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BECAUSE FOUR WALLS AND A ROOF CAN BE THE FOUNDATION FOR GENERATIONS TO COME,
At CGC, our mission is to make sure we never stop building. From walls to ceilings to floors to exteriors, we will continue to deliver the products, innovation, service and support, as we have for more than a century, so you can construct the places where we work and live. Build your world at CGCINC.COM
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Fatal mistakes / 18 Falls from heights remain a significant contributor to the high degree of fatality in construction related accidents.
Steel-toe boots, your hard hat & a broker / 23 Contractor must-haves for construction site safety.
Emergency preparedness / 26 The safest job sites plan for the worst scenarios as a means to protect workers.
Skill upgrades / 33 Ceilings are often overlooked during renovations or new builds, but a little attention to this space can make a world of difference.
Elements of style / 38 Greywater recycling, WaterSense fixtures and Energy Star windows help both conserve the environment and save property owners money.
NEWS WATCH / 5 Dr. Peter Andersenâ€™s predictions PRODUCT SHOWCASE / 7 New and improved products SMART MONEY / 10 The Canada Job Grant BUSINESS STRATEGIES / 12 Find and hire superstars ECONOMICS 101 / 15 Playing in the digital arena LEARNING CURVE / 17 Sustaining business May/June 2014 Vol. 18 No. 3
Editorial Director Castle Building Centres Group Ltd. Jennifer Mercieca Managing Editor Paul Barker Art Director Mark Ryan
Castle Building Centres Group Ltd., with building supply outlets in every province, is Canadaâ€™s leading supplier of lumber and building materials to professional contractors, builders and renovators. Publications Mail Agreement #40006677 Return undeliverable Canadian Addresses to: 100 Milverton Drive, Suite 400 Mississauga, Ont. L5R 4H1
Contributors Nestor E. Arellano Lawrence Cummer Victoria Downing Stefan Dubowski Nick Nanton Paul Rhodes David Chilton Saggers John G. Smith
Is the glass always greener? / 42 Comfort, curb appeal and increased property values trump reduced energy costs as the tangible benefits of high-performance windows.
Roof lines / 49 Industry veteran John McLellan has a few important lessons to offer his fellow roofers.
Advertising Enquiries Vendors whose products are carried in Castle Building Centres stores have the opportunity to advertise in
For more information or to reserve space in the next issue, contact: Jennifer Mercieca Director of Communications Phone: 905-564-3307 Fax: 905-564-6592 E-mail: email@example.com
Published and designed exclusively for Castle Building Centres Group Ltd. by Business Information Group Material Contact: Cheryl Fisher 416-510-5194 Copyright 2012
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Price of lumber set to soar, Castle AGM delegates told BY PAUL BARKER Phoenix, Ariz. – By his own admission, economist Dr. Peter Andersen tells it like it is when it comes to Canada’s home building market. As a result, his annual address at the recent 2014 Castle Annual General Meeting held here in early March at the Squaw Peak Hilton Resort, contained a mix of good news and bad for contractors, depending on what side of the 49th parallel they reside in and do business. The fact that the U.S. economy is now in overdrive again seven years after the 2007 mortgage crisis, could pose several problems to both the buyers and sellers of home building supplies in Canada, particularly when it comes to lumber. Andersen, the current economist for the Canadian Home Builders Association, said that so many sawmills — an estimated 207 — have shut down throughout North America as a result of the housing crash and subsequent recession that followed it that the availability of product is cause for concern. “It takes about seven years to come out of a funk and this is what is currently happening in the U.S.,” he said. “The financial crisis is done with, the problems have been cleared away and businesses have fantastic balance sheets. The pending construction boom is going to last for several years, he added, and as a result will create “serious capacity problems in the lumber and building materials industry.” Also, Canadian contractors can expect to see record prices for lumber as a result of a nasty combination of supply shortages and a Canadian dollar that Andersen said will settle in the 85-88 cent range this year. “The big question I have in my mind for 2014 is how high will interest rates
The Squaw Peak Hilton Resort in Phoenix provided a much needed break from winter for hundreds of Castle AGM delegates. Among them was Charles Goulard of Goulard Lumber Building Supplies in Sturgeon Falls, Ont. who received a 25-year membership award from Castle president Ken Jenkins (left) and Jamie Adams, chairman of the Castle board of directors. Photos by Emerge2 Digital
go? The best answer I can give you is that interest rates will go up, but they will not be disruptive. It will be a moderate increase that will be absorbable by the industry.” As for property values, Andersen strongly questioned the findings of a Deutsche Bank Report released late last year that claimed real estate prices in Canada are the most overvalued in the world and some homes by as much as 60%. “No way, do I buy that,” he said. “Housing is not overpriced.” That prediction will certainly bode well for Castle dealers who last year, according to James Jones, the organization’s national vice president of marketing, recorded the
best sales volumes in the history of the buying group. “We finished the year up 14% over 2012, which was a record year as well,” he said. Meanwhile, Castle president Ken Jenkins said “we like where we are and think that some of the turmoil that exists in the industry currently is going to be a benefit to Castle down the road. “Every time I have seen a successful entrepreneur I have seen someone with significant work ethic. It is engrained in them and it is engrained in their staff. “Find good people in your business, give them autonomy and watch what happens. Wonderful things occur when you give people support and autonomy.”
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Innovative Products for Today’s Renovators MILWAUKEE HACKZALL DELIVERS 18V POWER IN A12V SAW The M12 Fuel Hackzall from Milwaukee Electric Tool provides four times more run-time, up to 70% faster cutting, and up to six-times longer tool life than other 12V reciprocating saws, the company says. The saw’s Powerstate Brushless Motor allows it to deliver more power under load than some 18V reciprocating saws and complete a wider range of applications. Redlink Plus Intelligence provides communication between tool, battery and charger to protect them from overloading, overheating, and over-discharging, while the Redlithium XC4.0 battery packs provide long battery life and allow operations in climates below -18°C with fade free power. A battery fuel gauge also displays remaining charge for less downtime on the job. The saw’s dual counter balance mechanism reduces vibration to increase control and accuracy, provide faster starts in metal and reduce user fatigue. A compact design allows access in tight spaces and provides added control. The saw is available as a bare tool or in a kit with the battery pack, charger, blade and contractor bag. Visit www.milwaukeetool.com for more information.
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Therma Elite from Northwest Doors is a hybrid garage door line that offer luxurious appearance. Using the company’s Therma Tech II insulated sandwich constructed sections, precision-cut, 1/2” Extira brand smooth wood composite overlays are applied to create a wide-selection of design options. The door line has an insulation value of 10.4 R, a Thermal Barrier Joint and are factory painted after assembly. Therma Elite maintains uniform dimensions of the overlay components regardless of the door size, the company says, so that over-height and odd-width doors are just as attractive as standard sizes. Therma Elite insulated carriage-style garage doors are distributed in Canada through the Westgate/Entrematic Group. Visit www.westgatedoor.com for more information. CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
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The Telesteps 1600EP Professional Telescopic Ladder from Regal Ideas Inc. offers fully automatic telescoping operation. Made from sturdy, lightweight aircraft-grade aluminum, the ladder telescopes in 1’ increments of height between only 33” and 14.5’ when fully extended, giving the same climbing height as a 16’ extension ladder, the company says. The ladder’s wide-angled rungs are designed to create level footing and to increase comfort on long work days. At 28 lbs., the 1600EP’s portability also make it easy to pack up and store safely inside a vehicle or truck. Telesteps 1800EP model offers the same climbing height as an 18’ extension ladder at a weight of 30 lbs. Both ladders carry Type 1A 300 lb. duty ratings. Visit http://telesteps.net for more information.
