December 3, 2015

How to Build: Building on Vancouver History

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As custom home builders we have sites all over Vancouver, Burnaby, and North Vancouver. Each site is different, every one has unique environments and soils that a home contractor needs to keep into account. Wallmark takes pride into researching what we must do to build a custom home that is built the right and BEST way for its surroundings.

For example, a custom home that Wallmark Custom Homes has recently started in one of Vancouver’s “up and coming” neighbourhoods: Mount Pleasant. Just a hop-and-a-skip from trendy coffee shops and boutiques, and filled with young hip families this neighbourhood a wonderful place to build your custom home.

There is also something a little quirky about this area; from Main to Fraser between East 15th and East 22nd the roads are bumpy and on close inspection, some of the homes are tilted. Observing this led us to question why this was, and after a little bit of research Wallmark found that these wonky structures actually tell you of what used to occupy this area… A large mucky swamp!


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Mount Pleasant, 1908, from the City of Vancouver Archives


This area of Mount Pleasant was the Tea Swamp up until the 1900’s. It was home to a diverse population of animals and distinct plants, but as the city expanded they needed more room for its residence, so the swamp was drained, and homes were built on what they thought was stable land. Now, more than 100 years later, we know their assumption was incorrect, leaving older homes slanted and roads buckled.


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Mount Pleasant School, not far from the Tea Swamps. From the City of Vancouver Archives


As Wallmark Custom Homes started this custom build here, we’ve kept in mind this historical oversight. We started by removing the original slanted home. 

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Front of the original home in Mount Pleasant

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Back view of the original home

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Demolition of the home by Felix Bulldozing


Before we started the excavation process, we needed to drive piles into the soft ground to stabilize it. We used 2 different types of piles: steel H beams and large wooden logs. 

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Steel H Beam used on the edges of the lot to build retaining walls.


These piles were then driven deep into the ground by a pile driving machine (original name, we know) until they hit stable ground. This prevents major sinking of the home in later years. The process of putting these piles into the ground is a loud and long process. If you want to check out how it is set up and done, check out the two videos from our YouTube Channel down below. Beware they are LOUD!



If you're not up for some noisy videos, check out these photos of the piles going in!


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Now the wooden logs needed to be cut down to just above grade (ground level in this case), so they are easier to dig around when we start the excavation. These logs will be the base underneath the foundation that prevents the sagging of the home.

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Now all piles have been placed in the lot, we are going to start excavation. This custom home has a basement, unlike most home homes in this area, so we will have to dig deep into the soil to accommodate the plan. Once we are done the dig for this custom home build, we will update you on the treasure we find in this old swamp land!


For more updates on our Custom Homes, check out our Twitter, Facebook, and stay tuned to our blog! If you want to see any of the past custom homes we've build check out our Gallery and if that peaks your interest even more, check out the Constant Consultation Program and talk to us about building your dream custom home in Vancouver, Burnaby, or North Vancouver.