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Subs in Northern Virginia


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Edmund's Forum Posts: 1

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By Edmund in Arlington, VA on 6/24/2004


Anyone in this forum built in the Northern Virginia area? I'm a prospective O-B in Loudoun County and have begun gathering information on subs who might be able to help. I'd be interested in any names from this group. Thanks.

Edmund
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By Angelique in Fort Washington, MD on 4/23/2006


Hi Edmund,

I am from the Fairfax County area. I have been looking into owner-building for two years. I am still looking for land. I want to build in Fairfax County so the pickings are slim. However, I have some information about the area if you want.

Angelique


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By Dennis in Alexadria, VA on 5/15/2006


Hi Edmund,

I'm new to the area, so unfortunately I can't recommend good subs at the moment.

However, in case you don't already have this resource... when you do find subs to find out if an electrician, plumber, HVAC contractor or home improvement contractor is licensed to do work in Maryland, go to dllr.state.md.us/query or call 410-230-6231.

As you find contractors and think they are worthy of repeat business, I'd much appreciate you sharing that info on here. I'll do the same... although most of my work will be in Baltimore... perhaps they may do some work in this area, too.

I'm launching into Owner-Builder as yet for rehabbing/flipping properties. I will be looking for land to build my own home in about 12 months. I'm new to the area so I'm still figuring out where I'd like to buy.

Best of luck on your project.

Dennis


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By Richard in Triangle, VA on 10/25/2006


Angel,

Hi. I think I may have talked with you some time ago about building in the Northern Virginia area. I am still looking for land in Stafford or Prince William county. It's either expensive everywhere or a long ways out!

Where are you now in your "build" process? Have you found any land? Have you developed house plans and asked for bids on any of the tasks?

 Thanks,

Richard


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By Angelique in Fort Washington, MD on 11/8/2006


Richard,

I had contacted you about getting together but you never responded. Are you still looking for land or have you found something?

Angel

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By Richard in Triangle, VA on 11/13/2006


I am still looking for land. I also am trying to figure how much time it will take to act as the GC. How far along are you? I found your response in my junk mail - I must have not put this in my contacts folder. Ooops. Thanks for answering.

Richard



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By Michele in Stafford, VA on 1/20/2007


This is the first time I checked the local forums, and was glad to see there are others here in Northern Virginia. I am currently building in Stafford as my own GC and doing the work myself on the interior finishing.

I broke ground 6 weeks ago. I just finished the subfloors this week and on Monday they are starting to lay the first course of logs. I'm building a log home, and aside from that, all the other things are the same. I can tell you who I used for foundation and excavation. I'm very happy with them. I'm extremely happy with the work the crew that is "stacking my logs" (putting the log shell together) is doing. I already have  a plumber that I have settled on, but am not at the point where he can start his work yet, but I think he is going to do well also, very professional, and very reasonably priced. Aside from the log erecting crew (which I made a trade-off to spend a little extra money for their experience) the other crews were the most reasonably priced and professional to deal with. Being professional to deal with is a huge factor for me, otherwise things can get stressful very fast.

I can also tell you (the further I get into it) where I got my flooring, etc. I have decided to do concrete countertops myself. I am so excited about it. I ordered the Cheng books and video last week and I am hooked on the idea. I'm not interested in granite anymore at all. Its seem to have "been done" and building myself is my opportunity to not "look like the 'Jones' next door." I want to design and inlay my own artifacts in a concrete countertop, and man will I save some serious money doing it.

This is a good time to owner-build. Everything in northern VA is expensive, as you all know. Construction crews in this area get 10 to 15 dollars more an hour than they do in most other areas in the country. However, new construction starts are way down this year as the market settles out. A lot of folks are coming in way lower on their bids than in previous years when there was more work than they could handle. You would not believe the bid I got on my roof by a very experienced roofer with excellent references. 

I'm still looking for an HVAC person to install my ductwork. My dad will set the AC units, but physically he cannot do the ductwork anymore. The two estimates I got so far were way too high. Sometimes people will look at your plans and think that you have all this money because you are building a large home and really want to sock it to you. Do your research though, they always tell me "you won't find anyone to do it cheaper than me", but I always do, a lot of times even half that price.

I am also still looking for a supplier to buy all my interior solid pine doors. I am finding them to be very expensive, but in my type of house, hollow-core painted doors are not going to work. I may end up driving up to New Jersey with a rental van and going to a mill up there if they can give me a package deal. I need a lot of doors and saving just $40 a door will really add up and may be worth my drive!

