clients. They prepare proposals late at night after the family has gone to bed. Then they work all day managing jobs, ordering materials and scheduling employees and trades. Often, smaller contractors even work on the tools. Why does this happen? It’s usually because the contractor hasn’t taken the time to systemize the business. Everything is in his head. That creates a lot of stress and pressure. If you want to change your business and get your life in balance, you need to change your mindset and change what you do. Think about your role in the com-
pany a little differently. Look at your business like this:
✸ Systems Run Businesses ✸ People run Systems ✸ Owners lead People
Your real job As the owner of a contracting business, it’s your job to first design the systems so that someone else can do the work. When the systems are designed and documented, you can then hire the people to run the systems. Now your job is to provide the leadership, management and supervision to your team to make sure that they follow the systems. Contractors often tell us that they can’t find good people. Nonsense. Early in my career, I once complained to my dad that I couldn’t hire good people. He responded that “you get the people you deserve. If you want to hire better people, build a better business then be a better leader”. I didn’t like hearing that it was my fault, but he was right. Nobody wants to work for a small business owner that is disorganized, tries to do everything himself, doesn’t provide any training or development and is stressed out because he never has enough time. However, there are always good people who want to work for a great company with good leadership that offers an opportunity for growth and advancement.
Systemize your business Here’s how you can start to systemize your business and get balance back in your life. Creating a default calendar that organizes your weekly activities is the best way to get control of your time. ✸ Create blocks of time for all repetitive activities. Do all tasks associated with that activity during that
CMHA work-life balance quiz
1. I feel like I have little or no control over my work life.
2. I regularly enjoy hobbies or interests outside of work.
3. I often feel guilty because I can’t make time for everything I want to.
4. I frequently feel anxious or upset because of what is happening at work.
5. I usually have enough time to spend with my loved ones.
6. When I’m at home, I feel relaxed and comfortable.
7. I have time to do something just for me every week.
8. On most days, I feel overwhelmed and over-committed.
9. I rarely lose my temper at work.
10. I never use all my allotted vacation days.
Builders Choice Magazine
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A sample calendar 8:00 9:00 10:00
Emails & To Do
Emails & To Do
Emails & To Do
Emails & To Do Follow Ups
Emails and To Do
Invoicing and Bill Payment
Admin & Planning
time. For example, only pay bills and do invoicing once a week. ✸ Try to schedule customer meetings and sales appointments during the day. You have a life as well and you are not their slave. Your customers have to show some flexibility when it comes to scheduling meetings. Most customers can go to work a little late or leave an hour early occasionally. Have more phone meetings and a maximum of one face-to-face meeting per customer per week. If you must see customers outside of normal business hours, do it early morning or late afternoon. Allocate a maximum of two nights per week and finish by 7:00 p.m., so you still have time for your family. ✸ Only do email and return phone calls twice per day. Do it first thing in the morning and last thing every day. You may want to allocate 30 minutes just before noon as well. It is critically important that you stop letting phone calls and emails interrupt your blocked time. ✸ Set aside specific times each week for proposals and estimates. ✸ Set aside time every week for marketing and business development activities ✸ Create at least two blocks of time for working “ON” the business. Work on developing your systems during these blocks. Also, set aside at least one hour per week to work on yourself and your personal development. After all, your business will only be as good as you. ✸ Book family or personal activities two nights per week and at least one day on the weekend. If you don’t plan the activities in advance, the time just slips away and you fall back into old habits. www.sextongroup.com
Your Default Calendar Develop your own default calendar. This calendar serves as a default plan for how you use your time. Expect to follow this calendar 50 to 70 per cent of the time. It is not a tool to regiment you. It is a tool to refocus you when you are planning your day or when changes in plans occur. Keep in mind the following as you implement your default calendar: ✸ Break your objectives down into smaller chunks and you will be able to achieve them more quickly. Objectives that are too large lead to procrastination, which adds frustration and delays results. ✸ Include time slots where you are working “On” your business instead of in it. ✸ If you get a lead or a referral at a networking meeting, schedule time to follow-up right away so it will not get cold. Schedule the sales call right after the meeting. ✸ Don’t abandon marketing as you get busy, otherwise you’ll find yourself running out of work down the road. ✸ Reschedule cancelled activities ✸ Avoid interruptions. Research shows that it takes 20 minutes to regain your concentration after an interruption. Turn off the phone and email when working on big projects so you don’t lose your focus. ✸ Don’t forget to shade the areas in a meaningful way. It helps you understand your focus for that given time period. Greg Peterson is president and Mike Draper is vice president, Coaching at Renovantage Inc. Builders Choice Magazine
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Builders office Builders Choice
News Onex to Invest $675 Million in JELD-WEN Onex Corporation announced recently that it has agreed to invest $675 million and acquire a significant minority interest in JELD-WEN Holding, Inc. Founded in 1960, JELD-WEN is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of interior and exterior doors, windows and related products for use primarily in the residential and light commercial new construction and remodel markets. “We believe that JELD-WEN’s competitive position and well-known brands in markets around the world position the company very well to take advantage of the eventual recovery in global housing markets,” said Anthony Munk, an Onex Managing Director. Mr. Rod Wendt, Chief Executive Officer of JELD-WEN, commented, “This is an exciting time in our company’s history and we’re pleased to be partnering with Onex, who shares our vision for the company’s future.” JELD-WEN’s management, workforce and corporate culture will remain firmly rooted and intact. JELD-WEN will continue as a private company headquartered in Klamath Falls, Oregon while also maintaining its employee stock ownership plan and its vast workforce. www.jeldwen.ca
Building products magazine names Trex Transcend, “Most Valuable Product” Building Products magazine recently named the revolutionary new Trex Transcend high-performance decking and railing collection one of its most valuable products. The annual awards recognize the best new products in the building industry, and winners are selected by a panel of architects, builders and remodelers from across the country. Trex Transcend—which boasts an unprecedented combination of performance and aesthetics and is guaranteed to outperform wood, composite and PVC for decades—was one of just 31 products selected from hundreds of entries to receive the award and the only decking product to be recognized. www.trex.com
Johns Manville Named Climate Action Leader Johns Manville (JM), a leading global manufacturer of energy-efficient building products and engineered specialty materials, today announced that for the third year in a row, JM has been named a Climate Action Leader by the California Climate Action Registry. JM is the only insulation manufacturer to have earned this status.
