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October 3, 2016

Getting Ready to Build: Before Applying for a Building Permit

So, you have a set of home plans and you’re ready to get building.

In many regions, you, or you’re builder, will be able to head straight to your local building department with blueprints in tow, to apply for a building permit. However, in most coastal areas, you’ll find that you need to complete a few tasks prior to requesting a permit. What is required can vary dramatically. In Florida, the entire plan must be reviewed and stamped by an architect. In Coastal South Carolina, the foundation must be reviewed and stamped by a structural engineer. In Coastal Georgia, the builder can review the plan. And on the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts, the code is literally being reinvented. We recommend that you work closely with your builder and/or building department to guide you through this process. Here, in no particular order, is a list of “To Do’s” you or your builder may need to perform before applying for your building permit.In almost every instance, you will need to have your plan reviewed by a local design professional (builder, designer, architect or engineer) to check for adherence to local building codes. In many cases, your builder can handle this for you. In some State’s (Florida, for example) an architect’s or engineer’s stamp may be required. Typical adjustments to plans include:

  • Sizing of structural beams to meet local codes.
  • Changes to your foundation footings to account for your lot’s soil conditions and location.
  • Modifying the foundation plan from a piling design to an “island basement” design (a foundation with continuous footers and complete CMU perimeter.
  • Adding hurricane strapping specs to Typical Cross Section pages
  • Adjustments to the foundation height to meet the BFE (Base Flood Elevation) requirements.
  • Adjustment to ceiling heights or roof pitches to accommodate height restrictions

Again, some of these tweaks can be handled during construction. Others may need to be drawn and submitted with your drawings for permitting. You’ll be required to submit a Site Plan with your blueprints. A Site Plan is a drawing that shows how your home will be situated on your lot. It should include the location of your driveway and any walkways. If your property uses a septic system, you may be required to apply for a permit with DHEC prior to construction. Contact your local water department and/or your building department to find out if this secondary permit if required for your coastal property. Some lucky souls will also have to gain approval for their home design (and more) from a community Architectural Review Board (ARB). ARB’s provide oversight for assuring that community covenants are followed. Some ARB’s are very hands on. They may dictate design style, paint colors, landscaping, positioning of driveways, location of garage doors and much much more. Protecting covenants, in some developments and communities, is seen as crucial to protecting homeowners “value.” This is true to a large degree, but be aware that the more restrictive the covenants, the more time it will require for you to gain approval for your design.

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September 8, 2016

It’s hurricane season

Florida Hurricane Season - SandCastle Coastal HomesIt is hurricane season in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. As we write this, the Eastern U.S. coastline has Brett brewing and the African coast is spinning of multiple depressions that will track towards the United States as the season progresses.

As anyone who lives on the coast can tell you, hurricanes are intense. Just how intense is measured by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale which classifies hurricanes into 5 general categories – with category 1 (often written as H1) being least intense and category 5, most – based on the observed or estimated maximum wind speed.

To give you a sense, on the “low end” of the scale, category 1 hurricanes have sustained winds of 74 – 95 mph and are capable of producing significant damage to windows, roof shingles, gutters, siding and porch coverings and can uproot shallow trees. On the other end of the scale, Category 5 storms have sustained winds of over 155 mph and can only be described as “catastrophic” with high rates of injury and death and widespread destruction to homes, buildings and societal infrastructures. For a complete overview of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, visit the National Hurricane Center website at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/sshws.pdf.

As coastal dwellers, we at SandCastle Coastal Homes are keenly aware of the wrath that hurricanes bring and the worry and stress they cause homeowners eager to protect their families and their property.

SandCastle Coastal Homes are designed and engineered with extreme weather conditions in mind. Built with specialized, unique structural framing, our standard modular construction homes are engineered to withstand wind loads of up to 130 mph – this is the mid-range of a category 3 hurricane – and can be custom engineered to withstand wind loads of up to 180 mph! In addition, our homes can be outfitted with high performance hurricane resistant impact windows, if the homeowner chooses this option.

