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Questions about building a house

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  • Dec 27th, 2006 11:15 am
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[OP]
Jr. Member
Jul 26, 2004
194 posts
5 upvotes

Questions about building a house

We are thinking of building a house and thought we should get your recommendations/advises...this is our time to build/live in a house and we do not have much experience. We are looking for tips in all phases of the process...

what are the tips in selecting a lot..... how to find about zoning issues...
how to choose a builder (we live in Regina,sask)
what things should we include/exclude from the plan.
how to negotiate price/features with the builder?
what are the legal tips/issues?
what if we move while the house is being built?

Thanks in advance!!!!
10 replies
Deal Addict
Dec 26, 2005
2798 posts
24 upvotes
Mississauga, ON
yana wrote:
Dec 14th, 2006 1:47 pm
We are thinking of building a house and thought we should get your recommendations/advises...this is our time to build/live in a house and we do not have much experience. We are looking for tips in all phases of the process...

what are the tips in selecting a lot..... how to find about zoning issues...
how to choose a builder (we live in Regina,sask)
what things should we include/exclude from the plan.
how to negotiate price/features with the builder?
what are the legal tips/issues?
what if we move while the house is being built?

Thanks in advance!!!!
I can't speak for SK, but for most of Ontario, things should be similar to this:

Zoning issues - local municipal/town offices should be provide this, as to what the property is zoned for, what they will allow to be built, setbacks, square footage on the lot, and site plan issues such as required landscaping.

To include/exclude from the plan: building drawings would have to be complete for structural, heating. plumbing items; showing proposed lot line setbacks, sanitary sytems if not on sewers, etc. You will likely need these drawn up by an architect that know SK's building codes.

Legal tips: have a lawyer review any contract with a builder, to ensure you have protected yourself for faulty work, incomplete items, completion dates of specific items, etc.

Move in before completion: In Ontario, a building inspector has a series of mandated inspection points, the last being occupancy. The inspector has to sign off on a permit that the building is substantially complete, and can be occupied. This would require the building to be essentially done, with electrical, heating, and plumbing systems all in working order. Cosmetic and trim items may not be complete.

Finding a builder, and negotiating terms, I can't comment on.
Newbie
Dec 10, 2006
40 posts
Finding a Builder/General Contractor is relatively easy. Finding a good one at a fair cost is difficult. There is a lot of money involved so be dilligent.

You could contact some local building Supply/Lumber yards to get some names. Keep in mind that these will be somewhat biased towards their "friends". Once you have a list, then you would meet with them, tell them exactly what you want (on paper) and get pricing. The blueprint plans for your house is only the basics.....what is really important is to make a spec sheet listing (in as much detail as possible) everything that you want. You also need to determine if you are going to add any "sweat equity" as a DIY. Example....you may decide to have a house built to the Occupancy Permit stage and do floors, painting, trim and cosmetics yourself. This is a great way to save money. Example installing a 1000 sq ft of hardwood flooring yourself could save you $5K-$10K, painting yourself could save you $5-10K, indoor wood trim (baseboards, trim, moulding, etc) is very expensive work and is not that difficult. Installing kitchen, bathroom cabinets is another saving. Or you may decide to have the house built to complete Turnkey where all is done....just move in.

A complete service GC will take care of all the details like getting permits, getting the HVAC specs (and HVAC plan for building permit), schedule and monitor the subs, etc, etc.

You want a GC that is "picky".....a perfectionist....things have to be done right. A good GC knows the subs and who does good work and how does crap. For this reason the best builder will probably not be the lowest price.....but not necessarily the highest either. A GC that quotes a very high price probably doesn't want your business anyway. GCs basically charge one of two ways. Flat fee is a cost for his services....whatever it costs to build the house he/she charges maybe a flat $20K-$0K or so on top depending on the complexity and length of time to build. Second way is the GC charges a percentage of the cost, maybe 10% or so.

You should also get many references of previous homes built keeping in mind he will only give you his best references. And check the references. Look at the homes he built, talk to people that live in those homes.....most people are happy to talk to you about their experiences.

Many Builders/GCs will also be involved in some way with the actual construction. Example a GC may also own a framing crew or an Excavator/Concrete crew.

A little bit of advice on building plans....don't buy the ready-made plans you see in books/plan websites. By the time you buy the plan,take it to a designer to get it brought up to Canada specs, make alterations, etc, you will find that if you went to a designer (not an architect), the actual cost will be near or even less than what it would have cost with the "Plan" from a website like Don Gardaner. And you'll get exactly what you want. Again, I can't stress this enough, you MUST have written notes about what you want in the house.....in as much detail as possible. Example.....windows...what kind of windows, brand, glazing, coatings, etc. It's your house, you want to get everything exactly what you want. This WAY more important than the blueprints. Your designer can incorporate a lot of the specs into the plan itself. If you do decide to use the services of an architect rathur than designer, it will cost much more but the designs will be extremely complete (a good architect). Plus if you want a "creative" home, an architect is better suited to design something "unique" but keep in mind that often "unique" costs more to build. Most architects can also act as the GC (very pricey).

