Building a palace out of the ashes

October 7, 2011

I met with my general contractor today to sign the contracts for the rebuilding of my home. I had lost my house to the wildfire that burned down a significant number of homes in Slave Lake, Alberta, last May. Finding a general contractor, ensuring that the rebuilding costs are within the insurance limits, working with the insurance company, and completing all the necessary permits and details is a lengthy process. We are now within a week or two of the actual rebuilding to start. It was time to finalize all the agreements.

My general contractor has been working hard with my insurance company to get me the best deal possible out of my insurance policy. I appreciated that the general contractor himself had been involved in the insurance business in a previous career. Because of this experience, he was able to use the terminology the insurance adjustor knew. And, my general contractor knew what concerns the insurance adjustor would have, knew what limits could be negotiated, and knew what questions needed to be asked.

I had tried to get a general contractor in Slave Lake to rebuild my home. However, the ones I had met with were all too busy to take on my house. After all, there were over 300 homes burned in the wildfire. Friends and family members of all the general contractors in Slave Lake were given priority, and that circle’s needs were too large for the average general contractor to meet. There was definitely no time for others, such as myself.

In hindsight, the fact that local general contractors were too busy for me was a blessing. I had to look elsewhere. I wanted to stay as close to Slave Lake as possible. This would allow me to have any first-year maintenance and repairs completed as soon as possible. I started to look in the Edmonton area and I found Elevation Homes in St. Albert, Alberta, a company owned by two brothers, Dave and Chris Jackson.

This has been the lucky break I have needed since that wildfire. They know what they are doing. I don’t have to babysit them. Which is a good thing since I don’t know what I’m supposed to be watching out for anyway. I have had no complaints from my insurance adjustor over the negotiations. My house is being built custom made just for me. I was not presented with a few options with the statement, “these are your choices.”

Instead, I was provided with an architect who took my minimal plans and turned them into a home. A beautiful home. It did help that I had looked at a few floor plans in the previous months. Over the summer, I had taken the opportunity to browse through some modular homes. This helped me to visualize how different floor plans would actually work. When I met with the architect, I brought with me some drawings of what I was hoping to see. We spent about an hour together, and he was able to glean enough information about what I liked, and didn’t like. Along with my crude floor plans, he created the perfect space.

The next service that Elevation Homes provided me was time spent with an interior designer. Jody was an excellent resource. She worked with me to design the interior of my home in the minimal amount of time. Elevation Homes paid for a certain number of hours, and we were able to take care of all the decisions I needed to make now. I could hire Jody to work on other details, such as curtains and furniture, at a later date. The necessities – wall colours, stucco, fixtures and faucets, flooring, tiling, windows, kitchen cabinets and designs, etc. – are all completed. At no cost to me.

As for the various permits that are necessary, Elevation Homes are paying for those. They will get the deposits refunded when they are finished with my home, in its entirety. I do not have to upfront any of my own money. And, I have reassurance that they will finish my home in a timely manner. After all, they will have to ensure everything is done before they are refunded any deposits they have made on my behalf.

Whoever I address my questions to answers them promptly. Even questions about how the money is transferred from the insurance company to the general contractors. Instead of telling me to find out from my insurance company, the general contractor simply explained how it works under “normal circumstances.” Of course, my circumstances could be different so it’s best for me to get that information from my insurance adjustor. Yet, when I have concerns about anything to do with the rebuilding of my home, it’s very nice to know that my general contractor does have knowledge in all the aspects of the rebuilding process.

It is so nice to know that a beautiful home is being rebuilt, just for me. And that I don’t have to halt my life in order for that to be done. A silver lining has emerged in all of the chaos the wildfire created in my life.

For information on my experiences with the interior designer, see my blog titled, “Creating a home out of so many details.”

For more information on Elevation Homes, in St. Albert, Alberta, see the link:

For information on the architect that designed my home, contact Brad Wengryn of Classic Residential Designs Inc. at:








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