Thinking of building a house... any pointers?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Dave Poehlman, Feb 9, 2004.

  1. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    My wife and I have been looking at moving due to the posibility of an industrial park in our back yard.

    Anyway.. we half-heartedly stepped into a model home yesterday and absolutely loved the layout of the place. Right now, we live in a very open, airy 3br that we love, and the new constructions are the only ones we've found to be along the same vein. So, now we're kicking around the idea of building a house.

    So, I'm turning to my favorite impartial source of advice: the HTF. [​IMG]

    What has been your home-building experience?

    Would you do it again?

    What were some of the things you didn't expect in building a home?

    What are some of the things one should expect in building a home?

    How did you coordinate selling an existing property while your home was being built?

    There's a guy here where I work, who, if you mention building a house you will get a 2 hour dissertation on all the things you should do while your house is being built, whether you want it or not. [​IMG]
     
  2. Matthew Todd

    Matthew Todd Second Unit

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    Dave, my wife and I just had our first house built. We've been in it about 6 months now. This is our first house. We found a piece of land we liked and found a custom builder that was willing to work with us to build what we wanted. We had lots of flexibility in choosing the home's design.

    I loved the experience, and would definitely do it again! Some people seem to complain about having to choose door knobs, windows, cabinets, tile, carpet, hardwood, and all the other things, but I liked it.

    I think the most unexpected thing to me was all the things that we decided we wanted to do that were not included in the original bid. The more you can specify what you want up front, the better idea you will have of what it will really cost. Once everything was done, we ended up spending 18% more than the original bid because of extra things that we added. Also, find a good general contractor who is not going to gouge you for extras that you add after the bid. Ours was more than fair that way, and almost all the extras we got at his cost.

    We didn't have to coordinate selling an existing property because this was our first house. Hopefully someone else can give you their experience on that.

    As for a theater (how could I leave that out?), we have an unfinished basement, and we planned for an area in the basement for a dedicated theater. We had them sink this area a foot below the rest of the basement so that the riser will be even with the entrance, and it will step down towards the front. Needless to say, I'm excited to finish the basement!

    Matt
     
  3. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    Yeah, the Mrs & I have been "highballing" the figures to account for things like this and it looks like something that'll be within our budget. But, it's still an intimidating decision. Investment-wise, a new home seems to be a good idea since they usually appreciate in value pretty quick once completed. At least the people I've talked to tell me this.
     
  4. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    The main thing to be prepared to do is stay on top of everything that is going on on your job site. Vigilance is the key to costly mistakes. The last house my parents built had the foundation a foot out at one corner. had that not been caught early, the repair would have been extremely costly.

    Be prepared to go way over budget, it ALWAYS happens.

    Discuss up front what happens if there are revisions to the plan during construction. It is very hard to judge how a space will feel when it is only on paper. Once the walls start going up you may discover that the original plan isn't working. Know your options going in.

    If you have existing furniture that you know you want to keep, it is a good idea to make scale drawings of them and see how they work in your plan. It is far easier to add an extra foot to a wall on the drawings than it is to do with lumber later on if your dining room hutch doesn't fit.

    Pay attention to windows in the bedrooms. I've seen a number of model homes where the room looks great empty, but there was no consideration for furniture.

    Look at the traffic flow on the plan, and make sure it isn't awkward, again with furniture a consideration.

    Have the house wired for everything at rough in, even if you don't think you need it. Also, consider any possible additions, and whether the existing structure plan is adequate for them.

    When it comes to electrical, opt for more outlets, and carefully consider the proper location for lighting and switches. This is easier when you have framing in place, since your sense of how you'll be using the rooms will be better.
     
  5. Brian Perry

    Brian Perry Cinematographer

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    Have the pipes for a central vacuum installed, even if you decide to postpone buying the actual motor.
     
  6. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    That's a good tip. Thanks.

    Brian, I've never owned a central vac system... so I hadn't even considered having the pvc put in. That's a good idea.

    "the 2 hour dissertation" guy will tell me to go do things like speaker wiring and pipe insulation myself during the construction to save $$. This is probably a good idea, but am I really allowed to do this?

