Walking your new home during construction
I have recently had the opportunity to walk a home that is under construction with the homeowners on an early Sunday morning. The timing is relevant due to the fact that there were no contractors or other suppliers, etc. in the home as we walked through.
In the majority of situations such as this, the homeowner is involved in their own lives, the move from the existing home, or the transfer to the basement as the work is in progress. It is difficult for these individuals who are both excited and apprehensive to clearly and logically walk through the home, and absorb all that is going on. There are a number of simple and relative observations that should be performed as you walk through your home as it is being constructed.
The most important observation is your safety. The majority of builders will always leave the home in a relatively safe condition. However, this is a relative issue, and to experienced contractors who have walked worksites all their lives, certain safety issues are taken for granted.
Please be aware of the following:
- Nails, screws, pieces of demolition, etc. that are present that could be stepped on or simply rubbed against. Wear appropriate shoes, not sandals, flip flops or sneakers. It is important that you understand it is very easy to step on a nail or screw.
- If at all possible, do not allow your children to walk the project without supervision. This is very important due to all of the hazards they could encounter. It is always much better to walk the site without the children, to allow you to focus on construction issues and not the safety of your child.
- Do not assume that all areas are safe and adequate to support your weight. Floors may be open or compromised to allow the work to progress. Always be aware of where you are stepping, and always use caution when crossing that plank or piece of plywood.
- Do not assume all of the electrical distribution throughout the project is safed off. Contractors have a tendency to keep partial electrical distribution for power tools and in many cases, these open boxes or wires could pose a safety hazard.
- Be extremely cautious if you climb any stairs, ladders, or scaffolding. I would strongly suggest that you stay off of all construction ladders and scaffolding, and only use the home’s staircases for access to the upper floors. If the staircases are being worked on, I would strongly recommend that you stay off of the upper floors.
- Never go up on the roof. Please leave this to the professionals and trust that the work is being properly performed. The roof area is very dangerous and could cause severe safety issues.
SAFETY SHOULD BE YOUR PRIME CONSIDERATION WHEN WALKING YOUR HOME!
As you are walking within your home, there are several considerations that you should keep in mind.
- Review the drawings
It is always easier and more economical to accommodate changes during the construction phase. Size of closets, wall placement, etc. is easier to revise in the framing stages than further along in the construction process. Take the drawings as you walk and compare the documents to what you actually see in construction. Many times the plans were not accurately followed. Now is the time to bring this up.
- Electrical distribution
Spend time reviewing the electrical distribution and switching in the home. Where would you like switches, whether they should be three way or not, should some outlets be switched, are there specific areas that would benefit with ceiling fans, etc. The time to really take the time to focus on electrical distribution is prior to the sheetrock, while the walls are open and accessible.
- Exterior space
Study the exterior of the home and determine your areas of play and gathering. Are these areas well illuminated with exterior lighting, will there be requirements for exterior outlets or walkway lighting? Things like your Christmas lights, your landscape lighting should all be considered while under construction.
- Perimeter space
What is the flow around the home, is there a plan for walkways, ramps, etc. to access the perimeter of the home?
- Interior space
As you walk the interior of the home, are there areas that could facilitate built in bookshelves or cabinets? The builder will not necessarily recommend any of this especially if they are focused on a schedule and getting the project completed.
- Closet space
Focus your attention on the closets in the bedrooms and anticipate how they will be used. In most builds, unless otherwise specified, you will receive a single shelf over a single closet pole, which will run the length of the closet. There are many instances when several shelves are more practical, or different layouts of closet poles and shelving would make a more efficient use of the closet space.
- Framing tweaks
With the framing open, are there any areas where full blocking behind the sheetrock would make sense? Will you eventually surface mount shelves or cabinets in the future, where an adequate amount of blocking will make this installation that much easier as well as stronger?
With the framing open are there any areas that would benefit with a simple type of attachment to the framing such as a hook, an eye or even a swing assembly. In many cathedral ceilings, the installation of a future swing or hanging bed could be made much simpler if the appropriate hanging hardware was secured within the framing prior to sheetrock.
- Windows & openings
If additional windows, doors or skylights are contemplated as you walk your home, now is the time. Again, do not wait until the sheetrock and finishes are complete to wish you had added that window or other type of assembly within the framing.
Do not be intimidated or concerned about interfering with the progress of your home. You will have to live with the results long after the contractors, material suppliers and architect have disappeared. It is much better to be interactive at this stage of the building process, than to ignore issues or concerns and regret not identifying these concerns at a later date.
Good luck and have fun, this is an exciting time!