Adam Klaus wrote:well, nothing personal to anybody, but General Contractors are easy people to not like, IMHE.
Adam Klaus wrote:Like you said, it is really impossible to get an apples to apples comparison because of quality issues and the myriad ways contractors can cut hidden corners. It really does all come down to trust, contractors are pros at manipulating a budget to get as much out of you as they think they can. I speak from experience. I hired an excellent builder to contruct my home, and just over a year after my family moved into that home, I am just now letting go of the last of my resentments. The house was built well, but budgeting honesty, heh. Not quite as quality. They can move fast or slow, blame subcontractors, etc, etc. Sometimes you feel like you just cant win, and you cant.
Brian Knight wrote:Hi Eric, welcome to the community. Sorry for the trouble. It doesnt sound like youve done anything inherently wrong but perhaps could have had better communication or set better expectations upfront. I think Jay and Adam have some good points.
Brian Knight wrote:I think your approach is sound. I feel its better to seek out someone that shares the same values and goals as yourself as opposed to trying to get fixed bids on detailed plans. In a fixed cost contract, its not really any of your business what stuff costs whereas in a cost plus, everything should be open book.
Brian Knight wrote:
It really seems that the ICF portion of the plans are giving you trouble. I have to challenge ICFs here. They can be a great system, but there are other alternatives that can perform better at lower up-front costs. Not sure if pre-cast concrete panels are available in your area but around here, they have pretty much driven the ICF companies out of business. Superior Walls is our local brand and they cant be beat in price, performance, speed, warranty, code acceptance(regionally dependent) and warranty.
If they arent available, then why not traditional poured walls with foam or mineral wool insulative sheathing? The performance advantage can be big because you dont have the inner layer of foam separating the thermal mass from the conditioned space like you do with ICFs. Heck, I would probably even spec poured CMU with foam insulation before ICFS. A lot of this is regionally dependent. In my area, ICFS are just not common enough to compare with the traditional foundations. Their R values arent that great and there are very little thermal mass advantages. However, if they were more cost competitive as it may be in your area, it would be a different story here.
Brian Knight wrote:I hope the stick builder youve talked to is planning on double walls or some type of insulative sheathing. Thats the only way you could compete with ICFS, SIPS or pre-cast concrete panels. I think that sort of thing is finally being locally enforced in your climate but Iam not sure.
Brian Knight wrote:Finally, much wasted effort and agonizing is spent over wall design. The roof, slab, windows and transitions all contribute to the building envelope as a system. Be sure your builder has some blower door test goals and knows how to seal up the transitions.
Brian Knight wrote: I prefer to build the foundation walls taller and hang the floor system.
Brian Knight wrote:Be sure to use a super thick sill sealer and check out Protecto wrap's Triple sill sealer. http://www.protectowrap.com/energy-saving-solutions/triple-guard-energy-sill-sealer%E2%84%A2/
Used it once with good success but Iam currently exploring a cheaper and hopefully better way of doing it by using 1/2" foam concrete expansion joint as the sill sealer (appears to be same as protecto foam) and priming(Tescon primer) and taping (3m 8067) around the entire perimeter.
Brian Knight wrote:Hmm funny you should say that about builders. Ive heard IT folks are like professional engineers and should be avoided because they are too difficult to work with.
R Scott wrote:You are ONLY out a couple grand and a couple months now. Once you are in the middle of a build, you can be out A LOT MORE--tens or hundreds of thousands and years of time can be lost to a bad GC (or sub). Been there, done that. I know many that lost everything because the builder shafted them and then the bank took the land to recoup their losses.
R Scott wrote:You need to be 100% in agreement with how the GC has built other homes, because most don't like to do anything different--not out of pure stubbornness but a matter of "stick with what works" when money is on the line. They are liable if your ideas don't work in many states. In the same vein, you need to listen (not necessarily follow, but consider carefully) to the experts as they know more of local conditions and experience of past failures in the area.
