What if the home you are planning to build could be your family home for the rest of your life? What if, with a little planning, your new home could adapt to meet the needs of your family and change as your family does?
That’s the idea behind FlexHousing. A FlexHouse is a home designed before construction begins to be user friendly to its occupants at all stages of their lives and to make future renovations easier and cheaper for the homeowner to complete. FlexHousing can eliminate the need to move from house to house as the requirements of your family change over time.
The first home for many couples is often referred to as a “starter” home, which is typically small and easy to maintain. Then, as children come along the first home is too small and that requires the costly and disruptive choice of moving. When the children are grown and on their own this second home becomes too large for only two people to take care of.
As the population ages, half of all homes in Canada will house people 55 yeas old or older by 2017. Also, with a declining population, fewer new homes will be built each year. So homes that are flexible will be in big demand. This flexibility not only is beneficial to the home, but if families don’t have the need to move, they stay in the neighbourhood longer, creating a stronger sense of community.
PRINCIPLES OF FLEXHOUSING
A FlexHouse isn’t a type of home style like a bungalow or two storey, it is the way it is designed prior to construction and is based on four principles.
• Healthy Housing
Adaptability: The home is designed to be renovated to suit changing needs.
A large bedroom can be made into two smaller rooms and used as either another bedroom or home office.
A space such as the basement can be renovated to become a separate apartment by roughing in plumbing for a kitchen and bathroom that will bring in extra income later on or be used by an aging relative.
Bathroom walls can be given extra strength during construction to allow for the installing of grab bars and other special items to assist less mobile residents.
Install counters and cabinets in the kitchen or bathroom that can be adjusted vertically on brackets or that can have sections that are lower so that people in a wheelchair can reach with them.
Building such features into a new home during initial construction saves time, money and inconvenience when changes are needed or desired down the road.
Deciding on which contractor will build your home is a critical step in making your dream a reality. There are many things to consider when making your choice.
ROLE OF THE CONTRATOR
The contractor’s role is to control the construction process and manage all aspects of the job from start to finish. They will work from your floor plans, obtain the necessary permits for construction in your local area, and arrange for materials to be delivered to your site from your local lumber yard when needed. The contractor will also manage other necessary trades people (excavation, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, drywall installers, etc.) that will work on your home so that they arrive when needed and complete their jobs efficiently and quickly. All this will be done in a time frame that you agree on and at a quoted cost.
Contractors should be members of the provincial or local home builders’ association which requires them to conform to a code of ethics as well as attend courses on the latest techniques, building code requirements and technologies to remain in good standing. They should also be licensed to work in your area and you should be able to see these licences upon request.
Contractors should also carry insurance in case of an accident during construction or in the event of a dispute. You should be familiar with the rules required by your local government, your home owner’s insurance policy and your bank to ensure that you understand the liabilities involved with building a home and how to protect yourself.
LOCATING A CONTRACTOR
It takes more than just looking in the phone book to find a contractor. A good place to start is often with friends, family or neighbours. Ask them if the contractor they used lived up to expectations and delivered what was agreed to. Ask if they had any problems with the contractor and, if so, how they were resolved. Most importantly, ask if they would hire the same contractor again. You want to know they have a good reputation and a history of satisfied customers.
Your local home show can be a perfect place to look for local contractors who do the type of work that you are planning. You will be able to talk with several contractors and see photographs of their projects while learning about construction materials and getting advice from professionals.
You can also approach the Canadian Home Builder’s Association (visit www.chba.ca). They will be able to put you in contact with contractors from your local area that are members in good standing.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Before you begin hiring, take the time to do research. Go online to familiarize yourself with the materials and local requirements for your job. You can’t expect to learn as much as the professionals, but by educating yourself you will more likely be able to identify a contractor that may not be fully competent (or even dishonest). Educating yourself now will also save you time and increase your confidence later when it comes to making decisions like picking fixtures and making choices on items such as flooring materials that will have to be done when construction is under way.