Tag Archives: general contractor

Barndominium Building on Solid Ground

For many, a new barndominium is looked upon as being a ‘forever’ home. This is an opportunity to have a floor plan custom crafted to meet all sorts of family wants and needs – whether it is a huge country kitchen or shop space big enough to house a fleet of classic vehicles.

It is yours.

It is YOUR hard earned dollars going to pay for this lovely new home.

While I encourage everyone who can to at least act as their own General Contractor (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2020/02/does-my-barndominium-need-a-turn-key-general-contractor/), not everyone feels confident in doing this. In some instances lenders require a General Contractor’s involvement. For others, their new barndominium and their current home and careers are geographically not close enough to allow for this to occur.

Scary things can happen when turnkey General Contractors are left to their own devices. I have penned previously (okay hunt-and-pecked) on how to avoid General Contractor challenges (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/11/a-contractor-for-your-new-barndominium/).
Crucial to long term success with your new barndominium is having a solid base to build upon. Those doing work DIY have an advantage – you get to supervise (or do) site preparation and any needed compaction.

drywall crackHaving a barndominium built? You may anticipate a few things going wrong, but you’d expect your builder to erect your house on solid ground, right? Don’t be so sure.
Population growth and urban sprawl mean there’s not much residential land left in many areas. “What’s left is not very good,” says Daniel G. Knowler, a senior engagement manager at Navigant Consulting, specializing in construction disputes. A lot of homes are being built on expansive soil — it swells when it rains — without adequate safeguards.

One family moved into their new home in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, and long cracks started showing up in walls, then their porch started pulling away from their house. After badgering his builder for a soils report, this homeowner learned their lot was a hot spot for potential swell! Eventually a court found for these homeowners and ordered restitution from said builder.

(for extended reading on barndominiums on expansive soils please see: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2020/07/barndominium-on-expansive-soils/)
Problems besides swelling soil can occur. In Laguna Niguel, California four hillside homes built on an ancient landslide site toppled after unstable soil gave way. Besides these four homes collapsing, they landed on top of other dwellings below – destroying them!

Do not assume a turnkey General Contractor will make all potential problems go away, sadly they can cause more than they solve.

A Shortlist for Smooth Barndominium Sailing

Every builder worth his or her salt is busy right now – there is a far greater demand for builders, than there are builders to fill needs. This makes builder’s time extremely valuable. There are some things you can do to make for smooth sailing when shopping for and/or dealing with contractors.

#1 Have a realistic budget – fully engineered post frame, PEMB and weld up barndominiums CAN be more affordable than stick frame. But, they are not going to be 10-50% less. Think about it – your only differences are in structural systems, all of your electrical, plumbing, HVAC, insulation, interior finishes, fixtures, cabinets, floor coverings, etc., are going to be identical investments no matter what structural system is chosen.

Outside of land costs and bringing utilities to your site, you are simply not going to build a barndominium with 2000 square feet of living space for $100k turnkey (and unlikely to reach this even if you DIY absolutely everything).

This will help you to determine a budget: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/07/how-much-will-my-barndominium-cost/

#2 Have a place to build. If you do not ‘own the dirt’ you have no business burning a builder’s time.

https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/08/a-place-for-a-post-frame-barndominium/

Floor Plan#3 Have professional floor plans and elevation drawings done before pestering a builder. Very few builders are professional designers or architects – expecting them to be is unrealistic.

If you do not own the dirt, it is impossible to craft a barndominium plan to best fit with your building site.

Some plan tips to consider:

Direction of access – driveways are not cheap and shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Curb appeal – what will people see when they drive up? This may not be important to you, however some day someone will try to resell your barndominium.

Is there an appealing view?

North-south alignment – place no or few windows on north walls, but lots of windows on south wall. Roof overhangs on south wall should provide shade to windows from mid-day summer sun.

Is there a slope on your building site?

Work from inside out – do not try to fit your wants and needs within a pre-ordained box just because someone said using a “standard” size might be cheaper. Differences in dimensions from “standard” are pennies per square foot, not dollars.

Popular home spaces and sizes need to be determined:  https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/09/room-in-a-barndominium/ and https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/09/the-first-tool-to-construct-your-own-barndominium/.

