The building process: good, bad, and ugly

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When was the last time you watched a car go down the assembly line? Most people don’t ever get the opportunity to see all the stages a car goes through before they purchase it. Any mistakes or inconsistencies are buffed out, replaced, or corrected before the car leaves the factory. All we ever see are the clean, shiny, finished products.

Now think about all the different stages your home will go through as it’s being built. Some of them are not pretty. Your home won’t be built in a climate-controlled factory, built more by robots than by hand. And because it’s totally, completely custom, it won’t look exactly like the last home your builder built or the next one.

But it’s surprisingly easy to expect that a home built out in the elements, by hand, with natural materials, will look just as shiny and perfect as that brand-new pickup. Why is that? I think it’s because we live in an age shaped by technology and surrounded by near-perfect manufactured, mass-produced products.

When you’re watching your brand-new forever home take shape before your eyes, it’s a bit like childbirth. Sure, it’s a beautiful thing, but the end result is far cleaner and more picturesque than the process! It’s important to remember that, unlike childbirth, we hire professional homebuilders to build homes for a reason: building a home can be a challenge to your patience and tolerance for mistakes.

The real key, then, isn’t whether mistakes are made—but what types of mistakes and how the builder deals with them. What separates most builders from the few elite builders who are the leaders of their profession is how they prevent mistakes and respond when they do occur.

The builders in the elite group do a lot of planning up front. They create detailed specification lists by really listening to their client. They draw detailed, accurate plans and plan for contingencies such as inclement weather and labor shortage. They leave room in their plans and their schedules to correct errors and have a plan to deal with them as they arise, but they also have systems in place to simply avoid common mistakes in the first place.

When you’re talking to builders, ask what their planning process looks like. How many times will they review the plans for your home? Do they review their detailed plans and framing layouts with a framing contractor prior to starting? Do they proactively gather accurate material quantities and bids from each supplier? Have they reviewed the heat and air ductwork layout with the heat and air contractor to look for any conflicts?

If their answers to these questions are vague, or aren’t forthcoming, keep looking.

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