When you decide to remodel a part of your home, there are a few things you’ll want to double check to ensure you have the best possible experience. The majority of builders aren’t out to screw you over. In general they’re honest hard working people, this list is simply here in order to protect both you and the builder. And I’m sure we’ve all heard horror stories of less than honorable independent contractors taking advantage of friends or family.

The best way to ensure you’re getting what you want, is to sit down with your builder before the process starts and outline exactly what your getting and what they are giving. That way you’re both on the same page and they’ll have the chance to tell you upfront if your expectations are too high. Once your on the same page the building process should be smooth, stress free, and by the end of it, you’ll have a new home to enjoy for years to come.

Get a detailed copy of the specifications. 

The specs are the specifications for the materials used in the build. Used as a reference for producing a budget and ultimately becomes the purchase order for suppliers at the time of construction. Be sure that these are as detailed as possible! Anything that isn’t detailed to your exact specifications leaves room for assumptions on the builders part. When assumptions are made there are a few different possible outcomes;

Outcome 1 – The assumption is acceptable to you. Great!

Outcome 2 – The assumption is below your expectations. Whether it’s due to the builder using the wrong type of finish or the performance doesn’t meet your expectations, this is just the beginning of greater problems down the road.

Outcome 3 – The assumption is above your expectations. While this can be good, if it’s too far above your expectations it will end up costing you money that you weren’t willing to spend.

A set of specifications should be between 10 and 20 pages and give a thorough explanation of all of the materials that will be used in your home.

Be sure to get a detailed copy of the Scope of Work.

This document will specify the exact work to be accomplished, including installing the finishes and other materials. This will generally be used as a guide for the builder and will be used as a checklist during the builder’s quality control process. The scope of work is sometimes included in the specifications, but there are still come guidelines to consider when looking the document over.

The scope should follow the construction schedule beginning with excavation, foundation, framing, etc. This way  you’ll have an idea of what will be done in what order and give you the ability to prepare.

Additionally your scope of work and specifications will act as a purchase order for any vendors and subcontractors that will work on your home. If the scope isn’t clear to them the purchase order will be vague and you’ll have a subcontractor that possibly hasn’t even spoken with you making assumptions on the correct way to install the materials in your home!

The scope doubles as an inspection list. The builder will determine how  they want the materials installed based on a number of factors listed in the scope – price, warranty issues, cost of ownership, etc.

Construction Plans

The construction plans are the guidebook for everyone working on your home. Included in the construction plans is the specifications and the scope of work. Other things that should be included in your plans are;

A one dimensional floor plan accompanied by cross sections. If the plan doesn’t clearly spell out what should be built, the crafts-person will make assumptions.

Be sure you and your builder sign each page and keep those signed documents on site. Any changes you’ve made to your plan after you’ve signed them need to be recorded on  a change order.

You can’t assume that once you’ve discussed something verbally with your builder that it will be incorporated into your new home. Be sure to include everything on the signed documents in your construction plan.

Change Orders

A change order is any deviation from the original construction plans, scope of work, or specifications in written form. I can be difficult for a builder to implement a change order for a variety of reasons.

The ability to make changes are schedule dependent, once your home has progressed past a certain point some changes may be impossible without tearing things down. The changes need to be priced, processed internally, and then sent  out do the vendors, the vendors then need to process the change and get the word out to the rest of their crew. Additionally change order have the ability to create the domino effect. A change in the foundation will affect everything else, the framing, drywall, millwork, etc.

No matter how difficult the change order may be to implement, it is still your home and you have the right to make changes. If your construction schedule does allow for a change order here are some things you need to consider;

  • Always document your changes, never assume a verbal agreement is sufficient.
  • You should know what the price difference will be before the change is made.
  • You should sign and acknowledge the change order request.

Building a new home doesn’t have to be as stressful as some people make it out to be. Simply make sure you have these documents implemented in the building process and you should know exactly what you’re going to be getting.