With all of this in mind, order your custom designed floor plans here: http://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/post-frame-floor-plans/?fbclid=IwAR2ta5IFSxrltv5eAyBVmg-JUsoPfy9hbWtP86svOTPfG1q5pGmfhA7yd5Q 

#4 Determine if you are going to act as your own General Contractor, or hire it done (being your own General Contractor saves roughly 25%).

https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2020/02/does-my-barndominium-need-a-turn-key-general-contractor/

https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/11/a-contractor-for-your-new-barndominium/

https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/11/a-contractor-for-your-barndominium-part-ii/

https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/11/a-contractor-for-your-barndominium-part-iii/

Need a Building Erector? https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/find-a-builder/

#5 If needed, arrange financing:

https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2020/06/things-to-complete-before-going-to-a-barndominium-lender/

https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/financing/

#6 To obtain a successful and happy outcome, do lots of reading and research. An informed barndominium owner is a happy one!

Unseen Danger of Hiring a Building Contractor

Earlier this year I had written about a post frame building construction site incident: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2020/07/safely-erecting-post-frame-buildings/. As we live in an overly litigious society, there is yet more to this story:

A Theresa man injured when roof trusses at a construction site gave way in high winds in June has filed a lawsuit against the site’s owner and two contractors.

Lee Trickey filed state Supreme Court action Monday at the Jefferson County Clerk’s office against Black River Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning Inc., Wilcox Gravel and Excavating Inc., and Vaadi Construction.

Mr. Trickey was working June 24 on the construction of a large pole barn at Black River Plumbing, 24692 County Route 50, when the trusses gave way, causing Mr. Trickey to fall from a height, with falling trusses then landing on him, according to the suit. He suffered a broken femur, pelvis, sternum and hip, as well as other injuries.

It is alleged that the trusses had been improperly hoisted and secured by employees of the contractors, resulting in Mr. Trickey’s injuries, and that the property owner failed to provide him with a reasonably safe place to work.

The suit does not specify an amount sought in damages. Mr. Trickey is represented by Syracuse attorney Donald S. DiBenedetto.”

As a property owner hiring professional (we hope), insured (again hopefully) and safety conscious (we really hope) building contractors – one would like to believe they have insulated themselves from potential legal action should things go awry. In this case a property owner is being named in a lawsuit for failing to provide a reasonably safe place to work, even though trusses were being placed during a high wind event!

Construction is an industry fraught with potential hazards, even when hiring experienced contractors. My own Father perished in a construction fall in 1988, even with over four decades of actually swinging a hammer, so it does sadly happen.

How to avoid situations such as these?

If hiring a contractor to perform any sort of work on your property thoroughly vet them (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2018/04/vetting-building-contractor/). Item number three in this article on insurance is particularly critical – especially in dealing with worker’s compensation (industrial) insurance.

Yes, you are going to pay more up front for a licensed and insured builder, and it will seem like a bargain later on, if you are named in a lawsuit such as our property owner above.

Discuss with your own insurance agent what sort of coverage you have – depending upon your individual circumstances, it may be prudent to add to your policy, just in case.

Doesn’t Like Idea of Concrete Slab on Grade Foundation

Doesn’t Like Idea of a Concrete Slab Foundation

Loyal reader ASHLEY in KELSO writes:

“I will be building in southwest Washington – Cowlitz County. We are wanting around a 2800 square foot home. I do not like the idea of a concrete slab “foundation”, we are going with crawl space (I read your blog on that =) ) I have just a few questions. Do you offer your services in Cowlitz County? What permit codes should I be looking for when contracting out/doing it ourselves to make this into a home? Not only is this our first build, it will be done by us so Will contracting out be more expensive for a pole barn home since it’s not a typical stick built? Or is the work roughly the same? Hope this all makes sense. Thank you so much.”

Well Ashley makes total sense.

Hansen Pole Buildings actually provides more buildings in Washington State than anywhere else in the country! In Cowlitz County alone, I would not be surprised if you couldn’t find well over a hundred of our buildings.

You will find crawl spaces to be a very effective alternative to slab on grade using fully engineered post frame construction and we see more and more people interested in this as a design solution. Personally, my knees would scream at me if I had to stand on concrete for more than perhaps 15-20 minutes.