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The Canada Job Grant
The 2014 federal budget revisits a grant program that encourages employers to provide skills training. BY PAUL RHODES
n this space last year, an article appeared on the federal Budget 2013 and the components that may have an impact on businesses in the construction industry. One such component was the Canada Job Grant, which was intended to â€œdirectly connect skills training with employers and jobs for Canadians.â€? An update to that article is now required due to the progress that has been made towards implementing the Grant. The Budget 2013 proposed that training costs to provide skills training for people who cannot be trained under Employment Insurance incurred by employers were to be split, $5,000 each, to the employer, the province/territory and the federal government. As the remainder of the 2013 year panned out, however, the Grant, in the form in which it was proposed, was a non-starter due to agreements not being reached with the provinces and territories over how the cost of the program is to be funded. At the time of writing; however, all the provinces and territories have reached agreements with the federal government over the mechanics of how the Grant will work. Significantly, the federal government will now cover the cost of the Grant instead of some of the cost being funded by the provinces and territories, as originally proposed. Quebec was initially against the Grant because the province already has a system of skills and job training that works well and meets the needs of Quebec employers. Employers are legally required
Businesses with a plan to train unemployed and underemployed Canadians for a new or better job will be eligible to apply for a Grant. to invest 1% of their payroll costs in training; however, a deal was reached between Quebec and the federal government in early March. Therefore the federal commitment to Grants was included again in Economic Action Plan 2014, and is currently expected to become a reality this spring. It is intended to encourage employers to provide the skills training needed to assist in filling vacant positions. The program is likely to be beneficial to the construction
Paul Rhodes is a partner at Soberman LLP. His professional experience includes providing assurance and advisory counsel to a number of clients in construction, manufacturing, real estate and internal audit engagements. Paul is a member of the Toronto Construction Association. 10
industry in particular, which has faced a shortage of skilled workers for several years. According to the 2014 budget, the job vacancy rate for skilled trades in 2009 was 2.7%, compared to 5.8% in 2013, versus a national average for 2013 of 4.0%. The Government consulted broadly with employers and employer associations, educational institutions and labour organizations on the design of the Grant. It has heard that employers welcome an increased role in training decisions and want the Government to support skills training in a way that is simple for businesses to access, with minimal red tape. Employers are also seeking skills training support that is responsive to diverse business needs, with special consideration given to the needs of small businesses
The design of the Grant reflects the outcomes of these consultations. The Grant will require matching from employers, but in recognition of the particular challenges they face, small businesses will benefit from greater flexibility in their cost-matching arrangements.
training is necessary for new hires or to help individuals get better jobs. At the same time, the risk to the employer is reduced by the government contribution towards the cost. While the Grant program may contribute to the supply of skilled labour,
it is not going to solve the problem of the lack of immobility of that labour. The budgets, which are the source for much of this article, can be found at www.budget.gc.ca/2013 and www.budget. gc.ca/2014
Who is eligible? Businesses with a plan to train unemployed and underemployed Canadians for a new or better job will be eligible to apply for a Grant. All Canadians seeking training can, in partnership with an employer, benefit from the Grant.
How much funding is available? The Grant could provide up to $15,000 per person for training costs, including tuition and training materials, which includes up to $10,000 in federal contributions. Employers would be required to contribute an average of one-third of the total costs of training. Small businesses will benefit from flexible arrangements under the Grant, such as the potential to count wages as part of the employer contribution.
PHOTO: THINKSTOCK IMAGES
Where can the Grant be used? The Grant will be for short-duration training provided by an eligible thirdparty trainer, such as community colleges, career colleges, trade union centres and other private trainers. Training can be provided in a classroom, on site at a workplace or online. It is also expected that the Grant could be used towards the cost of training materials. The Grant represents an additional program that may benefit the construction industry. The federal Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit (AJCTC) is still in place for any employer that hires eligible apprentices. This program provides a nonrefundable tax credit, which reduces income tax that would otherwise be payable. The governmentâ€™s intention behind the Grant is that the employer is better positioned to determine exactly what skills CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
Find and Hire Superstars With renovations on the rise, so is the need for top talent. There are ways to separate the wheat from the chaff. BY VICTORIA DOWNING
omeowners in many markets are beginning to spend on renovations again. For many renovators, this increased demand means that they need to hire additional people to handle the workload. This is an area of weakness for many small business owners. Here are some tips for finding superstars for your business. Do you automatically place an ad on free listings whenever you have a job opening? Unfortunately, everyone else in town is doing the same thing, so it may be difficult to make your ad stand out. In addition, many applicants who read these free listings are unemployed and
often not through their choice, so the prospective employee that you attract through this avenue may not be at the level you desire. Top workers can choose the company they want to work for because they are in demand. Attracting these key people requires creative recruiting techniques and an excellent reputation among professionals in the industry. Remodelers with progressive employee policies sometimes have a waiting list of applicants for the next available opening, even in areas with labour shortage. This should be your goal. How can you creatively reach those currently-employed top performers?
Here are some ideas: • Include a notice on your website. • Create an email announcement to send to clients, suppliers, subcontractors and friends of the company. This sort of networking is one of the most powerful ways to attract top prospects. • Ask your suppliers if you can post notices on their bulletin boards. • Hold an evening open house at which you take applications, have your employees talk with prospective employees and serve light refreshments. This makes it easy for working people to attend and could attract a number of great prospects. • Offer your current employees a finder’s fee to bring in top employees who stay with the company for a period of time.
• Talk to the manufacturer reps you work with. They meet many people in the course of their work and may know someone who is looking for a new job. • Consider placing an ad in your local association newsletter. • Put the word out that you have a position open on one of the employment websites like Monster. com or CareerBuilder.com. • Place a notice in your local community newsletter or business group publication. • If you belong to a peer organization, spread the word among your fellow group members. Even if they are not located nearby, they may know people who know people who are looking for jobs.
Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage Inc. and is a leading authority in the remodeling industry. She has authored and co-authored several industry books, including The Remodeler’s Marketing PowerPak. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 301 490-5620 ext. 105. 12
If the usual recruitment methods do not work, try something unique: One company provided its suppliers with notepads to give to their customers. The pads included a recruiting message for the contractor. Think about reaching out to other remodelers. Often, these talented people may love one part of the business and are eager to ditch the other parts. You could have the perfect position for him or her. The key to successful recruiting is to be creative. Remember, you do not have to be the only one thinking of ways to recruit. Hold a company meeting with your entire staff to brainstorm unique avenues for attracting excellent applicants. Still, attracting prospective employees to your company is only the first step. The next step is to build a system that will allow you to spend your very valuable time only with those prospects that are the cream of the crop. To make sure a candidate can follow directions and pays attention to details, set up a series of steps that must be accomplished before a face-to-face interview is arranged. If they cannot manage to complete the simple steps that are part of your system, they certainly cannot be trusted to follow instructions and complete tasks once they are an employee. First, direct interested parties to send a résumé and cover letter via email; résumés can be automatically directed to a special email folder, making it easy to collect them. Those who do not follow these simple directions deselect themselves. In many cases, recruitment efforts can generate dozens of responses, requiring hours of review. If you simply do not have time, outsource this first step to a human resource or administrative professional. This person can help you remove those who simply are not qualified as they review the content for spelling, accuracy,
basic skill matching and more. Afterward, you will receive a culled down array of resumes for the second review, requiring much less of a time commitment. Next, once you have weeded through the résumés and chosen the top applicants, contact them by telephone for a brief discussion. Again, this task can be done by a mature key manager instead of the owner, if time is an issue. This step tells you how easy candidates are to reach and how well they conduct themselves over the telephone. Start the conversation with a comment such as, “I received your résumé and wanted to talk to you about the position. I only have a moment now though but was hoping to get started.” By stating that time is limited, you now have an “out” if it is clear early on that the candidate is not a fit for the position. If, by chance,
Top workers can choose the company they want to work for because they are in demand. Attracting these key people requires creative recruiting techniques and an excellent reputation among professionals in the industry. the phone discussion goes well, it is all too easy to keep talking. Third, if they pass this step, they are invited to visit the office to complete an application. When an applicant visits the company to complete an application, have one person be in charge of meeting and greeting. This person can “score” each applicant on first impressions, attitude, ability to complete the paperwork, friendliness
and more. This information can be invaluable to the person or people managing the face-to-face interviews. Just like building a renovation project successfully, hiring superstars requires a system to help you identify the top performers. If you dedicate time and energy to build this system, the results will pay off in spades. You will have a team of employees who will be the envy of your competitors and the delight of your clients.
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Playing In The Digital Arena Your website and social media outlets should serve as the technological extension of your face-to-face efforts. BY NICK NANTON
n the past, an online presence was a luxury, but as society’s focus and attention has shifted to the digital arena, it has become an absolute necessity. A carefully crafted website and fully-operational social media profiles can lay the framework for business success, whereas disorder and dysfunction can lead to outright failure. Cautionary tales of businesses that merely established an Internet-identity abound, but failed to capitalize on their foray into the online market. Your website and social media outlets should serve as the technological extension of your face-to-face efforts. If the goods and services you provide are the award-winning 1\ Your website should be branded,
interactive and engaging. It is not enough for a business website today to simply contain a list of information, a description of goods and services and contact information. An effective website must be engaging and compelling, and maintain the viewer’s attention to the point that they want to pick up the phone and find out more. That means understanding your target market enough to “hook” them, and it means creating a site that echoes your expertise and the brand you are creating.
When designing a top-flight company website, or consulting with a third-party that will handle the technical design aspects, you should make sure you are keenly in-tune with your desired audience and customer-base. Your target market will greatly influence your projected online-branding, from the site’s individualized layout and colour scheme to functionality. If there is disparity between your business goals and objectives
entrée, your digital persona is the host that greets your patrons, and many a dining experience has been ruined by a poor first impression. The continuously evolving nature of the online world may appear daunting at first glance, but the good news is that today’s technology makes it easier than ever for a business to create and maintain a stout Internet presence. While getting up and running seems simple enough, there is still a lot of work that goes into creating an appealing and engaging personal brand online. There are five key components to building and maintaining a powerful online presence. How are you doing with each of these? and what you are hoping to promote, it will glaringly reflect on your website.
