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Ken, I frequently see your posts, and have even addressed a few posts to you - which you provided great responses to. You definitely make this website more valuable!
Kevin from West Chester, OH

Try one of our new Construction Bargain Strategies for free. Coupon code: CBS. One strategy could save you $1,000 or $10,000 or maybe $50,000 when you build or remodel.

1999 Owner-Builder Interview Part 2

How many bids did you get for each thing?
(Average response 2.3 bids)

1. I get a minimum of two, and three if I can.
2. At least three.
4. Two.
5. None. I just used people I already knew.
7. Minimum of two.
8. No more than two.
9. Three for concrete, HVAC three.
10. One.
11. Depending on how hard it was to get a bid. I even offered to pay $50 for bids if they were difficult. Three and often two each. I had a preconceived notion of what it should cost. Therefore I got three if I wasn't getting what I wanted to pay. I would get bids because I like nice stuff but wanted to pay the least amount for it. And I paid a lot of bottom prices for big upgrades.
12. Three. Sometimes two.
13. Mostly one. I knew a lot of the people. Since I wasn't looking for a specific color, I got for example carpet for $4 a yard, a Shaw 40 oz., discontinued color, it was a taupe, which was a good color. Was a flooring contractor. I told them I needed 1,500 sq. ft. Pad and installation, they sent out their guy, $.50 for pad, $1 for installation. Just the regular install with no profit applied. That would have been $30 a yard at retail.
14. Minimum of four. I was new to the area. I used the fax machine a lot.
15. To educate yourself, talk to as many people as possible. Don't necessarily go for the cheapest bid. A general has gone through the process so many times he knows what the subs will charge him, and much is done on trust and relationships. As an O-B you have the disadvantage that they are afraid of you and the job may not be as simple as it looks. Our builder was able to bid out this house very quickly.

This house was bid at $77 a foot, and it went to $82 a foot.

Did you get bids from generals?

1. No
2. No.
4. No.
6. No
7. No
8. No.
9. Talked to a couple, so I got rough bids. I talked with some people about supervision. About 10% of finished value.
10. No
11. Yes.
12. At first, we did, and that convinced us to do our own.
13. Yes, one, as a favor. And I did a lot of it, too. Most of the rough estimating was for the banker. For the material, I had rough take-off's done by several lumberyards. Paid about $22,500 for lumber. Original was $14,000 but didn't count soffits and deck.
14. When I first moved up here I talked to a couple.

Have you had it appraised?

4. $405,000, and it cost me $455,000 The extra things they don't acknowledge. We would bid it at $105 for 4,300 would be $451,500.
5. No
6. It's now worth $60,000.
7. Yes, forget what it came in at.
8. $175K now
12. They were bidding $65-80 a foot, and we built it at a $110 level. Costs per square foot came out to be $85.
13. Not yet.
14. Appraised at $62. Includes land.
15. Appraised prior to building at $2,000 more than bid on house.

Was yours a starter, step-up, custom, or dream home?

1. Custom.
2. Step-up. This is our fourth home. Always larger and more amenities.
4. Custom.
5. Custom
6. Starter log home.
7. Custom
8. custom.
9. Custom. The last one. Our finished will be 2,800
10. Custom
11. Step-up. Inside is more custom outside is average.
12. Custom
13. Custom
14. Custom, and the others.
15. Custom.

What's the difference in your mind?

1. Custom is one of a kind. Dream home may the custom when you move in. I did an indoor pistol range. Conveyor systems for the laundry. White Systems Corp.. I didn't pay for it at all. Have people read Professional Builder and Builder magazines. Use Homebuilders Association as a place to find subs. Talk your way into a meeting and see how many subs show up. Pay the entry fee, and use your membership for discounts. Call and flaunt it and ask for your discounts. Because some lumberyards will shy away from the one time guy. Go to the dinners and talk to generals, get referrals there.
4. Custom is start to finish customized. Same as dream home.
7. Dream home is one someone else might not want but has your toys, whistles, and bells. Buddy of mine built one in Quail Valley. Huge rooms, but only two bedrooms. Art Wing's dad did a 2 bedroom 10,000 sq. ft. house. The road cost $1 million alone.
8. Step up would be just the individual purchasing a home, take what they can get, we designed it, and had a lot of say so.
10. Size and amount.
11. I was living in a condo, so it seems a step up, but a realtor would call it a custom home.
13. Custom is in finish detail and unique design.
14. Starter is rectangular, flat ceiling, later you go to tray ceilings, vaulted, not rectangular. Rooms to your specs.
15. Starter would be older or fifteen years that's had depreciation on it. Small. Development type new home, buy a low to medium priced one. Custom is all the things you wanted to the extent you can afford them.