Self-contracting will save you a good chunk of change (often 25% or more) and if you are reasonably physically capable and will read our step-by-step assembly instructions you can successfully erect your own beautiful building shell yourself. You will find a post frame building shell goes together quicker than stick built, because there are frankly fewer pieces to handle!

Any subcontractors for electrical, plumbing, HVAC should be roughly similar in price whether stick or post frame – your savings comes from being your own general contractor, DIYing as much as possible and a huge reduction in foundation investment.

Here is your Planning and Building Department ‘homework’ to get you started:

https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2020/01/your-barndominiums-planning-department/


https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2020/08/building-department-checklist-part-i/

Do You, or Anyone Else You Trust, Build In or Near (fill in the blank)?

This question was put forth by reader TARILYNN in FREEDOM.

It (or a similar variant) also gets posted roughly 10 to 20 times daily in various social media groups.

I spent most of a decade as a registered General Contractor in multiple states. At times we would have as many as 35 crews erecting buildings in six states. We had some very, very good crews – among them ones I had do work for me personally. Even being best does not come without some potential pitfalls and pratfalls however. About once a year or so my best crew would, for whatever unexplained reason, totally struggle with a building. Maybe it was a bad planetary alignment, but it does happen.

An absolute best way to avoid unforeseen challenges with a builder is to do it yourself.

Here at Hansen Pole Buildings we provide fully engineered, custom designed post frame buildings, with multiple buildings in all 50 states. Our buildings are designed for average physically capable persons who can and will read instructions to successfully construct their own beautiful buildings (and many of our clients DIY). Our buildings come with full 24” x 36” blueprints detailing location and attachment of every piece, a 500 page fully illustrated step-by-step installation manual, as well as unlimited technical support from people who have actually built buildings. For those without time or inclination, we have an extensive independent Builder Network covering every state except Alaska and Hawaii (although some of these builders would probably volunteer to travel to them, depending upon time of year). We can assist you in getting erection labor pricing as well as introducing you to potential builders. We would appreciate an opportunity to participate in your new home, garage, shop or commercial building. Please email your building specifics (or barndominium plans), site address and best contact number to Caleb@HansenPoleBuildings.com 1(866)200-9657 .

Prior to contracting with any building contractor (even one proposed by us) we strongly encourage you to read this series of articles: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/11/a-contractor-for-your-new-barndominium/

What Hansen Pole Buildings Offers for Prospective Barndominium Owners

What Hansen Pole Buildings Offers for Prospective Barndominium Owners

If you are considering building a barndominium or shouse (shop/house), whether DIY or with a contractor’s involvement, there is one very important question to ask:

“Do you personally live in a barndominium?”

If you do not receive a resounding, “YES” for an answer, you may want to rethink your choice.

My lovely bride and I have lived in our Hansen Pole Building along South Dakota’s Lake Traverse for 15 years now. This being my third personal barndominium, dating back some thirty years, I can speak with experience few others can.

Hansen VisionAt Hansen Pole Buildings, we are literally “All About the Building” and we strive to provide “The Ultimate Post Frame Building Experience™”. Every single one of our fully engineered post frame buildings is custom designed to best fit our client’s wants and needs. Rarely will we be least expensive, however we will always provide a best value solution.



This process ideally begins in infancy stages, with a determination of fiscal reality – highly tempered by individual tastes and how much effort one is willing or able to put into their new home. Those willing to be their own General Contractors can plan upon saving roughly 25% over hiring a builder to turn key and 50% for DIYing as much as possible. We have found any physically capable person, who is willing to read step-by-step directions in English can successfully erect their own beautiful building, and many do. We have even had septuagenarian couples do their own construction!

Most often a DIY barndominium turns out with better results than one could ever hire done – because you truly care about how it turns out.

Once a budget has been established, it is time to ‘find the dirt’. Without knowing where your barndominium will be located, it is impossible and impractical to determine how your new home should be planned. Important aspects such as direction of access, curb appeal and views play into a well thought out design.  Directional orientation is important, with heat loss or gain determined by location and number of windows, as well as design of shading from overhangs. Slope of site determines needs for significant grade work or placing upon a full or partial basement or crawl space.