2\ Demonstrate value. “Value” is the magic word. If your website, blogs,and social media outlets do not provide tangible value to your audience, they will be ignored. Use these platforms to share breaking news, analyze recent developments, and provide informational and practical tips to your audience. Update on a regular and consistent basis with new and exciting content that proves beneficial to your online-readership.
3\ Leverage email marketing. Social media is one great way to engage your audience, but it only works when they are online and using social media themselves. Email marketing, on the other hand, gives you the opportunity to consistently interact with your customers and your market as long as they are checking their email inbox (and these days, who isn’t?) Remember to focus on providing value
Nick Nanton is an Emmy Award-winning director and producer and CEO of The Dicks + Nanton Celebrity Branding Agency. His newly released book StorySelling details the value of story in business and entrepreneurism, and outlines the steps to achieve marketing success through storytelling and media. For more information vists www.DNAgency.com or e-mail info@DNAgency.com.
in order to keep your readers engaged; however, if email marketing is overused it will be treated as spam. Keep your newsletters and e-updates to a monthly basis to maintain your maximum open-rate and subscriber base.
4\ Want subscribers? Toss in a ‘freebie’. Your email marketing campaigns are a great way to stay top-of-mind with your customers and to keep your market aware of what you are offering. But if you do not have any email addresses to send to, what does it matter? One of the most effective ways to build a targeted email list is by offering free content, such as e-books, special reports, video seminars and so forth. Simply require that the user give you their email address in order to access the content. Promote these freebies on your website and through social media, and you will see your email list start to grow steadily.
5\ Use pictures and video to tell your
story. You know the saying: a picture is worth 1,000 words. A video is even more powerful. The simple truth is that pictures and video are far more engaging than pages and pages of text, so embrace it. Create a video introducing yourself and welcoming people to your site. Share pictures and video of your team at work. Post pictures of your latest products. Take advantage of visual media to keep your audience engaged and actively involved in your business.
Your online presence is one of the cornerstones of your business and it should be treated as such. Guarantee that your body of Internet outlets, from your website to your social media platforms and email lists, are vibrant, highly-functional and continually updated with the latest information that is tailored to your target-audience. These sites do not exist simply as undeveloped advertising boards: they are an integral facet in the 21st Century marketplace and can be the main determinant in a successful outcome or a failing organization.
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Sustaining Business Two books help contractors to compare various green building materials or cost out building components and systems across the country. MAKING BETTER BUILDINGS New Society Publishers Much has been written about the individual components of sustainable building, but how do you bring it all together into a welldesigned whole? Making Better Buildings: A Comparative Guide to Sustainable Construction for Homeowners and Contractor from New Society Publishers describes the real-world implications of the most popular green and natural building materials and techniques, objectively presenting the pros, cons and overall viability of each. Making Better Buildings aims to cut through the hype to provide unvarnished facts about the upsides and downsides of the most widely discussed materials and technologies. Drawing on the real-world experiences of designer/builders, this comparative guide systematically and comprehensively
examines each approach in terms of: • Cost, sourcing, labour intensity and ease of construction; • Energy efficiency, embodied energy and environmental impacts; • Availability/accessibility; • Viable applications and future potential. Each chapter is rounded out by a chart summarizing the material in a quick and accessible manner. Author Chris Magwood has designed and built some of the most innovative, sustainable buildings in North America, including the first off-grid, straw bale home in Ontario, which became a 15-year research project into the implementation of sustainable building materials and technologies. He also created the Sustainable Building Design and Construction program at Fleming College in 2005 and together with Jen Feigin founded and directs the Endeavour Centre for Innovative Building and Living.
RSMEANS YARDSTICKS FOR COSTING RSMeans The 2014 edition of RSMeans Yardsticks for Costing: Canadian Construction Cost Data features cost data specifically for the Canadian construction industry. Detailing costs for eight major regions coast-to-coast, this edition covers thousands of building assembly and component costs, with City Cost Indexes and Location Factors for over 930 Canadian and U.S. locations. The Canadian edition contains metric and imperial cost data for over 2,600 components, as well as unit rates for more than 300 installed systems (also in metric and imperial), plus gross building costs for 35 typical structures at low, average and high quality.
RSMeans Yardsticks for Costing 2014 also features: • Metric conversions and abbreviations • Square foot costs for nearly 60 standard building types • Updated reference information and cost-planning guidelines • Estimating forms arranged using UNIFORMAT II project breakdown • Classification updates for 2010 CSI MasterFormat RSMeans is a division of Reed Construction Data, a source of North American construction cost information. The publisher offers locally relevant, accurate, and up-to-date cost data in book, eBook, CD and online formats. Both books are currently available from www.amazon.ca and www.chapters.indigo.ca.
MISTAK Despite efforts by lawmakers, associations and workers compensation boards certain accidents, particularly falls, continue to plague the construction sector BY LAWRENCE CUMMER
alls from heights remain a significant contributor to the high degree of fatality in construction related accidents, experts say. Making fatal falls more tragic is that the steps to prevent them are widely known and too often ignored. As an example, the construction industry accounted for 27,577 of the 245,365 total accepted time-loss injuries in Canada in 2012, according to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada. This placed it behind only manufacturing and health and social services industries in the number of injuries resulting in lost time. More tragically, though, the 211 workplace deaths that year were the highest number of fatalities in any sector. 18
“We know that contractors and workers are aware of the fall protection requirements and often they have the equipment on the jobsite,” says Kevin Molnar, regional director for the lower mainland at WorkSafeBC, the Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia. “For whatever reason, they fail to use it.” WorkSafeBC has identified falls as an area of concern, prompting the organization to develop a comprehensive strategy to help combat them around the province. It consists of an enforcement blitz and activities designed to better educate the employers and employees of their responsibilities. The board has set a target of 14,000 worksite inspections as part of the blitz, but recognizes more is needed to curtail the deadly tumbles that keep occurring. “Regulation is not the only approach
that we deploy, so we have an education campaign, we have media campaigns, our department of industry and labour services is out working with associations, and we do symposiums with the roofing industry about fall protection and ladder safety,” Molnar says. The efforts are exhaustive and yet seem to be just one component in changing the mindset of contractors and construction professionals. “It is a bit of a conundrum,” says Rick Thomas, manager of director labour relations at the Sault Ste. Marie Construction Association. “The problem is old and cumbersome; we cannot stop hurting people from falling. “We kill people from them falling; that is how they die in our industry. We have to do something about it.”
