Addicted to building


By Francie Healy

You might accuse Mike Jacques of taking a busman’s holiday. All year.

The co-owner of General Repairs and Renovations runs a successful business, keeps customers happy, undertakes mountains of paperwork, looks after a busy crew, wins awards, and maintains memberships in a number of related associations.

And then he comes home and builds some more.

It’s his life; it’s just what he does.

One of his big projects was a 36 x 36 ft garage on three levels. His company built it on his residential property, although it is designed to service both company and family.

Mike’s wife, Vicky, would like a place to call her own for her craftwork and craft storage, so that’s what Mike is currently building on one of the upstairs levels. He’s using the kitchen cupboards removed from the kitchen of their house.

And this is where you see his endless love of building and renovation, even when his traditional workday has ended. He removed their old kitchen cupboards because he created a new kitchen in their home.

He created a new living room because he turned their old living room into a huge master bedroom. The old master bedroom became a big bathroom, which now joins a four-season room attached to a three-season hot tub building. (The hot tub building becomes a summer space, almost outdoors, when you open up one whole side of it.)

When he and Vicky aren’t using the hot tub, they’re out on the 688-square-feet deck Mike built on the back of their house, overlooking the pool. (“We got rid of our cottage and said this would be our oasis,” he explains. He adds it was a good decision.)

He also re-sided the whole house and replaced the brick on the front of the house with stone.

Now he’s talking about building a big barbecue hut. (“I’m a barbecue fan,” he says. “I love to barbecue.”)

It wasn’t so comfy when he and Vicky bought their house eight years ago. At the time, Vicky didn’t even like it much. They thought they’d fix it up and sell it. And then, with all the additions and enhancements, they fell in love with it.

Mike remembers when Vicky had to live without drywall for three years, and then, when the garage was being built, how she had to maneuver planks over mud because of the deep trenches for hydro installation. (The garage required 200 amp service for generators and compressors.)

It took about eight months for the big garage to be completed. Half that time was just designing, engineering and getting all the permits. Construction was finished in about four months.

Although General Repairs and Renovations has built many garages and other large outbuildings, this was the biggest. It has doors big enough to pull the company trailers in for servicing, for a tractor-backhoe, and for a 24-ft-long company truck.

The second and third floors are designed for storage, and it’s where General Repairs and Renovations keeps supplies, such as caulking and glue, that must not freeze in winter. The garage is heated with natural gas. It only needs to be kept at 5C for vehicles and storage, but the building is so well insulated that even without heat on the coldest winter days, nothing freezes.

Mike wants the whole property to become not just a place to live and work but a showpiece that demonstrates the quality of General Repairs and Renovations work to clients.

The outside finish of the garage is exactly the same as Mike’s and Vicky’s house, which is a separate building. The garage doors, office door and front door of the house are all the same colour.

And Mike isn’t finished yet.

He’s researching the installation of an electric elevator. It would have no hydraulics and would be attached to the side of the garage. It would allow him to lift machinery up to the second and third levels for storage – his four-wheeler, for instance, or a snowmobile. The upper levels were engineered to bear 102 pounds per square inch.

With all this space, does Mike have an area just for himself?

He has a workbench and a small beer fridge in the garage. He says he enjoys time just tinkering.

He’s going to put up another building on the property to store firewood and for some of the other company vehicles. The new building will also have a big smoker room to smoke all their meat – another thing Mike likes to do.

And, when that’s not happening, he’s finishing the basement of the house. He’s giving it an old 1870s western theme with original barn board. Even the shower will have custom glass that looks like barn board, with a space top and bottom, cowboy style, so you can see a bather’s head and feet. It’s probably a four-year project, but it, too, will become a showpiece for the company. He estimates it will cost about $60,000 to $80,000.

Mike and his father, George Jacques, opened General Repairs and Renovations in 1991. They have built the business into to a well-known and well-respected company that has won awards (The Better Business Bureau’s “No Complaints” Honor Roll and Torch Award for Integrity; the Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association Commitment to Customer Service Award) and great reviews from customers.

With all that work, talent, time and effort, is Mike tired of all the big jobs he’s taken on at home?

Nope. He’s in renovator’s heaven.

“When you’re in the business,” he says. “You know exactly what you want. I’m getting a lot done.”