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3 Pillar Blog

Blog Category - Newsletter

Backyard as Destination Resort

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: July 20, 2016

Most of us have fond memories of family barbecues in the back yard or running through the sprinklers. Only the clairvoyant among us could have imagined today’s new ‘back yards’: the highly appointed outdoor spaces that are becoming increasingly popular in today’s new homes.

Long gone are the days of the patio slab, rectangular swimming pool, and rolling kettle grill. Current outdoor living features and materials are just as stylish and creative as the homes they serve, providing multifunctional destinations for owners and guests.

Professional designs ensure a smooth transition to and from the indoors, provide artful square footage, and the proper utility connections for all of the desired features. Careful planning can even accommodate year-round enjoyment through creative options for shade, sun, and other weather conditions.

One of the primary requests for outdoor space is a fully functional kitchen. A built-in, gas-powered barbecue grill, complete with warming drawers, heating elements and plenty of grilling surface, is essential equipment for today’s outdoor chef.

Because an outdoor kitchen is often designed within a covered patio or veranda, grills are usually supplemented with a ventilation system to exhaust smoke and odors. Other conveniences include a sink and faucet, an under-counter refrigerator/ice maker, and a row of base cabinets topped by a weather-tough countertop.

An outdoor kitchen logically demands an outdoor eating area. Weather-resistant furnishings and upholstery are available in an increasingly wide range of styles to suit any taste and need, from formal dining tables to casual, plushy seating options. Outdoor rooms might also include a bar island between the cooking and eating areas. Such islands double as serving areas for casual meals.

Another popular feature of outdoor rooms is a fireplace-television combination. Modern gas-powered fireplaces are designed to simulate authentic wood-burning units, but with better energy use, heat distribution, and ventilation. Such chimneys can accommodate a niche for a flat-screen television, easily supplemented by small, outdoor-rated speakers for surround-sound. What used to be a plain patio has now become an enviable destination for family and guests.

To make the space accessible to the indoors and to merge indoor and outdoor entertainment space, many designs feature all-glass folding or pocket doors that create wide-open passages. When designed with the home’s micro-climate in mind, these doors may also help to cool the house with natural breezes. Ceiling fans keep the air moving through the outdoor room, while outdoor-rated lights in the ceiling and on the walls allow its use after dark.

To keep less-desirable weather out of both the house and the covered outdoor space, motorized roll-down screens—ideally concealed in the structure—keep pests, winds, rain, and other debris out. Such screens come in a variety of weights and are easily controlled by a remote device or wall switch.

The living space extends beyond the covered area, of course. Patios can be equipped with interlocking pavers, flagstones, or stamped or colored concrete to add dimension and interest. The open-air space might be a deck, increasingly finished with weather-resistant engineered planks that require little maintenance, maintain their color and structural integrity, and are eco-friendly. To complete the look, consider adding comfortable built-in seating and a freestanding fire pit.

Finally, modern pools and spas, are becoming works of art, incorporating fountains and waterfalls, rock formations, frameless edges, and other landscaping features.

Combined, a covered outdoor room, open deck or patio, and pool/spa feature create a value-added feature for any new home. By extending the living space with year-round options to enjoy it, the modern back yard provides years of enjoyment and boosts property value for any homeowner.

The old backyard has become a destination resort.

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.

The Importance of Structure

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: July 6, 2016

Framing details have a big impact on all aspects of a new home.

Most people don’t think much about their home’s structural skeleton—unless there’s a problem. Small mistakes made during the framing stage can cause headaches later on that range from annoyances to health issues. Let’s look at how a home gets framed, and how the builder makes sure it’s done right.

Most homes use “platform” or “stick” framing. The framing crew builds the floor platform then adds walls and ceilings one piece (one stick) at a time. Other workers then route pipes, wires, and ductwork through the frame; stuff or blow insulation into cavities; and cover the structure with drywall, siding, and trimwork. The system is efficient and proven. And the fact that all tradespeople understand it makes for more predictable scheduling and cost estimating.