Stafford is a great place, very beautiful, and if you are looking for land in Stafford, I have some very beneficial advice for you before you buy, to protect yourself. I just went through 9 months of dealing with the county on permits, etc. I learned so much (after the fact) about what real estate agents don't tell you. Actually, my advice would probably benefit you whichever county in VA that you are building in.

Michele


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By Andrew in Charlottesville, VA on 2/11/2007


Hi everyone!

We're evaluating doing an O-B home in the Stafford/Fredericksburg area. We'll actually be working in Stafford, so we might build a little ways on the South side of Fredericksburg.

Right now we're talking with a few companies regarding the home's shell. We're looking at Landmark, Owner Builder Solutions, Allpro, and Ameri-Panel. They're all a bit different, so it feels kind-of like a crap shoot regarding which one to pick.

We're definitely interested in sub-contractor advice from people in the area. We're planning to do a lot of the interior work ourselves, but we'll need the lot prepped, foundation done, frame put up, roofing, siding, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC.

Michele (and anyone else) - it sounds like we're in the same neck of the woods. If you have any names/numbers of subs to use and/or avoid, we'd really appreciate the info. Also, you mentioned wrangling with permits for a long time. Is that common in the area? We're hoping to push really hard and be ready to move in by August.

Thanks for all the advice,
Andrew

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By Angela in Luray, VA on 2/11/2007


Hi all -

I found a couple of resources today that you might find useful in finding subs in our area.

checkbook.org

They are a non-profit consumer organization founded in 1974. Washington, DC is one of 7 areas in the country in which they evaluate everything from builders and contractors to car resellers and hospitals and doctors. It is $34 for a two-year subscription with another $25 that allows you to access the archives so $59 total. There is a section to evaluate your subs as well as read others evaluations of past experiences with them.

dpor.virginia.gov

You can type in your zip code and receive a list of every licensed contractor in your zip code. You can also see if the contractor has had any complaints files against them with the agency.


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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 2/11/2007


Have you considered using flex duct? That should be easy to install, just make sure you seal all the joints.

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By Maureen in Falls Church, VA on 2/13/2007


Hello, Michelle I am a new owner-builder looking for land in Northern VA. We have been looking at property in Stafford County (Caisson Rd) and it seems that getting septic permits and finding good soil for a septic is very difficult. Did you have to put in Well and Septic? What kind of pricing did you find? It seems that I am at a standstill until I find a parcel. House needs to fit the land, septic ($24,500 for a mini mound system) and well could be costly as well as the cost to purchase a parcel. Do you have any suggestions?

Thank You

Maureen


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Michele's Forum Posts: 22

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By Michele in Stafford, VA on 2/13/2007


If you are going to build in Stafford, be aware that permits in Stafford have been notorious for taking a looong time. The longest wait will be on a health department permit for your septic, if you cannot tie into city water. The rules in this state and county are very strict. And a piece of land that should perc, may not under these codes. Virginia has a lot of clayey soil and shrink swell issues. Stafford has not approved some of the alternative systems that other counties in the state have. If you bought your lot with an approved perc, then you are in good shape, otherwise, get started right away on the soil evaluations and health department permit. If you have been keeping up with the Board of Supervisors meetings, etc., you'll know that the county is in no hurry to get you to build on the rural land, so they take their time. The "by rights" building on the rural properties is starting to give them headaches, even if it does bring in more tax revenue. There are folks sitting on the Utilities commission that I am convinced do not want anymore people building here and will make sure no extra help is given.

I understand all counties have their issues. So just make sure you know everything there is to know about your local codes with regards to the lot you are purchasing. Make the seller get the soil evaluation done. Don't assume because all the neighbors have septics that yours will perc. This happened to me.

I do have to say that the actual building permit took me only 3 weeks back in November. Their workload is way down due to the housing slow down, so that should go pretty quickly for you when you get to that point.

The following are the subs I used and am satisfied with. I am only unhappy with one sub, but I replaced him with the excavator listed below:

I looked into Superior Walls for my foundation and would have went with them, if I was building a basement, but they were just too costly for a crawl space. With a crawl space I am not that worried about warm and dry walls.

Poured concrete foundation: L&T Jones Concrete. They had the best value and got right out to the job site and got it done. They also have the least expensive roll-off can price, plus they helped me get a good deal on extra gravel (all my gravel on my construction entrance sank into the lovely Virginia clay when it rained). You deal with the owners more than anyone, and that's a plus with me.

