How to avoid surprises in your cottage project

Jun 30, 2014 11:19:18 AM / by normerica_


There are many things to consider when you are building a new cottage. Building a cottage instead of buying an existing one can be a daunting task. But if you consider these aspects of your project and ideally, address them before construction starts, you will find your building project an exciting time as you anticipate the final outcome.

  1. Interview at least three builders. Create a questionnaire with key things to ask the prospective builders. Pick the one with whom you are most comfortable. Find a great builder. There are a lot of builders who purport to be capable of building your home. However there are things that you can do to be sure that you will be comfortable with your selection and that in turn will result in a good process and the house of your dreams.
  2. Check references. Actually speak to the references.
  3. Talk about and understand builder warranty, trade warranties, etc.
  4. Understand barriers to building. What does the local building jurisdiction say you can build in terms of setbacks, dimensions of building, conservation authority issues, numbers of buildings allowed, etc. This homework can be done early to avoid delays later.


Understand your site characteristics. Will you need to blast rock, how high is the water table, are there protected habitats on your property, what is the hundred year high water mark can all be considerations that need to be and can be understood far in advance of the construction start.

Have a signed contract. Make sure the contract covers all aspects of the project. Know what is in and what is out (scope of work). Know what the cost will be and how it is calculated. Make sure key milestones are defined and how they will be monitored 


  1. Have a process to identify and handle out of scope situations. You should always understand when there is an out of scope piece of work that needs to be done and what it will cost. This needs to be agreed and signed off by both you and your builder. Overruns many times are unavoidable. Plan contingencies for these and deal with them as a team.
  2. Understand who and what you are paying for. Sometimes you will pay the Contractor for all expenses and on other occasions you will pay the trades directly. Know who, when and what you are paying for so there is no confusion later down the line.

owners with a builder

  1. Insist on regular milestone reviews, both from a project timeline and financial perspective. Match the financial budget and actuals to physical progress on the site. Understanding potential shortfalls early and dealing with them will result in a better project that comes in on time and on budget.

It is true that building a cottage can be stressful and time consuming process. However if you do your homework early, anticipate potential problems and address these proactively, you will have a satisfactory experience.

About Normerica

Since 1979, Normerica has created the highest quality timber frame homes and buildings across North America and around the world. Our decades of timber frame experience and expert in-house design capabilities have given us the ability to offer a high level of customization and design flexibility – a key advantage of timber frame homes and post and beam construction.