New Construction

MRB Contracting, Clifton St., architectural homes, beams, mud

21 Jan 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! ...

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MRB Contracting, Clifton St., framing, air tight

09 Jan 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...

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MRB Contracting, modern home halifax, framing

07 Jan 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,...

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MRB Contracting, modern homes, halifax

17 Dec 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....

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MRB contracting, Clifton St., ICF

21 Nov 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...

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MRB Contracting, Clifton Street, footings

07 Nov Clifton St. | concrete for the footings

Where were we? Yes right, footings. After getting the Form-A-Drain installed it was time to make some forms for interior footings. Then we  draped the Form-A-Drain in drain cloth to keep out silt and other debris that may hamper drainage. The photo below shows the footings before concrete. All the steel is in, and everything is braced and ready to pour. The only way to get the concrete all the way around the footprint of the home is to use a pump truck. Lucky for us it worked out. Otherwise we would have been there quite a while with wheelbarrows. Proper trowling technique is a must. Cory shows us how it's done. The next step is the Delta-Footing cloth. You can never take too many precautions when it comes to moisture mitigation. It's getting cold and we didn't want the fresh concrete freezing overnight. A blanket of hay does the trick. Warm and cozy. The next step is to fill the exterior and interior of the footing with gravel to both provide drainage and bring the grade up for concrete. The stone slinger operator had a great technique in spreading the raining gravel evenly across the house. Now it's it's time to prepare for the ICF installation....

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MRB Contracting, halifax, foundations, formadrain

31 Oct Clifton St. | footings

Work has begun in earnest on the Clifton St. house. Since our last update the two old homes were demolished. The lot was excavated, service lines were installed, and space was made to build the foundation. Below is what the lot looked like after demolition and excavation. The black hose in the bottom of the photo is from a water pump. It's not uncommon for some groundwater to filter to the surface when land is excavated like this. It was a muddy mess. Generally the concrete forms for pouring footings are built with wood. For this project however we are using a hollow PVC Lego like form that's a "3-in-1 foundation solution that forms footings, provides an integrated drainage system, and can be easily adapted to vent radon." The hollow core in the forms allows water to drain away from the foundation rather than pool or seep into the basement. It's tough to make  sense out of what's happening in the photos. In the next post we''ll have photos of the completed footings and the footprint of the house will be clear. Lot's more to come on this project. Stay tuned....

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MRB Contracting, fence, slats

17 Oct We build fences too

Summertime. What a better time to build a new fence in the backyard? Traditionally, fences were built to restrict movement across boundaries. In dense urban areas fences are a great way to add privacy. We designed this fence to serve both purposes. The slat design is a recurring theme for us and we've done various interpretations of it. This particular iteration uses the same dimension of wood and space to create a symmetrical viewscape along the property line. The only break in the line is the tree that straddles the  property line. We decided it was best to let nature be and work with the tree. ...

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MRB Contracting, north end halifax, modern architecture

15 Oct Clifton St. -our latest North End Halifax project

We are super excited about this new family home. By the time you read this, these two old homes will be no more. In their place will be a modern family home that will utilize many advanced technologies in energy efficiency, rain water harvesting, and structural design. There are so many cool things going on with this new place that it's hard not to spill all the details. We can tell you that the gardens and home are designed in harmony. Stay tuned for more updates. ...

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Kingsburg, beach house, MRB Contracting

08 Oct Kingsburg I revealed

Those of you who've been following our blog over the last year will remember the Kingsburg beach houses. We chronicled the progress of two homes from start to finish. Now we are pleased to show you the homes as they exist with their owners personal touches. Photos by Kelly Neil. First off is Kingsburg I, designed by architect Chad Jamieson, Halifax. We'll let the photos speak for themselves. ...

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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, 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, 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, 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, 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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25 Jun MRB featured in today posted an article today titled "Modern Architecture hits the prefab market." The article highlights the work of architect Nicholas Fudge and marketing guru Steve Chiasson of East Coast Modern Ltd. We are teaming up with East Coast Modern to be the exclusive builders of their ModPods. East Coast Modern has also teamed up with MRB Contracting Inc., the North End Halifax outfit headed by Michael Burns, to build the ModPods and HotMods and complete the finishing work on the ModHauses. We're excited to see the development of this initiative and its promise to make modern architecture accessible to a wider demographic. One of the first chances for Haligonians to catch a glimpse of an East Coast Modern design will be at the Canada Cup beach volleyball tournament (SandJam) on the Halifax waterfront. Photos from

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MRB Contracting, woodshop, walnut cabinets, custom cabinets

13 Jun Walnut cabinet fabrication

Tom's been busy building some walnut veneer cabinets for a special project. As you can see in the photos below there are a whole heap of layers here that will eventually come together to make the boxes and doors for the cabinets. = In the detail below you can see how Tom added a hardwood strip to the edge of the ply doors. Then he uses a router to trim the edges flush with the door. From here on it's a lot of meticulous sanding. It's just bananas. ...

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MRB Contracting, modern architecture, kingsburg nova scotia, beach house

30 May Choices

There are million considerations when choosing to build a home. Budget is usually a primary factor in decision making. Followed by things like design, materials, energy efficiency, finishes, and so on. The point we're trying to make here is that having a choice is very important in the process. We don't necessarily agree with all of the ideas Catherine Mohr shares in the video below. What we do like is how she went about testing ideas and looking for the best options to fit her needs. We are so inundated with marketing that it's important to take a step back sometimes and to look at the numbers. We hope you enjoy this short TED talk on green building. ...

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