Ok, so I am totally new to this. We just purchased our property and
plan to begin construction in 08. Our plan next year is to prepare the
site for our "dream house" which we think we found in one of the MANY
online companies who offer house plans. Shortly after scouring the
many sites and finding a few we liked, we discovered the same house is
pretty much available on most sites. Now we want the set of plans for
planning but not detailed for construction - and we found out the plan
we want has no such animal. Hmmm. Is this because the structure is
basic enough that a good contractor wouldn't need complete plans?
What is everyones take on how to best achieve our dream home? We don't
have an excess of money, but we are planning on about $250k to build
our 2 story, 3bdrm, 2ba, 1950 sq ft home in the northwest.
Should we take the basic design and layout (free online) and take it to
an architect? A contractor? A designer? (isnt that the same as an
Should we BE our own general contractor and sub contract the work and
do that aspect ourselves.
Advice, links to advice and more advice is greatly appreciated!
see if your local code enforcement requires an architect's stamp on the
plans for a building permit. IMO a good contractor doesn't need any detailed
prints. the details are basically the same for each item.. ie footing
details, wall details, ect.. .all the contractor will care about it center
of window/ door dimensions. you could pay a draftsman minimal $$ (couple
hundred) to make a large copy of your floor plan that you could add your own
touches to... light switch locations.. ect
I bought the package of 6 or 8 plans and wouldn't do it again because
we've modified the plans and the paper copies are no longer of value.
If you have the interest, learn a decent CAD program, and re-draw the
plans to your liking. Beware though that just because you can draw the
house, doesn't mean you can buildit. Consult with an architect.
The "Best" way, do as much of the house as you can. I'm building my
own house as you speak right now. Pretty non-traditional methods
(ICF), lots of learning as I go...but I wouldn't do it any other way.
Someone else though wouldn't begin like I am. It's slow for sure to
design as I build...but then again we're not being dinged $$$$ for
every "little" change.
Being your own GC -- how good are you at managing tasks and schedules
only you can determine that. Are you willing to negotiate the
contracts and such? Start working your budget NOW. If you don't know
excel, learn it well. There's some things you'll need if you build
yourself, start accumulating tools and supplies now. Shop supplies
like electrical wiring, when I started a 1000' spool was $180, now its
back down to $316 for 12-2...shop now and buy when you have cash.
What building style are you thinking about SIPs, ICFs, stick built,
What heating style will you choose?
Windows -- what style is available to you in your area?
Supply source -- I talked to 4 different suppliers before I found one
that I felt comfortable to work with. I didnt' choose the one that
seemed most eager to work with me. It's not the cheepest place...but
they have the staff and resources to answer my questions, and deliver
supplies in the most professional and timely manner.
Best of luck...it's a great process...and not stress free!
Personally, I think you answered the question about being your own GC in the
first 8 words. In addition to knowing HOW to build, the GC knows WHO to
use. I've been doing small remodeling/construction projects for years,
including working on a bunch of houses with Habitat for Humanity, and was
the GC for my two shops (30 x 40, 1.5 stories). BUT the biggest problem you
are going to face is that the good subcontractors have established
relationships with the folks who give them regular work. Which means you
are going to have a rough time finding competent, reliable subs to work on
your project. When I needed to have my driveway rebuilt I called 8
companies, got one bid and I knew more about culverts than he did so I hired
my neighbor and his dump truck, rented a backhoe and did it myself. If they
start doing it wrong, can you tell? I wound up doing much of the work on my
shops since I couldn't find folks. I can do everything except HVAC but I
would find a GC if I was building an entire house. Of course, figuring out
which GC is the good one won't be easy either.
Tip - NEVER say "Can you give me three references?", unless you want to talk
to his best friend, neighbor and one of the few jobs that went well. Show
him what you want built, ask how many projects like that he has done in the
last year and when he says "Four", you say "Great, I want the names of those
four". Call all of those four and visit each one.
By the way, since you've got over a year, spend some time pounding nails
with your local Habitat chapter. It will help you learn how a house goes
together and may allow you to catch some things that might not be getting
done right when your house gets built.
the other thing a gc has to be good at is making decisions. subs will
look to you as having the ultimate responsibility, and will tell you to
"make the call". the list of questions is endless. what elevation to
set the building, where should the sewer come into the house, do you
need undeslab electric, where should the electrical panel go, OSB or
plywood subfloor, what is the plan for the mechanical room, can i drill
through that beam, flat soffits or sloped soffits, where should the
doorbell transformer go? on and on. there is a lot more to
coordinating subs than just calling the plumber up and telling him to
be there at such and so a time tommorrow! regular people have done it
successfully, but don't think it's a matter of a few phone calls to
earn that 10% contractor's fee.
FWIW, I consulted with a contractor that was recommended to me who had
been an architect. I showed him my sketches (equivalent to your free
plans I'm guessing). He drew up the plans which are required up here to
get a building permit. I suggest you get yourself an architect familiar
with the local building codes so there will be absolutely no issues
when those inspetors come to look over the construction (both during
and after). And I recommend a contractor. Don't forget, there are a lot
of subcontractors involved ... excavation, basement, framing, wiring,
plumbing, heating, insulation, drywall to name a few ... and a good
contractor with a good reputation amongst the subcontractors and who is
basically a project manager makes sure it all happens ... and it does
... for a good contractor. Let me just say a buddy did the contractor
route his first build, then thought geez I can do that myself. Well,
one after another milestone was missed ... e.g., the framing sub would
arrive per schedule, but the basement wasn't there yet. So he'd go away
and ... well, I think you get the picture. And if you think the
subcontractor will show up for you who is not giving his next contract
over the contractor who is ...
So ... get yourself an architect (or equivalent) so that building
permit goes smoothly ... and get yourself a contractor with references
from past work that you can talk to.
If you can locate a "study" or "check" set of plans for the design you
are interested in, that is enough for most trades to give you a good
idea of costs so you can establish a budget. This also allows you to
get a designer to do any modifications that you would like or need so
it fits your lot. Keep in mind that must stock plans are not designed
for any siesmic upgrades that will most likely be required in the N.W.
We have shipped many panelized new home packages to the U.S. Northwest
and almost all now require a structural engineer review. (added cost).
I would encourage you to explore the Owner builder route as there are
many great resources and Companies online that can guide you through
the process as well as refer qualified help.
All the best,
Larry J Clark www.abshomes.com
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