Five Things We Have Learned About New Home Construction

kevinIf you build it...

...they will come.

It has been fifteen months since we started this project.From an idea, to an empty lot, then a plan. The excitement of a hole in the ground, and finally a real structure. We have walls and ceilings. We have plumbing pipe and electrical conduit, insulation and dry wall. Each room has its shape. The main floor, loft and basement each have their own flavor. The finished product, while not quite in sight, will soon be rising over the horizon. Thanksgiving in our new home may yet be possible.

What have we learned so far? Five rules we can share:

Raff Construction Rules

  1.  Raff's Rule of Time Frames: In a construction project, time is meaningless. Financing delays, weather delays, contractor delays. All can make the project schedule evaporate. Balancing patience with cracking the whip is an art, as is finely tuning the good cop-bad cop approach. Learning to laugh also helps.
  1. Raff's Rule of Hidden Surprises: In a construction project, you never know what is going to hit you next. Soil borings are great, but they aren't perfect. Who knew about that one corner of the lot where the ground water level was higher than the borings predicted. And who would have known about all the extra water-proofing, sump pumps and architectural changes that higher water lever might lead to. I still don't understand all the mechanics and engineering involved, but somehow our basement seemed to grow and grow.
  2. Raff's Rule of Perspective: In a construction project, things look different when built then they did on paper. Perfectly adequate spaces on architectural drawings have a tendency to shrink when walls and ceilings close in. Sometimes the issues that arise are remediable. In our entrance foyer a change in lighting plans and furniture arrangement will solve the "problem." Sometimes the issues are less remediable, as with our mud room coat closet that now looks much more like a broom closet. That's OK, who ever wears a coat in Chicago?? We were given a warning on this before we started. A friend suggested we have the architectural drawings rendered in three dimensions. We didn't do it. Our bad.
  3. Raff's Rule of Ca$h Out: In a construction project, dollars flow downhill. The Hoover Dam couldn't stop the tide of dollars rolling to the sea. Barb has found some cost savings measures, including finding the perfect floor tile at a warehouse type store we weren't expecting much from. But since one of the reasons for making this move is to make my commute to work shorter, it is poetic justice that every change we make will just mean my retirement will move further into the future. As I have said before, it is all just karma.
  4. Raff's Rule of Find the Fun: In a construction project, the opportunities are endless. Barb and I aren't construction virgins, but this was the first time we really had total control and say over virtually every detail. Yes, that leads to sleepless nights and sometimes endless flip-flops. But it also gives the ultimate satisfaction when the bits and pieces do fall together and the vision that began 15 months ago starts to come together. Peace awaits us.

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