Frustrated...need to vent

Karen15December 15, 2013

I'm trying really hard to stay positive and be happy during our build but every time we visit our house I find something that needs to change. I'm the type of person who is very organized and write everything down, communicate through email and keep track of everything. What's been frustrating me is that I make sure I tell my builder things well ahead of time and he says okay but then doesn't communicate to his workers so it becomes a change. First thing was, we picked a floorplan and he said we could make interior changes but on site instead of sending to an architect. The framer needed to make a half wall in our master shower 8inches wider . This conversation was in early october. I brought it up again at the end of October and was told it would get done. In nov i saw Sheetrock in the house so I asked again to make sure it got done before drywall. It is now dec and the wall has been drywalled and painted, and they still say they are adding to 8inches. It drives me nuts because I brought it up during framing about 5xs.

Then they put a floor vent in my mudroom where a custom bench unit is being built in. They did this because his workers are following a plan where my mudroom was supposed to be a dining room (another reason why the plan should've gone to an architect). They said they'd move it and 2 months later it's still in the wrong spot.

I also let my builder know the master bath door can't swing into the bathroom because to the left it hits the glass shower and to the right it hits the vanity. So I specially asked to swing outwards into our bedroom. We stopped by today to drop off lights and of course the bathroom door is in and guess where it swings...into the glass shower. So now I have to tell them to change it.

I don't understand where we went wrong though because these aren't things I brought up a day before. I let him know months before to avoid changes. Why is my builder creating extra work. If I could go back I would've demanded the plan go back to the architect so these were done on paper . I want to enjoy this process so badly but I'm so upset every time we go to the house and thank god I do stop in.

Anyone else feel like this?

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I forgot to mention I hate telling him to change things..i feel like the bad guy but I shouldn't have to be saying anything because I told them so far ahead. I requested double wire in my coat closet and upstairs bedrooms because we are having the master wic without any wire at all. I'm cringing because I know it will be single hung. How awful is it that I don't trust it will be done right?

Glad to get this off my chest though.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2013 at 10:28PM
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I know EXACTLY what you mean. Sending you virtual hugs but also a little advice...

First, look over your contract and find out the EXACT procedure that the contract specifies is supposed to be followed in making change orders. If your builder can claim that he never made the changes because YOU never followed the right procedure for requesting change orders, you need to be prepared to head off that argument or at least figure out what you're going to choose to do if he makes it.

You may need to sit down with a lawyer and discuss whether your emails and your builder's (hopefully) written responses saying that the changes would be made are sufficient under the terms of your contract to hold your builder to actually making the changes.

If the email communications are not sufficient, then you are going to need that lawyer to advise you of your options re next steps because, if your contract terms are such that your builder basically has the right to ignore your emailed requests for changes even after responding that he WILL make them, , then chances are your builder NEVER intends to make any of the changes you want. He intends to hand the completed house over to you and tell you you're stuck with it as is because it follows the contract documents. Or, he intends to charge you an arm and a leg to go back and "renovate" the brand new house once it it "completed." I hope this isn't the case but it could be.

A lawyer should only charge you for an hour or two of his time to meet with you and look over your contract and the emails and give you his opinion as to whether your builder IS or IS NOT bound to make the changes he agreed to make. And, you don't need to tell builder you're consulting with an attorney. It's none of his business.

Assuming that your emails and builder's written responses are sufficient to qualify as change orders under the terms of your contract, you then need to have a sit down with your builder with copies of your emails in hand showing the dates when you requested each and every change that has still NOT been done and the dates on which he responded that he would make the change.

Go thru the entire list and let him know that you are very unhappy with his failure to follow thru on change orders that he has agreed to make. I assume that you do have to pay extra for each change order but INSIST that the builder charge you ONLY the amount that it would have cost to make each change AT THE TIME REQUESTED, not whatever extra amount that it is now going to cost him to go back and undo completed work in order to make changes. It's going to be tough to get this info so you might have to have independent contractors come in and give you estimates of what they would have charged to make the changes early on and what they would now charge to make them.