PHOTO: THINKSTOCK IMAGES
KES Thomas recognizes that significant work has been done by regulators, trade educators and associations in the past years, but that more is still needed. He points to regulations now requiring those working at heights to be trained in fall awareness and fall arrest (safely stopping a person already falling), and new training standards emerging from the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) in Ontario stipulating education for both trainers and workers. “It just seems to be an unmanageable problem,” he adds. “It is easy to work at heights safely and we cannot get people to do it.” From a regulatory perspective, punishments around falls are on the rise, both for the business and individuals. Personal penalties are also climbing and have even
included jail time, notes Cheryl Edwards, senior partner in the OHS (occupational health and safety) and worker’s compensation practice at the legal firm Mathews, Dinsdale & Clark LLP. In March, for example, J.R. Contracting Property Services Ltd. of Woodbridge, Ont., and a supervisor were sentenced after being found guilty of failing to ensure the safety of a worker who fell off a roof. The company was fined $75,000 (plus a 25% victim fine surcharge required by the Provincial Offences Act) and the supervisor received 45 days of jail time. A company representative was also fined $2,000 for obstructing the Ministry of Labour investigation. In an all-too-familiar story, a worker tossing loose shingles from a one-storey bungalow roof stepped backwards, slipped and rolled off the roof
onto a walkway; resulting in permanent paralysis of the lower body. “The court actually commented that if contractors in the roofing business do not start taking their responsibilities more seriously they were going to start jailing those contractors,” Edwards says. The personal penalties are going higher and fines for businesses all across the country, especially in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario are escalating, he adds, due in part to the fact many workers are seen as being more vulnerable today. Employee vulnerability can play a major role in the penalties levied on a contractor if or when an accident occurs. That perceived vulnerability of construction employees has also prompted lawmakers to act, since new and young workers are three times more likely to be
injured in the first month of their employment than more experienced workers, according to the Ontario Ministry of Labour. As the result of the Christmas Eve scaffolding incident that claimed the lives of four workers in Toronto in 2009, the ministry has implemented new mandatory occupational health and safety awareness training for all employees and supervisors. The requirement becomes mandatory in the province on July 1 and is designed to help prevent workplace injuries by making workers and supervisors aware of their roles, rights and responsibilities in the workplace. “What I see regularly as a defense lawyer is that a significant number of terrible accidents happen to temporary workers who have not been trained like the regular workers in a workplace or to contractors who access a worksite and have not been informed of the hazards or the risks,” Edwards says. She points out that the expert panel that recommended mandatory training called for additional training for contractors and vulnerable workers in some other industries. “That is still pending,” she says. “The fact that they identified contractors as vulnerable workers is significant, though, because it recognizes problems around language skills or the temporary worker being paid under-the-table or working for
cash. They are all workers more likely to be exposed to greater risk.” It is important to note the new Ontario law is a bare minimum, as are many requirements. Employers are expected to perform due diligence around the safety of their workers. “This is a new type of approach where the onus and burden rests squarely on the workplace,” says Gerry Culina, manager of general health and safety services at Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). “It is a lot more invasive and prescriptive. Rather than saying ‘Protect your employees…’ they are saying, ‘You know what, that is not working, so this is what is going to happen.” Such mandatory requirements are a good start, but what OHS legislators want to see is due diligence around employee health and safety. In this case, a health and safety committee can help ensure you are duly diligent, Culina says. Requirements vary by province, but generally businesses with more than 20 employees require a committee, while those with fewer require a single health and safety officer. Below, Culina points to a few other “pre-contract” steps and questions that help ensure safety and identify responsibilities:
• Define the work to be done: Ask how are we prepared? How will we clean up? What remediation is required for hazardous materials? What regulations are in effect? • Identify potential hazards: Contractors must make sure homeowners or builders disclose hazards. Ensure qualified trades are working around specific hazards, and correct safety equipment is used. Sadly, occupational disease, such as that from asbestos exposure remains a leading cause of fatalities. • Experience: What type of specific professional experience is required? Can the work be done by a general labourer or are there potential risks that demand greater knowledge? • Clarity of roles: Who does what? Who is the primary contractor (in some provinces legally identified as the “Constructor”)? Do they have enough capacity, knowledge and staff to be able to manage health and safety on the jobsite? • Emergency procedures: Put simply, have them. (More on emergency preparedness can be found on page 26) •E nvironmental issues: What are the steps to take if a hazardous material spills? What if there is a gasoline or propane leak? • Liability issues: Do the workers have insurance and certification? Do workers need to be bonded? •A ddress health and safety selection criteria: Does the primary contractor have a health and safety program? Do you have OHS policies and procedures? Do you have training records and supervisor qualifications? Does a health and safety committee exist?
“A lot of it is communication-based, and that is why it is important to do a lot of pre-contract work. It ensures there is good communications between the contractors and the owners of the site where the work is to be done,” Culina says. Once a contract has been signed, Edwards shares a few best practices that keep workers safe on the site: • Hold a pre-job briefing: Meet every morning for five or 10 minutes and talk about the conditions on site and inform workers of what the risks are. • Safety equipment: Make sure all workers have appropriate equipment before walking on site, no exceptions. “Oh, I left it in the truck,” is not an acceptable excuse. • Walk the site: Do a daily inspection of the site and take corrective action if, for example, a guard-rail is missing or a ladder is not tied off. • Monitor: Throughout the day have a supervisor make sure workers are working safely and in compliance with regulation. • Enforce the rules: If a worker is unwilling to work within prescribed safety procedures, send them home.
“These things are not costly,” she says. “Yet the anguish and time, and legal and court costs associated with something horrible happening are tremendous compared with these simple, logical, reasonable steps.” “That is what the courts expect: reasonableness.” No one wants their employees injured or worse, but under pressures some contractors and employees cut corners with tragic results. “Doing things right costs money, but it is a necessary requirement,” says Molnar. “My mother used to always say, ‘I can’t afford to buy cheap,’” adds Culina about the dangers that come from substandard equipment, inadequate training and a lack of due diligence. In the end, keeping employees and subcontractors under your direction safe separates the wheat from the chaff in the industry, Thomas says. “It’s a mark of professionalism.”
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Contractor must-haves for construction site safety BY LOUIS VATRT
o matter how effectively you try to prevent them, residential construction sites can be breeding grounds for devastating accidents. Erratic weather conditions, which are common across the country, curious pedestrians, which are found in every town, and hidden hazards, which construction sites are famous for, can result in life-changing mishaps that have both a personal and financial cost for everyone involved. The possibility of these traumatic and costly accidents serves as a reminder to contractors that there is a responsibility to champion safety. Whether working on the ground or well above it, having the proper procedures in place for minimizing risk is an important first step in any construction operation to ensure the protection of the team, the community and the project. Knowing where to start, however, may seem overwhelming.
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hough the Internet is often the first stop for information or direction, there are much better resources for contractors to take advantage of when looking for safety advice. When lives are at stake and homes are in jeopardy, it is important that a flesh-and-blood expert, ideally an insurance broker, be involved to provide customized guidance. It is often second nature to research and buy insurance online, however unlike the Internet, a knowledgeable broker can personalize recommendations that will help identify loss-control techniques specific to your risks. With this in mind, RSA Canada offers the following questions for contractors to reflect upon when undertaking construction business:
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• What’s The Plan? If you do not have one, you need to make one. A comprehensive site safety plan should be at the foundation of your operation, and can easily be updated and repurposed for future jobs. In it, you should address all possible threats to your community, public and your project, as well as create a complete schedule for routine site inspections. If you are unsure of how to tackle this, consider speaking to an RSA risk control consultant who can provide their point of view about how to best demonstrate your commitment to operating a safe site. This, in turn, will likely result in their stamp of approval, and could lead to better policy terms and conditions. • Is Everything In Its Place? As tempting as it may be to leave day-to-day items strewn about, do not. Regular housekeeping, such as clearing piles of debris, storing flammable liquids and tidying up as you go, can prevent unpredictable disasters on site. Also, everyone’s tools should be kept in a locked area when they are not in use. If your team is able to get in the habit of a few simple best practices and can make a point of tidying up, these effective tactics will soon become second nature. • Who Might Be Stopping By? Realistically, the answer is anyone. If they have not vacated the premises, you can expect that the family that lives there will be buzzing around — potentially with children, as well as animals and neighbours
Though the Internet is often the first stop for information or direction, there are much better resources for contractors to take advantage of when looking for safety advice. that can cause unexpected disasters on an unattended site. Keep everyone safe by employing adequate fencing, security, signage, lights and guardrails around areas that are particularly dangerous. In addition, all electrical cords that pass through pedestrian areas should be secured to avoid tripping. Finally, supply all visitors with the proper safety equipment — a measure that will also protect against costly liability claims in the event of an accident. • What is Flammable? Likely more than you think. One small spark can cause one big fire, and this is a primary cause of residential construction accidents. Also, when heating appliances are used in areas that are improperly ventilated, carbon monoxide poisoning becomes a risk. When checking your larger equipment, it will be helpful to make a point of testing fire extinguishers as well, which should always be in working order and within reach. Finally, play it safe by putting designated team members on “fire watch” who can keep an eye out for any sudden dangers. • How Is The Weather Looking? In Canada, this is hardly a straightforward question. Canadian weather can be very unpredictable and construction sites become more vulnerable to damage during severe conditions. Forceful winds can bring down a seemingly secure steel frame, and a setback of this magnitude can be both dangerous and costly. Before the weather worsens, apply sufficient bracing to structures that are under development and speak to an insurance risk control consultant for additional safety advice. • Who is In Charge? You cannot do it all, so make sure you have a strong team. Simplify your operations by appointing a site safety manager to supervise
scheduled inspections and implement the necessary protocols. This person should also keep a detailed log book that can be reviewed by certified site inspectors whenever necessary. During these inspections, it is especially important to look over heavy equipment and machinery to verify functionality, as this will be a central point of focus for insurers. More importantly, they should be checking to ensure that all aspects of the project comply with the applicable codes and standards. For additional direction or information, contact a risk control specialist who can help you identify your best measures against loss. When it comes to finding the right insurance policy, make sure you are dealing with an insurance broker who understands the business you are in and what you specifically need in order to maintain viable operations. Typically, you should be looking to deal with insurance companies with strong financial ratings (A-rated or higher) by reputable rating agencies such as Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and AM Best. While that ounce of prevention sounds like it may be an onerous task, the benefits outweigh the extra effort. Remember, an insurance broker knows the ins and outs of the industry and can provide tailored, relationshipbased recommendations, as well as invaluable personalized service. Brokers are also privy to information that may enable them to supply lower quotes, so often your best bet is to let an agent do the work for you. Louis Vatrt is Assistant Vice President of Construction and Engineering at RSA Canada, and oversees Equipment Breakdown, Project Construction and Renewable Energy. He has extensive experience across underwriting, claims and engineering, including more than 30 years of experience in the boiler & pressure vessel and machinery industry.