The system’s familiarity also means that a good framing crew knows the consequences of not minding the details. Inadequately glued subflooring can cause floors to squeak when walked on. A wall that’s not plumb (straight up and down), level, and perfectly straight along its length can mean wavy drywall and sticking doors. An out-of-square corner could make trim harder to fit and prevent a wood floor from visually aligning the way it’s supposed to. The framer has to take steps to prevent these problems.

There are also many small items that need attention. Blocking has to be added behind everything from cabinets to baseboard, so that nails and screws that penetrate the drywall bite into something solid. Window and door headers have to align perfectly, as do rows of recessed lights. And there has to be enough space between the framing in the right places to fit ductwork and plumbing stacks.

While the framing crew builds to a set of blueprints and specifications, it is important to view the framing skeleton as part of the overall finished product. That’s why the framer works closely with the job supervisor, the professional builder’s on-site manager. The super is someone with many years of experience, who sees the house as an integrated system, and who understands how the structural shell will ultimately interact with all the other elements.

The super also has to oversee plumbers, electricians, and HVAC contractors. These trades will be cutting holes in the frame to accommodate wires and pipes and ducts. The super needs to work with them to make sure they don’t compromise the structure or create leaks. Like everything else on a building site, it’s a collaborative effort, and one reason why professional builders seek out experienced subs with good communication systems.

Then there’s the issue of moisture in the framing. For one thing, moisture trapped in walls can lead to mold. For another, wet lumber will move as it dries, causing nail pops and cracks in the drywall as well as squeaky floors and stairways.

Avoiding these problems starts with dry lumber. In older homes, the walls were drafty enough that wet lumber and minor leaks could easily dry out, but that’s not the case with today’s code-mandated tight construction. Nowadays, the educated, quality-conscious builder uses a systematic approach to dealing with moisture—an approach that includes checking the framing with a moisture meter and, if necessary, taking steps to dry it out before hanging the drywall. It also means detailing walls so that they block energy-robbing drafts but give any moisture that does get inside a way out.

The point is that the framer and job supervisor have to constantly think ahead to all the work that comes afterwards, and make sure that the framed structure will support a quality end product. The knowledge and experience needed to make sure this happens is part of the value a professional builder brings to the table.

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.

The Advantage of a “Single-Source” Builder

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: June 22, 2016

As a professional builder, we understand the importance of being in tune with the expectations of our homebuyers. We engage in continuing education to stay up-to-date with current trends in residential design and construction. We seek to anticipate what our homebuyers are looking for in a new home. We offer choices that fit each client’s budget and lifestyle. At the same time, we commit to high quality standards, remain on schedule, within budget, and service our work and the components we use to build each new home.

To achieve these goals, we must be very particular about the materials and products we recommend to our homebuyers.

Occasionally, a homebuyer may suggest something that’s not within our package of standard, upgraded or optional products. Although we constantly look for new and better ideas, some of the suggested products and materials may not meet the expectations we and our homebuyers have for lasting performance and cost efficiency.

To better understand the value of our role in offering a market-savvy selection of finishes, products, and materials for use in our new homes, consider the following questions and answers:

Q: My builder insists that I choose certain products and finishes by a prescribed date after signing the contract. Why is it so critical to meet those deadlines?

A: Making product selections early in the construction process, often before your home is started, allows us to insure that the products will get to the job site on time and within budget. Coordinating vendors and trade contractors involves a certain amount of “lead time”. This is the time it takes to receive a product from a supplier and schedule an installer. With timely selections from our clients we are able to keep a project on schedule and avoid paying a premium for rush deliveries.

Q: A contractor in my area says he’ll roof my house for a lot less than what my builder quoted, but my builder advised against using him. Why?

A: As with most things in life, a lower price doesn’t necessarily mean a lower overall cost. We seek out the best trade partners (like roofers) and negotiate the price of their work based on a variety of considerations. These include their availability, skills, experience, and ability to meet our deadline and quality standards. A low-priced roofer may not be sensitive to our schedule, leave the job unfinished or fail to meet our quality standards. This delays construction, often resulting in higher overall costs and extra work. Simply put, if the roofer is unknown to you and us, that’s a risk we’re uncomfortable taking on your behalf.

Q: I found some great outdoor light fixtures that would be perfect for my house. Can I use them instead of the ones being offered?