Demand that your builder also give you a "time to completion" for each previoulsy requested change and tell him that you want getting the previously requested changes completed to take priority over getting ANY new work done.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2013 at 11:05PM
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Funny that you posted this. Our dirt work was just completed and we have a local guy who was DH's high school buddy as our builder. He told us the same thing you were told, that he can take our plans and make whatever changes we want when he is building. I said NO WAY. Too stressful. After ordering the stock plans and studying them for months, I decided what changes I wanted to make. Then I used the picture of the floorplan from the internet and put it into the paint program on the computer and drew up all the changes and spelled it all out in bright red and put it in a nice little binder, one for him and one for me. It was given to him yesterday. I even drew in the direction of door swings and wrote in window sizes and provided pictures if I thought my written descriptions were hard to understand. Did he laugh at me? Yes, of course he did. But, the only thing I should have to do throughout the build is choose the finishes. Maybe you can start doing this method from this point on and make him initial it or sign it or something.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 8:16AM
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We are in the same situation with our builder. I am an engineer and mark up drawings for industrial jobs on a daily basis. I have taken the plans and made sure to make very detailed mark-ups for any changes and/or comments and have sent him to him via email (to document) and handed the copies to him. We will go over them and then a month later it isn't done. I have to go by the build several times a week and check everything to make sure it is done correctly. I was really angry at first....but have talked to friends that all said their builder was similar. I haven't ran into a situation yet where the builder challenged me on not going back and fixing it. He usually just says "ok, I will get it fixed".

I just recommend taking good notes and documenting everything in case you get in one of those situations where he tries to fight you.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 11:45AM
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I'm relieved that I'm not alone on this one! I was shocked they thought changes on site would be easier, but I'm not a professional so I was only hoping my design would even work. Every worker would walk into our house to start work and say "what the heck" because the design they had did not match. I even had to bring a copy to my kitchen designer. It might've helped save time by not going back to an architect but I don't think my builder realized all of the other things that would be affected by the changes, like vents, door swings etc... I gave my framer the floorplan I changed with red colors and notes. I'm just surprised at the lack of communication between the builder and his workers. Why make things harder by having to go back and fix when things are brought up so far in advance. My builder actually told me he'd call the framer and have him meet me at the house at 11am the next day. I said do you want me to call him? He said no I'll make sure he's there. I show up the next day and guess who was never told to meet me....the framer. He said our builder never called him. This morning he acknowledged he had my email from a few weeks ago about the door swing and now said he will fix it. But it's the same thing where he knew which way it should go before they even put it in.

I also forgot to mention how before they broke ground we requested french doors in our master by email and he said no problem. When I showed up day 1 of framing they had already framed out windows. I called him and said do you remember the email about french doors. He said yes, oh you want them right? Okay no problem we'll fix it. It did get fixed, but over a month later. I could understand if I was requesting things after the fact, but it's all well before and if the plan went back to the architect the first time I would be saying anything besides great job, I'm so excited! If we ever do this again I will pay whatever it takes to have the plan right before they break ground. I am not even excited about our house yet. How sad.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 12:24PM
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Talk, talk, talk.

As a builder, I employed a project manager on a couple of homes who would often fail to follow through on my conversations with him.

In the end, at the urging of my more organized partner, I presented every change in writing and the manager initialed my copies.