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PREPAREDNESS The safest job sites plan for the worst scenarios as a means to protect workers. BY JOHN G. SMITH
couts across the world know how important it is to be prepared. “The meaning of the motto,” said movement founder Robert Baden-Powell, “is that a scout must prepare himself by thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.” The lesson applies to a modern job site as much as it ever did to a camp site. Formal emergency plans ensure that everyone knows the role they will play if a workplace accident occurs, identify the supplies needed to respond to any threats, and ultimately help to keep a bad situation from spiraling out of control. The threats expand well beyond deep pits and combustible materials, too. Carlos Figueira, lead auditor at Ontario’s Infrastruc-
ture Health and Safety Association, refers to a Toronto-area contractor who fell just two feet from a step ladder. In most cases a fall from a height like this leads to nothing more than a bruise or sprain, but this time the worker fractured an elbow and severed an artery. As the blood began to flow, the response became a matter of life or death. Luckily, the alarm was sounded. Co-workers who had been trained in first aid were able to stop the bleeding and care for him until paramedics arrived. The contractor survived. It could have been much worse. Emergency plans often include little more than a map to the hospital and the hope that help will come quickly after someone calls 911, Figueira says. Consider these steps when developing a comprehensive plan that will protect fellow contractors at the time of an emergency.
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Review the job site to identify potential hazards Hazards vary widely from one job site to the next, and can involve everything from a threat like an open pit to the sharp edges of cutting tools, or even include local insects when it comes to employees who have known medical conditions such as allergies to bee stings. “Is there a possibility of getting caught or crushed?” Figueira asks, referring to some of the other potential risks. “Is there a possibility of a fire, or falling to another level? Is there a possibility of an electrical contact?”
Identify the roles As important as the individual tools may be, trained employees will put them to use in a time of need. Their training can also help workers identify limitations. When someone falls through the tight opening in a tower or other elevated structure, the rescue might best be left to specialized team members who can rappel down to the victim or know how to use high-reach equipment. Even those who are not directly involved in a response have a role to play. When the alarm is sounded, surrounding activities need to come to a stop. Workers will also have to know the muster points where they are expected to gather, so anyone who manages the emergency
will know with certainty if everyone else is safe. It is why Figueira stresses the need to include the emergency plan in any orientation program for any new employees at a site.
Know how to sound the alarm Depending on the job site, an alarm can be sounded with everything from an air horn to a bullhorn, warning bells or whistles. Each can cut through the noise of everyday activities.
The same sounds can be varied to deliver different messages. A single blast, for example, might signify an injured worker who needs medical attention. Two blasts might warn of a threat to the broader workplace, such as a fire. A well-designed emergency plan will also identify how to reach those who can best respond to an issue. This can involve more than the emergency teams which come after dialing 911. Contact lists and numbers stored in cell phones can include contacts for everyone from spill teams to utility companies.
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GATHER THE SUPPLIES NEEDED TO RESPOND TO THE HAZARDS Every contractor relies on the right tools, and this is particularly true when it comes to emergency supplies. “Say a powered elevating work platform turns over and someone is pinned,” Figueira adds. “Do we have the equipment to take the weight off? How quick can we mobilize it?” He refers to one recent workplace incident when a contractor had a seizure while working on a rooftop. Emergency teams lowered him down using the steep and narrow path of a scaffold, and almost slipped in the process. If they understood the available resources, they would have known about the elevated work platforms that were on the job site and could have been used in the rescue. There is a right way and wrong way to perform a task like this, so related training will also be vital. Before using an elevating work platform, for example, rescuers need to check the capacity to ensure it will support both the victim and responders. They will also need to attach their own full-body harnesses to anchor points before
raising the platform, and then connect the victim’s own lanyard to the platform itself. Time will be of the essence when addressing any emergency as well. The same worker caught by a protective harness could faint because of something known as harness hang syndrome, as blood pools in their lower body. Their counterpart who remains conscious but dangling in the harness could cause new hazards as they begin to panic and make dangerous choices. It is why it is a good idea to gather related supplies close together to help expedite any actions. A rescue basket used to carry an injured worker can be equipped with a first aid kit, three lanyards with shock absorbers, a full-body harness, tag line, a device to control the descent, and a secondary safety line to tie the basket above the crane’s headache ball, the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association says. Rescuers will need to be equipped with their own Personal Protective Equipment to ensure that a bad situation does not become worse.
Selected fire extinguishers, meanwhile, should reflect the surrounding materials. Wood fires will be fought with Class A extinguisher, tar or grease fires will rely on Class B, and energized electrical equipment will need Class C. Everyone involved in a response will have to know where to find the tools for the job, whether it involves the phone to make an emergency call, the splitter or hydrant for a fire hose, or the panel used to cut power if someone has been electrocuted.
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Conduct regular emergency drills There will be little time to consult with a written plan in the time of an emergency. Every role should be second nature to those who are responsible for the actions. It is why Figueira recommends regular drills to see how employees will respond to an alarm and ensure that rescuers know who will meet emergency vehicles, how to administer first aid, and where to find supplies such as fire extinguishers. If the plan involves any personnel on another site, they can be called using identified contact numbers and asked to identify the steps that would be followed in a particular scenario. “You never know how good a plan is until it is tested,” he says.
Use every emergency as a learning experience
Emergency plans are living documents, which means they need to be updated as a project proceeds. The evacuation route identified when a site is first being excavated, for example, might be blocked as walls are constructed. Even the weather will play a role. A construction project that begins in sub-zero temperatures might consider the threat of frostbite, but as the weather warms the attention might turn to issues like heat stroke. The changes can also extend to the workers themselves. One subcontractor who has the skills to rescue workers from confined spaces might move on to another job, leaving the need unaddressed. Even something as simple as emergency contact numbers can change. When time is of the
who are responsible for the plan can review a situation to ensure that all supplies were available and that everyone understood their respective roles. “Analyze what went well and what did not go well,” Figueira says. In the meantime, any consumed
essence, the last thing someone wants to hear is a message that, “the number you are dialing is not in service. Please hang up the phone and try again.”
emergency supplies will need to be replenished. Perhaps most important, this offers the information that can be used to help prevent such emergencies in the future. It is the type of planning that will ensure everyone is prepared.
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Every accident scene needs to be secured for investigators and to protect other workers, while fall arrest equipment is checked for signs of shock loads, but the emerging reports can also be used to grade the emergency plan itself. Those
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SKILL UPGRADES DEMAND FOR SKILLED TRADESPEOPLE IS ON THE RISE, AND EDUCATION PROGRAMS TO TRAIN THEM ARE IN LOCK STEP. BY DAVID CHILTON SAGGERS
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he demand for skilled trades in Canada continues unabated. Robyn Quinn, manager of education services for the Vancouver Island Construction Association based in Victoria, recalls that recently representatives of the British Columbia industry held a recruiting drive in Ireland. Similar drives have been held elsewhere, including Britain, says Quinn, and there appears to be no letup on the horizon. Similarly, the demand for education and training, whether it is the upgrading of long-standing skills or the acquisition of new ones, shows no sign of slowing down. Naturally, where there is a market there is a supplier, whether what is required is a full-weekend refresher course, one day a week for 30 weeks or
something as different as the compressed 45-week programs at the Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence at Algonquin College in Ottawa. On- the- job training has its advantages, not the least of which is that instruction can be “reality tested” almost as soon as it has been delivered. Still, given the increasing complexity and, as Algonquin’s chair of construction trades and building systems Chris Hahn points out, as one of the most regulated sectors of the national economy, it stands to reason that third-party suppliers should dominate education and training. It is true that they cannot offer near-immediate reality testing, but they have at their disposal an array of expertise and resources. Take the Construction Project
Management program at Humber College in Toronto. Instructor Patrick Brown says it has a six-module curriculum. Most of the instruction is delivered in the classroom, says Brown, although there are online options, and virtually all of the enrolled students, some 95% of them, attend class after work for three hours one day a week. “Students have different approaches,” he says. “Some, not many, take two modules per semester. Most students take about two years to finish. They take one module per semester.” Registered by the Project Management Institute and earning credits from the Gold Seal Accreditation Board, the certificate program provides students with the skills to manage all types of construction projects whether working for
Post Covers and Columns
Chris Hahn is the chair of construction trades and building systems at the Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence at Algonquin College in Ottawa. The Centre cost $79 million and opened its doors to students in Fall 2011. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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Q. What does the Centre provide in terms of education and training? A. There are three main areas. The first is design: interior design, interior decorating and kitchen and bathroom design. The second area is design development, such as architectural technician, construction engineering, electrical engineering and civil engineering. The third area is the trades: carpenter, plumber, sheet metal worker, building construction, wielding, air conditioning, heating; anything to do with construction trades. As a college we also deliver construction project management and some online training like home inspection, gas technician training and that kind of thing.
a developer, a contractor or an estimator, and to assume the role of consultant representative. Courses in the program include Fundamentals of Construction Project Management, Construction Cost Value Management and Development Economics for Constructions Projects. From Victoria, Robyn Quinn says her association’s most popular course is a Gold Seal program for Construction Law. It is a two-day session, says Quinn, and is for the contractor who wants to understand contract law as it relates to construction. “A contractor needs to understand, if someone makes changes to a contract, how that affects their cost, their overhead. What do they need to do to look at the
Builders’ Lien Act. The course appeals to a lot of people. We have an awful lot of contractors who attend that, but we also have the owners of the projects.” Virtually everything that the association offers in class is also offered online, says Quinn. Fall Protection is another of her most popular courses. It is really about meeting standards, she says. “It is about having the guys and the girls come into a room with a qualified instructor who can actually show them how the equipment works.” All three other regions in the province offer the same or similar courses, Quinn continues, with the BC Construction Association-North in Prince George being a leader in online instruction in the province.
