Author: Mike Burns

CBC news, deck collapse

24 Sep Dartmouth deck collapse | what we learned

The deck collapse that happened in Dartmouth this past week has a lot of people talking about proper construction methods and also wondering about their own safety. Decks are not unlike houses in that they require the same engineering principles to handle the load capacity that they are designed for. The way decks are supported and attached to a home, especially if they are elevated, should receive as much attention and importance as the home itself. After all, they are living spaces and we should feel as safe on them as we would in our living rooms. [caption id="attachment_1745" align="aligncenter" width="510"] Multilevel decks in West Halifax[/caption] And because decks are exposed to weather year-round, extra care must be taken wherever wood makes contact with concrete, or even with other wood, where moisture may stay for long periods of time deteriorating the integrity of the lumber. It’s also important to note that building codes usually delineate the baseline or minimum requirements for construction processes. Conscientious builders and homeowners alike tend to exceed the minimum standards to unsure safety, and just as importantly, a longer lifespan. [caption id="attachment_2663" align="aligncenter" width="510"] It's always best when wood and concrete don't make direct contact.[/caption] For more information on HRM's...

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MRB Contracting, renovations, north end halifax, flats

19 Sep Ironstone updates – it’s done!

Our Ironstone project is practically complete. The last Ironstone update included photos of the completed lower level flat. Today's blog are of the upstairs unit. All of the fixtures and millwork are in. Closets are outfitted with shelving. Doors are hung. Bathroom is complete. Heated concrete floors are finished. The photo below shows what it looked like before. ...

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MRB Contracting, renovations, garage, cedar deck, construction

17 Sep Garage redux part III

Last week we showed you photos of the garage project halfway through its development. Today we have some similar photos with more complete finishes. For the front entry we installed a new cedar deck with a horizontal slat detail. The side entry to the garage deck also has a slat detail down to the grade to compliment the front. Glass panels fill the voids for the rest of the deck railings, allowing unobtrusive views of the landscape. The cedar decking looks fresh with its natural red hues. Soon the salty air from St. Margaret's Bay will turn it to a classic grey. Cedar has the longest lifespan of any other outdoor decking material. Below is another view of the deck railing detail. Finally, a photo of the finished concrete floor in all it's polished greatness. ...

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MRB Contracting, Halifax NS, renovations, modern architecture, halifax contractor

12 Sep Our holistic approach

We live in a world of specialization. The natural world however is built on diversity. In residential construction, specialization often manifests itself in the stages of a home build. It’s not uncommon for a company to build the foundation, another to frame the home, another to do cladding, and yet another to do interior finishes. We like the holistic approach. Our carpenters work on a new build from the foundation all the way to the finish details. In building, errors at the foundation have a cumulative effect through the framing and on up to the trim and finishes. By being involved in the entire process we have a vested interest in achieving the best possible results each step of the way. We know that our framing will line up on the foundation. We know that the windows will fit in the rough openings. We know that our finishes will look clean and intentional. The approach of focusing on the whole could be a metaphor for modern living. Perhaps the specialization model that permeates across most industries is creating an unnatural system. The jack of all trades approach could just be the best new “old” way of doing things....

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MRB Contracting, agricola street, renovations, Amos Wood

10 Sep Agricola Street: Amos Wood renovation

Over the last few years, Agricola Street in Halifax's North End has been undergoing urban renewal. New buildings have cropped up housing businesses and people. Many of the old salt box homes on the street have been renovated, often maintaining the colourfull historic charm of this stretch of Halifax. MRB is embarking on a project to renovate an old building, which in its current state is all but habitable. From stone-filled milk crates and concrete blocks holding down the tarped roof, to the dilapidated exterior finishes, the home is in desperate need of structural and aesthetic work. The scope? to completely gut the interior of the structure and develop the space into a work live unit. The downstairs will host a showroom for Amos Wood - a specialty wood prodcuts business based in Block House, Nova Scotia. Upstairs will be developed into a modern flat. [caption id="attachment_3546" align="aligncenter" width="380"] Sidewalk view[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3548" align="aligncenter" width="510"] You don't see random shingle patterns like this all too often.[/caption] We'll keep you posted with project updates in the coming months....

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MRB Contracting, google analytics, web visits

05 Sep 10,000 – the magic number

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, has a theory that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any given activity. This blog post is not about that. We simply wanted to say that we've now had over 10,000 people  visit our website. And that is something! Drop us a comment and tell us what you like about our blog so we can continue to create the content you love. ...

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MRB Contracting, renovations, concrete floor, halifax, builder, contractor, cedar deck

03 Sep Garage redux part II

Our garage reno project is coming along nicely. The garage is fully framed and insulated. The concrete floors poured and finished to a smooth texture. Each piece of cedar used for decking has been individually dipped in a Lifetime solution to further expand its life expectancy. This 22' by 26' cedar deck offers great views of the amazing landscaping on the property -and when the leaves fall, a fantastic view of St. Margaretes Bay. The guys blended the new structure with the existing walkway to create a seamless transition between the two. Access to the deck from ground level on the top side of the property was created using pre-existing piers. Below is a view of the two car garage before the deck was installed. Check back for the next update to see what the cladding will look like! ...