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Builders Choice Magazine
“Our commitment to the sustainability of our products and operations from sourcing to manufacturing and throughout the entire product life cycle has earned us this special distinction,” said Mike Lawrence, vice president and general manager of JM’s Insulation Systems business. “Our goal is to be a leader in the manufacturing of environmentally responsible building products while raising awareness of the beneficial impact these materials have on the energy efficiency and indoor air quality of a home or building. We’re proud to have achieved Climate Action Leader status for three years running.” “JM is committed to the efficient, cost-effective and environmentally responsible use of energy throughout its worldwide operations,” said Todd Raba, JM chairman, president and CEO.
Record or near-record high-end home sales reported from coast-to-coast Improved financial standing among high net worth individuals is the major factor driving strong sales activity at the top end of the Canadian housing market, according to a recent report released from RE/MAX. RE/MAX Ontario-Atlantic Canada and RE/MAX of Western Canada examined 12 major centres from coastto-coast and found that luxury sales have surged in close to two-thirds of housing markets between January 1 and April 30 of this year, compared to the same period in 2010. Leading in terms of percentage increases over the four-month period were Greater Vancouver (118 per cent)—where foreign investment has also played a major role—Ottawa (59 per cent), Calgary (51 per cent), Halifax-Dartmouth (27 per cent), Winnipeg (24 per cent), Hamilton-Burlington (13 per cent) and Greater Toronto (nine per cent). Six of the seven major cities—with the exception of Calgary—are poised to set new records in top-end activity by year-end. Several are just short of peak levels reported in 2010, such as Victoria, Regina, and London-St. Thomas. “Three key factors—serious equity gains, stock market recovery, and improved economic performance—have been behind the push for luxury housing product across the country,” says Michael Polzler, Executive Vice President, RE/ MAX Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “The combination also continues to bolster the bottom line of high net worth individuals both nationally and globally. The impact of that wealth is being seen in the demand for all things luxury from homes to cars, collectibles and fine wines.” www.remax.ca. www.sextongroup.com
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SUCCESS A simple formu la drives a flourishing subt rade business
Satnam Khangura, Khangura Drywa ll Services, Brampton, Ont.
Fax your form to 204-694-4507 or email: email@example.com Also inside Contractors talk Dueling saws Good roofers
11-06-15 1:46 PM
The Forum Contractor Roundtable
talk By Rob Koci
ThIS Past spring, a small group of contractors from across the country sat around a table and discussed the movement towards energy efficient homes and how the movement will impact their businesses in the coming year.
