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3 Pillar Blog

Blog Category - Build Process

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.

Who Are We?

Categories: About Us, Awards and Recognition, Build Process, Design | Posted: March 9, 2016

Who is 3 Pillar Homes? We have created this blog to explain to you a little bit more about who we are from what you have already read about us on the website!

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3 Pillar Homes is an award winning custom home builder and a family owned company lead by a second generation builder with 17 years of experience building custom homes in Central Ohio. We are one of the largest custom homebuilders in Central Ohio and we are proud to offer a client-centered design-build experience. We take pride in the trust our homeowners and community members place in us and you can see this in our most recent achievements which include seven years of being on The 50 Fastest Growing privately held companies in Central Ohio (ranked by Business First), Several years of being the 2nd largest Custom Homebuilder in Central Ohio and By Our participation in things like the BIA Parade of Homes where we were the Foundation Builder last year providing proceeds to Habitat for Humanity in Central Ohio.

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Design Process:

As a builder, 3 Pillar Homes really focuses on a careful design process that promotes both function and flair. We especially focus on the dynamic interaction of the kitchen, morning room and great room, the heart of the home and where the family lives and gathers together. We also focus on windows and natural light to maximize our open designs. In addition to great design, 3 Pillar Homes also offers a stunning trim package that builds on our Signature Arched Openings which are included in every 3 Pillar Home. As a design-build builder, Customization is a cornerstone of our philosophy. We also focus on flexibility to help our homeowners maximize options and resources available to them.

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Energy Efficiency:

We don’t just focus on great layouts and beautiful trim; we also care deeply about how your home is constructed and how well it will live for you and your family in the years to come. For example—Our Energy Star Rating includes a 95% efficient furnace, a meticulous air infiltration package, and a professional third-party test to measure to duct leakage and an air-door blower test ensure your home will be comfortable, while operating at the highest efficiencies with lower costs to run and maintain your home over time.

Our Process:

One of the most important things our homeowners share with us is how valuable they find our process and our communication. We are nimble in developing personalized designs that are focused on both your goals for the home and your goals for the budget. We have systematic way of guiding you through the process to cover everything from understanding what’s included, to how your home will be situated on your lot, to the specifics of detailed pricing and to understanding your options for financing your new home. 3 Pillar Homes utilizes a impressive software program that includes every aspect of your home—the construction documents, the plot plan, the details of your colors and selections, any change orders. We also utilize quality control forms with real time documentation on ipads during on-site walk-throughs in your home throughout construction. A hallmark feature of our 3 Pillar process is the unparalleled system of communication and support which includes a pre-color selection meeting, weekly updates and progress reports, formal walk-throughs during construction, as well as a 3 part warranty system that includes a 30 day and one-year workmanship warranty and an insurance backed structural warranty.

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Our Team:

To help you bring all your goals together, we include concierge designer service before and throughout your new home build experience. Our dedicated staff includes—the sales team, the office support including in-house estimating, a dedicated project manager, architect, designer and warranty manager. In true partnership with our homeowners, 3 Pillar Homes brings a process and systems along with award-winning designs and experience to each home we build.

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.

Punch List: Insuring Homeowner Satisfaction

Categories: Build Process, Newsletter | Posted: February 17, 2016

The idea of a “punch list” may not sound very appealing at first, but the “punch list” is an invaluable tool for making sure our homes meet the standards and expectations of our homebuyers. A punch list — industry slang for a short checklist of items that need to be completed, repaired, or replaced — is also an effective communication tool with our trade partners and our clients. It acts as a quick and easy reference to the status of the project and its state of readiness.

Most commonly, punch lists are used as the house nears completion. Increasingly, one is created and addressed internally (by our staff, without the homebuyer present), and a second one developed as a homeowner and one of our associates walk through a new house just before the homeowner moves in. In either case, the punch list typically contains minor items that can be addressed quickly and easily.

Conducting an internal inspection and addressing punch list items before the final client walk-through has proven to boost our homebuyers overall satisfaction.

