This week I want to tell you what’s going on with the specifications for the major subcontractors for my house. But wait... Should we start right off with a pop quiz? Hmmm yeah, let’s do that Pop Quiz: Do you remember what specifications are? We’ve talked about specifications in several episodes, including episode 119 called Understanding the Bidding Process.
So do you remember what the specifications are? Well, specifications or specs, describe what materials will be used to build a house and how those materials should be installed. While house plans are a visual, diagrammatic representation of your house, specs are like the written description.
I’ve told you previously that you or your builder should be as detailed as possible with your specifications in order to make sure your house is built to the level of quality and beauty that’s acceptable to you. And it’s typically a builder or architect that can help owner builders with the specifications.
But when I asked my architect about helping me with my specs he seemed pretty uncomfortable. Remember I told you that he’s been designing mostly commercial buildings for the last several years, so maybe that had something to do with his discomfort. So I asked Jose, one of the builders I've been consulting, about helping me with specs. And he said “yeah, no problem.” He wasn’t hesitant at all.
I met him one Saturday morning at Starbucks with me house plans and notebook in hand, ready to take copious notes. But once we got into the conversation, what he told me surprised me and frankly, gave me a sense of relief.
I just came back from the Tulsa, Oklahoma Parade of Homes. The real estate market in the Tulsa area is pretty underrated. There are beautiful homes and neighborhoods there and I love their parade of homes. This was my third or fourth year going.
Like always, this parade of homes allowed me to see what features are popular in new construction, at least in that part of the country (I saw a lot of the features listed in Home Trends 2018 and Home Trends 2017). But I also saw some features in houses that gave me pause. Features that we should definitively think twice about before putting them in our new homes. That’s what I want to talk about this week.
Lots of builders build what they’ve always built in the past because it’s easier to do what you’ve done dozens or hundreds of times before and because many builders don’t go on Houzz or Pinterest to study design features that today’s homeowners want.
To each his own. You have the right to design your house any way you want. If you like it, I love it, but I want to give you a list of a few things that I saw that are questionable design elements—mainly because of lack of functionality and poor use of space, but a couple things made the list purely because of aesthetics. But again, it’s your money and your house and your taste should reign supreme, just realize some of these features may be hard to live with or they may discourage potential buyers in the future.
Here’s my list of things I saw in the Tulsa Parade of Homes that you might want to think twice about before including in your new home:
1. Bowl shaped vessel sinks
I recently got a suggestion for a podcast/post from Glen (Hey Glen!) and I thought was a great idea. His suggestion was for me to talk about how much storage we should build into our new homes. Unfortunately, after days of research and I couldn’t find very much specific information on the subject. What I read over and over again, though, was that you should include more storage than you think you need for your family’s current and future needs. That ample amount of storage will not only make living in your new house more pleasant, but it will also make your house more appealing when it’s time for you to sell it.
A couple of weeks ago we talked about the bidding process, mainly as it pertains to owner builders getting bids from subcontractors (Episode 119). This week I’ll give you a quick overview of the different types of contract agreements you might decide on if you’re going to hire a general contractor to build your house. We'll briefly discuss fixed price contracts and cost plus contracts. Choosing which type of builder's contract to use is almost as important as choosing which general contractor to hire.
An outdoor kitchen is a space that used to be thought of as a luxury, but is now regarded more as a must-have amenity in many areas. Even if you only have a small space and a not so big budget, you can plan for a small outdoor kitchette. An outdoor kitchen will increase your home’s value, so it’s a great investment. This week, we’ll discuss some outdoor kitchen design features— some are practical and for almost any budget and some are more luxurious.
Let's get right into it.
After last week’s listener question episode called "My Bids Are Coming In Well Above Expected, What Should I Do?" I thought that a more in-depth lesson on the bidding process would be helpful. So that’s what we’re talking about this week-- bidding.
Once we have a detailed plan of our project, in the form of accurate construction/architectural drawings and written specifications, the bid process can begin. Our goal in going through a competitive bid process is not just to get the lowest price for the job, but to get the best quality work for the lowest price.
Before we dive into the mini lesson, let’s define a few pro terms. We may have talked about these in previous episodes, but I think we need a review before we move on.
Our pro terms this week are construction drawings, specifications and construction bids.
Recently a listener emailed me with a question that I thought would be good to share on the podcast and website. It has to do with the bidding process.
