Our house was built in 1911 and although there have been considerable modern upgrades to the interior, we dearly love its old style and want to preserve it as much as possible. We have never done major renovations before and we heard the usual horror stories about builders and contractors; which is partly why it took us many years to commit ourselves to a basement renovation. In fact, we went through the process of searching for a contractor twice – the first time about 10 years ago. Both times, we got about 5 quotes from different companies and both times we selected Mainland Ventures as our top choice.
Why did we decide to go with Mainland Ventures?
Right from the start, we really appreciated Paul’s manner and careful attention to our interests. We found contractors to range from aloof (as if they were too good for the job) or perfunctory (as if the job was nothing special). Although we have lived in the house for about 25 years, both of us immigrated from Europe and have nearly no knowledge of Canadian wood houses. Paul spent a good amount of time with us, going over our plans and wishes, explaining how the work would proceed.
Extent of the work
The basement renovation included gutting the whole basement down to its bare bones and re-doing major structural work. List of work done: repairing the concrete foundations; insertion of a supporting iron beam that stretched half the length of the house; replacing the supporting posts; fastening the house properly to its foundations; insulating the foundations and walls to code; replacing the existing windows and designing and building a new basement suite. The basement suite is legal and includes a separate entrance, one bedroom, a bathroom, its own washer-dryer unit and a kitchen - living room area. Plumbing and electricity were also re-done from scratch.
Other work included renewing the plumbing system in the whole house; installing an on-demand hot water system and new heating system; re-ducting the basement; installing a new electrical panel; replacing the stairs at the back and front of our house and replacing some of the siding (including the second floor dormers). Minor repairs and improvements were done on the main floor: repairs to the ceiling from previous leaks and installation of a washer/dryer on the main floor.
Our comments for the work of Mainland Ventures
We knew our project would take a long time (estimation 6 months) but when we discovered shoddy work and structural problems done by previous builders and owners, we had to fix them, and the time extended to almost 10 months.
We continued to live in the house throughout and were able to witness every step in the process. Paul or Conor patiently answered our questions when structural issues or previous inferior work was revealed. They never made us feel that we were asking dumb questions and we felt completely connected and updated with all that was going on. Despite the intensity of the work Conor was courteous and helpful and ready to explain any technical details. For each new problem, they offered us a series of solutions, including the Pro’s and Con’s of each, and didn’t push us into choosing the fastest or the most expensive. They were open and honest, and we were reassured and confident that the solutions we chose were the best options for us.
After the initial work of demolition was completed and reconstruction was under way, we began to appreciate the incredible care and attention that Conor and his excellent crew (Sean and Walter) took over every detail. Coming from Europe where we were used to houses built to last centuries, both my wife and I were initially apprehensive about the apparently flimsy nature of North American wood houses. We were extremely impressed with the way Conor constructed and assembled everything, from the solid concrete footings to the supporting beams and posts. Most of all, we saw that both Paul and Conor genuinely seemed to understand the need to maintain the essence of the old house and yet to meet modern building codes. On several occasions there would be a problem that Conor needed to solve, and he always came up with a substantial solution that not only gave us confidence but also respected the design of the house. The quality and craftmanship of their work were astounding. Conor is justifiably self-confident and while we, at first, didn’t understand why, we soon appreciated that he builds to exacting standards. Conor’s work is all about excellent alignments and perfect horizontals and he was able to fit this care within the constraints of the 100-year old building. In fact, a new measure of standard that has entered our everyday parlance when assessing quality of work is “is it Conor-worthy”?
As the project shifted into the later stages the type of work became even more precise and almost delicate. Although we wanted an awning over the basement suite entrance, we had no specific design in mind. After advising us to view online photos of awnings and to visit neighbourhood examples Conor took our ideas and carefully created something that fit the style of the house. The finished product is beautiful, immensely strong (solid) and looks as if it was constructed 100 years ago along with the house.