When you build with SandCastle Coastal Homes we look at each individual site to determine what its loading needs are based on its location and ground topography, regardless of what the published wind loads state. In this way, you could say that our homes are “over-engineered.” But given the fluctuating rhythms of the earth and changes in weather patterns, our strong frames provide homeowners with the reassurance of knowing that their investment will be protected, no matter which way the wind blows.

And on that note, if any of you are storm chasers like us, check out the Stormpulse website – http://www.stormpulse.com – to see what’s brewing in the Pacific and Atlantic. It seems like it’s going to be a busy season!

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July 24, 2016

Key Questions for Waterfront Property Owners to Ask

All Waterfront Property owners and prospective owners should, at a minimum investigate and be aware of the answers to the following questions.  To avoid frustration, delays and undue expenses, buyers of Waterfront Property should obtain the answers to these questions prior to closing.  

SandCastle Coastal Homes can help you through every obstacle and question to make your building experience the best it can be. Since every building site is different knowing what you can and can’t do will help you in your design and estimating process. Call us for a free on site evaluation and we can help you get the answers you need. 

FEMA

  1. Was the existing structure built after January 1, 1975?  [Note: If so, special flood plain management regulations may apply.]
  2. Is the property located in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) special hazard zone (Zone A or Zone V)
  3. What is the currently required Base Flood Elevation (“BFE“)
  4. For structures in FEMA A Zones, what is the elevation of top of the lowest enclosed, finished floor [Note: If this elevation is lower than the BFE, the structure may be non-conforming.  If non-conforming, the structure may be unlawful.]
  5. For structures in FEMA V Zones, what is the elevation of the bottom of the lowest horizontal structural member of the lowest enclosed, finished floor  [Note: If this elevation is lower than the BFE, the structure may be non-conforming.  If non-conforming, the structure may be unlawful.]
  6. What was the Base Flood Elevation for the existing structure at the time of its construction?
  7. Is the area below the lowest finished floor used solely for parking of vehicles, building access, or storage   [Note: If not, the structure may be non-conforming.]
  8. Is the area below the lowest finished floor enclosed
  9. Is there furniture (bed, couch, tables, etc.) on the ground floor?  [Note: If so, the structure may be non-conforming.]
  10. Is there a bathroom (commode, sink, shower) on the ground floor? [Note: If so, the structure may be non-conforming.]
  11. Is there floor covering (carpet, tile, vinyl) on the ground floor? [Note: If so, the structure may be non-conforming.]
  12. Are the ground floor walls finished with drywall or paneling? [Note: If so, the structure may be non-conforming.]
  13. Are there kitchen appliances (stove, fridge, oven) on the ground floor? [Note: If so, the structure may be non-conforming.]
  14. Is there a washer and/or dryer on the ground floor? [Note: If so, the structure may be non-conforming.]
  15. Are there separate walled rooms on the ground floor? [Note: If so, the structure may be non-conforming.]
  16. If in a FEMA A Zone, do the walls enclosing the area below the lowest finished floor have a minimum of two openings no higher than one foot above grade having a total net open area of not less than one square inch for every square foot of enclosed area  [Note: If not, the structure may be non-conforming.]
  17. If in a FEMA V Zone, are the walls below the lowest finished floor constructed with non-supporting breakaway walls , open wood lattice-work, or insect screening intended to collapse under wind and water loads without causing structural damage to the elevated portion of the building [Note: If not, the structure may be non-conforming.]
  18. Are any of the following located below the base flood elevation: Electrical Outlets, Air Conditioner, Appliances, Water Heater, Bathroom, Utility Sink?
  19. Are other houses in the neighborhood elevated on pilings? If so, and the existing house on the subject property is built on grade, said structure may be non-conforming.
  20. If in either a FEMA A or V Zone, does the existing building conform to current FEMA regulations
  21. If the existing structure does not conform to current FEMA regulations, when was the structure last improved?
  22. What was the market value of the non-conforming structure when improved
  23. What was the cost of the improvements when made? [Note: If the cost of the improvements exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure when improved, the structure may be non-conforming or future improvements may be limited.
  24. If the structure does not conform to FEMA regulations, has a variance been granted by the appropriate local government