Did you get materials separate from labor on any of the trades? (Average: 85% did)

1. Always. I recognize that plumbers stick together. But I tell them up front. I am far ahead of what other guys are doing.
2. Drywall. Whirlpool bath I specified. Because I worked for a mfr.
4. I buy all the materials. On plumber, all except for hard pipe. Electrician I let buy boxes and wire.
5. Yes.
6. All myself.
7. Yes. Framing, siding, (masonite) appliances, tile, hardwood, lighting fixtures, but - don't nickel and dime the subs. They may do a crummy job.
8. They bought it through my account no mark up. Had a contractors account there for thirty years.
10. No. Typically they provided materials. But Rod knows what the materials cost, so there is a knowledge that one of the two components is unreasonable. He controlled it.
11. Most of it. I contracted the labor, that's very important. One of the biggest savings is this. The general wants 10% but he puts 10% extra on each of his categories. They have to cover unusual circumstances. Try to just get labor bids. I'd rather go and get the materials at the supplier and know what they are costing. The side benefit is that you have accounts at these places, and they are good for the future, like when I finished the basement. I couldn't do it on the HVAC. There is some new stuff in the heating world, vinyl tubing. That makes it fairly idiot proof to install. My plan of attack is to find a sub, find his best person, and offer that person and after-hours job. Offer him a couple of bucks more than he makes per hour. I did it with extra framing. Also painting, hired a guy for $8 per hour to work with me. Did some taping, spraying, etc.. Remember that the sub is a contractor, he adds to the costs in every category too. Go to other jobs and pick them up. It's really easy. You ask questions, and you say, "Do you know anyone who wants to make a little extra on the side?" When the general and sub boss are not on the job. Their wage is the smallest part of the job. Don't hesitate to use skilled laborers. Electric is more tricky. Just use them as consultants. It helps to know somebody on that one. Plumbing, you will nearly always find a subcontractor, and he has crews. The guy is making $10 an hour, you offer $12.
12. Electrical. Granite, tile, bought own windows and doors.
13. Yes, this is important. Watch it.
14. Yes.
15. The only way to properly handle is to pay for them separately wherever is possible. Plumbing, electrical, integrated into bids. You can order lumber as he needs it, volume buying. Drywall can be bid labor only concrete can be.
16. Some, all the electrical, the tiles, kitchen cabinets, appliances, security, paint, wallpaper, toilets, We designed the home, took both of our ideas to an architect. I'm an electrician. I did electric, tile, painting, papering, security system. The house is smart house ready. You leave your house, and forget to turn a light off or turn on your alarm, you can do it over the phone. I'm a maintenance manager at work. I read up on it and got some books at the library. Talked to a Greer, SC, Stewart Electronics. I was initially the contractor, and people gave me names of builders. I told him that I wanted to pay cost on materials only. Everything went smoothly at first. I didn't do a contract with him. He got me plumber and countertop guy. He came back and said, I want 10% from you and there was no contract. Construction I borrowed $170,000 and I put in $60,000.

The builder wanted $17,000 and I went back and forth with a lawyer. He told me I should come to an agreement with the contractor. We agreed on 5%. It runs around 15% around here normally. When it was a Friday, people never showed up. I was grinding my teeth at night.

I bought plumbing things from a supply house. I went and got my items, I had a plumber all picked out. I told the new plumber to go get the stuff. I had to pay about $10,000-$12,000. I have four bathrooms, a whirlpool tub. I got all the permits.

What were special features in your house?

