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Things I wish I'd specified on my plans.

Posted by juniork (My Page) on
Fri, Feb 18, 11 at 17:05

I thought this might help people starting out. My architectural designer wasn't very good with detailed work at all, and when everyone says 'specify EVERYTHING', they really mean it!

Interior elevations - we're first time builders, and didn't realize that plans could be passed through the city without interior elevations!

Shingles (craftsman style house) should be stained, not painted.

Exact size of exterior trim as well as material. (Azek seems to be the consensus here) Also make sure the fascia is Azek, otherwise you get wood, which will have to be repainted every so often.

Exact size and type of interior trim. They spec'ed out 5+" baseboard and single stack crown moulding, but I guess that's standard baseboard, and I now think bigger would be better for craftsman style. I would have gotten a pre-contract bid for wood trim vs white trim.

Front entry steps were not spec'ed, so they bid it as wood. I now realize we really want concrete, or something more substantial than wood steps (like a back porch!).

Fireplace gas insert and mantle - it's included in my bid, but now I realize that it's not specified as to what type, and also, the average mantle is shallow, maybe 7-8". You might want something deeper for your holiday decorations.

Surround sound wiring in the family room, basic wiring for tv to your receiver closet, and in-ceiling speaker wires. At least get a specified bid prior to signing, so you can know what you're dealing with.

I AM happy that I specifically asked re: Tyvek, upcharge for wood interior doors vs solid core, windows (one brand vs another), roofing materials, heated floors for the bathrooms, smooth finish for drywall (more expensive than the knock-down finish) gas and water lines exteriorly to the big porch, concrete retaining walls for the back yard (well, they're there with the concrete truck anyway...it HAS to be cheaper than having landscaper do it later!). Also happy that we had discussed phone/cat-5/cable wiring to be run inside smurf-tubing/conduit(thanks to members here!). Glad I sat down with the arch. designer and did the electrical/lighting plan, since he would have completely underplanned it! I do wish that I'd put in-cabinet lights into the plans. We have a list of 'allowances', and just one big number for that, and it works well. It allows me to shop for my fixures and flooring and cabs at discount places as well as on craigslist. The plumber has no problems with it.

I guess it comes down to whether you trust your builder to NOT look at changes as a financial opportunity, and I'm very happy that I had specifically discussed that with them before. They've been reasonable so far, as far as I can tell, but it's definitely the case that there's much more negotiating power BEFORE the contract is signed, and if you decide to upgrade to the surround sound, at least you know they won't charge you double for it later, since you have a quote for it already. My coworker got a $10,000 change order for changing his living room entryway from a rectangle to an arch! I suppose I'm happy that my guy only charged me $1000 to move a window up 10" (after installation, but prior to insulation/drywall).


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RE: Things I wish I'd specified on my plans.

Well said Junior. As I, and others have said on this forum: NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING! OVER COMMUNICATE!!

We are building our third custom home, and each architect is different, each builder is different, and each sub is different. Even with this home, there are so many things I would do different. I have given our builder lots and lots of pictures. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. He has quite a file on us. We also made a personal binder that contains notes from our meetings with the builder and subs, every bid, every selection, all plans, interior and exterior elevations, etc It's been my bible throughout this process. So far we have been fortunate that our builder has not charged us anything to move a couple windows, move the speaker locations, and a couple other minor changes. He's been absolutely terrific throughout the entire process. Even when we changed the size of baseboards, there was no change order. And he has gone out of his way to make sure he gets good pricing on materials. I personally have purchased most "allowance" items and paid for them as we go. Huge savings.


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List appliances on the architectural plans

sigh. just adding to my list of things.
Make a list of built-in kitchen appliances. Don't wait till halfway through your build when you talk to your kitchen designer, or cabinet guy. Even if you don't install them now, at least the builder can wire the electricity for them.

I was dumb, and didn't realized 1. the arch. designer didn't draw in the second DW in the center island, and 2. I didn't mention it to the contractor until we were measuring for cabinets, and the walls are already closed, and that part of the kitchen is on a slab foundation (ouch!). How was I to know that DW's need their own circuits? I used to use a portable DW that just plugged into any old outlet, and hooked up to the kitchen faucet!

So if you even THINK you'll want an undercounter fridge/wine fridge, or steam oven, or warming drawer, or built-in microwave, or two DW's, then have them in the plans! They'll wire for it, plan it in the electrical panel, etc.


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