Top 5 Misconceptions: Design & Construction of Your House: is about how many people THINK they KNOW many things about the design and construction of their new house project. They are wrong and need to listen carefully to avoid disaster.
This could also be phrased: SO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING TO BUILD YOUR HOUSE CHEAPER AND FASTER?
1. MISTAKE #1:
YOU BELIEVE YOU’RE GOING TO TO BUILD YOUR OWN HOUSE.
HUGE mistake. Yeah: you and your Uncle Bob are going to work weekends for 3 months and put it all together, including all the Excavations, Concrete foundations and steel rebars, Rough framing, Electrical, Plumbing, HVAC, Dry-in, Roofing & Flashing, Doors & Windows, Drywall, Paining & Staining, Sealants, Cleaning, Flooring, Finish Electrical/Plumbing/HVAC/Systems, Sitework, Appliances, Guardrails/Handrails, Garage doors, on and on and on. Yeah: sure thing: just a few weekend hours for a couple of guys.
And do you know how to operate a forklift, backhoe, trackhoe, dumptruck, grading machine and other heavy equipment? Do you know how to tell a real equipment operator pro? When you seen them moving the arms of the equipment quickly and efficiently and smoothly, like it’s part of their body. Are YOU that good? Really? If you’re not, you’re going to make mistakes. Costly ones. And painful. And if you rent the equipment, YOU are responsible for it. If it breaks while you’re using it, YOU have to pay to have it fixed. You will have to sign agreements to that effect before you can take the equipment. Welcome to construction 101.
You couldn’t be more mistaken. Seriously. You really think you can do all that? And that your Uncle or whomever really has all their time in the world to give to you for free?
YOU ARE GOING TO GET SERIOUSLY INJURED OR DEAD. We have seen this happen. And why? Because you want to take off from what you normally do to earn big money, to avoid paying real builders?
MUCH better to do what you typically do every day, earning your big money, so you can pay professional Builders to construct your house. Many of the hard-working construction personnel are in their 20s. Are you? Let the young, strong people do the job of building your house. How much of your life will you lose
if when you fall off a ladder, or fall off a roof? Or shoot a nailgun through your hand? Or cut off your arm? Or break your back or arms or legs? Or get cancer breathing paint fumes? It is not worth it. DO what you do. Let real Builders do what they do. Stop. Think.
Building a house is VERY difficult. It is Not fun. It is dangerous, dirty, difficult work that goes on and on and on. It is as psychologically daunting as it is physically. It takes an average of 18 months to build a fairly modest home, more like 30 months to build a large home, and that’s with the typical 200 person crew. Yes. There are normally at least 50 subcontractors involved, with an average crew size of 4. That’s 200 people. Do you really have the strength and abilities of 200 specialists? Do you think you can build the space shuttle by yourself? Think again. Can you lift 400 pound timbers? You need crews with lots of muscle and capabilities. And licenses.
And by the time you realize you have made the biggest mistake of your life, you will have spent MORE than what you will have paid a real professional General Contractor to get it built faster and better and in compliance with the local Code Department office. Do you know how to do that? The Residential Code is about 1,000 pages. Do you have that all memorized? You better.
2. MISTAKE #2
YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE GOING TO CUT DOWN THE TREES ON YOUR PROPERTY TO BUILD YOUR HOUSE.
Why is this a mistake? Well, for one: trees are about 23% water/moisture when they are growing and alive. To incorporate them into construction, they should be no more than about 9% to 13% moisture content. You either need to cut them up into all the lengths, shapes and sizes you need, then ship them off to a major kiln somewhere to have them kiln-dried, or put them under cover for about a year, allowing them to air-dry. Got a huge outdoor covered warehouse area handy? Going to build that? And how much is that going to cost you? And you have to store that lumber above the ground so bugs don’t infest it, otherwise you’ll be building your house with boring bees, carpenter ants, powder-post beetles and termites right into your structure. Not smart. Not saving.
And: are you a professionally recognized grade-stamped structural engineer? Well: if not, you’re going to have to hire one, otherwise your local building department will not allow you to use non-stamped lumber, because no one will know what its structural properties are. You just can’t build walls and beams with any species of wood, you know.
And: how about warping? All that wood you’re cutting from your trees will start warping almost immediately after you cut it to size, because you do not know what you’re doing and the way you cut the wood makes it cup and bow. Now what are you going to do? How do you assemble a house with wood members all bent and warped? They have to be straight. What a mess.
And: how about PT? Pressure Treating? You need to have the wood that is exterior or contacting masonry or concrete be treated with chemicals so that it doesn’t rot or get eaten by bugs. Where you going to do that? You’re going to have to load up all those tons and tons of wood and ship them off to a large pressure facility somewhere to do that, then pay to ship them back. And who’s going to do that? You? With what equipment? How many people will that require and for how long?