A: Some builders provide their clients with allowances to purchase certain products (usually finishes, like light fixtures) on their own. Even in those cases, however, we’re going to point our clients to the showroom of a reliable supplier; one with whom we work with regularly, can stay within budget and steer an owner in the right direction. An off-the-shelf or mail-order item, even a brand name, carries some risk for both builder and homebuyer. The builder must guarantee its installation and durability without truly knowing how it will perform in your home. It may also be more difficult to install than the line of products we offer, raising costs.

Q: Why does my builder charge more for the exact same faucet I found online for less?

A: A builder’s cost is more than just the price of an item. It may include the cost to ship and install it, to service it, and a nominal markup to cover overhead costs, insurance, storage, and profit. For all the products and systems in a home, we assume certain risks and costs on your behalf.

In order for us to give reliable assurances and properly service the products and features of your new home, we must manage and coordinate every aspect of the construction process. While we offer plenty of choices, those choices are determined based on extensive market analysis and years of experience in offering the most valuable commodity of all: your peace of mind.

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.

Hidden Benefits of Building New

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: June 8, 2016

The advantages of a new home go beyond the obvious.

The allure of a new home fires the imagination and ignites the spirit. We’ve all dreamed of living in a home with our version of the perfect gourmet kitchen, a beautifully appointed office, and a luxurious master suite. Having everything just the way you envision it is reason enough for most people to consider a new home over an existing property.

But the advantages go beyond the obvious: a custom home built by a professional builder offers performance benefits that only a new home can. These hidden benefits are as crucial to the homeowners’ ultimate happiness as the design, if not more so.

Many of these benefits are the happy offspring of the drive to save energy. Everyone understands that thick wall and attic insulation, careful air sealing, and better heating and cooling equipment make new homes very energy-efficient. But what some homeowners don’t realize is that these details do more than reduce monthly heating and cooling bills: they also make the home more comfortable, healthier, and quieter.

Energy-efficient details are mandated by many building codes, a fact that has raised the quality baseline for all new construction. Most professional custom builders go well beyond this baseline. They work with designers and use the latest software to analyze how the thousands of items that go into the home will determine its performance, and they hire employees and subcontractors who will do the job right.

The result is a home that offers superior performance in more ways than one. Consider…

Comfort. Properly detailed insulation, along with careful sealing of the building shell and the HVAC ductwork, minimizes drafts and helps keep temperatures even throughout the home. Comfort can be further enhanced by optimizing the home’s space design and windows to the local climate. High-performance windows can even be ordered with coatings that protect furnishings from ultraviolet light.

Health. Those comfort-enhancing, air-sealing details also help keep pollen and dust out of the home. High-performance windows resist condensation that can lead to mold growth. Today’s efficient heating, cooling, and ventilation systems are very good at removing unwanted humidity and other pollutants from the home, while bringing fresh filtered air in. Sealed-combustion heating equipment makes everyone safe by keeping carbon monoxide out of the indoor air.

Quiet. Double- or triple-pane windows, quality doors with good weather-stripping, and of course the air sealing and insulation already mentioned, make a new custom home naturally better at blocking outside noise than an older one. If there’s a busy nearby street, sound-deadening windows can be ordered to further muffle traffic noise. Inside, if there’s a home theater or a teenage musician, sealing gaps in those rooms’ walls and using sound-dampened drywall can give everyone what they want for less effort and cost than it would to retrofit an existing home.

A new home also provides a certain peace of mind and confidence that everything in the home will work the way it’s supposed to for years to come. That’s why professional builders use proven products with good warranties, along with highly skilled installers.

In fact, a lot of people build new homes for the same reason they buy new cars: to avoid unexpected, costly repairs. The big difference is that while buyers can add options to a new car, they have to choose from one of the dealer’s stock models. With a custom home, on the other hand, the buyers get a finished project that reflects their own vision. And the skillful use of energy detailing eliminates annoyances that could get between them and their enjoyment of that home. This superior performance is something an old house just can’t offer.

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.

The Opening Act: Preparing the Site

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: May 18, 2016

If you’ve ever driven past a new subdivision, you’ve likely seen a fleet of earth-moving equipment, multiple colored stakes in the ground, and the beginnings of streets, sidewalks, and foundations. These are the tell-tale signs of the building site being prepared for construction.

