OUR BLOG

Amos Wood | textures

What role does texture play in architecture? Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say: Texture plays a dual role in architecture: it expresses something of the quality of materials, and it gives a particular quality to light. Although one absorbs both qualities simultaneously by eye, the first has tactile, the second visual associations. The Amos Wood project is a great example of the use of texture. Mixed mediums create warmth and a sense of space in an unlikely urban environment, where row houses fight for space with the sidewalks and trees. Two spacious second story decks afford private views of the street and the backyard. The original chimney bricks would almost contradict the clean new white walls. Except that they don't. Instead they provide visual warmth with their rich hues and charred bits. This project is nearing conclusion. Stay tuned for final photos. ...

MRB Contracting, blizzard
Clifton St. | the blizzard

There's a lot of talk about the latest blizzard. Schools were closed. Roads were slippery. The sorts of things one can expect to happen with a large snowfall well -just happened. There seem to be two major schools of thought when it comes to these seasonal weather events. Those who bemoan the white stuff and generally feel put out by it, and those who get out their shovels and continue on with their normal lives just as if everything is normal. Sure we had to do some shovelling this morning. We cleared a few of the neighbours driveways as well. And yet the work progressed as it usually does and we had a good laugh. Perspective is a beautiful thing. ...

MRB Contracting, Clifton St., architectural homes, beams, mud
Clifton St. | do’s and don’t’s

Don't: get your boots stuck in the mud. It took Rockett about 5 panicky minutes and a whole heap of shovelling to free up his sinking foot. Do: ask the excavator to help hoist a several hundred pound, 4-ply LVL beam ten feet into the air. With the benefit of the lift we were able to assemble the 4 ply's on flat ground with plenty of construction adhesive and a pile of fasteners. This thing will never come apart again. As I write this we are getting very close to framing the second story. So stay tuned for a visual of the complete structure in the coming days! ...

MRB Contracting
Team Profiles | Bryan Rockett

What's your name and job function? My name is Bryan Rockett and I'm a Carpenter Can you talk about your building trade background? My building background began in my grandfathers wood shop. I positively loved cleaning up all the saw dust he’d make, and most of all the smell and atmosphere of his shop. After graduating high school I spent 2 years working in commercial construction and soon came to realize if I really wanted to hone my carpentry skills I had to make a move to residential construction. I’ve been doing residential work ever since and proudly became a Red Seal carpenter. What's the most satisfying part of your job? The most satisfying part of my job is  when I can come up with a quick and correct solution to an issue that I run into during an elaborate renovation. I also love trying to come up with more efficient ways to complete tasks without compromising the end product. Favourite tool? My favourite tool is a toss up between my 21oz Dalluge hammer and my worm-drive Skill Saw. But if I had to choose I would probably go for the worm drive. Hobbies? I absolutely love playing squash, weight lifting, mountain biking, motorbiking and sharpening all my hand...

MRB Contracting, Amos Wood, agricola street
Amos Wood | cladding photo bomb

The guys over at Amos Wood on Agricola Street have been making great progress on the complex cladding program. Amos Wood chose three types of wood for cladding: cedar, pine and spruce. The 2" cedar strips were time consuming to say the least  -the results are striking. Horizontal and vertical orientation in the cladding design creates a varied sense of space. Space is also used on the cladding, decking and slatted railings to bring in light as well as to create a balance with the other linear patterns. The legions of vinyl clad homes in this North End neighborhood may suffer from wood envy when we're done with this place! Foreman Scott Billard is all smiles most of the time. Life is good when you're doing what you love. ...

MRB Contracting, Clifton St., framing, air tight
Clifton St. | framing part 2

For many carpenters, framing is one our favourite aspects of building a home. And what's not to love? We get to take a giant pile of sticks and convert them into a structure using nail guns and saws! In our last post we talked about some of the techniques we use for controlling air and moisture. Air and moisture can find ways of sneaking into (or out of) a house in ways that you never imagined. Each step of the build process offers opportunities to enhance the ability to minimize this fact. During framing we use acoustic seal between all plates (floor and top-plates) as well as in between the post laminations and header areas. The smallest space in between two pieces of lumber can cause the house to loose heat. The bead of acoustic seal creates an air and moisture barrier between the sandwiched together lumber. Sometimes when you think about how many things have to come together for an empty space to become a liveable house it seems really abstract. It's not unlike running marathon. You start with one foot and then the next. Every step counts and every step can make a difference. A runner cannot skip steps and...

MRB Contracting, modern home halifax, framing
Clifton St. | first floor

And we're back! We hope you had a great holiday. We did, and now we're ready to get back to work. Both the Agricola St. and Clifton St. projects are moving along - crazy weather not withstanding. At Clifton St., we completed the basement walls and  the main floor before the holiday break. Below, Corey and Brian install and LVL beam that will support the transitional area between the living area and kitchen. Engineered I-beams span with width of the foundation and will be the building blocks for everything that comes above. Mitigating the unwanted entry of air and moisture in a new house is one of the most talked about topics in modern building science. We will be talking about some of the techniques we use as we follow the build. Below, spray foam is used to fill a void between a beam pocket and the exterior ICF wall. The layer of foam reduces the possibility of thermal bridging. Once the beams and floor joists are installed it's time for the sub-floor. Construction adhesive and screws work together to make a solid and creak-less floor. The rear area of the home is a slab on grade. Once the small ICF wall was back filled,...

hali_xmas
Happy Holidays!