1. Wooden basement floor, no concrete. Soil under. 18 inch crawl space. Use space as a plenum. Floor will be dry. You won't feel any clamminess down there. Central vac, alarm system with video cameras on entrances, stress skin panels R-28. No builders wrap needed. Air to air heat exchanger system.
2. Whirlpool bath, island, two ovens, and a microwave, master, walk-in closet, utility room main floor, pantry is off kitchen, utility closet upstairs with shelving, appliance garage on countertop, under cabinet lighting, insulation. Designed by Minnesotans. The insulation overhangs two feet all the way to the house. Soffit extends two feet out. Good attic air flow.
4. Wainscoting, in four rooms, hard pine cabinets in study , stacked stone fireplace, raised panel white painted cabinets. Trellis ceiling in the kitchen, recessed lights, countertops of Corian and granite, heat pine stair case. I am a fisherman, and have my boat in a heated and A/C'd boathouse and office. Over the garage I have 1,500 extra bonus space. Garage is 44X32.
5. It had nice showers, big bedrooms,
6. Quiet, deer and turkey come through. Easy to heat and cool, and to maintain. You have your own well and septic. I have three acres altogether.
7. Central vac. Manibloc plumbing, two furnaces, sinks in youth bedrooms, custom designed windows, upgraded appliances, stainless steel, wired for sound everywhere, with volume controls in each room, two water heaters
8. Central vac. $1,000 well spent. Fireplace insert. Hardwood floor on the majority of downstairs, prefinished oak. Solid oak cabinets, painted. Bar that we eat at, no kitchen table, we have a dining room. The bar is 14 foot long. It seats eight. We dropped ours down to 30" height, just conventional chairs. All bedroom have walk in closet. Each has inside access to a bath. Master bedroom down, kids up, master bath has commode area separate, whirlpool and separate shower, double vanity. Two heating and cooling systems, two hot water heaters, five acres.
9. Energy efficient. Nothing fancy. Oriented it properly. 32 degree angle. Porches on South and west, plumbing is gathered into same walls, basement is easy access on storage side. Vaulted ceilings,
10. Tile floor, open entrance, two tone paint with different ceilings, custom flowstone countertop, (bad)
11. Category five wiring throughout. I can go to 100 megabit computer networking throughout. Two of the wires go to the outside, so I can have 8 phone lines coming in. Or 4 ISDN lines. Loft with ladder and banisters. Wood flooring with inlaid carpeting. Three compartment sink. Very worth it, because you never have to move dishes to get them out of the way to dump garbage. Plant shelves, vaulted ceilings in master.
12. Higher ceilings, granite counters, custom cabinets, jacuzzi tub upstairs, two gas fireplaces, marble flooring in master, entry, kitchen, full brick, large master shower with two heads, crown molding.
13. Tile in upstairs, kohler baths, acrylic tubs, laundry chutes, large decks, ceiling fans, large stone fireplace. Stacked stone. Windows, all facing mountains on back side. Little things, always upgraded, garage doors, got the two inch garage doors, metal skinned. Makes it quiet, and saves heat.
14. My own design of a step down tray ceiling. Rooms are to our specifications where they are wanted, sitting rooms where we wanted them, layout, bay windows were custom.
15. I don't know what a good definition of a custom home is. Maybe that it's drawn from scratch. Most look at a series of plans. Altered to fit your desires. Nine foot ceiling, altered roof line, upgrades like cabinets, colored bathroom fixtures, ceramic tile, decks, Six foot high windows,
16. Smart house part. Tub is four foot wide and six foot long. We have it as we each have our own bathrooms. French doors to deck and mountains. We designed that. Ceilings start at 9 feet and go to 16 feet. I don't like blown ceilings. No orange peel finish. Crown molding, wainscoting. One story with a basement. Master, regular bedroom with full bath, laundry in middle, study, great room, pocket doors to dining room and two into kitchen 2,500 sq. ft. with equal basement having a twelve foot ceiling. Backside is open. Oversized forms.

Were there any items you put in that you would consider "emotional items"?

4. Boathouse.
5. No.
7. Appliances
8. Central vac. Bathroom faucets gold with crystal handles Price Pfister, kitchen system cast iron enamel Kohler, concrete driveway. No brick. Brick foundation. We were the first vinyl house, all the rest are all brick.
9. No. Good envelope. No supporting interior walls. Steel ridge beam, panels steel. Whole house is cathedral.
10. On my part, yes, but she would say differently. Fake fireplace. Gas fireplace. Clean, but too sterile. Jacuzzi tub is expensive, and I don't like it.
11. Not really. Loft is.
12. Two person Jacuzzi tub, but got a good deal. Some of the windows. Granite cost in total $4,500.
13. I had nine foot ceilings throughout, and skylights. Fireplace.
14. Blood and sweat.
15. Not me. You have to steer clear because it doesn't have value. Wider doors because you are fat, you pay extra, but doesn't show up on an appraisal. Some items that wouldn't show up on an appraisal that are practical, like garage being insulated, in door as well. You may do walks around your house, whereas a development might not have them. You just don't want to deal with it later on. Colored fixtures in bath. Finish work you don't get too much credit on. Jacuzzi in bathtub. That may cost you a thousand extra.
16. Smart house, I went overboard. I pulled speaker wire into every room. Appliances we got BE Profile, gas dryer and washer. She would not let go of it.

