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Building: Start to Finish, Part 1

Construction is a complicated process. Starting with the design of the building down
through finishing touches, there are numerous opportunities to save money, make
significant improvements and construct an overwhelmingly fantastic building. Over the
next couple of newsletters, well explore the construction process from the ground up.
Theres also a brief overview of each step on our website under the !ew to
Construction" #uilding$ Start to %inish& section.
The flow chart below will be our roadmap for the series. 't is intended as a guideline
only. (epending on the materials and specific pro)ect, some steps may be added, omitted
or reordered.
Contractor, Plans and Financing
The first three steps are closely intertwined. Once youve envisioned the building, youll
develop plans, arrange financing and select a contractor. The two common ways to
develop plans are either to contact an architect or designer or to enlist a contractor in a
design"build& scenario. #oth approaches have merit, and each will include *at minimum+
an architect or engineer certifying the plans.
,hen reviewing potential contractors, you should look at experience, ability to work with
you, schedule and price. %irst, the contractor should have clearly demonstrated
experience in similar construction. !avigating code re-uirements, materials and building
techni-ues are learning processes, translating into increased costs for you. %or example,
commercial building code is typically more stringent than residential, while the finish
woodwork in a luxury home will be more demanding than that of a production home.
!ext, youll work closely with the contractor for a few months or longer, so choose
someone that you feel comfortable working with. The availability in a contractors
schedule to work with you may also determine your choice. (o you need the pro)ect to
start immediately, or do you have the flexibility to wait for a chosen builder.
/rice could easily occupy an entire article *for example, see our 0ugust !ewsletter on
#udgeting+. There are two basic ways to determine your construction price. The first is a
lump sum approach, in which one or more contractors submit a fixed price to you. The
main advantage of a lump sum is your control over price. Conversely, the main
disadvantage is that any cost savings are retained by the contractor. 0lso, competitive
bidding may encourage contractors to select materials and subcontractors on price rather
than -uality. 'ts referred to as low risk for the owner, as the contractor assumes most of
the price risk, so dont expect many discounts.
!egotiated bid is a practice that allows shared budget risk between the owner and the
contractor. The contractor will still prepare a budget estimate as in fixed bidding, but the
owner will only pay costs which are actually incurred. 'n the event that a contractor is
able to save money, the owner will also save money. 'f there are cost overruns, the owner
will also pay the overruns. 'n negotiated bids, it is imperative that you have selected an
experienced contractor that you trust. The main advantages of negotiated bid include
potential cost savings, freedom from change orders, and more control over the budget as
the pro)ect progresses. Some contractors may also provide a discount to their standard
markup, as the owner is sharing the risk of price fluctuations. The disadvantages include
the potential for cost overruns and no fixed price. Two common modifications to the
negotiated bid approach include a not to exceed& cap, which re-uires change orders for
any costs over the estimate, and a shared savings approach, which incentivi1es the
contractor to find cost savings by reward them with a percentage.
2nsuring proper financing for your pro)ect is important. 3oull want to make sure that
you have enough money available to cover the construction cost with a spare contingency
fund. %ind a local banker that you feel comfortable working with4 they can help guide
you through the process and identify common pitfalls.
Tips to Savings
3ou have the most potential for cost savings in this step of the game. 0sk your designer
or architect how you can lower construction and operating costs. Then flip it around and
ask your contractor for their recommendations as well. 2ach will have different, and
valuable, information to offer. Since only paper is involved at this point, the cost to make
changes will be minimum or nonexistent. 3ou can also visit showrooms for various
fixtures *lighting, plumbing, etc.+ to narrow down costs on specific items.
Tips for Success
Take pictures, drive by similar buildings, and look through maga1ines, presenting your
findings to your designer or architect. 5eep a file or notebook with your ideas. 6se
masking tape to layout potential rooms if you need to check dimensions for specific
furniture pieces. 7ook up contractors on the ,ashington 7abor and 'ndustries ,ebsite to
ensure that they are licensed, safe, and in good standing. 0sk for referrals and references
from and for architects and contractors. %inally, be wary of prices that seem too good to
be true *they probably are+.