Moving closer to actuality we provide direction and encouragement in determining your family’s needed spaces, sizes and orientation to each other. Work from your home’s inside rather than trying to fit what your needs are into some pre-ordained space. With this information in hand, we offer a potentially free, professional floor plan and building elevation service to take all of your ideas, wants and needs and actually craft a floor plan best melding them with realities of construction.

Whether you have utilized our plan service, or have a plan of your own, your Hansen Pole Buildings’ Designer will work directly with you to make recommendations to provide a home most practical for you. You have total choice over a virtually unlimited number of aspects. Your being directly involved eliminates builders taking advantage of you in order to pad their bottom line. Hansen Pole Buildings does have a unique Instant Pricing™ system, allowing your Building Designer to make changes and have a near instantaneous answer as to what your investment will be as various dimensional and feature changes are contemplated.

We are very conscious about design for energy efficiency. Power is unlikely to ever become less expensive, so getting at or as close as possible to a net zero design is paramount.

Need financing for your new barndominium? We work with several lenders who actually understand post frame barndominiums and can assist with this phase.

After your building order has been placed, it moves from your Building Designer’s desk to our design team. Before going to one of our skilled draftspeople every building comes across my desk for personal review – mostly in an aspect of what will or will not work structurally, Building Code compliance and how to increase building efficiency without compromising functionality.

Once your structural building plans are completed, you get to review them for accuracy prior to our independent Registered Professional Engineer going over every member and connection as a final assurance of structural soundness. Only after all of these steps have been completed are your engineer sealed plans, along with verifying structural calculations, sent to you to acquire necessary building permits.

Even if your jurisdiction does not require building permits, structural plan reviews or do inspections, having engineer sealed plans is your assurance of structural adequacy. There are insurance companies who give discounts to those who build fully engineered homes, so ask your agent for yours.

You have access through our online portal to follow your building’s process, reschedule build dates, report any damaged or missing materials, as well as requesting unlimited technical support from those who have actually built post frame buildings.

Even after your barndominum is complete and you have sent us digital photos of your beautiful new home, our commitment to you does not end. Hansen Pole Buildings provides a Limited Lifetime Structural warranty covering your home and regardless of how many years you have had your building, should you have questions or concerns, we are available to assist.

Planning for a Dogtrot Barndominium

Planning for a Dogtrot Barndominium

Reader JIM in HOLIDAY writes:

Dear sir,

I have scoured your site as best I can in the past few weeks and I only see one very brief mention on the “Blower Door Test” and some other articles on elevated wood flooring.  These are the two main issues I am currently working on but I will try to briefly give you my current situation so you can offer any ideas.   Your knowledge and website are invaluable and although we haven’t talked or met, I feel I can trust you to be honest.

A little background:

I have 5 acres of mostly wooded land in northern Florida approximately 30 miles SSW of Valdosta, Ga.  I have the land approximately 50% paid off and owe about $18,000.  

I currently have a 100amp temporary electric pole, a water well drilled and am installing a temporary septic system.  All were permitted and approved except the temp septic since it is being constructed.  I also have a 12×16 single pitch roof gazebo, permitted and approved, an engineer stamped 12×16 s-type quonset hut shed, a 10×12 (no permit needed) shed and an 8×30 old refurbished FEMA trailer that we can stay in when we are there to work.  All are paid in full.

I am required to have a minimum of “1200 sq ft of heated living area” for a residence due to a covenant/restriction in the deed.  The land is approximately 4 hours from my current home.  

I would like a 30 to 36 inch raised wooden floor in the residence.  My budget is on the lower end since I’m on a retirement income.  I will be the general contractor (no experience) and I have two sons in the construction business with 15 to 20 years experience.  My oldest is a roofer but currently owns his own handyman business so he either does it all or knows people who can do what I need.  My youngest is a framing carpenter who also has connections.

I feel comfortable about their abilities and their friends and co-workers being able to get this done for me.  I want all the floors raised as I plan to eventually connect all the buildings with a continuous porch and the house with a wrap around deck the same height.  When completed the area will have the house and all the buildings in a “U” configuration that is approximately 250 ft by 250 ft.  There is a possibility, and room for, another 1200 square foot residence next to the first but both buildings would have to be connected, making it one residence since I am only allowed one residence on my 5 acres.

