Being on site

it4solutionAugust 15, 2011

How important is it to be close to the home when it is being built. Are there a lot of things youll be needed for if you have everything planned out?

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1. No one has everything planned out. There are a few who are well prepared and who have to make only a few last minute decisions, and there are the vast majority who have no idea at how to even truly start planning a home. It's so very complex, that it takes a year or two just to begin to understand how many specs will need to go into the contract, much less which choices you will make.

2. How many decisions you will need to make during the process depends on how much of a control freak you are, as well as the competency of your architect and builder. If you trust them, and they truly ARE competent, then you could never show up on site at all until the whole project was completed. All you would need to do is to initially meet with the architect and develop a list of specs and keep an open checkbook going. The key to this being successful is to also hire the architect to assume construction oversight inspection at key points.

3. Most of the decisions you will need to make won't be exciting fun ones centered around your decor choices. Most will involve the actual physical build vs. your budget. It's easy to build a great house if you have a lot of disposable money to throw at it in cash, but for anyone who needs a loan, your build will be centered around not going over budget in order to make the appraisal the bank needs. That floor to ceiling window wall just lost a few windows and downgraded from triple glazed Marvin to double glazed house brand.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 3:06AM
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THEN there are those of us who were exceedingly well prepared, very well planned out / priced out / pre-purchased and ready to go with a full custom build. What we found our EARLY on is that the information we provided to the Builder was not being disseminated down into the worker layer.

We only discovered this by visiting on site regularly.

That for me was the most surprising, and most disappointing part of this. It shows a complete lack of respect for my TIME, which we do not have much of to begin with. We do ALL this legwork up front, only to go to the site & see it installed incorrectly anyway.

Some examples?
- Doors mounted at carpet height over hardwood floors, leaving a huge gap;
- Custom items (too many to name) waiting to the last minute to order, then coming to us with "oh, it takes too long, so we can't do that - what else would you like?" (SERIOUSLY???)
- Designs for bookshelves, fireplaces, ceiling patterns, textures, etc., etc. that were painstakingly drawn, then never given to the person who was building or installing them;
- ALL wall-mounted lights in the house installed upside down;
- Custom sized interior stairs wrong, because "they don't need them that size";

We've also found other items and pointed them out before we got too far to fix them:
- Poured concrete doorways to garage at wrong size;
- Interior doors in wrong space;
- Missing cased openings;
- Cabinetry busted / cracked / holes drilled for wrong hardware / wrong hardware installed / correct shape hardware but wrong color;
- Wrong CEILING on the screened porch (flat instead of vaulted);

But the folks across the street built theirs successfully from a distance. But they DID drive down quite a bit to visit. But they still had / have a pretty lengthy punchlist.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 9:19AM
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Epiarch Designs

wow, wwww, did everything get resolved? Those are a lot of issues, some pretty large, for one project.

Like you said, the more upfront work you can do, will USUALLY result in a smoother running project. My house design I am excessively planning it out, since I am also doing the material take off budgeting as well. A long with my plans (which I am personally building so hopefully I can eliminate most in the above post) but some of the stuff I can not do, by code. So I am drawing out the electrical, plumbing, and mechanical to get bids on so ALL bids are the same and there are no in the field surprises. This is excessive for most house plans, but I have the time, ability and software to do it. We are also going so far as pre selecting most items to go into the house, such as finishes, cabinets, counters, tiles, wood floor, etc so I can write down a hard budget number and I know exactly what they will cost. Once I have that budget number, during the build I will watch for these items to go on sale, and then purchases them, hopefully allowing my allowance amount INCREASE instead of DECREASE. Wishful thinking, I'm sure :)

Time is key. The more upfront time you can spend reading, researching, getting bids, will only help result in a more successful project.
Then during the project, it really depends on how you handle job observation with your architect. We job supervise all commercial jobs as part of the basic scope. The owner typically has very little involvement. 8/10 owners dont even know what to look for anyway. Often times I get called from a frantic owner saying "why are they doing this!!!"....most of the time my responses are "because that is how you do it......" but not always.
The more sets of trained eyes you can have on your project the better. Study the plans and design, memorize it, etc.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 10:07AM
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Unfortunately, my experience was like www's. We knew when mistakes were made since we were on site daily, and they happened a lot (they also ordered regular doors for hardwood which was very annoying....)

