February 14, 2015
Contracting your own home is a noble undertaking, and one that requires a good bit of pre-construction planning. It is important to anticipate things that can go wrong in the building process. Mistakes can be very costly to overcome, so becoming aware of some of the common problems that plague home builders, from novices to experts, is in order. Following are some of the major things to watch out for.
Inadequate planning. Don’t jump into the project without a complete and well thought out plan. All your decisions–from design to construction methods to decorating–should be made from the start and there should be nothing left to chance. Since this is likely your first major construction project, it is important to gain as much knowledge as possible about every phase of the process, including the pre-construction tasks such as estimating and time management scheduling. In fact, these planning tasks will set the stage for the overall success of the entire project. Many people focus more on the actual construction processes (things that you should be hiring professionals to handle), rather than developing a thorough plan.
Wrong decisions. Even seasoned professionals make wrong decisions sometimes. Since you are probably new to the building game, you will need to do your homework. Research, research, research should be your mantra. Learn all you can about the products you plan to use and the people who will be doing the work. Many novice home builders make the mistake of using the most expensive materials and products thinking that they are better quality.
But buying expensive materials can make your costs soar, and can even negate the savings you are reaping from being your own contractor. One owner, for example, used a new synthetic-type material for his deck that cost about three times the amount of regular pressure treated deck lumber. His thinking is that it would last longer. In fact, it probably will. But when he needed to sell the house unexpectedly, buyers did not appreciate the extra cost of the material…many even thought it was a cheaper product because it wasn’t “real” wood. He was not able to recoup any of the costs for the upgrade, and in fact it may have even hurt the saleability of the home.
Don’t think that using the cheapest subcontractor, or conversely the most expensive, is the way to go either. Some subcontractors will under bid the job and then try to make up the short fall in extras. This does you no good. Others bid high thinking that you won’t know any better. The key here is to get three bids and get references. Yes, it takes some time and energy, but it will pay off in the end.
Blowing your budget. Having a good estimate and keeping track of your finances are both critical to your success! Cost over-runs are one of the biggest problems builders face. You can ensure your project stays on budget simply by completing a solid estimate and tracking every dollar you spend. This means that you need a good cost accounting system. You don’t have to spend a fortune on software though. You can track things by hand or use a simple software product to keep good records.
If you keep these three things–upfront planning, mindful decision making, and budget constraints–in mind throughout your project, it should flow much more easily and the outcome will definitely be more successful.