How long has the company been in business? +
A.W. Allen & Son Ltd., was founded in 1901 as a small millwork and coffin-making shop. Over the past 117 years and through twelve different owners the company has stuck close to its roots in manufacturing.
The business has expanded and diversified over the years. Today the company operates 3 unque but inter-connected divisions.
Allen's Mill still offers an expaned line of custom millwork including cabinets, kiln dried lumber and custom wood moldings.
Allen Homes is the construction division of A.W. Allen and offers a full ones stop shopping experience for the custom home builder.
Allen's Home Hardware Building Centre is our retail division and, through our Home Hardware affiliation, provides our customers with access to a tremendous product selection at competitive prices.
Current owner operator Nick Bentley, took over operations in March of 2017.
Today, we employ more than 26 people, excluding the seasonal highs of the construction industry.
How does a millwork supply company end up building custom homes? +
In the late 1960's the company started building modular factory built homes. This work was carried out in an indoor facility until 1982. Changes in tax legislation resulted in manufacturing labor becoming taxable. Unable to compete as effectively the company was forced outdoors to compete with the custom "stick" built house. Due to the fact that the company had always provided complete "Turnkey" homes for customers the transition was a natural one. For the past thirty six years the company has completed an average of eight to twelve new custom homes and renovation projects per year. Obviously the company has been in the construction business for a long time.
The other major reason why we continue to grow and be successful as home builders and renovators is a direct result of what has taken place in the industry over the past fifteen to twenty years. The business of building or renovating a home has become just that , "a business". To be successful, today's new home builder must stay on top of, and satisfy increasingly complex code, safety, warranty, financing, training, technical, and legal requirements. Hiring a good carpenter is only one part of the formula required to successfully build a new home in today's market. We have been able to put together a team of people capable of more effectively covering all the bases than is possible for the traditional one man operation.
Today new home construction makes up well over fifty percent of our total business. Allen Homes, as we refer to the construction side of our business, is proud to be active in or certified with the following industry associations/credentials:
- 32 Year Member of the "Atlantic New Home Warranty Corporation" - 134 registered homes with no warranty claims
- Long standing Member of Canadian and Nova Scotia Home Builders Association's
How can I find out whether or not I can afford to build the house I’m thinking about? +
The starting point for most people usually involves scouring through dozens of magazines or driving around lots of subdivisions trying to find that perfect plan. This process usually concludes with a home which is either a "not to scale" picture out of a book or even a free hand drawing on a piece of loose leaf. How do you get from here to making the decision to make the single biggest investment most people ever make in their lives? We can help!
Follow the this link to our Planning Process
How is Allen Homes organized to get the job done? +
Once all the planning has been done and names have been signed on the dotted line it's time to get down to the actual business of getting your new home built. Here's our team and a brief outline of how we are organized to get the job done.
Nick Bentley - Project Management
email: [email protected]
Steve Bentley - Project Management
email: [email protected]
Josh Walker - Project Management
email: [email protected]
Donnie Woodworth - Project Management
The project manager's responsibilities include overseeing getting permits, job scheduling, sub trade management, contract changes, warranty issues, quality control, communictaing with municipal authorities and communictaing with the custoimer.
Another issue that is often raised about site supervision bears discussion. Due to the increasingly competitive nature of the new home building business the time when a home builder could afford to be on site with one crew from start to finish is over. Specialist sub-trades now dig and pour your basement, side your outside walls, insulate, drywall, and paint your interior walls and clean it all up when the job is done. As a result we want you to understand that there will be times during the project when neither of our managers or our crews will be on site. Quite frankly we can't afford to be. Please be assured that we work with a group of quality, conscious sub-trades with whom we have built relationships over twenty foour years. Even when we are not on site, contact between all involved is continuous and carried on at all hours of the day and night.
Either at or shortly after footings being poured you will be provided with a detailed construction schedule which will outline on a step by step basis what work will take place and by when. Although we put as much effort as possible into doing an accurate schedule please understand that schedules can and do change for many reasons which are beyond our direct control. We will attempt to make you aware of any significant schedule changes along the way.
We consider contact and communication between both parties through the course of construction to be a very important part of a successful project. Undoubtedly, in spite of all the planning there will be mistakes and misunderstandings. Shortly after construction begins we will ask to fix a time convenient with your schedule when we can meet on site weekly to review any questions or concerns.
As the homeowner what are my major responsibilities during construction? +
During construction in a Turnkey project, there will be certain things required of you. Obviously these will vary by project but there are a few specific things which you must take care of in order to keep things moving and on schedule.
When asked to do so, contact the power company with your billing information shortly after the contract is signed. This will help ensure we get temporary power as soon as possible.