Obviously, this is not a short answer, there is a lot more to consider.

Good Luck!
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jul 26, 2004
194 posts
5 upvotes
Wow it is a lot of work :) thanks for all your information it will help me a lot . I will do my homework and get back to you for more advices....Thanks again
Newbie
Dec 10, 2006
40 posts
Here's a couple of info websites to get you started with some answers to your questions:

OWNER BUILDER GUIDE - Forget that he's trying to sell seminars and guides. There is a lot of good info at a basic level with the links on the left side of the page

http://ownerbuilder.org/

Home Construction Resource

http://www.construction-resource.com/

Build-YourOwn-Home - lot of good info links

http://www.build-yourown-home.com/

There should be enough info here to get you thinking about stuff. A suggestion, print out as much info and start a binder. Even if you get a GC to build everything, it's always a good idea to be knowledgable. Knowledge is power.
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jul 26, 2004
194 posts
5 upvotes
Thank you guys for your help. Actually I am getting a GC to build the house for me. Searching this forum: I found the following and thought I should include in this thread: (I will still add the stuff I find here to this thread.)
"Some great suggestions here...here's what we're looking at:
9' elevated ceilings in basement
rough in washrooms in basement
gas line bbq
speaker wire (in basement for home theatre)
electrical outlet on ceiling (in basement for projector)
capped ceiling fan in master bedroom
upgrade underpadding
angle shaped tiled entrance
fireplace fan kit and switch
6 pot lights great room - $210/shot!!
electrical outlet on top of fireplace for plasma
Backsplash (angle tiles)
granite counter - kitchen with bar and undermount
frosted glass bar with silver hindges
rough in vaccuum for kitchen - kickplate
rough in waterline to fridge
kitchen valence with lighting
garbage drawer
pots and pan drawer
central vac to garage

conduits:
- great room to patio (debating this)
- great room to basement
- great room to sub in corner of room
- bedroom to study"
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
Feb 15, 2005
5381 posts
979 upvotes
yana wrote:
Dec 17th, 2006 12:09 am
Thank you guys for your help. Actually I am getting a GC to build the house for me. Searching this forum: I found the following and thought I should include in this thread: (I will still add the stuff I find here to this thread.)
"Some great suggestions here...here's what we're looking at:
9' elevated ceilings in basement
rough in washrooms in basement
gas line bbq
speaker wire (in basement for home theatre)
electrical outlet on ceiling (in basement for projector)
capped ceiling fan in master bedroom
upgrade underpadding
angle shaped tiled entrance
fireplace fan kit and switch
6 pot lights great room - $210/shot!!
electrical outlet on top of fireplace for plasma
Backsplash (angle tiles)
granite counter - kitchen with bar and undermount
frosted glass bar with silver hindges
rough in vaccuum for kitchen - kickplate
rough in waterline to fridge
kitchen valence with lighting
garbage drawer
pots and pan drawer
central vac to garage

conduits:
- great room to patio (debating this)
- great room to basement
- great room to sub in corner of room
- bedroom to study"
Don't forget to add 9' ceilings to the main floor. 2nd floor is optional but not really required.

Add vaulted ceilings wherever you can in the living spaces (great room/ family/ living room and bonus room). $210 / pot light is way too high. Ask the electrician how much it'll cost to install if you provide them. I believe Home Depot sells them for about $35 each. Although I could be wrong, but a single conduit from top to bottom should be enough. This will allow you relatively easy access to uninsulated walls to add additional cables. Since the basement is unfinished, adding additional cable runs in the main floor is relatively easy.

The 2 upgrades that add the most value are 9' ceilings and vaulted ceilings.
Newbie
Dec 10, 2006
40 posts
I have gone thru this experience a couple of times and currently designing our retirement home (approx 2700 sq ft waterfront) so I know what you're going thru.

The idea is to organize your "wants" according to the "job". Example....electrical would include where you want switches, circuits, outlets, lights, etc. If you like to hang outdoor XMas lights, outlet plugs in the roof overhang are a good idea. Another example....plumbing would include fixtures, locations, do you want a built-in reverse osmosis system, if you are in well water do you want a UV water sterilezer. The same goes for the HVAC components, flooring (where do you want tile, carpet, hardwwod and what type). The list is almost endless but if you organize it in categories the job becomes clear as things are added to the lists. In the end you will sit down with your GC and the electrical contractor, take out your list and mark on the blueprints what you want. Same goes for the plumber and other subs.

Invariably, you may have to cut down some of "wants" in the end because of budget constraints unless you have oodles of cash or a very friendly bank manager. The main thing is not to over-build but build smart.