Now that you have the general, current, status of where I am, I am trying to decide on the 1200 sq ft residence.  First and foremost, my building inspector and I don’t always see eye to eye.  He says that he has yet to find a metal building that will pass the now nationwide mandate for every new residence to pass a “blower door test” and my residence will not be approved unless it does.  He has no issue with a raised wood floor but feels that poles in the ground may not be sufficient due to the hurricane rating for winds.  Uplift from winds will require not only cement but screw in tie downs like on a mobile home, which I was required to do on the other, smaller buildings.  

Can you please explain and elaborate on a Hansen pole residence of around 1200 sq ft and the blower door test and also the raised buildings and floors and uplift.  Any other suggestions would also be greatly appreciated.

My main goal is to get the needed, but bare minimum 1200 sq ft residence as soon as possible so I can get my certificate of occupancy and move there and then complete the interior of the first building.  Then apply for a permit to build an attached second building of the same size and design as the first to double my space.  I don’t know if this can be done but obviously living there will accelerate my plans rather than driving 4 hours, every 2 or 3 weeks, spending 2 or 3 days working and driving back.  My wife and I seem to like the “dog trot” style building but I don’t know if this can be done one building at a time. 

Thank you for your time and ideas on this.  

Jim

I am in somewhat of a rush to make a decision on what residence to focus on so an email reply to xxxx@xxxxx.com as soon as you can would be appreciated. Hopefully this will be of interest to others and may be published in your blog in the future.

Again thank you for such dedication to informing everyone who is trying to live their dreams.

Tune in tomorrow for Mike’s response!

How to Find Barndominium Subcontractors

How to Find Barndominium Subcontractors

As a new barndominium General Contractor, you will need to line up subcontractors (subs) to do work you cannot or will not do. But, how does one go about finding these subs?

My first call is to my nearest Home Builders Association (find them here https://www.nahb.org/NAHB-Community/Directories/Local-Associations).
If unable to find a sufficient number (ideally three from each category), visit the ProDesk at your local The Home Depot and ask for names and numbers.

A good contractor is a working contractor, especially during a recession or other downturn in housing starts. This is not always true, but it is a pretty safe bet. Really good ones are sought after and always busy because they do good work and are reliable.

If you can’t find a contractor through your Home Builders Association or The Home Depot, next best place to look is on a job site. Find a house under construction. Stop and ask around. You can get names, prices, and references. This takes only a few minutes. It is done frequently and other general contractors shouldn’t mind. Chances are he or she probably won’t even be there. 

Often you will find the boss or owner of a subcontracting firm is on a site working. Get his number and arrange a meeting. Sometimes there are signs at job sites advertising different subs.

Only certain contractors are found on the internet. Most independent building erectors are not. You should however, be able to find heating and air-conditioning companies, plumbers, electricians, roofers, appliance retailers, and a few others.

Each subcontractor should carry insurance on his or her employees and should provide you with a certificate of insurance. Since this is your first experience and you won’t be familiar with prices in your area, get three or four bids, or quotes, from different subs before selecting one. Use a written contract with all subs.

Subcontractors and contractors may have their own contracts. At any rate, use one. Don’t trust anyone’s memory when it comes to dollars or who is to do what and when. Spell out your specifications thoroughly in your contract to be sure your bids are comparable and all subs are bidding on the exact same work.

Does my Barndominium Need a Turn-Key General Contractor?

Does My Barndominium Need a Turn-Key General Contractor?

Often a goal of barndominium (especially post frame) construction is to be able to get your most building, for your dollars invested (think biggest bang per buck).

When a turn-key general contractor is hired to provide a constructed building, normally about 25% of what you pay is going to said general contractor, who never lifts a tool or picks up a board at your building site.  This is a different person than an erection contractor, who heads up a team of builders, but who also drives nails and screws along with his or her crew.  A “general contractor” could be someone who drives nails, but usually doesn’t.  They often sit in an office and act as coordinator. Sometimes they visit your building site, and often they do not. They may have a salesman or other assistant who actually occasionally visits your jobsite.

If you are not a “hands on” person or one who is willing to invest a few hours of your own time to save thousands of dollars, then maybe hiring a general contractor is your answer.

When people start thinking of “General contractors” visions of dollar signs, disappointment and reality TV shows start floating through their minds – and often for good reason.