Sort out what you will be doing for flooring, cabinets & vanities and light fixtures as soon as possible. If we're supplying these components to your new home then no problem. If we're not then it's important to advise your chosen suppliers/subcontractors well in advance of approximately when their goods or services will be required chedule. Also please let us know whom you have chosen so we may assist you in coordinating their work.
Aside from the “personal taste” type components mentioned above, as a homeowner you will have to help us coordinate and manage any sub-trades you may have hired directly. This responsibility will extend to your own “sweat equity labor.”
How long is the Atlantic Home Warranty and what does it cover? +
The Atlantic Home Warranty provides the homeowner a 2 part warranty.
Builder members who offer the Atlantic Home Warranty provide one year for labor and materials to repair any defects due to faulty workmanship or materials. As part of this warranty the builder member is expected to contact you at the end of the first year to do a year end inspection. Incomplete or deficient work is carefully defined in a detailed "Construction Perfomance Standards Gudeline" which is available online at awhp.org.
The second part of the warranty provides a limited seven year extended warranty for any major structural defects. In the event the builder defaults and doesn't take care of your issue the program offers an insurance policy to complete the defective work.
Homeowners should know as well that builder members are required to meet certain financial and training recquirements to retain their membership.
It is not unusual to hear comments suggesting the warranty program is just a waste of time and money.
The real "teeth" in the warranty for the homeowner is the knowledge that a builder either is or isn't in good standing with the Warranty Program. A builder who isn't in good standing can't offer the warranty and therefore that builders client would not be able to receive CMHC insurance for their financing. For most builders this would really shrink the size of their customer base and ulitmately their business. For most homeowners this knowledge should be a "red flag".
The Atlantic Home Warranty program will not guarantee success in your new home building experience but it's certainly a great step in the right direction.
How should I heat my new home? +
Once you decide you want to build your new home you’ll be faced with so many big decisions. What to do for a heating system is one of the biggest. Arguably, heating system choice will have more impact on your homes comfort level and affordability than any other component of your new home.
Unfortunately heating systems tend to get selected based on things like good or bad past experience, and hearsay. For one example, back in the 70’s the government had a program that really promoted electric baseboard heat. Costs to install the system were really low but unfortunately the operating costs were through the roof. Therefore electric baseboard heat earned a very bad reputation. To this day people stay away because of experience 30 years ago.
First and foremost keep an open mind. With today’s building standards and energy code new homes are very well insulated and air tight in comparison to even 5 years ago. You will often hear the comment that “electric heat is very cold” or that “hot water baseboard heat is so warm”. Please consider that heat is heat regardless of what system produces it. The real question becomes how efficiently does the building use the heat produced by the system you have chosen?
Heating system options are many and growing almost daily. Consider what fits your budget to install for a heating system as one component of your new home’s capital cost. Consider your budget for ongoing operating costs. Look to your heating system to keep you warm and comfortable. Also look at your new heating system as one component of your new home build that will provide the opportunity for a real payback on your cost of installation from efficient, ongoing operating costs.
What is the cost per square foot to build a new home? +One of the most common questions regarding new home construction is “how much will it cost per square foot to build a new home”? Cost per square foot is commonly used by everyone in the home building industry as a tool to quickly gauge affordability of the new home building option. Square foot costing can be quick, easy and unfortunately, terribly inaccurate.Generally better quality new home construction costs in the Valley run in the range from 140.00 to 160.00 dollars per square foot. This is based on the finished living area and excludes basements and attached garages. Again, as a general rule of thumb, basement space can be finished for costs in the 60.00 to 80.00 dollars per square foot range. Attached garages will run in the range from 40.00 to 55.00 dollars per square foot. These prices per square foot exclude sewer, water and other site preparation costs such as clearing, driveway, etc...Whether a new home build runs on the low or high end of the ranges provided will be impacted most significantly by the owner’s decisions and choices in the following key areas:1. Heating system choice – increasingly technology is impacting not only how we heat but also how we build our houses to be heated.2. Architecture – the more changes in roof lines and corners in foundations the higher your costs.3. Siding choice – there is a tremendous difference between the affordability of vinyl siding and most any other option available such as prefinished wood or cement board siding.4. Flooring choice - square foot costs between flooring choices can vary as drastically as any area of your new home’s construction.Used as a tool by people in the industry who keep and compare records of homes they have built within the last couple of years, square foot costing can be a tremendous time saver for someone trying to decide whether a building a new home fits their budget.
What is "Builder's Risk Insurance" and do I really need it? +
First of all most reputable home builders provide both workers compensation and liability insurance coverage as part of the building agreement for a new home. Don't assume this. Ask for a worker's compensation clearance letter to assure that coverage is in place and that the builder is in good standing (premiums are paid and up to date). Also ask for a certificate of liability insurance. Given the nature of the business and level of risk a minimum you should expect would be 1,000,000.00 of liability coverage.
