I consider myself incredibly fortunate to work with my building team. My limited knowledge of restoring and building commercial space makes me look and sound like a neophyte. I have been involved with residential restoration a few times in the past but never on this scale. My team explains things to me when necessary and I do provide some comic relief at times.
I have been dazzled by the knowledge of my building contractor, Nith Valley Construction. They anticipate problems before they occur and are readily able to solve issues on the spot. I can’t say enough about my partnership with Nith Valley Construction [NVC].
Bob Zehr, owner of NVC.
My husband and I met the owner of NVC, Bob Zehr, 10 years ago. Bob has built a couple of buildings for my husband at The Boardwalk and did an outstanding job. He was honest, professional and conscientious – just what you want in a builder. Bob is an early riser. He works out at Absolute Fitness each morning before going to the office. He is a hands-on owner and very astute.
When I purchased the Eddly’s Tavern and decided to restore it to the jewel it once was, I thought, “why wouldn’t I use Bob Zehr – he comes from New Hamburg and has great credentials?” Bob had a tie to The Imperial – John and Fanny Jackson built the Imperial Hotel in 1872 and they also built the stone house that Bob grew up in on Huron Street.
Bob’s younger brother, Lynn Zehr is our on-site supervisor. Like Bob, he is a conscientious hardworking man.
Lynn Zehr, site supervisor
I am sure that these great qualities run in the Zehr family. Both Bob and Lynn are kind to their men and the men in turn work hard for them.
Nith Valley Construction employs about 20 people for construction. There is a 5-person crew working on The Imperial: Lynn Zehr, on-site supervisor; Bob Moorcroft, the man with a wry sense of humour; Dennis Millward, the quiet perfectionist; and two co-op students from Waterloo Oxford, Kyle Kirk and Jon Wilgress – you would never know they were students.
Jon Wilgress, Lynn Zehr, Dennis Millward, Bob Moorcroft
On the first nice day of April, I took this photo of the guys sunning themselves in front of the Imperial: Dennis, Bob, Kyle, Adam, Michael and Dan Hofstetter.
Dennis & Bob: I asked them to look tough and Bob responded that they always do.
Now that we are beginning construction, there are a few more NVC men on site: Austin Bender, Josh Musselman, Eric Schneider and Eric Ross Zehr. They are a lively group that works together and finds the humour in things. I like that in people.
Eric Ross Zehr
I sat down with Lynn on a cold, blustery -23 degree morning in January 2015 to talk about the schedule of work that would occur in the hotel over the winter. We have been on point with the master plan ever since.`
The following is what NVC has worked on up until April:
- The began their work on the first and second floors in early autumn. They strengthened existing weak joists and added joist hangers to them.
- Once the structural drawings were completed in November, Lynn and his crew started work in the basement; they feel like basement rats or mushrooms. They were glad when they finished there and were able to stand up straight again. Bob Moorcroft was getting tired of whacking his head on low beams.
- They doubled up the weak joists in the basement
- They installed squash blocks around the perimeter of the building. These are blocks of wood placed between joists.
- They dug and poured 10 pier bases – concrete blocks that are anchor footings for the steel columns that will run from the basement up to the roof.
- They poured dead wall sections around the interior perimeter of the old foundation. The sections are 4’, 6’ and 10’ wide. New steel beams were installed by Metcon into the dead wall and were fastened to the wall with metal plates.
- A new concrete floor will also be poured to insure that the walls will not move
- The biggest reinforcing task was dropping 11 steel columns through the roof, down three floors to the basement floor. The 11 steel columns sit on the concrete pier bases.
- To prepare for this operation, Dennis cut 6X6 holes in each floor and the roof for the columns: that was 11 holes on three floors and the roof = 44 holes. Two more columns were dropped into place on May 28th on the north side of the original building. That totals 13 columns.
- The holes in the roof were patched temporarily until the plumbers complete their installation of vents etc. and then the entire roof will be repaired. The roof was the ONLY thing in the entire building that did not require replacement but it will now!
- The new steel beams were installed and welded to the steel columns beginning in the basement. The beams were lifted into place by jacks and the brute human strength of Mike and Adam.
- They installed the beams in one direction first then removed the shores that were no longer needed. Then they moved on to the next direction of beams.
- Then they removed the brick piers in the basement
- Lynn thought installing the beams would be a long process – he anticipated they would be done by April. They are still on site!
- Meanwhile, Nith Valley began building 2X6 walls around the interior perimeter of the building on each floor.
- They installed 1”X6” boards along the perimeter as a baseline for levelling the floors. The levelling concrete will be poured at the end of June. It will reach the top of this board. The floors will be flatter than they are now.
- Some of the floor areas had a 6” difference; Lynn jacked up the beams on the first floor in early fall to a maximum of 3”. This has helped level things off as well.
- The rear east corner was originally built with an extreme sag in the back corner. This will be rectified in June 2015.
- The levelling concrete will be poured after the demising walls are built. Interior walls will be built following that.
- The foundations for the new kitchen and the addition along Mill Street were dug before the deep freeze of winter began. Since then, the remaining backfill was compacted.
- Ramseyer Excavation removed the excess top soil and put down gravel in the courtyard to avoid mud.
- In December Lynn and his crew of four, took down the 1908 wood staircase. The massive staircase was extremely heavy. But with their combined strength, some awkward moments and sheer panic, they brought it down safely. [It is going to be used as an artefact decoration in the bar/restaurant]. They installed a temporary staircase in the hotel for the time being. As soon as one of the new staircases is built, they can remove the temporary staircase.
- Two points of interest:
Lynn thought that the large piles of dirt in the west basement were put there when the boiler was installed around 1908. Rather than hauling the dirt outside, they just made piles of it in the other side of the basement that was not used. Kyle Kirk and Jon Wilgress, the two co-op students from W.O., had the honour of removing the dirt piles.
In December when NVC was preparing for the new foundation of the building along Mill Street, they found some soft non-native ground next to the original foundation of the hotel. They dug out the soft ground and at the bottom, they found a circular metal ring that looked like it was the base of some sort of barrel. the ring was severely rusted and it fell apart. They backfilled the hole and poured a concrete block on top to support the elevator. Based on the depth that they found this ring, I believe it belonged to the blacksmith shop that was located on this spot from 1858 to 1870. It was owned by Franz and Josephina Berger.
I can’t say enough about the quality workmanship of Nith Valley Construction. I will definitely use them for my future building ventures.