Q&A / 

Visiting Your New Home

Today, I stopped by a new home that was being built by a former competitor of mine. He builds a great home and laughs and shakes his head when we talk about how I transitioned from being a builder to a writer. When I still built homes on a daily basis you could scarcely tell his work and homes apart from mine. One might think we were clones of one another. We had a very splendid relationship and still do. There was always enough work for both of us. If he was busy, he would often refer customers to me if I was a tad slow and of course, I would do the same.

As I strolled through this magnificent home that was framed and under roof, it brought back all sorts of memories about some of the signs a great builder leaves behind each day on the jobsite much as an animal that walks through soft mud. There were clues everywhere within the home and I started thinking how most people might not even realize what they might be looking at if they happened to walk around and in the home after the workers had gone home for the day.

For example, when I pulled into the jobsite, there was orange plastic fencing erected in critical locations that protected valuable trees and kept people away from dangerous trenches and machinery. I couldn't find a scrap of trash or cardboard anywhere on the lot. The building site was immaculate and even the trash dumpster and temporary toilet were discreetly placed so they didn't detract from the curb appeal of the home in its partially finished state.

The large garage was transformed into a dry and convenient storage place for all sorts of lumber. All too often I have driven by jobsites and seen exterior finish trim lumber dropped directly on the dirt and left out in the elements. Not here. The lumber was stored up off the concrete floor so air could circulate around it and it was neatly stacked so that you knew exactly what material was where. One would think they were in the warehouse of a traditional lumber yard!

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The dining room of the home served as the command center for the builder. A large bulletin board was attached to the stud walls and on it were all of the safety notifications, building permits, emergency phone numbers and all necessary notifications as required by all government agencies. There were no less than two fire extinguishers within sight and as I continued my tour I saw many more throughout the home. There was also a dry-erase board that allowed subcontractors to post messages for the builder and other subs. What a great but simple idea!

A complete set of rules and guidelines were also posted on the bulletin board. Consider these a code of ethics for all of the people who work on the job. The builder was communicating to each subcontractor and their employees what was expected and what would not be tolerated. These rules are such a simple thing, yet I have rarely seen them on another jobsite.

A giant rolling drafting table/storage box had a complete set of plans on it. This permanent set of plans allowed everyone who worked on the jobsite to see what was expected of them. It is not unusual for a subcontractor or an employee of a subcontractor to forget to bring plans to a jobsite. Different plans have been substituted by mistake and utilities are installed in the wrong locations because a sub is simply working from the wrong set of drawings. That couldn't happen here as the plans for the house were in the open and easily accessible.

The inside of the home was swept perfectly clean and there was no trash to be found anywhere. This type of environment can be self-sustaining. When a new subcontractor enters the jobsite, he can see it is spotless and he can't blame his mess on another tradesperson.

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Glancing at the workmanship even a novice homeowner who knows little about construction methods could see that the cuts on the lumber were precise, the walls were plumb and the holes drilled for plumbing and heating pipes were centered and neatly done. Craftsmanship seemed to emanate from the walls like sound from a bass drum in a high school marching band.

The message here is simple: visit your new home construction site often and unexpectedly. Give it a report card with respect to what you see. If you see disturbing things, discuss them immediately with your builder. From time to time people make mistakes, but if you see the same mistakes week in and week out, you better start taking photographs to record the oversights. The photos may just come in handy if a dispute develops.


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