IOW: Put it in writing.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 2:04PM
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I agree with the writing. Do you mean actual paper though instead if emails that he responded to? My builder texts me as communication as well which Ihave.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 3:43PM
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Texts and emails are "writing" in my book--esp if they are replied to. (If you didn't get a reply, it could be argued they weren't received). But, texts/emails are real writing, trackable, communication for most "contract" stuff that I am aware of.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 3:51PM
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Okay good. This is our second build but with a different builder. Our other one didn't do custom homes so every detail was discussed in a preconstruction meeting and then one other meeting for interior finishes. Only thing we changed back then was our appliance color from black to stainless. Which was odd they made us select the fininish way before kitchen cabinet and counters.for that change they charged a late fee. Although I love being able to customize I liked the two hour preconstruction meeting at the other company better rather than select as you go and hope they didnt do it already. I'm sure we'll build a third house someday and have it down by then.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 7:44PM
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Just remember - you are the boss. You are paying him. It's his JOB to make sure your house is the way you want it, the way you told him.

We haven't started on our house yet, plan to do so soon, but in a previous job I designed and oversaw construction on a public facility that cost close to $700,000.

The architect thought I was "too serious", and the contractor's foreman on the job sometimes I'm sure hating to see me coming in his door, but it was my job to make sure the building was built as I designed it so the building would be able to be fully functional and serve its purpose.

Now, I tried to remain pleasant in my dealings with them, but they knew what I wanted, and that it was their job to do exactly that. And, I wasn't there to make friends anyway. In fact, I had to make it very clear to the architect early on that I was the one making decisions as often, in our meetings with my boss and I, he would ask my boss how something should be boss was awesome, and just said, "it's her building....whatever she says goes." The architect seemed to have an issue taking direction from a woman. It finally got to the point that I told the architect that he could either learn to respect me and my position as the decision-maker on the project, or I would find another architect. His tune changed after that discussion, and we were able to finish the project together, on my terms.

My point in telling you all this is that you are the boss because you are the one paying your contractor.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 8:28PM
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It's funny you brought that up. My fiancé has a job where he is not easy to get ahold of during the day or leave work easily. He also gets home around 7or so at night. So I was designated the main point of contact. I have a desk job and can take lunch when I wish or leave to go to a meeting during the day. My job is great. My fiancé called the builder one day and asked for something in our WIC and it was done that day! I admit I always have a friendly tone because I dont want anyone to be upset with me during the build. Maybe I need a more demanding attitude. My fiancé kept telling me not to feel bad or be afraid to ask questions because we are paying him. I had to drag the upgrade prices from a few vendors early on as well. I couldn't believe I had to do that. I wanted to know the cost of things. In my opinion the builder needs an assistant ...a go to person if he is too busy.

You are correct though I should have that mindset...we are paying him..

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 8:59PM
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I have no intentions to offend anyone. We have built a handful of homes now and I have certainly learned that a lot of gc's might know construction, but are not business men. I have been in charge of our last to owner builds of large custom homes and have done so on budget and on time. I think many builders would definitely save money and time if they would hire someone with organizational and managerial skills to help them. I know, wishful thinking and that would take from their profit. The good things is...most will just redo and fix and know it is their fault. Why oh why...seems like such a waste to "us" in other walks of life and careers, etc. Continue to put everything in writing and to cover yourself. Remember, the end result will be wonderful and this is a temporary situation. And yes, often some builders respond better to a male. Just the way it is, my DH had to tell a few that I'm in charge and to go to me and not him (his job also did not allow time for this). And yes, be on site and check things daily if able. I have found that females (and some males) can sometime be so organized with our builds and can not imagine how the builder can not be. We use pictures, typed out detailed list, calendars, planners, portable file systems with pictures and we multi-task. We have put our heart and soul into every little detail for years. And then you have many a builder who will try to go by memory, grab a piece of wood or paper off your new build and make a note and throw it in his truck. All this while they have other builds going on too.