Things you invented?

1. Many things.
2. We made the basement ceiling 9 feet. We used building block and had extra courses. We can house all the utilities and still have 8 foot ceilings down there.
4. Pressure treated deck we sanded and finished and painted like an old time finish. Stacked stone on whole foundation outside.
5. No
6. No, I copied like crazy.
8. The deck, we used more lumber, pressure treated,
9. No. Maybe the combination of technologies. Plates to wrap corners, ways to work out combination. Fasteners that would drill through the wood and into the steel.
10. No.
11. The loft, I figured out.
12. I had an arched window over front door that was too small. Rather than have them return it, I put it over the fireplace, and it is gorgeous. Laundry room upstairs. Near the bedrooms.
13. Decks on the front is a bridge, we designed it to make it much larger, 20X30 foot entrance.
14. Bay windows, tray ceiling
15. You pick up on ideas from what you see.

Super bargains you got?

1. We have a Menard's Home Center store, we buy on sale. With the photo album, we have our shopping list. Every weekend we look for sales. Appliances work well that way. Carpet was an example, we told them the yardage, they came back with a factory deal. Windows, supply yard has just taken on Marvin Windows. We're spending on a $12,000 deal: $7,800.
2. Whirlpool tub. Ceiling fixture that's solid oak, with three sets of fluorescents in it.
4. No. Cabinet man gave me a good deal on the heart pine floor. $5.50
5. No. I had to pay too much.
6. Found a smoke damage house and got toilet, tub, interior doors, for almost nothing. Picked up the windows from a contractor who ordered them and the customer didn't want them. Brand new. $1,200 for all of them, triple glazed.
7. Appliances close-outs, fridge, dishwasher and range, saved $2,500. Flooring, shopped heavily, saved $3,000. Tile shopped subs and getting leads, saved $2 a foot. Cabinets, used an independent guy who was a dealer for factory cabinets, saved 50% vs. a custom cabinet maker. Spent $6,000 on cabinets.
8. Light fixtures were in father-in-laws garage, he had leftovers, faucets upstairs are the same.
9. Kitchen cupboards were discontinued, and we got them last october. 25% off. Stored in brother's garage. Light fixtures whenever there's a sale.
10. Not paying general contractor.
11. The carpet. Found a guy who was just starting out, he had more interest in getting his name out, and he made nothing. Got it for his cost. ($18?)
12. Tub was. We went to Home Base, it was $1,700. Eagle has it lower, the guy told me. $1,000. Granite at $4,500. Marble was a good deal, importer friend. Copper roof, called around, double here, called Salt Lake, saved half. Got it for $900. Even though out of county. Marble was $5 for materials, and $6.50 for install per square foot. Granite countertop was about $6,000.
13. Carpet, italian tile, about $1 a foot. Goes down with mastic. Good deal on cabinetry. This was a fellow that was referred to me. All the cabinetry and counters for $9,000. They are painted, counter is laminated edge, with granite center island. Didn't do entertainment center. Master bath is at an angle, and he did a good job, and I spent $1,000 on cultured marble. Shower were big Kohler insert towers, with a tub. They were $700 apiece, acrylic. You can walk into and you step into and there's a top to them. Shopped around for that. With nine foot ceilings I put cabinets above.
14. Siding. Quote at $7-10,000 and we got it for $4,500. Word of mouth. A good sub will tell you things. Even if you have a bid from somebody else. Not official until you sign it. We did a lot of shopping on our windows, and got a bargain on custom made ones. Cheaper than stock. They make and sell to distributors. We went to showroom and saved. If you walk into a wholesaler and find a damaged version of the counter you want, that's good. In purchasing, I look out for things. When Hurricane Andrew came through, I had a bid on my lumber just before the storm. So I locked it in. Saved 20% on my lumber.
15. Whirlpool tub was on sale, and it was normally $1,200 and I got for $800. Lighting fixtures discontinued so I got for half price. I bought 10,000 feet of wire for this house. outlet every six foot, switches by the bed. We love our gas fireplace with remote control. $2,500 for electrical supplies, and $1,000 for fixtures. Floodlights and decklights controllable with a switch on each side of the bed. 400 amp service. 2 200 amp. My electric bill was lower than in my small house. 1,300 sq. ft. before and electric was around $200. 2,500 sq. ft. and heat and cool basement of another 2,500 and electric is $40-$90. Gas bill is $60 average. 4 ton air conditioner.

