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The Do's & Don't Of Building Your Dream Home

Second in a series: How to Organize a Project, Understand Subcontractors, Develop a Construction Schedule and Stay on Track

(If You Missed Part One Please Follow This Link)

Page 1 of 2

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As we discussed in Section One of this series, people who have chosen to either build a new home, or do extensive remodeling or renovations on an existing home, need to exercise caution every step of the way to insure that being in this new territory doesn't create any unnecessary problems, delays or costs. The first step in the process, which we covered in part one, is deciding on a design, getting architectural plans drawn up and estimating the cost of the construction or renovation project. All of these things must be thoroughly addressed and understood so that contractors can then be asked to bid on all the different phases and aspects of the project. Realistically you should budget anywhere from four to six months for the process of organization, sourcing of materials, application and delivery of all permits and approvals arranging for utilities and interviewing and contracting builders and tradesman.

Getting Off on the Right Foot and Laying a Good Foundation for Success

If you are building a new structure a licensed surveyor will be needed to stake off your plot, and set the positioning for the structures to be erected on it. You will have also needed to contact the local municipality about water and a meter, sewer and drainage and access and encroachment if that is governed by them. The electric company must also be contacted to quote and schedule your meter installation. These aspects are of primary concern because you will need power and water from the very first day of work.

Note: The items mentioned above are all very serious, basic requirements that need to be addressed and fulfilled before any work can begin on your new home or project. The extent, time and cost to you will be heavily dependent on the type of town or area that you have chosen to live in. Costs are relative to installation for many of these items, and if you happen to building on Main Street, USA that is probably to your advantage, but the more remote you property is the greater these expenses will be and the longer it could take to get them done. The environmental impact of all of this work will also need to be analyzed and dealt with.

The phrase "building a new home" implies that you will be most probably on a virgin or recently cleared plot, which in turn implies that you may be in an area that is not "grandfathered" into local regulations. You will need to conform to all of the latest in environmental and energy conservation ordnance's and laws, which adds additional paper work, permits and approvals and costs to your project.

Along with the set of architectural drawings there should be an attached schedule of all the required materials, fittings and fixtures and the exact specifications that you and the architect decided on. This list must include every single material from the gravel in the slab, the concrete and block in your foundation to the shingles and chimney on the roof. So many options abound in the market place, ranging in price and quality, and this must all be laid out plainly for all to see. No contractor will be able to give you a valid and honest bid without first seeing this list. It should have, within the details listed, all sizes and tolerances, colors, model numbers, and the manner in which they are to be installed or applied.

A good architect will have prepared this schedule and you will need to sit down and read it carefully whilst double checking it against the drawings. The more that you familiarize yourself with the materials, their specifications and the manner in which they are used and installed, the better your advantage when the time comes to actually build your home. Even if you are not going to do the actual work yourself you must know these things to protect your interests and to build the house you are paying for. (This knowledge also comes in handy once you have moved in and need to maintain your home.)

If this aspect of your preparation is neglected or misunderstood, on your part, you will not be able to verify the contracts that will be drawn up with the individual contractors. (Have your lawyer look them all over and give his official ok too, most importantly, the fine print.) If the contracts are faulty and not ultra-specific, the greater the probability for mistakes and "misunderstandings", defective or sub-par work, and delays and overruns, which will all lead to expenses. These kinds of problems and disputes usually end up in arbitration or litigation.

Most contractors set out to do a good honest days work, empower them and the process by being knowledgeable, prepared and vigilant. Hidden expenses due to time and material changes are the single most costly errors that will hobble your project. By simply purchasing the wrong fasteners or adhesives, the wrong gauge of wiring or dimension of piping you will immediately start to go over budget and suffer delays. There are some contractors who will see deficiencies in your plans and schedules and they will wait to exploit them. They may profess their sorrow, but inside, they are laughing all the way to the bank, first to yours and then theirs.

Be Aware: While we are on the subject of banks and lenders, do not forget that built into the schedule of most construction mortgages are inspections. At the end of each phase of the project, or on a designated day, someone will most probably arrive on your job site to verify your progress and the quality of the work performed. If the standards that were initially laid out when you sought your loan's approval, have not been adhered to, the bank will suspend loan disbursements until these problems have been rectified and the project is back on track. (Please See our Learning Center article on New Home Construction Loans).

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