Wishing you a happy holiday season from everyone at MRB Contracting. Thank you for following us on our website, Twitter, and on Facebook. We're looking forward to the exciting year ahead. See you in the New Year! ...

net zero energy house, karuna house
Inspiration | Net zero energy

What exactly is a net zero energy structure? Wikipedia tells us it's "a building with zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions annually." That means that it's both off the municipal power grid, and does not utilize fossil fuels for energy. As you can imagine, this is no easy feat and yet it has been done. The Karuna House in Oregon has just received 3 prestigious green building awards, including LEED Platinum certification. So as to obtain the three certifications, and become a net zero energy structure, Karuna House was designed and built to have an advanced building enclosure. It also features an optimized solar design that works to drive energy loads to very low levels. The energy needed for the household is supplied via a solar photovoltaic array of less than 10 kilowatts. At MRB we are utilizing most of these technologies - from the various types of advanced performance weather membranes, to HVAC systems, to carefully planned insulation. However, we've yet to ingrate these technologies in an intentional way so as to create a net zero energy home. We'd love to be the first company to do build a net zero energy home here in Nova Scotia. To learn more about the Karuna House...

MRB Contracting, modern homes, halifax
Clifton St. | and then came snow

It's winter. Yes it's true. You can tell on our work site when everyone is wearing their insulated Carhartt overalls. Classy eh? Maybe not but definitely warm. At Clifton St. the guys have been working on building an architectural wall for the front entry as well as beginning on the framing. Below our man Rocket inspects the form work for the 8' x 8'6" x 4" wall. It's not easy being the foreman. Adam takes his job very seriously. And then came the storm. Sunday brought quite a bit of snow. It required a bit of digging to get ready for back-fill. Corey lines up the sill plates and installs them in preparation for the floor joists. Charlie looks on from the tractor as he waits for a load of gravel. The plates are first lined with a layer of BlueSkin. The water proof barrier protects the wood from the concrete. A thick bead of accoustic caulking is also applied between the concrete and wood to create an air barrier. Next up is framing. Stay tuned....

fire
Safety tips | fire extinguishers

Today the MRB team got together for another of our regular safety training sessions. This time around the session focused on the proper use of fire extinguishers. Perhaps it seems like a simple thing. There's a fire. You see the red tank hanging on the wall. You pull the pin and spray. The truth is that it's not that simple, and knowing what types of extinguishers work for specific fires makes a big difference. Just about every home has a fire extinguisher or two laying around - usually in the kitchen. Take a look at the this link from Fire Prevention Canada to learn about what type of extinguisher you have and if it's the right one for your environment. ...

MRB Contracting, Amos Wood, renovation agricola
Amos Wood | progress report

The last update on this project covered some of the exterior upgrades to the building's facade. This week that trend continues. As you can see from the photo above, the entryway is still open to Agricola Street. Rigid foam and wire mesh were placed in the raw entry before pouring a concrete slab. A little work with the grinder reveals the aggregate is a very striking way. Moving inside, electrical, HRV and spray foam insulation are all well under way. The photo below is a great illustration of how spray foam covers a surface. Spray foam provides excellent R-value as well as moisture and air protection. And finally everyone's favourite part, the exterior siding. These two photos show only a glimpse of the beautiful vertical wood siding. Stay tuned for more! ...

MRB Contracting, halifax nova scotia, contractor, builder,
Inspiration | looking back to look ahead

The year is quickly drawing to a close. I think back to what we were doing a year ago and it seems at once near and far. On December 3rd, 2012 I wrote a blog post about a vinyl record we'd found stuffed in a wall of an old home we were renovating in the North End. The '45 was Lloyd Price's Who Coulda' Told You - an R&B single released in 1960. Singers and song writers play a big role in building our memories, as their songs become soundtracks to the seasons of our lives. As builders, we too help to build memories. The homes we build will provide shelter for people who will laugh and cry, love and lose love, and struggle and succeed. And if the house is built well, generations will experience their lives under the roofs we erected. This blog post is not about nostalgia. It's about remembering that we love what we do. And that although, as Mike Burns puts it, we are "hammers and nails," we're also dream makers, crafting living spaces where dreams can grow and families can flourish for generations. I'll indulge in a little nostalgia with Lloyd Price from 1960. ...

http://mrbcontracting.wpengine.com/handmade-diamond-back-toolbelts/
Amos Wood | street view redo

Did you miss Amos Wood yet? The guys have been there all along, refining all the structural details that you'll never see but nevertheless play an integral role in the finished product. Aside from continuing the interior, the team ripped off the entire facade. The photo below shows an almost uninterrupted view of Agricola Street. The extra light allowed for better detailed photos of the interior framing. The place is beginning to take shape. Some of the interior walls are complete. New sheathing and a deck were added up top. Our usual window and door program was used here as well. Finally, a view of Amos Wood from across the street. It won't be long before the team starts cladding and then we'll really have something! ...