Getting bids is the process of getting cost proposals from subcontractors. To get an accurate bid, at a minimum, we need to give each subcontractor a set of house plans and specifications. The specifications describe the specific materials needed for the job and the methods for construction. We’ll talk in more detail about the bid process next week in a mini lesson. But right now, let's go over the question and the answer I gave.
Here's the listener's question:
"I've enjoyed listening to your podcast as we are in the pre-construction phase of planning to build our own home. However, in the past couple of weeks our subcontractor bids have been coming in and we are starting to get concerned. I sent MULTIPLE bid requests to subcontractors for each trade, and even though all of them haven't come in, we are trending well above what it would cost to go through a builder. What am I doing wrong? Do general contractors have some underground network of cheap laborers that I'm missing out on because I'm not a GC? Any advice would be helpful!"
So when exactly is the best time to build a house? I always assumed it was the spring or summer because that’s when everyone seems to start construction. And depending on what your goals are, spring and summer are the best times. However, fall, and rarely winter, could be a better time to start. Again, depending on your goals.
If you live in an area that has a very mild winter season, you might consider starting your house in the winter. Otherwise, winter is not the optimal time. Although special preparations can be made to build in the very cold temperatures and, even in the snow, those special preparations will usually increase your construction costs and your construction time. Therefore, in the vast majority of cases, starting construction in the winter is not what you want to do.
Let’s focus our brief discussion on whether to start construction in the spring or summer or in the fall.
This week we have the second part of an owner builder interview that I did with Juan Catano. He and his wife are remodeling their duplex and making it into a triplex. In this part of the interview, Juan tells us what he wishes he had known before he started his project, what surprise costs he ran into and what mistakes he would warn other owner builders about.
Let’s get right into it. Here’s the second part of my interview with Juan Catano.
Juan Catano works in industrial construction and is currently remodeling his home. He and his wife are changing their duplex into a triplex and recently, they’ve taken on the role of general contractor. This week, you’ll hear the first part of a 2 part interview that we did. He’ll tells us about their experience so far and about some of their challenges. He also shares how he’s finding and managing his subcontractors. Let's get right to the interview.
I often see gutter systems on homes, but I was unclear about whether gutters are a necessity or not. So I did a little research and this week I’ll tell you what I found. We’ll talk about who needs to add a gutter system to their house and why, and we’ll briefly cover the basic types of gutter systems and the approximate cost.
Let’s start with a few Pro Terms:
I thought I could fill out my building permit application in just a few minutes, but I couldn’t because I didn’t have all the information I needed. This week learn what information is needed for a building permit application and how I went back and forth with the builder I wanted as my consultant.
When choosing kitchen and bathroom cabinets, you already know you’ll need to consider material, cabinet sizes, paint or stain colors and style. But what about the cabinet sheen or finish? Have you thought about whether you’ll choose flat, matte cabinets or shiny, high gloss cabinets?
No matter what material your cabinets are made of, you have a choice of whether to go with a glossy, matte or semi-gloss finish for the end product. What sheen you should choose for your cabinets initially seems like a trivial decision that is based purely on aesthetics.
But the sheen of your cabinets can not only dramatically affect the way your kitchen and bathrooms look, but also how well the cabinets function and how durable they’ll be. Plus, the amount of cleaning they’ll need. So, this week we’ll compare and contrast flat, matte surfaces with shiny, high gloss surfaces. And we’ll end with some facts about semi gloss finishes.
Before making any final decisions about the sheen of our kitchen and bathroom cabinets, it’s a good idea to familiarize ourselves with the pros and cons of each. That way, we can make an informed decision and prepare ourselves for the cleaning and maintenance requirements of our selection.
Let’s jump right in…
This week I have a few quick tips for dealing with contractors. These tips come from a 2017 article written in Consumer Reports called “Home Renovations without Aggravation—Learn how to combat shady contractor practices and avoid common and costly mistakes many homeowners make.”
Although the article addresses home renovations, most of the information in the article is also relevant for those of us who will be building new homes.
That Consumer Reports article highlights information from a recent survey of 300 general contractors from around the United States. The survey was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.
In the survey, contractors admitted to some shady practices that are found in the construction industry, including:
-contractors using unskilled laborers to carry out their work
- winning jobs with lowball bids and then jacking up the cost later with “unforeseen problems.”
