Posted by: SoccerGirl | March 17, 2008

Choosing a Builder Part 1

We took a little trip up to the property this weekend for a couple of reasons. 1. I am on Spring Break and offered my services to my dad to help him do work on the property and 2. Now that there are official house plans we need to find someone to actually build the thing since none of us can do it.

We arrived at the property around noon and after a brief walk up to the house site set to work, well my dad started working and my mom & I went to the bed & breakfast we were staying at to check in and use the facilities since there is nothing but woods to use on the property. The plan for this trip was to construct a water bar across one of the old logging roads that was being eroded. I returned to the property and helped my dad while my mom went into town to check out cabinets and flooring at the local building supply store. We worked for a few hours before mom returned to tell us she had talked to one of the builders and he could meet us then at a house he was working on.

So we packed up the tools and headed over to Blowing Rock for the meeting. Mom had directions to the house but we also had the GPS to help us out. We reached the road the house was on, but both the GPS and us human navigators were confused about where to turn. This isn’t unusual for the mountains though as we have discovered road signs and addresses are not always readily viewable. We ended up making 2 U-turns before finally finding the driveway (oh and we did come across a family of about 4 deer along the way). The driveway was interesting, it was quite steep and very, very long. Of course since we also have to install a road on our property we were thankful that ours would be much shorter and therefore much cheaper (we hope!). We finally arrived at the house and found the builder and his wife picking up some trash that had been blown around by recent strong winds. We checked out the house, my dad immediately noticing that they were using the spray foam insulation in the garage, something he apparently likes. This house is also a timber frame house, although quite a bit more elaborate than the one we plan to build. We walked into the main room and I felt like we were in church, the architecture was that elaborate.

My dad mostly talked with the builder with my mom adding questions and comments, and me just observing and noting things that we had talked about in the car. My dad had done research already about questions to ask of the builder and managed to ask some of the most important ones in this meeting-this builder’s answers are in parentheses. 1. Do you have your own crew? (yes, except for certain things that require subcontractors) 2. Are you here most of the time? (yes, all the time basically) 3. How many houses do you generally build each year? (2-3) 4. How do you charge? (cost plus, which means their cost for materials plus 15%) 5. How long will it take to build a house (12-15 months is what they usually write the contracts for). My dad also talked about using Superior Walls for the foundation which I have never heard of, but I don’t spend as much time watching HGTV as he does. This builder seemed to like them although my dad is still unsure about using these versus your standard foundation. We also noted that this house used cultured stones on the outside, which look and feel (as I tested by picking one up) like the real thing but are cheaper and supposedly easier to work with. There is also a question of what kind of roof to use, metal or 3-D shingles, this house used metal, but it seems like it’s just personal preference and a cost issue as are many things in this whole process I think.

We left the meeting and headed back to where we were staying, stopping for dinner and purchase of lottery tickets along the way.



  1. Danny Seo is actually renovating an old house, and he’s trying to go about it in a “green” way. I know he’s not building from scratch, but you may be able to borrow some of his other ideas….like his heating/cooling system and recycled paper insulation.

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