Site preparation includes several steps. A survey comes first. Topographical features — trees, streams, rocky outcroppings, relative elevations, and open areas — are carefully marked, providing the basis for everything that follows. Property lines must be located precisely to confirm setbacks (the allowable distance between a structure and a property line) in compliance with local codes. Streets and sidewalks are mapped and flagged. Then the surveyors stake out the location of the various underground utility conduits through the neighborhood and to each house. In the case of a single house under construction, the existing utility services in the neighborhood must be located and the connections to the proposed house carefully plotted. Finally, a soil test is ordered to help determine the type and design of the foundation construction.

Most, if not all, of this information is mandated by the local building authority. Copies of the surveys and tests, usually signed and stamped by a registered professional engineer, must be attached to the proposed construction drawings and submitted for permits or approvals from that authority.

Once those steps are taken and the plans are approved by the building department, the next “site prep” step can be taken. The location of the foundation or footprint of the home is staked to provide a guide for excavation. Typically, the stakes and batter boards (which demarcate every corner or turn in the layout) are connected by nylon strings to outline the exact perimeter of the foundation to be built.

Then backhoes or excavators can get to work, digging ditches to extend existing or new utility conduits — for electrical, plumbing, natural gas, etc. — to serve the house. Foundations are excavated using the staked-out lines as a guide. The plans will call for footings and — according to individual designs — a crawl space, full basement, concrete slab, or perimeter foundation walls in preparation for concrete forms, blocks, or other materials to support the main floor.

Every new-home project requires these site prep steps, and it is important for our homebuyer clients to understand this phase of the job enabling them to track our progress and get a complete picture of what is required to build their new home.

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 Project Costs

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: May 4, 2016

A successfully managed budget is a partnership between the builder and the homeowners.

Custom builders work hard to make sure their clients get the home they want at a price they can afford. Cost-control strategies include value-engineering the structure, writing clear product specifications, and managing the construction in the most efficient manner possible. Controlling costs is a responsibility that professional builders take very seriously.

But the builder is just half the equation: a new home is a partnership between the builder and homeowner, and there are things a homeowner needs to do to keep the project from going over budget. Most of these have to do with decision-making.

Most homeowners understand the importance of making timely decisions and minimizing changes once the project starts, but many lack a framework for making those decisions. The following five concepts will help a new home to come in on time and on budget.

1. Complete the creative process before breaking ground.

Some people have difficulty imagining how a finished space will look, so they postpone some design decisions until after the house has been framed, which can mean reframing certain spaces. Building something twice obviously costs more than building it once. People who have trouble envisioning spaces should be clear with the architect and builder on this difficulty early in the design process. Good tools are available—from 3D design software to physical models—to help homeowners get a better grasp on how their rooms will look and feel.

2. Choose as many products as possible before work starts.

Even people who don’t have trouble envisioning spaces often want to change their minds about products and finishes after construction begins. But changes always add cost, even if the substitute products are comparably priced. Take the example of choosing a different tub for the master bath. There will be administrative charges for ordering the new tub, canceling the original order, and maybe even returning the original tub. Depending on the stage of construction, the change could also delay the drywall while the builder waits for the new tub to arrive. That, in turn, could throw off the rest of the construction schedule.

3. Understand that every item has a cost.

Some people approach the process of designing their new home as they would an all-you-can-eat buffet. They sign the contract and then act as if they can add anything they want to the plate without financial consequences. Even if the extra costs are small—a more expensive faucet in the kitchen, a better grade of carpet in the bedroom—in the end it all adds up.

4. Learn to love multiple choices.

Rather than settling on one particular product, pick good, better, and best options for each product category. If the budget numbers start swelling, it may help to substitute that top-of-the-line lighting package for something less expensive that still works with the rest of the decor. Defining these options ahead of time makes the process a lot more efficient.

5. Leave plenty of lead time.

The more days or weeks between the homeowners product selections and when those products have to be installed, the better. That way, an unexpected delay from the product manufacturer or distributor won’t hold up the job.

The above guidelines are a proven framework for controlling project costs. Following them will reduce stress and help ensure a more satisfying project.

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.

