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 Material Take-off

Custom Home Design – Part 5

We have now moved into the final stage, Construction Documents.

Construction Documents are just that, documents used for the purpose of securing a building permit and to use to build the structure. (If a contractor tells you he doesn’t follow the plans, walk away, you will not get what you want, you will get whatever he builds.)

Construction documents are comprehensive and issued to be built from

These documents are the fruit of your labor, so to say. They visually and textually communicate your ideas and desires to the permit review office so they can determine if it fits within the codes they have set forth for their area and also communicates how you want this structure to be built and what materials you want to use and where you want them.

It dictates the placement of the house on your lot and of the rooms within the house. It dictates the room sizes and the door and window sizes and placement. It dictates the exterior materials and can dictate the actual colors you want inside and out.

These are very important documents and you worked hard to get to this stage. With these in hand, you have the ability to finally see your build come to life. Now you can sit back and relax. Well, maybe not.

Your building permit will be issued based upon these documents

First, as stated above, these plans will be used to acquire your building permit. Several copies will be needed. Hopefully, by this stage, you have chosen a contractor to build your home and have made your selections of materials and finishes.

Your contractor will then send these drawings into the permit office for approval. Yes, they may make comments and require some corrections. They may have a requirement that exceeds the standard codes, which they are allowed to do. At this point, comments are sent back to the contractor, who should send to the designer to get revised drawings with the comments addressed. This is actually very typical as designers do not know every detail of every localities codes. The corrections should be made expediently and returned to the permit office for review. Once this is done, you should get an approval and you can move to the next step of construction.

Your construction can now begin

It should be noted that every locality has their own timeline on getting permits approved and their own set of guidelines to go by. They are based on the International Residential Code book, but it is within their right to add to this set of codes. As of this post, the IRC2022 is being planned out and most localities are still using the IRC2012 to the IRC2015 codes, so your designer may know the main code book, (Which is about 2″ thick) but may not realize that your area has added something more stringent to a specific code.

Got the permit, now what?

Work with your contractor, not against him/her. They are going to build you a great home, so understand that they cannot control things like the weather.

At this stage, your house has probably already been staked out, silt fence up and equipment brought in to begin digging for the foundation. At the very least, your contractor will have a start date for all of this scheduled out. You will begin to see your site developed and your foundation placed. During the construction, there will be many inspections, depending on the permit office and your area. Your contractor can let you know what their schedule is and it is your responsibility to stay on top of the schedule and the budget.

Things like weather and material delays can change the schedule, often dramatically. So, when you go over the schedule with your contractor, you may want to find out what his/her contingencies are for things like “acts of God”, or just severe weather that stops the project for days. What they do if materials are delayed, what they have in place to secure your lot and materials.

Now, you are under construction and your dream home is being built. Congratulations and enjoy it for years to come.

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Custom Home Design -Part 4

We left off with preliminary drawings, so let’s take a look at what you should do when you receive the drawings.

PDF files are currently the best way to share drawings electronically

Your designer will send you some plans and at least one elevation so you can see their interpretation of what you have communicated to them. These are usually not very detailed as a lot of structure and selections have not been addressed yet. At this point, the basic layout is figured, with exterior doors and windows placed.

Some details, such as bathrooms and closets will show up and a few design features may be evident. Otherwise, there won’t be a lot of extra details to look at.

As the homeowner, you now have a job to do to move the project forward.

1. Make sure the layout is What you want. Some changes may have been made to meet code, or make the flow work. Keep an open mind and write notes so you can discuss it later. Look at how you live and see if this layout truly reflects that.

Preliminary plans are just a preliminary idea and not for construction

2. Make sure the front elevation looks the way you want it to. You may have to imagine how the sides and rear will look at this stage, because they will be dependent upon the layout and front elevation. Are the main design elements in it that you wanted or did you have to sacrifice a lot to get the look that fits the layout?

3. Make sure to note any changes you want to make. Maybe you now see where you want a patio instead of a deck or you want to add some space to a few areas. This is your chance to discuss all of the possibilities. If you have the ability to mark the PDF, or printed sheet up with a red marker, this helps with visual communication.

Remember that sometimes things you thought you wanted may not work with your layout. If things are missing or different than you asked, make notes and discuss it with your designer. They may have missed it or just hadn’t added it yet, or there may be other reasons they can share with you at your next meeting.

There is a difference between “budget” prices and actual costs

This stage is the infancy of the preliminary stage and you may need to go through it more than once to finally get a layout or look you are good with. I have had clients who have gone through this three or four times because their layout didn’t match what they envisioned, but they didn’t know any other way to communicate their desires other than to address and ask questions during this stage. They were finally able to agree on a good layout/elevation and we moved into the final part of the preliminary stage.

Prior to this, you may have been working on a preliminary budget. This is where prices will now change. This is where the plans get sent out to be estimated off of and you begin to see actual costs of building your dream home.

The final part of the preliminary stage is when you are good with the layout and the elevation, you have begun to make some selections, but now, you have a preliminary plan that you can send out to contractors and vendors to get pricing.

Unfortunately, this is also the time you may find that there are areas you may have to scale back. Things like the flooring and the kitchen may have originally been a “budget” price, meaning this is the allowance we are going to put towards that cost. Allowances, or “budget” prices, are an amount placed in until an actual cost can be ascertained. Generally an amount based on previous project prices.

For example, you may see an allowance of $25,000 for your kitchen. This may have been a general amount figured based on a mid-range cabinet and Formica countertop. Maybe based on a standard used by a contractor, etc. However, when you go to have your kitchen designed, they showed you a lot of options. The options you chose and the type of countertop you want will come in at $35,000.

Once you have finished your selections, your actual budget to build is determined and any last minute changes based on the selections are made, you can move into the final stage, construction documents.

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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.

An extension of your company

As an outsourcing service, I strive to create an atmosphere of professionalism. Working towards the goal of becoming an extension of your company so that you do not have to worry about jobs not being completed. As an extension of your company, I do my best to help you grow and succeed, because if you grow and succeed, so do I.

Accurate quantity take-offs and Professional services.

With DFDS by your side, you have the tools at your disposal to land more jobs because you can complete more estimates. You save time, money and labor by getting professional help to plan ahead.

You can choose from the following services:

Quantity Take-off Services

By breaking the project down into the material lists that you need, we can significantly decrease the time it takes for you to price out a job.

You can choose what materials you want to take off and we will generate a list that you can send out.

If you already have staff that does your cost estimating, this may be a way to free up their time and allow them to search for the best prices, or the best subcontractors.

Cost Estimating

Maybe you are looking to get the project estimated completely and you don’t have the staff or the time to do it. I can help. I can set you up with pricing and by working with you, I can help you obtain prices and subcontractor proposals.

Since every location is different, this requires that we collaborate at first to pick the right vendors and subcontractors.

Plans remain confidential and are never shared with other companies.

A recap on why you should work with me.

  1. I can help streamline your estimating process by enabling you and your staff to work more efficiently and be able to concentrate on other aspects of your business.
  2. It allows you to bid more jobs in a shorter amount of time. This will significantly increase your chances of winning more bids.
  3. As an extension of your company, your need to hire new staff is reduced. You no longer have to incur the costs of hiring a full time employee when you only need their services on and off.

Contact us now for more information on how we can help you.

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.