Jim Smith of Smithwood Builders talks about his journey of becoming Custom Homebuilder of the Year while sharing his experiences including two award-winning projects, highlighting the value of bringing the builder on early in the process making ‘the Magic of Three.’
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About the Speaker
JIM SMITH: OWNER, Smithwood Builders
Born in Vancouver, raised in Langley and landing in Deep Cove, Jim and his wife have set roots in North Vancouver where the land feeds his passions for mountain biking, hiking, and paddle boarding. Oh, and let’s not forget hockey. Of course, all of these passions are often put on the back burner as any free time he has goes first to spending “animal” time with his twin boys and two dogs.
Jim Smith is the founder of Smithwood Builders, a construction company that provides superior Project Management, qualified carpenters and highly skilled trade partners to successfully carry out new builds and renovations. He has project managed award-winning renovations and new builds for over 20 years. Since earning a degree in project management in 2007, Jim has led a dynamic career establishing and implementing an innovative, principled approach to project management. His success stems from an early introduction to home building as a young buck framing houses and working his way to building homes from the ground up, always with a tool belt on. The last 25 years he has focused on IT, PMP and education in all things construction. His knowledge of how quality homes are built and how successful projects are run make him unique in the construction industry. A more detailed version of his bio can be found on LinkedIn.
Check out photos from Jim's award-winning projects Black is the New Black (open-concept floorplan) and In Standing Order (whole home renovation, adding laneway, and two bedroom basement suite).
Here's the Full Transcript of this Episode
EPISODE #47 Custom Homebuilder of the Year
[00:00:00] Mike: Hey, Jennifer Lee. Guess what? We’re back in the studio. It’s season six of Measure Twice, Cut Once. How are you doing?
Jennifer-Lee: I’m doing great, Mike. How about you? I’m fantastic. It’s such an amazing journey we’ve been on throughout these last six seasons, learning about the process that goes into making these amazing homes.
[00:00:19] Mike: And what’s really exciting about this season is we’re going to be talking about the finished results, what we’re seeing, the culmination of all this work. in the award-winning homes and projects that some of our amazing builders, designers, and architects have been a part of.
[00:00:32] Jennifer-Lee: Yeah, and I love the HAVAN Awards, and it’s so exciting, like you said, to finally get to know who are the people behind these awards, and what are the stories of these projects, and what does it mean to win an award like a HAVAN Award.
[00:00:44] Mike: To win an award, to take it to that next elevated level, is something unique and something very, very special, and we can learn so much from the journeys and the process that people have used to get to this level. And it’s really exciting because once we get past the glitz and the glamour and, you know, the pictures and the big lights, there’s a process. And that’s what we’re really excited to talk about this season is the process and the culmination of that process in the award-winning homes.
[00:01:11] Jennifer-Lee: Yeah, like you said, beyond the picture is all the hard work, all those sleepless nights. And then of course, finding the right team and a lot of things that we’ve touched upon in the past season. So, let’s get started today. We’ve got an awesome guy in here and his name is Jim Smith from Smith Wood Builders. So welcome Jim.
[00:01:28] Jim: Thanks for having me.
Jennifer-Lee: Yeah, well, we’re excited for you to be here.
[00:01:32] Mike: It’s great to have you here. I mean, we’ve heard some amazing things about you and of course, I’ve seen your work and to have you in here, it’s going to be a great conversation just to learn what makes you tick. And what I really liked learning about you actually was that you got your start building homes, not in Metro Vancouver area, but in a place that’s very near and dear to my heart. So how did you get started? Was this an accidental journey or is this something you set out from a very young age and said, hey, I’m going to build award winning homes and win HAVAN Awards?
[00:01:58] Jim: It certainly wasn’t. The goal wasn’t to win awards when we were that young, but my family had decided to move up to Salmon Arm and we were living in Langley. My folks went away on a trip and unbeknownst to my brother and I decided to move the family. So, we went up there for summer and kind of set up camp. My mom was running the camp and my dad, and my brother and I were building their house. We were apprentices, I guess, at that time. My dad would give us about 10 nails each and said, if we put those in properly, we could have 10 more. And so that whole experience throughout the summer was pretty great for the family and for us, we got the house built. They’re still in the house. So that’s, that’s pretty good. And I kind of caught the bug from there. And so, when we came back, my brother and I came back to the Lower Mainland, even though we were going to school we were both working in construction and I started doing a forming and framing and switched to night school so that I could do framing full time and the went into framing side of it for about five years, and that was kind of where it started.