Builders Choice Magazine
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Participants: Steve Barkhouse, Amsted Construction Ltd., Ottawa; Pawel Matonog,Archer ConstructionGroupLtd.,Mississauga,Ont.; Dennis Bryant, Bryant Renovations, Toronto; Mark Hofstee, Rammik Construction Inc., Guelph, Ont.; David Litwiller, Litwiller Developments Ltd., Calgary; and John Friswell, CCI Renovations, Vancouver, B.C.; Robert Koci, editor of
Builders Choice, moderated the discussion. Robert KOCI: There is a sense that sustainability and the green economy was very popular, but it is now suffering a bit as a result of the economic downturn. I would also like to get some comment from you on the efforts on behalf of the regulatory world to improve the quality of the houses that we build, the efforts on the part of the environmentally sustainable building lobby to encourage us to build with products that perhaps we wouldn’t have in the past. dennis BRYANT: I think it’s a good idea to be tending towards more energy efficiency in the building industry. What’s difficult is knowing the right changes to make, and I guess maybe setting goals is the best way. It’s not always obvious when you make a change what all the other ramifications are. The easiest kinds that have the biggest effects are simple, like having a higher level of insulation, which is one of the easiest ways to become more energy efficient, and it lasts forever. But there’s many other ways and it just takes time to develop them. And I think we see them slowly coming into our operations. We don’t make a big deal about it, but clients, one-by-one, are just expecting a little bit more in terms of energy-efficiency and looking at the bigger picture. KOCI: Let’s go to David in Calgary. Tell us what you’re seeing in terms of the environmental market and your market in general for the rest of the year. DAVID LITWILLER: I have to ask, what does green really mean? A bamboo floor, for instance, is not a green renovation. The long-term research has not been provided on many of the products and methods and it seems we listen only to the marketing propaganda. Half of green products are not even tested and proven, so that’s my thoughts on the green stuff. For me, it’s intelligent building, increasing your insulation values, perfect your wraps. Just be a good builder and things work very well. Our customers are not necessarily demanding green products from us yet. We’re not seeing a big demand for it. KOCI: How do you see the rest of the year playing out? Are you busy, how is your market? www.sextongroup.com
LITWILLER: I have a partner now in my little company; I started this in 1977. I brought in a younger person with a lot of energy. He’s been with me two and a half years. We have recently attracted an architect into the company. I’m concerned about too rapid growth, so I’m just planning ahead for some more hiring. KOCI: Okay. That sounds positive. Mark? MARK HOFSTEE: As far as the green goes, some customers are initiating conversations regarding it, but I still think there’s a bit of a disconnect between what the media is saying, that everybody is going green, and what the customers are actually asking for. The price gets in the way for a lot of these products when they start figuring out what their cost is, then they back off. They’d rather that the cabinets are a little nicer than were full of all kinds of green products. I still think there’s a bit of a disconnect there. As far as the economy, for our company, going forward, right now we’re very busy and I see that carrying through to September or October. So I’m very pleased that way. I am still always wondering how to manage a small company when you’re the only person, basically. How to manage the growth and how much to market and where to find time for all that. Those are the bigger challenges that I have here as the owner who’s working in the office.
“I don’t find clients are asking for too many green products. The main concern that people have is return on investment.” — Pawel Matonog, Archer Construction Group Ltd.
PAWEL MATONOG: I think my thoughts are very similar to everybody else’s. I don’t find clients are asking for too many green products. I don’t pretend to be a specialist or an expert in the field. I use spray foam wherever I can and I guess that can be considered green. You know, it’s the cost difference. I think the main concern that people have is return on investment. So what they really want to know is how long before they get their money back for what Builders Choice Magazine
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11-06-22 9:03 AM
The Forum Contractor Roundtable KOCI: Steve Barkhouse?
“I have to ask, what does green really mean? The longterm research has not been provided on may of the products and methods and it seems we are to listen only to the marketing propaganda.” — David Litwiller, Litwiller Developments Ltd. we’ve put in. So, once they crunch the numbers they realize that it’s a 10- or 15-year period before they actually get their money’s worth out of this, the reality is most people don’t live 10 or 15 years in the same home. So they choose usually to forget about that and put in, like somebody had mentioned, nicer cabinets. LITWILLER: Can I jump in for a second? Spray foam. My guys in the field, I call the spray foam guy at the drop of a hat and I pay twice as much for it. There’s one CMHC study that I’m aware of that says that perimeter rim joist space insulated with batt insulation and vapour barrier is just as effective as spray foam. It’s my understanding that spray foam is going to run into some challenges here as to how it’s being used. A lot of people aren’t using it properly, causing a lot of condensation problems. KOCI: I know what you’re talking about, David. There was a recent study regarding how the insulation was done between the floor joists on the first floor. A lot of guys have been spraying behind the header and, according to this study, it was just as effective to put in form-fit insulation and vapour barriers and caulk it properly as it was to spray. Is that what you’re referring to, David? LITWILLER: That’s correct, yeah. MATONOG: What about the labour involved to spray the joist? It’s a couple of minutes work to caulk and seal the vapour barrier and cut the insulation. It’s much more time-consuming. So, at the end of the day, I have a feeling that the spray foaming would end up less expensive. The price difference is not that big. www.sextongroup.com
STEVE BARKHOUSE: On the spray foam, I think, for us, it’s less about cost. I wouldn’t think the spray foam would be less cost. I particularly know that it’s a heck of a lot easier to do a good job on those tight spaces with the foam. It’s as much about air infiltration and air barriers; the caulking, the vapour barrier, everything is taken care of, the insulation with the foam, and it’s the small spaces, it’s to get it done right. So I think that’s where the study fell apart. Because in the case study they did a great job of it, it was a good air barrier, vapour barrier, caulking and that’s hard to find in those tight spaces. On the economy, we will hit our budget this year. I’m confident of that. We’re relatively strong, like all of you, I think. And on green, I think improving education is the way to go. It must be consumer-driven; it can’t be driven by the government or small interest groups. I think it’s important to define what green is. It’s different to everybody and there’s a ton of greenwashing out there, so you really have to do your homework on the cork floors, the bamboo, all of that stuff. That’s absolutely correct, I agree 100 per cent with what’s been said. I personally believe it boils down, largely, to good or better building practices. I think that our company and, as was mentioned, the rest of the guys here were green builders from day one and just “green” wasn’t a word back then and now it is. So it’s just good building practices. We are a believer in a philosophy of the whole environmental thing, and not to go onto a soapbox, but that’s important to us, so we, therefore, invest in green and we stay on the leading edge and we think it’s important in Ottawa. We just finished a LEED Platinum renovation. LITWILLER: One thing I’d like to throw out on how the market is going. We’re all reading about how busy
“The economy for renovations seems to be going well here. I just struggle with how to grow the company and which jobs to slice off to other people and how to manage the sites.” — Mark Hofstee, Rammik Construction Inc. Builders Choice Magazine
15 11-06-15 1:47 PM
The Forum Contractor Roundtable have good connections with the US renovators, tell me what they’re saying about their market down there.
