Thursday, January 1, 2009

Update on home project


Happy new year to everyone out there. As tough as it's been the past month, we have had to still make some decisions regarding our home project in order to keep it moving. For many days it just didn't seem worth it to bother with the home, we would much prefer to just crawl under a rock and close everything out. But everything we've done in the past two years has been leading up to starting construction in 2009, and to change that would bring just as many complications as it alleviated. For instance, the term for our land loan ends in December of 2009 and we would have to refinance this loan in order to hold on to the land we have. Also, interest rates for 30-year mortgages are likely to be going down to all-time lows some time in 2009, and we'd like to take advantage of that for the mortgage for our new home. So, given all of this, work on our new home hasn't really stopped and it's a good time to give an update on where we are at.

Bids for our home project

In late November we received the bids back from the five contractors who were bidding our project, and got a reality check on cost. Here's a plot I put together that doesn't have any numbers but hopefully will be descriptive:

Now, that said, there were some very expensive things that we left in the home design strictly to get an idea of the cost but without realistically thinking we'd be able to afford it. For instance, the siding was specified as cedar, though we knew from a few contractors' comments that cedar costs have gone way up in the last few years. Also, the gutters were still specified as being inset into the roof (even though we thought these wouldn't be affordable) and the gutter material was specified as copper, which really isn't necessary. These things and a few others could have been taken out ahead of the bids and the black dots in the chart above would have been somewhat closer to our budget. But despite these known expensive items, they alone cannot account for even the majority of cost overrun. There were going to have to be some significant reductions to the project to bring the project close to our budget. LOTS of reductions.

Let me just say, for anyone considering building a home in the future, this bidding process was extremely important to go through. You do this so that you can be informed of potential cost overruns with your wallet closed, and then make adjustments ahead of time. You also do this so that you can select a contractor with a low bid, who is also committed to helping you reach your budget with suggestions to reduce cost.

Selected Contractor

Despite the bids being way over our budget, we needed to select a contractor to finally start working with one-on-one and utilize his expertise. In a previous post I reviewed the contractors who were bidding. So, the contractor we selected is...

Duane Kozitka from The Chuba Company

We are really excited about working with Duane and have already met with him twice since the end of the bidding process, most recently a couple days ago with my brother as he is in town for Christmas. Duane was not the lowest bidder, but was very close to the lowest number and brings 20 years of experience working with SIP's and has built architecturally designed homes (and is currently doing one in Golden Valley, MN). We couldn't pass up the experience level he brings, and also were happy with his willingness to pull out all the stops to get our project back within budget.

For those interested, Summit Design Build was the highest bidder.

Cost Saving Measures

It's clear that beyond the more expensive items that we left in for the bids, the project has some fundamental issues that cause its cost to be higher than our budget. One of the biggest is the amount of external surface area of the home (which includes extra siding, extra wall construction and SIP's, etc.). We knew this going in and we want to preserve the unique design and character of the home going forward. But, in order to do so we had to make some tough choices. Here are the biggest cost saving measures that we know we are implementing:

1. Do not build chapel, leave for later addition
2. Do not build a basement (add in more above-ground storage)
3. Change cedar siding to fiber cement siding
4. Stick with asphalt shingle roof instead of standing seam metal roof
5. Eliminate all exterior brick walls (and possibly add later)
6. Change inset gutters to more standard gutters, and change material from copper to painted aluminum
7. Don't lay any sod or do any landscaping, leave for later

Without question the biggest "ouch" for me in this list is leaving the chapel to add later. In the end, the chapel was not going to be finished on the inside right away anyway, and it may end up being a good thing. The chapel design is about as small as it can be right now, and leaving it for a later addition will allow us to enlarge the chapel by a few feet in width to give it some breathing room. The chapel is one of the biggest reasons we are building this home, so you can be sure it will be the first thing we do in the next few years (before anything else we plan on adding, like the patio and outer balcony, or landscaping, or anything).

There are many more items on our cost-saving list that are smaller but add up to big savings, and I won't bore you by discussing all those. Some are changes we are making in interior finishes, some are work that I plan on doing myself instead of paying for labor.

I think the integrity of the project will still be in tact after all of our cost-saving efforts, and it's a good thing to always be reminded that, as the Rolling Stones said, "You can't always get what you want." What we truly desire is to follow God's will, and that's all that matters.

Please pray for us as well, as we are currently getting our house ready to be put on the market some time the week of January 12th!


John Curran said...

Interesting! I am glad you're leaving the chapel for later, inasmuch as that means it may be made wider. I was concerned about it being too narrow for seating to look appropriate.

The chapel may also then have the added excitment of being a project of its own!

Must tell you, you inspired me to research icons, which I am now attempting to write (paint.)


Brendan Koop said...

Awesome! I remember when we talked about that. If you ever feel inspired enough to send me a pic of your work (no expectations on my part) just shoot me an e-mail.

I have had to take a sabbatical from my drawing and painting due to our busy lives and me trying to finish my PhD thesis, but that's just made me want to do it all the more. I'm looking forward to getting more time to do that in the future.

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

I'm curious if you are freaked out by not having a basement? We almost bought a house that was great but had no basement and it just scared us too much with so many kids. If you have time, maybe you could explain to me what your feelings are on the matter?

Brendan Koop said...

Hi Laura. Instead of a basement there will be a portion of the home that will have a crawl space (with a concrete floor) that will allow us to go for protection from storms if needed. It will also allow for some storage space. Other than that we also fee really good about the strength of our home, since it will be constructed of Structural Insulated Panels, which make for walls that are 2-3 time stronger than traditional stick framing.