Ways to save money?

1. "I am buying, what can you do for me." Try to define what your needs will be and stick to that, and buy them on sale. Limit yourself to 2-3 emotional items in the house.
2. If you can do your own finish work. You get it the way you want. Make sure all bids are in writing.
4. Don't know how to answer. You can't get what you want. Get two prices from all subs.

5. Get on the phone and shop around, buy direct from manufacturers. Carpet mills, for example, floor coverings. Hire your own subs to install the materials you bought.
6. Keep your eyes open. Know what you gotta have in the beginning. Buy bulk and ask, is this the best deal you can give me. Bring a list and try to buy as a package. Like you do on lumber.
7. Be a good shopper. Be patient. Pre-planning
8. Get a general's bid, we're not bargain hunters, but you could. Shop around for fireplace top, it's marble.
9. If you can't do it yourself, use word of mouth people that work with you. Let them show you, and then you do it. We pay some guys nothing just a case of beer, we give $8 an hour cash.
10. Can't do a good job unless they have a working knowledge of the industry which I got by working my way through school, trade services with people, be willing to work your butt off if you have a day job.
11. There might be ways I could have saved more. I couldn't have squeezed out much more.
12. Not by doing work yourself. Takes twice as long, and job isn't as good, and you have to take off work. Painting is an example. We took low bid on that, and it was a big mistake, because he was one man, it took him forever to spackle the nail holes, the paint dried too fast. Sherwin Williams offered to repaint the whole house, and a new crew came in and did it all in just a few days. Big crew. Same thing with brick guys, they came in with a too small crew because they underbid it. Note crew sizes, and get estimates on how long it will take. Make it part of your contract, although I couldn't get that in a tight market. Do price comparisons. You can get a feel by picking out a few items, and compare them intentionally with other stores. We ended up going to Debenham Electric to get light fixtures, they gave us a flat discount rate. Contractor pricing, 20% off. Sometimes the stuff at the big stores might not be to code.
13. Shop around. Be flexible. Tile in bathrooms, saw a store going out of business, got all the bath tiles for $200-300 and simply bought neutral colors. Carpeting, I took what they had.
14. 1,000 hours of prep. During that time, look for those bargains, like the victorian style tub, put it on your credit card. We found all of the Hunters at K-Mart before we built. I hate credit cards, but get 3-4 of them lined up in advance. I used credit card cash advances to pay the guys and got reimbursed later.
15. Take on as much as you can feel comfortable with. I have questions about painting. Tile floors, you have to shop your subs, but be careful not to use price alone.
16. Plan ahead. We have hardwood everywhere except where it's tile. Do some things by yourself. My dad was going to paint, but had an accident. I did it myself. Quote was $10,000 and I spent $2,000 on material.

Qualifications to be a good O-B?

1. Motivated to save money, need to have some management skills, communications skills.
2. To be somewhat familiar with construction to start with, I used to work with a business that was related. I had done self-work in a previous house. Knowing about electrical, plumbing, know what they will have to go through in order to work it.
4. Needs to be able to get off work a half a day all week. Somewhat knowledgeable.
5. Need to have some time.
6. Bit of an interest in the subject of building, and some aptitude. Be conscientious, patient. Know your limits. Don't be in a hurry. Have good tools. I bought a table saw, and you can sell it at the end if you want. We have auctions and you can buy as low as a third of the price. Farmers will go out of business and there is an estate sale. You have to be careful. But buy some good tools. You can rip your own furring strips, and that saves you money.
7. Time, willingness to learn something new. But, it's not brain surgery.
8. Time, good communications, handling different trades, get across what you really want,
9. Headstrong. Put your foot down. Even the permit process. You have to convince them of how it should be. Perseverance.
10. As above
11. Be a Type-A personality. We would have made a general contractor miserable, you and I. Be good with people. The better you are at that, the more you save. You try to find someone who is new on his own, do freebies to get your name out. Organized.
12. Trial and error. Build a second time. Talk to a lot of people, read up on it. What comes next. Read in the library. Couldn't find a spreadsheet in a book.
13. Patience, attention to detail.
14. Good people person, able to talk to all varieties, angry ones, nice ones. Don't feel sorry for anybody. Patience, understand people, and interpret. Know something about construction. Father-in-law was my tutor. Watch TV shows on construction. Library. Videos on how to do this or the other. Even though you won't do that trade, get an understanding about what you are talking about. How to plumb, wire.
15. Patience, ability to see and pick up on details, a people person, communicator, win the loyalty of subs, identify with them and understand their point of view as well as your own, budget-conscious.
16. You should have a little technical background. Or else you'll believe everything. Banker was really helpful, he told me about workman's comp, if I am my own contractor, so no one could sue me, I would have to buy that. I made sure any subs I chose had it, show me something in writing.