COASTAL CONSTRUCTION

  1. Is any portion of the property or structure located seaward of the State of Florida Coastal Construction Control Line
  2. Were any structures located seaward of the State Coastal Construction Control Line (“CCCL”) constructed or modified after the establishment of the CCCL
  3. If so, was such construction or modification either permitted by the Florida Department of Natural Resources or Florida Department of Environmental Protection, or otherwise exempt from permitting requirements [Note: If not, such construction or modification may be unlawful.]
  4. If permitted, was such construction or modification performed in accordance with all permit conditions
  5. Is any portion of the property or structure located seaward of any local government coastal setback line

If so, were existing structures permitted or otherwise authorized by the applicable local government  [Note: If not authorized, such structures may be non-conforming, or unlawful.]

ADJACENT WATERS

  1. Are the waters adjacent to the property designated as either Outstanding Florida Waters or an Aquatic Preserve [Note: If yes, additional regulations apply to construction within such waters.]
  2. Are the bottoms of the adjacent waters sovereign submerged lands (i.e., State owned), or are they privately owned?
  3. If the bottoms of the adjacent waters are privately owned, have any easements been granted for the use thereof?

MANGROVES

  1. Are there any mangroves on or adjacent to the property
  2. Do the mangroves extend waterward of the mean high water line How far waterward do the mangroves extend from the shoreline [Note: The extent of trimming that can be conducted on mangroves located on sovereignty (state-owned) submerged lands is substantially limited.]
  3. How tall are the mangroves  [Note: Generally, mangroves less than 6 feet in height may not be trimmed.   Special regulations apply to mangroves that are 10, 16 and 24 feet or less in pretrimmed height.]
  4. Have the mangroves been historically trimmed to maintain a distinct configuration, such as a hedge or view window?   [Note: If so, trimming may be exempt from state permitting requirements.]
  5. Have the mangroves been previously trimmed in accordance with all applicable State regulations [Note:   If not, exemptions may not apply.]
  6. Are the mangroves protected as being part of a mitigation area or an area included within a conservation easement

WETLANDS

  1. Other than mangroves, are there any wetlands on the property
  2. Has there been any alteration of the wetlands by either dredging or filling
  3. Was a federal, state, or local government permit required for the observed alteration of the wetlands
  4. Were all required governmental authorizations obtained prior to the alteration of the wetlands  [Note: If not, the observed alterations may be unlawful.]
  5. May future dredging or filling be conducted within the observed wetlands

DREDGE AND FILL ACTIVITIES

  1. Are there any structures, such as a seawall, dock, deck, or pier constructed in, on, or over adjoining waters and/or wetlands?
  2. Was a federal, state, or local government permit required for the construction of such structures
  3. Was a required federal, state, or local government permit obtained prior to the construction of the observed structures [Note: If not, such structures may be unlawful and considered a public nuisance, subject to removal.]
  4. Was the structure constructed in accordance with all approved plans?
  5. Has the structure been altered since it was originally constructed?
  6. Were all alterations permitted by all applicable regulatory agencies?
  7. Will a federal, state, or local government permit be required for the maintenance, repair or replacement of existing structures
  8. Are new structures proposed for the subject property?
  9. Will the new structures be permittable under all applicable federal, state, and local regulations?
  10. If a new dock or dock expansion is proposed, are their adequate water depths to facilitate mooring at and access to the dock?
  11. Are there any seagrasses in the vicinity of the proposed dock or dock expansion?
  12. Who owns the submerged bottoms upon which the new dock is to be built?
  13. If privately owned, is there an easement granting the upland owner the right to build and maintain a dock upon said privately owned submerged bottoms?
  14. Are there any private deed restrictions pertaining to the construction of docks within waterways?
  15. Are there any private agreements, such as a “Joint Use Agreement” affecting the rights to use any existing structures?
  16. Are there any agreements or easements granting public rights of lateral access across the subject property?
  17. Are there any structures located below the mean high water line or otherwise located on state lands
  18. If located on state lands, were such structures authorized by the State [Note: If not, such structures may be unlawful and considered a public nuisance, subject to removal.]
  19. Is there a dredged navigation channel adjacent to the property?
  20. If so, was the dredged navigation channel permitted by federal, state and local authorities  [Note:   If not, continued navigable access cannot be assured in the future.]