3. MISTAKE #3
YOU DEMAND THAT YOUR ARCHITECT USE YOUR UNPROFESSIONAL SKETCH OF YOUR INTENDED FLOOR PLAN BECAUSE YOU KNOW YOU ARE BETTER THAN FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT.
Or that you stole some floor plan off the internet and “give” them to your Architect to plagiarize. Think again. They aren’t yours. Even if you paid for them. The original creator of those plans is the copyright holder, not you. NO ONE else can use them to create new “plans”. And no self-respecting licensed Architect will do such a thing. Not ethical. Not worth their license. Not going to do it. And you are NOT a designer. You draw appliances 18″ square, and stairways 2′ x 6′. And a sofa 2’x 4′. You do not know what you are doing. Like going to a cardiac surgeon and handing them some images you ripped off the internet from WebMD on HOW to do a heart operation. They will first ask you who you think you are, then tell you to get lost. Or go to an Attorney who is defending your life in a capital murder case and hand him/her an outline of how you want them to conduct the trial. Seriously? They will laugh at you, and tell you to go get a public defender. IT IS RUDE TO TRY TO TELL A PROFESSIONAL HOW TO DO THEIR JOB. And not smart. They know how to do it MUCH better than you. So stop it. Let your Architect do things properly and analyze your land and your functional program needs then THEY will design your house, which is, by the way, MUCH MORE than just a floor plan. And yes, you will pay them to do this. You demanding that they try to use ANYTHING that you give them will COST YOU MORE, not less, because they will have to waste valuable time talking you out of your incorrect assumptions. They will do it much better than you. Let them.
4. MISTAKE #4
YOU DECIDE TO WAIT A COUPLE OF YEARS SO CONSTRUCTION PRICES WILL COME DOWN.
Uuuggghhnnnt! That’s the sound of the “Wrong” buzzer. Construction labor prices are never going to come down. We’ll explain why in a few moments. Construction materials do change almost daily, perhaps 5% to 15%, but never enough, overall, to make enough difference to cut your house construction cost in two, or even substantially. Not going to happen.
Now then, back to construction labor costs. Let’s have YOU, for instance tomorrow, get offered a 25% pay increase. So if you presently earn $100/hour, tomorrow, you will be paid $125/hour. Hey, sounds great, right? Now, enjoy that increased pay. Get a new car for yourself and one for your spouse and one for your teenager. Nice. And let’s have you get a new house. Life’s good, right? Okay. Now, it’s two years later and suddenly someone says to you: “Hey, we’d like for you to go back to 25% LESS than you were making 2 years ago, down to $75/hour, instead of the $125/hour you’re making now.” You’d say” What? Are you kidding? I’ve spent that increase in pay, we’re enjoying an improved lifestyle. I’ll NEVER go back to what I was earning before. No. Hell no.”
Okay, so now: imagine you are a construction worker today or a General Contractor and you just enjoyed a 25% increased pay scale. In two years, will they consider reducing their compensation to less than they were previously? You wouldn’t. Why on God’s green Earth would they? Just so you can have lower prices to build your house at their expense? What do you suppose they would tell you? How many 4-letter words do you know? You can imagine the reception you would receive.
So now then: DO YOU REALLY THINK CONSTRUCTION LABOR costs are going to come down two years from now?
Let’s put it another way: If you could have built a house in 1982 for $30/HSF (Heated Square Foot) and you didn’t want to pay that, do you think if you had waited until 1984, or 1986 or 1990, that your construction price would be lower? At all? So why now, in 2022 (or whatever year it is now) do you think prices will come down 2 years or more from now. IN A FEW WORDS: AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN. So stop with this crazy notion. Does not make sense.
5. MISTAKE #5
I DEMAND TO LIVE OFF THE GRID ON SOLAR POWER AND GEOTHERMAL AND ICF.
Okay. Things like these systems cost MONEY. More money than conventional construction systems and materials and methods. You wanting them and demanding them doesn’t mean you get them for free, or like changing the color of paint on a wall from white to beige. It’s MUCH more involved than that. You’re trying to build your custom dream house for LESS than what other people are paying, so WHY do you imagine that having all these expensive exotic systems are going to save you money and make your house cost less?
If you think that, you’ve been listening to the salespeople and not thinking things through. All of those systems and ANYTHING other than conventional construction is going to make your house cost more. A LOT MORE. So before you demand such features, please do yourself a huge favor and ASK your Architect for his/her thoughts on these items.
And if you’ve been Googling, do you really think that your part-time Googles over a few weeks or months comes anywhere close to the lifelong experience (sometimes over a half-century) and expertise of your Architect? No way. Trust your Architect. They can guide you along the best path.
Ask your Architect. Trust what they say. Stop trying to second-guess your next house as if you are an expert. You are not. Stop that. Right now. Find the best Architect you can. Let them do their job. You’ll have a much nicer house that works much better for you.