The cabinet/trim installers were terrible and guessed on several things. All their guesswork created issues....... requiring materials being reordered and reinstalled. sigh.

Try to be on site as much as you can. If they frame a door in the wrong place, it is very easy to fix while still in the framing stage. Any later and it can be a big deal (reframing, re-texturing/painting/etc.) You will get the opportunity during your first walk-thru to have them fix things, but..... some are not easy when everything is done.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 11:42AM
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You can have everything spec'ed out, details written in the contract, but if the subs don't read the contract, you need to be there to catch the mistakes as early as possible. wwwonderwhiskers' experience is more the norm.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 4:05PM
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Sounds like they make a lot of mistakes when they build, thats not very pro if you ask me. But i guess the best thing would be to rent a home close to the build. Im thinking i should get the land locked up pretty soon then maybe wait a little while to figure everything out.

lzerarc's idea of prebuying items and waiting for them to go on sale sounds like a good idea, it would save a lot of people money if they took this approach, adding in a couple changes during build here and there id still be good

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 5:35PM
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You don't need to be on site but SOMEBODY does and it can't just be the contractor. He is may be a competent and great guy but you have an arms-length contract with him and therefore he is not your agent. He is required to build according to the contract documents but not for enforcing the contract when things go wrong; only you or your agent can do that.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 8:30PM
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How much do you think it would cost to hire an architect to help me from start to finish. From the intital floor plan design and all the specs to then supervising the build till its over so no mistakes are made.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 8:38PM
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For a project of your scope, 200K+ would be the ballpark.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 11:37PM
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When building our home, I was on site almost every day. We were acting as the contractor but even if we had hired a contractor, I would still want to make sure it's being done as I wanted. There is no way I could build a house without it being close enough to visit on a regular basis.

Here is a link that might be useful: Why I'm glad we visited the jobsite often.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 1:00PM
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The homeowner should be available, but there is no need to be on-site every day. Especially if the owner is the sort who likes to look over the shoulder of every worker on site and interrogate, stare at and point out all the builder's "mistakes".

There is nothing more confusing to tradesmen than an extra "boss" wandering around kibitizing correcting and playing cock of the walk.

If you really want to be the gc from the get go, do so.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 5:16PM
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Worthy, I suspect that if you were my builder, I'd probably feel I never needed to come around except to ooh and ahhh over the progress. LOL!

Unfortunately, not every builder is as knowledgeable, or as careful or as conscientious or as honest as you seem to be.

In my opinion, as a general rule, homeowners need to be on site as often as they possibly can be BUT, and this is a very big CAVEAT, when the homeowner sees something that he or she thinks is wrong, the homeowner needs to immediately get in touch with the GC and explain to him what the issue is and let the GC issue the orders to the tradesmen. The homeowner should never attempt to discuss the problems directly with the tradesman who are doing the actual work and should never issue any orders to them.

Until I fired my builder and took over GC-ing my build myself, the only things I ever said to anyone except the builder himself were "yes, this is my house, thank you so much for doing such nice work on it" and "Would you like a doughnut?" and "I brought a bag of breakfast tacos, please help yourself" and "How about some pizza?"

Well, in one extreme case where workmen were working on top of my two story 12/12 slope roof without any safety lines and I could not get my builder on the phone, I did say, "Would you all please stop work immediately and come down until I can get my builder on the phone? I need to get something straightened out with him before you go any further." The next day, they were back with safety lines and that same day, one guy slipped and fell. His safety line - that I had insisted on - kept him from winding up in the hospital or worse!