MISCELLANEOUS

  1. Does the deed specify ownership to the mean high water line, or other statement indicating an intention that ownership is “to the waters”?
  2. Does the deed otherwise reflect that the property is benefited by riparian rights?
  3. Are there any existing or proposed structures on neighboring properties that may adversely affect the use and enjoyment of the subject property?
  4. Was the property or any structures upon the property the subject of any federal, state, or local government enforcement action
  5. Are there any restrictions on the use of the property mandated as a consequence of any enforcement actions
  6. Is the property burdened by a recorded Conservation Easement
  7. Is there a functioning potable (drinking) water well on the property?
  8. Will a new septic tank be required to facilitate use of the subject property?
  9. Will the new septic tank drainfield be at least 75 feet from any private potable water well?
  10. Will the new septic tank drainfield be at least 75 feet from any surface water body?
  11. Is there presently, or has there ever been a fuel oil storage tank on the property?

Links

The following links are intended to provide additional, useful and/or entertaining information regarding Waterfront Property and the Florida Gulf Coast.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) 

FDEP Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems

Coastal Construction Control Line (CCCL) Mapping

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

FEMA – Flood Maps, Insurance, and Information

Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council

Southwest Florida Water Management District

City of Bradenton

Manatee County Government

Manatee County Property Appraiser

Manatee County GIS

City of Sarasota

Sarasota County Government

Sarasota County Property Appraiser

Sarasota County GIS

Charlotte County Government

Charlotte County Property Appraiser

Charlotte County GIS

Town of Longboat Key

City of North Port

City of Venice

City of Punta Gorda

Town of Anna Maria Island

Manatee County Chamber of Commerce

Sarasota County Chamber of Commerce

Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce

Englewood Chamber of Commerce

Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce

Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce

Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce

Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce

Mote Marine Laboratories

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May 24, 2016

Types of House Stilts

Stilt houses are also called pile dwellings, because the rods or poles are driven into the ground to sustain a structure. These rods, poles or stilts are properly referred to as piles. Piles are made from one of several different types of materials; sometimes, two different types of materials may be used for one pile. The type of pile used is dependent on the foundation that is best suited for the type of structure being built.
Timber Pilings
Timber pilings have been used for 6,000 years and continue to be one of the leading types of driven piles. Timber is often used in pile foundations because it is a readily available and renewable resource. Because it is light in weight, timber is also more easily handled, driven and cut than other types of piles. Timber piling is also resistant to acidic and alkaline soil and does not corrode in such soils as easily as steel. According to the Federal Highway Administration, timber pile foundation underwater will last indefinitely and timber piles partially above water can last up to 100 years or longer if they are properly prepared and treated.

Concrete Pilings
There are several variations of concrete piles. Concrete piles can be pre-cast or cast-in-place, and they can be reinforced, pre-stressed or plain. Concrete piles do not corrode like steel piles or decay like wood piles; also, concrete is more readily available than steel. Pre-cast concrete piles are shaped and molded according to shape, length and size prior to being driven into the ground, while cast-in-place piles are poured into holes in the ground where a rod has been previously driven and removed. Reinforced and pre-stressed concrete piles are pre-cast piles where the concrete is poured over steel rods to make the piles stronger, which lets them more easily withstand the pressures of driving.

Steel Pilings
Steel pilings are more often used in the construction of bridges than for the foundation of homes. Steel pilings can be formed into many different shapes but the most common steel pile types have rolled circular, X-shaped or H-shaped cross sections. Concrete piles are very strong and are great for driving, especially in firm soil. They can be easily cut off and can also be easily joined by welding. Although steel pilings can last up to 100 years, they are prone to corrosion, especially when submerged in water. Sometimes steel piles are coated with tar before being driven to help protect against corrosion.

Composite Pilings
Composite pilings are made with two materials in the same pile; one material is in the bottom portion of the pile and the other is in the top portion. These pilings make it possible to have the best of both worlds. For example, a timber piling that is susceptible to damage from insects can be installed underground while a concrete pile could be installed above ground level.