[00:03:07] Jennifer-Lee: And obviously you got 10 more nails, or you would never be a builder.
[00:03:09] Jim: Yeah, we got 10 more nails, a few more screws in there and a couple of different tools as well. So, at the end, like I said, the house is still standing. So, we weren’t totally terrible.
[00:03:18] Jennifer-Lee: And now you have a great construction company. And of course, we were going to mention, we’re going to dive more into your projects, but of course, your custom builder of the year for the HAVAN Awards too. So, congratulations.
[00:03:27] Jim: Yeah. Thank you very much for that. We’re pretty proud of that. We had a few projects that we submitted to get there, and it was definitely over a tricky period of time because with the pandemic, as everyone knows, it wasn’t easy to build homes for various amount of reasons. So, it definitely added a lot of challenges to it. So, to come out the other side with that, was pretty good.
[00:03:51] Jennifer-Lee: Great. And we’ll dive a little bit more into that a little bit later, but first I have a very important question. Do you know the Salmon Arm handshake?
[00:03:56] Jim: No, I don’t know that one.
[00:04:00] Jennifer-Lee: I’ve asked a few people. I know it. I’ve seen it and I was like, I guess you’re not a true person from Salmon Arm.
[00:04:05] Jim: And no, no, we wouldn’t call ourselves true from Salmon Arm Because we, my brother and I, only lived there for the summer. And then that was after that we moved back to the Lower Mainland.
Jennifer-Lee: So, you didn’t learn the handshake.
[00:04:15] Jim: I don’t know. I don’t know the handshake. No, I’ll definitely learn it though. If you want to show it. I don’t know if it’s a secret that we can learn or not.
Jennifer-Lee: I don’t know. I feel like maybe you have to be born and raised.
Jennifer-Lee: Yeah. I’ll have to ask them.
[00:04:25] Mike: I don’t know if we’re allowed to show it on camera.
[00:04:27] Mike: I think you have to go up there and get it in person. Hey, can we talk a little bit before we get into these projects? I want to talk about what drives you and your company, because that’s really important on this journey is the person behind the company. Where’s your passion in this whole industry, right?
[00:04:45] Mike: Because we talked to so many different builders and some of the process, some of the materials, some of the financials, what’s your passion, what drives you to build these types of projects?
[00:04:53] Jim: I think the biggest thing for us and myself is the craftsmanship and the quality that we put into our projects. Definitely we want to have a good process in place and deliver a really good experience for homeowners, but that is coupled with the quality of work that we’re doing.
[00:05:09] Jim: So, if we have projects that go over budget or over time, you know, those are different challenges, but the one thing that we never jeopardize is the quality of work. And that also goes back to the craftsmanship. Style of mentality that our carpenters have that our team has, and it’s just a better value that we’re trying to deliver to the homeowners.
[00:05:30] Mike: How do you do that? Is it workmanship or is it process? Like how, what, what separates you from some of the other people out there who haven’t?
[00:05:40] Jim: It’s a good question. It’s a number of things combined. I mentioned experience. We’re trying to deliver an experience for the homeowners where if they’re not buying a Ferrari, that’s okay. They can still have a Ferrari experience. So even if it’s a simple renovation, we want them at the end to feel like they’ve got really good value from that. And it’s part of the process. We’re not the only guys that use a project management software, but we use a tool called Builder Trend to manage our projects, the homeowners, architects and designers as well. The entire team really is engaged in the project. That’s one side of it. On the job sites we want our guys to have the mentality of doing really good quality work. Even if you know, there’s kind of an old saying, work like everyone’s watching, even though nobody is.
[00:06:31] Jim: And we’re really trying to instill that. We want to make sure that we’re doing a really good job and trying to build homes or renovate homes that last a long time is another aspect of it. So, not having the mentality that, you know, this is good enough or it’s, you know, it’s only going to last, or they’re going to only live here for 10 years.
[00:06:50] Jim: Part of our green action mentality as well as to, if we can build houses that last a hundred years before they have to be torn down it’s a lot better than a house that only lasts 30 years. So, there’s a lot that goes into that type of quality that we’re trying to achieve every time.
[00:07:06] Jennifer-Lee: That’s a great list of values for you and your company. But how do you find clients that kind of align with those values? Because like you said, sometimes clients when they come to you want to get it done cheap. They just want it done and that’s it. But how do you find clients that kind of want to grow with you and have homes that last for a longer period of time?