    We've got a real estate agent coming over to look at our current home to see what we could put it on the market for to give us a more definite idea of what our budget is.
     
  7. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    I would allow a considerable margin for error between the listing and selling price, since agents are notoriously liberal in what they'll tell you to expect for your property, only to turn around a few months later suggesting you accept an offer tens of thousands lower.

    There is no reason why you can't do prewiring yourself, as long as you let the contractor know your intentions. Depending on the layout of your house, you may also want to provide some empty conduit for future wiring in the walls that feeds from the basement to the attic, or any other suitable distribution area. Be sure to include a few lengths of string in these pipes to make pulling wires easier.

    I would also seriously consider making sure the electrical service is as big as possible without going overboard, making sure to get a main panel with lots of room in it for expansion later on, and considering a separate subpanel for the garage or workshop area.

    Another thing to consider is whether you have, or plan on having, any items that would be heavier than what is normally expected on the upper floors of your house, ie. waterbeds, or large book cases, which may require better support. My dad's library required spacing the floor joists closer together and extra bracing, since the load was so great, especially when running down a wall parallel to the joists.

    When planning the layout, make sure to take your property into consideration. While big windows can be really nice, if you live in a hot climate, having them face due south will mean you have a sauna in the summertime. Designing with the strengths and weaknesses of your lot will make your house a more enjoyable place.
     
  8. Keith Mickunas

    Keith Mickunas Cinematographer

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    Well here's my
    thread where I got a bunch of useful advice two years ago.

    Are you building a custom home or tract home? I went with a tract home, basically I had a limited number of floor plans to choose from and limited options. It makes building simpler, and possibly saves money. I'm quite pleased, but next time I may go completely custom, that'd be kind of fun, although I'm sure it's a lot of work.


    Depends on your local codes and the builder. With mine and some of my friends, you could get away with it. On the wiring, wait until the electrical is done and the inspection is complete, then have at it. Don't do anything electrical unless it's quite small and won't be noticed. That will cause problems. But speaker and other A/V wire should be ok.

    Put in lots of RG6 to where the HT will be and home run it to a common place. For instance I have four runs to the room where the gear is, one to the TV, and one to my bedroom, they all terminate in the attic. My antenna and satelites run to the attic so that's how I hook those up, then I've got the Tivo's coax out connected to my bedroom. If you have an equipment closet then run all the coax to there. I wouldn't worry about running to much CAT5 anymore with wireless being so cheap and easy these days, but you'll want some.

    I have an online journal of my building experience, but it's down right now, I'll post a link to it when it's back up.
     
  9. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    Keith, that would be a great help.

    We're going to look at another model tonight. Although, I'm not sure I'll like it as much as the first one I had seen. But, I like this builder's lot locations better. Which brings me to another question:

    I know a builder will buy a large parcel of land and subdivide it into home lots. Is it possible to bring in an independant builder into one of those locations or am I restricted to that builder's designs only?
     
  10. Matthew Todd

    Matthew Todd Second Unit

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    I think it basically depends on the subdivision. We bought our lot from one builder who had bought the large tract of land and then subdivided it into lots, but had a different builder do the construction. I think a lot of times, you don't have that option.

    Matt
     
  11. Keith Mickunas

    Keith Mickunas Cinematographer

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    I agree with Matt, it depends on the builder's plans. In my area Ashton Woods bought a big chunk of land and made four to six blocks out of it with about 40 houses per block. They made it kind of like a factory, with about 10 floor plans available they were able to quickly build the houses and make adjustments easily as problems occurred. So it cut some costs.

    However in another part of the neighborhood multiple builders bought lots and divided them amongst themselves, on any given street there are up to three builders with the lots intermingled, this way you get more variety. So far as I know though you are still restricted by the owner of the particular lot as to who will build it.
     