Each project is different so understanding the grounds composition is critical. Many factors come into play like PSI, the design and weight of the home and how high the main floor must be set at to meet all local, state and federal codes.
SandCastle Coastal Homes specializes in elevated waterfront homes. Give us a call today for more information on making your coastal home dream come true!

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May 22, 2016

Why modular construction is best for waterfront homes

Over the past 30 years, the term “Modular Building” has gone through several phases. To us, the term is nearly meaningless because of the diversity of definitions.
Our business and interest lies in sectional buildings – that is, buildings designed as a whole, but built so that sections of the building are factory-produced, transported to the site, and erected to its finished state. Usually, most of the sections are quite different from each other, and therefore are not “modular” except, perhaps, in dimension.
The advantages of factory-fabricated buildings, however, are our specialty. Properly handled, the designs offer many advantages:

1. Quality: Built in a factory by a skilled workforce, our buildings are rarely exposed to weather or its extremes and are built to exacting quality control and inspection programs.

2. Speed: Often, a building can be conceived, bid, and erected in less time than more conventional buildings can be dried in.

3: Cost: Analysis shows that our prices have risen at a much slower rate than conventional cost; furthermore, there has always been a big difference in cost between conventional buildings and sectional buildings, especially when time value is considered.

4: Flexibility: For many users, the sectional building offers many times the flexibility of sites, usage, and durability than conventional structures. Often, it’s easier to build with sectional buildings than to remodel existing available structures.

Building a beach house on an elevated concrete stem wall or pilings can be very complicated and time consuming. Conventional methods are slow when working above the base flood elevation. The greatest advantages of using factory fabricated modules are that 80% of the living structure is complete on the site specific foundation in basically one day.

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January 2, 2016

Dauphin Island Modular Home Build

November 22, 2015

Landscape Ideas for the Beach

Keep landscaping simple for beach house settings.

The relaxed atmosphere and sounds of the surf make a beach house a refuge and getaway for family and friends. Entertaining is the norm when you have a beach house, so outdoor areas must have attractive areas for dining and gathering. Where the beach house is located limits the landscape ideas for plants. Select those plants that grow well in your region of the country.

1. Plant Selection

Plants for beach house settings must adapt to this particular kind of environment. They must be salt-tolerant if they are in coast areas and must grow well in sandy soils. Beach houses on freshwater lakes have a greater selection of plants, but these may need to be cold-hardy in northern areas. Palm varieties look good in beach landscapes in Florida and North Carolina but cannot grow in zones below USDA Hardiness Zone 7, according to SunPalmTrees. Beachgrass, saltwort, pine and birch suit coastal areas like Massachusetts. Avoid plants that grow or spread quickly that will need constant pruning or removal of debris. Choose plants that are native to the area for best chance of long-term survival as well as fewer maintenance requirements.

2.Softscapes

Softscapes are the live, horticultural elements in your landscape design. For a beach house landscape, curved beds give property a casual, relaxed feel yet hold plants neatly, according to University of Florida horticulturalist Gail Hansen. Vertical lines of tree plantings should break up long, horizontal structures of the house and provide shade for outdoor living areas. Bedding shapes can be added to break up large, uninteresting expanses. Use mulch and gravel instead of lawn grass for easy maintenance and low water usage. Lawn areas, if desired, should use native grasses or lower maintenance grasses suitable for the region of the country. Use the shapes and textures of plants like arborvitae or ferns to add interest.

3. Hardscapes

Hardscapes are areas in landscapes that do not contain plants but that contribute to the overall look of the property. Entry sidewalks, driveways, retaining walls and patios are all hardscape features that should contribute to the look of the property as a whole. Flagstone, pavers, concrete, gravel and stone are all hardscape materials used to separate garden and living areas and provide clean and organized surfaces for specific functions. Gravel gives beach houses a more relaxed look for surface areas than concrete but may be impractical for northern beach areas where snow removal is a concern. Pavers are used to make attractive walkways and driveways. Flagstone is a good look for pathways around beach homes, directing traffic throughout the property while maintaining a casual look.

4.Maintenance Features

Beach living is by its nature easy-care, and landscape ideas for beach houses should include research for plants that need the minimum of care. Make patio and other hardscape areas easy to clean with a simple washing with a hose.