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MRB Contracting, appartment rental halifax, north end halifax, Ironstone Halifax

30 Aug IRONSTONE | 1 Bedroom flat for rent near Commons

You will be the first to live in this NEW 1 bed, 1 bath main floor unit, now AVAILABLE. • this house is registered with LEED for Homes and seeking Gold Certification • all new doors and windows • stainless steel countertops • glass shower • exclusive access to basement for storage • 5 appliances, including glass top stove, washer and dryer • concrete floors with electric in floor heat • lots of closet space • spray foam insulation Street parking is available for $30/year through HRM Rent is $1300/month includes water. Tenant is responsible for electricity. This is a non-smoking unit. Check out our ad on Please email if you have any questions or would like to view the property. ...

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MRB Contracting, renovations, halifax, door installation, contractor, Blue Skin, VaproShield

29 Aug How to: giant door installation

Replacing an old door is not unlike the process described in our last How to for windows. It's important to ensure that the door opening is properly prepped for protection from moisture and temperature. The other key thing to remember is our carpenter's mantra: level, plumb and square. In this case we were replacing an old door measuring about 10 by 9 feet. The first challenge was removing the old door without causing damage to the interior or exterior of the home -and without breaking the non-tempered glass panes. The next step is prepping the door opening. We removed any water damaged material and replaced it with new lumber. Then we wrapped the opening in VaproShield for breathable moisture protection. The photo below illustrates the scale of the door. Angus is 6'4" and with arms raised he barely fills the space! The replacement door comes from Martin Doors & Windows. It is a one piece unit weighing in at around 500 pounds. It took 6 guys to get the new door in place. A new concrete sill was poured to replace the void left by water damaged timbers. Then a coat of Blueskin primer was liberally applied to the concrete before covering it in Blueskin membrane....

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27 Aug Inspirations: Larry Haun

What does it mean to be a carpenter? I ask myself that question from time to time. In today’s residential construction, being a carpenter includes knowing how to work with many types of materials and systems -not just wood. And yet knowing how to work with wood, how to measure, cut and assemble complex structures, is still very much at the core of what we do. For inspiration I always look towards the masters. Larry Haun is one such inspiration. The man could drive a framing spike with two strikes of his hammer. He grew up during the Great Depression and honed his building skills through the post war California housing boom. He was a regular contributor to Fine Homebuilding Magazine and wrote extensively about building practices. There's a great piece on Larry Haun's life's work on the New York Times....

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MRB Contracting, renovations, decks, garage, contractor, halifax

22 Aug Garage redux

What better time of year to tear down an old carport/deck? One of our teams has been working down in St. Margaret's Bay on just such a project. The old structure flanks a beautiful house with views of the bay. The new structure will feature a fully insulated two-car garage with a giant deck on top. Here are a few photos of the project so far.   The below-grade side of the garage will be protected from cold with ICF walls.     Summer mornings in Halifax. What an amazing place to live! ...

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MRB Contracting, renovations, window installation

15 Aug How to: replacing old windows

They say that there are lots of ways to skin a cat. However, there are not many ways to replace a window. The only way to ensure that a new window will be draft free and moisture free is to get down to the framing before installing the new unit. For example, some window installation methods like Inserts simply replace the window unit. If the existing RO (rough opening) is not air and water proof,  the Insert does little more than update the aesthetic of the home. There are a few key areas that must be addressed when replacing a window. Before we even begin with step one, we take precautionary steps to ensure that the home remains clean and as dust-free as possible. We use heavy paper to cover floors in the work area, and install dust barriers to protect the rest of the home during construction. 1. The new window must be the appropriate size for the opening and should meet or exceed standards. 2. Once the interior and exterior trim pieces are removed, the RO is cleaned and prepped for weather proofing. 3. The RO is prepped by installing a waterproof membrane. In this case we used VaproShield and Liquiflash to protect...

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MRB Contracting, demolition, Halifax builders

13 Aug 100th blog post

Wow! Time flies when you're busy building dream homes. It's been one year since we began blogging. And this is our 100th blog post. We'd like to thank everyone who's been following us here, on Facebook and Twitter. As I write this I wonder what has inspired you to continue to read our blog. Is it the photos? Or perhaps following the story behind each project? Or maybe you like some of the pieces we've written about building techniques and theory? Whatever it is we'd love to know so that we may continue creating content that you want to see. Send us an email or Tweet, or simply leave a comment below and let us know what you think. Below -a collection of  brief moments in time from the past year. Thanks again for reading.     ...

