""

3 Pillar Blog

Blog Category - Build Process

Building Success

Categories: Build Process, Building Success 101, Newsletter | Posted: September 12, 2017

Q: What if you have a deadline?

A: Some homeowners come to the initial meeting wanting the job done by a certain date. They may want it finished in time to host a big event like a wedding or family reunion, or they may not want to pay construction loan interest any longer than necessary. These are important concerns, but making them the defining factor can cloud your choice of a contractor. It’s better to choose someone you have confidence in and trust, and then work together to establish a realistic schedule.

First Impressions

Categories: Build Process, Newsletter | Posted: September 5, 2017

The best builders know that the initial meeting is about earning your trust

A big factor in someone’s choice of a builder is their comfort with the first person they meet from the company, whether it’s the owner or a sales person. Natural rapport is important, but gut feelings also play a role–feelings some homeowners aren’t sure how to interpret.

These feelings usually grow from attitudes and actions on the part of the builder. Professional builders understand this, and they make sure to act in ways that earn their clients’ trust, starting with that first meeting.

When interviewing builders, clarity about these attitudes and actions will help you choose someone you can work well with. Before signing anything, ask yourself the following questions.

Does the builder…

1. Show up like a pro? Someone in a cluttered pickup wearing old jeans and a dirty tee shirt may be a skilled craftsman, but their appearance raises questions. Although a pressed shirt and a clean vehicle don’t guarantee a great choice, they’re the first sign of a professional who runs a real business and pays attention to detail.

2. Play by the rules? Pros know that you want assurance that whoever builds your house will do it right, and that includes knowing they will follow relevant laws and regulations. Sample contracts, as well as proof of the necessary licensing and insurance, are signs of a conscientious company that doesn’t cut corners.

3. Show emotional intelligence? A custom homebuilding project can be an emotional roller coaster or an enjoyable ride. You will naturally feel more confident in a builder who works to make it more of the latter. The best builders help people understand the ups and downs that will be likely during design and construction.

4. Take schedules seriously? Homeowners who know what will happen and when during construction suffer a lot less anxiety. That’s why you will have more confidence in a builder who clearly communicates the overall job schedule as well as the approximate timetable for each major phase of construction.

5. Commit to keeping you informed? Pros also know that you will feel more secure, and the job will go more smoothly, if there’s a regular forum for your questions and concerns. While the timing of these meetings depends on the builder and project, they’re often scheduled on the building site at the end of key job phases, such as framing and electrical/mechanical.

6. Have clear change policies? Changes have a reputation for breeding anxiety and conflict, but that can be limited if everyone knows what to expect. A good builder will make sure you understand what change orders will cost, as well as how the builder will communicate any resulting adjustments in the job schedule.

7. Offer references? Most reputable companies will provide references to past clients. If some of those clients are happy to show you their completed home, that’s even better–it’s a sign that they really like and trust the builder.

A good builder knows that reducing uncertainty and developing trust, as illustrated by the actions above, are key to helping clients manage stress during a complex building project.

By the way, the best builders will also be vetting you, and they won’t be afraid to politely decline the job if necessary. Be wary of a builder who is too eager for the work. The point here is that the initial visit shouldn’t be about dollars and cents but about finding whether the two of you are a good fit.

Defining Value

Categories: Build Process, Newsletter | Posted: August 16, 2017

In the current economy, it has become fashionable to define “value” as simply the lowest price among new homes. But doing so discounts the value of providing a high level of construction quality, as well as service, before, during, and after your new home is built. This may not be in your or your family’s best interest.

It’s been said many times…a new home is likely to be the largest single financial investment anyone will ever make. Why, then, would you trust that investment — both financially and in your enjoyment of it — to the lowest price and a limited definition of a home’s value?

As a professional builder, we operate with a different and broader definition of value. We believe value includes a positive building experience for the owner and a sense of confidence and pride about a home’s quality. Value should also consist of a high level of personal service and a commitment to maintaining a relationship built on trust after the move in date.

Some builders play the low-price game. They narrowly define value as a stripped-down house built on the cheap to achieve a cut-rate price. The goal: make a sale and move on. They typically don’t have the staff or systems in place to respond to issues once title is transferred.

