Welcome to the Tricky World of Residential Construction
As someone who is building a new home, or a home owner with the desire to renovate your family home, you have a very clear picture of how you want your dream home to look and feel. In today’s market, crowded with new or inexperienced builders, many people are left dissatisfied with the results with which their builder left them.
Constructing a home is more than just brute muscle and driving nails. A successful build, which realizes your dream’s vision, requires strategic planning, blue print development and several decades of experience. Most contractors lack these key elements. Many do not have the required experience and expertise necessary to construct your dream home.
Most builders fall into three categories: 1. Entrepreneurs tapping into a robust buyer’s market; 2. The home owner who built his own home and found the market attractive; or 3. The tradesman who hung his own shingle and stepped up to the role of General Contractor. There are dangers inherent to each type. Hopefully, the following tips will guide you in your search to find the best contractor.
Expertise in all areas of construction:
Each time production commences on a new job, the contractor faces a new set of unique new challenges. No two homes are built exactly the same. The last thing you want is for your unique challenges to be the classroom where a builder learns new skills in the industry. Trial and error is expensive and frustrating for the home owner who hires the inexperienced contractor.
In a recent project, we were removing a major bearing wall. I had a conversation with the structural engineer who was hired to design the beam plan for the project. He drew a very intricate structural solution for the wall removal which effected the overall look of the room we were enlarging. I told him that his drawing was too complex for the load rating and the application. He told me that he had consulted the span tables and his structural references from which he derived his solution. I reminded him that almost every roof ever built over a house was engineered, constructed and braced by an uneducated blue color carpenter with no formal engineering experience. After submitting my recommendations based upon the original construction, he agreed to my design. The result of the conversation between the highly educated engineer and an experienced and knowledgeable contractor was a strong build which maintained the home owner’s dream design. A builder with limited knowledge and narrow experience would have given the home owner a room that was not true to his or her dream’s vision.
Remedy: In your initial meeting with a potential builder, ask him or her about their experience in dealing with advanced structural processes: replacing bearing walls, roof design which maintains the original look and pitch of the home, how water will shed off a new addition, how would he clear-span a ceiling when removing a post or bearing wall. You don’t have to know the answers to detect inexperience. Any experienced builder will be able to explain these processes in simple and relatable terms you can understand and agree with.
Word of mouth recommendations:
Nothing speaks louder than a past customer who brags about his builder. Ask your friends, family or acquaintances about their experience with contractors. Do they have a contractor they would recommend? Word of mouth is the most powerful tool in vetting a builder. Anyone who has gone through the process of working with a Design Build Firms in Austin will quickly tell you what they thought about the experience. What’s more, if you have a neighbor who has a superb home renovation done, it can be easy to go over and see the work yourself – making it easier to make that all-important decision.
Get an opinion from a trustworthy architect:
At ATX Design Build, we produce most of our designs in-house. We do, on occasion, retain the valuable skills of our veteran Architect partners for larger projects. If a true design-build firm is not available, consulting with an architect can help you gain important insight on selecting the best contractor. Architects are considered the perfect critics on how well a contractor has performed. Sometimes an architect will give you a choice of multiple contractors to choose from, making your search for the right builder much easier.
Infrastructure is a sign of reliability:
Many Austin remodeling contractors operate out of a work truck. Any established and successful home builder/remodeler will have grown to the point where his enlarged staff and a facility is necessary to manage numerous projects and dozens of artisans.
My dad used to say: The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweet taste of low price is forgotten.
A builder works out of his truck for one of two reasons: Either he is new and has not sold enough projects to grow, or he sells projects which are not profitable enough for him to grow. Either situation means his clients will likely have no recourse if he performs poorly, or if he goes out of business holding his client’s money.
Check to see that your builder runs a profitable and fiscally healthy firm. He doesn’t necessarily have to have a large showroom. Is he servicing his other clients well enough that he maintains a 4 to 5 star rating on line? Are his reviews glowing? Does his web site list an address you can visit if you can’t get him on the phone?
The building industry is one of the easiest in which to start a new business. Do it yourself and remodeling shows have provided insight for many who did not gain their experience in the trades. Box stores with their weekend classes and easily accessed support make it easy to gain guidance. The true test of the builder is in the technical applications of the shows, the weekend classes and the strategic guidance of the Home Depot employee at the pro desk.
Most builders hire subs upon whom they depend to manage themselves and your project for the builder. (Read: Sub-contractors vs. Employees). You didn’t hire the sub to run your project. You hired the builder. Is his best interest your best interest? Did the Contractor know enough to hire the most qualified tradesman?
It is critical that you hire the most qualified home builder you can find. You don’t want to be the next headline about the unscrupulous General Contractor.