Age: 35 and under. Occupation: custom home builder. Location: Vanderhoof.
Celebrating its fifth birthday in residential construction this year, Northern Homecraft Ltd. is run by a youthful staff from owner to apprentice — all between the age of 19 to 35.
The Vanderhoof-born company was founded in April 2011 by Shay Bulmer and Beau Jackson, who were apprentice carpenters of the same company at the time when its owner closed shop and left the community.
“We realized that there’s room in the market in Vanderhoof for us to have a company and run it the way we thought a construction company should be run,” Bulmer said. “There’s room for high quality construction at a competitive rate with respect and integrity being our top priority when it comes to relating to our clients.”
The young builders are interested in projects customized by each client, rather than cookie-cutter structures.
“We like to work with people to create a home, not just a house,” Bulmer said. “We’ll consult with our clients well in advance of construction, in some cases we work with interior designers and decorators, to get what people we want, or they’ll get us onboard and build a house that they’ve been working with a client on.
“So it’s much more attuned, with some unique elements to the home, instead of just status quo.”
Their starting projects included finishing a timber frame home, adding a deck and pagoda for another, and building their first house as Northern Homecraft during the company’s first fall season.
Bulmer says work hasn’t stopped once since the beginning, with projects continuing throughout the seasons. In tandem with smaller renovation projects, the crew built ten to 12 houses so far in the last five years in Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, and Fort St. James.
“We try to pick and choose our work accordingly, doing larger interior renovations in the winter and new construction during the summer, but it doesn’t always go that way,” he said. “We build year-round.”
Their success so far can be attributed to their focus on not compromising quality for the sake of budget, Bulmer said.
“What we would rather do is redesign the project according to budget, but still incorporate all the important elements of construction,” he said. “Sometimes it’s tough to explain to folks why we can’t have the granite countertops and the expensive engineered hardwood, that it’s more important that we put the money into improving the environment in the home, or building envelope.
“I think people respect that decision in the end.”
One of the company’s latest projects was Shirley and George Peters’ new one-level home and garage in Vanderhoof, completed at the end of May this year. For Shirley, the company was thorough and communicated well.
Working with a prefabricated package and completing all interior finishings, construction took three and a half months from breaking ground to occupation, Shirley said.
“Everything was our choice in the choosing.” she said. “They gave us recommendations, talked through each step, and we told them what we are thinking, asked how this comes together. They were just so good to communicate with, right from start to finish.”
In addition to the 1,188 square-foot package, the couple wanted a garage and a front deck.
“They suggested a duck porch, with a covered deck…those little things to change the look of the home to being unique,” she said.
While work may not stop for the young crew, the number of full-time employees fluctuate seasonally from five to 10, as apprentice staff attend school to further their trade. Next spring, two employees will be leaving for school to return later as a journeyman carpenter and a third-year apprentice.
“One of our biggest fears is that we run out of work, our guys go out and find another job, and it’s hard to get them back,” Bulmer said, “We haven’t laid people off yet.”