Step-by-Step Construction Planning

by Julie

Step by Step Planning (for the homeowner)

All build or remodeling of homes requires a sequence of steps.  There are those the builder must follow and those for the homeowner.  The homeowner must make all of their selections and choices in a different order than the building of the home.  The following sequence is not in the same order as the actual construction.  Actual construction will vary, of course, depending on whether you are building a new home, remodeling or some other home improvement project.

The following is an overview, in approximate order, of the choices the homeowner needs to make to stay ahead of the construction process. The order that your builder needs a selection from you is not the same order that you need selections for you.  Make sense?

For instance, the builder will not need your counter top choice until after all of the cabinets and vanities are installed-toward the end of the project.  You, on the other hand, need to decide on the counter tops early on to help decide flooring, cabinets, tub surrounds.  You also need to make sure that the counters you choose will work with the sinks. While at the plumbing supply to shop for one sink, you will want to shop for all the plumbing fixtures in the house, including the kitchen, laundry room and all bathrooms.

From the builder’s perspective, at the beginning (right after framing), he only needs the tub and shower choices with their faucets and the rest of it can wait.  You need to make selections now for products that are installed much further down the road.

You may want to read Working with Suppliers to help with this part of your process.

The following is a discussion about the overall order and reasoning behind the choices and they are also grouped by supplier.  Obviously when you visit a plumbing supply showroom, for instance, you will want to make all of your plumbing fixture choices, not just the ones you need right away.