Permits and Insurance
/rior to purchasing materials and commencing site work, youll need to obtain a permit
from your local building department. The department will review your plans and may
mandate certain changes to comply with code. (epending on your location and pro)ect,
reviews may include fire, flood, traffic impact and more. 0 permit fee will also be
re-uired, which varies by )urisdiction and estimated construction cost.
3oull want to obtain a copy of your contractors liability insurance naming you as an
additionally insured. 3our lender may also re-uire you to obtain specialty insurance for
the duration of construction.
Tips to Savings
'n )urisdictions and pro)ects with easy permitting, take care of the permit yourself and
save on markups or associated labor costs. 'f your lender re-uires specialty insurance,
check to make sure that your contractors insurance does not mirror the coverage. 'f it
does, present it to the lender and ask them to waive the re-uirement.
Tips for Success
'n )urisdictions where permitting may be complicated, such as certain watersheds, see if
your architect or contractor typically navigates the process. %amiliarity with complicated
permitting can save you significant time and money. !ext, do not mistake surety bonds
for insurance. 0 surety bond, re-uired by the state for licensed contractors, can help you
complete the pro)ect if your contractor defaults. 7iability insurance, on the other hand,
will protect you from negligence or damage by the contractor.
Building: Start to Finish, Part 2
'n our last issue, we began a detailed look at the building process, designed to put
owners in the drivers seat of their construction pro)ects. ,e covered selection of a
contractor, drawing up plans, financing and permitting and insurance. This issue, well
get started on the construction itself. 'f you dont have the flow chart were working with,
you can review it here.
Site Preparation
,ith your permit in hand, its time to break ground. 3oull be excavating for
foundations, laying down access roads, trenching utilities, installing drain fields and
septic systems, drilling wells, building retaining walls and installing temporary facilities
such as power, light, water and restrooms.
3our contractor will be coordinating all of this work based on the plans you developed
previously. 6nless youre a heavy e-uipment operator, your interaction at this step will
mostly be limited to taking pictures.
Tips to Success
/lanning is key here. 3oull see increased costs if heavy machinery needs to be brought
back to the site later for additional work *mobili1ation costs+.
0t this point, you probably )ust had your first experience with inspections without even
reali1ing it. Once certain actions are completed, your contractor will call for an inspection
from the applicable government organi1ation, which is typically completed within 89 to
9: hours. 'f your contractor followed the approved plans with standard building practices,
youll rarely have any problems with inspections.
The most common building foundations are made from concrete. 7arge foundations
begin with a low visibility, steady preparation process, followed by a short, intense day of
pouring. 'f you miss visiting the )ob site for a few days, you may unknowingly show up
to a fully finished foundation;
To begin, workers will take wood or reusable form boards and create a mold& for the
fluid concrete. 3our contractor will also place rebar in these forms, a metal reinforcement
that adds tensile strength to concretes inherent compression strength. 0t this point, the
contractor will also include certain imbedded ob)ects, such as anchor bolts or post base
brackets. 3oull also be sub)ect to a rebar inspection during this time period.
%inally, youll have a concrete pour on a dry day with little or no chance of rain. 3our
concrete crew will schedule concrete delivery trucks, pump trucks *if necessary+, and
order any necessary rental e-uipment, such as concrete vibrators. (epending on the si1e
of the foundation, the pour might take a few hours or as an entire day. One to three days
after the pour, the crew will come back and begin stripping& the forms from the
concrete, leaving your finished foundation;
Tips to Savings
<ost foundations re-uire footings, which are often poured separately from your
foundation walls. Some designs allow these pours to be combined for some cost savings.
3ou may also be able to volunteer your time at this point, acting as a laborer or member
of the crew to save labor costs. The success tips below also offer some insight into ways
to save money.
Tips to Success
/lanning is essential to concrete work. /ouring a = tall foundation wall, for example,
poses a challenge for removing the interior concrete forms. 7ikewise, if youre adding a
concrete slab to the interior of a foundation wall, you may have several hours of wait
time until the slab is ready for finishing, time that could be used to strip the forms from
the outside of the foundation wall. /lanning reduces wasted time, costs and chances for
in)ury in concrete work.
'n our next issue well begin to look at framing, windows, doors and some other fun stuff.