Q. Contractors do not have a lot of time to spend in school, so they look increasingly at online and part-time instruction. What are the Centre’s delivery methods for this market? A. For contractors and construction leaders, Algonquin does have a variety of professional development workshops or programs or continuing education courses. They can be instructor led, where it is in-class or it can be online. A number of them are Gold Seal. So, for example, the Construction Project Management courses qualify for Gold Seal certification. We work fairly closely with the Greater Ottawa Homebuilders Association, so if there is a need for a course they tell us. We are also aligned with the Ottawa Construction Association. If a contractor or a renovator says “this is what we need” for themselves, a leadership team or employees, and “this is the method that
continued on p. 37
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do 70% hands-on training,” says Faraday. “Whereas it is 30% in the classroom where we do the building code, and the math and all that fun stuff. When the students are in the shop we actually build to full scale. We have a house in our shop. We start out with demolition, because demolition is an important skill to learn as well, then they build it up again.” The program teaches such subjects as Roofing and Skylights, Painting and Interior Finishes, Drywall and Taping and Finish Carpentry. The cost of the Home Renovation program at CSDT is $8,700, but that includes tuition, a toolkit to keep, all textbooks, and students’ own safety equipment. A further course CSDT offers is Framing Techniques. Just eight weeks long, it is nevertheless as concentrated as the Home Renovation program with, again, classes running from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. The all-inclusive cost of Framing Techniques is $2,600. Like the hiring rates for those trained at the Algonquin Centre, Humber College and elsewhere, demand for CSDT’s home renovators and framers is high. Reading from an internal note from her job developer, Faraday says, “With the exception of the electrical field the construction and manufacturing trades are booming, and inevitably require more help than we can provide them. In many cases students are attending interviews and obtaining parttime jobs while in-program.”
we need it delivered in,” then we will do it. For example, we are doing a low-rise sheet metal installer course one day a week. Q. What are the full time programs you offer and how are they delivered? A.Actually, there are three I will mention: there is Building Construction Technician, there is also Heating, Refrigeration-Air Conditioning Technician, and Cabinet Making Furniture Technician. The three that I mention are offered in a 45-week block. So you start in September and you go to August. We compress it; those students will be in class 30 hours a week, and on top of that they will have homework and on top of that many of them have part-time jobs. There is a little break at Christmas, and a one-week break between April and May, but other than that you are in school. You have really got to be on the ball, but by the end of it students are like, “Oh, am I ever glad because now I’m done.” Q. What are the costs of your programs? A. It tends to go by hours. So an apprentice who takes a 240-hour course, even if they took it eight straight weeks or they took it one day a week for 30 weeks, they will pay $400. If you are taking a course through continuing and online education, you are probably looking at $375 to $450. If you are in a full-time program, for example Construction Engineering, tuition and other fees are between $4,000 and $5,000 a year.
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Just started in Victoria is the Business Smart series, Quinn explains. The courses are aimed at the small to midsize contractor and cover such topics as recruitment and retention, succession planning for when a contractor retires, and getting paid. “You work so hard as a contractor, you are out there doing your job, you are running your business, but who is collecting the money? How do you get to a place to where you are maintaining a healthy cash flow no matter what is going on.” Also just added to the association’s lineup is a course called Essential Communications for Project Management which, says Quinn, demonstrates how good communications add to the bottom line where poor communications subtract from it. Like those highly compressed programs at the Algonquin Centre, intensive training is also on the menu at the Centre for Skills Development and Training. Headquartered in Burlington, Ont., the not-for-profit organization also has satellite offices in Oakville, Clarkson, Halton Hills and Milton. Ellen Faraday, co-ordinator of skilled trades at CSDT, says anyone taking Home Renovation instruction with her has to buckle down and work. All instruction is at CSDT rather than on job sites, she says, and runs from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday for 26 weeks. “Our classes are such that we actually
Fences and gates are not just meant to keep things in or out. Contractors can build them into inviting structures that wrap a home in style. BY NESTOR E. ARELLANO
rive through almost any suburban development in Canada and you will find row after row of crooked wooden fences, forlornly leaning in the wind or letting the breeze pass through their gap-toothed panels. Thankfully, more and more homeowners are rediscovering that fences 38
and gates can also be stunning design features when integrated into the overall look of a house. Contractor Advantage spoke with several product experts, builders and designers to keep you posted on the latest fence and gate styles and grounded on how to make sure your latest project will stand the test of time and the Canadian winter.
Fences without borders For Lawrence Winterburn, owner of design and build firm GardenStructure. com, good fences are not just erected to make good neighbours; they also make an impressive personal style statement. Cookie cutter 6’ high wooden privacy fences are in high demand, but Winterburn says this type of fence has become highly commoditized. He suggests that contractors differentiate their work from the competition and grow their business by focusing on more customized styles. When it comes to fence designs, form typically follows function, Winterburn says. For instance, if the underlying idea is to prevent intrusion, then stronger materials, height and other deterrents need to be considered. If the homeowner desires a fence that will define property lines, then lighter materials would likely suffice. Privacy screens are typically visual barriers and can encompass a wide range of possibilities. “It can be an 8’ solid fence, an intricate lattice work, trellis or even a fishing line that trains vines skywards,” Winterburn says.
PHOTO: GOODFELLOW, NUVO
Material world “PVC, composite and aluminum, along with the more traditional treated wood, brick and stone are being used for fences these days,” says Michael Repic, project site supervisor for custom home design company David Small Designs. “In many cases mixing and matching these materials create a very desirable visual impact.” Treated lumber and cedar are widely used natural fencing materials, according to Jeff Morrison, national account manager for wood product company Goodfellow Inc. “Treated wood is protected from rot and termites by a copper-based chemical,” he says. “When it comes to decking and fences, it is also usually the most economical choice.” Treated wood fencing costs around $20 to $30/lft. They typically need to be stained or sealed every year to ensure that they survive the elements. Many homeowners also find the warmer natural look of cedar very appealing. This wood also has inherent abilities to resists moisture, decay and
insect damage which makes it a good choice for outdoor use. Cedar’s beauty comes at a slightly higher price. Expect to pay anywhere from $31 to $36/lft. With proper maintenance, treated wood and cedar fences can last 18 to 20 years. Goodfellow also offers a composite wood product called Fiberon which is ideal for outdoor applications. It also comes with a 20-year guarantee. Composite wood is made of recycled
wood fibre or chips, plastics and a binding agent. This composition makes the product resistant to moisture and insects. The material usually cost $18 to $25/lft. Composite wood comes in a range of colours and grains that emulate natural woods, such as cedar, pine and redwood. It does not expand and contract but it may warp due to extreme temperature changes. Another fencing option is polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or vinyl fencing. Made of
synthetic material, it can be moulded into various sizes and shapes and made to resemble wood. It is an ultra-low maintenance product, but fading and mildew are common vinyl problems. A dent or split will often require the replacement of a whole panel. PVC costs around $20/lft. The Madison line of vinyl fence panels from Quebec-based railing and fencing company Plastival is treated with UV stabilizers and has a durable finish that is tough against the elements and scratches, says Christian Lepage, sales director for the company. Plastival also manufactures aluminum railing systems. The systems are power coated for protection against the elements. The companyâ€™s Guardian Rail system is a simply styled but sturdy system, while its Richelieu system has a more ornamental style reminiscent of traditional wrought iron fences. The main advantage of aluminum fences is their strength and lightness. They are commonly used as protective 40
How to avoid fence job failure • Before anything else, check the local outdoor structure code in your area. Regulations covering fences and gates usually vary from neighborhood to neighbourhood. • The most common mistake by DIYers and professionals alike is not following instructions and drawings. The second most common mistake is not consulting the plan’s author when deviating from it. • Make sure post holes are below the frost line. Pour cement only halfway through the hole. When the cement has set, fill the rest of the hole with soil or gravel. This will prevent frost from getting to the concrete and eventually heaving it upwards. • Keep a space of at least 2” between the ground and the lower end of your fence. This will protect the fence from ground swell and moisture. • Make sure you are using the right hardware for your fence. For instance, alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ) used in some treated wood can eventually eat through some metal nails. • Stay away from using metal brackets to reinforce gates. They easily deteriorate and fail. Use proper braces instead to keep the gate square. • Wood gates that are hinged to a wall require a brace that is angled downwards towards the bottom of the wall. This will prevent the gate from being dragged out of square. When a gate is between two posts, install a headpiece over the posts. This will prevent the posts from sagging under the weight of the gate.