The kitchen stove is a visual and functional focal point in many kitchens. And there are several options from which to choose. This week’s mini lesson will give you an overview of many of those options, including, ranges vs cooktops, plus gas, electric, induction, convection, and dual fuel cooking. This lesson should help you choose the best stove for your new kitchen.
Let’s start by talking about the very basic differences between cooking with gas versus cooking with electric.
I’ve been wondering for a while now about the current trends and rules for crown molding, baseboards and other types of interior trim and molding. In my internet search, I didn’t find a lot of articles on the subject. There’s some information defining the different types of trim, but not a lot a hard and fast rules to go by.
In this week’s episode, we’ll go over the few rules that I did find, I’ll cover whether it’s acceptable to paint trim in different parts of the house different colors and I’ll discuss some less traditional trim options that you may not have heard of, or considered.
Practically, lots of trim and moldings are used to hide gaps and imperfections that naturally occur with drywall installation, but trim and moldings also add architectural interest to a home. In general, trim should be sized according to your personal taste. But, there are some guidelines that will keep your moldings in scale with each other and give your house a classic, balanced look.
This week I want to give you a quick update on the status of my project. My structural engineer finally completed my foundation plan and I also got the official plot plan done.
The foundation plan is a drawing that shows the location and size of the foundation, plus the materials needed to construct it. The plan also details the different parts of the foundation, including the footings, piers, foundation walls, and supporting beams.
It took about 8 weeks to get my foundation plan done. This longer than usual, but I live in a smaller city and my structural engineer is very much in demand. He was one of the best engineers in the area, so he was juggling many projects at once. If I had to do it all over again, I would probably go with someone who was good, but not so much in demand.
I’ve hesitated to do an post/podcast on the cost of construction because homebuilding costs can vary greatly from house to house and region to region. But, “How much does it cost to build a house?” is a question that comes up a lot. So I decided to give you some information collected from the National Association of Home Builders. They did a cost of construction survey which asked builders from around the United States to break down their construction costs for the typical home they built in 2017.
This week we'll cover a lot of numbers that you can't possibly remember, but I want to give some points of reference for our own project.
I’ll not only share the average cost for each major category of the building process, such as site work, framing and the foundation, but I’ll also tell you what percentage of the total cost of construction each segment represents.
During the past week in my area, it's rained almost non-stop for 3 days. And although I haven’t started building, I was thinking I’d be pretty nervous if I had started building. What if my house was being framed and got exposed to all that rain? It got me to wondering… Is it ok if it rains while your house is being framed and before the house is dried in? Remember, "dried in" means that the building shell has been completed.
A dried in house includes: 1) all the exterior walls of the house, along with house wrap or some other moisture barrier 2) the roof sheathing with an appropriate water proof roof covering, and 3) coverings for any openings, including window or doors openings. These steps keep out wind, rain, and snow so that weather-sensitive materials both inside and outside the house are protected from weather damage.
Again, I wondered if it’s okay for a home’s frame to be rained on? And if not, what you can you do if it rains before your house is dried in? I did a little research and here’s what I found.
Outdoor living spaces are more important than ever. Most folks building new homes want a deck, porch and/or patio where they can entertain or just relax as a family.
This week we'll go over the pros and cons of these different deck, patio and porch materials: Natural Stone, Concrete Pavers, Poured Concrete, Tile, Brick, Wood Composite, and Wood. When choosing the materials for the construction of your porch, deck or patio, the style of your home and your personal preference should definitely be considered. A traditional home would look nice with a brick patio, for example, whereas a more contemporary house might look better with an outdoor space made of poured concrete or sleek pavers.
But, in addition to aesthetic considerations, we should also think about maintenance and the cost of different patio and deck materials. So, let’s get right to it. Starting with natural stone.
This week I have a quick episode telling you about 7 house layout mistakes you should avoid when designing your home. Most of them are mistakes that I almost made, until I mentally walked through the house. Some of them are mistakes that my architect didn’t even see until I brought them to his attention. So do your due diligence, even if you are working with a professional, and literally study your house plan before you finalize it.
Before we get to this week’s list of mistakes, I want thank Kotton for listening to the last week’s episode called Lighting 101. He brought to my attention that I didn’t mention the efficacy of LED light bulbs. NoT efficiency, but efficacy. Technically, the word efficacy, not efficiency, should be used when talking about the amount of light an LED produces per watt. Sometimes efficacy is called luminous efficacy. You’ll see efficacy listed on almost all LED light bulbs. We’ll pay more upfront for bulbs with greater efficacy, but we’ll save money in lower utility bills over the life of the bulb. A good efficacy standard is at least 100.
