Misconceptions About Building

Building is hard: Save yourself some stress by understanding these common misconceptions about residential building. Which of the following do you think are true? Designing is fun and easy Building is fun and easy HGTV is reality TV You’ll be moved in by Christmas Your builder does everything Your building inspector will guarantee quality It’ll […]

Project photography credit: Franc D'Ambrosio Architecture

Building is hard: Save yourself some stress by understanding these common misconceptions about residential building.

Which of the following do you think are true?

  • Designing is fun and easy
  • Building is fun and easy
  • HGTV is reality TV
  • You’ll be moved in by Christmas
  • Your builder does everything
  • Your building inspector will guarantee quality
  • It’ll be perfect
  • There is always a cheaper option
  • Its simple
  • You should build as big as possible

Our quality of life is advanced – so is our quality of building, available technology, and the number of options. Designers, builders, and tradesman are capable of some amazing things. But it is still not HGTV – it takes time, tradeoffs, and realistic expectations. Having an owner representative makes the process go smoothly

Whether you’re doing a little reno, building a custom home, or are a full-on developer, being the owner of a project is a full-time job. With our quality of life, comes a whole lot of details and decisions to navigate to arrive at a finished project. There are more options than ever before and builders are more capable than ever. Understanding some common misconceptions can help you prepare adequately and make smarter decisions.

  • Designing is fun and easy

The hardest part is knowing what you want – and communicating it. Design requires a seemingly infinite number of decisions and tradeoffs. Every decision will have lasting impact and regret is on the line. When people think design is fun and easy, they “save money” on a designer, not realizing the costs down the line. When every detail (materials, switch layout, door swing, ducting, constructability, etc) is not integrated in the initial design stages, serious costs and compromise can be incurred.

  • Building is fun and easy

Building is hard work. Its loud, dusty, and hectic. It takes time, tools, and energy. Most importantly – it moves in one direction, without practice or prototype, and mistakes do happen. Expectations, budgets, and schedules should all account for these realities.

  • HGTV is reality TV

HGTV is not reality. Builders have to work with local, available, and cost-effective resources. HGTV is not a realistic representation of local best building practices or realistic timelines. Building looks a whole lot different when it’s scripted, edited, sponsored, and not specific to your situation.

  • You’ll be moved in by Christmas.

Everyone wants to move in by Christmas. Setting goals and milestones for schedules are great, but remember that schedules are fictional. The time it takes to move a piece of material, cut it, install it, and finish it is not fictional. The plumber being sick or material not being available – these are not fictional. The more that builders are forced to rush, details will be missed, quality will suffer, and costs will increase. If it is truly important to be  in by Christmas, start planning early, make the contractor aware of your time expectations, and ensure there is leeway for delays.

  • Your builder does everything

What a builder does or doesn’t do changes from one business to another. But it is not uncommon that clients expect that their builder will design, research, and guide decisions. Typically, what builders do best is build: read plans, prepare budgets and schedules, and manage construction.

  • Your building inspector will guarantee quality

Quality comes on a spectrum; and there is a cost associated with this spectrum. A building inspector does not ensure quality. They enforce the building code – a legal document outlining minimum safe standards for construction.

  • It’ll be perfect

I’m a perfectionist. An engineer and a craftsman. And I love design detail. If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that houses are far from perfect. With the right budget and builder, it can be really really good, but never perfect. Often when everything is finished, and all the bills are in, our perfectionism escalates. Getting that last 1% takes a disproportionate amount of time and money. Plan accordingly.

  • There is always a cheaper option

Cheaper options often have other costs associated (warranty issues, labour costs, uncertainty, research). Trust your builder’s knowledge of cost-effective options. Also recognize when a cheaper option may require compromise: a tradeoff in your wants and needs.

  • It’s simple

Houses are commonplace – we see them everywhere all the time. So they must be simple. They’re not. A lot of interrelated systems and infrastructure is packed into our walls, out of sight. There is more function, technology, and convenience in our houses than ever before. Putting it all together requires a lot of integration.

  • You should build as big as possible

Average house size has increased about 10% every decade for the last 4 decades. The easiest way to save money is to reduce your square footage. The easiest way to improve energy-efficiency is to build smaller. Smaller houses are easier to clean and cheaper to maintain. Taking lessons from compact condo design and applying to full house footprints can dramatically reduce your budget.

 

With every decision we have to make tradeoffs: every decision is a balance between quality, cost, and time.

Owners have their hands full navigating this process on their own. Typically, they have nobody to guide them through the process. Having an owner representative on your side takes the weight of your shoulders. From concept to completion, you owner representative protects your interests: From helping you evaluate your needs, to facilitating design, to reviewing costs and contracts, to ensuring quality construction. With an owner representative, you can make smart choices and reduce your stress.

 

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