Lesser known (but common among the most professional builders) are the punch lists that are produced at almost every phase of the building process. This enables us to communicate and collaborate with our product suppliers and trade partners regarding the quality and status of their work in progress. Like those created during a final walk-through with a homebuyer, punch lists during construction ensure that each stage of work is complete and ready for the next phase. We can then call for an inspection by the local building department or schedule the next wave of trade partners and material deliveries to start the next stage of work. This formal process is key to managing the thousands of details in building a new home, helping us stay on schedule and on budget.

Still, no matter how many times we conduct inspections and develop punch lists, no house is perfect. There are bound to be some things that homebuyers notice and identify to the builder during a final walk-through; in addition, there may be items a builder will point out as already on the punch list, and explain the policies and procedures in place for taking care of everything on the punch list in a timely manner.

Builders differ in their approach to satisfying the punch list. Most of them work to cross every item off the list prior to homeowner possession so that the closing process is hassle-free. Depending on the punch list, a builder may try to schedule the necessary labor to address every item on the same day, rather than over several days, out of respect for a new homeowner’s time and busy schedule.

With a reliable and consistent punch list system in place, we are able to deliver a completed house that regularly meets or exceeds the expectations of our homebuyers.

When we communicate effectively with our clients, trade partners, and materials suppliers throughout the process, punch lists are typically short and easy to complete, helping us deliver the most positive overall experience and best possible new homeowner experience possible.

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.

Controlling Allowances

Categories: Build Process, Newsletter | Posted: February 3, 2016

Strict allowance policies benefit homeowners as much as builders.

Why do builders prefer that the homeowners choose every single item that will go into the house before they break ground? It’s not just for the builder’s convenience. A choice postponed may end up being made at a time when the homeowners are feeling a lot of construction stress. Decisions made under stress raise the chance of buyer remorse.

But the reality is that some people have a difficult time choosing finishes like flooring, light fixtures, tile, and carpet before the house has at least been framed and they can walk through the spaces. Allowances are a necessary concession to that reality. They let the homeowners choose a limited number of products after the project is underway, while still keeping the job on schedule and on budget.

It’s useful to think of an allowance like a Visa gift card. Say, for instance, that the builder and homeowners agree on a $20,000 allowance for kitchen cabinets and countertops. The homeowners can spend that money any way they want. They may want mid-range solid surface countertops and ornate cabinets with intricate moldings, or they may opt for plainer, less expensive cabinets and marble surfaces. They just need to stay within the allotted $20,000.

Like a gift card, an allowance will have an expiration date. That’s the date by which choices have to be made. But there’s an important difference: if someone doesn’t use a gift card on time, they lose the money; if the homeowner doesn’t make allowance choices on time, the money will still be there, but the delay will throw off the job schedule and may raise the final cost.

Because of their potential to cause trouble, most builders limit allowances to a few line items. These vary by builder, but common ones are lighting, plumbing fixtures, exterior doors, ceramic tile, and carpet. During the planning stage, the builder will suggest an amount that makes sense given the budget for the overall home. Homeowners who want to spend more—or less—on these items need to tell the builder at this point.

Most builders also insist that the customer purchase allowance items from their regular suppliers and that they be installed by the builder’s regular trade partners. For one thing, the builder can’t be confident in the quality of unfamiliar products from unfamiliar vendors. For another, the use of regular suppliers and installers is crucial to controlling costs. It eliminates situations like the customer who chooses carpet from a supplier unfamiliar to the builder, only to find out that it is European carpet in metric sizes that will leave a lot of unwanted waste (that the homeowner has to pay for) and that takes 20 weeks to get, while the house will be done in five.

When choosing multiple items like faucets and light fixtures, a budget-conscious customer will match styles. Using a different faucet style in every bath raises costs; keeping the fixtures consistent brings more purchasing power.

The bottom line is that a well-defined allowance policy benefits the homeowners as well as the builder by controlling costs, keeping the job on schedule, and reducing unwanted stress for everyone. People who have built homes in the past usually understand this, which is why they generally prefer to work with a builder with a clear policy.

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.