Muskoka’s beautiful granite ridges are what make cottaging here so desirable. But our rocky landscape also poses unforeseen challenges for builders looking to lay a foundation for cottages along the jagged shores.
One of the biggest challenges is the uniqueness of each lot. While untouched parcels of land offer builders a blank canvas to build upon, Matt Rouleau and Jason Caron, owners of Muskoka Excavation and Septic, and Muskoka Rock Blasting, note that their untouched nature doesn’t often make excavating an easy task.
“The access points to these Muskoka properties were never designed for mobilizing heavy equipment, so our job begins long before we ever reach the building site,” says Jason. “We just finished a project on an island where we had to blast access off the barge just to get on.”
Purchasing an aged cottage with the purpose of tearing it down makes the project no easier. In these situations, crews start by demolishing the existing cottage before gathering and disposing of materials, including the concrete foundation, before clearing the land for a larger cottage footprint and re-excavating the new house.
Minimizing costs and time
There are a lot of moving parts involved in the pre-building process, parts that Matt says depend on one another to push your project forward.
“When excavating your lot, it pays to work with a company that can take care of everything,” says Matt. “That won’t just reduce headaches, it’ll also save you money and reduce your timeline.”
At Muskoka Excavation and Septic, and Muskoka Rock Blasting, Matt and Jason have teams skilled in septic design and installation, demolition, excavation, and rock blasting, and a range of machinery that can be brought in quickly to address issues as they arise.
“If we hit bedrock while digging the septic, we can have it blasted quickly, keeping your timeline on track,” says Jason.
If you’re building a new cottage on a property with an existing cottage, you’ll want your septic system to be calculated and designed precisely to match your future family’s needs.
“Not all septic installers are designers,” says Matt. “We do our own designs, making it quicker and easier to give you the right septic system with a consistent vision from start to finish.”
The team offers conventional septic and tertiary treatment units, such as Bionest, Waterloo Biofilter, Eljen, and many others. “These tertiary treatment units are often a requirement for building on bedrock, allowing your system to further filter effluent before it reaches the native soil.”
They’re complex systems, says Matt, which is why it’s important to have them installed by the right septic designer and installer.
Minding your neighbours
Hiring one company for all of your excavating, septic, and blasting needs also comes with an unexpected benefit: positive neighbourly relations.
“Our lead blasting expert, who we refer to as ‘Blaster’ Wayne, has 25 years of experience in surface blasting, including sensitive blasting.” By using sensitive blasting techniques, “Blaster” Wayne cuts away at the rock while minimizing the sound and vibrations that can so often frustrate neighbouring cottagers.
“We want to make sure we leave a good relationship between you and your neighbours,” says Matt. “We’ll do everything we can while we’re onsite to be accommodating and personable.”
Protecting the landscape
In addition to minding your human neighbours, Matt and Jason say it’s also important to hire an excavation company that will care for the environment and work to limit their footprint while on your site.
“We want your cottage to highlight the beauty of Muskoka,” says Matt. “We also want to make sure the rock surrounding your cottage is secure and safe for you and your family to enjoy.”
Matt, Jason, and “Blaster” Wayne work with engineers that specialize in seismology.
“You never know what you can be affecting, so always be mindful of what surrounds the area you’re working with,” says “Blaster” Wayne.
Consulting before you buy
While many cottagers hire Muskoka Excavation and Septic after they purchase a lot, Jason says there are benefits to calling their team while you’re still shopping for the perfect property.
“The reality is that Muskoka has been so popular for so long that most of the vacant lots on the market today were not designed to be built on,” says Jason.
If you’re interested in a lot, bring along an excavating expert to help you visualize your project and help you create a realistic budget for how much site preparation will cost.
“We’re always here to help, whether you’re buying or are ready to build.”
TEXT SHELANNE AUGSTINE | PHOTOS ANDREW FEARMAN