Thanks Kotton for that additional information. Much respect to you too.
Now, let’s go over the 7 layout mistakes to avoid when designing your house.
I love lighting fixtures. I’d have a beautiful chandelier in almost every room of the house, if I could. But there’s more to lighting than pretty fixtures. Lighting is first and foremost functional. I briefly covered lighting in episode 25 called "8 Kitchen Design Mistakes to Avoid". Mistake #6 was “Going Light on Lighting.” That’s not what we want to do in the kitchen, or any other place in the house.
In this week’s mini lesson, we’ll go over some basic rules to follow when choosing lighting for your new home. Now, an electrician or lighting designer will be invaluable in making specific suggestions your project, but today we’ll cover some general guidelines.
As with most guidelines, experts sometimes disagree. I noticed when doing my research that one website might have slightly different guidelines and advice than another. So the tips and rules that I’ll outline today may be just a little different from what you read or hear elsewhere, but this information should help you give you some basic, practical tips that will get you on the right path to a well-lit home.
We’ll go over the different categories of lighting, where to put warm white light as opposed to cool white light and we’ll get into what size recessed lights are best and how you should space them.
Before moving on to our mini lesson, let’s go over a few Pro Terms: Ambient lighting, Task lighting, Accent lighting and Decorative lighting. These are the 4 major categories of lighting.
I haven’t started the fun, exciting part of the building process yet, but as I'm heading toward the end of the planning phase, I'm starting to reach out to folks who I'll need for the actual construction phase. So, today I called a building inspector. In this week’s very quick post, I’ll tell you what happened.
Hot Home Trends 2018— Lessons Learned at the International Builders Show and Kitchen and Bathroom Industry Show 2018—BYHYU 101
Many of the trends that I saw at this year’s Design and Construction week are a continuation of the what I saw in 2016 and 2017. I’m finding that homebuilding trends don’t typically change abruptly from year to year. So the trends that I talked about in episode 5 and episode 55 still hold for this year. But here is a list of a few new trends for 2018.
1. Matte Black— Matte black was one the hottest finishes seen this year. Matte black was seen in bathroom and kitchen faucets, on bathroom, kitchen and closet cabinetry, in lighting fixtures, hardware, on interior and exterior window finishes, interior and exterior doors, and in tile and countertops. Silver (chrome) and warm metal (brass) finishes are still very much on trend, but matte black was the newest kid on the block and was featured by many brands.
To commemorate our 100th episode, I want to give you some of my favorite homebuilding and design tips that I’ve learned over the past 2 years of this podcast. I’ve learned so much, but these are some of the most relevant things.
We’ll go over 50 tips in this week’s mini lesson, but since this is the 100th episode, it only makes sense that I give you a list of 100 of the most important pieces of homebuilding knowledge that I've gained. So we’ll go over 50 tips now and I’ll send you 50 more tips and tricks if you email me at info@BYHYU.com or you can get in touch with me through the "Contact Us" tab above.
All you have to do is type the number "100" in the subject line and as a thank you for helping me get to episode 100, I’ll send you a PDF of a list of 50 bonus tips, plus the 50 tips that we’ll cover in today, so you won’t have to take notes. You’ll end up with a list of 100 of my favorite bits of homebuilding information. Now don’t worry about me spamming you. I wouldn’t do that.
Before we get to the first 50 tips, I want to sincerely thank you for your loyalty and support and for encouraging me to keep the podcast going with your awesome reviews and kind emails. I especially want to thank you for sharing the show with friends, family and coworkers by text, email and on social media. You are the reason the show is doing so well. Since I’m not great with social media, I’ve been counting on you to spread the word about the podcast/blog and you’ve done that, so thank you.
As we move forward with the podcast/blog, I’ll continue to give you quick tips, mini lessons and interviews that will help you make informed decisions about your homebuilding options, but when I actually break ground on my own project, I’ll be doing more regular project updates and I’ll tell you what materials, appliances, fixtures, and methods I’ve decided on and why. Thank you again for all that you’ve done to help me over the past 2 years.
Okay, let’s get into the first 50 most relelvant homebuilding tips.
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