Adam sits down with Mason LaFramboise of LaFrambroise Construction to get an expert view on what home renovations make the biggest impact on the value of your home, and which improvements yield the best value for money.

Video Transcription:

Hello, I'm Adam Koven and I'm here with Mason LaFramboise of LaFramboise Construction. 

I have a close connection because when Mason was starting out he did a lot of work for my clients, and I kind of relied on Mason for help. I said, “Look we need a floor, all of a sudden, Hey Mason, can you build my house? Or, Hey Mason, can you build my client a house?”

So you come a long way, it's like a Virginia Slims commercial, that's cigarettes, so that's a long time ago. So, tell us a story of how did this kind of start? I think we all know the LaFramboise name because of cars and automobiles and your father gave me 20 bucks to mention Kingston Dodge. But, where did you deviate? I know you've got siblings in the business and you went off and decided that you know, you're gonna actually get your hands dirty. So what got you interested in construction?

I would say actually I had a job, one summer at a corporation and it was a sales marketing job. It was actually at mass-corporate. My uncle actually owns Kingston Mazda but I didn't get the job through him, I just got it through a conference at school. When I was working there at that job, I had a lot of free time because I got my assignments done and they didn't have a lot of work to give me.  So I started studying real estate at that time just saying, well, that could be good to get into! Long story short, I went and got a loan, bought some real estate. I did a development property where I took a single family home, made it a two family home or a two unit and rezoned it and I flipped them. I said, “Okay, I want to go and buy more real estate.” So back to the bank. I said, “Okay, I've paid everything out, I wanna go buy more!” Well you can't because you don't have enough equity to buy your next one. I go, “Oh shoot. What do I do now?” I have now developed these skills that I have from renovating this property. Prior to that, I worked for a construction company over the summer during my university education and so I said, you know what, let's start a construction company! Let's make some money, and then buy more real estate. It just kind of goes from doing small renovations to mid-size renovations, custom commercial work and then getting exposed to custom home size.

I've seen your work personally, you renovated my house, which I love,  and we've done some projects where you have taken standard homes and you found that diamond in the rough. Which allowed me to look really good by getting a lot of money for it, but really I didn't do anything other than do all the marketing and advertising and pay the guys that are all around us to do it. The hard stuff really is knowing the trends and understanding is my belief. You know, we start to see things change in the marketplace and I don't think that I would say that the realtor sees it first. I think that it kind of comes from the person, you know, the finished product comes to us and we sell it.

Then we start to notice a trend of getting a better price point or a better return on investment. So I think that you, through your clientele, probably see something that becomes  more sought after or whether it's colour or it's a material. Like what do you find drives this market? We are in a really crazy market where things are selling quickly and you are doing these great renovations and people are doing some flips and they are doing renovations. Where do you find the trends are coming? Are you picking these things out? Are you, you know, sitting down in the tub with a nice cosmo and determining what the next colour is for the season? But what is it that you find that drives you to understand what advice to give your client?

Well, typically I say to all my clients, you need an inspiration photo. You need something that you want. So typically they'll come to me with a million Pinterest photos. So I'll go from there and say, okay, well, we need to kind of sort through these things and I'm gonna kind of steer you the direction I think you want to go. Let's say there's a thousand photos, which there aren't. So from there we have been noticing a bunch of different trends over the time period and as you look back through the years. It went from gold and then it went to I think you were saying brush nickel and there was satin nickel and a bunch of different colours in between. And now I'd say we kind of went into the gold and Matt black stage.

We're doing a build right now and we actually have the combination of both. So we have gold fixtures in some rooms and matte black in the others.

So those are the things that I agree with, and I don't know what the trends are, where it gets fed from. Where does the trend change? Where does it come from, where everyone all of a sudden decides they should go from gold to black?

I've actually never really thought about that deep into it. 

That's not a fair question, I guess. Is there anything that sort of surprises you? How things sort of change, like color changes and things like that happen, but you find trends that happen because of, you know, the situation. Our world is very different, we're stuck in our houses. So I always find the trend changes. I talk about the direct room versus the in-home office or study space. I find that as a product of COVID that we are using our space differently. Our freedoms at the time of movement were different. So kids weren't going to school. It's like where are they gonna study? So do you, have you found some of those trends that have to happen because of the change in the way we use our houses now and how we're limited to movement. 