  12. Eric Kahn

    Eric Kahn Guest

    I see you live in WI, you might want to investigate one of the new house building methods where they stack up Styrofoam forms and pour concrete in them for the walls, the R value of the walls is incredible and the house is really strong, the outside is covered like a normal house, you have to use furring strips on the inside to give some room in the walls for the wiring under the drywall
     
  13. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    Interesting... I was just going to comment on how new construction seems so flimsy to me. I grew up in a stone house with plaster walls and real tounge & groove hardwood floors.
     
  14. Jim_C

    Jim_C Cinematographer

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    >>...where they stack up Styrofoam forms and pour concrete in them for the walls, the R value of the walls is incredible and the house is really strong...
     
  15. Keith Mickunas

    Keith Mickunas Cinematographer

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    I've seen this stuff on TV, it's pretty cool. They put together large blocks of these hollow styrofoam things that are tied together and have some plastic bracing to keep the gap constant, then it's filled with concrete. It's supposed to be quite effective, as well as easy to put together.
     
  16. Doug Krenik

    Doug Krenik Auditioning

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    I've talked to carpenters who've worked with those stryofoam formed walls, and unless the concrete crew was extremely careful in their setup they can be a nightmare to work with. The forms are so light that they need a lot more bracing than traditional wood or steel forms to prevent movement while they're being filled. Also the top of the concrete can be very uneven which makes sealing the top plate difficult. Also they tend to be out of square and not straight vertically. The interior was so out of plumb that they couldn't just strip out the inside, they have to use a regular 2x4 studded wall to get it plumb. I do agree that the wall would be very energy efficient, but before I did it I'd be sure and look around at several differant contractors and then ask the carpenters their experiences.

    Doug
     
  17. Jim_C

    Jim_C Cinematographer

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    Apparently I was missing something. I had not heard of this product yet. Interesting idea but as Doug has pointed out, if you don't have careful installation you are in for a world of problems.
     
  18. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    They should just come up with a system where you pour the entire mold for the house. [​IMG] Some sort of giant injection mold that you fill with some kind of space-aged polymer. [​IMG] >SQUIRT< your house is done!

    Anyway.. looked at a few more models last night. I didn't like them as much as the other builder. It was a little discouraging.

    Oh, I forgot to mention, the first builder whose house we liked said the model would probably be going up for sale this summer. So, the Mrs & I were considering just putting in an offer on it. The only drawback is it has a water tower looming about a block away! Not a big tall metal one, but a cylindrical concrete covered one. My wife and I used to drive by this subdivision and comment on how funny it looks. It looks like some sort of Spielberg movie set because you can see the whole subdivision from the main thoroughfare and it has this water tower looming over it. It looks like if the the thing burst open the whole place would wash away. [​IMG]

    So, we're still kicking around the idea of buying the model home on the disaster movie set. [​IMG]
     
  19. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    The concrete-in-foam construction is usually a basement only thing, and its pretty common these days. There are custom-made foam sandwiched in woodproduct paneling walls that allow a whole house to be assembled in hours and give it an amazing thermal-containment level, but I've never lived in such a house.

    SUGGESTIONS:

    *Central Air!
    *Radiant sub-floor heating in every room, even the garage.
    *build garage at a slope so water can run out
    *remember to install water lines into the garage
    *over-wide doors (Trust me)
    *make kitchen 20% larger than seems logical, kitchens are the "in" thing and make for better resale value.
    *add a bathroom to every bedroom. this will increase your resal value exponentially. Adds considerable convenience if you have kids.
    *three stall garage
    *Be sure to plan for a 7.1 home theater
    *plan for 5 or 6.1 living room (High-Res multichannel music could take off)

    And my favoite.

    Build emergency underground shelter in the backyard and have it connected to the basement by a secret tunnel w/ secret door. If your going to build a house from scratch, get the cool secret room. Alternately you could put the HT in there, or just make a "spousal retreat" to hide in with beer and friends.
     
  20. Keith Mickunas

    Keith Mickunas Cinematographer

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    OK, my house page is finally back up, but all the pictures are gone at the moment. Still it'll give you an idea of some of the fun times I went through. [​IMG] It also covers some of the options I got with the house, and some of the things I forgot or missed.
     

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