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Our Backyard Project
By: Michelle Keenan
As a business owner, being passionate about what you can provide to your customers is a necessary requirement. To me that means understanding each individual customer’s unique requirements and then adapting my product to best suit their specific needs. It means fully recognizing the versatility of my products and thinking outside of the proverbial box, to create solutions that are unique and exciting. As owners of Norsteel Buildings, it was a very important thing for my husband and I to experience our service from our customers’ perspective…so we made ourselves customers. Here’s our story:
In 2007, my husband and I moved into an incredible neighbourhood in the middle of rural Ontario. We were surrounded by the Oak Ridges Moraine and our property was immersed in a beautiful forest of 80 foot high sugar maples, cherry and oak. With 4 children, the house and property became our biggest investment. Instead of looking for a weekend getaway, we became determined to bring the cottage-life, to our home. The key to convincing my husband was that everything, from the landscaping to the building had to be virtually maintenance-free...
We decided to fully landscape the backyard - complete with patios and separate pool area, and I was determined to design my own pool cabana that could easily double as an apartment when relatives came to visit.
That’s when the research began.
I sourced out the pool first. I felt very confident after speaking to a representative of Mayfair Pools in Markham. The owner was very forthcoming with information, incredibly knowledgeable about many aspects of construction and landscaping and he had several referrals for me to look into. For landscaping, we went with a family owned and operated company - Dutch-Style Landscaping. They were in our neighbourhood working on several other yards at the time, so I was able to see their finished projects and speak with other customers.
Lastly (after I went to the permit office to make sure I had all the information I needed in terms of size and distance from the property line), I started to look into possibilities for the pool cabana. It was overwhelming.
How totally ironic that my first thought was to go with wood? Seriously….I have been in the steel building industry almost 40 years, and my first inclination was to build my own pool cabana in wood so it would match with my house.
You see at that time, our building focus at Norsteel was mainly on Industrial, Agricultural and Commercial applications. It took my husband’s adventurous spirit to look at my collection of photos, turn to me and say – “We can do it in steel.”
And so began our experience with Residential Pre-Engineered buildings.
That night Sean and I were up for hours, designing and re-designing, until everything we wanted was on the preliminary drawings. Things like an overhang porch, multiple entrances and bar height windows, side door washroom entrance, and high peaked ceiling. We discussed the inside space optimization and the “clear-span” interior (no posts inside) which would give me a totally open concept to work with and cathedral ceilings
My biggest worry was the look of the exterior. How could we make our typical steel building look like something other than steel? More research….We found steel panels in various colours, some that looked like stucco, some like wood, and some that even looked like brick. The options went on and on. In the end, we chose to put stucco on the back and sides and we called a friend of ours to brick the front of the building so that it matched our house.
Lastly, and most importantly, the concerns I had about the safety issues involved in putting anything up within our forest…were now gone. Trees are constantly falling (keep in mind they are on average, 80 feet tall), and I was worried that any structure could be compromised by a falling tree or the incredible amount of snow we get in the wintertime. With Pre-Eng structures I knew that the building would meet or exceed all building codes for our area. I also knew it would be strong, durable and virtually maintenance-free.
It took almost an entire year to complete our backyard project, but now that it’s complete, we enjoy every moment because the entire thing is as maintenance-free as we wanted - from the landscaping, to the building.
So how did this change things at Norsteel?
I’m going to say that one of the main reasons that we did this project was to test the boundaries of our own product line and to learn what we could from the customer’s perspective. All true.
I learned a lot from this project. I learned a lot about our buildings. I learned what I needed to teach our consultants so they could think outside the box and think of a pre-engineered building as something more than a square foot measurement.
It is from our own experience with our pool-house that we created our new product line for backyard shops and garages. And it was our experience with contractors and the permit office that spear-headed our client-centered focus at Norsteel...because sometimes there are frustrations when putting up any building, and sometimes you really need to speak to someone who can help - right away.
I can also, with complete honesty, tell my customers that my building is exactly what my building was supposed to be. That after over 10 years, it still looks great. The stucco panels have not faded and don’t look weathered and I clean them (actually Sean does…), with a power-washer each year. This building is stronger than my house. It holds up to harsh winters and it doesn’t leak.
It is from this experience that I tell our customers that when you are planning your building, make it bigger than what you think you need - because inevitably, you will need more space. And lastly, if my husband would take his old race car out of it, I could FINALLY make the inside what I know it can be (which is likely the reason that car hasn’t moved in a decade) – because I have a clean slate interior to work with and nothing but clear, usable space in which to create. And then I could take some pictures and show you the inside too.
Come to Norsteel – not just because you need a steel building. I hope you come to us because you recognize that we really want to help you create a lifetime of memories, in a building that makes sense for you.
Thanks to everyone who helped make our project happen!
Director of Operations