Dennis Fletcher Design Studio, LLC

Helping you get the home centered around who you are, how you live, work, and play, no matter the size.

Category Construction documents

Custom Home Design – Part 1

What do I do first?

This question has been asked at almost every design meeting I have ever attended. It’s absolutely the most important question to ask first, so you can set yourself upon the right path. However, it is not the actual answer to the question, just a tool to get there.

I know, “Now you are confusing me, Mr. Fletcher.”

A plot Plan, or Plat will be necessary for any building project.

Let me explain. If you make this the first question you ask when deciding you want a custom home, you have a starting point for the designer of your choice. You have a place to start the process and a great way to start dialogue between you and your designer.

In actuality, the first thing to do is broad, has a lot of little details, and is quite scary.

You need to have a budget. You need to know how much you can spend on your new home before you can even consider what it will look like.

Learn the fundamentals of creating a construction budget here. Building your Construction Home for Dummies.

Click here for a planner that you can use to keep track of your home construction. Planner for building a home.

So, some things to consider when setting out your budget are as follows.

Your new home will depend upon your budget, so make sure that you are not designing way out of budget.
  1. Land. How much will it cost and can I get any? You may already have a piece of property. Great, make sure you keep all of the paperwork, it will be needed later.
  2. Financing. How will you pay for it and how much do you have available to purchase? If you have the land, your financing, and any cash you may put in will go straight to the construction of the house, which we will talk about later, but if you do not have land, you must consider this in the cost of construction. If you are able to put together $500,000 to build with, understand that the cost of your property will be deducted.
  3. Who will build it? You should have a contractor in mind for this, if not, get some referrals from folks you know. Look online at reviews, see who has a great product for a great price. (No, there is not a contractor who has a perfect track record, that is impossible.) Ask your designer who they work with the most if there are any contractors that stand out. They may even be able to help you locate a good one that fits you and your project.

So, these are the areas to focus on first. Even if you don’t have property, you can begin the process of locating a lot. While you are doing that, start the process of getting financing. See what you may qualify for and if it works with your current budget. Remember, a contractor may have lots or know of some good lots you can build on, so keep that in mind.

Your initial budget is just for planning purposes. It will not be the actual construction cost and you will find that the price will change. A budget is only for initial planning purposes.

Your designer should be able to help you through this process. They may be able to help you by referring a loan officer, a real estate agent, and a contractor.

If you own a lot, make sure it is able to be built upon. (Yes, there are lots that you cannot build upon, wetlands, areas of preservation, etc.)

Find out if there is public water and/or sewer available, or if you need to put a well and/or septic tank in.

Choose a look that excites you and makes you want to come home. Many features can be added to your new home, so decide what is very important to what is just a dream, or wish.

Find out if there are any HOA (Home Owners Association) rules to follow and find out what the building envelope is for your property. (Building setbacks, size restrictions, etc.) A lot of this, your designer can help you with at the beginning, but the more of this information you have, the easier the process will begin.

Finally, there is nothing wrong with dreaming. This is your home, you should be able to have some things you like. While looking at ideas, keep a folder of pictures you like, just remember, you probably won’t be able to get it all. This folder is only to help you communicate things with your designer. Your budget will decide how much you can add.

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Closing out 2020

As we close out the year 2020 and plan to welcome the year 2021, here are some things that are pertinent to the construction industry and specifically to the residential construction industry.

1. What will the lumber prices be like in the New Year?

There are many variables and I think anyone telling you they know exactly what will happen is just blowing smoke in areas you don’t want them to. There is no way to “guess” each variable correctly enough to make that statement this early in the game.

No, we have to wait and see, understanding the different avenues that could lead to higher, or lower, lumber prices.

First, we have to consider the election results. With everything in such turmoil, we do not have an absolutely clear understanding of how the inauguration will go. We do not know if President Trump will be able to overturn the current election results with his accusations of fraud, or if Biden will actually be awarded the win and be inaugurated in January. This puts our entire market system on standby, fluctuating costs as the media puts out one article after another, creating massive hysteria and division.

Something that will directly effect lumber costs is the supply of lumber. We get about 1/3 of our lumber from Canada. (They have vast amounts of forests) In the United States, we have been plagued with forest fires, depleting our current domestic supply and Canada has also had forest fires, depleting their supply. This is the old, “supply and demand” issue. Add to the depleted supply a greater demand caused by the sudden home bound worker due to COVID-19 and you get rising prices.

At first, it seemed that only treated lumber was effected, but as the year went on, it has become apparent that regular framing lumber has also become higher in demand, therefore, the cost has risen.

Now, forecast to 2021, when we begin to see the winter turn to spring and the projects turn from inside projects, like kitchens, baths, rec rooms and painting to decks, additions, sheds, etc. This is what I see happening based on the evidence shown so far.

Prices will rise as supply is less than normal. (Possibly an influx of foreign lumber to help relieve the demand, but that is another issue.) Framing lumber is easier and less expensive that treated lumber to cut and store, so you may not see the rise being as high in that market, but the treated lumber will rise higher than it has. The process to treat lumber means that less treated lumber will be available.

You will see other materials become prevalent in exterior construction. Possibly more metal framing, possibly more concrete construction. I think patios will become more popular than decks as the cost will probably become less and the availability of materials will be higher.