In most cases, you don’t need or can’t afford a general contractor to be involved in your new post frame barndominium. If you have a very complex project, one involving a plethora of different trades, it could be worthwhile to hire one.

Remember those hours a general contractor will save you on your jobsite? Plan on spending twice this amount of time to find a good general contractor. 

Please carefully reread previous paragraph. Hiring a general contractor will not save you time.

Do your due diligence and hire someone with excellent references and enough professionalism to do what he or she was hired to do.

What exactly is due diligence?

Before even picking up your cell phone to call a contractor (both general contractors and those who drive nails) – check online to verify they are registered to do business in your state and to verify their contractor’s registration is current. Check their Better Business Bureau rating, as well as any listings on Angie’s List. Google them, by looking for, “Phred’s Construction complaints” (obviously Phred is a made up name). If they have complaints, read through them, as sadly people are quick to complain about minor, or even imagined incidents.

Once you have narrowed your potential contractor choices down to no less than three, have them meet with you in person, at your building site to discuss your new barndominium. Unless you are absolutely 100% certain as to dimensions and features of your barndominium you want, you are best to tell him or her your needs (what problems is your building going to solve) and ask for recommendations as to best design solution.

Each contractor is going to have different recommendations, so be prepared, after round one, to go back to each one of them, with your final design.

By now, you should have started to form relationships with these general contractors. Time to start asking for documentation from your “leading” candidate. You want a copy of their contractor’s registration, a certificate of liability insurance with you named as additional insured, all warranties in writing, three written references, and names and phone numbers of their accountant, banker, and at least three major suppliers. It is up to YOU to call all of these people and verify they are financially stable, they do not bounce checks, they pay their bills on time, etc. If you hear a “little voice” inside of your head whispering bad things to you – move on to the next candidate.

A general contractor is supposed to be your lifeline to everything you need done. He or she supposedly knows the right people to hire, best places to get supplies, and he or she will coordinate all those tiny jobs which need to be done so you aren’t on your cell phone constantly trying to coordinate what should be happening.

If I sound completely negative on this subject, remember, I was a General Contractor at one time.  I ran 35 crews in six states and I had really good crews….and I had those who had no business pounding nails.  What I am saying here is to be careful – and check out everything you can on a General Contractor, before you hire him or her.  I appreciated every client who did due diligence and checked me out from top to bottom before they hired me.  I knew they would treat me with a high degree of professionalism, just as I treated them.

If you begin without unrealistic expectations and do your homework, you can have a satisfactory experience when hiring a general contractor. Just remember, it isn’t free.

Not scared enough yet? Then please read this article (and its two subsequent friends): https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/11/a-contractor-for-your-new-barndominium/

A Contractor for Your Barndominium Part II

A Contractor for Your Barndominium (Part II)

Liquidated Damages

For most people, you are financing your barndominium and have logistical issues prior to being able to occupy. Negotiate a hard date for project completion, using a start date based upon Building Permit approval. After this completion date, you will assess builder a monetary penalty for given time periods (daily, weekly or monthly). For some, loans need to be extended (fees), living arrangements changed (fees) and storage incurred. These fees should escalate over time. Don’t forget to add in extra for your time. Contract should spell out any mutually acceptable construction delays including “Acts of God.” Under no condition should you occupy any portion of your barndominium, prior to final completion.

Bonding

For as little as a few hundred dollars, a legitimate contractor can acquire a performance bond (read more here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/07/contractor-bonding/) ensuring the contractor will complete the job according to your contract. If they fail to perform, this performance bond guarantees no money will be lost in bringing in another contractor to complete unfinished  work.

During Construction

Visit Your Site

Tend to your site often. Show up at least twice a week (if not daily). During your visit, take pictures, lots of pictures. Purchase a camera with a Date and Time Stamp. Identify areas, in picture, with some type of signage, “Master Bedroom from Door Entrance” would be an example. By your project end you should have hundreds of pictures of every phase. Get a thumb drive if needed. Be able to read your “Approved Drawings” as well as all Installation Instructions.

Site Conditions

I cannot stress this enough, it has been my experience the single biggest project quality indicator is organization. A good job site should seem organized. If your project site is disorganized, trashy, and cluttered, so is your project. This should be your indicator to take more pictures and notify the General Contractor this is unsatisfactory. Every sub-contractor should have a clause in their contract they should clean up their mess. It also means your General either doesn’t care, or is not holding their Subs accountable. If you do not want to be responsible for clean-up and hauling off trash, make certain to include that in the contract.

Under no Circumstances Provide Assistance.

An impulse to “help” or “get a job done” is natural. Remember once you touch something, or provide support in any way, you have some liability. Every trade should have all needed tools, power, and equipment for the job they are doing. They are supposedly Professionals.

Keep Meticulous Records

Keep every bill, every material delivery, and every correspondence. Always communicate in writing with the Contractor. If you have a phone call, back it up with at least an email summarizing your conversation and get a response. Never delete an email. You might want to set up a new account just for your project. Never, ever, take “their word” for anything. ANYTHING.

Hire an Architect to view your project at Framing. 

Have a Registered Architect do a “Site Visit” once framing is complete and before drywall. Not only will he/she look at structural components, but this is when to catch issues potentially causing future challenges. They should give you a written report regarding any deficiencies in quality per specifications in your contract, engineered building plans and assembly instructions. This is money well spent and will potentially save you thousands over your building’s life. Give this report to your Contractor and get a date by when these items will be corrected–in writing!

Drywall

Drywall has two functions. Main function is fire resistance (not fireproof). A secondary function is architectural, as it is your interior finish base. In limited cases, it also provides shear capacity. In general drywall should be screwed at 7″ at the edges (minimum) and 12″ in the center. It should be 1/2″ (I prefer 5/8”) thick in most of your barndominium. With commercial bookshelf girts, drywall should be installed vertically (read more here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/09/11-reasons-post-frame-commercial-girted-walls-are-best-for-drywall/ ). Do not allow “mud” patches as they will eventually crack and fail.

Finish Work

This is more for aesthetics and functionality in your project. In construction, this is entirely up to you to get what you want and have paid for. Ensure instructions from suppliers are followed. Read them. Visit site daily at this phase. Take pictures!

See you tomorrow for Part III

Barndominium Costs Part II

Continuing my discussion of Barndominium costs from yesterday’s blog…
For sake of discussion, we will use 2400 sft (40×60) of finished living space (includes any bonus rooms) plus 1600 sft of garage/shop. To have a GC (General Contractor) turn-key this for you expect an average of:

2400 X $123.68 = $296,832
1600 X $62.20 = $ 99,520
$296,832 + $99,520 = $396,352

This is having your barndominium built (turn key), not for owner-builders.
If your barndominium will be very simple, rectangle, standard sizes, with little to no upgrades on finish materials (counter tops, flooring, cabinets, showers, lighting, trim, etc) then your costs could be less per sft.

 

On spectrum’s other end would be for very intricate, high end, everything upgraded barndominiums. Including things like custom cabinets, real hardwood flooring, high end appliances, custom fireplace, built in entertainment options, oversized windows and doors, vaulted ceilings throughout, steep roof, extra bathrooms/kitchens, etc.

But what you really want to know is what it will cost for you to build it, right?
We will assume you are willing to do some legwork, so if you don’t do any physical work yourself and just act as general contractor (making phone calls, hiring people, ordering materials, dealing with problems, etc) you can build this average barndominium for roughly $120,000 less than it would cost to hire a general contractor.

I can make a LOT of phone calls for this. In fact, I could easily take well over a year off work and still come out ahead!

Beyond making phone calls, hiring people, ordering materials, and dealing with problems, you can lower your price by doing some work yourself.
It’s all about what YOU are willing to do as an owner-builder.

Our prices above are for “stick frame” construction. By using post frame construction with embedded columns, rather than pouring a footing and foundation, a savings of $11,400 can be found: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2011/10/buildings-why-not-stick-frame-construction/.
This reduces your $396,352 investment by about 3% to $385,000
NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) allocated percentages in their Construction Cost Breakdown. These included:

Site work 5.6% (of this 1.6% was for architecture and engineering)
Foundations 11.6% (this includes excavation and backfill)
Framing 18%
Exterior Finishes 15% (siding, roofing, windows, doors)
Plumbing, Electrical, HVAC rough ins 13.1%
Interior Finishes 29.6% (insulation, drywall, interior trims and doors, painting, lighting, cabinets, counter tops, appliances, flooring, plumbing fixtures, fireplaces)
Final Steps 6.8% (Landscaping, decks, driveways, clean up)

Of framing and exterior finishes (roughly 1/3rd of costs), if you invest in an engineered post frame building kit package and do your own labor (labor being roughly 1/3rd of this portion), save around $44,000 from what you would pay a General Contractor (I can take a lot of time off work for this).