[00:07:24] Jim: Yeah, we’re really fortunate that we get a lot of referrals through architects and designers which is great. They sort of somewhat vet the clients or prospects for us, and then kind of marry them to us as well. Because they understand the types of projects that we want to do. And we’ll definitely take on projects with homeowners that are budget conscious.
And that’s fine by us. We can. Accommodate that in the sense that even though maybe your finishes aren’t as high end as some of our other projects the home that we’re building it still has to have a lot of value to it. So, we’ll focus on maybe the mechanical side of it more so than the countertops, or we’ll focus on something like really custom, high-end cabinetry in certain parts of the house, but not everywhere in the house. So, we’ll try to marry that with what the clients want to do as well.
[00:07:39] Mike: I have a question for you. On your website, your company talks about something called the magic of three. And I found that to be a really intriguing value. Can you talk about that a little more? Because I think it’s such a unique proposition.
[00:07:54] Jim: Yeah, it applies to a few different things really, but the one that we focus on is the team and we’ll call it the team is that we want the homeowner being one, the builder, and then the designer architect, that those are the three elements that we’re trying to marry together. And often we’ll say building a new house or doing a full-scale renovation is like getting married for maybe a year or more. You’re really in each other’s business. You’re learning a lot about each other, and so, you want to work together as a team. And so that’s where the three parties come in and any decisions that are getting made or anything that we’re going to be talking about, it involves all three of those parties all the time.
[00:08:34] Mike: it sounds like more than anything else, just streamlined communication.
[00:08:37] Jim: That’s huge for sure. Communication and nowadays it could be emails, texts, there’s so many apps, but the key is that it’s constant and it’s continuous and that everybody’s involved in it. So, we’re doing a project right now, for instance, where there’s two houses on one lot in Vancouver. And so, there’s the parents, then there’s their kids and then the grandkids. And so, there’s actually a lot of cooks in that kitchen. But we’re making every decision on that job with everybody involved, even though it does maybe add to the timeframe because we want everybody’s input. And it’s important that everybody has that input.
[00:09:12] Jennifer-Lee: Wow, it’s like you’re a counselor too, because it’s three different families and you’re being the referee between them.
[00:09:17] Jim: Yeah, sometimes we’re not quite marriage counselors, but we’re definitely able to bring experiences that we’ve seen in the past and maybe what have worked for past clients and bring that into conversations as well, which helps homeowners because sometimes they’re not sure if they want. X or Y, and we can talk about why X worked really well for another family that had young children, for instance, or why it worked for a retiring couple. So having that experience and being able to share that experience is pretty valuable, I think. And we like doing that as well. It’s, it helps, I think, people with decision making.
[00:09:49] Jennifer-Lee: And can you give us an example of some like a situation that maybe you had to resolve and you had to step in and give an example of hey, we did this because of this or yeah, give us like, I’d always like to get down and dirty. I want to know.
[00:10:02] Mike: Before he answers I just want to point something out. When builders are learning their craft and their trade, and they’re going through BCIT and they’re going through apprenticeships, at no point is there a course on family counseling, psychology, or any of these other things. So, the folks that are doing this effectively, congratulations. Not only are you self-taught, but you’re doing something that no one prepared you for when you learned how to become a builder. No one ever thought, oh, I’d have to intervene between a husband and wife who are ready to kill each other or something like that. Yeah. Good on you.
[00:10:28] Jim: Yeah, thank you. And it’s tricky because sometimes we’re not sure how to mediate through that situation, but we’ve, like I say, we can revert back to past experiences. We had a client that they were thinking about how big should the laundry room be. And what it was is that the husband wanted to do a smaller the laundry room and have some more space.
Jennifer-Lee: Wrong answer.
Jennifer-Lee: Yeah, totally wrong answer.
Jim: And of course, she wanted, the wife wanted to have a bigger laundry room. And because they had a young growing family, we were able to talk about some past clients that also had the same amount of kids, had three kids. And we said, here’s their kids that what the ages they are, and here’s how it worked because we’re still in touch with a lot of our clients. And we can say 10 years later, how is that family now interacting with their laundry room, and so that was something we could pass on to our new clients and say, the bigger laundry room is the right decision for sure.
[00:11:20] Jennifer-Lee: It’s also going to make your marriage last longer too.