Here’s how we define and deliver a higher level of value:

Communication: As professional builders, we listen and respond to our clients’ ambitions and dreams for their new home. We help them define and discover their wants and needs, while working within their budget. We seek to educate them about the complexities of the building process, set realistic expectations and keep them informed about what happens–and why–as their new home takes shape. We seek to be prompt and respectful when we meet to discuss a project. We follow through on promises made and keep our clients informed about a job’s progress.

An Efficient Job Site: Our crews and job site managers follow an agreed-upon schedule and detailed list of specifications that we develop with each client. Materials for a new home are ordered and delivered as needed and on time. We manage and coordinate our trade partners and materials suppliers toward the common goal of meeting our company’s standards and our clients’ expectations for craftsmanship.

Follow-Through: When a new home is finished and we turn over the keys to our clients’, it doesn’t mean we disappear. We know that it is critical to our clients’ ultimate satisfaction that we continue effective communication while providing thorough and prompt service. When issues crop up –and they always do — we have policies and procedures in place to respond in a timely fashion.  We work the problem; we don’t pass the buck. We’ve been a member of our clients’ community for years. This is where we’ve chosen to raise our families and we intend to be here for years to come.

We believe our definition of value instills confidence and helps ensure satisfaction among our homebuyers. We respect that our clients’ entrust us to deliver a product that only exists on paper and is created before their eyes. It’s a responsibility we take seriously, and it’s the cornerstone of what we call value.

Building Success 101

Categories: Build Process, Building Success 101, Newsletter | Posted: July 28, 2017

Q: What should I consider when evaluating homebuilding companies?

A: First, narrow your list of potential builders based on their direct experience with the type of house you want. Next, meet with each potential builder and be ready with questions that are important to you about their building process, communication skills, change order procedures, and past work. Make sure to get satisfactory answers. Also be prepared with a budget and a solid idea of what you want and share that information with each builder. Finally, look for a builder you like on a personal level; do your styles mesh? Do your personalities gel? It’s okay to go with your gut, as long as the company has the right skill set and track record to do the work.

Homebuilding Myths: The Three-Bid Rule

Categories: Build Process, Newsletter | Posted: July 18, 2017

As the housing industry becomes more sophisticated and conscientious about achieving genuine and lasting homebuyer satisfaction, the level of professionalism among builders continues to reach new heights.

As a result, potential clients searching for a builder to create their dream home have a much deeper pool of talent from which to select. Today’s professional builder is not only skilled in construction and client relations, but also highly competent in terms of his or her business expertise.

This new and more professional breed of builder deserves to be evaluated by homebuyers in a new way. Namely by dropping the age-old practice of collecting three bids for the work in favor of a more business-like approach to a very important decision.

Comparative Bidding is Inaccurate:

In theory, the three-bid rule was thought to work because it assumed everything else, other than cost, from the competing builders was equal. This thought process assumed that each builder had assessed and calculated the scope of work, blueprints, and specifications in the exact same way.

In reality, however, such assumptions are rarely, if ever, accurate. Every builder and contractor, professional or not, analyzes a new-home project and estimates its associated costs differently; as a result, the three bids are not apples-to-apples comparisons. The differences can be subtle, but they exist. And those differences render an unequal playing field for competitive bidding creating confusion and misunderstanding.

In addition to being inaccurate as a cost comparison tool, the three-bid rule reduces each builder to a number rather than considering his or her various skills, experience, personality, record of success, and ability to do the work. For this reason, an increasing number of the best homebuilders simply refuse to bid competitively, opting out of such opportunities because they know they are being evaluated only in terms of a cost estimate (that is inaccurate) rather than whether they are the best builder for the job.

The Negotiated Contract: A More Useful Approach

Many of today’s home buyers are utilizing a different approach to select their contractor: the negotiated contract. In that scenario, a homebuilder is selected based on his or her abilities for the specific project and personality and how they fit with the homebuyer. These are two critical considerations considering how closely builder and client will interact with each other during the construction of a new home.

