What to do When Your Contractor is Making Mistakes and the Budget is Out of Control

Hiring a contractor for your custom home rebuild can be daunting. You are ready to build the home of your dreams. Maybe you have the design team set up and have begun initial planning. But you hired a contractor that you thought was capable and reasonably priced and mistakes keep happening and the budget keeps getting out of hand. Most of us don’t know the tiny details of building a home and what is rquired to maintain, say, a warranty on materials. This is why it is so important to have a building team that is trustworthy and capable.

It really comes down to the old saying “you get what you pay for”. There are thousands of places you can cut costs when building a home: perhaps your door knobs don’t actually need to come from Italy, or maybe your kitchen backsplash doesn’t

Custom Home Design

Home Construction

absolutely have to resemble a Monet. But do not cut costs when hiring your contractors and design team. This will likely only cost you money in the long run. As they say “the Devil is in the details.” Unless you are a highly knowledgeable contractor that keeps up to date on the latest building technology, they are likely to miss small things that can cost big money. For example, you may not notice in the first year or two of living in your new home that the walls were not installed properly, but by the second or third year you start to smell mold, eventually you may have a full on leak. Or let’s say piping gets installed incorrectly, your cost of labor could double as all the piping has to get uninstalled and reinstalled, or if the measurments on your foundation were just a half foot off and the concrete gets poured, then there will be way more labor involved to break up the concrete, re measure and re pour.

 

I have been Richard’s assistant for a few years now and have learned many things about building at the expense of mistakes made during the process. My heart frequently goes out to home owners who know what they want but have put their trust in the wrong team. It’s not just building mishaps we see at West Coast Project Management Inc. sometimes the personalities of skilled workers don’t mesh, things get misscomunicated and toes get stepped on. It can be a real nightmare. If you know someone that built a home with little to no hiccups, I can assure you they where on of very few people who’s home building goes seamlessly from start to finish. Here at WCPM we can help you come up with a plan to get your project in the green again, we can work with your design and building team to make sure everyone is on the same page, and most of all we can give you confidence in your team again.

Making Custom Home

Putting work into the design

If you went with a contractor that you thought was going to work out but now your project seems to be going haywire, then you need to bring in an outside consultant like an owner’s rep. Richard has been serving the Bay Area and mostly Marin County as an Owner’s Representative and Construction Project Manager. We see a lot of cases like the above where we are asked to fix a messy situation. Richard has over 40 years of experience and is passionate about the environment and keeps up to date on all of the latest technology to help build a beautiful, custom home with the lowest carbon footprint possible, for a cost that is reasonable for you and the work.

You do not need to throw in the towel on your dream home because things have gone awry. By hiring a mediator or owners representative you can get your building schedule back on track.

Read More

THE PERILS OF THE HOME MORTGAGE PROCESS

The following applies to mortgages called “jumbo” or over the standard Fannie Mae size that you hear adds for such as “rocket mortgages”.

If you are in a position of considering a refinance to help you purchase a home you most likely know someone who has gone through this process already. If you have then you probably know that refinancing (especially with a “jumbo” mortgage’) is going to be painful. In this blog I am going to give you some details that many don’t learn about until they are knee deep in the process.  I am hoping that I can pass on this information to forewarn you of the difficulties you may encounter so that you may be able to prevent them.

Read More

INTRODUCTION TO SERIES ON BUILDING SCIENCE

Over the next few weeks I will be publishing a series of articles on practical applications of what has come to be known as “Building Science”.  Yes, there is such a term.  “They don’t build them like they used to” is quite true, but in a good way, we build much better now.

We have learned so much since the days of the log cabin in the real old days, and Sears kit houses which symbolized the emergence of fast and efficient building techniques after WW2.  Every year there are new products offered by an industry that has a world wide market.

In North America we build primarily with wood because that is a resource we have available.  In more Southern countries cement and masonry are the  dominant building materials.  High-rise buildings are made primarily of steel.

The concepts of preventing moisture infiltration, of creating healthy and comfortable buildings is similar in all.  What is important is a thorough understanding of how to combine materials so as to prevent holes.  Holes that allow water to enter or air to both enter or exit uncontrolled.

In the evolution of building techniques we have both improved our buildings in terms of energy efficiency, and at the same time created some flaws such as trapping moisture.  We have made our buildings more comfortable but at the same time sealed in some very harmful chemicals.

That is where building science comes in, it is the well studied concept of best practices.  It is how to have an energy efficient comfortable and healthy building. Topics this series will cover:

  • We will address what constitutes a high performance building or home.  
  • We will learn how to avoid the pitfalls of moisture build-up and mold creation.
  • We will learn why we now split insulation into both inside and outside the wall to create what is called CI or Continuous Insulation. 
  • We will learn why we want to think of a building enclosure, and not building envelope.

Due to the horrific fires suffered by so many residents of California in the last year, we will also cover ways of lessening vulnerability to fire. For example, we are finding fire often entered attics through vents and started burning the roof structure from the inside.

In the next issues you will find information on:

  • Thermal movement control in homes (heat and cold)
  • Water barriers and rain screens that allow the building’s skin to breathe but repel water
  • Various new products that are worth considering in new construction
  • Fire prevention measures
Read More

HOW TO CREATE A SMOOTH, PREDICTABLE AND ENJOYABLE CONSTRUCTION PROJECT

I am listing below tasks that I have found are critical for creating a smooth running home construction project.  These are all tasks that an experienced Owner’s Representative, (a.k.a., Project Manager) should either initiate or ensure are accomplished during the design and building process. Ideally the Owner’s Representative/Project manager is to be the person in charge of managing these tasks listed below.