“They (U.S. renovators) look to us now with a very different look. We would go down there and they would sort of take us under their wing and teach us. But now they look to us and say, ‘Man, we got something to learn from these guys.’” — Steve Barkhouse, Amsted Construction Ltd. Alberta is and that kind of thing. There’s a company in Edmonton advertising for a thousand electricians for the oil sands. So, on our supply chain, that trickles down to us having problems finding electricians. We’re going to be very, very busy here in Alberta, but quality trades are going to continue to be hard to find. HOFSTEE: Generally, at the moment, I’m pretty happy because the economy for renovations seems to be going well here. As mentioned earlier, I just struggle with how to grow the company and which jobs to slice off to other people and how to manage the sites. We seem to be doing okay. There’s always questions and always angst about that. So I wish that part of running the business running. BARKHOUSE: Staffing. I’d love to chime in on that. So, I certainly see a need for skilled labour. I think that we are now competing with more companies for those same people. Sometimes it’s more difficult in our district to compete so that’s certainly a concern I have.
BARKHOUSE: It’s starting to come back. I think it’s all positive news and I couldn’t agree more with Pawel. We are very lucky to be both in this industry and in Ontario, for me, and in Canada in general. So I didn’t want to be negative. Those guys have really taken a hit and they’ve taken it largely because of government problems. So, in different sectors, it’s different throughout the States. I’ve got guys who are still doing okay and did okay, but other guys who run spectacular businesses—and Robert you know some of them—that have really, really struggled and made some difficult choices of laying off and paring right back and getting out there with a hammer and some stuff that I can’t imagine. So we’re really lucky. They look to us now with a very different look. We would go down there and they would sort of take us under their wing and teach us. But now they look to us and say, “Man, we got something to learn from these guys.” KOCI: Dennis Bryant, you have the last word. BRYANT: The last word? You’ve given me two minutes to think deeply. It’s more personal and it could be useful for many others. Over the last five years or so, I’ve had a business consultant and a lot of training in business, something that’s helped me tremendously. And, as most of us, we all started out as carpenters or electricians or something and that’s what we got trained in. Now we run businesses but none of us had business training. And so, finally, getting some business training has been quite spectacular for me. It could be useful for many.
KOCI: Pawel? MATONOG: At the end of the day, I think we should all feel very fortunate that we’re living in Canada. I think times are good compared to what’s happening in the U.S. I’ve spoken to a few guys; it’s tough. And I think we’ve got good problems — we’ve got problems finding good trades. Maybe we’re paying a little bit more to stay above board, but at the end of the day, there’s money coming into the business. KOCI: Steve, Pawel mentioned something, I’m going to ask just a couple of sentences. I know you
Builders Choice Magazine
“Over the last five years or so, I’ve had a business consultant and a lot of training in business, something that’s helped me tremendously.” — Dennis Bryant, Bryant Renovations
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Works hard, even in park. Up to 7' roof height for easy walk-in loading and unloading
Class-leading fuel economy via the BlueTEC clean diesel engine
600 cubic feet of cargo capacity can fit over 100 sheets of drywall
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Starting from
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build SOLID business
Trust and respect are fundamentals for a successful drywall contractor. By Jim Barnes
s a rule, successful contractors aren’t people who whine and complain. They meet the challenges and get the job done without a lot of fuss. But it’s rare to run into a contractor who has virtually no complaints at all. When we asked Satnam Khangura, owner of Khangura Drywall Services of Brampton, Ont., if he had any concerns or faced any challenges in his business, he was stumped for an answer. He finally gave up and said, “Right now, I’m happy.” It’s a situation that many other contractors might envy. While the recession has not had too much of an impact on good contractors, others have felt the pinch, especially in residential construction. Khangura hasn’t noticed any slowdown.
Builders Choice Magazine
Based on the number of calls he gets from people looking for work, he knows that the economy is still stretched a little thin, but says his firm has suffered no setbacks. “For us, everything is smooth,” he says. In fact, Khangura says, he is even a little busier than he’d like to be. “For us, we are OK. Every month I do three or four custom homes and I am always busy.”
Big houses Custom homebuilding is the company’s primary market. It supplies insulation, drywall, boarding and taping services, “up to the point that everything is ready for priming,” to a clientele of large builders and general contractors. Khangura does the boarding himself and has crews for insulation and the other work. www.sextongroup.com
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Photos: Merle Robillard
KHANGURA DRYWALL SERVICES
Builders Choice Magazine
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Cover story Khangura drywall services
When he got into the business about a decade ago, Khangura used to work for larger builders of subdivisions in the Greater Toronto Area. “In 2005, I started my own company, doing custom houses,” he says. It goes beyond being a simple business choice. Khangura says he enjoys the craftsmanship of working on a custom project. “I love to work in residential. In commercial building, you always have to work with a screw gun. In wood houses, you can work with hammer and nails,” he says. From time to time the company has done some commercial work, including plazas, hotels and restaurants in Southern Ontario, but that is definitely the exception. Khangura has no tips to offer on how to find good customers. That’s because the customers find him. “I have a good reputation,” he says. He doesn’t have to spend any time or money on sales or marketing and won’t negotiate much on jobs. Builders and contractors remember him from his performance on previous projects, and almost all the new work he gets is through referrals. In fact, the thought of taking steps to drum up new
Builders Choice Magazine
business draws very little interest from him. He’s happy with his existing client base and doesn’t want to market himself because he is already fully booked all the time – to the point that it is sometimes hard to take a day off.