6ntil then, if you have -uestions, please dont hesitate to call or email. 0nd of course,
were always happy to provide construction management and free estimates.
Building: Start to Finish, Part 3
'f youre )oining us for the first, time, were at the third installment of #uilding$ Start to
%inish,& an abbreviated, reader"friendly look at a typical construction or remodel process.
0t the end of our last article, readers were left with a finished foundation. 'n this article,
well explore the building as it begins to stand up and be noticed.
!o doubt youve driven by a building lot before and did a double take. ,here did that
house come from.; The house was probably in the framing stage, where the contractor
begins to erect the skeleton of the house. There are four basic types you might see$ stick
framing, structurally insulated panels *S'/s+, masonry or block buildings, and insulated
concrete forms *'C%s+. Stick framing, the most common techni-ue, uses wooden or steel
studs to literally build the house piece by piece, covering it with wooden sheeting to
enclose it. 'ts a fast, affordable techni-ue, allowing most houses to be framed in two to
four weeks. 0dvanced framing is when larger studs are spaced at wider intervals,
typically 8x= studs spaced at 89 inches. 'ts goal is to increase the thermal properties of
the wall by replacing heat conducting studs with insulation.
Structurally insulated panels are prefabricated walls of foam insulation sandwiched
between sheets of OS#. Common in high efficiency homes, S'/s typically cost more than
stick framing materials but are erected faster, saving labor, with a net result of being
e-ual or slightly more expensive than stick framing. 7ocally, masonry structures are more
common for commercial structures and include brick and concrete bricks *C<6+.
%inally, insulated concrete forms are another building techni-ue favored by high
efficiency structures. ,hen using 'C%s, panels made of an insulating material are used to
pour concrete walls for the height of the structure. The result is a highly insulated, air
tight building, similar to those constructed with S'/s. 't should be noted that each of these
framing techni-ues refer to exterior walls. 'n most cases, stick framing will be used to
build interior walls.
Tips for Savings
(uring your design phase, work with your architect to make your plans more buildable.
%or example, reducing the number of wall corners and using standard dimension can each
save small amounts, as well as reduce construction waste.
'n terms of construction costs, advanced *stick+ framing is most likely to save you money.
3ou can also ask the contractor to look for incremental savings, such as eliminating or
substituting unnecessary hangers or connectors. Structurally engineered products, such as
glulams or '")oists, may also save money over conventional wood beams in some
Tips for Success
%raming provides a great opportunity for life"cycle cost analysis, which includes ongoing
costs such as maintenance and utility costs. S'/s and 'C% construction may cost more for
installation, but reali1e savings in furnace si1e and monthly heating or cooling costs.
(iscuss the benefits and drawbacks of these with your builder or architect to determine
which is right for you. 'f pursuing S'/s or 'C% construction, it is important to work
closely with your plumber and electrician prior to beginning construction, as it limits
their work.
Windows and Doors
The next step after framing is external windows and doors. There are five basic types of
window frames$ vinyl, fiberglass, wood, aluminum, and composite. >inyl frames are the
most common as they are affordable, low maintenance and offer good thermal properties
*reducing heating bills+. %iberglass windows are similar to vinyl, and can also be painted
and shaped with more architectural freedom. ,ood windows look great and can be
painted or stained, but re-uire regular maintenance and are more expensive than vinyl.
0luminum windows strength grants them greater architectural flexibility and low
maintenance, but cost and thermal properties can also suffer. Composite windows are a
combination of two frame materials, which vary by manufacturer. <anufacturers also
provide coatings to glass that improve and optimi1e performance. ,indows also come in
different styles and operations, from bay and double hung to casement and pictures
(oors come in many of the same materials as windows, with the same benefits and
drawbacks to each. 0lso customi1able in doors are lite kits,& which are the glass sections
of your door. Typical options include full"lites *whole door glass+, half"lites *half door
glass+ and divided"lites *which use smaller pieces to make up a pattern+. Side"lites, the
windows directly ad)acent to a door, are also available. (oors often come prehung in the
frame, allowing streamlined installation by the contractor.
