My husband and I really do feel blessed to have found our builder. What we wanted was something unique: a pole barn exterior, but with the interior of a nice home. While we were able to find contractors who would build us a pole barn, and contractors who would build us a home, it was difficult finding someone who was able to do both. So the day I had to make an emergency trip to the vet, and happened to pass by our builder’s lot showing his sample wares was a blessed day indeed. This isn’t a post intended to slam, these are just some things that I wish I had been told ahead of time so I could have been prepared; and things that I would pass on to anyone else getting ready to build a home or undertake a major remodel:
1. That two months in builder’s terms actually means something more along the lines of about 6.
We purchased our land in February and were ready to go with contract signed. The actual ground breaking on the garage did not begin until April, our home was not started until May. We moved in at the end of October. The delay was due to a number of things beyond our control such as weather and unavailable contractors.
2. That it would not be a steadily moving process.
I thought that things would move along at a fast and furious pace. Instead it went something a little more like this: Weeks of waiting for something to happen would be abruptly interrupted by an early morning phone call ~ usually one that would get me out of bed. On the other end would be some contractor on his way to our property, typically lost, and needing me to drop everything in order to meet him at the site in order to make decisions and give direction. Plans for the day would be changed last minute while I raced to meet him, battling early morning construction traffic in yoga pants, ponytail, and no make-up. We’d have a few days of frantic activity, and then weeks of waiting would start the process again.
3.That I would have to make some major decisions with only seconds to decide.
I had always thought this would not be a big deal for me because I am someone who knows what they want when it comes to design and aesthetic. I had in mind exactly what I wanted the final product to look like. What I didn’t know is that there are a lot of little things under the surface that are not as easy to think about. Things like the placement of light switches, outlets, door swings, etc. More often times than not, I’d have no time to think these things through, and have to decide while workmen noisily drilled holes in what were to become my kitchen walls. I slowly began to understand why people talked about building being one of the most stressful of life’s events. Some of these decisions were upgrades that cost additional $$ we did not budget for.
4. That construction creates a magnificent mess inside and out. Contractors do not clean up their mess.
I had always thought clean up was a given. I repeatedly told my husband not to worry about the growing pile of debris and beer cans in our front yard, not to mention the debris that was tossed in the bathtub and not removed when the plumber decided to try out the shower head to see if it was in working order. Surely, that would all be hauled off in the end. Right? RIGHT??? Wrong. We were completely responsible for the mess; either by cleaning it up ourselves, or hiring someone else to do it. An unpleasant surprise to say the least.
5. That communicating with a contractor is very difficult.
This was for a variety of reasons: poor phone connection, emails that were sent but never received, or simply because I am a housewife and do not know construction lingo. More often times than not, the contractor would also be in a terrible hurry and not really willing to deal with someone who refers to post tension slab as a foundation thingie.
6. That move in ready doesn’t necessarily mean “liveable”.
It means there are four walls and the air conditioner works. It does not mean clean enough to unpack (see #4) or that all of your appliances (although installed) have been converted to propane and are in working order. At the time of this writing I have been a week without a stove waiting on the conversion kit and the technician to install it.
7.That certain things, for whatever the reason, and regardless of how carefully they had been thought through, would not go according to plan.
Some things that I didn’t account for were the placement of the septic system, and the propane tank. I thought I knew where I wanted them to go, but my ideal scenario didn’t work. In the end, they were placed right where I didn’t want them which has forced me to be flexible. This was just one of a few “certain things” that didn’t go as I had planned. ::shrug::
My advice to a newbie getting ready to build a home would be:
It will take twice as long and cost twice as much. You’ve heard this before, everyone who has BTDT has said it. They’ve said it because it is, to a certain degree, true. While our project didn’t cost twice as much, it did cost more than we originally anticipated. Cushion your budget big time.
Your budget needs to include clean up. Your builder may or may not tell you this. Ask for a quote up front, or rent your own dumpster to have on site. If you are building way out in the sticks away from any facilities you may also consider providing a porta-potty. Just sayin’ (and please don’t ask why).
Try to make as many decisions as you can before you get up to your ears in detail. Not just paint colors but door hardware, plumbing fixtures, and appliances. You’ll save yourself a lot of stress if you have thought through much of this beforehand.
Try to communicate via email as much as possible so that everything is in writing. Remember that it is your home that is being built, and your money being spent. Don’t hesitate to politely ask “I’m not sure I understand what that is, could you explain it to me please in layman’s terms?”
Be flexible. Some things just won’t go the way you had hoped. Learn to work around them and learn to make the best of them. Sometimes these unpleasant surprises can turn out to be a scenario better than you had hoped for.
We found these resources to be helpful while preparing to build our home: