WEEK 14: There’s a chill to the air, my children are back in school, and I’m starting to see Halloween candy for sale in the grocery store, yet too little progress on my house. When we moved into our temporary apartment in June, we had hoped to move home by the end of September. Our builder, who had experience with these types of projects, felt that time frame was more than adequate. Here’s a surprise, our builder was wrong (insert sarcasm). But experience had already taught us that lesson – it always takes longer than expected. The question is – why?
Every project will have deviations from the list below, but if you’re planning to elevate your house, take note. Top 7 Reasons why an Elevation Project Drags On and on and on …
1. THE BLUEPRINTS ARE LACKING IN DETAIL: If there’s one aspect of my project that I’d love to do over again, it would be the hiring of my architect. It’s not that he was unable to create blueprints with sufficient details, it’s that he was unwilling. It took him a year to deliver blueprints with barely sufficient detail for a builder to bid on the job and to get the proper permits from our building department. The kiss of death is anywhere on the blueprints that states, “to be verified in the field.” I would encourage anyone with a need for an architect to build into the contract specific deadlines for work to be completed as well as having a frank discussion about the level of details required. It’s likely to cost a bit more up front but pay for itself in avoiding time delays and conflicts with the builder later.
2. LACK OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE LIFTING COMPANY AND THE BUILDER: The lifting company in our case worked for us, they were not sub-contracted by the builder. As such, the communication was lacking between these two specialists resulting in weeks of time delays. In our case, this occurred despite the fact that the builder and lifting company had recently worked together on several other elevation projects.
3. THE CONTRACTOR HAS POOR TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS: None of them will admit this adage applies to them, but a fair number of contractors are unable to see the big picture and anticipate the needs of the job two, three, four weeks in advance. I’ve never seen a giant calendar on site identifying everything that has to happen in a day, a week, a month. It appears to me they think about the job only a week at a time, in very general terms. They seem immune to the concept of a time crunch, except for the contractors you see on television.
4. SECURING PROPER PERMITS: A house elevation project will require building permits and very likely height variances from your local building department. Additionally, as your property floods (or you wouldn’t be going to the trouble of lifting it), you are likely to run into wetland permit requirements that can often trigger the local county or even the state in which you live to get involved. These permits can often be secured with minimal disputes, but do take time.
5. THE UTILITY COMPANY GETS INVOLVED: When you lift a house, the gas lines need to be cut and locked for safety reasons. No one’s looking to blow up a neighborhood, just elevate a house. However, this necessity brings the utility company to the party. As most of them are huge corporations with a monopoly on the market, it’s going to be on their terms. They’ll tell you when they plan to show up and when it fits into their schedule. They care little about yours. This element is one of the trickiest facets of the job as it is almost entirely out of your hands.
6. THE WATER COMPANY GETS INVOLVED: Before you can lift your house, you’ll need to cut and cap the sewer lines and most water lines (one water line was kept for construction needs in our case). Before they can be turned back on, the water company, at least in our case, needs to cut all the water from the street. This requires the water company to send an employee to your house. This should have minimal impact on your project.
7. UNFORESEEN COMPLICATIONS: Many big projects, such as elevating an old house, are going to run into problems that could not be anticipated. In our case, the original foundation was unsalvageable and the house was remarkably out of square. These two conditions prompted a much lengthier time frame to build up the new foundation. Your project is likely to run into it’s own unforeseen peculiar quirks.
The above list does not touch on change-orders as those are a given that you’ll endure time delays. The list varies with items from those entirely within your control to those that are onerous and require *buttloads of patience. Although it is not entirely possible to dictate the unfolding of your elevation project, armed with the information above, you can avoid some known time traps and possibly finish before you wish you’d never started.
*buttloads is an actual measurement. See the link below that differentiates buttload, from boatload or shitload. It includes a terrific graphic.