Tips for Savings
,indows and doors also benefit from life"cycle cost analysis, weighing the benefits of
low maintenance and insulating values to construction costs. Theres often an economic
and performance sweet spot between cheap windows and ultra"high end windows. >inyl
windows are perhaps the best value for the money, offering great performance and low
prices. 0s a -uick comparison, aluminum windows can cost roughly double the price of
similar vinyl windows. 0ssess how often you will open the window, as opening windows
can cost more than picture windows. 0 difficult to reach window is unlikely to be opened
regularly. %or both windows and doors, find a reputable manufacturer, but dont get stuck
on brands.
Tips for Success
'ts important to work with your builder and architect to find the right windows and doors
for the right )ob, looking at the whole package. Theres no point in buying an expensive
solid wood front door and pairing it with a cheap handle or frame. 0lso consider the
typical traffic through a door when selecting si1es. Si1es are described in width by height
terms, so a ?@=: door is ? feet, @ inches wide by = feet, : inches tall. ,hen discussing
doors or windows, use pictures to communicate exactly what you would like4 many
people use different door terminology and mix"ups are common.
3oull notice during this issue that we mentioned life"cycle costs a few times. 'ts easy to
cut construction costs with disastrous ongoing results. %or example, skimping on
insulation might save a few hundred bucks upfront, and cost you hundreds a year in
heating costs. <ake sure you keep a good balance between cost and -uality throughout
your pro)ect, and plan ahead to ensure you have the funds to finish it as intended. !ext
issue well continue on to discuss electrical, plumbing, mechanical and our building
Building: Start to Finish, Part
'n our last issue, we left readers with a building that was starting to take shape. Today
well start to add electrical, mechanical, siding and our roof. 'n truth, our electrical and
mechanical contractors have been working on the pro)ect since the beginning, installing
temporary utilities, trenching and conduits in the foundation. <echanical includes
plumbing and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning *A>0C+. The lines begin trades
tend to get a little fu11y here. On some pro)ects, youll have three subcontractors for
A>0C, plumbing and electrical. On others, the electrician might provide heating or a
single company handle mechanical. ,ell tackle all three together, breaking out specifics
as necessary.
!oo"ing and Siding
Boofing and Siding share many common characteristics. They both protect your home
from the elements, affect heating and cooling, and even share many common materials.
The most common roofing materials in the !orthwest and their pro)ected life spans are
composition shingle *8@ years to lifetime+, wood shakes *8@ to 8C years+, and metal *8@
years to lifetime+. Other roofing materials can include tile, rubber tile, concrete tile, and
torch"down or membrane roofs. Common siding materials include wood *shake, plank,
board and batten+, fiber cement *DamesAardie or 7/ products which mimic wood+, metal,
stucco, or plaster, and brick. ,hen choosing siding and roofing, aesthetic design is often
the first factor to consider. 0 house in plaster and tile may remind people of an 'talian
>illa, while the same house in cedar shake roofing and hori1ontal plank siding would
look right at home on a farm, so appearance usually take precedence. /rice is the other
big factor, and can vary not only by material but by the structures design as well. %or
example, metal roofing is fairly easy to install on a single peak rambler. On a house with
a large number of peaks, however, the price begins to )ump -uickly as full metal sheets
are cut to accommodate the various angles. Composition shingles and shakes dont face
that challenge.
,hile the different materials boast different strengths, the common factor is installation.
/oor installation is simply begging for water damage, mold, rot, and warping. /art of this
stretches back to the design phase. 0 large roof should shed water at evenly spaced
points. 'f angles, peaks and valleys force all that water into one or two spots, its much
harder to control. 0nother key to installation is proper flashing. %lashing is typically
metal *if exposed+ or a synthetic *if hidden+, and has the simple purpose of keeping water
out of your house. ,hen a window is installed, proper flashing is what keeps water from
seeping into the house and behind the siding. 'ts also used where roofing meets siding
and around roofing protrusions such as vent pipes and chimneys. 7astly, its important to
note that whats under the siding and roofing is as important as whats on top. %or
example, many builders are now looking at drainable house wraps and techni-ues, which
allow water to exit when it does get under the siding.
