"Recycled House" - The Materials

Much of the material for our most recent project, which we have been calling the "Recycled House", was repurposed from an old WW2 aircraft hangar originally built in Lethbridge Alberta. This is the story of the origins of the materials used in the project.

The beams and other materials (metal rings, lag bolts, timber washers) were all used in the construction of these hangars across Canada as part of the war effort. Canada and particularly Western Canada became the home of the Air Commonwealth Training Plan where many young men from everywhere in the British Commonwealth and beyond learned the rudiments of flight. Most did not last long after joining the fighting, and many also perished in training exercises.

The wooden parts of these buildings were assembled from old growth west coast Douglas Fir, which was logged, milled into beams, posts, then loaded onto freighters. These ships transported the material down the West coast through the Panama Canal then North up the Eastern seaboard and into the Saint Lawrence River to Quebec/Montreal. Here the timbers were further machined into kits for assembly and then reloaded and shipped back across the country by rail.

These hangars were then assembled across Canada from the Maritimes to Alberta. This became the largest construction project in Canadian history eclipsing even the national railway and is largely unknown or ignored today.

The old Calgary farmers market on the Army barracks land is one of the few remaining buildings of that era. Most were torn down but few reused. Our material was salvaged in Lethbridge then sent to either Fernie BC or Okotoks Alberta. After sorting and re-sawing the Fernie material became the wood used for flooring, doors, millwork, etcetera, while the Okotoks shipment became exterior trim, brackets, and fascia, or was made into the sturdy timber frame elements at the front and rear covered entries.

The reason for using this material was sentimental. The owner’s father had been involved in the war as both a flight instructor and a crash investigator based in the Claresholm area of Southern Alberta, and the connection to this history continues through their beautiful home. In addition, the re-use of old growth Douglas Fir ensures that the material from these magnificent trees was used in the most efficient manner possible.

-    Don James, President - Jameswood Homes Inc.


Stamp from the original beams indicating #1 structural grade Douglas Fir.

Stamp from the original beams indicating #1 structural grade Douglas Fir.

A New Home With Canadian History Built In

Part 1: How It All Started

What it Became

It’s rare—almost unheard of—to find a brand new home with so much history built right into it. And yet that is exactly what describes one of Jameswood Homes’ latest Calgary custom home build projects. The homeowner was looking for a special home with a craftsman style design and ended up with a priceless home with captivating historical elements woven throughout. The final result is one of the most visually and historically spectacular homes not only in Calgary, but that Jameswood owner Don James says he has had the pleasure and pride of being a part of. This blog series will outline the amazing history of the many fascinating elements that have been incorporated into we have called the “recycled home”.

Where it All Began

The homeowner’s father had been involved in the Second World War as both a flight instructor and a crash investigator based in the Claresholm area of Southern Alberta. They wanted to connect their family’s history within the new home and create a sentimental connection, and so this flows almost continuously throughout the space. Based on the owner’s suggestion, the Jameswood team were able to source and secure access to some salvaged material from a World War II Aircraft Hangar. Through our skilled trades and craftsman, including Don James himself (an award-winning Journeyman Cabinet Maker and Carpenter), these rough provisions were carefully transformed into workable construction materials and finishing elements that could be used during the build process.

The First Phase

After reworking and adding to the foundation, the next step was framing. That required wood—and the wooden beams used to build this house came from one of the recycled hangers of an old aircraft hangar built during the early stages of World War II as part of the Air Commonwealth Training Plan. This part of the war effort is little known now, but at the time, it constituted the largest construction project in Canadian history—eclipsing even the national railway project of the late 1800s. A lot of these old buildings torn down or were left to decompose in some form or another, but this one (at least in part), is receiving a well-deserved second life. The house incorporates these beautiful old fir beams in almost every part of the finished project: exterior and interior doors, kitchen cabinets and millwork, baseboards, trim, flooring, as well as exterior timber elements, roof fascia, and wooden soffits.

This is just the start of the story of this truly intriguing home – join us again for part two of the series for a detailed look at the remarkable journey these fir beams have taken throughout their life to end up where they are today.

- The Jameswood Team


How Cost-Saving Measures Can Actually Cost More


In our line of work, clients often want to use their own trades or supply their own materials to try and save a penny or two, or extend their renovation budget as much as possible. But what people often don’t realize is that these measures can actually end up being costlier in the end. Here’s how:

Hiring Our Trades vs. Your Own

  • The trades we hire work for both us and you. They have been vetted for credentials, references, quality work, experience, scheduling adherence, insurance obligations, financial viability and their ability to cooperate with us, other trades on site, and you the client.
  • Your trades work only for you. If we don’t sign their cheques and direct their work, a multitude of issues can arise and have in the past. We mark up these trades’ services in our contract to reflect the costs we incur in sourcing, managing them effectively, ensuring their rates are reasonable, and guaranteeing their work.