Attention to detail Khangura’s client base tends to be choosy about who they work with. They focus on big, custom homes and there is a lot at stake. These are expensive homes, many of them in the $4-million-plus range. Finish is absolutely critical on these jobs, and paint never looks better than the drywall underneath it. Builders can’t afford to take a chance with a less-than-conscientious tradesman. The size of the home depends on the neighbourhood. Some custom houses Khangura has worked on in the Greater Toronto Area have exceeded 8,000 sq. ft. in size. Khangura likes these kinds of projects, which usually offer significant challenges to a drywall contractor. The owners all want something different because it’s a custom house, and that shows up in sophisticated design. Architects let their imaginations go with some of these places. www.sextongroup.com
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“They put in a lot of boxes, coffered ceilings, skylights, that kind of thing.” says Khangura. “On one house, a guy put in 250 pot lights,” he says, noting that it made some of the boarding a considerable challenge. That’s why the builders want a known quantity working. They can’t run the risk of somebody walking out in the middle of a job, explains Khangura. The effects on the costs and timetable can be dramatic. “Once you make a builder happy, he doesn’t want to use anybody else,” says Khangura.
Trust builds profits Some of the relationships with his customers are of very long standing. “I know these people well, they are good people – almost like family,” he says. “If I have any social events, I invite them. They come to my place. We are always chatting.” The result is a series of strong, personal ties that take a lot of the friction out of the contracting business. “If people trust you, a lot of problems get cleared up,” points out Khangura. “They pay you on time.” In cases where a builder doesn’t know a contractor well, things www.sextongroup.com
might not be that smooth. As a result, “They try to withhold some money, because they don’t know whether you’ll be willing to go back and do rework,” he says. Trust also means a healthier profit margin in the business. His customers seem to feel that Khangura’s services are worth a premium. “Even if your quote is a little bit higher than the other guy’s, the builder is going to go with you,” he explains. “He trusts you.” The benefit to the builder is the elimination of uncertainty. When he works with Khangura, he knows exactly what he is going to get. Cash flow is an issue for the company because Khangura pays for materials personally and in full on delivery. He won’t leave the supplier waiting to be paid. Accordingly, he expects customer payments to be timely and precisely as agreed upon. That’s about the biggest problem he faces – occasional short delays in agreed-on payments. “They say they’ll pay on a Friday, and they pay on Monday,” he says. There’s one element of his business that Khangura obviously prides himself on: “My after-service is very good,” he says. Every job has to end the same way, with the customer completely satisfied. Builders Choice Magazine
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Cover story Khangura drywall services
Supplying Trust Khangura maintains the same trust and confidence for his suppliers that he has for his customers. His primary drywall supplier is Paradise Building Supplies Ltd., of Mississauga, Ont. a gypsum specialty dealer. The company handles drywall, compound, insulation and related tools and fittings. The company’s owner and founder, Jaswinder Braich, worked with Khangura for more than eight years in drywall contracting. The company was started over a year ago and once the store opened, Khangura became a regular customer. Paradise is a family business, explains Jassi Sidhu, who works in the store and is the wife of Braich’s partner in the business. Braich has very strong personal relationships with many of his customers and deals with Khangura directly. That can be translated into something as simple as an expedited delivery. “Because of that, if they need anything, they just call him on his cellphone and he brings it over,” says Sidhu. “He’ll drop it off, no charge, on his way to another delivery.” Khangura is enthusiastic about the support he gets from Paradise. They are virtually his sole source for materials and supplies. “They’re very good. At another company they might run short of a product, and then charge you to deliver it later.” But with Paradise, “Even if it’s a box of screws, there’s no delivery charge – they come to the site and give it to me.” That seems to be the bottom line in the Khangura story, how trust and common sense can make business both productive and profitable. —BM
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Contracting happens in the real world, and sometimes things don’t work out the way they were supposed to. “When something is wrong, they call me to come back and fix it. They’ve already paid me, so I don’t charge them anything. There’s no argument,” he emphasizes. “That’s why people like me.” If an electrician puts a plug a couple of inches away from where it was supposed to be, Khangura goes back to fine-tune the drywall. “That’s part of the job... I go back and do it. I don’t say, ‘Look, it isn’t my problem.’” Khangura has a simple system for success. “My list is simple: I go and measure the house, figure out how much it is going to cost me for everything; then I give them the price. They like the price and say go ahead,” he says. He views the volatile material and fuel costs contractors face with equanimity. When he quotes a job, he