Oh, definitely. I can't even count how many times I got called just to say, “Hey, can you put a concrete slab in our backyard” and go, oh, for what? “We wanna put a hot tub in” and that's very common. There's lots of people who do that, but we don't specialize in that. We have done it before for clients, but it's not really something that we want to continually do forever. We kind of wanna take on bigger and larger projects. I would definitely say from COVID, that people are sitting there looking at their house. They're not going on vacation. They're spending that money elsewhere. They're spending it in their house where they're sitting and looking all the time. Then from a trend standpoint, I would say, we've gone away from the colonial look where all the casings and stuff have different profiles and codes and it's kind of changed from that to a bit more of a modern finish. Even the people who are typically more colonial, have a bit more of a modern finish touch to that. There's a lot of different earthy tones and stuff too. So it's like people are pairing modern with a more earth rustic feel, I'd say, to bring the warmth back into the house. You can go into some people's houses and they might look like a dentist's office and you're going, oh, I don't really feel comfortable here, so you wanna bring some natural woods and stuff like that back in through the whole feeling of the house. I'd say that's more or less, that's probably changed things. I would say the trends were coming from social media, different like Instagram, all those shows. I feel like my business has basically exploded because of all these different shows like, you know, Bryan Baeumler and Joanna Gaines and all that sort of stuff. Though, on those shows, they sometimes set unreal expectations.

Yeah. I was gonna ask, does this make your life more difficult? Friends of mine that are doctors, and so somebody sits down like they've got like this red mark and it's like, look I think this is like mesothelioma, I think I got this because I was out and there was like this rare spider I think may have bit because that's one of the causes. Do you have that same sort of issue where people have Googled or they've watched these shows and they already they're the experts that makes it more difficult to you or is it helpful that they come to you with these ideas, whether they're valid or worthwhile or do you have to cut it? With all that online influence that's coming into everybody and here it's like, this is what you need to buy and this is what you need to do, and if you buy this table, you know, you'll find a spouse? Like, so you find that all of that noise that's coming in is helping because it is encouraging people to do their renovations or do they come in like the doctor's office where it's like, let me tell you how you're gonna build this roof.

I would say that there are some clients that are, you know, they're educated and they've made themselves educated, which is really good and YouTube is a really powerful source. And so you do have sometimes the clients will try to tell you why they think this is the best method or way. It's not too common. Like I still don't find clients telling us how to build stuff or anything like that and usually they don't really question our company for how we're building it. That being said, I think when I was young and starting out, probably one of the tactics and things I used was YouTube to research everything. Not that it's the best source and sometimes it's not, and that's the other thing too. It’s just in the industry a lot of things are just following plans that are given and made and making solid plans from the get go. If you deviate from that plan, that's where I talk about when costs are going up. I always say to my client, it's really cheap to make a change on paper, but when you're actually in the midst of it and you wanna make a change midway through, that's when the costs start adding up.

It's hard, you know, when you start to get about costs when we were talking about investment properties, I get it. You know, it's like here, I'm gonna buy this property for this much, I'm gonna inject this much money, I have this much capital, I'm gonna bring this much income in. So I'm gonna put that over top of my capital cost and that's what my return is. Okay, that's fine! No, granite, oh, I can afford the granite, I'll get another $10 a month. It's different though, with a house. Houses are not, I've said it before, houses are not a vehicle for investment. You're not supposed to put them on the line to pay payroll. They're not supposed to do it because you know,  you're gonna get the best return when you sell it in maybe 20 years. But that being said, that advice must be important. I try to give that advice too, like, look, it's not an investment, enjoy your house, You're gonna be there for 20 years. But we take a look at some of these properties and what we're gonna put into them and you have to stop and say, look, you're going too far. I'm a realtor, so when we're talking about these investments and we're talking about the home investment and people are coming to you and they wanna spend money on their house. I always have to look at it from a resale point of view and I want to be able to look at it from a point of view, this is your home, you're gonna raise your family, you are gonna enjoy your life here. You have to sit there and you come in and some people might be asking for all sorts of ideas that they've got. What's your Litmus test? I'll stop a person saying, look, you're going too far, you know, you've got a bungalow here, that's gonna have a million dollar into it and your neighbour’s worth a half million. Do you find that you get into situations where there's a point where you have to tell them that this is not the right renovation for this property?

Well, you do have like people who, like, let's say they have like a 400K house and that they're like the most expensive house on the street at 400K, which doesn't buy you much these days  and you do have people who come in and be like, I want to drop 500K into this place. You're like, that's just going to go nowhere. So, you kind of gotta dance around with it and kind of pick your battle sometimes.

