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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
Page 1 of 2
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
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
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
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).