At the end of each day we would survey the basement for progress. The worksite was always left tidy and clean and it was satisfying to see the work completed and to visualize the work to come.
Mainland Ventures worked as closely to the schedule as they could – the old house thwarted us with some unanticipated problems and the schedule was extended by a good three months. Paul kept us informed and the project met the revised schedule. Both Paul and Conor gave us valuable advice and recommendations and it was always with an eye on the budget, best practice and in keeping with the rest of the house.
If you need customized and high-quality craftsmanship (structural or cosmetic) and want peace of mind, we wholeheartedly recommend Mainland Ventures. We were especially impressed by their problem-solving skills, their craftsmanship, their professionalism and the pride and pleasure they took in their work. They were open and honest and always careful to minimize disruptions to our life. We felt that we paid for quality work and that’s exactly what we got. After the work was completed and our neighbours had a chance to view the project, we noted that they all commented favourably about how hardworking the crew was and how well they interacted with and respected the neighbourhood. All in Mainland Ventures are also genuinely nice people.
- Company Response
Dear Geoff and Agnes,
Reading your considerately-detailed, praise-filled and thoroughly-crafted review initially left me speechless. I found such pleasure in reading it that I did so many times in a row. I am so honored, grateful, humbled, and appreciative to have your praise and acknowledgment. I have said it before and I truly mean it; completing a job and then having the privilege of reading an academically-crafted review like yours is one of the most satisfying and motivating facets in my line of work.
I first would like to express our sincerest appreciation for the immense time it must have taken to draft this kind and eloquent reflection of your experience working with us. As you are both incredibly busy with vitally important professional careers, it makes the time and effort you put into writing this review so much more meaningful and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I especially appreciate that you took the effort to include such an organized timeline of how the events unfolded within the context of your expectations and homes unique, gorgeous character. Your inclusion of detailed praise for Conor, Sean, and Walter skills and talents throughout were especially kind. They will be thrilled to read how happy you were with them and their quality of work.
Often when there are projects that extend beyond the initial estimated end dates or scope of work, clients can become dissatisfied for a number of reasons. Obviously the basis for their dissatisfaction is valid and more than reasonable. These include the added inconvenience and disruption to their lives and of course the added costs to the initial budget. However, at no time throughout the project did you make us feel unwelcome in your home and for that I am very appreciative. It is hard for me and the guys to attend an environment daily if it is not a warm, accepting, and collaborative environment. You always made us feel welcome and appreciated in your home taking an informed and active role throughout the various stages. Because of your innate thirst for knowledge, inquisitive intelligence, and your desire to understand the process and reasons behind our proposed actions it was the primary contributing factor to the success of the project and your level of satisfaction with your renovation. At Mainland Ventures we pride ourselves on being able to stay within a budget and timeline so when these unforeseen circumstances arise, we take it personally and try our best to minimize the strain and disruption to your lives. However, the perceived success or failure of a project is largely based in the client’s attitudes and demeanors when faced with the setbacks or unforeseen problems. We encourage people to take an active and informed role to deepen their understanding of the what, whys and how of their renovation projects. We actually quite enjoy the educational aspects of helping our clients broaden their understanding and knowledge of the building and renovation industry.
I also think a new website should be created called ClientStars where companies can rate our experiences with wonderful, considerate and generally good-natured people like you. I don’t think anyone reading this would doubt that you both would receive the highest rating possible. You are lovely people and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet and work with you. I meant it when I said to you that this is not the end of our relationship but merely the beginning. If you ever have any questions, concerns, or would just like to say hello please do not ever hesitate to drop me a line. I am always here for you. On behalf of everyone who worked on your home, we wish you a great many years of health, happiness and enjoyment in your practically brand new gorgeous heritage home. If you don’t mind, I think we will continue to use your catch-phrase on all jobs going forward and ask ourselves “Is it Conor worthy?” Once again dear Geoff and Agnes thank you for this most exceptional review.