Sometimes when it is the house and you're not trying to do it for the investment, but in your expertise when you're seeing, I know what I see for the sales side, but dollar for dollar, because you're the one that's pricing these out and you're doing these renovations. So, you know, your kitchen renovations, that you got floors, you got, then you've got the, not so sexy stuff like ceilings and roofs. Where do you see the best dollars being spent? And then you've seen the result, because I know you'll ask me, “Hey, what that end up selling for?” So in your estimation, what's the best thing, if you give me 3 things where you're saying, look, if you're gonna update your house, here's 3 things that you should look at first. Whether it's 5 years or 10 years from now, because someday you're gonna be selling it or someone's gonna be selling for you. What are these 3 things that you would recommend people do for renovations? Best dollar, spend a dollar, you're gonna make $2, $3, $4 on it.

Right? The number one thing is paint.

Paint! We were joking around paint!

That's the simplest thing, but it is definitely the best, highest return on investment. If your house is a really, you know, not very nice color or not painted well and then just paint the whole thing.

I think you're so right. You know, we had Patricia English in here and she does a lot of staging for us. She's a big believer in paint and she'll walk the house and say, that's gotta go and then she'll tell me these 3 colors and then I'll look at them, like they're all white. But to her and to her trained eye and, and to yours, they pop out of a house. They brighten it up and make it larger. So paint is very interesting. Okay. So I have to agree with that. What's the colour trend right now?

One with the texts we're dealing with, she actually says she specifies Chantilly Lace from Benjamin Moore, the brand name.

Well that's why I like my toilet paper to be that colour. Very common.

So I'd say, I'd say it's probably one 3 colours. 

Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore.

It's pretty much just white.

20 bucks! Okay, so whites and brights and what's the tint on that? Is it a gray or blue?

I would say if it was gonna be a tint it’s a gray of sorts but I'd say it'd be pretty much white white. They actually paint the trim, that's like over a matte almost in the walls and then the trims all semi-gloss and just because you really don't want to paint trim if not semi-gloss or you're gonna see marks like crazy.

What happened to eggshell! I always used to hear what eggshell? Okay. So that's it. So paint, color number 1. I admit like, you know, you can paint, what's a whole house, you know, what's a 2000 square on house cost to be painted, you know, top to bottom?

Depending on the painter you’re getting, it might range from $6,000 to $10,000. 

So that's, that's a big change! All of a sudden you've got this whole new shade, whole new view, whole new brightness to the house, assuming that we're going from sort of a dark color, unlike this studio, to something that's light and bright. Okay, so $6,000 to $10,000, we can handle that, we can hack that! And I admit, we have seen houses turn around just based on paint, you know, it's not selling down in this market, but we've changed paint color in a kitchen and all of a sudden somebody walks and says, “Wow, it's so bright” and sold! Okay. So that's number 1. Okay, give me 2 and 3,

Biggest return on investment? I would say definitely flooring would be huge, depending on what you have, I would imagine and depending on what you pick. I know vinyl plank is very popular right now for flooring, which is kind of see it everywhere. I think people like it because pretty much bulletproof for dogs, they can scratch it and nothing actually gets scratched.

I'm surprised, I just walked through a $3 million house, like I just came from it and it was vinyl plank and ceramic, that wood ceramics that you had installed as well. And I was shocked and then I stopped. I remember you telling me like that 1.3 or 1.4 mil stuff, is it right? That's a similar cost point to engineered hardwood?

The vinyl, it depends. You can actually get some early, typically it runs between, I would say average like $5 per foot. But if you get the wider plank, like the longer plank,  you go up to 10 probably. I would say hardwood right now is between 10 and 15.

Okay, so it’s not quite caught up, but I agree with you the utility of it, but I have a big dog when he destroys it out here and the vinyl plank doesn't scratch and it doesn't so, but are people adapting to it yet? Cause I'm still old school where I'm like when I hear vinyl, I think of like, you know, the old, basement bathroom that my parents had and the little piece that was curling up and a little rust stain, but vinyl is not a four-letter word now it's actually up to five-letter word but it's not bad, it's not a bad word when we talk about vinyl plank.

No, no, I think the only thing that detracts from it and it's a great proper basement. So I think you'll see that pretty much on a lot of the old, they'll do hard on the main floor of vinyls in the basement. The only downside about vinyl is you're gonna tile your bathrooms and do vinyl elsewhere. You're gonna have a transition and that transition's gonna be like a bump up. It's not huge, but it's, you know, tiles typically 3 quarters an inch while vinyl might be a quarter inch or something.

Oh, gotcha!

In thickness. So you're gonna have a half-inch rise.