					
					

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May 17, 2015

The Perfect Elements of a Contract to Build a Beach House

A perfect all-inclusive contract basically consists of four documents in combination:

  • DRAWINGS
  • SPECIFICATIONS
  • AGREEMENT
  • CONDITIONS

DRAWINGS are a graphic representation of the work to be performed consisting of a site, foundation, floor, roof, elevation, and cross section plans. They show the location, character, dimensions, and details of the work.

SPECIFICATIONS are a written description of the work to be performed consisting of product identification, types of finishes, and standards for performance. They explain the work to be performed in terms that are not easily displayed in graphic form.

AGREEMENT identifies the parties to the agreement, the date, payment schedule for the work, the basic commitment of the Trade Contractor to construct the described project in accordance with the Drawings and Specifications, the schedule on which the work is to be performed, and the signatures of the parties. Usually, this form is quite brief, but it incorporates by reference the other parts of the contract.

CONDITIONS clarify in detail the rights and obligations of the Owner, Trade Contractors, and those activities which will be shared by mutual agreement. These clauses deal with various subjects such as Owner, Construction Manager, Architect, disputes, change orders, schedule, liability insurance, safety, inspections, corrections, arbitration, termination, jurisdiction.

All parties will want to be familiar with all the WRITTEN REQUIREMENTS of an enforceable contract. Here’s a list of 16 conditions between an Owner and an Materials Provider and/or Contractor that you’ll want to put into writing. Consult with an attorney practicing construction contract law to review your contract documents before forming an agreement.

Business Documentation. The legal business name, address and business owner, or legal representative, should be stated. Indicate license numbers, professional certifications, proof of bond to cover work performed, proof of occupational insurance, personal and property liability insurance (contractor), and errors and omissions insurance (designer). Be sure statutory notice is provided according to your state’s law!

Scope of Work. You should identify what will be accomplished. What do you intend to do? What type of work will be performed? The preferred method is to simply refer to Drawings and Specifications, and let those documents do the talking for you, rather than try to re-describe or summarize the scope of work. If drawings and specifications are not yet created, describe how these documents will be created and what fees will be associated with their creation.

Contract Price. How much will be charged? Does the price include sales tax or not? Who is responsible for getting the permits and scheduling inspections? Is the price fixed on drawings and specifications, or cost plus a percentage with an estimate, or based on an hourly fee? Can you break the work into phases of completion?

Schedule of Payments. How are you going to pay? Is there going to be a down payment or retainer fee paid? Are there going to be progress draws? Will you utilize a voucher system? Is the balance due on completion of work? How long after substantial completion of work is final payment due?

Terms of Payments. How do you determine substantial completion of work: when the permit is issued or signed off or some other more definitive date? Will a notarized waiver of lien be required? Will dual signature checks be utilized? How often will the lender’s representative visit the site to verify progress? Never agree to an assignment of funds!

Interest. Will you be charged interest? If so, on what amount are you charged interest? When does interest begin to accrue? If the schedule exceeds the time allotted by lender, who pays any additional interest or penalties?

Site Meetings and Workplace. Where will meetings take place and how frequently? Who will have the authority to call meetings? Who will observe work to be accomplished and become the contact person for all questions and inquiries? Who will maintain workplace clean up and safety? Who will be responsible for maintaining portable toilet, first aid kits, signage, and temporary services on site?

Building Codes. Who is responsible for conformance of drawings and specifications to the building code? What happens during course of construction if building codes change or a field inspector changes the interpretation of a plans examiner?

Lender Requirements. Will both designer and contractor complete a construction cost breakdown form and description of materials using lender’s forms? How will you proceed from a very general estimate of costs of work to be accomplished to a specific budget based on a thorough cost analysis? Who are the specialty contractors and suppliers for each phase of the design and build endeavor?

Change Orders. How will changes to scope of work be documented? Are change orders going to be in writing, or can they be authorized orally? How will changes be billed? Will charges or credits be based on time and material at cost or markup price? Will receipts be provided for materials or work outsourced to others? Is payment to be made in advance for changes or at the time of the next progress billing? Are hourly rates established for residential designer, contractor, or staff person?