Tips to Savings
Compare reputable manufacturers and installers, but the short answer is that you
shouldnt try to save a bundle on roofing and siding. 7ets put it this way$ if you were
planning to spend ?@ years exposed to the elements, youd probably invest in some
decent rain gear;
Tips to Success
'f they havent already, ask your architect or designer to overlay your desired siding and
roofing onto the plans so that you can better visuali1e the finished product. 7ook up
pictures of similar houses to see what you like or dont like. 'f you have concern about
the -uality of installation, an east trick is to ask a company how they prevent water from
getting in. The correct answer is proper flashing,& not caulk.& Caulk products, while
useful, especially for aesthetics, typically offer only a few years of protection, depending
on product, exposure to sunlight and installation. 'ts a good practice to use caulk, but
only in addition to ade-uate flashing.
#lectrical and $echanical
,ith our roof and siding offering good weather protection, were at a stage called
rough"in.& Our subcontractors *electrical, plumbing, A>0C+ will be installing pipes,
conduits, outlet boxes, and ducts, and will come back later in the pro)ect to install our
fixtures, such as toilets and lights. The plumber should install first, followed by A>0C
and then the electrician. Often there may be some overlap while they work
Tips for Savings
3our contractor should right si1e& the appropriate electrician, plumber and A>0C
contractor. 0 large commercial A>0C company can work on a house, but the cost may
be higher. 7ikewise, a small company may hold up the schedule on large pro)ect, and
time is money.
%eel free to shop around, but dont plan to order all of your fixtures online. 'f your master
bathroom toilet breaks or arrives without all the bits and pieces, you want to be able to
walk into a supplier and get a replacement, not wait for a return email. 0dditionally, your
installer is unlikely to provide a warranty on items that you purchase separately.
Tips for Success
<ake sure your electrician, plumber and A>0C contractors coordinate with each other
and with your general contractor as to who is planning to run what and where, preferably
before framing. Conflicts can sometimes occur in tight -uarters such as small mechanical
rooms. 0nd again, pick companies with the right skill set for what youre building.
2nvision how you will use the space and plan accordingly to ensure that outlets, sinks,
light switches and appliances are in )ust the right space. %inally, listen to subcontractors if
they voice concerns. Theyve probably seem the same situation a do1en times prior.
Building: Start to Finish, Part %
'f youve been following along with the #uilding$ Start to %inish series, youll know that
the house weve been building& was previously left off with siding and roofing. %rom a
street view, the house )ust needs a little touchup. The inside is a different matter. Once
you step through the front door, youll see unfinished subfloors, open stud walls, exposed
wires and pipe, and more; Our flow chart grouped the next steps under the heading
'nterior,& which includes insulation, drywall, painting, flooring, trim, trim out, and
casework. ,ell cover half in this installment and half in the next.
#e forewarned; 'f youve been watching your budget, you may be inclined to splurge at
this point. 0fter all, the house is up and youve probably spent less than half your budget.
,hile the structural component is the largest physically, the interior finishes can be up to
fifty to seventy percent monetarily.
'nsulation serves two purposes in a home. 'n exterior walls, ceilings, and floors it offers
thermal protection to lower heating and cooling costs. 'n interior walls it aids in sound
privacy *think bathrooms+. 'nsulation is rated by B">alue, which reflects its
effectiveness, with the higher the value, the better. The three most common types of
insulation are blanket, loose"fill or blown"in, and sprayed foam. #lanket insulation is
what most of us envision for insulation$ rolls or batts of pink fiberglass tucked between
studs. #lown"in insulation is made of loose fibers and commonly used for attics, and
sometimes for walls. Sprayed foam is a product that is sprayed or in)ected into place
between studs.
Tips for Savings
The best way to save money on insulation is to hire a reputable insulation company. They
can often supply and install insulation for less than most homeowners can buy the
materials for, due to their volume pricing. 'nsulation is always one of the best ways to
invest in your home4 a little extra money on insulation can reap huge savings in heating
and cooling with a return on investment time of one to three years.
Tips for Success
'nsulation is only effective if it fills all gaps, limiting air flow. 2nsure that blanket
insulation is cut to an exact fit and is not compressed. Typically the cost and effectiveness
of each type, starting at the lowest, is blanket insulation, blown"in, sprayed foam.