This too is often my explanation that it is possible to owner build because you are a manager and unfortunately many builders know construction; however, are not managers. Good luck with the rest of your will be worth it after you move in and enjoy!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 6:21AM
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I couldn't agree more! During all of our meetings he never took notes. And I thought wow he must have a great memory. Not so much

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 12:35PM
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Karen15 I came to terms that everything will be fixed in time and to relax. However three Sundays ago the builder requested we drop off our lights. We had a snow storm that weekend and weather was bad. I called to make sure our lot had been plowed. They said we would be okay in our truck. They said we had to bring them that day because the electrician would be doing work the next day. Three weeks later I get a call from the electrician asking when we were planning on dropping off the great room light, sconces and master bedroom light? I said I dropped them off three weeks ago with all the other lights and put everything in the great room. So over $300 plus of lights are stolen. We locked the door to the house when we dropped them off. Since then other workers for trim work and kitchen have been in or out and have moved lights around. I plan on telling our builder tomorrow. I have no clue if it was his workers or because they leave the house unlocked. But we dropped them off and locked it the day we were asked to bring them. How irritating and another reason to not be excited.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 7:34PM
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That's ridiculous! Who is responsible for theft during the building process?

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 7:09AM
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My builder had me send him the receipt . I guess the plumber and electrician had things taken too. So rediculous.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 8:27AM
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So, the big take-aways here are

1. Don't rush into your build. Be sure of what you want before you start, and be sure the plans reflect ALL your wishes.

2. Keep up with your changes in writing.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 11:13AM
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its funny....sounds like our builds are following similar paths with the issues. Builder just texted me a few minutes ago and said our electrical is starting Monday and for us to drop off all our lights, fans, etc. Sunday night. Hopefully we don't duplicate your theft!!

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 11:21AM
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I have spent a major part of the last 45 years processing changes to the design of buildings. I have learned to always document changes in writing on numbered forms and to mail them or attache them to emails. A conversation, email or text would need to be followed up with a numbered form. It may seem tedious but without numbered forms each party is likely to forget some aspect of the change. When you meet with the Contractor you should both have these documents with you in sequential order. A progress meeting would start with a review of the status of these documents.

I use the following forms:

from the owner (or architect):
- SUPPLEMENTAL INSTRUCTIONS (no change in Cost or Time anticipated)
- REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL (A change in Cost or Time is anticipated and an approved price is required)
- CONSTRUCTION CHANGE DIRECTIVE (any change to Cost or Time to be determined later)

from the Contractor
- REQUEST FOR INTERPRETATION (no change in Cost or Time anticipated)
- CHANGE PROPOSAL (A change in Cost or Time is anticipated and an approved price is required)

- CHANGE ORDER: A numbered Change Order may include one or more of the above documents with an agreed upon change in the Project Cost or Time. This document is the only one that formally modifies the contract.

Here is the specification section:


1. Minor Work Change Procedures - Changes that are not expected to affect the Contract Time and/or Sum shall be initiated and documented as follows:
The Architect will issue Supplemental Instructions authorizing minor changes in the Work, not involving adjustment to the Contract Time or Sum, on a
sequentially numbered form with additional information attached.
Immediately on discovery of the need for interpretation of the Contract Documents, prepare and submit an RFI using a sequentially numbered form. Include the project name, date, General Contractor name, Architect’s name, sequential RFI number, specification section if relevant,
drawing references as appropriate, Contractor suggested solution, possible impact on the Contract Time and/or Sum, Contractor’s signature and any
attachments (drawings, descriptions, measurements, photos, product data, shop drawings, etc.) noted.
The Architect’s action in response to an RFI that involves a change to the Contract Time or Sum will use the procedure described in the WORK CHANGES section of this specification.

2. Major Work Change Procedures - Work changes that are expected to affect the Contract Time and/or Sum shall be initiated and documented as follows:
The Architect will issue a sequentially numbered form with a detailed description of proposed changes in the Work and, if necessary, include supplemental or
revised Drawings and Specifications.
RFIs issued by the Architect are for information only. Do not consider them instructions either to stop work in progress or to execute the proposed change.
The Contractor will respond to an RFP with a Change Proposal as described in this specification.
• by Contractor - CHANGE PROPOSAL (CP)
In response to an Owner’s RFP, or if latent or unforeseen conditions require modifications to the Contract, for material or system substitutions, or an
Allowance item is bought out, the Contractor will submit to the Architect a Change Proposal.
Include a statement outlining reasons for the change, a description of the change and the effect on the Contract Time and Sum. Include a total price and/or quantities and unit prices including applicable taxes, delivery charges, equipment rental and amounts of trade discounts.
The Owner’s acceptance and approval of a Contractor’s Change Proposal will result in a Change Order.