Well, that's where we have LaFramboise Construction come in and do a seamless transition. Okay, so vinyl plank, we know that that is sort of the flooring of the future, but flooring in general. I agree when you walk into a house, I'm seeing more carpet-free again, all of that sort of issue is still on. The people don't, other than the stairs, generally people want a carpet-free house.

I haven't like I haven't seen laminate in a long time. We don't even price laminate anymore. 

Okay. 

I don't think it's gonna be a thing anymore.

Yeah, I agree. I shouldn't be. Now all the people that have laminates are not calling you. Okay. So I like that. So I’ve got paint,  I've got flooring. These are not expensive items. These are reasonable. I thought he was gonna come in and say, you know, big-screen TVs and satellites. And no, I thought he would come in with, you know, whole room renovations. So, okay. What's number 3? Wow me!

I would say between kitchens and bathrooms would be, and it probably, it depends if you have a good master bath or a good bath in general, then not do your kitchen. If you don't have a good kitchen or do your bath.

So they're equitable.

Yeah. They'd be similar because people really care about that, they spend a lot of time there.

What if you put a bathroom in your Kitchen

And it could be done… a little drawer or something like that.

Okay, so that's the sexy item, which can be very expensive, you know, trends in the bathrooms and the kitchens. Kitchens, especially. I can't get over the things that you can do, but I'm shocked with, you know, even just going with the bare minimum like, so give me a kitchen I find are sort of one of those back ones, you do a kitchen and it changes the house's feel right off the bat. What do you find with kitchens right now? What are the trends that are going on in the average cost for rentals, I know that's not easy. You got big kitchens versus small.

It could be between 45, It depends. 

That's not fair. I don't wanna go and cost a kitchen.

Trends though. We can talk about trends.

Okay. So kitchens and bathrooms. I agree. 2 of the most important things, the dining room is not where it used to be. People actually are buying homes that do not have separate dining. The rec room may be replaced by, as we were saying, the, you know, the den or the study or the place to work at home, your home office, but we got to have bathrooms. We have to have kitchens. So what's trending there? Where is my biggest return? Is it countertops? Is it the cabinetry? Is it the type of appliances that we have? I'm not, you know, I'm not sure what, what constitutes the great reno?

I would say it's the countertops. If I was gonna choose one of the 3, because you always change your appliances out. We have these custom cabinetry line, it's going like, they're very high-end custom cabinetry line. You can spend a fortune on these cabinets and telling you they are like the nicest cabinets ever seen. But if I go to a house with those cabinets versus the house with the, you know, bit more standard cabins, still soft, still have all the, you know, same hardware, I'm not gonna be able to tell the difference of the regular retail client. But I'm gonna tell the difference that it has a stone countertop. So I think that is a big deal for me, like a big selling feature and huge resale value. If I was doing, even student rentals, I've done student rentals in the past. I would put stone countertops, all of them. And I think it's just, that's the only feature peoplecare that they can say I have some countertops and even laminate, it's not nearly as expensive for countertops of course, but,  there's still a cost to it. So you upgrade a little bit and get stoned.

Yeah, I agree. You heard it first. He said, upgrade and get stoned. Okay. So we've talked about sort of number 3. I think a lot of us will agree, we live in our kitchens and bathrooms are an asset, especially when it's an en suite off of a primary suite. So those things, you know, we look at, very luxury lines, but let's tie number 1 and 3 together. So we've got paint colours, and we've now got our kitchen bathrooms, but in the kitchen, which again, I think it's a gathering point, as I said, dining rooms are a little passe. We're in our kitchens and we sit there and we eat, whoever's cooking, wants to be part of the action. What are you seeing as far as the Boulder trends that are happening in kitchens for colours and materials and even maybe other types of aesthetics that we haven't been seeing before.

 I would say right now trends like obviously two tones. So like your place, there's an island like cobalt blue island, and then we have the white uppers, that's the complete contrast, other jobs are actually doing another one with a similar idea, it's a navy blue island. And there's…

You're saying that I'm stylish. Wait. No, you're saying that you made me stylish. Okay, got it! Continue.

A lot of people are taking earth tones and like other woods it's like that and they're putting those as the, the round that island. And so it's becoming like a cool pairing. This thing I seeing, which I really think is cool is when people take cabinet door faces and they put them on their appliances and you did that with your dishwasher

Again.. stylish. Yeah, I love appliances, but you know, all of a sudden you've got 5 appliances in a space and you start to think, but yeah, I think it's more interesting. You had shown us a couple of other things where these dishwashers that were actually pull out drawers. So all of a sudden it's like, is this a pot drawer? Or all of a sudden, this is my dishwasher, but then this, you got this beautiful bank add of a beautiful cabinetry. I do think that there's some gorgeous stuff, Fisher Paykel and Viking and you know that's a statement, but yeah, I have to agree if you can find the cabinet front for your fridge or your dishwasher, you don't want the whole thing to look like a big cabinet wall. I have to agree. I just keep going on with this.

