I met with Allen Remley on the site of one of his current renovation projects here in Guelph, this particular one is on Division St. The ambitious endeavour is a complete build from the existing foundation upwards. Everything moves in an organized fashion in an Allen Remley home. While I sat and chatted with him exterior decking were being installed and inside Shawn Broader was installing the drywall. Allen was in his work clothes and when I arrived he was busily helping tradesman get the job done. We sat on a couple of two step ladders and had a coffee which reminded me of my time in construction. Not wanting to take up too much of his time I got right down to questions.
ME: “What projects do you have on the go right now?”
AL: “This one on Division and the new build behind here, the adjacent lot on Kathleen. Another 6 town homes that are going to start in the spring in Hespeler. We are building a house right now in Breslau and another project we are probably going to be doing down near Hamilton on Concession 10. I’ve got a lot next door to me on Wellington 34 and I am working with a couple that have given me a deposit, designing a home that’s going to be about 5000 square foot house with a 5 car garage.”
ME: “That’s a lot of projects you must have a lot of guys. How many crews?”
AL: “Well, I mostly work with trades that have been loyal to me over the years and with whom I have built a good working relationship. My son in law and I take care of most of the new build projects and I also work with Jess Lacoursiere on our renovation projects. I have never been afraid to get my hands dirty and so I do what I can do myself and farm the rest out.”
ME: “Are there any new products or techniques you have been using in the last few years that are unique or perhaps different then what you have done in the past?”
AL: “The only thing that’s kind of a signature of a lot of my houses sometimes is a chamfered bead corner instead of a bullnose so they are a 45 instead of a 90 and I haven’t seen a lot of guys doing that. Mostly on the bigger houses.”
Shawn was walking by and he chimes in. “Yea some tapers don’t even know what that is. I was talking with a woman one time and she was saying she didn’t like rounded corners and she didn’t like square. “Well”, I said. “There’s a chamfered product”, and the taper looked at me like I was crazy. So we talked about it and I had to show him the product.
AL: “Now they are coming out with all new types of flooring that have these water resistant kind of laminate, almost like a tile that some guys are pushing right now but I don’t know.”
Shawn: “On our end I haven’t seen anything new in years. They tried pushing the mold resistant blue lumber but the cost is too excessive and it hasn’t really caught on.”
AL: “The stuff behind the walls clients can’t see. They are looking at their kitchens, their flooring etc. If you actually consider the cost of a house right now, where we are spending most of the money is in all the finishing stuff. Not on the actual framing and insulation and important stuff.”
Shawn: “You can tell people to upgrade your windows to a far more efficient window for an extra 2000 dollars and they ask you well what does it look like?. You say well it looks the exact same as the other one and they say no. They they come back and say well I want that one, but I don’t really want to pay for it. Then we see millwork and finishing stuff that priced crazy and they go for it.”
AL: “Everything has gone to this MDF and I don’t really like it but it’s seems to be the competitive thing for trim and stuff but I wouldn’t use it again in my own house because it chips too easily and you have to rip it off to replace it. What I was doing on the last house, they wanted to put MDF, but around the kitchen sink I put wood, and I put wood around the garage door you know, anywhere there could be moisture I put wood because when MDF gets wet it swells at the bottom. Actually I don’t mind if we go with regular trim and put real wood on top of it that way the whole edge is sealed.”
ME: “I have been told you are busy with projects around the world. Tell me a bit about that.”
AL: “It started years ago. I made a friend on one of my many trips to India. 22 trips to India. He’s from England and he asked if I could help him put a roof on a school in Western Kenya.” I said after some thought that I could and so I went and I just loved it. So now I have helped build 4 schools there. I go twice a year. I just got back I was there for 17 days.”
ME: “ With everything going on how do you keep in contact with your clients?”
AL: “Some people are so nice to work with, and other people are watching everything and want to micro-manage every detail. I like people who trust me and say just do your thing. Mostly I let them come by the site when they want to see things and I talk to them then if I am on site or through text. It’s easier to communicate through text then phone calls.”
I decided to let Al get back to work on his renovation. I can, without a doubt, tell you that it is going to be beautiful. I was so impressed with the confidence he goes to work with. Trust in your skill like this only comes from years of hands-on experience. Allen has an extremely approachable way about him. I am fortunate to live in an Allen Remley home, so I know first hand the quality that goes into his projects. His success comes from years of hard work and many satisfied clients. Here’s to another two decades of quality work Allen!