Metal framing will begin to gain in popularity as well. There are areas where the contractors are wood framing only and the metal industry has only gotten a small foothold into the area, especially in residential construction. I think you may see that change over the course of the next year, as people want rooms added, or new houses built, but supply becomes harder to get and higher in price.

All in all, as long as people stay working, I think the housing market will flourish, the construction industry will adapt to the changes like they always do. I think that general contractors who build houses will re-evaluate things like spec homes and construction methods, looking for sustainable and cost efficient means with which to build.

I think that those of us who are used to designing with wood need to start understanding other methods and begin to truly learn how to design with those methods. We need to also learn how to share our information with our contractors so they know there are other avenues they can take and learn how to help them, so we can survive.

I think 2021 will be a difficult year, even if COVID-19 is decimated, we will have a lot to come back from and a lot to do to build our country back up.

If you would like to know more about the services we offer, please feel free to go to our contact page and reach out in any method that you prefer. We would love to share what we do with you and see if we can help you with your project.

Small Companies, Big Dreams

Most small companies would like to grow. They want a better life, a better opportunity, a better company. They want tomorrow to be better than today. This is growth.

On-Demand services add technology to your business without having to buy it outright.

Small companies have to make tough decisions when faced with growth opportunities. They need to decide how much money and time they are going to spend to get to the next level. Will it be worth the effort and cost? Will I put a lot out and get very little in return?

Without large amounts of money to throw around, growth can be stopped just because there is not enough resources to go around. Not enough time to get the extra work done required to grow, not enough manpower to do everything extra and not enough money to pay for the extra resources needed.

This is why on-demand services can be such a big help.

Add manpower and time without the cost of a yearly salary for multiple people until you are ready to take that step.

On-demand services allows you to take on more work while initially spending less money. You automatically add manpower to your staff, as needed and the programs and technology needed are already there to use as needed. Your initial costs are lower than they would be if you chose to bring these in-house and what you pay out will be less than having to pay salary, insurances, taxes, etc.

With the advent of the information technology age, on-demand services have become increasingly easier to obtain. Although hiring them can mean higher hourly prices, it can still be cheaper than initially adding a new employee. On-demand also means that you do not have to keep them working and add that to your already inflated to do list. Instead, they will be there when you need them.

If you are considering growth, or you are already getting more work coming in than you can handle, then on-demand services can be a major blessing to you and your company. Do what you do best and hire out the rest.

Feel free to contact us if you are curious about our Drafting or Cost Estimating services.

Standards in the Field

Standards are everywhere, in everything. Without them, things like production and maintenance could be a nightmare. That is why we have standard ways of doing x,y, and z.

Standards are often referred to as building codes but can be a company, or industry standard as well.

As a builder, you should have standards as well. The construction industry is full of standards and often, there are several different standards for the same thing. When faced with this, you have to pick one standard that works best for your company and roll with it.

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Do I need an estimate or a material take-off?

An estimate vs. a material take-off. depending on where you are in your project, you may need one over the other. I have heard a lot of people use these terms as though they were the same, but let’s be clear, they are not the same and you will need both.

Material take-off vs. Estimate

Material Take-off

A material take-off is just that, a list of the materials and their quantities. It may be very generic, like a framing list, or a lumber list, which just lets someone know the pieces of the project.

These lists can be very detailed or very generic. One person may want a list of framing material to send out to local lumber yards so they can compare prices on a complete package. They don’t care what floor, or section the material goes to, they just need to know what the price is going to be to purchase it and they want an apples to apples comparison of prices from several sources. These are a great help for anyone looking to get initial prices on their project.

Depending on what you are doing with your project, you may need several different types of material take-offs. Things like a lumber list, or framing list, to get the needed materials for the skeleton of your project. You may have a separate window/door list, a drywall list, a paint list, flooring list, etc. It can be broken down into as detailed of a list as you may want.

An overall material list for a project is great for pricing and shopping around, but it doesn’t help as well as an estimate when it comes time to actually build the project.


An estimate uses material take-offs. It assigns costs to the material and adds things such as labor costs and overhead costs. Administration costs, such as permits, impact fees, inspection fees, etc. An estimate will often be the first full document to specify what the materials used will be.

One thing to understand about estimates is that it is an estimate, not an exactimate. I know, sounds sketchy, but if you understand what goes into creating the estimate, you understand why it is named as such.

An estimate projects the material and labor costs of a project based on construction documents and specifications that are available at the time. It says that if you build this building exactly as it is drawn and specified, then these are the prices that are associated with it. However, added to these are projected changes, which occur during most, if not all construction projects. Things like a waste factor are figured in to make sure there is enough money to cover things like damaged lumber, or minor theft. (Someone taking a few 2×4’s may not seem like a big deal, until the framing carpenter has to stop the job to go get them.) With this in mind, the estimate is created with the intent purpose of foretelling what the project may cost in the end and what is going to have to go into it to stay within that price.

Estimates also have the ability to hold the specifications of the project and can become the contract. The estimate stops being an estimate and becomes a new document all onto itself. This is an efficient way of using your estimates, but, that means that your estimate needs to include a lot of information.

Both are needed to start a project off on the right foot. The material take-off can allow you to know what will go into the project regarding specific materials, the estimate is the document that says this is what it will cost to complete the entire project, this is what is supposed to go into the project and this is where it goes in the project.

Add these tools to your cart by contacting us to help. We can aid you in your construction documents and your material take-offs and estimates.

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