If I knew then

What I know now about building a house (learn from my mistakes – part 1):
1. Don’t use the cost plus method unless you are going to get your own bids for subcontractors.
2. If you are going to get your own subcontractors you might as well be your own general contractor and save a ton of money – just be prepared to be on site every day.
3. Regardless of whether or not you have a general contractor or not, you should know one or more other builders whom you can contact with questions (second opinions)
4. Don’t close before everything is done (you thought things take long to finish before you close!)
5. If you must close prior to everything being completed, be sure to withhold enough money to act as a carrot for the builder to complete the house.
6. A custom home (defined here as any home where the ideas and direction come from you rather than the builder) takes a lot longer (and is thus more expensive) to build than a “choose-your-options” home. Determine if it is worth it to you to be different.
7. Do stuff yourself. While taking on tasks yourself will often mess up the timing of other jobs if you cannot do it on-time, it is also a way to save money and get things done exactly how you like them.
8. Some things to attempt yourself: a) low-voltage wiring like coax, CAT-5, and phone cables for audio, video, and data distribution. b) painting (internal) c) flooring (most floors are pretty straight forward to install) d) landscaping (this doesn’t mean skip this) e) cleaning (they will not do a good job anyway) f) putting up drywall (not taping)
9. Some things not to attempt yourself: a) taping drywall (that is an art) b) plumbing/electrical work (too many codes you need to know) c) roofing (unless you have a really flat roof) d) framing (they can do it much faster)

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by rebekah on September 4, 2003 at 11:37 pm

    When we got our house it was so ugly. We did what we could to improve it. You can never make a small house look good. It’s like trying to make you’re dad look cool. It just doesn’t work. It took us 5 years to get it almost complete. Partly due to funds. The other part due to time. It always costs more money and time that you’ll think. We did had to take out the toilet out 5 times. That was by far the most frustrating thing to do. And as far as taping the drywall and putting the compund on…it’s not so hot. We were so tired after putting the drywall up that we didn’t even care about how it looked. We just wanted it done. And you can tell by looking. We should just go for that messy plastered look Trading Spaces people always do so no one can tell.

  2. I want to build someday so I appreciate your tips. Of course what I’m wanting to build will be a esoteric modern architecture affair so I’m pretty sure I’ll end up having to play the role of the general contractor since we are not dealing with their typical suburbia fare.

  3. Yeah getting many builders to break out of the box-es that they are so used to building is quite an exercise. A friend of mine is planning on building a modern-style home soon so I can post updates as the luck he is having. I am sure part of the difficulty is that here in Minnesota it is difficult to find builders of that style of home because there is not much demand – I am sure it would be easier in California.

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