[00:11:21] Jim: Yes, it is. It is for sure.
[00:11:24] Jennifer-Lee: And did he get extra space for being rewarded for giving her a larger space?
[00:11:27] Jim: It worked out. They’re still together. They’re still in the house. So, I’m going to say it’ll work out for everybody for sure.
Mike: Excellent. Jim Smith, marriage counselor. Hey, before we go on, I’m really enjoying this conversation. I think we’re having some great insight, but we have to take a quick break to acknowledge our amazing and awesome sponsors. So, if you’re okay, hold on for just a sec, we’re going to do this thing and we’ll be right back.
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[00:13:12] Mike: Jennifer, I’m so glad you had to read that and not me. A lot of big words in there. But definitely, thank you to our amazing sponsors. They make it possible to have these conversations with people like Jim, and we really appreciate all their support along the way. And now that we’ve got to know you, Jim, a little bit better, got to learn a little bit more about what makes you tick, it’s time to start talking about some of the projects, because you were nominated for a number of awards this year. The one that is really exciting to talk about. They’re all exciting to talk about. But the one is called Black is the New Black. And it’s a really neat project. Can you tell us a little bit about the project at a high level about maybe who wanted this and a little about it so we can understand what the project is?
[00:13:51] Jim: It’s a custom home that we did in East Vancouver. And it’s again, a young family that like the neighborhood and wanted to stay in the neighborhood, had found a piece of property that they could get into and then started their search for builders, architects, designers, and came across us from walking in the neighborhood actually.
[00:14:10] Jim: And had also seen some of our marketing and then talked to us about coming on board to help build the house. They had already hired the architect at that point, and they wanted a very modern aesthetic, and we’ve done quite a few projects with a very modern aesthetic. So, we are familiar with how to pull those off. We jumped in there and that house came out really well, and they were quite happy with that. We had some hiccups, of course along the way, but all in all they have a great house that they’re enjoying.
[00:14:37] Jennifer-Lee: that’s what we love to hear is the hiccups. It’s like a reality TV show. So, you can tell us a little bit about those.
[00:14:42] Jim: Yeah, for sure. It’s like any property in Vancouver, it’s tight quarters. There’s not a lot of setback sides side yard setback, but the bigger issues there is that they had a brought in and the structural engineer to the project, and unfortunately that engineer wasn’t familiar with open design concept. So, as we got through the project, we realized that some of the structural elements of the home weren’t really working the way they should. So, unfortunately, we had to bring in a different engineer that did an evaluation and realized that there’s some elements of this house that aren’t going to work the way it’s designed. So, we almost went back to the drawing board on some of it to have the new engineer talk about new footings and moment frame. Steel work shear walls. So, a lot of work had to go back into it. And I joked with the homeowners who weren’t too happy about joking, but we were renovating a new house at that point. So definitely that was one of the much bigger hiccups that we’ve seen in a project. I think it would have been a lot better, maybe avoidable, had they brought their builder in sooner. And I know I’ve listened to other episodes where you guys have had other builders here. They talk about bringing the builders of the design team together as soon as possible. And I preach the same thing because the sooner you have that team together, the more that we can watch out for each other’s work and make sure it’s going to work. So, in that particular instance, we might have brought up the design and seeing something that we thought might not work and be able to question it sooner.
[00:16:11] Jennifer-Lee: And that’s the thing a lot of people don’t think about is of course, the architect is amazing at what they do and they design, but a lot of people don’t realize that it’s okay, you get this home design and the architect builds it or doesn’t build it, designs and then the builder builds it. And sometimes that’s why you need a good combo of architect and builder, because the builder will let you know what actually is possible. Because just because a drawing can be produced doesn’t mean it can actually be produced in real life.
[00:16:37] Jim: Yeah, definitely. This is a great point. You’re absolutely right. And it’s also in conjunction with the budget, because sometimes the design can look fantastic, but maybe doesn’t fit the budget. So, having those two parties together the sooner, the better for sure.
[00:16:51] Jennifer-Lee: again, like it’s not putting one party down and like I said, it’s not one’s going to shine better than the other. I really think a strong team is great architect, great builder, great interior designer. And I think sometimes people think, oh, one’s going to be, have a little bit higher than the other. But no, the best teams I’ve seen is when you guys are all together and you’re all, not to sound corny, but you’re working from the same plans, and it brings unity.