Did you have contract problems?

1. No. I am here in the midwest, the character is high here. People with longevity. More than a generation. We don't hire the guy with out of state plates.
2. Electrician. Getting him to work here. He was bidding jobs, and they all came in on time. I made him come.
4. No
5. No
6. No, but you can. You probably should check around on anything you contract for.
7. Yes, the concrete guys were a nightmare. Some Tongans.
8. Not that, but two big things are that people will start a house, get an electrician who starts, and then runs back to some other job, you make sure not to pay advances, or you don't get them back.
9. Panels have conduit in them when they make them. They forgot to put conduit for the ceiling fan. It was in the prints, but they didn't do it, so they had to fix it. Concrete guy didn't pay bill so the vendor sent me a lien notice. I made a few calls. Should have had him sign a lien waiver. Write a joint check.
10. Always had problems. Had a huge framing problem on second house, wouldn't show up, we ended up reducing his contract by the amount of time he overly delayed. I always advise a written contract, because my brother knew the subs. I said, here's what it's gonna cost you if you don't meet this date. This framer Rod didn't know well.
11. I had one. Verbal threatenings. Sheetrocker. I got three bids, took the middle one. No bad references (you must always check them, and ask them for further references that they know of - that's where the truth comes out.) He did the work, there were a couple of issues, didn't pass inspection in the garage. Needed to do additional work, he claimed that wasn't part of the bid, but I said, the bid says "to code" he tried to charge me $200. I got somebody to do it for $80, and agreed to split the cost with me. I told him he owed me $40. There was a lot of waste out front, and I told them it would be removed, but it wasn't. When he asks for the check, I say, the pile is here. He says not part of the bid, wanted $100 extra. I said, when you take it away. I called the references, they said he always took the waste on the jobs. He said only if you're a general. I ended up shorting him $140. He hauled it away many weeks later, before I paid him. I shorted him the $140 and sent him the check. Then he called me and said you shorted me. Then he got his back up. I threatened to spend the $140 on someone else to haul it away. He finally took it away. Then I gave him the $140.
12. Yeah. Golly. Plumber was the worst. He did not work well with others, and if something was in his way he would saw right through it. We might have seen these things if we visited during lunch. He sawed through a gas line also. I told him the tub was not level, and he busted a big hole in the drywall and leveled the tub, and I said he would be responsible for drywalling that back, he refused. He made the hole, should have fixed it, things you learn in kindergarten. I said I would retain part of his fee, he threatened a lawsuit, and I said, "see you in court." He came back, apologized, and fixed the hole. Sometimes men don't like to work with women... Brick guy backed out of his contract. Had to pay more than what was originally contracted. It was only $500 more. We let it go. We were pleased with the timeliness and the work quality. He threw in the mailbox, for free, and cleaned up. In that case it paid to be nice. When you have a really good sub, you really appreciate them. Marble guy, concrete, finish guys were superb. Tile guy was most respectful of all. Some of them can get crude. When they are businesslike you appreciate it. He said it had been a pleasure to have had the opportunity to work for us. I will recommend him to everyone. Many wonderful craftsmen. They kept their music low, and would notice the woman was there, and they were being nice to each other, no foul language. That made me feel comfortable.
13. The framing crew. But I had no contract problems, or money disputes. I only had one true contractor, the plumber, the rest were all moonlighters. It takes longer that way, but it is smooth. You have to use weekends. If it isn't done by Sunday, you may lose a week. But sometimes their jobs die, and they come full time. Did HardiPlank on outside, and there's a lot of benefits to it, like it saves on insurance, because it is non-flammable. Concrete boards, and paint lasts twice as long because no moisture in the boards. I had a painter who charged $10 an hour, and did it all in a week. Outside. I had crews where the one guy was a lead guy, and was trustworthy. He had a super work ethic. I would monitor it on a daily basis, and if I thought it would take a lot more than I thought, I would limit it. Like crown molding. I let him do two rooms, and I saw it only took one day, so I said, do the whole house. Keep scope in small manageable pieces when you do a cost plus. He first quoted me $3,000. But I only let him do it in small chunks, and it wound up being $1,500. He was unique, though. In areas where I have no experience, like plumbing, I took a bid, and it was only $3,000 for rough plumbing, including materials. We have a plumber on staff, and he recommended this guy highly.
14. Never got to court.
15. You run into the fact that things are done in a kind of simple form. It's difficult to enforce a bid. You have to have a good relationship with contractors to have a meeting of the mind on things. Specifications on homes are not that detailed. That's why you need a meeting of the minds, and much is based on trust. This is one of the biggest problems faced by owner-builders because it is a one-time situation and expectations are not understood either way. I don't think you can cover it all on paper.
16. Subs were great. Builder was the biggest problem. We had a lot of rain, and the framing was getting wet. I hunted him down at his house. He tried to use excuses, and I had to tell him that I was going to take my time when it came to make a payment.