<ost buildings use drywall to cover interior walls. 'ts affordable, looks good, and is
sound dampening and fire resistant. 't is composed of naturally occurring gypsum
sandwiched between two sheets of paper and will be screwed to the wall with )oints
sealed, textured, and painted. Textures include orange peel *the common speckled&
look+, smooth wall *a higher end finished+, and knockdown, which produces a marbled
look. 0dditional considerations are corner profiles *s-uare or round+ and window wraps
*drywall on the inside of window casings+.
Tips for Savings
S-uare corners and an orange peel texture are typically the most cost effective finishes.
Sometimes a knockdown texture, which has a higher"end look, can be obtained for only a
minor increase. ,indow wraps add costs, but can save on trim down the road.
Tips for Success
Speaking from personal experience, hire someone; ,hile most home"owners can do a
passable )ob, a drywall contractor will do it better in a fraction of the time.
<ost of us are well ac-uainted with paint. 'n residential applications, the process will
typically include one coat of primer and two coats of paint. 'n addition to color, youll
choose a finish sheen, which include *from least sheen up+ matte, eggshell, satin, semi"
gloss and gloss. Aigher sheens are more moisture resistant and easier to clean.
Tips for Savings
This is one step that many homeowners choose to self perform. 'f doing so, select a good
-uality paint that covers well to save on extra coats and buy C gallon containers.
Sometimes the drywall contractor will also provide your primer, so ensure youre not
paying for two.
Tips for Success
Consult with your painter or supplier on the best sheens to use by room. #uy samples of
desired colors and paint sections of your walls to see how a color looks in setting.
The types of flooring available are nearly limitless, including carpet, finished concrete,
tile, linoleum, marmoleum, vinyl, wood, laminate, and >CT. 2ach type comes in
different si1es, styles and price ranges. The best way to narrow down your options is to
visit a speciali1ed flooring store with your plans and work with an experienced
salesperson. #efore you go in, consider your current floor. ,hat do you like about it.
,hat would you change.
Tips for Savings
There are a lot of great looking products for incredible prices. 7aminate wood is a great
example of one that can look great and still be easy on the wallet. Other budget friendly
options are carpet and vinyl. Some products can be easy for you to install yourself
including some laminates.
Tips for Success
Consider your usage. Cheap tile floors may crack if a heavy pot is dropped, some woods
may scratch under traffic from kids or pets, and white carpet is nearly taboo for red wine
drinkers. 'f you have allergies, remember that carpet can hold in allergens. /icking the
appropriate flooring will insure that youre pleased with it for years to come.
,ell pick up next issue with trim, trim"out and casework. Our series is nearly complete;
Building: Start to Finish, Part '
Our house is nearly complete; 'n the last installment of #uilding$ Start to %inish, we
began adding the interior touches that make a home comfortable and habitable. ,hile we
wont finish today, by the time were done you could move in if you needed to vacate a
previous residence or save on costly rent. 7ets dive right in;
'nterior trim includes base trim, crown molding and wainscot, and can change the entire
look of a house. Trim is the picture frame& for a room4 deep hardwoods can create a rich
atmosphere, glossy whites set up a bright traditional home, and so much more. 3our
contractor or supplier can help you navigate the multitude of trim profiles to find the
one*s+ that work for you. 3oull choose whether you want it painted *different colors+ or
stained *wood tones+. Trim is available in bare wood, primed wood and primed <(%.
Tips for Savings
Since trim can be added after the rest of the home is completed, handier homeowners
may choose to do this step themselves. 'f you do, ensure that you have a good saw and
miter kit. #ecause pieces will be cut to length, the trim stock needed can be up to thirty
percent more than will actually be installed, so plan accordingly or perform a detailed
takeoff of which pieces go where. 'f you plan to paint the trim, <(% is a cost effective
Tips for Success
'f you dont find a trim profile that you love, consider a combination. 3ou can create
custom and complex designs by layering two or more styles.
3ou may recall that our electrical and mechanical contractors roughed"in& pipes, wires
and ducts after we framed. Once we have our flooring and drywall in place, these
contractors will come back and install all of the usable parts of these systems, including
sinks, toilets, showers, outlets, light switches, fans, lights, registers and grilles. 'f you
havent already picked these out, now is the time to do so.