I just find it like, I don't know. My electrician always says, he had an architect and she was talking about all these, the outlets on the walls and she said I try to reduce as many outlets as I can see on the walls and she said it’s basically like wall acne. So he was saying, we try to avoid wall acne and he said similar with lighting that's in your kitchen. There's a lot of lighting and stuff like that and we try to avoid see it look like Swiss cheese. The outside of your house in lighting, you know, people put so many pot lights in outside of their house and they’re in their soffit, and sometimes looks like a spaceship and so it just keeps going on with these, you know, we have all these metaphors of things that we can talk about for different style trends we don't want to do. And it's good to, I always find that in a lot of cases, less is more. And so taking those appliances, for example, and kind of muting them with the cabinetry, I always find that just draws your attention more to the kitchen itself and to the countertop, to the features than the appliances. But it depends like you're saying there are some appliances, like, I don't know, Subzero Wolf and stuff like that, Thermador.

Yeah. You want people to see, 

Hey, I have that! See my subzero.

They have those like red knobs or whatever. I don't know, they're pretty cool! We actually have a client right now and we are installing this Thermador big gas range and I think it's somewhere around 25K to 30K and it's 600 pounds, like a big giant stove.

 And you know what he had for dinner, a lean cuisine meal he put in the microwave

It is quite cool actually, because I think part of it, they have a steamer as well. It's almost like a microwave steamer.

Yeah. I think that I would be thinner and healthier with that device..It's the microwave that kills me and Uber Eats.

Oh, I know. That's the time, right?

You know, I just think that they should do that, the new modern kitchen, which is no kitchen, just a phone, Uber Eats.. I don't even need a kitchen. I need Uber eats and zip locks, you know, or just a really chubby dog.

Hey, Google, can you…

Yeah haha!

I kind of go back again, you have like the maid kitchen, like way back in the day and then you have the kitchen where we congregate, and then go back to no kitchen with just the phone.

Yeah. I think that's where I want to go. I look, I think kitchens are one of the big, main primary parts of the house now, and I think you hit it on the head, so you, if you get it, so that it's uncluttered, I like the wall acne versus the, you know, those things can disappear. But yeah, I think that on the basis of the congregation and everybody being in the kitchen and enjoying cooking. Yeah. I can see that, and, and we see it too. So it's one of the things that we talk about when we have a new house and when we have a house that we put on the market and we talk about quartz countertops, it's one of the first things we say is the countertop. So let's talk about trends because you are into the new build now, so you're building gorgeous houses, you're doing some great work, you've been doing wonderful renos in some of the most prestigious streets in Kingston. Are you noticing trends now? So you know, the family dynamic or what people are asking you to build for them? Where are they splurging? Where are they cutting back? What's the dynamics in the trends and building today?

So I think in general, like the housing and how we power and fuel houses is going to change dramatically in the future, we're seeing more electric cars and I'm also seeing a lot more electric houses. We're actually doing a project coming up this year, it's a build and they have an extremely well insulated house, the exterior walls are like there's R 16 and foam, like four inches of foam around the whole perimeter or the house plus the stud cavities are insulated with something like R29 or something like that.

This is like the ICF stuff or it's something like that.

It's just a typical wood framing and they're not, well, not typical. They're using these different types of panels that are waterproof as you put them on.

Is it a SIP panel?

 It's kind of like that.

You're impressed that I even knew that!

Yeah, so a SIP panel is basically two pieces of plywood or OSB with full continuous foam on the inside.

That’s not as impressive as what I was saying.

..and they connect the whole host together like Lego. This is actually called a ZIP panel.

They stole what I would say.

Pretty much. Yeah, so they're building this house that can be super airtight. We're actually doing a lower door test while we're doing the build to see how airtight the house is, because they want a certain amount of air changes per hour, or I think that's how it goes and they're trying to reduce that. So basically we are trying to focus on building this extremely airtight house that is extremely efficient and it's actually a flat roof on this house too with an ICF foundation and it's actually heated by an air source heat pump, which is through electricity.

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. Got It.

So the concern in the past with air source heat pumps is when you got to -20 or -30, they wouldn't work, or they weren’t efficient or would otherwise just shut off. And I think they're getting more and more efficient with these systems and finding ways to make them work without having to rely on it.