  1. Design. You will need ideas and some decisions about architecture and style before plans can be started. The style sets the vision for many of the selections that follow.
  2. Outside of the House. The main choices for the outside of the house (other than doors and windows) are the exterior covering and trim. The exterior covering sets the tone for the style of your house and should be decided before you select roofing, windows, doors and shutters, etc.  Also, the exterior covering choice is needed before a foundation plan can be drawn.  For instance, brick requires a brick ledge integrated into the slab. Get price quote for bricks only on a per quantity basis (like per 1000).  You should not try to determine the actual cost of the exterior covering like bricks, stucco, vinyl or any other because of the large labor cost and tremendous amount of detail, which involves much more than just measuring the outside of the house.
  3. Roofing. Usually you can obtain a sample board from a roofing contractor or roof supply company.  This way you can hold it up next to your existing house or next to samples (like brick) of your exterior covering.  The roofing material goes up fairly quickly after the framing.  No pricing at this point as the roofing will probably be included per your builder.
  4. Decks, Porches and Outdoor Spaces. These spaces need to be thought out and integrated into your Plans.  Depending on how elaborate the space is (from a full blown outdoor kitchen to a deck with a few solar lights), the selections for this space will be made along with the interior elements, like appliances.  Don’t wait to make these decisions as an afterthought.
  5. Windows. Windows affect the look and feel of both your interior and exterior in such a big way that you will want to spend quite a lot of time deciding these.  The size of the windows will affect almost every aspect of laying out the interior space.  Initially, try to decide a few elements:  (i) window features that are important to you (ii) 1 or 2 styles that you like (iii) specific manufacturer that is carried by the chosen supplier with the features and styles you like. Get a catalog by that manufacturer where there will be pages and pages of window configurations that the planner will use to help you decide.  These are also available online.  Get prices per window as a beginning point for the initial budget.  Once all of the windows, with the various configurations, are drawn on the plans, then the supplier can give you, or your builder, a quote on the whole thing.
  6. Plans. The process of drawing up a set of plans is rather complicated and will vary a lot based on who you are working with and how.  Review Chapter 4.
  7. Flooring. Flooring can be one of the biggest costs so it is at the top of the list for budget planning purposes as well as for design reasons. Also, in certain circumstances, especially remodels, floor height is a consideration that should be noted for the foundation, sub floor and framing. At this point, you do not need to make the exact choice in terms of color or style, but you do need the “what” choice. Will you have nail-down real wood, ceramic tile, vinyl, glue down laminate wood, etc?  At this point get a price quote per sf for the material to compare with other flooring.  You may do a rough calculation of total cost for initial budget considerations.  The quote for the entire flooring will be more involved to include: labor to install, transition pieces, possible floor prep, special layout patterns, etc. The entire flooring quote should be done by your builder.
    If you can make the exact choice at this point, it is best.  Flooring dominates the look of a house and therefore is coordinated with several other choices.  You will want to bring an actual sample of your flooring choice(s) with you to help you select other items, like cabinets or counters.
  8. Appliances. The entire layout of the kitchen and kitchen cabinets will be made around your appliances.  Appliances are also one of the biggest ticket items over which you have control so knowing this cost upfront will help with budget planning. Get a price quote for all of your appliances as these are almost always an Allowance item.
  9. Plumbing Fixtures-1. You will make more than one trip to look at plumbing fixtures. The tub and/or shower will dominate the bathroom and its space planning and layout so your goal on the first trip is to choose a tub and shower (only if it is a prefab unit of some kind).
    The tub, along with the shower decision, must be made prior to drawing up a floor plan for a bathroom.  It is one thing for a planner to draw, say, a 36″ wide jetted tub and quite another for you to fall in love with a 45″ corner garden tub with a large sitting deck. Don’t waste time or money on plans for the bathroom until after you have shopped for the tub and shower and after you have completed step No.11 below.  Like appliances, plumbing fixtures, especially tubs and showers can big a big part of your budget.  Also, now is the time to select your kitchen sink since the cabinet (sink base) needs to fit your sink.  Get a price quote for all of your plumbing fixtures as these are almost always an Allowance item.
  10. Countertops. These are high on the list because they are part of the decisions concerning style and the look of two of your major rooms…the kitchen and bathrooms. Sinks and faucets are also decided with respect to the type of countertop and you will be asked that question at the plumbing supply store.
    You cannot get any realistic quote for price until you have a cabinet layout.  Do get actual samples of your choice as you want to look at these next to other items.
  11. Tub and Shower Areas. This is the overall design and look of your bathroom.  Usually the most involved design uses ceramic tile and/or marble to create tub decks, backsplashes, alcoves, wainscoting, etc.  The exact size and shape of the shower and/or tub surrounds need to be included in the floor plan early on because they affect the exact placement of the plumbing and then the framing. The size of the tub and shower then affect the space remaining in the bathroom which is available for cabinets, linen closets, toilet closets, etc.
    Initially, you will shop for ideas on the Internet or in showrooms to bring back to your designer.  Then, you can show more specifically for the exact covering, like ceramic or marble.
    You can get a price quote per sf for the tile or marble you have chosen, but the cost of the entire thing is much more involved.
  12. Floor Plan. Now that you have selected the large items for your kitchen and bathrooms (appliances and tub/showers) and the design of the tub/shower areas, you can have a preliminary floor plan drawn up for these rooms.  The Floor Plan, at this point, should lay out these areas with dimensions for cabinets, appliances, fixtures, etc.  The details of the cabinets will not be shown now since you haven’t selected them yet, but the cabinet designer can see from the Floor Plan how much room you have for cabinets.  For instance, it may show a 60″ space for vanity cabinets running along a wall with a sink in the center. At the next stage, the cabinet suppliers/designers will design exactly how that 60″ is used:  36″ center sink base flanked by two 12″ drawer bases on either side.  These should still be preliminary plans as things will change.