Excavator: Brandon Zeigler. Young guy trying to get his start and has reasonable prices, and good customer service.

Plumbing: Steve Walsh, of Walsh's plumbing. His own business, licensed and insured, and very reasonable. Half of what these large companies quoted me. He hasn't done the work yet, because my log home is still going up (log homes are a slow process), but I have confidence that working with him will be a good experience as he has good references.

All of these people are easy to communicate with. That's important to me.

I am still looking for a person to do the duct work on my  home. I already have the AC units, just need duct work done, or designed for me so I can do it.

Hope this helps! 


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By Andrew in Charlottesville, VA on 2/13/2007


Michele,

This is really useful information. Thanks so much for posting this!

One thing I was told was that many subs are so busy they are actually booked for the next 2-3 YEARS. Naturally, that really scared me, since we want to be done by August (or soon thereafter). Your short list here gives me renewed hope.

As for permits, we'll probably be in Spotsylvania or Caroline County. I'm not sure how they'll be compared to Stafford, but hopefully it will be a little easier. It seems like they are really encouraging building, but who knows.

I hope your home gets enclosed soon. I'll bet you're excited to see that portion done!

Take care,
Andrew

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By Michele in Stafford, VA on 2/13/2007


Hi Maureen,

I had a different situation for my septic. I had a house on an acre that we purchased in 1994. I tore down the 960 sq ft home to replace it with this home I am O-B'ing. I assumed that I would either tie into the existing septic (which caused me no problems) or I would have to install a hybrid like all my neighbors around me. It wasn't until I was half way through my planning process, that I was told that under today's code the current septic is no longer legal, even though I was using it every day, and that my land also did not perc for a hybrid system. I had to fight the county to let me replace my home, but they made me go on pump and haul. So, I have to have a 2,000 gallon holding tank installed and have my septic pumped out when it gets full, which could be twice a month. However, I think your cost of $25K that you got for your septic is good. Most people I know had to spend $35K-40K, depending on the size of their home. Your well should cost no more than $10K to drill. Some companies that work down south will drive up here and do it for $7K-$8K. 

Vacant land in this area is very expensive. I would not be able to afford to buy my land today and then build on it. I still owed half of my original mortgage, but my land was worth twice that, so I got the loan.

How big is your house going to be? How much land are you looking for? There were some really good deals out in Widewater (Stafford) recently. Not sure if they have been nabbed up yet. How soon do you want to build?


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Michele's Forum Posts: 22

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By Michele in Stafford, VA on 2/13/2007


I am glad my information was useful. Sometimes I ramble, but when I ask questions I need details, so I try to give details.

Its funny that someone told you subs are booked up for 2 to 3 years. Maybe they were 3 years ago when things were hot, but they aren't now. One thing I despise are the Naysayers. I have had more people tell me what could not be done than try to help me find answers to get it done. There is very little that cannot be done. So don't let anyone scare you into believing something might not be possible. If it's not an answer you want to hear, then research how to get the right answer. Don't listen to anything that will bring you down. Surround yourself with positive people, including positive thinking subs! And make sure that if your subs are doing you right, you do them right. Pay them on time, and bring them food! They love that! Its really cold right now, and I bought a huge coffee urn. I keep constant hot coffee on the construction site for them, and when I have time I make huge crock pots of chili and hot soup! I figure if I can't be there to monitor every detail of what they are doing to my home during this crucial part of getting the logs installed right, then I need to win their hearts through their stomachs so that they will take extra care of my stuff! Its working! I even bought a box of "little hotties" at Costco. You break open the pack and the little pillow gets hot and keeps their pockets and gloves warm.

Good Luck!


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By Michele in Stafford, VA on 2/13/2007


Hi Dale,

I would consider anything. I am just not sure how to design the right duct system. The subs I have gotten in touch with so far either don't want to do only duct, they want to sell me the the A/C units too (but I already got those at 1/2 the cost), or they aren't comfortable with doing a log home. Which makes no sense, as they are going through the center of the house with has standard interior wall framing. They don't even have to touch the logs.

Michele


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By Andrew in Charlottesville, VA on 2/13/2007


My wife loves the idea of bringing coffee and soup to the site! That's great. Although by the time we're actually breaking ground, they'll probably be wanting some cold water and iced tea!