uses accurate, current costs for all materials. And while fuel prices bounce up and down, he doesn’t worry about losing $50 or so in the fuel tank from time to time. The biggest variable in a profitable job is simply how laborious it turns out to be. With custom homes, “Some houses are easier and you make more profit. Others are more difficult,” he says. The other fluctuations in his business are not as significant. Khangura likes to work on his own and never takes so much work that he can’t handle it personally. “I won’t do it,” he says. “Sometimes, I have to tell them to wait for two or three weeks.” Khangura is willing to let business walk away so he can meet his own exacting standards. He’ll explain his availability to customers and tell them that if they need the work sooner, they’ll have to go with another drywall contractor. That doesn’t happen often. Builders who know Khangura can count on his estimates. “They know that if I say I am going to do something, that is exactly when it will be done… They know that when I say a week, I mean a week,” he says. He always shows up on schedule. “I don’t give them a bunch of excuses about how my truck broke down on the highway. If I say I’ll be there, I’ll be there.” Khangura doesn’t negotiate much on his quotes, either. “I don’t negotiate on the price. I have been to the house, I have measured it, I know what it is worth,” he says. “Sometimes new clients try to negotiate price with me,” says Khangura, but he is not interested. He knows the value of each job. With old customers, Khangura seldom sees the need to bother with a contract. “We know each other; There will be no problems,” he says. New clients are another matter. Payment is something he likes to define clearly when working with new customers. “If you do a house for somebody for the first time, you can www.sextongroup.com
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get a little nervous… Are they going to pay you properly?” Accordingly, with new customers, he uses detailed contracts. The contract spells out everything... all materials, which kind of board meeting which codes will be used, what kind of product is going in the shower and so on. And, of course, payment. “Everything is in the contract,” he says. At the end of the day, though, he agrees with the adage that if you trust somebody, you don’t need a contract, and if you don’t trust them, a contract won’t help. “It’s a piece of paper,” he says. “The main thing is the trust.” As proof, he cites the fact that he sometimes gets calls from panicky builders who signed up for a discounted job and the drywall contractor never showed up. Let the buyer beware.
Business today The business has not changed much since he got into it about a decade ago. There has been one big change, though, and Khangura applauds it. That’s the growing, industrywide emphasis on the safe workplace. “Now everything has to be proper – and that’s a good thing, too. You don’t want to see anybody get hurt,” he notes. Some customers ask for shortcuts, especially when they are under time pressure. They quickly learn that Khangura won’t compromise. “Most people are pretty good, they understand,” he says. What advice does Khangura have for somebody thinking of going into drywall as a trade? “It’s a good business, but you have to be fully prepared,” he says. “The labour is a little heavy, but overall it’s good, and you make money at the end of the day.” Training is the key. “You have to learn the trade properly. You have to work with somebody for a year. You have to learn all the details of the trade, learn how to handle the angles, everything.” Attention to detail makes the difference in profitability. You can spend a lot of money fixing your mistakes. “You have to learn to do the job right the first time,” Khangura www.sextongroup.com
points out, and you have to learn to minimize waste. It was a learning process for him, too. Khangura, now 34 years old, knew little about drywall when he immigrated to Canada from his native India in 2000. He had just finished his schooling and gotten married. Contracting has been his only career in this country. His brother, Narinder, had come to Canada a little earlier, and also entered the construction industry. Narinder is Satnam’s partner in the contracting business, and they hire other workers as required on an hourly basis. Khangura now has three children. Does he see them taking over drywall business when they get older? “No, I don’t think so. But I don’t know, it’s up to them.” So what is Khangura’s vision of the future? It doesn’t seem to stray very far from homebuilding. Having acquired a couple of properties in Mississauga, Ont. Khangura plans to build his own house. He’s expecting it to be an enjoyable project, but he is also expecting it to be an education. “Right now, I’m just concerned about four things; insulation, boarding, drywall and taping,” he says. He is looking forward to learning the ins and outs of other residential construction trades. The electricians, plumbers and concrete workers are certain to find him to be one general contractor that is genuinely interested in how they do their jobs. “When I start working on my house and have to deal with 40 trades, then I’m going to find out a few things,” he says with a laugh. Khangura’s situation sounds almost ideal for many contractors. Customers are lining up to secure his services at a fair price he determines. That situation has to be earned, though – with attention to detail, respect and a focus on doing things the right way. Jim Barnes is a Toronto-based freelance writer with more than 30 years of experience as a business journalist and editor.