Disputes and Remedies. If there is a misunderstanding, how will it be resolved? Are you going to spend endless years in mediation or arbitration, or are you going to resolve this through Mandatory Arbitration Rules, which is set up and paid for by the Superior Court system in your state? Will disputes be settled in accordance with the American Arbitration Association and their Construction Industry Arbitration Rules? How will legal fees be paid? Can you terminate the relationship without paying penalties or additional fees to a designer or contractor?

Warranty. What kind of warranty is being offered for products and services? Who is responsible for maintaining warranty? How long does the warranty remain in effect? Will the designer or contractor agree to maintain warranty of habitability according to provisions of your state’s law? What limitations are placed on warranty? Does warranty cover workmanship, products and materials? Who is responsible for collecting and disseminating product specifications, warranties, and installation instructions?

Unforeseen Conditions. Who is responsible for identifying or removing hazardous waste? Who identifies and fixes structural defects, nonconforming plumbing, mechanical or electrical conditions, or concealed problems with the structure? Who takes financial responsibility for theft and vandalism? What special conditions arise during inclement weather that may affect work schedule or performance?

Scheduling. Whose responsibility is it to schedule the work? If the workplace is not ready at each phase of construction, then who takes responsibility? Who pays for unnecessary trips to the workplace? Are provisions given for labor and delay damages? Who determines who will be responsible for causes of delay? If work is interrupted, how will you correct the problem?

Correction or Completion of Work. Who has the right to create the final punch list? Who has the right to complete pickup work? Will any payment be withheld for any reason? Is it necessary to report deficiencies in writing or can these be described orally? How long is a reasonable opportunity to perform corrections? Who will determine substantial completion of a phase of work for designer or contractor’s work?

Acceptance of Conditions. Is there a place for signatures by owner and designer and contractor indicating their Agreement? When is the start date of acceptance? How long are conditions in effect? Whose forms are to be utilized for formal agreement?

Becoming familiar with each of these issues begins with an informal meeting of all parties either together or separately to discuss the expectations of each participant. This meeting will open lines of communication on these issues and inform all participants of what is expected of them during the course of construction. No firm agreements should be made during information gathering meetings; this is a time for becoming acquainted with the various issues which contribute to the overall project success. It’s always a process of progressive approximation so agree to meet again to discuss the “Conditions” of your “Agreement.”

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April 4, 2015

Remodeling Per Home Highest on the Coasts, in Resort Areas

NAHB recently released new county estimates of remodeling in owner-occupied homes to members of NAHB Remodelers.  The estimates are based on a model developed by NAHB using the American Housing Survey (HUD/U.S. Census Bureau) with county-level inputs from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.  The inputs are based on data collected from 2006 to 2010, so the resulting estimates are for remodeling by home owners during a typical year in that period.  The county estimates are summarized in the map below:

The darkest areas on the map show counties where estimated remodeling is  at least $4,000 per owner occupied home.  At the very top of the list, however, there are a number of counties above $6,000:

The table also shows the four inputs NAHB uses to estimate local remodeling tendencies.  The input with the strongest influence on remodeling per home is the home’s value, so the highest remodeling per home estimates tend to occur in counties where home prices are high—in large metropolitan areas on the Northeast and West coasts, or in resort areas such as ski destinations around the Rocky Mountains.

Some of the counties with high remodeling per home contain relatively few homes, so it’s also useful to look at total remodeling within the county.  The counties that rise to the top of that list are the ones with very large populations, such as Los Angeles County, or Cook County in Illinois (which includes Chicago).

An NAHB web page shows the top five counties in each of the four principal Census regions for total remodeling and remodeling per owner occupied home.   Remodeling estimates for all counties in the country are available to members of NAHB Remodelers.

By Paul Emrath on NAHB Eye on Housing

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March 20, 2015

Modular homes are the future of residential homebuilding

Or so says the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) – This new video by the Building Systems Councils (BSC) of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) outlines the benefits of modular home construction — how builders can save time and money in today’s turbulent market by cutting overhead and outsourcing their construction costs.

The video shows how modular construction can help builders maximize their output when operating with limited staffs and budgets. With modular construction, nearly 90% of a home is built in a controlled environment.

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