Monday, December 22, 2014


The planning of House #2 has reached the one-year mark. We worked with a really talented house designer, but it took a long time. We didn't get our final set of plans until May. Then in August, we realized we needed to make some major changes. We went back to her, but she was back-logged. We didn't get our final set of plans until mid-November. But the wait was worth it.

Back in July, we had two builders bid the house. One builder never got back to us. The other quoted us $250k over our budget. We then reduced our budget by another $50k and that is what led us to make the changes on our house.

But the quote from the builder was not a loss. The quote was broken down by line item. About half of them told us who they used for the quote and exactly how much it was. Those were our allowances. Allowances were items that our decisions would affect the price. For instance, if we wanted spray foam insulation vs blown-in or batts, the price would go up or down accordingly. Or if we wanted to pay for Anderson Windows or save choosing Plygem Windows. Our choices would drive the cost.

It was during that time, that we decided we were knowledgeable to build this house ourselves. The General Contractor/Builder is a Program Manager and Planner. He/she coordinates all the work of the subcontractors and plans out what needs to be done by when so there is no time lost.

We started researching what we needed to do. I could give our floorplans to a lumber supply company and they could provide a material take-off. That quote wouldn't include labor, but you'd double it to get the whole cost. And then you'd have to add the extra allowances.

For the most part, we steered away from calling those subcontractors from the builder's quote again for a new quote. But it was a good comparison to use when we received the new quotes.

I unknowingly called the lumber company that the builder used to quote the material. He recognized the plan and he alerted the builder. That was fine. There are several lumber supply stores that we could turn to, so we sent our plans to three others. Most subs like to talk to the builder and not the homeowner directly. I don't understand the logic, since the homeowner is making the decisions. But then again, there are prices builders don't want to disclose, because that could be a source of profit for them.

Our first stop to get a quote on our own from was the plumbing fixture store. I'll have to write a separate post about it. It was like Christmas. I found what I was looking for and didn't have to special order or settle. And the prices were great!

MAAX - Optik

We explained how we were building the house ourselves and asked for the builder discount. Most places offer this. The builder gets the discount, but the builder most of the time charges the owner full-price. It's how they get their profit. The salesperson was happy to give us the builder's price. He then asked if we had picked out our doors yet. I said we had not, and he then gave us the name of a lady.

That's how we got most of our names for subcontractors. The lady for doors, was actually from a lumber supply company just down the road from the house. I could have her do a material take-off for the whole house. Her husband is also a builder, and she gave us a list of all the subcontractor's her husband uses.

When I went to pick out a roof shingle, she gave me the name of a place that would have better selection than she would. Turns out, our neighbor used them and said the company saved them a lot of money.

Word of Mouth - Who Referred Us to Who

Whenever I asked for quotes, I told each person to take a look at the entire plan and quote me for everything they could do. If I asked for a door quote, but they could also provide shingles, columns, shutters and siding, I wanted to see their quotes.

I did notice that windows must be a money-maker. Every time I went to a subcontractor, they asked if I had windows already. The first time, I said I already had that taken care of, and he asked, "Have you paid for them?" I said no, and he provided me a quote... that would save me $1000. I was good with that quote, but I still have people ask me if I have windows. And I let them give me a quote.

The shingle supply company provided me with a roofer. The roofer is good, was used by our neighbor and had the lowest quote.

I did have to keep on top of each person. Email is not their preferred method of contact. I can send them the plans that way, but they are phone people. They responded to my constant phone calls best. Most quotes created more questions, but they were questions that needed answers.

We ran into a lot of questions when I dealt with the plumber, electrician and HVAC. Since we chose to do ICF for the house, they all had questions about where things go. I was able to look up YouTube videos and send them, but I also called our ICF subcontractor for a list of subcontractors he has used that are familiar with ICF. During that conversation, he gave me great advice. Like, how the window and door jambs don't have to be extended! We can order normal jambs and have the trimming contractor extend the jambs. This would be a much cheaper alternative.

We finalized our list of quotes and it all came within budget. We've now submitted our number to the bank and we have a closing date on the construction loan. The ICF guy, the foundation guys and the lot surveyor have all been notified of the potential start date. We just need to order the windows because of the lead time. And you will be kept up to date as well. 2015 will be an exciting year!

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