hima36September 11, 2012

I will really appriciate any help i can get from this wonderful forum. We are in process of builidng a house where builer has given us following specifications. Are they enough? what are important points that I should add? I am very apprihensive at this stage to sign a contract when i do not know what exactly I am going to get and what i should expect to know at this stage. I will apprciate any help from bottom of my heart.

Oak or Pine Flooring: Up to size 5", customer can pick stain. Whole house minus baths and laundries

2 Piece Window and Door Trim

2 Piece Crown Ceiling Moulding: in all rooms

10" Baseboard w/ Cap Trim in all rooms

Toto or Kohler Powder Room Fixtures (Toilet and Pedistal)

Moen Plumbing Fixtures (Pictures enclosed)

6 Panel Wood solid Interior Doors.

2 Over 2 Glass over Raised Panel Front 1st and 2nd Floor Doors.

6 Panel Rear Exterior Door

Marble Counter Tops w/ Undermount Sinks Baths Supplied by Granite Fabricator (marble 45$/sq ft)

Granite $55.00 /sq ft. Kitchen w/Stainless Steel Undermount Sink, two bowls and disposal on one side.

Tile (2$/sq ft) Secondary Baths / Laundry, Stone (5$/sq ft) or Marble (45$/sq ft) in Master Bath

Emtec Door Hardware

Can Lighting in Most Rooms and three porch

8" rectangular Columns on 1st and 2nd Floor porches and rear porch

2X2 Pickets on Porch

Pine Flooring on 1st Floor Porch (painted or natural)/ Fabric Covering on Second Floor Porch

Shutters on 7 windows located in south side. Raise panel on first floor and louvered second floor

Architectural Hardy Board Siding

5 V Crimp Metal Roof

Renai Gas Water Heater with rented 50 gallon propane tank

R13 HVAC Units (1 on each floor)

Allowance: Light 4000, cabinets 35000, appliance 11000, 3 fans 900, mirror 700

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My first question is what kind of contract are you signing with the builder? Is it cost plus fixed fee or fixed price? If it's cost plus you have to remember you pay the cost regardless of the estimate. One example in our arrangement is our misunderstanding of what appliances were priced in our cost estimate/contract. We assumed wrong and now are having to add cost to our appliance allotment to get what we thought we were getting all along.

I would also ask for specifics on how the allowances are calculated. What brands were priced, what features, etc...

Also, ask for the bids the builder is using to reach the estimate. If he will give them to you, you can be confident in the build estimate that will be your basis for construction loans. I recommend cost plus because as the homeowner, I have more flexibilty than with a fixed price, BUT you HAVE to be on top of the draws and who gets paid and when and what they've done. Our builder has also been able to rebid some of the areas like painting in hopes to lower our cost in those areas.

Not an expert, but someone who has learned a few hard lessons during my current custom home build.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 2:16PM
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Thank you. It is fixed price - however within fix price we were given some allowance and we can choose our own appliances by ourselves - if we get cheaper - we are allowed to use that amount in landscaping etc. You would have understood my anxiety as you have gone thru this. thanks again

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 7:10PM
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This is not a specification and it's not even an outline specification. It's a randomly organized list of features and materials that you might find in promotional brochure for a housing development.

A specification would tell you much more about each item and would be broken down into categories (specifications sections) and it would be the basis of the contracts with the subs leaving little mystery about what will be in the final work.

Obviously this kind of rough list can lead to misunderstandings and disappointments later.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 5:42AM
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Your "list" appears fine as far as it goes. As renovator8 said, howevr, it is not a building project specification. Here's the generally accepted Masterformat organization for a true specification:

1. General conditions
2. Existing conditions
3. Concrete
4. Masonry
5. Metals
6. Wood
7. Moisture/thermal protection
8. Doors & windows
9. Finishes

  1. Specialities
  2. Equipment
  3. Furnishings
  4. Special construction
  5. Conveying equipment
  6. Electrical
  7. HVAC & Plumbing

Not all divisions are applicable to all jobs. What your list describes is largely "finish" items, ie items that one can see and which "finish" a project. The list tends to omit many of the fundamental "structural" and "system" categories that are fundamental for sound construction. For example, footings/foundations, site grading and drainage, waterproofing,insulation b& venting, window and door quality, electrical service, heating/ventilating/air conditioning systems and controls, to name a few.