[00:17:14] Mike: absolutely. No home is a result of one party. There’re multiple parties and what this conversation has really iterated is the value of working with the multiple parties early on. Obviously as a result of this there would be a cost to the homeowner. Can we talk a little about that? Because that, if you want to put a price on not working with the right people at the right time, You can right now, right?
[00:17:38] Jim: Yeah. For that particular instance it was cost and time as well. And of course time is money, but it ended up being adding an additional five months to the project. Thankfully the outgoing engineer was cooperative and realized that they were maybe just in over their heads on that particular type of design. I mentioned open-concept style of house, and that’s really popular. But it’s not a lot of people have done it and it’s more so now that I would say more people have done it now, but your first go at it, it can be tricky to figure out. So, I think that was the issue. And ultimately, I mentioned, we went back to foundation, we put in new steel, so the total bill was probably about $350,000 that added to that project. It wasn’t necessary had the design been done differently from day one. It’s like I say, it was, is an unfortunate a bunch of events that happened, but at the end of the day, the homeowners are there. They’re still living in the house. They’re quite happy with it. The house is performing really well, so it came out okay at the end.
[00:18:36] Jennifer-Lee: And can you paint a picture for our audience? Because obviously we’ve heard a lot of times open kitchen, but what is really like an open house floor plan? What does that look like?
[00:18:44] Jim: That’s a good question. People probably have different definitions of it, but in this particular instance, the main floor, was open in the sense it had three walls around the powder room or bathroom and then one more wall that wasn’t even full height and that divided an office space to the rest of it. And the rest of the, that floor was open. Not very many walls at all. Not a lot of structural elements. So really wide open from front to back. And in fact, actually, when the blinds are open, you can see right through the house from front to end. Very open the top floor, of course, where the bedrooms became a little bit more closed off, but the open concept is fully open where you’re having spaces that connect the living, the kitchen. Again, because of a young family, they want to be able to see the kids and where the kids are at and where they’re playing and stuff like that. So, to them, it was very important to have that, whether the kids are in the living room or maybe in the den or the office. And we see a lot of that design where it’s very open from kind of one side to the other, but people don’t realize that.
[00:19:43] Jennifer-Lee: it looks really cool in photos. And we look at Pinterest and Instagram, but going back to your point, if you don’t have the proper team, people aren’t going to know, like how to make that structure properly. So, it doesn’t cave in on you either.
[00:19:54] Jim: Yeah, that’s a really good point for the seismic aspect of it. It can be very tricky when you’re dealing with only a couple of walls. How do you make that work? And so having those professionals, the engineers, the architects that are familiar with that and have done it before and seen what works really well that’s vital to the project.
[00:20:10] Mike: We spent a lot of time talking about energy efficiency and resource management here, building an open a concept house like that, how does that impact the energy goals of a homeowner and a builder like yourself? Is it harder to manage in an open concept home?
[00:20:21] Jim: It can be, but you’re again, another element to having that team is a certified energy advisor and having somebody the city of Vancouver now mandates that for all projects. But we’ve been using a certified energy advisor for at least a dozen years. And we also use them on projects where we don’t need to, just because they’re at the forefront of the project. And they’re going to be able to help us determine if, for instance, in an open floor concept. If we need better windows because we don’t want to lose space heating or what the mechanical system could be to heat that space. If there’s the right planning is done, then it’s it works out really well from an energy aspect and it the open concept really, there’s no negative aspect from it from that standpoint.
[00:21:04] Jennifer-Lee: And one thing before I move on to another project, I just wanted to know about the concrete floors. So, is it concrete, like it’s finished or is there still tile or hardwood on it? Or is it just a concrete floor?
[00:21:13] Jim: It’s a polished concrete floor which was thankfully we didn’t have in place when we had to start redoing some foundation. That’d be hard.
[00:21:21] Mike: Is that better for indoor air quality than say a composite floor, some of the more traditional and conventional floors, because we’re also hearing that coming up in conversations to indoor air quality, sick building syndrome, things like that. What sort of care and consideration was given to that element of how these people are going to live in their house, not just when they move in, but five years from now, 10 years from now as well?