The negotiated contract also takes the guesswork out of the project’s cost. The budget is shared up-front with each of the builders being considered based on what the buyers can afford, not what the builder (and his stable of trade contractors) thinks it will cost.

Sharing the budget not only removes assumptions and judging a builder’s worth based on price alone, but also begins to build trust between homeowner and builder. They can explore honest communication about actual costs and, if necessary, choices that need to be made to match the project’s scope with the homebuyer’s budget. That’s the “negotiated” part of the contract process.

The negotiated contract process is far superior to the three-bid rule in matching personalities between the homebuyer and the builder, as well as between projects and a building company’s skills and experience. By first narrowing and then selecting one homebuilder based on everything but the cost of the project, buyers can better make their decision on which builder is most likely to be on-budget and on-schedule and result in a finished home that meets (or ideally exceeds) their expectations.

As the homebuilding industry continues to evolve into an increasingly professional business, it requires new and more effective models for conducting that business. The negotiated contract has strong advantages over the three-bid rule. This approach reflects the new age of new home construction to the benefit of every homebuyer.

How Builders Help Ensure Health and Comfort

Categories: Build Process, Design, Newsletter | Posted: July 4, 2017

Optimized heating and cooling is critical in a modern home.

Everyone wants their new home to be comfortable, healthy and energy-efficient. Professional builders satisfy these expectations with high insulation levels, careful air sealing and optimized heating and cooling systems. In fact, few homeowners realize that with today’s construction methods, their health and comfort depend more than ever on how the contractor chooses the mechanical equipment.

The most important pieces of equipment are the furnace and air conditioner. Unlike on a tropical island, where mild temperatures allow windows to be open much of the year, physical comfort in our local environment depends on having a furnace and air conditioner of the right size.

In the past, mechanical contractors used rule-of-thumb guidelines to match the equipment to the house. A lot of contractors still do this. For example, a guideline might be 30 BTUs of heating capacity per square foot of living space, or one ton of cooling per 500 square feet. The rule wasn’t very precise, but a drafty old home would lose much of the conditioned air to the outside anyway, so imprecision was no big deal.

Today’s efficient new homes leak less air and thus need less heating or cooling capacity, so rule-of-thumb sizing will likely give you a bigger furnace or air conditioner than you need.

But isn’t bigger better? Not in this case–in fact, it’s just the opposite.

An oversized furnace can actually make an efficient home less comfortable by excessively heating some rooms before the warmed air can reach the thermostat. An oversized air conditioner can cool things down so fast that it shuts off before the equipment has time to dry the air to a comfortable level, leaving the house feeling cold and clammy. No one will be happy, except perhaps the mold and mildew growing in the bathroom or behind the refrigerator, or the dust mites and other allergens that breed faster at higher humidity. That’s bad news for anyone who breathes.

Good mechanical contractors eliminate these problems by using only the most accurate sizing protocols. The most common of these, Manual J from the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, figures the exact amount of heating and cooling needed by considering all of the home’s features: air leakage rates, insulation levels, the type and square-footage of roofing and siding, the model and orientation of each window, the dimensions of soffit overhangs, and other data.

In the past, these measurements and calculations took a lot of time, but today’s mechanical contractors have the advantage of sophisticated software. Such programs eliminate much of the work by, for instance, automatically calculating the solar gain and average seasonal temperatures using data from Google maps, the local building code, and other online databases. The builder and mechanical contractor can then revise the numbers and make any adjustments needed to account for the home’s unique features.

These software programs also help the contractor size the home’s ductwork and choose registers that distribute just the right amount of air to each room without noise or drafts.

Accurate sizing is one reason that professional builders work only with top-notch mechanical contractors. In fact, the mechanical contractor is a crucial team member–a trusted advisor who understands that energy-efficient construction is an opportunity to use measured data to optimize comfort and health.

Picture Perfect

Categories: Build Process, Design, Newsletter | Posted: June 6, 2017

A great finish doesn’t come cheap, but it can make or break the look of a custom home.

Many homeowners expect plumbers and electricians to be expensive but are surprised at the prices charged by other subcontractors. The most obvious example of this is the professional painting company.