You will also want to be certain that your contract clearly spells out the terms for payment, sub-contractor payment, project close-out, clean-up among other important issues.

Good luck with your new project!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 8:26AM
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Epiarch Designs

as the previous 2 pointed out, I certainly hope you are not signing anything based on the list you gave. You are missing a great deal of very critical items, in my opinion far more important then what you have on that list that result in the bulk of your home's cost.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 9:29AM
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THANK YOU SO MUCH. I am glad that I found all of you. Does anyone has detailed specification list? virgilcarter has given some headings - but i was wondering if any one have detailed building specification list.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 10:50AM
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This might help.

Here is a link that might be useful: saybuild specification sheet

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 12:36PM
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Epiarch Designs

Hima- the specs will typically come from your designer or architect. They are prepared documents that are many times project specific (I say many times loosely, as with mine, they are project specific every time). They take time and you will be lucky to find anyone offering them up free of charge. The link provide above is still far far too generic and does not address anything in my opinion.
Items specs include are listed on the list provided by Virgil. Within those categories are detailed directions, performance requirements, product types/brands, finish types, warranty info, etc to for each category. They go along with your building plans to complete the package. The plans designate the sizes, shapes, makeup and locations of materials. The specs call out what those materials and products are. Most home specs are on 1 24x36" sheet at the front of the plan package. On my commercial jobs, spec books are commonly 5-7" thick. They provide a common ground for subs and contractors to bid the project.

Without specs listing what products you get, you can open yourself up to whatever the contractor wants to use to achieve the goal. This is where issues arrise, change orders come from, and a frustrated homeowner being "had" by the contractor (or so they think).

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 2:58PM
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Completely agree with all said. Can't move forward with this! thank you all for your help. Can't imagine myself signing the contract!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 4:27PM
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just my thoughts:

upgrade recessed lights to ICAT insulation contact
air tigt. IC cans have holes in housing that
allow attic temp and insulation particles into
house. not much expensive to purchase, same
cost to install and very expensive to retrofit.
one IC recessed light = one sq ft of uninsulated
attic due to amount of air movement through insulation.

look for nfrc stickers on windows. .30 u-factors
and shgc (solar heat gain coefficients) at minimum
invest in low e coatings to keep heat in...cold
climates or reflect heat out...hot climates.

I'd look at energy factors on water heaters.
tankless are nice..but running them on propane
is expensive. heat pump water heaters have high
EF's in the 2.30 range. conventional low efficiency
electric EF is 80 range where as high efficiency
electric is .95 the extra insulation pays off.
in conventional gas water heaters .56 EF is
low efficiency and .65 is high efficiency.
adding insulation blankets to tank water heaters
always pays off quickly.

insulation...lots of types all dependent upon
install. I like to put foam sheathing on exterior
of walls, conventional insulation in stud bays
and follow up with air tight drywall approach.

if you use spray foam insulation..save it for
the roofline. we make walls tight, but put
lots of holes in the ceilings. (recessed lights
supply boxes/registers, bath fans, stove vents...)

air sealing..sill seal under sole plates, lots of
caulking and sealing along the way.
a tight house is not only energy efficient but
cheaper to heat and cool. comfort and better
indoor air quality go along with the air sealing.

13 seer a/c? you don't list where you are building,
but with propane water heater you'll probably
go electric with hvac. look into heat pumps.
and don't chose the lowest priced/lowest efficiency
I find the heat pump 'sweet spot' as folks like to
call it to be the 15-17 SEER range.
hvac companies like trane also make american standard.
so ask for prices of same efficiency by 'name' and
'sister' brand.

not only do you want to build a nice house, but
to make it affordable to live in..now and in the
future should be a concern. invest in the things
that don't show..or the bones of the house.
these things have huge impacts on affordability
and efficiency.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 5:19PM
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The most likely reason the list is so limited is that this is a design-build company that knows what they intend to use and feels no obligation to explain it to you in detail. It may be hard to believe but this is how a great number of houses and home improvement projects are done in America.

Not only is the level of quality not defined but the allowances are like money pits: you won't know the cost until you get a quote from the GC's favorite subs and/or supplier. Try to define the scope/quantity of this work in the contract so installation labor can be included in the base price instead of in the allowance or use unit prices or require competitive bidding of subs - you don't want to be obligated to accept the GC's favorite subs' labor rate and markup.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 5:43PM
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