Category Archives: Past Projects

This Project Meant So Much to So Many, Especially…

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Jerry Bajema,

A while ago I got the chance to help a man in our area out after he had a terrible accident.  (click on links below to get the details)

It was a great experience for all involved.  As lead organizer of the home construction, I was able to use my design and  management skills along with my  connections in the building industry to help get Jerry into a nice, efficient new home, that suited him very well and within a very limited budget, before the cold weather hit.

So many people (partial list below) including the county permitting department and health department pitched in their best effort.  Tons of local people and businesses were involved in this wonderful story.

Stop motion video of one weekend at Jerry’s House

I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to help a neighbor, coworker, friend, or just someone who is in need of any sort,  to go for it.  Be a light in your world and you don’t have to do in alone.  reach out and ask people to join you in helping out.  All will be grateful.

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A huge thanks to all who helped or donated and helped make a happy ending to a tragic event.

Here are a few links about the project for your to enjoy.

A list of some of the businesses that were involved:

Acme Drywall

Marrs Heating

Bodes Precast

H.D. Fowler

Livermore & Son

Cowden Gravel & Ready Mix

CB Wholesale

Home Depot

Pro Build

RE Store

Nolan’s Roofing

Vander Griend Lumber

Mad Marmot Mills

Western Concrete Pumping

Ferndale Ready Mix & Gravel

Pass the Hat

Bellingham Millwork Supply

Orca Plumbing

Wilson Electric

Dejong Heating & Refrigeration

Super Flooring Construction

Hammertime Carpentry

Brown Dog Builders

Devine Interiors

VS Construction

Environmental Pest Control & Insulation

Two Dog Timberworks

Up-Rite Fence Co

Creative Stone Works

Remarkable Structures


Wayne’s House

Meshack Drew, Wayne and Pastor Kurt IngramAwhile ago we were privileged to be allowed to offer a wonderful gift to someone in our community.

One early summer day, Wayne called me to ask if we would be willing to help him make his home more livable. We soon determined that the house was not salvageable and his best hope would be to tear down the existing crumbling structure and start over.  After much thought, prayer and discussion, my wife and I felt moved to take this project on pro bono, and oversee the building of his new home.

Wayne’s existing house was very old, unsafe, and about to be condemned by the City of Bellingham.  Our job was now to remove the existing home and build Wayne a new home in a very short period of time while he lived with a friend.

With the help from one of Wayne’s family members we were able to come up with a small budget of $21000 dollars to cover the minimal costs such as permitting and material for which we could not find donations.

Wayne was incredibly moved,  excited and humbled by everyone’s willingness to help give him a new start. Continue reading

For Those Who Know

We have built homes for a number of our sub-contractors. I take this as a big compliment. They have seen innumerable houses in their careers. They have seen the quality of construction in the homes they work on. They know who keeps schedule and who pays on time. They know those who pass inspections on the first try. We have tried to collect a group of sub-contractors that know what they are doing and provide quality, every time. When one of them looks to you to build their custom home amidst hundreds of others general contractors, it should be taken as a compliment.

A few years ago we were asked by one of our contractors to design and build their dream home. They planned to live in this house into retirement. With that in mind we set out to provide a stellar product. This was the first house we used the Chief Architect software to design. The design was very complex and we were so new to the program that the process was tough. It was a “trial by fire” situation but I think the software paid for itself in this first job. There were so many custom details and tricky construction situations and the program allowed us to zero in tight before any material was purchased. It was sweet. Continue reading

On the Rock!

Occasionally, now that we have been designing buildings “in-house”, we get a customer who has already picked a floor plan that they like and sometimes they have already purchased a copy of that plan. That was the case with this house we built by Lake Whatcom. Our customers had a lot and a plan. The lot was steep down to the street and the plan was very cool. We wanted to make this one work.