I hope you stay in touch on these forums during your construction. It sounds like you've learned some valuable lessons to share.

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By Maureen in Falls Church, VA on 2/14/2007


Thanks everyone, for your responses. We are looking at a 1,900 SF house with possibly three levels (I really like the style of the Sater Home Plans). Soil work for this particular property has been done. No cert letter yet - though it is being worked diligently. We are looking at moving from our rental in Falls Church in July. We have a RV and plan to place a shed/barn first to store equipment and household goods. We looked at the property available in Widewater-pretty nice but not quite what we are looking for. I like the feel of the Fredericksburg (old town and river combination) so we have decided to look in that area.
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By Richard in Triangle, VA on 3/1/2007


Michele,

Thanks for the names of subs. Also for the advice on permits. I am considering Stafford and that can make a difference. I know a lot of the land I am looking at the seller says they have not had it perc'd. I will make sure that is done before buying! Did you use Angie's list or what?

Thanks again!

Richard


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By Richard in Triangle, VA on 3/1/2007


Hi Angel,

I am still looking. I have a few possible sites, but I also want to locate some of the subs before I buy so I can get a better handle on what costs will run. That way I can make a better decision on how large a house, etc.

Let me know what's going on with your work.

take care,

Richard


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By Terry in Alexandria, VA on 3/7/2007


Michele, just joined the list.

I am in the process of building a green house in Alexandria, Virginia and could not agree more with your comments about the naysayers. Because I have chosen alternative building methods it has been very difficult to get this project off the ground and the naysayers have had a field day. But slowly, as each new phase gets under way they have fewer and fewer things to nay about. Thanks for your positive spin, it can feel lonely here at times.
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By Michele in Stafford, VA on 3/8/2007


Hi Richard,

No, I did not use Angie's list, I did not see the local forum until after I started.  I got my subs by word of mouth and recommendations. I started off 1 year in advance before I broke ground, just calling people in the phone listings to get an idea about cost. I did extensive interviews for the crew I was going to hire to do the dry-in (shell) of my log home and made a trade-off on cost versus know-how. I needed them to really know their stuff. The crew that is currently working on my log shell usually does turn-key and gave me recommendations of subs they use. It has worked out great. So far I am happy with their subs, and they came in lower than most. I am nowhere near finished with my home, but I can already tell you that if I had to do some things over again, I would have done a one-stop-shop with my foundation company. I split up and used a different person for the excavating, roll-off can rental, etc., at the beginning. I did not find my foundation company until I was already half way through the ground-breaking. It turns out I could have saved a few thousand just using them as a full service. But, who knew.......

The only person I did not have any recommendations for was my plumber. I was not happy with any of the high bids that most plumbing companies had given me, so I just persisted and went straight down the phone book and also ads in the paper. I luckily was able to find this guy, with his own business. He is very professional and is scheduled to start in about 4 weeks.

Make sure you GET THE SELLERS TO DO THE PERC VERIFICATION! No matter what story they try to give you! It doesn't matter if the neighbor's property percs!  If someone tries to sell you a property with an existing septic, make sure that you have an up-to-date plat with the location clearly marked on it. Also, get it inspected and verify the number of bedrooms it is rated for. What was a legal septic years ago may not be under today's code and you could end up owning a piece of land that you won't be able to build on.

Michele

 


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By Michele in Stafford, VA on 3/8/2007


Hi Terry,

Good for you on building a green home. I would love to hear about what type of material and systems you are using to make it green?

I have a business associate who is building his home in northern Arizona and is pretty much going off the grid. I am so jealous. I have to say that would have been ideal for me but I ran into so many issues with that. Number one is cost and then also the mortgage industry which is still in the dark ages on that stuff.

I researched photovoltaic, geothermal, etc., but unfortunately the costs were too high for me. I just could not even owner-build my house with those systems and be able to fit it into my budget. The mortgage industry also does not seem to factor those things into an appraisal, especially if it's not in the norm for the area. If the home would have appraised for more to cover the cost of those items, I would have jumped on the opportunity, but it just did not happen, and I did not have enough cash on hand to augment the cost. The tax credits are not really enough to even make a dent, and our local counties are not really giving any additional savings.

But, I am doing what I can. I am installing water heating on-demand units, Energy Star appliances, ceiling fans in all the rooms, and taking advantage of passive solar heating. Also, my log home has solar mass in the logs and will reduce the amount of times my heating and cooling systems have to kick on. That's what they tell me anyway, and I have to say that long-term log home owners I have spoken with seem to confirm this.