3. Change Order Procedure
When an Owner has approved a Contractor’s Change Proposal, the Architect will issue a CHANGE ORDER which when signed by the Owner and the Contractor
will adjust the Contract Time or Sum and authorize the Contractor to perform the Work of the change.

4. Construction Change Directive
The Architect may issue a CONSTRUCTION CHANGE DIRECTIVE on a sequentially numbered form instructing the Contractor to proceed with a change in the Work for subsequent inclusion in a Change Order. The directive will contain a complete description of the change in the Work and designate the method to be followed to determine the change in the Contract Time or Sum.
After completion of the change, submit an itemized account and supporting data necessary to substantiate cost and time adjustments to the Contract to the

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 11:31AM
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Here is a sample revision instruction:

Project: Taj Mahal
Date: 24 December 12


Drawing Revisions:

A. Make the following revisions to the Structural Drawings:
(If there is a difference in cost submit a Change Proposal)

1. Revise the diagonal beams supporting the existing Master Bedroom floor and the roof of the addition as shown on the attached drawings SK-1 and Wall Section Detail 4 (sheet A-8.4).

[Architects like this form because it gives the contractor the opportunity to make the change for free]

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 11:46AM
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I agree completely. I tried numerous times to request my changes be sent to the architect. I wanted to have my floorplan done before they started to build but he insisted it was easier to change during framing. I think for our next home ill look around more for builders and get reviews and make sure the floorplans are what we want before they start. Def have learned a lot.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 3:16PM
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Thought I'd post an update..they put our basement, garage and porch in. Still no furnace or flooring yet. They said three weeks to finish but I don't see that happening. They also said its too wet to put our septic in. But its winter here so there's really no dry time right now. Moving into our 6th month for our build ( we were given a 90 day timeframe ) from him. None of the changes have been made yet. I'm assuming he'll do them at the end. Oh time is dragging.....

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 7:03PM
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It really sounds like we have the same builder. We were told a 90 day build and are now in our 6th month. I was trying to lock in a while back when rates were a little lower and was trying to pressure him into giving me a firm finish date....and he wouldn't. He kept telling me that he should finish by around the 15th of January....the 20th at the latest....but would not commit to paying extensions for my rate if he fell behind. He said he couldn't control the weather. Well the weather has been fine....but everytime I go by the house there is no one working. Hard to get stuff done like that. So we are now at the point where he is telling me the house will be done next Tuesday and we can close next Friday. We have been out of town for about a week and stopped by to look at the progress last night. I have no clue how he plans on being done by Tuesday unless that place is crawling with contractors like ants for the next 5-6 days.

Good luck with your build! Sounds like we both lucked up with our builder choices.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2014 at 8:11AM
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I'm sure you're very frustrated with your build. It sounds like it's been a nightmare. We chose our builder because we were familiar with his work and because he felt like someone we could communicate with and trust. Ours was a custom build and I was extremely organized. We had 4 years to get the plans to our specs and everything went smoothly. I visited the build daily and there wasn't a time that I was there that someone didn't have a question for me. I caught a couple of glitches before they were set in stone and the superintendent on the project was great. Communication and trust is so critical for a project like home building-- I'm sorry you are having problems but I hope all will turn our to your satisfaction. Like others said, you might have to hire a lawyer to get what you want but don't back down. Your builder is in the wrong. And I can only imagine how sick you feel about your missing light fixtures.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2014 at 1:58PM
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