Tips for Savings
'f youre over budget at this point, trim"out can be a good place to save a little if you
planned on high end finishes. 3our contractor or trade contractors should be able to work
with you to find less expensive alternatives that fit your dEcor. Something to look for at
the beginning of your pro)ect$ some companies may add a flat fee in addition to any costs
if fixtures are changed, especially if fixtures are already purchased.
Tips for Success
0ttention to detail is important at this step. 3ou wouldnt want to install glossy white
wainscot and install off"white outlet covers on it. 0lso, dont install bargain basement
fixtures. 3oull pay more in labor for someone to come out and replace a faulty toilet or
light fixture than you will to put in the right product first, and save yourself some hassle
in the process.
Casework includes any cabinets, built"ins or other custom woodwork, typically related to
storage. 5itchen and bathroom cabinets are the most common. Cabinets are available in a
spectrum of price and customi1ation. On the least expensive end are off the shelf
solutions such as '520 and big"box store brands. ,hile there are often lots of options to
choose from, what you see is what you get. These may fit awkwardly in certain spaces or
re-uire filler& panels to bridge gaps. 'n the middle of the spectrum are various shades of
customi1ation where you can customi1e cabinets within different style lines and factory
tolerances, often referred to as semi"custom. 0t the upper end in terms of customi1ation,
craftsmanship and price are fully"custom cabinets. 6sually built by local craftsman, these
can be tailored to include whatever style, material, storage options and design you like. 'f
you have an odd shaped space, custom cabinets are best as they can come in virtually any
si1e or shape.
3oull also need to select a countertop. Countertop materials include laminate, wood,
stainless steel, granite or marble, concrete, recycled glass, -uart1 and solid surface
materials *which are often a type of heat treated plastic+. Consider your use and style
when selecting a product. 7aminate is inexpensive and wears well. Stone products can
usually take the heat of a dish straight from the oven, and butcher block wood tops can
turn your entire kitchen into a prep surface and cutting board. 2ach material is available
in a wide variety of styles and colors.
Tips for Savings
#oth countertops and cabinets have dramatic differences in price from the low to the high
end, as much as five or six times the cost. 'f youve had significant cost overruns in the
rest of your pro)ect, you may be able to save some money by choosing a different
countertop or altering your cabinet design. 'f youre anxious for stone product, but cant
-uite fit it in your budget, consider using a tile product. Fuarried from the same stone, the
tile is often a cheaper alternative.
Tips for Success
'nvest in the things you care about. 'f you spend all of your time in the kitchen, you may
feel unsatisfied with big box cabinets. This probably isnt the case if your cooking
expertise is limited to the flavors of T> dinners. 'f youre sorting through cabinet -uotes,
see if pulls *handles+ are included. These can range from a few bucks to over twenty
dollars each and are often excluded in pricing.
The interior of the house should now be complete; ,hile the outside needs to be touched
up in our next article with some paint and landscaping, we should be able to close out the
pro)ect in our next article. ,ell also cover items like punch lists and warranties.
Building: Start to Finish, Part ,
'ts time to bring our #uilding$ Start to %inish series to a close. /ainting and landscaping
will finish our construction, while a look at punch lists and warranties will round out our
#-terior Painting
3our exterior paint is the outermost surface of your home and will take the worst that
weather can offer. 'ts your first layer of protection. 0fter cleaning and prepping, the
painter will mask off surfaces that may be accidentally painted. !ext, one or two coats of
primer will be added, unless the product is pre"primed. %inally, two coats of exterior
paint should be applied.
'n remodeling, the cleaning and surface preparation is extremely important. 'ts also vital
to kill any mold and mildew, which can actually sprout through the paint. 0dditionally,
any paint before GH:@ is assumed to contain lead. Overexposure to lead can lead to
serious health problems, even through dust related health ha1ards after the pro)ect is
completed. ,ashington State re-uires contractors working with lead to receive a special
Tips for Savings
0s with interior paint, exterior paint is often viewed as something that handier home
owners can do themselves.

Tips for success.