Here's an example of building smart. Somebody, someday will try to sell you a high-priced HVAC system like a ground source heat pump claiming it will save you $$$ in efficiency costs all for the great price of $25K. Big mistake. You are better off spending the extra money in things like foam insulation, air penetration sealing, heat recovery ventilators and triple glazed windows. Then you will only need a hair dryer to heat your whole house. That's where reading and knowledge is power....knowing what are the real advantages and what is smoke & mirrors.

BTW....the pot lights are way too expensive.....pot lights are cheap. They are supposed to be unobtrusive and hidden. You really don't need fancy pot lights with fancy lenses. Just plain pot lights with the small compact flourescent bulbs will do very nicely.

9' main floor ceilings are a "must" these days. The 2nd floor can be 8' ceilings if you want. A cathedral ceiling in the great room/family room is a big selling feature on re-sale of a home. Vaulted ceilings in the master bedroom and dining room is also a great resale feature. Same goes for archways. Also we happen to like the look of bullnose drywall corners which is a great upgrade from squared corners for very little extra cost.

Outdoors, stay away from vinyl/aluminum siding if you can. The resale value is crappola with siding. If you can afford it some stonework in strategic areas of the front elevation is a good resale value. However, be mindful that artificial stone such as Arriscraft will fade over time and eventually look dated. Granite countertops is another resale plus BUT there are other options available. Granite is in vogue and trendy right now (same with stainless appliances) but that doesn't mean they will be in vogue 5-10 years from now (just ask anydody with avocado or coppertone appliances from the 70's).

You can easily spend $65K on a kitchen alone. Add another $25K for the stairs, $25K for high-end windows, $10K for a floor-ceiling fireplace with insert, etc, etc. You can spend $1000 just for the kitchen sinks and fixtures. This is for high-end stuff.

Make decisions wisely, look at value, and look at alternatives.
[OP]
Jr. Member
Jul 26, 2004
194 posts
5 upvotes
Thank you all for your input. More Questions :)

Should I buy a premium, regular or irregular lots?

Should the lot be backing/ facing south? Somebody told me backing south will get me more sun in living rooms. I know it would be better to have my satellites in the back of the house than in the front.

Can the lot be in the intersection of two "not so busy" streets? this may allow for more windows and lightning...but more noise? and possibly shoveling more snow?

Also, can we discuss the trade off between smaller sq. ft. with many features against larger sq.ft with less features (assuming both will cost me the same)? I know it is a matter of personal preferences, but would any option have a higher re-sale value?

I found lots of information at the following link:
http://www.chba.ca/sitemap.php


Thanks in advance.
Newbie
Dec 10, 2006
40 posts
Where you buy a lot is almost 100% dependant on where you want to live. Do you want to live in the city or out in the country or just on the outskirts of town.

Personally, I don't like corner lots but that's just me. In a city, a corner lot usually means a smaller backyard with a sideyard. The direction the house will face is also a personal preference. Once you buy a lot, the designer that draws up the plans can design a plan that is advantangeous to the lot.

Small house or big house is also a personal preference. The basic house construction, foundation, basement walls, framing, roof is the cheapest part of building a house because that is raw construction. What is expensive is the finishing details. From a resale perspective, you don't want to build a house that is substantially more than what the neighbors are. If all the neighbors are 1500 sq ft average house and you build a 400 sq ft monster deluxe house you may find it difficult to sell.
Deal Addict
Feb 26, 2006
2431 posts
419 upvotes
Ottawa
I just went through a similar process i did a complete renovation but i rebuilt every single room. By the sounds of it you like what people call upgrades. Since you're building most of them shouldn't be too much of an added expense. But you need to start room by room. Start with the Easiest rooms first. ie a den. plan exactly what you want that room to look like. down to the T. crown mouldings. door trim. number and placement of plugs. wall switches. style of door. etc. type of lighting. placement of window.

Good luck. expect 3months of planning and research. you want it all done BEFORE you start. if there's specialty items you'd like. ETC. order them have them on hand. 210.00 pot lights sound like high end contrast lighting or the like. . I planned on those originally but i needed 20potlights .. i ended up with Rona 35.00 units which look damned good.

It might very well be worth it for you to get a direct buy membership or find someone who's willing to let you use theirs. They are actually quite useful with SOME things. ie. i used my friends and saved 400bucks off a 1k purchase of heated floor wire. some stuff they do take FOREVER to order and they can like any store mis-order stuff and if that happens. headache x 10.. but on my appliances they were 1600cheaper on 12.5k than the cheapest price i could find anywhere. they often have arrangements with local tile distributers. You goto the tile shop. pick the tile you'd like pay directbuy and pickup the tile from the tile shop. these sort of arrangments work out well. lol. but ordering kitchen cabinets which take 6-8weeks and finding out that one cabinet is wrong. is dreadful. shrugs. there is tons of horror stories about direct buy. but like i said. if u can avoid shelling out the 4k for the membership and using someone elses.. even for a FEE you're well ahead. but NOTHING IS EASY.

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