Worker's Compensation covers injuries to a worker at work or, specifically in this case, on your job site. Liability insurance offered by your builder provides coverage for any damages as a result of errors or omissions on the part of your builder, his employees or subcontractors.
So what else could go wrong and why would you need any coverage if you make sure all this is in place.
Acts of god like windstorms and lighning strikes wouldn't be the builders responsibility and, as such, become the homeowners liability. These are just a couple of examples.
Most insurers wouldn't share this point of view but most people don't have any idea of what they have for insurance until they have a loss. The same is true for your builder. He could provide you a libility insurance certificate for 2,000,000.00 in good faith and figure that everything's covered. Then along comes a loss and the builders insurer disputes responsibility for the builder. This has and does happen. Best case scenario is that both the buider and homeowner have insurance and the issue is given to the two insurers to sort out.
This scenario provides the best chance for a Builder/Homeowner relationship to survive an insurance loss and still reach a successful conclusion to the project.
How should I keep track of changes to my contract during my new house build? +
The new home construction processs has many potential pitfalls for both the homeowner and the builder. Without any doubt, the single biggest issue involved on the business side of the home building process is proper change management.
One of the reasons poeple build a custom home is that it gives them tehe flexibility to make changes and adjustments along the way. Often these changes come at times during the build when things are moving the fastest. Everyone's busy and pushing to meet a completion time. As a result changes get discussed and agreed to "on the fly" without ever being properly documented. This can lead to the nightmare scenario at jobs end when the final bills come in and the contractor and homeowner end up in a dispute. At this point terms like "I thought" and "you said" often result in an uncomfortable ending to the project at best and, in the worst case both parties talking to lawyers.
To avoid this both parties need to be really committed to documenting every change in writing. The old adage that "if you don't have it in writing, you don't have it" was probably written by a homeowner or a contractor who ended up in a dispute at a projects completion over changes.
Managing changes is a shared responsibility. The contractor is responsible to inform the homeowner when they are asking for or incurring a change that will affect costs and the homeowner is responsible to confirm that they accept this change. It's difficult at times but this is best done before the work to implement a change is undertaken.
Simply put it's always best not to spend someones money and then tell them about it afterwards!
What is a building lien hold-back and how does it work? +
From a new home builders point of view building lien holdbacks, or as they are commonly referred to, mechanics lien holdbacks, are intended to limit the home builders finanacial resonsibility in the event that their general contractor or any of his subtrades or suppliers get in financial difficulty.
The way this is supposed to work is that 10% of every payment made to your contractor is to be held back in trust. Once your home reaches the stage when the value of the incomplete work is 2.5% or less of the total contract value your job is considered to be substantially complete. Once this date is established the clock starts and 60 days from this point in time the money should be released to your contractor provided there are no building liens filed against your property.
So how does this provide a homeowner any protection? Let's say that your contractor doesn't pay his electrician for his work on your job. The electrician has 60 days to file a buildiung lien against your property. As a homeowner if you have held back the 10% of the jobs total and discover this lien paced by the electrician within 60 days of substantial completion then your liabilty is limited to this 10% holdback. Your lawyer would assist you in paying this 10% holdback into building lien court and getting the lien lifted from your property.
This is a very brief overview of what can become a very complicated process. Bottom line is if your building be sure you talk to your lawyer about liens and the best way to protect yourself.
What is a deficiency hold-back and how does it work? +
In a perfect world you could build your new home and in the end the job would be 100% complete without any incomplete or deficent work.
We all know it's far from a perfect world. With over 8000 different items of construction materials and dozens of tradespeople involved there are always incomplete or unsatisfactory items to be dealt with once your home is "substantially complete".
The defintion of the term "substantial completion" is important and actually referes to that point in time when your builder has completed 97.5% of the work on your home. Or, in other words, if you were to list and place a value on all of the deficent work the value of this work must be at or less then 2.5% of the total contract value.
Ideally you and your builder would agree on this amount which would be held back as a "deficency holdback" from the final payment.
This allows your builder to pay his bills and provides the homeowner assurance the builder will return to complete any deficencies.
Is it really cheaper to build up then to build out? +
Everyone who plans to build a new home has a budget. Understandably most people struggle to try and get as much home for their home building dollar as possible. One of the most common beliefs is that it is cheaper to build up in a storey and a half or two storey then it is to build out in a bungalow.
This is true provided that the overall square footage of the "built up" building ends up close to the square footage of the "out building". Building costs tend to vary by finished living area and whether it is on a second level or main floor doesn't seem to impact it too much.
As a result building up tends to be more costly then building out. Typically people require more square footage in their main liviing area for day to day living then they door for bedroom areas. So a family of three could probably find a 1200 square foot 3 bedroom layout that would give them adequate living space. However this same family would likely struggle to live in 600 square feet on a main floor.
There are exceptions to every rule but, building up rather then building building out usually results in more overall square footage and ultimately higher building costs.