Did you get liened by anybody?

1. Early on, a materialman's lien, so I do materials myself. I had to buy that driveway twice, because the cement man didn't pay the concrete supplier.
2. No, but maybe I will be on the sheetrock.
4. One in 21 years, landscaper cashed my check, I should have made it out to the landscaper and the supply house or the bank.
5. Had a written contract in advance. No.
6. No.
7. no
8. We had a $1,000 worth of lumber stolen. That which lays on the ground, fence, lock and key, or your builder's risk insurance is no good, you can't collect. Get a trailer, and lock it up is what they told us. If you lock the doors and they break in it's a valid claim.
10. Once.
11. No. You could be a shyster and do it all by word of mouth. Bid may be on a piece of paper. I had a contract with the sheetrocker.
12. By the garage door guy, an invoice that fell through the cracks. They lifted it when we paid.
13. No.
14. No.
15. No.
16. No.

What percentage of the time do you think O-B's get liened?

1. 20-25% of the time in the high traffic, spec built areas. If you have a member of the homebuilders association, for 7-plus years, you have a solid citizen.
4. 30%-40%
5. 10-15%
6. Not very often, but it can happen with materials.
7. Threatened a lot, but 10% actual. It's usually a spat over a late bill. It's easy for them to serve you with a lien, and some of them do it automatically if you are late in paying for materials.
8. Not too much.
9. Depends on the area. I made sure I used a registered contractor, and called to see if they have any complaints filed against them on the register. They all had one.
10. Growing, number of disputes is growing. Maybe 10
12. Quite a bit of stuff to remember, and little invoices may get lost. 30% of the time.
13. If they are a novice, I knew most people, could be half the time.
14. In my field, maybe 10% of the time. Due to being unable to pay.
15. You have to be careful about lien releases. The more successful ones have it where when the sub endorses a check as payment in full, he is actually signing a lien release. Check with the lenders. You could stamp the back of your checks for this.
16. 25%

Original and final schedule?
(Average time to complete was 7 months, average slide was two months)

1. 7 1/2 months.
2. 6 months.
4. 6 months, and did it in 5.5 months
5. 6 months, and 6 months.
7. 4 months and 4 months. Little end details took lots longer.
8. 3 months, and 5 1/2 months.
10. Planned for 6 took seven months.
11. Six and six.
12. Six or seven months, went 10 months. Snow slowed us down. And inexperience in lining up subs ahead.
13. Six months, one year.
14. 3 months. 7 months.
15. This depends on talents and perseverance, how good a job you have done with your subs. It is death to have a situation where you go into time overruns. Six months should be very adequate to build a home. You know you have construction interest to pay, time is money.
16. Four months, and six months. Was living in my old house, and Century 21 found a person to buy my house. Pending contract. We had to vacate. Found an old farmhouse, good for my animals. Moved in. Then they called, the contract fell through. Now I'm in 3 locations. Mice came in when it got cold. So I put a lot of pressure on the builder. I moved in a week before Christmas. I was also about ready to sue Century 21. The new realtor sold it in 3 months.

How many trades on your job?
(Average response: twelve)

1. four - guys that do a lot of different things. On purpose to limit the span of control and to reduce the number of character judgements I must make.
2. seven - Block, floor, electrical, plumbing, drywall, framing, insulation Nordic subcontracted the skin and the roof. They design homes ship the material in. All custom design. We found them at the Omaha home fair. They use house wrap. Half inch plywood sheathing.
4. Twenty
5. Don't remember
7. Fifteen
8. mason, plumber, hvac, electrician, siding, landscape
9. Six.
10. 25
11. 10
12. 20.
15. 15-20
16. 5

What time of year did you start?

