For Paul Kealey, an old fashioned business ethic is the secret to keeping modern customers fascinated with a timeless product.
The opportunity to start a business came organically for Kealey, his interest in the skills of building log homes originating in the desire to build a home for himself and his family, “My wife, then girlfriend, and I had wanted to start a hobby farm and to live in a log home, but we just couldn’t find one. Every house seemed to have something wrong with it, needing either a partial or extensive renovation. I felt it was right, instead of purchasing a home, to go out to British Columbia and learn how to build one.” Kealey says.
Leaving Ontario also meant leaving his job. Kealey had studied Science at St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, his degree was part of a concurrent education program and after graduating he felt that his easiest option was to pursue a position teaching at high school level.
“Even though I didn’t go to become a teacher, I received a teaching certificate after four years in University. I came back and started teaching immediately. It seemed like the easiest thing to do, but after spending two years in the school I didn’t feel right. I’ve always been the type of person who wants to get out there and do as much as possible. I needed something else to do.” Kealey says.
It was 2002 when Kealey decided to look into developing the skills to build his own log home. At the time the International Log Builders’ Association had listed that over half of the handmade log home companies in the world were based in the province of British Columbia. “I felt it was necessary to go to British Columbia because I thought that was where the real experience was. Many companies were extremely busy.” Kealey says.
“Ultimately I left teaching because I felt trapped and limited in what I could do. Moving out to British Columbia, I went there thinking I could go for three months, come back and build a house, and then start our hobby farm. But being out there I fell in love with the natural form of building. I went out, took the course for three months, and ended up working out there for the better part of three years before coming back to start our own business.”
As Kealey moved back to Ontario to start his business, he had the skills, the passion and saw the opportunity. He knew now that what he needed was good people behind him. One of these people came not as a professional contact but in the form of long-time friend Adam Tackaberry.
“We’ve known each other probably for the better part of our lives, he grew up as a childhood friend of my younger brother.” Kealey says, “When I was at the point where I wanted to start a business, Adam had since graduated university and was looking for something to do. I had always liked his demeanor. He had played high-level hockey growing up, he was always a captain on his teams, and so I knew he had great leadership skills and experience. From that, I thought he would be a great asset to the company and knew I’d be able to teach him everything about the business”
Hiring Tackaberry proved a great move for Kealey, and after their first few projects together he found him invaluable, “There’s a saying which applies to every profession, ‘It’s hard to find good help.’ Adam was the complete opposite. He has an easy going mentality, willingness to learn, and the ability to know what is required to do a good job.”
“I thought, we have to do something here so that we stay together, because there’s a lot of things we could do together. It partly goes back to the fact that I’d known him for the better part of my life.”
After signing on Tackaberry as his official business partner the two needed to decide on a name, trying a few ideas and ultimately settling on their own names as an emblem of the personal mark every builder makes in creating a bespoke home.
“We were first thinking about a name and had done a lot of brainstorming but nothing really felt right to us. Being a natural log home builder there’s a lot of craftsmanship which goes on, a lot of which is directly related to the people building the home. So we thought we’d stick to who we are, Kealey Tackaberry.”
Log Homes in Ontario
“One pure natural material able to do everything really impressed me.” Kealey says, “The log is the exterior finish, it’s the interior finish, it’s the structure, the insulation, the vapor barrier. Everything in one material, it just felt like the ideal form of home. Also, being a form of building traditional to Canada, I thought it was a great business opportunity. Even though it wasn’t common or popular, it’s a type of home which will never be eliminated in Canada due to its traditional values.”
After honing his skills in British Columbia, Kealey made the decision to return to Ontario, saying, “I thought there was a bigger opportunity here for us because of limited competition, most log home companies in Ontario were basically two or three people, so I really felt that there was an opportunity for growth. Seeing how small the companies were solidified the idea that there could be a great business opportunity. It took a couple years to get our first official home on the market, but after that, we just continued to get busier and busier, until this day.”
Kealey Tackaberry build year round, and have embraced steady growth throughout their eleven years in business, but in more recent years they have reached a level which Kealey feels is comfortable, saying, “We got really busy in 2010-2012, and have stayed at that level since. We’ve noticed the market has shrunk and many companies have folded or downsized. Because of that, we’re comfortable where we are.”
Client Relationships and the Complete Package
“I feel that there are many people who don’t know about us who might not choose a log home for the pure reason that they can’t find a log home company that will do the complete project for them.” Kealey says, “I think we’re very convenient for the client in the sense that we have full, complete home and construction service. Around 80% of our competition will only sell you the materials and leave it up to the homeowner to find their own contractor to assemble it with the help of the log home company. About 19% of our competitors sell materials and will install only the log shell on your home.”
“We can take care of the complete project from a project management level. We use our own in-house builders to assemble the log shell and finish the home with respect to its carpentry needs. We will install the log shell, the roof system, put siding on, we’ll put the windows and doors on, we’ll basically complete a weather-tight shell. The client would only need to subcontract the rest of the trade, which would be plumbing, electric, HVAC systems, foundation and interior finishings.”
In addition to handling their clients complete home building requirements, Kealey attributes some of their success to using the best materials possible in for striving to work in a fashion which is as sustainable as possible.
“The building code in Ontario is starting to demand more energy efficient buildings. Before 2012 the minimum log size was able to be as small as 6 inches, now the minimum is 8 inches in diameter. There are still a lot of companies able to build with 6-inch logs if they make their house more efficient in other areas like insulation in the roof, higher efficiency furnaces. But because of our background as handcrafted log builders, we believe that the modern day log home should only be built with large diameter timber.” Kealey says.
“It’s for both energy efficiency, energy conservation, and sustainability. We have never built with logs as small as six, eight or ten inches in diameter because those trees are not only inefficient but also means logs are being harvested at a fraction of their life expectancy. We’ve always believed that any log harvested for building should be toward its maximum life expectancy, or should be salvaged from another source.”
“We do have a milled product, which we felt we would have to have in order to compete with companies using these six and eight-inch logs, we just do it differently. Instead of harvesting young growth timber, we use the logs from the standing deadwood forest in British Columbia. A third of British Columbia’s forest is standing deadwood, and it makes the perfect building material because they’re dry, and we’re not cutting down a young, living tree that has many years ahead of it.”
Kealey Tackaberry are taking the changing building codes and global trends toward sustainability as evidence that their business model is equally sustainable. “For much of our competition moving from 6-8 inches is taking them out of their scope.” Says Kealey, “We use on average a 16-inch diameter log, which has better insulation value than a standard stick frame home. As we move forward we might slowly increase that diameter.”
“The province is demanding better, more efficient buildings, and the only real efficient style of log home is one that uses large diameter timber.”
As the world and his industry progress, for Paul Kealey the guiding vision will always be toward using the best materials, investing in great people, and striving for client satisfaction.
“Shelter is one of the basic necessities of life. I felt that the log home was the ultimate structure in the world, and the type of building which would never go away, especially here in Canada.” Kealey says.
Find out more about Kealey Tackaberry Log Homes by visiting www.KealeyTackaberryLogHomes.com.