Aigh -uality exterior paint will usually cover better than budget paint, lowering labor and
time costs. Take the time to properly prepare and clean your surface. ,hen youre
painting high surfaces, take extra care for fall protection. %alls are a leading cause of
construction related in)uries and deaths. Check the weather forecast to avoid rain. 'f your
home is on the challenging end, hire a professional.
The first step in landscaping is planning. This can be as simple as a hand drawn sketch
with help from a ('3 book or a detailed one by a landscape designer. /lanning helps you
control budget and layout, and looks ahead at maintenance re-uirements and seasonal
displays. 3our landscaping can include grass, flower beds, hardscapes *walkways,
patios+, water features, usable spaces *ga1ebos, fire pits+, trees, hedges, and more. 3oure
only limited by your imagination, climate and budget.
Tips for Savings
#uy items like topsoil in bulk. The bagged version is often double the price. Salvage
shops may carry pavers and landscaping wood. Beuse what you already have in your
yard, replanting as needed. %inally, get to know your local retailers, who freely dispense
advice and may be able to provide discounted prices or better -uality.
Tips for Success
<ake sure you leave money in your budget for this last, but important step. Consider how
your landscaping will grow and mature. 'f you dont have the time or money to keep up
an extensive garden, shy away from high maintenance landscaping. ,ill you be able to
move your lawn mower between patches of grass. ,ill that tree grow up and block your
view. ,hat will your garden look like in winter. %inally, remember to include drainage
to ensure that your landscape doesnt turn into a muddy swimming pool;
Punch list
The last thing to complete is a punch list, a To (o list for completion. 3ou and your
contractor will walk through the pro)ect and establish a single, comprehensive list of
items that need to be completed or corrected in order to satisfy the terms of your contract.
'tems addressed include incorrect installation, damage, and poor craftsmanship. Once the
items on this checklist are complete, youll be done; This process includes receiving the
Operations and <aintenance <anuals *OI<s+ for e-uipment and specialty finishes,
such as a touch"screen thermostat or hardwired theater system.
Tips for Success
The punch list is only intended to bring the final pro)ect in line with your blueprints,
correspondence, contract, and proper building practices. Other changes like different
colors or light fixtures may cost extra. 0llow enough time for a thorough walk through,
and take pictures if desired. 'f youve occupied the space prior to the punch list, wear and
tear from your usage is not a punch list item.
3our home is complete, the bills are paid, and youre now living there; 0nd then the
unthinkable happens. 0 door sags and stops closing correctly or your furnace suddenly
goes out. 'n truth, neither of these are likely, but youll want to make sure your contractor
provided you with a warranty period in your contract )ust in case. Often for a period of
one year, this warranty provides you a guarantee against any issues.
Tips for Success
'f you notice a problem, take pictures and detailed notes. Often the issue may be difficult
to recreate, such as a leaky roof on a sunny day. This will assist the contractor in timely
resolution of the issue. <anufactured and consumer products, such as windows,
mechanical systems, and fixtures are often omitted from the contractors warranty, as
their manufacturer provides a warranty. Aowever, your contractor will usually assist you
in obtaining a repair or replacement should anything happen.
3oure done; The building process can be long, emotional and hard work. Take time to
en)oy your new home;
'f these articles prompted you to begin a pro)ect, here are some resources to get you
started. 3our local builders association can offer builder and supplier referrals
* and your building department, city or county, will answer -uestions
about code re-uirements and permitting. %or green construction, visit %inally, the author of this column can be reached at
Commercial Side/ar
'f you own a business and have been following along with our series you should know
about differences between home and commercial pro)ects. Commercial grade products
are built to withstand constant usage. ,hile the front door of a home may be opened
three or four times a day, the entrance to a busy store may see that every minute.
Commercial floors are likewise sturdier to accommodate increased traffic, like the
constant flow of a restaurant.
%inishes often differ too. Suspended ceiling tiles are perfect for offices which are
periodically reconfigured, but are rare in homes. 0lso uncommon in homes, fiber
reinforced wall panels *%B/+ are common in wet commercial settings.
%inally, the code re-uirements and some trade licenses are different in commercial
settings. 0(0 access, sprinklers, and stair construction are common ways to get tripped
up in commercial construction. 'f in doubt, ask your architect or building department.