Although people tend to see painting as intuitive work, there’s a vast difference in appearance and durability between a do-it-yourself finish and one applied by a pro. A professional paint job may run as high as 5 percent of the total job cost (for example, $35,000 for a $700,000 home) but will produce lasting results that make your new home pop.

Professionals get these results by paying attention to details that most homeowners and casual painters miss. In fact, really good painters—the kind of people whose work meets the quality demands of an expensive luxury home— are nothing short of obsessive. They spend unbelievable amounts of time prepping surfaces, following a multi-step process that includes sanding, masking, caulking and filling, then priming, sanding, and caulking and filling again before they even think about applying the finish coats. The final appearance has as much to do with all this prep work as it does with the paint.

When it comes to paint, pros stick to products that have proven themselves over years in the field, and they have the experience to know which ones work best where. They understand the differences in sheen and coverage between different products, as well as what kind of surface each covers best and in what environmental conditions. They also know how to mix paints in the right quantities, what additives to use, how to make crisp lines at edges and intersections, and how to create even looks over multiple surfaces.

It’s no surprise that pros also invest in high-quality tools. There are an overwhelming number of choices in rollers, brushes and spraying equipment, and it takes experience to learn which ones will provide the exact look the homeowners want, whether that’s a traditional brushed finish or one with a glass-like sheen.

The payoff for all this work is a finish that looks great and stands the test of time. Due in part to the careful preparation and right materials, a finish applied by a skilled painter will last much longer before it needs painting again, which of course lowers the long-term cost.

But what if the homeowners have worked with a professional painting company in the past and want the builder to use that company? There are a couple of concerns with this.

Professional builders vet all subcontractors using the same criteria. Their trade partners are reputable companies with a track record of satisfied customers. They all have adequate insurance coverage. And because they get steady work from the builder, they tend to show up on time and offer fair pricing. To ensure that a new subcontractor can meet these criteria, the builder will insist on trying them out on a couple of small jobs.

The bottom line is that successful builders become successful because they zealously guard their reputation for quality work, and the quality of the paint job can make or break the look of a fine custom home. The final finish is one area where you definitely get what you pay for.

Waste Not …

Categories: Build Process, Design, Newsletter | Posted: May 16, 2017

When we hear the term “green building,” most of us think of energy efficiency and, increasingly, healthy indoor air quality. While those are certainly central components of high-performance housing—especially given our nation’s current energy prices—they are not the only factors that ensure a truly sustainable approach to home building.

One of the lesser-known aspects of green building is resource management. We are convinced that meticulous resource management has a tremendous impact on a sustainable environmental future. Therefore, we have adopted a two-pronged approach in our construction practices: First, we work to reduce the amount of natural resources required to build our homes and second, we strive to recycle the amount of waste ordinarily produced during construction to cut down on what is hauled away to the landfill.

Our concern is based on some startling data. Approximately 40% of the raw materials consumed in the U.S. are used in construction. Residential building, renovation, and demolition account for about 58 million tons of trash per year, representing 11% of the country’s overall waste stream.

What can one builder do? We know that—by weight and volume—wood, drywall, and cardboard (from packaging) make up 60-80% of job site waste. Other common building materials, such as concrete and metals, are also found in significant amounts.  Using our two-pronged approach, we focus our efforts on first reducing and then recycling those materials, when possible, in order to reduce landfill waste.

Reduce. The most obvious way to manage construction waste is not to create it in the first place. To that end, we practice a variety of methods that limit the amount of wood, drywall, and other products that go into a new home without sacrificing its performance, durability, or comfort.

For the structural frame, we implement “advanced” framing techniques using engineered wood products or factory-built (and quality-controlled) roof, floor, and wall components to lessen the amount of wood needed for the project. To reduce the amount of drywall, we are very precise about how much material we need and we train our crews and subcontractors to install it properly. We also work to design our houses on room-size measurements that match the dimensions of 4×8-foot drywall panels. In that manner, when a panel is cut, the remaining piece can likely be used elsewhere instead of thrown away. Cardboard is a tougher problem, because it is a common packaging material for a wide variety of products, large and small. (Think of major appliances and cabinets!). This use of cardboard is not under our direct control, but we work with our suppliers to reduce or eliminate the cardboard they use for packaging and encourage them to pick it up for recycling.