Yeah. The ambient heat pumps. Okay. So I was in that business. So the ambient heat pumps were an air conditioner that would reverse And the problem with your state, you’re right, it's the, it's a greenhouse gas, the R410A is hot. It's hot gas, but we compress it in the summer and it's cold and it automatically spins to a certain level, at minus 20 something. And it's hot. We just blow air and we get free heat. So you're saying that they've come up with something that's actually, so maybe they've created a different gas that allows this to heat in lower temperatures because that's the problem. We've had situations where we've installed those, but they can't be primary heat sources because yeah, minus 30 days, you're sitting there saying… 

We screwed it. 

Yeah, so they have, you're saying ambient heat pumps are coming out that will go below minus 30 whatever.

Yeah. And I think, because of this house we're building, I don't see any other source of heat that we're building it with. I'm going, I have all the specs for sure yet, but I'm going, we're just kind of in preliminary area stages, but I'm going, there's no backup system here.

No, I'd love to hear about that. And I'll tell you the story, like where we would supply people with fuel for their heating. If they put in an ambient heat pump, that was to say, you know, the old technology, which is what's being sold today, they would drop by two thirds. So you would get your hea source out of the air based on that situation. So that sort of, you know, with efficiencies and the cost of fuel going up, look, we, you know, you go fill up your car, you fill up your house, whatever, whether it's gas, electric, whatever, we got to find ways to deal with this. Actually. Have you, have you come into anything with the solar? Like I know you, you yourself had some solar situations on properties that you had, but I know Tesla's been talking about the solar shingle, anything coming along like that? Have you had any experience with solar, whether it's back to power the grid or powering the entire house?

So I have some clients actually, we're dealing with two different bills right now and one is installing solar at the kick and the other client is putting a line in to put solar down the road. The one client's actually on Wolfe Island, the other client is in town somewhere. I can't remember. Yeah, and I think what they're doing is they’re putting it in the bank to power their house. I don't think anyone is selling 'em back to the grid anymore. The prices are as good as it used to be when they first came out, which is, you know, it's still good, the power has a solar and I'm not sure if people are thinking, you know, if get off the grid, I don't need to pay for electricity or gas or whatever system that I don't have to do. And I believe the way the system works is you have like a bank of batteries that it goes into and it draws from a bank of batteries and once the bank of battery runs out, you start power with the extra heat system. So we do have some clients looking into doing that, I'm not sure how often. Actually you have seen as a different power source or a heat source, they're wind turbines, but they don't have blades anymore, they just like a stick and it's like do how you drive actually probably never see anything, I’ve never saw it. So I saw this thing where basically let's see you're driving on the highway, that the highway lights, and they actually have turbines in the highway lights, so they vibrate back and forth.

And that actually causes…

It creates energy and heat. So going, how much more efficient would that be if you had no blades to constantly repair all time and all you had to do is this.

Yeah.

All right. 

Well, the other trend, I would say that's happening is like you're saying, I don't think like people are doing like a separate entertainment room as much anymore, or basically everything is essentially open concept. Like this build, I feel like is, basically, a big square box or a big truck, like a big rectangle and downstairs is a, they have a kitchen, a living room, multipurpose room, all one space. And then they have staircase the other side of that is just like a little sitting room den type area. And then upstairs is completely functional, whereas one long hallway and there's bedroom, bedroom, bedroom, and then the master and every single bedroom off the back overlooks the water. So it's kind of a unique build. I feel like this one, the one that this bill working on is kind of, I wouldn't say futuristic, but it's some of where it's again, they're trying to use low energy be off they grids essentially. So it's quite a, it's a unique system, a big square box, I think it's gonna be easier to insulate. I don't know, flat roofing is not very common, but I kind of think that might come into effect. We actually had a project where people were putting, you know, those plants on the flat roof.

I've seen these green roofs where they have a living roof.

Yeah. And so it's basically like you put this living roof on and it makes the value of your roof, like A lasts longer and B you're basically, you know, giving back to the ecosystem.

And you're not selling power to the grid, but you're selling tomatoes to market.

Exactly!

No, I've seen the green, I've seen the green roofs and we're seeing it, you know, you see more, more of this in the non-urban spaces, but yeah, I haven't seen that around Kingston. So you think that this could be a trend with green roofs and, and living space up top?