I am looking into a greywater recycling situation at my property. That way when I water the lawn I won't have to have my well pump running.

I really hope that one day soon these systems will come down in costs and with the combination of tax and energy bill savings, it will be cost-justified and the average consumer will see a return on their investment. 

Michele


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By Richard in Triangle, VA on 3/8/2007


Michele,

Thanks for the hints. Could you possibly send me a list of the contractors/subs you have used so far? Especially the foundation sub you mentioned. What was the rough footprint of your home (W x D)? And what was the approximate total for the excavation and foundation?

I am trying to get a feel for what that will cost. I am also considering using one of the companies that build the frame at their facility, then ship it to your site so it is erected quickly with windows, doors & roof on when done. Supposedly the walls are straighter and you save time on total frame in. Did you research that and compare it to (I am making a guess here) the stick build you did? Was it cheaper to build from scratch? Also, did your framers do a good job of keeping the walls plumb?

I really appreciate your responding so much.

Richard


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By Michele in Stafford, VA on 3/8/2007


Hi Richard,

Check out my earlier post from last month. It has the list of subs I used so far. They are local here in the Stafford and Fredericksburg area.

I did a poured 4 foot vented crawlspace (due to the high water table down here by two rivers). The approximate dimensions are 100ft wide by 40ft deep, not including 3 covered porches which have separate pier posts. I have several interior poured walls in this crawlspace plus 20 steel posts to hold up the weight of the house. The concrete work ran about $22K, but they did some other things for me also. If I would have had a basement, I would have used Superior Walls. But they were $7K more for the walls (plus you would have to have the floor poured first which is extra) and I don't need all that for a crawlspace. The excavation to tear down 11 trees, bury the stumps, and dig the foundation was about $7K. I had more cost issues though, because I had to demolish my existing home first. 

I am O-B'ing a log home, it's still going up, they are currently working on the gable ends on the second floor. I'm expecting them to start setting the Gluelam beam for the heavy timber roof system sometime next week. All the walls absolutely have to be plumb or they would not have been able to get this far on it. Think LEGO, there is no way a log wall can be out of plumb if they are going to stack on top of each other correctly. If you are stick building on site, there is always going to be an issue with straight walls. I have not seen one yet that wasn't out of whack somehow. A lot of time this is due to a combination of how straight the foundation was poured and the skill of the framer. (I know a little about construction as my ex-husband was in the construction business and I picked up on some of this stuff over the 15 years). The foundation company I used knew they had to be very exact on getting the poured walls right in order for me to stack my LEGOs properly, and they did a great job.

I did not research any other alternative building materials or methods, because no matter what the cost, I have always wanted to live in a log home since I was 13 and spent a week at my Aunt's buffalo and llama ranch up in Ohio. It was one of those handscribed numbers, just beautiful, but sadly not in my budget. The version I am building is by no means my dream home, I can't even imagine what my dream home would cost? This is a close as I can get at this point in my life and budget to living the way I want to.

Sorry, I digress. While I was struggling to keep my sanity managing this project, one day back in January, one street over from me, 4 huge trucks arrived and lowered four sections of a two story home onto a foundation and bolted the whole thing together in 2 days (with windows already installed) and on day 3 they were laying the roofing shingles. I have a good idea that they did not pay near what I am paying in labor, or material! LOL. Those people are moved in and planning their summer vacations, and my home is still not under roof! If you are looking at this from strictly a budget scenario, that in my opinion is the way to go. It's a nice looking typical Virginia home, and I would never guess from looking at it that it was brought in four pieces from a warehouse.

I am considered nuts of course for not worrying about resale value or not building a home that all of mainstream would want to live in. I am doing this for the way I want to live today. I am slightly over budget due to excavating issues I ran into with the first excavator that I replaced, and due this lovely Virginia clay! Oh the humanity!

Michele

 


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By Nadia in Falls Church, VA on 3/8/2009


hi Michelle,

I saw your post about the subs and we are just planning on building in Fairfax. If you have any references - excavators, framers, plumbers, HVAC, electricians, etc. I would really appreciate it!


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By Nadia in Falls Church, VA on 3/8/2009


Hi Andrew!

I am planning on building our house in Fairfax, and have spoken to Landmark, Allpro and others for the panel system. Did you find people to put up the frames? Was it a good experience? I would really appreciate your response!

thanks


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