Yes, an extra "boss" on-site can be confusing. IMHO tho, an extra pair of eyes is never a bad thing.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 6:35PM
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suero - I feel better!!! thanks!

it4 "thats not very pro if you ask me" - we say that EVERY DAY. LOL. Just gotta laugh though!! What else are you gonna do??? Seriously...... and regarding your comment of finding some things on sale - consider one thing, and I will use one of our ideas as an example.
We wanted to actually SEE the lighting fixtures before we ordered a whole house full of them (go figure!), so we figured we'd order one "representative sample" from a Big Box, pay their whatever, then give it to builder along with rest of the lighting order from Pro Lighting Place. The deal then was - Nobody would give us a warranty on it. Lighting people did not sell it, Installer did not know where it came from, etc. Due to that we did not want ANY issue with warranty, we returned said Sample to Big Box, then ordered the same piece in with the rest of the bulk Lighting Order. Once we did that, we discovered that even with the Builder's 15% markup, Pro Lighting place was still cheaper. We paid 20% re-stocking fee for a custom order from Big Box, the builder's 15%, and still came out saving at least enough to buy a taco lunch - we had no idea their prices were that affordable (just Progress Lighting, nothing real fancy).
Just the way it worked with us - for you at least hopefully a consideration though.

AND I ECHO BEVANGEL when she says "...BUT, and this is a very big CAVEAT, when the homeowner sees something that he or she thinks is wrong, the homeowner needs to immediately get in touch with the GC and explain to him what the issue is and let the GC issue the orders to the tradesmen." - in fact it was in our contract to 'not talk to the vendors' kinda clause.
Absolutely!! We did exactly as she described. Smile, clap my hands (interprets into any language), and make notes. Every few days, my husband emails the GC's rep with a list. They may not like it, but we've help be Facilitator a LOT for them, found things that would have been impossible to fix later, and helped them out tremendously. I am quite sure they're irritated as h-e-double-toothpicks with all this - but our punchlist will be FAR SHORTER than some others in the neighborhood I know of.....
And we brought workers dozens of doughnuts several times & cases & cases of bottled water all this very hot summer..... and we have plied the Super with whatever we're having - breakfast, lunch, etc.... just trying to be helpful. The only time I lost it was last week - I just blew through to chat with granite installer for 5 minutes, and saw the painter was caulking, and had two buckets of sloppy, caulkey milky white water sitting on - and making milky wet rings on - my newly finished English Chestnut stained white oak floor when there was at least 100 sq.ft. of protective cardboard 1 foot away. I lost it. I stomped my foot to get their attention, pointed to messy rings on the hardwood, and screamed "NO AGUA!!!, then moved his buckets to the cardboard. He backtalked me (!!!), and I let him know with no question, that just as soon as he was helping with the mortgage, he was welcomed to put his sloppy mess all over my floor.

Anything to achieve the common goal - our house built, and them paid & outta here. For me, it's been fun at times, but we are both counting the hours.......

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 10:44PM
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When we built our first house my husband had to handle most of it since I had a 2 yr old and one on the way. With the house and his full time job he only was able to swing by early before workers started or late in the evenings after they left...needless to say there were lots of errors. We begin construction on our next house in the near future but have arranged it to where I can visit the site, 2-3 times everyday someone is working. Plans will be discussed in the AM, I will check back while they work in order to correct any mistakes BEFORE it's too late and check the finished project before they leave. The house will become my job ;) For us being hands on and involved is the only way to get it done right. However some people are lucky enough to find a builder who understands their 'vision' and handles everything perfectly and puts 110% into the process.... those builders usually want alot more money though.