Styling with Hardscapes

Categories: Design, Newsletter | Posted: April 20, 2016

It wasn’t long ago that the most you could expect from a new house was a white slab of concrete approaching your garage and your front door. With any luck, you might see another slab in the backyard that would function as a small patio. That was the only option offered by most new home builders.

Thankfully, those days are past. Now the best builders recognize that such “hardscape” areas are essential to the curb appeal of their new homes. What was formerly, at best a neutral feature, now delivers distinctive style and a boost to the overall value and beauty of a home.

Builders and homebuyers have several options available to bring a little zing to this element of a home’s style. Here are a few to consider:

Stamped concrete. Just as it sounds, the masonry or concrete contractor places textured panels of various sizes over an area of newly poured concrete and applies a slight bit of pressure to make an impression. Once the concrete sets, the panels are removed to reveal a permanent pattern.

Stamped concrete is an excellent and cost-effective way to add the three-dimensional look of a custom-etched or troweled concrete surface, hand-laid bricks or stone pavers. Several patterns, from uniform bricks to more abstract textures, enable builders and homebuyers to satisfy their personal tastes and to compliment the style of the new home. Stamped concrete can be used to highlight the walkway to the front door or create a consistent, dimensional look for all of the home’s hardscape areas.

Colored concrete. When colored concrete is desired, a pigment is added as the concrete is being mixed (called an “integral” coloring process). This means that the color is mixed through the depth of the hardscape area, not just painted on the surface. Colored concrete is often used to highlight a hardscape feature, such as a walkway. Used in conjunction with stamped concrete technique, the integral coloring process can enhance the authenticity of a pattern, such as red bricks or dark stone pavers.

Aggregate. Another option that adds dimension to a standard concrete surface is exposed aggregate. Small rounded stones are added to the concrete mix. Then the concrete surface is brushed before the concrete sets, exposing the texture and slight color variations of the authentic pebbles. Exposed aggregate can add interest to an otherwise featureless expanse for a relatively low cost.

Bricks and pavers. There’s no substitute for the “real thing” if it fits the budget. Laying individual bricks or stones—available in various sizes, shapes, and colors—is a labor-intensive (and thus more costly) endeavor. The preparation for a brick or stone path, patio, or driveway is much the same as that for a poured concrete hardscape. However, laying each brick (and sometimes cutting it to fit), maintaining a pattern and straight lines, and securing the pieces in place with either mortar or sand takes much more time and skill. Of course, the greatest advantage to hand-laid bricks and pavers is aesthetic. The natural materials show slight undulations and variations in color and texture that are unmistakable.

Thin (or veneer) bricks and stones can help lower the cost of the hand-laid approach, but these are most suitable as accents, such as lining a concrete driveway or walk. They are less suited to high-traffic areas that must carry greater weight.

Used in creative combinations, the options available for hardscapes offer builders and homeowners unlimited ways to achieve unique surfaces. Effective hardscapes will enhance a new home’s architectural style, increase its value and bring long-term satisfaction to the owner.

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.

The Finishing Touches

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: March 16, 2016

We’ve compared a home’s framing to its skeleton, wiring to its network of nerves and insulation to its muscle. Now it’s time to talk about exterior finishes—a home’s “skin”.

We’re very fortunate to be designing and building homes in a time that offers a vast array of exterior finishes, including siding (or cladding), roofing, trim, and hardscapes. The choices available in each category enable us and our homebuyers to create unique combinations that both distinguish a home and add to its value.

With a wider selection of materials also comes a higher level of performance. Today’s exterior finishes and systems are tougher and more weather-resistant. These products combine good looks with durability. Because their improved quality is better able to retain paints and stains and to resist warping, cracking, and delamination, there is a reduction in both maintenance and repair costs.

Greater selection and durability has fostered a trend toward a varied mix of materials on a finished house. It’s increasingly common to see a home that tastefully combines stone, clapboard (or lap) siding, and stucco, for instance, to deliver visual interest and achieve a more comfortable scale.

Modern manufacturers, in fact, typically offer various colors, textures, and forms within the same general category of products. For example, a manufacturer of roofing may offer a harmonious array of asphalt or clay tile roofing so that roofs along the same street retain a sense of cohesiveness without being exactly the same. Manufacturers of different products, such as roofing and siding, may even partner to promote compatible combinations across product types.

