Staying In Front Of Your Job

Staying In Front Of Your Job

There’s nothing quite as frustrating when building a house as being ready to install a specific aspect of the home only to find that the materials you need are not on site and won’t be for sometime. This is something many owner-builders run into when working on their first home. The problem is that materials such as windows and doors, siding, cabinets, etc. need to be ordered well in advance of the time you want to install them. Some of these items can literally have a 4-5 week lead time. Sitting idle on the job for a month or more is certainly not a good idea, so make sure you get your time line in order from the start. In this article we cover the art of scheduling your construction job and staying in front of your job.

I suggest that you get a sense of all the items you will need in your home well before you start building. This is a good idea for many reasons, the critical path (the time line of your build) is just one of them. Consider the following five steps as a plan of action for your build.

Complete the design of your home

This means more than just figuring out where each room will be. You need to know many details such as: How will the house be heated? What’s the source for your hot water? Will cooling be in order? (typically not if you house is on a trailer as you can always move it into the shade!) What type of flooring will you install? Get a complete list of details in hand before you start any construction.

Pick your materials 

If you can manage to pick all of your finish materials before you start building, you will have a great advantage. This will help you build with confidence when it comes to knowing things such as floor thickness and cabinet spacing, etc. What’s more, you will know your budget before a single nail has been driven. That said, it’s always a good idea to have a contingency fund of roughly 10% on hand in case of change along the way.

Talk to suppliers early 

Contact your lumber yard and ask them what lead times they have for things like windows/ doors, siding, and flooring. If you plan to hire out cabinetry or other aspects of the job, be sure to talk to those subcontractors right away and ask them about lead times too.

Order what you need, when you need it 

As much as I want you to have all of your materials on site when you need them, I don’t want you to overwhelm your tiny space along the way. In other words, don’t have your flooring delivered before you are ready to install it. After all, where I you going to store it? Get a sense of your critical path and have your materials delivered just before they are needed. A quick tip: if you plan to use wood floors, it is best to acclimate them to your home’s interior climate for a few days before installing them. This means you will need to have them delivered two to three days early and you will need your heat source up and running as well.

Have a back up plan 

It’s true that delays happen in construction. They may be a result of something you did or didn’t do or they may be completely the result of someone else’s actions or inactions. It doesn’t really matter in the end. What matters is that you don’t sit around twiddling your thumbs while you wait for the critical path to right itself. Instead, have some work set aside for just such times. A great example is installing the pulls on your cabinets. That doesn’t HAVE to happen at any specific time, so leave it be until you find yourself idle. Then have at it. There are lots of little jobs like this that can wait for a rainy day. You’ll be glad you saved some when that “rain” starts falling.

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3 Responses to Staying In Front Of Your Job

  1. Kim Moore April 6, 2014 at 5:18 am #

    These are some wonderful tips. Everything I am reading I am showing to my husband. He and our friend who is a contractor will be working on our tiny home. Its funny, the other day we went driving around Amish country looking for the type of “shed” we need for our particular build, well, we had a wonderful time but we didn’t find anything that even looked like what we would want. So, we stop at a cheese house and got some cheese then came home. When we got home and before I had to go to work I got on the computer and I found the plans! AND the were free! Now, it doesn’t have the plumbing or electric. It is just the shell, but like I said our friend can figure this stuff out. And when we build it we wanted to just build the structure and then get a “feel” for the inside and “see” where we would like to place things. Thanks for all the advice. Oh, do you recommend a book or maybe some websites, (besides yours, which is AWESOME!!) that we can also get some good information? You and Gabriella have done a wonderful job and you two seem so personal. That’s a nice touch.

    • Andrew April 6, 2014 at 8:49 am #

      Hi Kim. I would recommend you check out tinyhouseblog.com. Kent posts all kinds of information on there.

      One word of caution in regards to building the shell and then configuring the interior space afterwards. This is risky because you will need to include windows in the shell and the placement of those windows will be very specific based on the use of the interior space. The same is true with plumbing and electrical rough ins. I would suggest using SketchUp or some other 3D modeling software to create the house and configure it before you do any construction. Minor changes are one thing, but a complete internal design, post construction, may be dangerous.

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