Our health, safety, comfort, and financial well-being depend on the homes in which we live. As homeowners, we are also the ones responsible for the utility and maintenance bills. With the rising costs of energy and the ever-changing building technologies, we need to become educated about our choices when building a home.
When building a new home or changing your existing home, making informed decisions is paramount. So, where do you go for answers? Many people turn to their general contractors for answers.
However, the sad reality is that many of the contractors hired are not knowledgeable enough to build healthy, safe, and energy-efficient homes. Consider this fact when making your investment. We have all heard the contractor horror stories. There is no end to the stories of faulty homes and shoddy workmanship. So, buyers and owners beware…
The first step in building the home of your dreams is to ASK QUESTIONS—lots of them—so that you do not become one of the horrible statistics. North Twin Builders has been in the business since 1971 and based on our experience, we recommend that you:
Seek out those in the building profession who can demonstrate to you that they are true professionals. Ask them how they can help you. Do they have a network of qualified professionals to assist with your plan? Ask the questions that prove to you that they know what they are doing.
Check out their track record.
Can your potential contractors show you at least six homes that they have built? Do they have the keys or access codes to get into these homes? Does the homeowner need to be present for these tours or can you freely tour them with the builder? This may reflect the level of trust between the previous clients and the builder. What is their relationship with past clients? Ask for references. Some contractors can supply you with a couple of well-chosen people that will supply a positive report, but it is harder to supply numerous references if their track records aren’t the best.
Examine their history.
How long have they been in business? And how long have they been in the area? What is their reputation with suppliers and subcontractors? Call these people and ask them questions, as well. Would they want this contractor building their homes?
Ask about warranties.
Ask potential contractors about their warranties. Have they had any problems come up with their work in the past and if so, how were these issues resolved?
Discuss their overall building approach.
How do these contractors approach the finished product? Do they look at the entire building project and advise you on what is best? What will happen during the site preparations, installation of the septic or well, and the addition of utilities? Who will oversee and take care of these matters?
Find out about their education.
How many hours of continuing education do contractors take each year? What about their employees? Ask for proof of this education. A common reply from a contractor you should avoid would be, “We have been building homes this way for years.” Thankfully, not all contractors believe that this approach is the best policy. The truth is that building science is constantly changing, and contractors need continuing education if the goal is to build their clients the safest, most energy-efficient homes possible.
Look for quality building standards.
Clients have told us, “My contractor told me that my home would be built to state codes.” This statement may seem appropriate, but did you know that state building codes are basically the lowest standard by which a home can legally be built? Why would you want your home to be built at the lowest legal standards? In addition, some areas of the state may require enhanced building procedures to assure comfort, reliability, or reduced maintenance. Do your potential contractors know what those enhancements are? You need to find contractors who have a commitment to quality and high standards.
Assessing Your Building Plans or Home
Who determines the definition of a “quality” home?
This is the basic question, isn’t it? Is it the homeowner, contractor, state code inspector, independent consultants, suppliers, or the subcontractors who determine what makes a quality home? In reality, all of these professionals working together with you will produce a high-quality home. Failures in any one of these areas start to reduce the probability of a quality home. So, you need to find a team of qualified professionals to create the home of your dreams. Choosing a contractor with an established network of professionals with a commitment to quality is the key to your success.
Ask about testing, tools, and quality control before you begin.
Do your contractors test the houses they build for performance when they are finished? Do they have any documentation on how past homes that they have built performed when tested? What tools do they have to perform these tests on your home? Can they show you the benefits? Can they determine where potential heat losses may be? What measures do they take to assure quality control? Are they willing to hire outside professionals to come in and evaluate the home to prove it is worthy of their claims?
If you have concerns, hire a home performance consultant.
Rich Urban is a home performance consultant who works with the Wisconsin organization, Focus on Energy. If you have concerns about your current home or want an independent third party to evaluate the construction of your new home, contact Rich at 715-369-7390 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Rich has the testing equipment to test your home, no matter what its age, and can help to reduce your future energy costs. For some upfront cost now, you can potentially save hundreds of dollars on future energy bills. Go to www.focusonenergy.com for more information.
No matter if your home is old, new, or yet to be built, there may be additional things that can be done to improve your comfort and safety. Even if your builder did a great job, in as little as a few years there could be ways to upgrade important aspects of your home. Technology is changing so quickly in almost every area of home construction that new methods and approaches can make a world of difference.
North Twin Builders, LLC is a family business established in 1971, well- known in the northwoods of Wisconsin for providing quality custom built and traditional homes. John can be reached at 715-545-2510 or e-mail at build@NorthTwinBuilders.com.