  1. Budgets:  Create budgets that are realistic at various times during the process in order for the owner to be confident that the project is proceeding within the financial comfort zone.  This budget should be comprehensive including all associated costs and wish list.  
  2. Budgets ideally are created:
    1. Early in the conceptual design phase and verifying as the design progresses that the original budget is still realistic.
    2. Prior to the construction drawings being drawn.
    3. Prior to construction starting
    4. Once a month during the construction. Keep owner apprised of Predicted Final Cost.
  3. The design team is the clearing house for all design related communication, unless otherwise requested.  We don’t want random people making design decisions that may not have the overall design direction in mind.
  4. Offer possible solutions to problems prior to announcing the problem.  Always consult with Design team first, then after agreement, notify owner of the problem with options for solution.
  5. Consolidate questions (RFI’s) into a list and then communicate these to the appropriate entities with as much lead time as possible. Avoid panic phone calls. Identify which party is responsible for answering each item: Architect, interior designer, owner, contractor.
  6. Arrange questions to be answered into groups by date needed in order to continue an orderly pricing/ordering/construction process.  
  7. Expect that some answers will come as building takes shape. In a true custom home some selections are best made when the building is taking on character.
  8. Send weekly updates to design team and owner apprising them of tasks being worked on each current week as well as planned for the following week.
  9. Plan ahead on critical times for owner and design team to visit the site; such as electrical wiring time, to avoid future surprises and changes.
  10. Make client feel as much an informed participant in the process as they wish to be.
  11. Schedule site meetings with all key subs, and if needed designers, during various stages of the job to coordinate their needs and timing.
  12. Update budget and schedule on a monthly basis and share with owners, and if desired, the design team.
Read More

CAN A CUSTOM HOME BE BUILT WITHIN A BUDGET?

Yes, definitely, but it must follow a process that gives the owner control, accountability, and a roadmap with scheduled reality checks.

How?

The owner needs one person in charge of the entire process, to monitor the budget and ensure the groups communicate and work in harmony.

Who would that be?

The owner’s representative. This type of role is common sense in other types of projects, and it’s no different with a custom home project.

Why would this be an improvement to an already complex group?

Some owners have the time and skills to oversee their own construction project, including watching the budgeting and change orders, making in the moment decisions around materials and staff, and thinking through the long-term implications for every course adjustment. If the owner doesn’t have the time and skills, they’ll want a construction expert on their side to oversee the process, from the start of design to completion.Construction project manager owners representative marin - 27

The problem with custom home building today

The typical process for building custom homes is stressful for everyone, especially when the budget starts to spiral out of control and the choices pile up. That’s because there are many different parties working on the project, but communication between them can fall apart.

A convoluted, expensive project that goes over budget and over deadline hurts all involved, including owners, realtors, designers, and good builders. No one group feels at fault or fully understands the situation, but everyone loses.

This can be fixed. Any major project needs team-wide accountability and a start to finish process that is clear to all, with controls and reality checks at scheduled times and as the design evolves. This is what an owner’s representative does. And all the team members benefit! An owner’s representative works on behalf of the owner, but helps support the work of architects, builders, and other parties to complete the shared vision.

Design and budget conflicts hurt everyone

The all too common result of custom building is an unpleasant and stressful situation for clients who find themselves with building plans that significantly exceed their intended budget. This tends to happen mid-way through the project, when the owner is forced to decide whether to make compromises to the design (which they have now grown emotionally attached to), or to cancel the project. Design changes usually lead to a reduced quality of materials, or looking for cheaper labor options, both of which lead to bigger unpleasant experiences and long-term home problems.

Bay Area custom homes are unique

Home owners in the Bay Area benefit from many environmental regulations to keep our environment safe. Marin and the East Bay also have a number of local regulations around open space, view obstruction, and other local guidelines. Finally, Marin Design Review Boards may have additional preferences or requests in order to approve a project. This is local knowledge that not all builders and architects are familiar with, and review can become a complicated process with several rounds of revisions.

If the building team is not familiar with California zoning and environmental regulations for custom homes, there can be additional late-stage changes and delays. At best, there will be missed opportunities to build an environmentally friendly home and save on long-term expenses by using appropriate materials.

One of the great benefits of building a custom home in the Bay Area is the diverse and beautiful building sites, but owners need someone who is familiar with the area, including the environment and review boards.

A solution for custom home building in the Bay AreaConstruction project manager owners representative marin - 65

West Coast Project Management offers a complete construction project management service, guiding the process from the beginning of design to final construction completion.

After decades as a custom home builder in San Diego, California and the mountains of Telluride and Aspen, Colorado, Richard Wodehouse has the expertise and complete project knowledge to guide even the most unique and complex custom homes to completion.

Richard’s methodology is successful because of his continuous monitoring of the budget, expertise and support for builders and architects, and deep knowledge of custom home projects of all types.

When to call West Coast Project Management

We can facilitate at any stage of the construction project, but it’s best to start from the beginning. The design is when most of the budget will be set, and when structural decisions will be made. That being said, West Coast Project Management is often called in mid-stage to help. Contact us to see how we can help make your California dream home happen on schedule and end with a positive outcome for all.

Read More