Reuse/Recycle. The market for materials that can be reused and/or recycled is growing rapidly. We are always on the lookout for ways to efficiently recycle the construction waste we do create. For example, we can chip lumber and lot-clearing debris into mulch, drywall into soil amendment, concrete into road bed material, and metals and cardboard into various products. An increasing number of businesses with specialized equipment are available to perform these functions, on site.

In addition, we also look for high quality products with recycled content. By using these products, we make use of the latest science for the benefit of our homeowners while encouraging the growth of industries practicing sustainability. Our goal: homes of the highest quality for our owners and a brighter, safer, and more sustainable future for all of us and generations to follow.

Building Success 101

Categories: Build Process, Building Success 101, Newsletter | Posted: February 15, 2017

Q: Who ensures a quality job?

A: While the owner of a small contracting company might be on site every day, a professionally managed company will usually assign a dedicated project manager to the job. This person has in-depth knowledge about the project as well as solid working relationships with the company’s regular subcontractors. The site manager’s primary responsibility is making sure that the project gets built to specifications and that it meets the contractor’s quality standards.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

Home Price Reality Check

Categories: About Us, Build Process, Newsletter | Posted: April 13, 2016

Consulting with a builder before drawing the plans will save expense and headaches.

Most custom builders have had clients show up at their office with a set of finished plans that, in reality, will cost 25% to 30% more than the clients’ target budget. Fortunately, this problem is easily avoided. Working with the builder on a pre-budget can eliminate unpleasant surprises and help the clients get the home they want at a price they can manage.

Pre-budgeting is essential because a lot of people base their cost expectations on average square foot prices that they got from acquaintances, the Internet, or the advertised prices of homes in new developments. But this approach is misleading when planning a custom home.

That’s because those new development homes tend to be speculative, or “spec” houses. Spec houses are built from value-engineered stock plans that eliminate features that don’t increase the home’s appraised value. For example, additional square footage adds value but a high-end built-in refrigerator does not.

Even a top-quality spec house is built using a production business model. Think of a spec house development under construction as an outdoor factory: each house uses the same menu of materials and finishes, so the builder can get volume pricing from distributors and manufacturers. Also, because all floor plans are similar (if not exactly the same), crews can assemble them quickly and efficiently. Repetition works to keep prices down.

Custom homebuilders work in a far different world. Each home they build has a unique floor plan as well as lots of products and materials that are, well, custom. The homeowners get exactly what they want, but sometimes pay a premium compared to a spec home of similar size.

With a custom home, it’s best for customers to ask a professional builder to review their initial vision before they get the plans drawn. The builder can suggest ways to value-engineer the home and to save money on products and materials. Years of experience have taught the pro the most efficient approaches to new home construction, which means the builder’s staff can work with the architect to make sure the plan minimizes waste and can be built cost-effectively.

And while custom builders may not buy products in bulk, they are highly skilled purchasers who know how to get the best-available pricing. They can suggest brands and models that look and perform as well as the ones the customers have in mind, but that are kinder to the budget.

Once the design process gets underway, it’s a good idea to have the builder do spot checks at different stages. A design-build company will do this as a matter of course, and many architects will involve a contractor in the design. Be sure to ask. If the architect doesn’t offer this type of builder review, then insist on having it done. If the contractor hasn’t been chosen yet, paying one a consulting fee could be a wise investment.

If the client needs bank financing, a pre-budget is a vital reality check. Banks generally won’t lend more than 80% of the home’s appraised value, which is based on the price of “comparable” homes. But their comparisons don’t include every feature. Expensive kitchen appliances and nice landscaping packages add cost, but in the bank’s eyes they won’t increase the home’s value. That forces the homeowners to come up with unexpected cash. A professional builder will know what features do and don’t add value in the bank or appraiser’s estimation.

The bottom line is that involving a professional builder at the earliest stages of the design is an investment that may more than pay for itself.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.