“My dad started renovating and flipping homes, and I was putting in flooring at the age of eight,” he said.
The Port Credit resident later joined his father in creating convention displays and pop-up shops, a thriving business until the pandemic began in early 2020.
“When COVID-19 started spreading, it hurt the event business and caused us to pivot,” said Balance, who’s in his 40s. “I had to re-examine our business and think quickly about how to make our lives sustainable.”
When schools closed early last year and many jobs shifted to home workspaces, he realized while watching people convert their bedrooms into gyms and their kitchen into schoolrooms that there was a way to combine his skills and experience with the requirements for the altered style of home life. His new company, Mississauga-based Ballance Container Homes, is the result. It creates backyard bunkies, or bunkhouses, and laneway homes from shipping containers, providing homeowners with the extra space they need.
“I’m merging two worlds together,” Balance said. “I’ve done a lot of work with containers in creating pop-up shops, so I’m using that to create a residential product that works.
“I wanted to create something that was sustainable, because people couldn’t work from their kitchen tables forever, but not everyone has the luxury of packing up and buying a new house with more space. This is a solution to use your extra space and add value to your lifestyle.”
He says business has been good since the company’s launch in September 2020. A recent appearance at the virtual Cottage Life Show has led to a slew of orders for the modified metal containers, which can be customized, insulated and fitted with washrooms or galley kitchens.
Morgan Matthews, 43, a Port Credit industrial designer, has ordered a bunkie to turn into a home office. Because he designs gift items and specialty goods for a living, he needs a space that can accommodate the samples of his products. Matthews decided a bunkie would be the perfect solution for keeping the family home clutter-free.
“When COVID-19 ends, I can use the space for other things: a workshop, a cabana or an extension of the garage,” Matthews said. “For now, it can become a portable showroom, but the versatility is what I really liked.
He purchased the most basic model, the B-106, which, at 106 square feet (and priced at $25,000), is permitted in most municipalities without need for a building permit.
“Expanding the footprint of our home would be very costly, and I’ve heard horror stories from my neighbours about building permits and renovations,” he said. “This is very easy.”
He has ordered a model that will be customized, clad with the same woods used in his house and fitted with wood floors.
“This makes it even more of an extension of the house,” Matthews said. “It ties in nicely.”
Michael Eibisch, 47, an Air Canada pilot, and his wife are planning to take the bunkie idea one step further and install a laneway home on their Toronto property to use as a gym. Ballance Homes also builds laneway lodgings from shipping containers.
“We’ve been working out in the garage during the pandemic, because our gym is closed,” said Eibisch, and I’m enjoying working out at home. We want a dedicated gym for ourselves.”
Eibisch plans to tear down his garage and install the laneway home in the same spot. Working with Ballance Homes to customize a design while getting a permit from the city, his two-storey container will include garage at ground level and an apartment upstairs. The apartment, with a washroom and roughed-in kitchen, will serve as the Eibisches’ gym and they’ll still have space for a car.
“Our house isn’t the biggest, so this will give us extra square footage,” he said.
“Eventually, we could use the apartment as an income property, or my daughter might want to live there while she pays off her student loans,” he said. “Every time I look at it, it makes more and more sense.”
Not only are his bunkies and laneway homes practical, says Ballance, they are economical. The basic bunkie model sells for $25,000 and an order generally takes four to eight weeks from start to finish, depending on the complexity. He advises the homeowner on installing piers and arranging for power hookups and has the bunkie delivered on a flatbed truck equipped with a crane or a boom. Within four hours, the new space is in place.
Ballance is delighted that his creations have proven to be popular while also and have allowed him to provide jobs for his team of tradespeople during the difficult pandemic-driven economy.
Source: The Star