Supplying Your Own Materials vs. Using Ours

  • If you supply materials or fixtures, it is essentially up to you to ensure they will work appropriately for the space in the desired application, and will have a warranty of some kind in case of defect. For example, lighting fixtures can be purchased anywhere, however, if they have not been tested and passed by CSA or UL in the States our electricians will often not install them. In addition, our insurance does not cover homeowner-supplied fixtures or materials, nor do we warranty these products (and our trades won’t either).
  • When we supply the materials and fixtures, you can rest assured they will be insured, warrantied, verified and will function perfectly in the space for the desired application. We install them with warrantied and insured trades and act on your behalf if they malfunction in any way. As well, we have some pricing pull with our suppliers since we have established relationships and will likely be looking to shop with them again. In addition, even with our markup on the prices we pay for raw materials and fixtures, it is usually very close to any “great deal” you can find – meaning you’re not really saving any money.

Either way, there are a lot of risks in trying to hire your own trades or supply your own materials – most of the time it’s simply not worth whatever savings you might actually achieve. If you are looking for ways to save money on your home renovation or stretch the budget somewhat, our team has the experience and know-how to help you identify your optimal scope-price solution. Contact us today to discuss your project to see how we can help.

- The Jameswood Team

What To Do If You Find Mold or Asbestos During a Renovation

mold found during renovations
mold found during renovations

Many homeowners don’t take asbestos or mold remediation into consideration when thinking about renovating their home. But even homes as young as mid-1980’s may contain asbestos – and homes of any age can have mold that must be remediated before any work can proceed. So what do you need to do if these potentially dangerous hazards are found in your house?

Steps to Take for Asbestos or Mold Remediation:

  1. Your first step should always be testing. It’s important to know exactly how much there is and what type it is, in order to best determine your next steps. Find a reputable asbestos/mold remediation company and obtain a quote for the testing.  The market has become competitive, but there are still some that charge too much. Have them take samples for proper testing.
  2. Have them provide you an estimate or assessment of the work required based on the results of that testing.
  3. Get a permit for remediation and ensure the area(s) are contained. The remediation company may or may not help you with these.
  4. Prior to any work being performed, make sure there is a test for AIR QUALITY done. It is very important to compare your air quality before AND after the remediation is performed.
  5. Ensure you receive a certificate of remediation and air quality after the work is done.
  6. Once you receive these certificates you can proceed with your renovation project – and not one minute sooner.

What Else to Know About Mold & Asbestos Remediation

  • Asbestos and mold remediation can be quite expensive. This price is usually a result of the steps involved in having it properly done and it is not recommended to try and cut corners on this type of work.
  • Often, anyone living in the home will need to relocate while the work is being performed; the length of this work depends on the assessment provided by the remediation company.
  • Purchasers of a home containing mold or asbestos must be notified of its existence – past or present – and even a grow op house that will be totally demolished must be remediated first!!

If you have any concerns about your home renovation in Calgary, reach out to the experts at Jameswood Homes today.

-The Jameswood Team

3 Important Steps To Take Before Home Renovations

renovation planning and contracts
renovation planning and contracts

Thinking about building a home or starting a renovation? Here are the three most important things to do before home renovations work starts.

1 – Get all your ideas finalized on paper.

It is helpful for everyone in the family to agree on what they want from the renovation or build before taking any further steps. Include must-haves, should-haves, and wish-list items. This prevents many potentially costly and stressful delays or changes down the road. (Note that marriage counselling is not usually a contractor’s strong suit).

2 – Get your referrals in order.

Talk to people who have done some renovations in Calgary. Ask which company they used and how problems were handled. The renovation world isn’t perfect; there are always issues that come up, so it’s extremely important to find a renovator that will work with you to solve them effectively, thereby minimizing any delays or budget overruns. Talk to several renovators or custom home builders in Calgary – at least three – until you find one you feel very comfortable with.

3 – Get everything in writing.

Repeat after us: Get. Everything. In. Writing. The usual culprit that causes problems during home building or renovations is a lack of clear communication and/or differing expectations between the homeowner and contractor. Having everything in writing ensures you both have a guide, a script so to speak, from which to reference from throughout the entire process. This is the basis for your contract, which is not an option, but a legally binding requirement. It should include every possible detail such as money, schedules, specifications, insurance, warranty, and use of toilets (yes, even these little things are important too).

Our team works tirelessly with homeowners to ensure everything goes according to their carefully laid out plans. If you’re looking to take the renovation plunge, reach out today for an estimate on your project.

- The Jameswood Team