Rufus Laggren wrote:our at least an overview and some understanding of what kind of process you're getting into and the different viewpoints, motivations and constraints on the participants.
Some general rules of thumb:
1) The way it starts (with any associate) is the way it's going to continue. Forewarned.
2) Expect and budget your time to talk with a LOT of people. When you can't personally develop total expertise in a particular area you must rely on as much research as you can afford and then spend time talking with at least three and as many as 7 or 8 contractors (or other people) in that field. Talk with as many people as you can afford the time for and take good notes so your time is well spent. You start to see common threads, agreements, recognize certain types of business practices that you like (or don't); you also develop a feel for and start to recognize people who a) _know_ what they're talking about (not all that common actually, even w/a major degree after their name); b) Are willing and able to work with you in a worthwhile way; c) evince good business practices that you can have confidence in; d) relate well with you.
If you can't be deeply involved (it will consume your life for the duration of the project) you may want to use the services of a management agency to monitor the job of the GC. This is not a very satisfactory situation - it's expensive and it _will_ involve some conflicts. But if you can't spend the time needed to oversee the job on at least a weekly basis it's something to consider. Again, read some books about the residential home building process to pin point alternatives and key players that might help you.
If you work directly with the GC, expect to visit the job site at least weekly and inspect everything carefully as you can. You _must_ raise issues you see and get them remedied or clarified to your satisfaction as soon as possible - that's _your_ job and it's a LOT of work. You need to have at least bi-weekly milestones and generally conform to good project management process - you _need_ to know when there's a problem to attend to. The specific methods you use to manage the project (manage the GC) depend on you and the GC but you must actively manage it IMHO. You will likely spend 15 to 20 hours a week (if you're working a "day job" full time, otherwise a lot more) on this and other aspects of the build for some months preceding the build and some months after the job is technically finished - as well as during the actual build. Try very hard spend a couple hours a week personally inspsecting the jobsite. You're not an engineer or architect or builder so you don't expect or try to confirm _all_ the details of a build; that's not realistic.. But you _can_ look closely at everything, focusing on the latest issues and milestones, get an overview of the job, show the GC and others that you _are_ most interested and paying close attention and perhaps most importantly give yourself a feel for the actual physical house which in turn will influence your real time decision making. And of course you will often see things that don't line up with your expectations and need a little clarifying.
Nobody got this far in life w/out having some smarts and you absolutely have the right and the need to apply any and all intuitions, skills, training, energy and any other advantages you might accumulate to this project. You more or less owe it to the house and yourself and the world in general. You mention your wife and if she can join actively in the project you'll be way ahead. Don't hesitate for one second to play good-cop bad-cop with the people you have to work with. Only remember they're human too and we're all in this together.
Best luck. It's a damn fine challenge and you're sure to learn a whole lot.
Jay C. White Cloud wrote:
Good luck and if you really need to, give me a call...these long emails kill me as I tend to be long winded.
I could not agree more, and what I think Brian might also be saying with this line is it's your responsibility to have clear project goals and agendas. Without those, even ethical designers and contractors will have a challenge assisting you. Know what you want, and be open channel to feed back from individuals that have earn/proven your trust.
There are so many ways to approach having a home built.
Here Brian, and I differ. Fixed cost, or open cost, ethical operators will open their ledgers, and justify there expenditures. This should be vetted before any project work of any scale, large or small, is conducted. Do not tolerate hidden costs or closed financial praxis.
In a fixed cost contract, its not really any of your business what stuff costs whereas in a cost plus, everything should be open book.
In general I do not care for ICF either, and I know them well, including some of the developers that now even question their real world viability. There are some new types that are much more robust, and better made, that can service the "owner builder" population, but even then you must take your time and never cut any corners on facilitating a structure with them. If you are more of the main stream type, I would recommend Pre-Cast Concrete Panels, 10 to 1 over ICF, in most project considering either, and using a GC.
It really seems that the ICF portion of the plans are giving you trouble. I have to challenge ICFs here. They can be a great system, but there are other alternatives that can perform better at lower up-front costs.
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