The House Plans.

… This is your home – PAY ATTENTION

Off the shelf plans or Custom Plans?

2d viewSimple floor plansLooking through house plan books is fun, lots of ideas! Sometimes you may even find the perfect plan. More often than not the perfect plan is close to perfect and only needs a bit of modification, move the bathroom over here and make the master bedroom bigger, add pantry and change some window sizes. Now you’ve got a custom plan! Too often inexperienced home owners put the cart before the horse, and chose a plan, then find a lot and put them together. At Nutmeg Homes we encourage our customers to take the time to fit the plan to the location and the lot. An ICF house will last for many hundreds of years and will cost a fair amount to demolish, so doing it right becomes important.

The Cost of Paper versus The Cost of a House.

Spending some upfront effort on plans will save time and money once the construction starts. Anyone with experience in the residential building world knows the frustration and added cost involved in a change in plans. All too often the home owner can end up paying for; -the initial construction, -the demolition of the initial construction, -the changed construction. This is not 3 times the price, it’s more; coordinating the trades, buying the trades beer to keep them from throwing things, and rescheduling the project adds to the final price. Yes sometime change is unavoidable, but all too often it becomes a builder’s cash cow – “That will be extra!”. It should be easy for a professional to quote a project and stay on budget. The more time spent in the planning stages (this includes all specifications – very important) the better it should be for all concerned.

The Design-Build Concept

Nutmeg Homes favors the “Design-Build” approach.

Design-build is a method of project delivery in which one entity – the design-build team – works under a single contract with the project owner to provide design and construction services. One entity, one contract, one unified flow of work from initial concept through completion. Design-build is also known as design/construct and single-source responsibility. Across the country and around the world, design-build successfully delivers office buildings, schools, stadiums, transportation and water infrastructure projects with superior results.
Design-build is an alternative to design-bid-build. Under the latter approach, design and construction are split – separate entities, separate contracts, separate work.

from: Design-Build Institute of America

Customer satisfaction is easier to achieve if the customer is aware of the steps
and ingredients involved in the construction of the home.

The design/build delivery system often cites the original “Master Builder” model used to build most pre-modern projects. Under the Master Builder approach, a central figure of the architect held total project accountability. From inception to completion, the master builder was the key organizational figure and strictly liable to the owner for defects, delays, and losses. The design/build system is a return to some of the fundamentals of the Master Builder approach. For nearly the entire twentieth century, the concept of Design-Build was classified as a non-traditional construction method in the United States, which is the last country to still embrace the old standard of Design-Bid-Build.

from: Wikipedia

Blueprints aren’t Blue any more.

3d wireframe view

Long gone are the days of hand drawn final plans. Pencil sketches are great for the initial concept stage, but the power of Computer Assisted Design (CAD) makes house design and plans fast and accurate. Many CAD programs also integrate material lists and schedules (a schedule is a detail list of components such as windows, doors, appliances, plumbing fixtures etc.). CAD tools can also provide an amazing number of ‘views’, for example virtual walk throughs, actual sunlite shadows (through windows!), spinning whole house views, and translucent ‘glass wall’ views to name a few. The floor plan view is only one of many available, and it only shows a simplified flat view. At Nutmeg Homes we use a variety of tools in the design phase. On one job we had a computer on site to layout an extremely complex curved floor joist layout.

Cost of Paper versus the Cost of a House

Yes this topic again – it’s really important. One of our customers (a great couple from Delta BC) were able and willing to plan every detail. They were even able to pick interior paint colours, flooring, plumbing and light fixtures and so on – before construction started. This project was one of the smoothest ever. There was no pressure to make quick decisions on flooring, or fixtures – all the big and little details were preplanned. OK – the doorbell transformer was non standard and so we needed to special order it at the last minute – but this was one of the very few issues the home owners had to address during the build – it was that smooth and stress free for all concerned.

The Contract

The basis of a custom home construction contract is the final blueprint. On top of this document details not included in the contract should be covered. For example are the doors and windows sizes and quality or specifications detailed in a ‘schedule’ on the blueprints or in a separate document? Are you getting the least expensive (cheapest) units legally allowed (or worse!)? This applies to everything in the home. There is such a thing as too much detail, it depends on your comfort and trust level with the builder.

Allowances are a problem with us at Nutmeg Homes. We strive to make the entire build process as smooth and transparent as possible. Our quoted final price includes very generous allowances (an allowance is a set budget amount $ for the client to spend on finishes such as flooring, lighting, etc). When comparing our final price with other quotes we will often be higher because of this. As professional builders we have a very good idea of what it will cost to finish a home to a our standard, and we include this amount up front. It is very rare for there to be cost over runs on our builds. When doing your homework researching builders ask about extras ! You will either pay in the end, or end up settling for less than good quality.

Most builders are not banks, they use your money to build. Banks are not builders, they will lend you money after the money has been spent. This brings us to the draw schedule. The builder need the money up front for each stage of construction. A typical bank construction mortgage will release money only after the stage is completed (and often verified by an appraiser). As the home owner you will need to bridge this gap. Most suppliers and trades will give the builder a grace period to pay builds, for example 30 days, so there is some flexibility, but now the possibility of ‘builder liens’ arises. If possible we recommend a ‘line of credit’ method of financing, this will save you a fair amount in fees (bank and appraiser). If you use a line of credit beware – you now no longer have a professional determining the completion of each stage of the draws. There are large amounts of money at stake so inform your self on the risks. There is no free lunch !

Timing and completion dates are important, and if you chose to use Nutmeg Homes to build for you, we will tell you up front, we are not the fastest builders around. We take the time to do it right, we allow our sub-trades the time to do their work properly, and if there is a flaw or improvement we need to address, we take the time to do so. Building a custom home is not a race, we believe that rushing a job does not make it better. With that in mind you still want a completion date. If you must have a specific completion date, be aware that your builder may now have to chose between quality and penalty payments.

As much as we love to hate them, lawyers are around for a reason (no not for landfill). We recommend you have a lawyer look over the contract – before you sign, not after when things go wrong.

Chapter One – Part 3 – The Hole