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MRB Contracting, halifax nova scotia, east coast modern, modpod, custom fabrication,

08 Aug Building a ModPod: an East Coast Modern and MRB collaboration

Sometimes when you hear the words 'prefab' and 'house' in the same sentence it conjures images of trailer parks and shoddy workmanship. In modern architecture that's not the case. Architect Nicholas Fudge of East Coast Modern created a series of prefab structures including the ModPod design. Modern architects have long embraced many of the benefits of prefabrication. Pre-fabricating a structure in a controlled environment allows for a more streamlined building process. It also puts less stress on the environment where the structure will live. The 12' x 16' ModPod is designed to be built off site, then shipped to its final destination. Angus and Rocket build the floor. The floors and walls were insulated the same as any home would be. Once sheathed, the ModPod is wrapped in VaproShield for ultimate moisture protection. All of the window and door openings are also treated with a product called LiquiFlash which further seals the openings against the elements. We'd like to give a big thanks to Keel Agencies for providing the weather proofing products. Three types of cladding adorn the exterior. First to go on is a whitewashed tongue and groove horizontal board wood siding. Next up is a white, corrugated metal siding. Finally, cedar shingles, each hand dipped and whitewashed in-house. Once...

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MRB Contracting, halifax nova scotia, renovations.

06 Aug Ironstone: interior details

The Ironstone project is nearly complete. The guys have been busy adding interior details - closets, floor and door trim, doors, and other finish details. The kitchen is starting to be installed. You'll notice the brown paper covering the floors. Beneath that paper lay heated concrete floors. The main floor unit will be available for rent starting September 1. If you are interested please contact Lindsay at  902.455.3202. The floor trim features 10" baseboards for a hearty feel. All seams and fastener holes are patched. The walls and trim will all be the same colour, unifying the space in a minimalist manner. Brian expertly routes the hinge placements on the solid core doors and door jams. Hanging doors is a bit of an art and requires lots of focus. Custom shelves in the bedroom closets provide intuitive storage options. In the kitchen Tom created custom cabinet boxes from melamine. The doors will be a combination of raw Baltic birch with matching grain and high gloss laminate doors.  The lower unit has an opening on the top of the wall between the living area and bedroom allowing the afternoon southern sun to filter throughout the space. ...

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cains arcade

01 Aug We love to build

There are many reasons to run a business -to make a living, to pursue a goal, to provide a service, and sometimes simply because you love the work. In our case, we love building. That's one of the primary reasons for our focus on architecturally designed homes. Each home is different, providing entirely new sets of challenges and creative opportunities. For many,the love of building starts at a young age. That's why we wanted to share Caine's Arcade with you. It's a short documentary about a young boy and his father in Southern California. Cain's creativity and resourcefulness in creating a cardboard arcade inspires us to continue to be passionate about building with our hands. Caine's Arcade from Nirvan Mullick on Vimeo....

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MRB Contracting, Halifax, renovations, modern architecrture, Omar Gandhi Architect, contractor Halifax

30 Jul West End reno wrap up

Perhaps you thought we'd forgotten to show you what the West End reno looked like when it was finished. Nope. Here are a few teaser  shots by Ricardo from MRB and Omar Gandhi - these will give you an idea until we get the final set of pro photos for our portfolio. This project came out nicely and we'd like to sincerely thank everyone involved. [caption id="attachment_3195" align="aligncenter" width="510"] Scott and Simon review final details of the project on the back deck. This photo really shows the scale of the large upstairs window. The views from up there are stunning.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3210" align="aligncenter" width="510"] Evening Instagram photo by Omar Gandhi[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_3190" align="aligncenter" width="510"] Flooring detail.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="510"] Bath detial Instagram photo by Omar Gandhi[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_3187" align="aligncenter" width="510"] Upstairs view of the backyard before sodding.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="510"] Evening Instagram photo by Omar Gandhi[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3209" align="aligncenter" width="510"] Exterior cladding detail Instagram photo by Omar Gandhi[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3211" align="aligncenter" width="510"] Evening Instagram photo by Omar Gandhi[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="510"] Scott was the project foreman for the West End reno. He's happy with the outcome.[/caption]...

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MRB Contracting, Shoebox, Kingsburg, cladding, siding

23 Jul The importance of proper rain screening

What's a rain screen? Here's the Wiki definition: ..the rainscreen is the first interruption between conditions that exist on the outside of a walled building and conditions that are required on the inside of a walled building. [caption id="attachment_2577" align="aligncenter" width="510"] VentGrid rain screen provides a 1/2" air space between the moisture barrier and cladding.[/caption] Weather in the Maritimes is of often characterized by driving rain and gale force winds. Keeping water from entering behind exterior walls is practically impossible. Proper rain screening allows both drainage and air flow -ensuring that water drains and dries. We use various forms of rain screen depending on the cladding program. Below is an interesting abbreviated history of previous technology solutions that failed. Our friends over at Keel Agencies originally posted this article written by Dan Morrison for Builder Magazine. [caption id="attachment_2211" align="aligncenter" width="478"] 5/4" pressure treated strapping provides over an 1" of air space.[/caption] 1930s Paint peels off walls after wall cavities are filled with a new product — insulation. Because walls do not dry evenly in an insulated wall, moisture pushed its way outward. Result: Paint peeled off in sheets, first “insulation is evil" cries break the airwaves. Solution: vapor retarders, like kraft-faced insulation 1970s Vapor retarders graduate to...

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