1. November of last year.
2. August.
4. May 1
5. August.
6. Mostly worked summers until I had it closed in, and I got an old wood burner going in there and hung rock.
7. Late summer
8. June
9. Started middle of september with the designer, broke ground in December. Had to work to get the basement approved in Pima County. This area has no basements, but it's not in a flood zone. There is sheet flooding. It's cheap square footage, but I had to fight for it. Put a foundation seal, backfilled with gravel, leach pipe all around.
10. Two early spring, one late fall.
11. September.
12. June.
13. In October.
14. August.
15. My theory is that you start in the spring and finish by fall. There are advantages to running in the winter. You might get better bid due to the slack season. More readily available. Weather problems could cause additional delay. Start early enough in the Fall that you knew you wouldn't get frozen out.
16. May.

Any reason?

1. Contractors are usually slow on other stuff in that season. Things are winding down.
2. House burned down.
4. No.
5. It depends on whether your kids are in school
7. no, best time is the end of winter.
8. Early spring is the best.
10. Early spring is best because it's comfortable to do work,
11. Preference is, going by averages, April 1.
12. June was good because ground wasn't frozen, tried to get in for Christmas.
13. Lot came available. Would prefer to start around here if you can get a few warm days in March you should start. One place where I was lucky, we have septic tanks, here, the guy doing my grading, was trying to get into the business, I was the first one he did, and it is inspected anyway. He did it for $3,000. Inspector told him it should have been $10,000. Rock clauses exist up here, and you have to pay more up here.
14. We have rainy season then. March would have been better. August in florida. You need to consider rains. You can get savings in the slow season, which was winter in Florida. Lower prices. Same in SC. More trades available. Save 5% on that.
15. Thought rain would be done.

What do you consider the rules of good work?

1. Measuring that. Are they on time, do they have tools to do the job, if I ask them how long, and they say , Friday, and it's monday, and I don't see it happening by Wednesday, and I get really worried and very hesitant about the guys. I once had a guy who had the right tools, and talked the right talk, but he was late on the committed time, things were not looking finished like they should. Performance. Many guys have great excuses. Count em up. If he has three then he's out.

Think about what you're going to do before you start. Build it in your head first. Check materials to be sure you have enough, the right tools, keep your area clean. If it was for somebody else: you show them the plan, and check for any potential conflicts.
2. Does what he contracted to do. Understanding is not all in writing. I work full time, get off work, and stay till the sun quit shining, two or three hours a day. Start something and keep at it until it's done. Finish what you start. One thing at a time.
4. Start and finish on time, quality work.
5. Finish carpentry, appealing to the eye.
6. Take your time, Have good materials, good tools, and sit down and think it out before you do it. Sit down and think about it.
7. Starting and finishing within schedule.
8. No obvious flaws, straight walls,
9. It is sturdy, will do what it's supposed to do. Sturdy envelope.
10. Say what your gonna do and do what you say. Write what you're gonna do and do it.
11. Could I picture this work in a million dollar home?
12. Need to spell out what you want done, be specific, put down an estimated time of completion, workmanlike, good quality, owner satisfied before completion of payment.
13. For contractors - do what you say you are going to do, don't goof off. I'm old school. I worked in a textile mill in the Summers, where you couldn't sit down even if you didn't have work. Make every effort to work and to help out. Painter, we ran out of paint one day, he put hardware on doors while I was running for that paint. I was paying him by the hour, and he felt he should stay busy. Do more than expected.
14. Every trade has a science to it. Quality of materials is good. A/C will bring in their own equipment. Nobody would warranty the A/C if I bought it. I knew the prices and it was close enough. Framer quality. Only one nail in a stud vs. two nails. Plywood on the floors. 3/4" tongue and groove plywood with glue. I had them screw it down.
15. With myself, I don't always have a lot of self confidence. I look for proper instruction on any task. Be well prepared with instructional material. Pace yourself according to your own ability. I don't care how fast I go. If you owner-build you have pressures. If you don't have total expertise, take your time, work it through, and redo it if you are not satisfied.
16. Everything squared in the house, the sheetrock, no cracking, doors open and close well the year later. Mostly 2X6 construction here. My builder made the inspector mad, he forgot the tempered glass in the bathroom. The inspector stapled a note to the bathroom. It wasn't done. The inspector refused to come back. I was trying to move in.

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