Builders Choice Magazine
11-06-15 1:52 PM
Sidewinder Which circ saw is king in your book? By Steve Maxwell
ost carpenters have pretty firm opinions on one side of the debate or the other, but what’s the technology behind the difference? This is your chance to take a look under the hood and see exactly what makes these two circular saw designs tick and why they’ve been duking it out since the 1920s. The world’s first circular saw was a worm drive model, invented in 1923 by a man named Edmond Michel. His original design was a very close cousin to the Skill HD77M that I’ve pulled apart here. Like all worm drive saws, the motor shaft is oriented in the same direction as saw travel, with torque transmitted through a rotation-changing,
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spiral-cut ‘worm’ gear—hence the name. Worm drive saws are typically heavier than sidewinders because of the beefy gearing inside. They usually spin blades slower, too, though with more torque. That bull-gear power and fine balance has earned loyalty for worm drive saws since day one. The first sidewinder saw was created in 1928 by Arthur Emmons. Motor orientation was rotated 90° to sidestep patent infringement on earlier worm drive designs, though that posed a design problem. Electric motors back then were exceptionally heavy, and that meant they needed to be located on the left side of the blade for reasonable balance. Trouble is, that put the blade on the righthand side of the saw, which is an inconvenient location www.sextongroup.com
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tech savvy Worm Drive vs. Sidewinder
for right-handed carpenters. Modern sidewinders, like the Porter Cable 424 MAG, use lightweight motors that can comfortably sit on the right-hand side of the blade. In fact, some of the lightest saws in the world these days are sidewinders, though all types are getting easier to hold thanks to magnesium construction. This metal is showing up in more and more power tools, including both circular saws here.
Porter Cable 424MAG This tool is double insulated, which means its power cord doesn’t need a ground pin or a grounded outlet to be safe. Even if a live, internal wire were to pull loose and touch the saw case, you wouldn’t get a shock. That’s because all internal electrics are isolated from the handles of the saw by plastic where metal is traditionally used. One striking place you can see this is the casting that holds the main motor bearing (1). Modern polymers are tough enough to function in locations like these where metal used to be essential. Nowadays, manufacturers are working harder to make dust less of a nuisance with all power tools and the 424MAG is a case in point. It includes a swiveling chute that directs dust downwards into the guard or out the side for vacuum pickup—whichever you like. Porter Cable designers have gone one
step further and harness the airflow generated by the motor to keep dust flowing downwards and away from your face. A plastic louver inside the blade guard does the trick (2). More and more power tools include electric brakes to quickly stop blades from spinning after the trigger is released. The 424MAG is one such tool, though there aren’t any brake pads to wear out. Braking action is created by the motor itself. When the tool is switched off, the windings of the motor
operate as a generator for a split second. You can see it happening as extra sparks are created where the brushes contact the commutator as you release the trigger. Look quickly at the Porter Cable saw and you’d figure that the blade is mounted directly on the motor shaft. Not so. Power is actually transmitted through two helical gears. Ten teeth on the motor shaft and 41 teeth on the blade shaft make for a pretty low gear ratio, not unlike what you find on a worm drive saw, though the gears are quite different (3 & 4). Helical gears are more expensive than straight-cut spur gears, but they do have a big advantage. The teeth on helical gears operate at an angle to each other so they come together gradually as they rotate. The result is a smoother, quieter running saw. In this case the helical gears run in grease, an approach that’s different than what you’ll find in worm drive models. Builders Choice Magazine
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tech savvy Worm Drive vs. Sidewinder
Builders Choice Magazine
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Skil HD77M Fans of the worm drive design always talk about the incredible balance of these saws, and it’s true. Since the motor shaft is aligned with the direction of cut, there’s nothing sticking out on either side of the tool to make it want to tip one way or the other as you complete a cut. The field windings of the Skil HD77M are tucked in tight in front of the handle, in perfect alignment with the center of the tool (5). When you pull them apart, the motors on both saws are surprisingly similar. In fact, with side-by-side comparisons, you can barely tell the rotors apart (6). The only difference is the slightly smaller bearing on the Skil. Shiny patches on the rotors are areas where metal was ground off to dynamically balance these parts while they were being made. The worm drive gear that’s at the heart of the Skil circular saw looks quite different than the helical gear on the Porter Cable sidewinder. The teeth are both curved as well as angled (7). This is a beefy piece of hardware, nestled deep inside an oil filled case and surrounded by pressfit bearings. It’s not easy to get into. The ratio of the worm gear transmission on the Skil saw is 25% lower than the helical gear system on the Porter Cable sidewinder. Five turns of the motor on the Skil spins the blade once, compared with four revs of the Porter Cable motor for one rotation of the blade. Worm gears operate very smoothly, but they require more lubrication than helical gears. That’s why worm drive saws have tiny transmissions that run in a bath of heavyweight gear oil, unlike the grease-packed gears found in the 424MAG. And since worm drive saws could be used in both very hot or very cold weather, pressure changes inside the worm gear transmission could cause oil to be squeezed out of the seals. To compensate for seasonal pressure www.sextongroup.com
differences, while also maintaining a working in cold weather and pressure completely sealed oil chamber, Skil drops, the diaphragm expands. designers incorporated a rubber diaLooking inside these two competing phragm in the top of the worm gear saw designs probably won’t change case (8). When temperatures and in- your mind about which one is best but ternal pressures the4,625x7,5 diaphragm know14:17 exactly what you’re PAP annoncerise, resisto copy.pdfnow 1 you 11-02-15 squishes to compensate; when you’re rooting for.
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GOOD ROOFER What are the signs of a roofer that knows what he is doing? By Rob Koci
s a general contractor who has seen a few roof failures in your time, you know that roofing, like most trades, takes a lifetime to perfect. You know also, that you are better off leaving your roofing needs to the experts, but it helps to know what expert work on a roof looks like. Here are a few things that will tell you something about your roofing subtrades:
Most shingle manufacturers will guarantee their “wind resistant” shingles to 80 mph, though most are tested to 100 mph. The key, however, is in the installation. If your roofer places a loony-sized dab of ashphalt roofing cement at the corners of each tab of a three-tab shingle, and then uses a six-nail pattern to fasten the shingle, he knows something about secure shingle installation in wind zones.