MRB Contracting, Diamondback Toolbelts
Handmade | Diamond Back tool belts

First off we should say that this is not a plug for Diamond Back tool belts. We wanted to write about the belt company because we feel that their ethos and craftsmanship embody our own values. A few of us here at MRB have invested in these tool belts. I say invest because the bags are more expensive than what most carpenters use. Additionally, the wait time can be several weeks as each belt is custom made by a very small crew of people. As carpenters we carry a few pounds of tools and fasteners. Our jobs require us to climb, squat and scramble all day long, often carrying lumber and power tools. Wearing a heavy tool belt all day long can be tough on your body. And most tool belt systems are not designed with good ergonomics in mind, unlike other similar gear carriers like hiking backpacks, etc. These guys have taken the time to design a system that distributes the weight well, has all the bells and whistles, and lasts a long long time. Two of the guys here have had theirs for over 5 years and aside from dirt and glue, they are as strong and comfortable as the...

MRB contracting, Clifton St., ICF
Clifton St. | ICF walls

In the last Clifton St. update we talked about the footings. Since then the team has been busy assembling the ICF blocks for the basement. Aside from a few days of heavy rain, the project has run quite smoothly. ICF stands for Insulated Concrete Forms. There are several key benefits to using ICF. [list type="check"] ICF acts as a form for concrete, reducing the use of lumber normally used to form concrete walls Minimal (if any) air leaks and significantly reduced heat loss High insulation R-value No thermal bridges due to the continues insulation Better humidity regulation - especially important for a basement Sound absorption [/list]   Each row of interlocking ICF blocks is reinforced with steel. The steel runs in a continuous loop around the wall with minimal 30" overlap. The styrofoam blocks can be easily cut with a handsaw. The photo below shows the plastic webbing inside the blocks. The webing serves as a stabilizer and a placeholder for the steel bar. The excavation crew came back to connect the sewer lines. After the walls are complete, a system of scaffolding/bracing is erected. This scaffold will allow us to walk around the wall to fill the void with concrete. It also helps us straigthen the walls to ensure that everything is aligned perfectly before...

MRB Contracting, beach cottage, modern architecture, kingsburg
Testimonial | The Shoebox

We are always humbled when we get testimonials like the one below from Kevin and Jodi - owners of the Shoebox in Kingsburg. An artist with a painfully scrutinizing eye for fit and finish along with a registered architect and residential developer that has directly managed the creation of over 1500 homes squarely qualified us demanding clients. In addition, living in Vancouver meant that we would be building remotely. This set up our two main criteria for selecting the builder of our dream cottage:  1.Someone we could trust implicitly as we couldn't be there 2.Someone that was capable of digitally communicating every detail of the progress on the site, every day. 3.Someone that really understood modern architecture and the attention to detail . We investigated nine builders, interviewed four, then narrowed it down to two to provide initial proposals with their thoughts on budget and timeline. Ultimately we settled on MRB and we are very glad that we did.  MRB completely delivered on our expectations with respect to communication that included almost daily photographs, e-mails, and precise budgeting/invoicing. Through this detailed communication and the ongoing dialogue through the many design iterations and budget adjustments MRB ultimately delivered on our first criteria; trust.  With respect to attention...

MRB Contracting, renovation, amos wood, vaproshield
Amos Wood | updates from Agricola St.

Back to business as usual. This time with some updates on our Agricola St. project for Amos Wood. In the last blog about Amos Wood the guys had begun interior framing. As you can see from the photos below lots has happened since. Fresh concrete meets ancient stone wall in the basement by the front entry. What's not to love about this unplanned aesthetic amalgamation. Spanking new plywood sheathing on the rear wall. Plywood is our material of choice for all sheathing applications for various reasons (check out our Plywood vs. OSB post). Photos often don't show how big things really are. Take this back door for example - it's about 9' x 9'. It seems like all of a sudden it's cold and the days are as short as they get. Nothing a set of industrial string lights and hot coffee can't remedy. As always, thanks for reading! Feel free to drop as an email or leave a comment....

MRB Contracting, renovations, decks, garage, contractor, halifax
Inspiration | a case for urban density

As our home base is in North End Halifax, like our neighbours we are faced with questions around urban planning and urban density on the Halifax peninsula. From issues around parking permits and multi-residence structures, to the greater city planning vision, we see both the struggle and the opportunities for positive sustainable growth in our city. What exactly is urban density? Here's the Wiki definition: Urban density is a term used in urban planning and urban design to refer to the number of people inhabiting a given urbanized area. In his TED Talk, Jeff Speck talks about the ills created by unbridled suburban growth in the U.S. He goes on to talk about how promoting urban density can create much more vibrant and resilient cities. It's an interesting viewpoint at the very least, and a great starting point for a dialog on Halifax's current HRM by Design plan. HRM faces continuing urban sprawl, increasing the number of people who drive into the city each day for work. With limited space for cars, the dilemma is not an easy one to resolve....