PHOTO: GOODFELLOW, NUVO
Elements of style
barriers, but not as privacy screens. Prices range from $25 to $35/lft. Nuvo Iron of Bolton, Ont., manufactures a wider selection of security and ornamental light iron and aluminum fences and gates. For its iron fences, the company uses tubular iron pieces that are strong but lighter and easier to work with than traditional solid wrought iron fence material, says Carlos Pacheco Jr., director at Nuvo Iron. “We treat our product in a galvanizing process that has high aluminum content to protect it from rust. Then it is submerged in liquid paint to ensure every pore is covered and the bath is electrified so that the paint adheres to the surface and serves as a UV protector,” he says. Wrought iron fences handmade in the old-world way are labour intensive and could cost up to $500/lft today. “Tubular iron fences offer the intricate styles found in traditional wrought iron fences for a fraction of the cost,” says Pacheco. “Depending on the profile, our product costs around $30 to $40/lft.”
What fence and gate trends can contractors expect this spring? The linear look currently found in many new townhome and single detached projects will increasingly become apparent in residential fences. “We are seeing a lot of horizontal panels in gates and fences,” says Rambod Nasrin, president of Upside Development, a Toronto-based boutique architectural and building company. “Horizontal fences lend themselves to a lot of contemporary new home designs and renovation projects.” He foresees cedar and dark stained treated wood becoming more prevalent in many of these types of fences. More home owners will also have fences constructed for the front of their property. On the more traditional styles, Repic sees an increasing use of wrought iron or tubular iron fence and gate systems for large residential projects with traditional facades. For homeowners who want the custom look without breaking the bank, contractors can turn to less expensive ready-made features, such as trellises and lattice as side panels or toppers, decorative gates and post caps. Goodfellow’s Yardistry fence products
offer a selection of screens, lattices and panels that come in a unified style. This helps eliminate the guess work in deciding what elements go best together and makes designing a breeze for professionals or even DIY enthusiasts. Distinctive hardware such as latches and hinges, can also spice up a gate for minimal cost, according to Tom McClain, senior product manager of Simpson Strong Tie Co., makers of wood structure connectors and reinforcement hardware. Materials like mirrors, pottery or metal work can serve as inserts to add a sense of whimsy to an otherwise staid panel or gate. Maurizio Bertato, president of LIV Outdoor, says his company’s Invisrail tempered glass panels are ideal for deck and fence application where a clear line of sight is essential. “If homeowners want a clear view of a beachfront, poolside or forest, Invisirail is perfect because it is almost like there is no fence railing at all,” he says. With all the options it is very easy to go overboard in designing fences but the saying “less is more” definitely applies here, says Morrison “As a visual element, fences are meant to frame a house not overwhelm it,” he adds.
IS THE GLASS ALWAYS
Comfort, curb appeal and increased property values trump reduced energy costs as the tangible benefits of high-performance windows. BY STEFAN DUBOWSKI
ou might think your customers are bound to see huge energy savings by installing high-performance windows in their homes and buildings. The numbers certainly suggest so. U.S. window-manufacturer group the Efficient Window Collaborative reports that triple-glazed, Low-E windows reduce air-conditioning requirements by a third compared to single-glazed windows. Meanwhile, window maker Ply Gem boasts that its triple-glazed, Low-E windows offer twice the insulating capability of double-glazed windows. 42
Those numbers do not tell the whole story, though. The Efficient Window Collaborative, for instance, elaborates that the air-conditioning requirements for a building with lessexpensive double-glazed windows are not much lower than a building with pricier triple-glazed windows. Most Canadian houses have double-glazed windows already, says Kai Millyard, a Toronto-based certified energy advisor at Green Communities Canada. If a homeowner seeks recommendations to reduce heating and cooling costs without spending tens of thousands of dollars, â€œit is extremely unlikely that window
replacements would end up on that list,â€? Millyard says. Wholehome window-replacement projects routinely cost more than $10,000. Less expensive ways to improve energy efficiency include sealing cracks and installing a high-efficiency air-conditioner. Should you never suggest your clients consider new windows, then? Hardly. Even if homeowners do not save loads on energy costs by upgrading the fenestration elements of their castles and keeps, your clients could see other substantial benefits: improved interior comfort, standout style and higher property resale values.
Grab a seat near the window and get comfortable For many property owners, comfort is king. If your customer complains about a cold draft near an old window, a new window with a higher R-value is the solution, Millyard says, although he explains that a draft might not be to blame. Air near old, cold windows often gets caught in a cooling convection loop: warm air hits the window and cools, dropping on the head and shoulders of the person sitting nearby. By installing windows with better insulating properties, homeowners eradicate this shivery effect. CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
Payback machines Use energy-modelling software to see how high-performance windows affect a building’s overall energy performance. One option is HOT2000. This program considers window types, locations and features such as airtightness and insulating properties. The software combines this data with details about the building’s furnace and ventilation system to assess how well the edifice maintains heat in winter and stays cool in summer. HOT2000 is free on Natural Resources Canada’s website, nrcan.gc.ca. Click Energy, Energy Resources, and Software Tools. RESFEN is another similar program that is also free.To find this software, simply type “RESFEN” into your preferred Web search engine.
Alongside improved insulation, high-performance windows sport Low-E coatings that reflect infrared heat inside the building. This mirroring mechanism reduces heat loss and “makes a huge difference in terms of comfort near the window,” Millyard says. Want more proof that new windows are a sound investment? The latest products on the market block noise from the outside better than old windows ever did. As Millyard points out, “there have been cases with huge window retrofit projects near airports,” where the roar of jet engines is always a problem. “Part of the solution is for everybody in the neighbourhood to have energy-efficient windows.”
Shed some light on the solar gain debate Not everybody will want the same energy-efficient windows, though. One important variable is solar gain. This measurement describes the degree to which a window allows heat from the sun into the building. Ask around, and you may hear different opinions on this topic. On one hand, windows with low solar gain (LSG) decreases the sun’s heating effect during hot summer days, so the air conditioner does not have to work as hard as it otherwise would. On the other hand, windows with high solar 44
Are new windows worth the cost? If your clients balk at the price of high-performance windows, talk about two hidden benefits of fenestration excellence: • Save your floors and furniture: The latest windows help deflect the fading effects of the sun on chairs and couches, hardwood and carpeting. Style-conscious customers who prize their interior items will value windows that help preserve those furnishings. • S hrink your heating and cooling systems: Especially in new construction projects, high-performance windows help reduce the need for heating and cooling, so property owners can have smaller furnaces and air conditioners installed, which spells lower energy costs and a more environmentally-friendly edifice.
gain (HSG) allow the sun to heat the building during our long, cold winters, so the furnace does not have to turn on as often. LSG versus HSG: which should you recommend? A Government of Canada study offers guidance. Natural Resources Canada found that, on average, HSG windows reduce energy costs by 13 to 17%. LSG windows reduce energy costs by 8 to 10%. The government concludes that people should install HSG windows and reap the benefits of solar heating in winter. That said, some customers might prefer LSG windows to help keep their houses cool in summer, even if it means cranking up the furnace in winter. Glen Janiszewski, a director of marketing operations at Ply Gem, notes that in certain areas of the country like his home base of Calgary, property owners can do without air-conditioning if they have the right windows.
PHOTO: KOHLTECH, JELDWEN
Help homeowners step up in style Alongside comfort, aesthetics are a big factor. Vinyl windows used to come in just two colours: white and beige. No longer. “New technology now offers environmentally-friendly, heat-reflective coatings on vinyl windows,” says Carl Ballard, vice-president of manufacturing and engineering at Kohltech Windows & Entrance Systems in Debert, N.S. He explains that these coatings afford a range of colours previously not possible with vinyl. Kohltech’s own Supreme Casement line comes in a variety of hues including cranberry, ivy green and black. “This colour trend is really taking off as people look to differentiate the exteriors of their houses,” Ballard adds. Manufacturers also offer hybrid windows that incorporate different materials for new styles. For example, Kohltech’s Heritage & Estate series sports durable vinyl on the exterior and aesthetically warm wood on the interior. CONTRACTOR ADVANTAGE
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Such material combinations help budget-minded property owners save money, notes Janiszewski. His company’s aluminum-clad vinyl windows come in a range of exterior colours, but they have the same clean, modern appearance of less-expensive vinyl windows on the inside. This interior consistency spells curb appeal and cost savings: a homeowner can have high-end aluminum-clad windows installed at the front of the house for a pop of style and have inexpensive vinyl windows installed along the sides and back. Speaking of cost savings, Janiszewski notes that lower-cost windows have come a long way. For instance, Ply Gem now offers triple-glazed sliding windows in its Comfort series that provide as much insulation as casement windows do, but at a price that is some 25% below the cost for casements.