[00:21:39] Jim: Yeah, that’s a good question. We get that a lot because with, especially in the modern aesthetic concrete floors go hand in hand with that clean look. I have concrete floors in my own house. So, I can speak to the pros and cons and it’s really great, except for when your kids are young and you’re down in your hands and knees a lot playing with the kids. It’s very hard on your hands and knees, but you need rubber mats, carpets, area rugs. There’s ways to get around it, but it’s also great. We have dogs. It’s a great way to for the dogs. So, you don’t have to do a lot of cleaning up after dogs. So, from an indoor air quality aspect. It’s great. I wouldn’t say it’s any better than other hard surfaces. It would probably be better than carpet. Carpet definitely is changing, and they’re changing the materials there because it’s in the past been a bit of a magnet for not having good air quality in a house. But the concrete or hardwood flooring, those are really good options, both of those. So, we do a lot of that, those types of floors for sure. I don’t think you should be allowed carpet if you have children. Yeah, with kids and dogs and carpet, definitely that’s a terrible combination. Just stains everywhere.
[00:22:44] Mike: Our first house had gray carpet and then I had a black lab and a kid and by the end I had a darkish brown carpet.
[00:22:51] Jim: Carpet’s pretty is a tricky thing to do. I equate it to you if you have to wear the same clothes all the time, you can shower as much as you want, but you can’t take the clothes off. So how clean is that really? So maybe that’s not a very good picture to paint, but carpet is definitely it’s not quite as clean as the other.
[00:23:07] Mike: I actually sat beside that guy in the train coming in this morning.
[00:23:10] Jennifer-Lee: And more people are having allergies now too, especially to dust mites and stuff like that. Seasonal allergies. So like carpet is not great.
[00:23:17] Jim: No, it’s not good. It’s nice that we’re also introducing or not now, but HRV systems, for instance. So, we’re getting to filter a lot more of the air that is coming and going from a house and those systems are helping with the air, indoor air quality. But yeah, certain materials can play a factor for sure.
[00:23:32] Jennifer-Lee: which is so great when just quick touch upon that, because obviously we’ve had a little bit of smoke now and with the HRV system, when there’s forest fires, that helps. And then even on the news today, like New York and them have such bad outdoor air quality. So how great is an HRV system here?
[00:23:49] Jim: Yeah, it’s fantastic. Even without the smoke is just, it’s healthy air all the time. And it’s, it, I don’t want to say it looks after itself. You do have to have maintenance done on it, but it does for the most part, take care of that exchange of air without you having to do any work with the smoke it’s there’s filters built into that. So, it helps a lot with that. And we’re doing more and more houses these days with air conditioning, for instance, where you don’t necessarily need to open your windows. So, when the smoke comes, it’s great because you don’t get that smoke into your house through open windows. Take that heat dome.
[00:24:19] Jim: Take that heat dome. Exactly. Yeah.
[00:24:21] Mike: And this is a bigger issue. Like the air quality outside today is like export A quality. Like it’s really bad. And being able to have fresh, clean air, like I have family members who have allergies, and they really struggle. So, what you’re talking about is very important. And it’s going to be such a big part. Of how we think about homes moving forward, and I could probably talk about this home and all the beautiful things and how it was designed to entertain all day long, but I want to switch gears very briefly because as much as I’d love to talk to you for four straight hours, we can’t, so we want to chat very briefly about another project, and what really intrigues me about this of the projects we talk about here are very high end custom homes. This is a home designed for I’m going to say normal people, Vancouver is not a cheap place to live. And so, it’s very hard for families to be able to afford to live there. And one of the challenges we face is the houses that we can afford to have a finite amount of space and you can’t necessarily do that much with that footprint. So, you took a home that was an existing home and you made it something really amazing and really special. And I think the thing I like most about it is attainable for most people. Can you talk a little bit more about that project? Because that’s also nominated for an award as well, because it’s not just these high-end custom homes that win awards, it’s homes at every level. Let’s talk a little about that.
[00:25:39] Jim: That was a project where we did actually get brought in quite early in the process, which I think helped because we did a lot of budgeting early on to determine if they could afford a laneway, if they could do a suite, how much square footage they could really add. And I think that helped guide them as well. And ultimately it was great that we were laneway, a two-bedroom laneway house. A two-bedroom basement suite. And then the principal house got bigger. It was a 1960s house. Some people call it a Vancouver special, depending on what generation you are. And we ripped the roof off and added an extra story to it. So, we didn’t have to tear the house down, which was great too, because we could keep elements in the 1960s. They had some good lumber, they had good concrete. So, we could keep those elements and do a renovation to the principal house. And then from there, we built a brand-new laneway house. And that Laneway house then serves as rental as does the basement suite. So, it’s nice that a younger family, two working professionals, and two younger kids were able to stay in a neighborhood that they really loved. They absolutely loved the neighborhood and then provide some mortgage helpers for themselves, but also provide rental, which nowadays is really hard to find in Vancouver. And they’re able to rent out both the basement suite and the laneway, or at some point as their parents get older, have their parents move in with them as well. That house will definitely become multi-generational at some point. But in the meantime, we were able to use a lot of materials and work with the architects to design certain elements that weren’t super high end. And to your point about being more affordable, that was a project that came in around one point. three or 1. 4 million for almost a new house. And it’s one of those projects where people look at it and can’t tell it’s a renovation.