  13. Cabinets and Layouts. Vanities and kitchen cabinets can now be chosen and laid out with some accuracy.  As you choose cabinets, the floor plans may change somewhat.  In the above vanity example, let’s say that after you see the vanity drawer bases, you decide that 12″ is too narrow and you want 15″ wide drawers which add 6″ to the overall length.
    Now the overall cabinet dimension is 66″.  The Floor Plan will need to be revised to reflect that change.  It does not need to be done at this point as other choices may change the Floor Plans, too.  Most cabinet suppliers will provide you with a printed layout of the bathroom, laundry and kitchen cabinets showing the plan view as well as elevations.  The depth of your vanities and cabinets should be decided here too.  You should be able to get a fairly accurate quote for all of the cabinets selected as this is usually an Allowance item.
  14. Plumbing Fixtures-2. Now that you have floor plans and cabinet layouts, you are ready to make more decisions regarding fixtures.  Two things must happen before the foundation can be poured:  (i) the exact tub and/or shower must be chosen and (ii) the location of the toilet, sink, tub and shower.  A floor plan showing these exact locations will be needed to run the plumbing lines to prepare for the slab.  The finish and colors of your fixtures do not absolutely need to be chosen now, but try to make the decision now anyway as the actual tub, shower, shower and tub faucets are needed right after the framing is complete to set them in place. .  Get a price quote for all of your plumbing fixtures as these are almost always an Allowance item.
  15. Lighting Fixtures. The lighting fixtures will be chosen to fit your cabinets, room layout, furniture placement and lifestyle. Remember the outside lighting. As you select light fixtures, have the salesperson draw them on the floor plan using the symbols shown in Appendix K.  If the salesperson is not comfortable doing this, then make your selections, and take the list back to your planner.  Do step No. 14 below before you go back to the drawing board.  Get a price quote for all of your lighting fixtures as these are almost always an Allowance item.
  16. Electrical Layout. Once you have chosen the light fixtures and their location, it is time to decide where you need outlets and switches.  See Chapter 20 for the discussion on this, but know that you need to make these choices before final Floor Plans are drawn.  This step will also help you rethink the fixture choices as well because you may discover that you need more lights.  There is no price quote to get as these devices (switches and outlets) are usually provided by the electrician.
  17. Specialty Items. There is a long list of possibilities laid out in Chapter 22. Many of them you will not even have in your house; whereas, most of the other choices here, everyone will have. At this point, it is a good idea to make the actual selections as all of those decisions and the measurements of same will be needed in the final Plans.  Get price quotes on specialty items for material only.  For instance, a quote on the cost of the fireplace, but not the installation.
  18. Interior Covering. Sheetrock is by far the most popular interior covering. Decide, at this point, if you want any covering other than sheetrock as it affects the thickness of the door and window frames, electrical boxes, baseboard and other builder decisions. It will also affect whether you will stain or paint certain rooms which will affect the price.  On anything beside sheetrock, get a price quote on the cost of the material, like x amount per sheet of paneling.
  19. Doors. The style of door will probably not affect too many other decisions, but the sizes will, especially if you want double doors or sidelights.  These measurements will be indicated on the final Plans.  Consider the color of your hinges.  Only get a price quote if the door is something special, like doors with sidelights, special glass, exterior front door units or custom order interior doors.  Standard interior doors, in varying styles, will be included by your builder.
  20. Moldings. Moldings affect other decisions in a more minor way; however, it is important to indicate all additional moldings in the Scope of Work or on the plans.  Make your choices, but don’t worry about price quotes as the builder will include it in the overall price once it is indicated on the plans.  If your budget is tight, then you may request an alternate price for certain molding, like 5-piece crown vs. 1-piece.
  21. Paint Color and Finishes. Even though paint, wallpaper and decorative finishes affect the look of your house in a major way, they affect other decisions in a more minor way; however, it is important to indicate any special finish or wallpaper in the Scope of Work or on the plans since it will affect the price.  Get the price per roll on wallpaper.
  22. Hardware. The finish on your door knobs affects the choice of hinge color on the doors and may or may not be a deciding factor on the plumbing and lighting fixture choice.  Or, it may be the other way around, where you find plumbing or lighting fixtures in a certain finish and want to carry that through to your hardware.  Get all prices for the hardware.
  23. Closet Shelving. Other than budget considerations, the closet shelving does not really need to be decided prior to the start of construction, unless you have specific needs concerning your closet space.  If so, make certain that the closet is big enough to accommodate what you want.  It is a process that will take time, however, so start planning for it as early as possible.
  24. Insulation and HVAC. There can be considerable cost differences between basic HVAC systems vs. more elaborate ones.  Also, the placement of the return air and duct work is definitely something that should be decided and drawn into the Plans.  Once this work is “speced out” then the builder (together with their subcontractors) will price your system as part of the overall price.  However, once you have done your homework, you may want to request alternate pricing for certain features and/or different systems.
  25. Landscaping and Fencing. If this is something you feel that you can adequately decide ahead of time, especially fencing, then be sure to decide so that it can be included in the contract with your builder.  Many people wait to decide their landscaping after the house is built.
  26. Review of Plans and Documents. Here is where you pull it all together.  If you have decided all of the above, have diagrams and layouts from others and spec sheets, then your architect or designer can pull together a thorough set of Plans.  Here is the time to carefully review the Scope of Work and/or Specifications that will attach to your contract.

Tip. Get access to a fax.  Suppliers will want to fax out information, like quotes, to you.  One way is to sign up for online faxing where you pay a monthly fee and faxes are sent to your computer.  Once your project is complete, you can cancel your subscription.


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