Boost resale value with new windows Cost is always an issue in building and renovation projects. When customers get hung up on prices, talk to them about value. For example, high-performance windows increase property resale values. According to Remodeling magazine, the average return on investment for new doors, windows and other exterior items is 74.6%, which makes high-performance windows one of the highestperforming renovation investments homeowners can make. Another important aspect of value is that times change. Even if property owners see only slight energy-cost savings with new windows in the short term, energy prices are rising. Environmentally friendly, high-performance windows will probably prove to be especially valuable as energy cost-cutters in the not-too-distant future.
Choose Energy Star for brilliant savings The easiest way to identify windows with excellent insulation and superb airtightness is to look for the Energy Star label. Energy Star-qualified windows are the best energy performers on the mainstream market. They feature double or triple glazing, Low-E glass, and inert gas such as argon or krypton sealed between the panes to reduce heat transmission. According to Natural Resources Canada, Energy Star windows installed as upgrades result in energy bills that are 7 to 10% lower on average compared with non-Energy Star options. Paired with new construction, Energy Star windows can reduce energy costs by 16%. The Energy Star label displays crucial energy-efficiency traits about each window: • U-factor or U-value indicates the amount of heat the window allows through. The lower the U-factor, the more energy-efficient the window. • SHGC (or solar heat-gain coefficient) specifies how much heat from the sun the window allows in. A higher SHGC number means the window blocks more of the sun’s energy. • Visual Transmittance tells you how much light comes through the window. A higher Visual Transmittance number means increased light. • Air Leakage indicates the degree to which the window permits airflow. The lower the number, the more airtight the window. • Energy Rating considers several factors on the label including SHGC and air leakage to indicate how well the window helps save energy overall. Windows with high energy ratings perform the best.
Industry veteran John McLellan has a few important lessons to offer his fellow roofers. BY JOHN G. SMITH
PHOTO: THINKSTOCK IMAGES
ohn McLellan is a successful roofer by many measures. Boasting 19 years in business, the Pickering, Ont., contractor employs a crew of 44 people. His work across the region just east of Toronto ranges from single-family homes to larger residential developments. When the local board of trade was recognizing general business excellence among companies with 10 to 49 employees, he was the one who collected the hardware in 2013, and it was the second time he earned the honour over nominees from a broad array of industries. Asked about the secrets of success, McLellan willingly shares a long list of tips ranging from the supplies carried in company trucks to the processes which ensure water-tight projects and protect shingle warranties. Admittedly, some of the businessrelated lessons were learned the hard way. “My old thinking was if I ended the year and I was the same amount in debt, but owned more stuff, it was a good year,” he says with a chuckle. It took him seven years to realize the true cost of running the operation, and it is a calculation that he believes could help every roofer. “Cost every job you do and figure out how much an hour you are
actually making,” he advises. “The sooner you open your eyes the better.” Some installers are happy to make a few dollars more per hour than they collected as an employee, but forget that these funds are only made while swinging a hammer. Time is invested looking for business leads, estimating costs, mobilizing the crew, buying and loading materials, and administration. There will be a price associated with each of these tasks, especially as the business expands. This is on top of the funds needed to pay for workers’ compensation fees and other insurance. “If I am working 80 hours a week and only getting paid to do 40,” he says, “I am better off working for somebody else.”
Paid estimates It is one of the reasons McLellan began charging a $198 “service bill” to inspect a roof, photograph damage and recommend a specific repair whenever someone calls for an estimate to fix a leak. Finding the solution can be the most time-consuming part of the call, he explains. With this approach, he ensures that a crew will be paid every time the truck is dispatched, and the costs of repairs themselves can better reflect actual work rather than absorbing the price of “free” estimates.
The free estimates are limited to quotes for entirely new roofs. When it comes to refining the work on a rooftop itself, he refers to the value of formally documented procedures and recommends the training offered by suppliers as a great resource. “Most roofers are taught how to roof by their boss, and if the boss is doing it wrong, those wrongs are passed down the line. People pick up their own little shortcuts along the way, but the manufacturers write the specs for installing their products properly.” When warranty claims are rejected, the issue usually involves improper installations, he adds. No step should be overlooked. It is why McLellan equips crews with “ready” trucks, including 50 different items ranging from spare bathroom vents to extra flashing so supplies are always nearby. There are even at least two tubes of caulking in every conceivable colour. He does not want anyone skipping the all-important sealing bead just because the roof was brown and the surrounding flashing was ivory. A clear understanding of the roof as a system will make the biggest difference of all, he says. “The roof system is more than just shingles.”
McLellan Contracting estimators are expected to stick their heads in a customer’s attic when calculating any quote. After all, something as simple as a quick sniff will help to indentify the musty odour of existing ventilation problems which could lead to costly call backs unless they are addressed. Most roofers understand the need to ensure 1 sf of ventilation for every 300 sf of attic space, equally dividing the openings between intake and exhaust, and most homes built since the 1980s have the required openings, McLellan says. A challenge with many homes emerged when contractors haphazardly blew additional insulation into attics, blocking the soffits not protected by moore vents or attic baffles. Other issues can be traced to poorly installed bathroom fans, with hoses that dump moist air into the attic. “Every roof we do, regardless of the attic condition, we remove a sheet of plywood and flip it upside down and photograph it for the client,” he adds. Then there is no question about whether mold exists. The idea is to identify a challenge before the shingles are applied. Prior to introducing this extra step, he found himself ripping apart half-finished rooftops at his cost once weak plywood was discovered. When it comes time to replace pieces of a roof deck, he also prefers to use ½” plywood rather than 3/8” sheets. The lighter grade can sag between the trusses. Besides, it only costs a couple of extra dollars per piece.
Then the focus turns to the next layer in the system.
The underlying layer Leak barriers should be installed at the eves, vertical surfaces, and every penetration including pipes and vents, McLellan says. Where shingles butt up against the siding, his crews are instructed to remove the siding and install a membrane underneath. The next layer comes in the form of a roof underlayment, and he chooses a synthetic offering rather than traditional felt paper. The larger synthetic rolls leave fewer seams, while the layers are less likely to wrinkle and tear. “Guys feel safer walking on it,” he adds, referring to a Velcro-like texture. “Some guys start the leak barrier an inch or two up the roof, so the water runs off the leak barrier into the soffit,” McLellan observes. He prefers to direct any water as far as the eavestrough. “My philosophy is to make the roof water-tight with no shingles,” he says. “Then you are guaranteed the roof will never leak under any storm condition.” After all, a strong wind can easily drive rain under the bottom of shingles on a 5:12 roof. As for the shingles themselves, he prefers to use starter strips on the edge of the roof rather than flipping traditional shingles, which would still be allowed under building codes. The purpose-designed strips include an important line of tar at the bottom to hold everything in place. Crews are also instructed to apply high-
wind shingles with six nails rather than four fasteners. It can mean the difference between a shingle that withstands 130 kmh winds and one rated at 175 kmh. Like most roofers, he is seeing more customers opt for architectural laminated shingles rather than the three-tab designs used by budget-conscious customers, such as those who are building townhouses in several phases. The advantage is that the laminated designs are more forgiving and can mask any uneven seams, but there is still a price to pay. They are harder to cut and require 50% more nails. Even the time of year can make a difference for a roofing job, especially when it comes to the requests made in cold weather. In most cases, six nails will hold a shingle tight until temperatures begin to rise and the adhesive buttons can be activated. If he is quoting on a farm house in the middle of a field; however, he will recommend draping a tarp over the roof deck’s surface until spring. Otherwise the materials are likely to be lifted by the wind. Warranties will not cover that. Inside a home, customers are cautioned to remove priceless heirlooms from their walls before any work begins. “We are taking 8,000 lb. of materials off your roof and putting 8,000 lb. back on,” he says. The focus on limiting collateral damage extends to surrounding homes, too. Some of the homes in new subdivisions are built within metres of each other, requiring everything from planks to tarps to keep debris from falling into neighbouring yards. McLellan expects tarps to be extended from the neighbour’s eavestrough all the way to the ground. “You have got to become friends with both neighbours, and preferably contract both neighbours at the same time.” It all admittedly adds to a job’s cost, and every contractor everywhere will know of customers looking for a lower price. McLellan, however, suggests that customers might deserve more credit than that. “The only time they want the cheapest price is when they have not been educated as to why your price is more expensive,” he says. “They still want it right. People just say they want it done cheap because they do not want you to overcharge them, but they expect you to charge them for what you do. “Selling is just communicating with a close,” he says. “My biggest thing is to educate the clients.”
PHOTO: THINKSTOCK IMAGES
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