[00:27:18] Jennifer-Lee: No. And you took the Vancouver special, which is not really the most aesthetically pleasing home, and you made it sexy. So, it looked really cool. You got to check it out on the website.
[00:27:27] Jim: We have to thank the architects for that. They did an amazing job. And we used to live in East Vancouver and a Vancouver special in there. They’re not great to look at there they serve the purpose for sure.
[00:27:39] Mike: We’ve seen a number of people renovate them on this podcast as well. And it’s amazing when you’re working with the right team, what you can accomplish, and you can look at a space and do so many amazing things. Jim. I have got to say a huge thank you for coming here today. You shared your story with us, you shared your personal story, you talked about your company and your philosophy, and it really gives us a chance to get to know who you are and what drives you, and the people behind these award-winning homes as well. We really were able to take a great, deep dive into your project and learn some great lessons today. Those were really the most crucial learning, because these are lessons, it doesn’t matter what kind of home you’re building, you will learn from them. The lessons are to do your due diligence and work with a great team of people. And make sure the team of people you are… You have our experience. And if you’re working with a builder or an architect or designer, ask him who are their team and do your work and find out who those people are. And the last part, and I think this goes without saying, is you want to engage your professionals as early in the process as possible. And you want to engage them all together and have them working together. Versus bringing in later, because we talked about the results of not having proper timing with your team as well. So many great lessons, and Jennifer? Do you have anything you want to add to this?
[00:29:01] Jennifer-Lee: Yes, I do. Again, I just want to congratulate you on being Custom Home Builder of the Year, which is super exciting for HAVAN.
[00:29:09] Jim: Absolutely. Congratulations.
[00:29:11] Jennifer-Lee: I feel like we need to have mimosas or something to cheer him at the table. But before we go, do you have one more tip that you can share with our listeners today?
[00:29:19] Jim: From a homeowner’s perspective, I would say ask questions, just ask questions all day long. You’ll find that the sub trades, our trade partners, for instance our builders, ourselves designed, we all love what we do. So, we love talking about it. So, if somebody wants to talk to me about HRVs or mechanical systems or windows or roofs, I’ll talk to them all day long. And so, from a homeowner’s perspective. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t think you have to educate yourself. You can, obviously, learn a lot online these days, but talk to the builders, talk to the design architects about any questions you have whatsoever because they’re there to help you out and they love talking about it.
[00:29:55] Jennifer-Lee: Perfect. And one more question before we go, I want to know, where did you put your HAVAN award?
[00:29:58] Jim: That one’s up in the office at home. Okay. Displayed. So, you see it every morning. Yeah. Away from the kids so that they don’t knock it off the windows. Perfect.
[00:30:08] Mike: Jim, it’s been a great conversation. Before we go, I have to do something barbecue related. Of course, we have this amazing group of sponsors. One of whom, which is FortisBC. And we’re giving away a Napoleon Prestige P500 stainless steel natural gas barbecue. It’s worth like $1,500. If you’ve ever cooked in a natural gas barbecue, it is the best way to cook outside. Absolutely. And if you’re watching this, if you’re listening to this, you’d say, hey, I’d like one of those barbecues myself. All you got to do is go to www.havan.ca/measuretwicecutonce and you can be entered for a chance to win the barbecue. The picture from last season, the guy who won the barbecue. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so happy in a picture in my entire life. And I’d love to see someone else win this barbecue this season as well.
[00:30:54] Jennifer-Lee: And for notes and links to everything mentioned on today’s episode, including resources shared, of course, by Jim from Smithwood Builders all you need to do is go to www.havan.ca/measuretwicecutonce. Thanks for joining us.
[00:31:05] Jim: Yeah. Thanks again for having me. This is great guys.
Jennifer-Lee: Thanks for being here.
[00:31:09] Jim: Thank you.