Yeah, I would say so. I don't know that being said, it's not, I can economically really do that or economical. But that being said, I think people are, I think people are becoming more health-conscious, especially with the products they're choosing and the different products they still have in their house, they're going well, you know, what is the off-gas effect of this product? And so they're saying, you know, if I'm living in this house, is that going to negatively affect me? And how long term, and I've been asked, like, I know there's drywall, for instance, you can get that actually, takes in like over 50 years and like it takes in the off-gassing effect.

Oh really?

And so it actually absorbs it, which seems crazy to me.

You're not the only contractor in Kingston.So we're looking at doing a contract, people get quotes and all that sort of good stuff. But look, invariably, we hear the bad stories, you know, that somebody had a contractor come in and they quoted a job. And in the end, they weren't happy with the result. I think that there's a burden on both parties. So expectation versus result. We, you don't know what happened, we weren't there, but let's just go on the basis of, let's not be the person that has the complaining story about a bad renovation job. Give me three things that they gotta look at when they're interviewing you or another contractor,

I would say like, I don't know, I always think of three quotes, it's one thing that's pretty easy and you can see based on, okay, are these three quotes all similar or is one really low? Maybe that one's pretty low, forgot something or maybe they're, there's no strategy they're using there where they're gonna change to death. So you know, there are a few different strategies. I think first is, you know, get three of them in there and I also find like at a lot of times with life, you get like, you know, gut feeling and usually, your gut kind of tells your brain. And so you're going, oh, you have a bad gut feeling about this.

Yeah, these not the people for me.

Yeah, and sometimes that actually those alarm bells going off really, you should listen to your gut. And a lot of times too, it's hard as a, you know, retail or a client or a homeowner because you're going out there, you don't know everything about construction, so you're trusting that trade contractor to know everything. It's really hard even though I'm a contractor. It's hard to be able to quiz that contractor because how are you going to quiz them on stuff that you don't know. And so it's just, it's a very difficult dilemma for anyone to be in, especially the homeowner. And so, questions to ask, I don't know. Do you have WSIB? What do you have, like a safety plan? Do you have a safety policy that your company has?

Those are great points. Somebody look, what happens if a worker falls off somebody's roof and you didn't ask these questions.

Yeah. You're, you're liable probably if they don't notice it.

I think as a homeowner, they don't have WSIB. You're right. I think you're right, I think they're liable for that, you know, we don't want anyone injured, but we also don't wanna be responsible for people’s staff that they're supposed to have looked after. Those are valid, valid, valid questions. Okay. So you hire the the the contractor now you all done, you just leave it go and you let them do their thing, or how do you find you don't wanna be over-involved and get in the way of people, but you also have an obligation to protect yourself of what's going on, that you're happy because when it's all done, it's all done. So, you know, what's your advice? What do you, you know, what do you appreciate from a homeowner while you're working that helps you so that you know, that you're not gonna be faced with something at the end that,  you know, that, that you weren't aligned with what the expectations were?

Yeah, that's a big thing actually and this, it is the expectation of the finished product, because some people don't want a really fancy finish, some people want, you know, just running a mill product they don’t care about. So if we went, you know, the extra mile and so like this, something crazy, amazing, gorgeous for somebody, they wouldn't care, so that as the contractor’s how do you engage what they want, that's sometimes hard to know. But as the contractor and the client working through that process fast and going through that build, I haven't dealt with many contractors myself because I'm, you know, dealing with myself. The big thing I would say is, the biggest red flag I find with a contractor is if I find something that I don't like, or they're not deal doing correctly and I go bring it up to them and say, “Hey, like, I don't like the way this looks, could change that?” They get all defensive and they're like, and they get all upset with you, to me, as soon as they get upset and they're defensive. That means that they're no good! And the reason I say that is because the best contractors that we work with, and we have subcontractors who do, you know, flooring and stuff like that. If I go to them and say, you know what? I don't like the way this is finished, and they give me a bunch of pushback, then I'm like, this isn't gonna work because they aren't gonna warranty their product. If they're giving me this pushback now, what happens when the job is done and I go to them and say, “Hey, I don't like this, or this broke or something like that.” It already gives me some red flags off the hop that they're probably not gonna warranty that product.

Yeah.

Actually I have a really good example recently. I kind of took on a job, took on a client and I wanted to help them out and fit them in and kind of to my payroll because I was doing them a favor by getting them into our schedule, getting the job done, and I brought a subcontractor on to do some of the finishing work and I was there well, every other day, type a thing, making sure things are going well. And one thing led to another and the contractor just I would say, do this specifically, do this. And he'd say, okay, I did that, and then I'll come back later. It's like, what? You didn't do that? Like what happened?

Yeah.

