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Villa Vuoto fireplace5 Questions
to ASK your Builder

Choosing a builder is the single biggest decision you can make for the success of your new home.  Very good builders are out there, but beware, others can cost you a great deal of headache and money.   To find the right one, research their financial histories, visit their past projects, talk with their suppliers and former customers.  Most importantly, ask them a ton of questions and listen carefully to their responses.  Here are a few be sure to ask...

1. What is their policy on call-backs?
A builder that performs call-backs, following up on problems after the house is complete, signifies a builder that stands behind their work.  The best builders strive to reduce possible call-backs by correcting past problems before they reoccur on new projects.  Whether their motivation is to minimize service costs or to provide a better product, their reputation is paramount and this is the type of builder that should be sought out.  On the contrary, a builder that limits the number of call-backs you're allowed or the time frame problems can be reported, should be considered with caution.  Worst of all, is the builder that can not be found, after the final payment is made.

2. How do they determine allowance amounts?
Allowances are used by builders to assign a dollar value to a material or labor cost in a bid, when the selection or scope is undetermined.  Selecting flooring, cabinetry, hardware, plumbing and/or lighting fixtures can be a daunting task, so selections like these are rarely made before a contract is signed.  To keep the overall bid down, a builder will often set allowances low, so preferred materials and finishes usually end up as extras.  Allowances are in the builder's favor and should be avoided in the final contract.  If allowances must be used, identify what grade of products the builder's figures are based, to avoid any differences in expectations, the leading cause of cost over-runs.

3. Do they frame walls with 2x4 or 2x6 studs?
The minimum requirement for a stud wall, by the International Residential Code, is 2x4 framing.  A builder that builds with 2x6 wall studs, reflects a construction methodology based on personal standards, rather than the lowest acceptable government standard.  There are hundreds of details like this in the construction of a house, that have greater implications than the cost per square foot most people use to measure a builder.  Without an intimate understanding of every facet, you become dependent on the builder's recommendations and practices.  A builder accustomed to minimums is only concerned with cost and will typically downgrade their product to the customer's knowledge base or requirements.  You want a builder that imposes their own expectations of quality, based on years of experience, when they decide on building materials and assembly methods not spelled out by the contract's written specifications.

4. Who would be supervising the work on your house?
And maybe more significant, how many other projects will that person be supervising while they are working on your home?  The more time spent on site by the job supervisor, the greater the quality control.  Sometimes equally important, a job supervisor on site helps to expedite the scheduling of trades and ultimately the completion date of the house.  The rule of thumb in the industry, is that between quality, cost and time frame, only two can be achieved and at the sacrifice of the third.  As the homeowner, you must prioritize which two are most important to you and be willing to accept the implications of that decision.  Once it is made, the job supervisor must be informed, so they know where to focus their attention.

5. Do they use No-VOC paints?
Volatile organic compounds or VOC, are industrial chemicals found in solvents, coatings and adhesives, which under normal conditions vaporize and therefore may become harmful or toxic when confined to an indoor living space.  The Green building movement has traditionally been embraced by builders in the areas of energy efficiencies, water conservation, material waste reduction and healthy built environments.  Energy efficiency measures, such as Low-E windows, high efficiency furnaces, and housewraps reducing air infiltration are commonplace, with 90% of all builders implementing these as standard practice.  A better measure of a builder's commitment to your interests, is the other end of the spectrum with indoor air quality, polluted by such things as VOC paints, cabinetry or flooring.  Only 10% of all builders (Professional Builder, Feb.2010) are concerned with this issue, so these builders are at the top of their class.

If you have been through the building process before, some of this might be familiar to you.  But, for a first-time homeowner, an architect can be a valuable resource, explaining what to lookout for, negotiating with the builder, or policing the construction to make sure you get what you are paying for.  Click here to find out what separates me from other architects.

Want 5 more questions or maybe 5 ways to keep construction on budget?  Send me an email or give me a call, I have plenty of them.

Contact Matthew Schlueb by phone at 724 . 934 . 7868 or email by clicking here.