From a practical point of view, the range of available choices allows our homebuyers to select exterior finish combinations that express their desired style while simultaneously complying with the codes, covenants, and regulations (CC&Rs) of the community. The result is a return to the varied streetscapes of older, historic neighborhoods that are held in such high regard. One color, one style neighborhoods are a thing of the past.

Of course, we are also mindful of retaining the regional materials and architectural styles of our homes. Proper proportion and scale are essential to ensure lasting value and timeless curb appeal. If a certain material does not suit the style of the home—picture stucco instead of shingle siding on a Cape Cod home—using it only detracts from the overall appeal and value of the house.

Being able to select from a palette of exterior finish materials is a great advantage to the new home owner. The exterior finish is a home’s first impression, its greeting to neighbors and visitors, and an indicator of the owner’s taste and style. Thankfully, we and our homebuyers have many choices that enable us to put a unique and beautiful “skin” on every home.

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.

The Problem with Competitive Bidding

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: March 2, 2016

Some big obstacles stand in the way of the three-bid advice.

Folk wisdom, online articles, and basic instincts advise homeowners to solicit bids from several qualified contractors. But three major obstacles get in the way of making those bids realistic and useful: the need for detailed plans and job specifications, the need for comparable bidders, and the need to structure the bids for easy comparisons. Getting all three right is rare.

The biggest hurdle concerns the plans and job specifications. For a bid to have meaning, it should spell out everything about the project, from the fixtures and appliances to the finishes. Detailed specifications take time and effort to write, and thus the details in a bid are often left vague. This can lead each bidder to make assumptions that yield widely divergent bids. And if the winning bidder’s assumptions differ from the homeowners’ assumptions (predictably), it plants the seeds for misunderstanding and disappointment.

Even finding three comparable bidders can be tricky. Owners may find it necessary to identify and interview four or five companies just to find two to compare. The emphasis is on comparable: for a million-dollar custom home, each bidder should have a stellar reputation as a builder of million-dollar custom homes. The architect (if the buyer has one) should be able to suggest builders with the needed experience.

Allowances are another area that creates confusion in the bidding process. An allowance is an assigned dollar amount for items that are not yet selected by the homeowner or architect. In both bids and contracts, allowances should be kept to an absolute minimum. When these selections are not made ahead of time and a dollar figure is substituted instead, the project’s schedule and budget can be compromised. Too many allowances also lead to too much guesswork in the bidding process.

Where allowances are unavoidable, each bidder needs to use the same number. For example, if the homeowners have decided to spend $30,000 on kitchen cabinets, that dollar amount needs to be on every bid.

The final element to get right is the structure of the bid. Each bidder should use the same bid sheet, with costs itemized the same way, to allow the homeowner to compare them easily. While a few architects distribute bid sheets to bidders, it is rare for contractors to use similar templates, making a real comparison very difficult and complex.

Each bid should also include a bottom-line price, an estimated completion date, and the builder’s change order policies and costs (including administrative charges). Such detailed bids take time to develop, so be reasonable when scheduling due dates for the bid. Three or four weeks is about right for a bid on a new, custom home.

Before making the final choice, the buyer and architect (if there is one) should meet with each bidder to review the bid, ask clarifying questions, and confirm numbers. This will help fix obvious discrepancies between bids and enable the homeowner to get to know the builder beyond the two-dimensional bid form.

The builders who are bidding should also have expectations. Creating a bid for a custom home can take 40 to 70 staff hours, plus additional hours from subcontractors and suppliers. Because of this, most bidders will want to know who they are bidding against: established pros don’t want to compete with outfits with reputations for lowballing bids and then charging for extras later on. And they may insist on there being no more than three bidders, so everyone has a fair chance.

Sometimes all the bids are beyond the expected budget limitations of the client—around 20 percent of the plans custom homebuilders see are over-designed for the customer’s budget. That risk, plus the multitude of obstacles that stand in the way of an accurate bid, is good reason to skip competitive bidding altogether. A lot of people who have built homes in the past have learned this the hard way and prefer to find a reputable professional builder they trust who can be involved in the home’s design from the beginning.

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.