The most common problem in a remodel or building project by a Do it yourself-er is the failure to accurately compute the cost of a project.
When this occurs in a project, it will create a situation where hard choices have to be made. Often a project will stagnate at some point due to lack of funds if the builder did not take all costs into consideration. An alternative is often ‘corner cutting’. This is never a good idea, unless the structural strength is unaffected.
Usually, when the corners are cut, it does reduce the strength of the overall structure. But there are ways to economically build a project. In a earlier article you read about a master plan. This is where a master plan is especially useful. Design what you ultimately want to have in your home on on your property and build each part as a separate phase.
Building in stages or phases allows you to split the costs up into smaller ‘bite size’ pieces and you will find it also reduces stress. And that is always a good thing in construction!
Building contractors often will charge a estimate fee that is equal to 10 to 20 percent of the cost of the project. This fee covers their costs to design draft and engineer your project. They will also do a ‘take off’ of your plan. A ‘take off’ is a itemized list of all the materials and services needed to build your project. If you accept the contractor’s bid for the job, he will consider that fee a down payment toward the job. If you turn his bid down, he will often keep that deposit to cover his time and expense in preparing the bid and paper work as well as any engineering or architectural fees. So use that as your guide when setting your budget for the job. Set aside at least ten percent for those hours of paperwork that will have to be prepared.
Costs to build in the central region of New Mexico has varied between 65.00 per square foot to over 200.00 and more depending on the structure and the finish construction. So a simple room addition will cost less than a very ornate living room or kitchen for example.
The design costs may seem like an expendable part of your project, but they are not. For if you have accurate and precise detailed drawings and all the engineering and architectural work done, it will save you a lot of time later. Time is money on any project.
When planning the project, part of your fact finding would have included examining your soil and ground structure to determine which kind or type of footings or foundations would best serve your purpose. Usually, an addition will have the same foundation as the original structure. This often holds true for stand alone structures as well. Often people like to keep everything matched and similar in design so as to provide a eye pleasing appearance.
Soil preparation and concrete work does require considerable time and it is essential to build this portion correctly and strong. Your entire structure is supported by this foundation. Take all the time and effort necessary to make this phase of the project completely correct.
When shopping for concrete or concrete products, consider the sources as well as the lumber yards and Home Improvement companies. You will find that Southwest Block in Rio Rancho has very good prices and products that are premium in quality. Coyote Concrete, La Farge, and other concrete providers all compete for your business. Shop around and buy from the company with the most benefit to you.
Some of your costs on a project can include renting a tractor or hiring a dirt moving company to dig your footings or foundations or leveling the whole area and also providing proper drainage. Many of the planning and zoning departments in New Mexico are requiring a plot plan or site plan that shows water runoff data and or ways to prevent it. Many times they will ask that a ditch or pond be included in your plans to encourage rain and snow runoff to remain and soak in to replenish the ground water. Be sure to include this in your costs.
Finally, You are now looking at the actual structure plan and in the plan is a maze of lines and symbols drawn by your designer or architect. Confused yet? This is all difficult to understand to the uninitiated and leads to serious mistakes. Remember, the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask. Ask questions, look for people who will show you how to read the drawings, and go to that little heard of place called a library.
Earlier a ‘take off’ was mentioned. The best way to do a take off for your job is to not do it. Not to confuse you, but use the path contractors take. Go to the local lumber yard of your choice, and ask them to do a take off and bid the materials for your job. Many lumberyards will have a staff member who does these takeoffs and they will often offer a package price for the opportunity to get your business. You can choose between the big name brand stores such as Home Depot or Lowe’s, but consider Hunter Lumber on Menaul in Albuquerque or Raks, or the other home owned lumber yards. They often offer a service the big box stores don’t and that is a more personalized service. Often the quality of lumber is much higher as well.
If the project is large enough, consider an out of town lumber yard who will be willing to bring your material to you. Los Alamos Home Improvement has a very professional staff and has a much higher quality of lumber than many other places offer. This is also true of the Empire Builders yard in Santa Fe and you will find specialty shops and businesses as well.
When you are searching for providers let your fingers do the walking and listen to the people you know in the business. Many times that dirty scruffy looking carpenter that lives down the street or comes to church on Sunday has learned who is giving the best service to his trade. So ask around. Do not make the mistake that some do where the mind is made up before the facts are in.
As was stated earlier, you may want to sub contract out parts of the job. Concrete is one part that is better left to professionals, and you can also sub out your framing portion of the job. Darrel Julian Construction specializes in framing and is a proven builder who will get the job up efficiently. Another part that is often better to sub out is the roof. Roofing is a back breaking and mind numbing job, requiring safety equipment and ladders as well as some costly equipment if it is a hot tar and gravel roof or a specialty roof.
You now have a series of stages laid out here. Study your options and consider how much of your project you wish to do yourself and how much you wish to hire out and go from there. Keep your inspector informed of your decisions so you know what paperwork needs to be submitted. And watch your budget. It’s easy to adjust plans before the mass of concrete is in the ground, much harder after it is setting there.
Finally, while setting your budget, plan on including some funds for safety equipment. You may want to consider buying some things as opposed to renting them if you are going to be doing more than one project. Scaffolding is available as well as long ladders and work platforms from places like Frank’s Supply in Albuquerque(they are also in other towns,check their listings) IF your job is long and is going to be followed by other phases, Frank’s will sell you the equipment. You can also buy former rental equipment at a discount as well. Check with the rental departments at Home Depot also.
DO NOT CUT corners on safety. Construction can be very dangerous work. Use wisdom and listen to experienced builders to find what will keep you safe.