We come from a long line of construction workers and I myself routinely paint houses with my dad, so we understand that some homeowners can be real pains in the you know what. So there is a fine line between being available, keep tabs to make sure that it's done right or being in the way and just making everyone frustrated and sloppy. I painted one house where we weren't allowed to have a radio and she timed our lunch break down to the minute, if you're that type of homeowner definitely let someone else take the reigns because you're not going to get the best out of your workers by making them mad.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 6:30PM
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We're about 45 minutes away from our new build and visit it a lot. My husband works about 10 minutes from the new house, so he can stop by a couple of times a day if need be. The best thing is that company that's building our house is absolutely fantastic. We were there yesterday and looking at the newly-painted rooms. I mentioned to our builder that the painter and I had agreed that the master bedroom closet would be the same as the bedroom but it hadn't been done that way. Within 30 seconds, our builder had the painter on the line and simply told him that we needed the closet repainted and that was that. When the interior was being framed, a bathroom was made a tiny bit narrow and they immediately fixed that as soon as it was brought to their attention. Our builder is SO respected by everyone he works with (subcontractors) and everyone we've spoken too.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 4:31PM
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We are very lucky to be in the same boat as folkvictorian. Awesome builder - who lives 6 houses down from our build - and build another 6 houses on that street and STILL everyone loves him... ;-) Subs as well. I realize we are far in the minority but it is a blessing to find a GC gem...

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 9:50PM
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folkvictorian, we feel like we hit the builder jackpot too. He's fantastic and gets it done. Everyone who's ever used him raves about him and his crew.

Yet in the three (or is it four now?) weeks we've been building, we've had a few small things come up that related to the architect that we had to deal with on our end. One was an exterior door size that wasn't very common. The builder and I worked it out with no problems whatsoever. I definitely needed to be on-site to visualize how to reconfigure our hutches on either side of a window as the wrong window was drawn on the plans (from an earlier version) but the correct was put on the schedule and framed. It was an issue. The other things have been minor but "things" nonetheless. Things like that come up, small or big. But I'm glad we live 10 minutes away just in case.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 9:57PM
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I completely understand wanting to see everything as it happens.
Has anyone ever lived on site in temporary housing? It may be a terrible idea, but I have considered it, well almost decided on it. Anyone do this before?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 8:48PM
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What did you do to control theft and trespassing during the build? My husband and I are very concerned about this because we are building out in the country and our home will be way off the road on a hillside of 100 acres. Right now, my father-in-law is allowing a "friend" (actually a complete low-life loser) to live on a trailer on the front of the property and he is NOT going to be happy when he has to vacate the premise. So unhappy in fact that my husband and I are concerned that he will steal and potentially damage the house before it is to the point it can be secured.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 9:39PM
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For ETR: We had some vandalism in the early part of our build and considered putting small cameras in the trees surrounding our property. However, we never did that and we only had 1 broken window throughout the entire build. We seriously considered having our young adult son camp out at our house while it was under construction, but we never resorted to that either. You may look into the cameras or a big dog that can stay at the property! Lighting around the build is a good idea too.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 7:53AM
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No nice way to say it, subs are stupid. They do some crazy things out of laziness or they just don't know. The builder should keep and eye on things, but builders can do really stupid things also. Even being on site everyday doesn't guarantee that you will catch everything. I had to make our electrician move the ceiling fan in our living room after sheetrock and everything was finished because I didn't notice that he didn't center it in the sitting space he centered it in the middle of the area which includes the entry. Needless to say the location of it was really horrible. Talk about a pain since we had to hire the sheetrockers to come back and fix the hole.

And our framers, wow they were really stupid. They mixed up all of our windows on install. We have some double hungs and some single hungs and they had them all in the wrong spots. They were not happy campers when they had to move them all. They even messed up some room dimensions and ended up stealing 6'' from a bedroom and added it to a hallway. Didn't notice that until it was too late. Though in all honesty a 4ft hallway is nice and spacious, just not sure that it was the best use of that space...

I was here everyday and kept an eye on the subs most of the time to make sure I was happy with everything. The days I didn't come always ended up with lots of stupid mistakes.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2012 at 12:34PM
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