The next time your roofer works on your project, watch where most of his roofing nails are placed. If they are consistently below the adhesive strip without being so low that they are exposed, you have a good roofer on your hands. It shows he understands the importance of nailing the top edge of the row of shingles below the shingle he is installing. When nailing on the strip (which most manufacturers don’t recommend) there is a chance of missing that row and causing the shingle to loosen and lift over time.
You don’t have to have a drip edge, but when your roofer installs one, it’s the start of good roofing work. Without an edge, you should see an overhang on the shingle of ½ to ¾-inch, with the felt paper overhung by the same amount. With an edge, the shingles should overhang, but only by ½ inch, no more. Any shingle with an overhang that exceeds 3/4 –inch is bad, and a good roofer knows it. The shingles will prematurely bend and fracture.
A good roofer will take his ice and water shield up an extra roll, not just one along the eaves. He will install a third roll when the overhang is more than 18 inches.
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If a roofer forgoes his stapler and uses proper nails to install shingles that are being placed over an existing shingle layer, he’s doing the right thing and is a good roofer. And if, for his starter course, he cuts the tabs off to reduce the thickness of the layer at the www.sextongroup.com
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eave, you can know he’s done this before and knows how to take care of the little things.
want his work to be compromised and he doesn’t want call-backs. That is a sign of a good roofer.
When a good, experienced roofer installs a metal roof, he has certain installation rules for himself. He overhangs the bottom sheet by at least one inch past the eaves. He laps the panels at least 12 inches. His bottom panel always runs at least six inches above the nailer strip while the top panel extends at least 3 inches past it. He uses butyl tape to seal between the top and bottom panels at the laps. Finally, he makes sure his fasteners are at least 3 ½ inches above the bottom edge of the nailing strip. That’s a good metal roofer.
If your roofer is a good roofer, when he is installing a replacement roof he won’t be shy to insist that the flashing be replaced along with the shingles, no matter how good the flashing looks. He knows that the flashing, like any building product, will eventually fail, and old flashing left on a reshingled roof is far more likely to fail before the end of the life of the shingles. He doesn’t
A good roofer will only use Western Red cedar on a cedar-shingled roof. He knows that flat-grained white cedar is prone to cupping and splitting with repeated wetting and drying, and that’s enough for him to say no to even the best grade of white cedar.
A smart, experienced roofer will only mount cedar shake roofs on purlins. He doesn’t like the idea of putting a shake roof down on sheeting because he wants them to be able to dry from the bottom as well as the top, which means there has to be a venting space on the underside of the shingles.
Watch out for how your roofer installs OSB under an EPDM roof. If he places it shiny side up, he knows what he is doing. If he duct tapes the seams to eliminate any potential for the edges curling, you know he takes his roofing to the next level.
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“WHERE IS OUR HOUSE GONE, MARTIN?” A contractor remembers a prairie wind. By Martin Askew IN 1972 IN WINNIPEG, I was framing houses with a comical young Irishman by the name of Brendan Mullin. We were both recent arrivals to Canada, and my story starts on our drive up to the site Friday morning. The weekend was almost upon us, and our intent was to finish the roof on the 1200-sq-ft bungalow we were working on. We almost finished closing the gable wall the previous night, but mosquitoes sent us running. My first clue that this was going to be a memorable day was Brendan’s laughter as we drove by the first house. “Look at those dummies,” he said. “They forgot to nail the 3/8” roof sheathing down.” A strong wind had come up the night before and the sheathing was everywhere. Then we saw a second home. “Look—part of their roof has gone,” Brendan said, “When the foreman sees this mess, the @#*% will fly.” Driving by the next four projects, our laughter increased as the damage increased. Then, at the seventh house—our house—silence smothered our laughter. Several moments passed before the silence in our car was finally blown away, not by the 80-mph wind of the previous night, but by the lilt of an Irish accent: “Where is our house gone, Martin?” All we could see was blue sky, an endless prairie wheat field and a pristine, “unframed” basement. Zombie-like, we walked from the car. The only evidence that the house ever existed was faded chalk marks and nailless holes; our entire house had been blown away by the wind. It was as if we had never done any work there at all. There was only one feature of the landscape that broke
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Builders Choice Magazine
the line of the endless prairie: the lumber package for the house next to us that sat, neat and tidy, beside our now empty lot. The two young carpenters about to work on that house arrived, saw our predicament, and howled. “Wait till the super sees that,” they said with big smiles on their faces. After a few more minutes of ribbing and laughter, they hopped back in their car and informed us they were leaving for a long weekend and that they would start their house on Monday. When Monday rolled around, the two long-weekenders arrived in the morning to see Brendan and I putting the finishing touches on our roof. At the same time, it seemed their lumber package had disappeared. It was our turn to laugh as they tried in vain to convince the superintendent that our house had been destroyed and that we had taken their lumber to replace it. The superintendent bellowed, “That is the dumbest excuse I have ever heard.”
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