So it gets to the point where do I, you know, fire this guy and find someone else? Well, I don't know, I wanna get this done, they're already in my house, they're already working. So it puts everyone in a really awkward scenario, because you're like, well, if I fire this contractor right here right now, I have to go wait another six months or something to find another contractor. So it is a tough path and definitely finding those accredited people who, you know, word of mouth that they've worked with someone else before. That's a big thing too, because I find even like, a lot of those accolades you get online, stuff, some of them aren't exactly all completely honest. Some of them are voted in by their friends or something like that.

Yes. Yeah.

So it's like, it's hard to, it's really hard, but yeah. I don't know, top three things. I would say get three quotes regardless, think with your gut and then, I don't know, ask them about how they warranty the product lines and maybe be critical when they're working through the process. 

Yeah. When warranty also is gonna come from experience and longevity. I have to admit like with roofing, roofing contractors, there's a few fellows that I know, and I utilize, but I always see a new income with an outed town number. And then I think to myself, okay, well maybe they're the best price, but are they doing everything right? I don't know, roofing, I don't know, you know exactly how to do it, or you wouldn't want me up on your roof, but if the person's just getting into business or just getting into town, which is even worse. Look, I'm a big buy local, I think we support local, but that goes even further than just economics when it comes to, you know, hiring your trade or your sub trade because, you know, you get something that's a drywaller and he learned from his father and his father and he worked and they've worked together and they've been 20, 30, 40 years. I’ve got faith that they, you know, that they didn't get there out of luck. It's because, as you said, they warranted their product, they’re something that they can talk to and they know what they're doing because they've been trained.  So maybe I guess that is, it's sort of understanding their, their geography and their warranties and what they do and that warranty comes from, I think, experience geography and the ability to know that you can pick up the phone and find them.

Oh, it's like, for example, like that, you say that like, I take a lot for granted, my life and where my family have born and bred in a family business, and so not necessarily contractors, but I've learned how through my father and his business, what he's run. I've learned how to run a business and what things are good and what things are not and I've taken that completely for granted over the years and always thought to myself, why doesn’t everyone just start their own business?

Yeah. 

But it's not that easy. I've probably had, you know, 16 years ahead of everyone else from when I, you know, as a kid to, to when I was high school, of business talk around the table. But yeah, like learning, like if you can get a trade who's, you know, a family owned business has done it for years and years and years, that's one of the better businesses because they already have a system built in place, they already have that. If you can get someone who's been doing it for 30 years, I always say like, you know, just because you've been doing it for 30 years, doesn’t mean you've been doing it. But that being said, if you have a business that ran for 30 years, you must be doing something right. Cause you haven't gone out of business.

Well, and they have a reputation, you know, that reputation took that 30 years to build and it can take, you know, one terrible job where you did lose your cool or you didn't pass by a client, to lose that reputation. So I would say, you know, you ask around, you can have a three quote system and you can also ask, sometimes I find that if I ask my neighbor, you know, or, or ask somebody that I know, you know, that's not a renovation. What was your experience? Like, they'll tell you the good and the bad they like, okay, that plumber's not for me, you know, or that electrician's not for me, you know what, I've heard five people tell me, you know, what a great job that that electrician did. So at least you don't have to go blindly and, and hire them, but you can at least make them one of your three. So, you know, look, I find local is probably gonna be one of  the big things. We try to deal with local here on, you know, when we have a meeting with somebody and, we're generally talking to local people because you know, they have, and they're embedded in our community. They've grown up in a family that has worked here in the community, you know? So you're accountable.

I would say the other thing too, is if they can do your work right away, that's probably an area of concern.

Oh yes!

And I found, actually, it's kind of funny though, because in Toronto, compared Kingston to Toronto for contractors, we'll have some clientele come from Toronto and they'll be expecting the same type of service they get in Toronto versus Kingston, and those services we're gonna start tomorrow for you. I don't know how people do it in Toronto, but they, you'll make a, you'll pick up your phone and you'll call a company and they'll be there on your doorstep the same day.

How!

I don't know what it is and I've had clients tell me, I said, I came to Kingston and I called eight call contractors and I got zero to come to my door. And I'm going, what happened like in Toronto, I'll call, you know, three and I'll have five come. So it's like, what's the difference? I said, well I think the biggest difference is Kingston is smaller.

Alright, well, look, Mason, thank you for being with us! Thanks for talking to us about the renovation process and what you and the LaFramboise Construction do. 

Certainly, if there are questions or anything like that, we're happy to answer them, just give me a call: 613-539-0000! Stay tuned for more table talks with more experts in our city.