In the beginning we knew the lot could hold some potential problems. We needed to push the house away from the steep front slope down to the street, but the house needed to be far enough away from the back of the lot to allow for a functional back yard. The other issue was sandstone. Our excavation contractor told us that there may be sandstone right under the surface of the topsoil and we might have a hard time digging an appropriate foundation. In our experience with sandstone we have seen two scenarios. One, the sandstone is a light gray/brown color and can be dug up with an excavator without many extra steps or problems. Two, the sandstone is a gray/blue color, much harder and it has to be broken up before it can be removed. The second scenario is more expensive and time consuming. Our risk here equated to potentially having to use the buffer in the budget and not being able to spend that reserve on other, important aspects of the house. Continue reading

Victorian Vitality

In July of 2009 we were contracted to build an addition on a historical building in downtown Bellingham. The house was a beautiful Victorian style home in the lettered streets with a pristine English-style garden covering every inch of the property.

Most custom jobs we take on have unique challenges. This one was no different. We were asked to put a 350 square foot addition right in the middle of an established garden without disturbing it. All of the plants within the footprint of the addition had specific relocation instructions as well. We were also asked to continue the look of the existing Victorian façade on the addition. Some Victorians are decorated like ornate gingerbread cookie houses you see around the holidays. This one was more subdued than that, but there were some very ornate details we had to copy to perfection.

As you might have noticed from earlier posts, no one within the walls of Squalicum Builders is easily intimidated by creative challenges. I think we actually look for projects that stretch us as builders and as people.

The excavation was similar to doing delicate surgery. We took the dirt off the property one bucket-full at a time. During the framing phase, a few tree branches needed to be trimmed, but that is about it. We kept the site as clean as possible to help keep the garden we were working in beautiful. In the slideshow at the end of the post you can see the detail on the eaves we reproduced from the original. Can you spot the wooden toy wheels? Yeah, that is what those circles are. Continue reading

Cottage on a cliff

We have a few customers who we have hired us for more than one project and only one who has hired us for three. Summer of 2008 we built a guest cottage for this customer. She has an amazing lot with an amazing view of the bay. Just sitting on her deck eating lunch every day watching the water added years to our lives.

The plan was to make a separate dwelling for her to use as an art studio and a place for her guests/family to stay when they were visiting. Space was an important aspect. The cottage needed to be small, but functional and match the style of the main house.

Our first hurdle was how to get an excavator to the back of a property on a cliff. We rented a mini-excavator that could pull its tracks in to 5’4” wide and we drove it through a space we opened in the side fence. The digging was slow and we hit sandstone, but time and a jackhammer did the trick. Continue reading

Commercial Projects

The majority of our business has been in residential construction. In the last few years we have tried our hand at a few commercial projects to broaden our skill set and get some different perspective. We have since learned new things and met new people who have helped us become better contractors.
One of the major aspects we needed to learn was the code in commercial construction. We are very read in the International Residential Building Code, but commercial is a whole other world. Health Department and ADA regulations became familiar to us very quickly.

The Daisy Café used to be the Toulouse Café and we helped change that. We had to bring the kitchen up to Health Department standards. It was interesting to clean a commercial kitchen that didn’t pass the Health code in the beginning and improve it to pass a very stringent multiple point inspection. I appreciate the Health Department so much more now! We took that knowledge and used it at Greene’s Corner and Room2Think which both have kitchen facilities. The Daisy Café is now one of our favorite places to have “business meetings” and plot out our next ventures. It is a good feeling to eat at a place and think ‘Hey, we made this place better than what it was and I know the kitchen passed inspection!’ Continue reading

Raise the roof!

A few years ago we were hired to do a remodel project on a home in Ferndale. The family who hired us wanted to add a bonus room above their garage that connected to the upper story of their house. We drew up a design and a budget that fit.

Everything was going just as planned with the demolition until we came to the roof. It had to be ripped off so we could build a new floor above it. Taking a roof off a garage that size is not very difficult but it creates a lot of garbage that has to be hauled to the dump. We usually try to separate out all of the wood debris from the non-recyclable construction waste that is produced on our sites if it is possible. In this situation the idea was raised to just lift the roof and truss structure off the top with a crane, set it down on the ground during the construction of the second floor and put it back on top of the new walls. We added up the labor, time and cost of that demolition. Then we calculated the crane cost and time for detaching and reattaching the structure. In the end we figured it would save just a few hundred dollars, but the true savings was in the reuse of what we had. Continue reading