Hansen Pole Buildings GuesthouseAnd my engineered post frame building kit package includes engineering, saving $6278.
Obviously even more savings can be achieved for those capable of doing electrical and plumbing, however assuming nothing other than what has been listed, your $396,352 barndominium has been built and is ready to move in for $207,900!! This resulted in over a 47% savings and kept over $188,000 in YOUR pocket!!

Of course your investment and savings could be more or less depending upon your tastes and location, however this should give you a feel for where you will be headed. It would be prudent to budget another 1% for every month you delay your start, as well.

How Much Will My Barndominium Cost?

How Much Will My Post Frame Barndominium Cost?

This may be the most asked question in Barndominium discussion groups I am a member of. Or at least a close second to wanting to see floor plans. And why not? If one does not have a semblance of financial realty, they could end up finding themselves severely disappointed.

This is a really important questions because if you don’t know what your barndominium or shouse (shop/house) will cost, how can you plan on paying for it?

Hansen Buildings TaglineIt is also a really hard question to answer. You can probably guess standard cabinets and custom cabinets come with a very big price difference. This is merely one example of a myriad of differences between every single barndominium.

Sitting down and figuring out what each individual thing in your barndominium will cost, is a very difficult (if not impossible) thing to do.

There is no way for me or anyone to tell you exactly what your barndominium will cost. I can help you best I know how, but you also need to do your own homework in your own area.

Your own style and preferences will play a big role in your barndominium cost. Please use these figures as a guideline only, and know this is not an exact science. This is simply meant to help you figure out a good idea of how much money you will need.

Our International Code Council friends publish a table of average costs for new construction and update it every six months. https://cdn-web.iccsafe.org/wp-content/uploads/BVD-BSJ-FEB21.pdf

Post frame construction is Type VB and homes are Residential R-3. As of February 2021, this places an average constructed cost at $130.58 per sft (square foot). An attached garage or shop over 1000 sft would be S-2 storage, low hazard at $65.37 per sft. A detached shop or garage could be U utility, at $51.28 per sft. Unfinished basements would be $23.20 per sft. These prices do NOT include land.

NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) 2015 data supported these figures with an average total construction cost of $103.29 per sft. This is before General Contractor’s (GC) overhead, profit, financing, marketing and sales costs and does not include the price of land. Outside of land values, a General Contractor’s share added another 30.23% to total construction costs.

Do you need a General Contractor? Read more here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/04/general-contractor/

Tune in for our next action packed article, where an example barndominium will be broken apart for costs!

7 Ways to Avoid a Shady Contractor

Consumers can protect themselves from unscrupulous, often unlicensed pole building contractors. By following the following suggestions, it minimizes the possibility of becoming a victim to this all too common problem.

Carefully watch how your money is being spent

Deal only with a licensed contractor.

Many states, as well as smaller jurisdictions require contractors for construction services to be registered or licensed. The license number should be displayed on all business cards, proposals and any other contractor materials.

Verify the license.

Do not just assume the registration is valid. I once hired a contractor who provided a copy of his license to me. Only later (when there was a problem) did I find out it had expired and had been altered. Call the issuing agency to confirm it is valid.

Require Insurance.

Require both a certificate of insurance showing liability insurance coverage AND proof of workers compensation insurance for all workers. Some contractors are registered with an industrial insurance account, however they report their workers as having zero hours, and pay no premiums. The workers are NOT covered.

If someone is hurt, and uninsured, the building owner can very well be held liable.

Know Who You are Dealing With.

Doing business with a Contractor who has a good reputation for doing the job right, in an ethical manner, at a reasonable cost is the ideal situation. Ask for references and then verify them.

Understand What You are Getting.

Before agreeing to any work (as well as making any payment), require a written proposal describing in plain language what work will be done. A statement regarding compliance with applicable Building Codes should be included. If the contractor is doing building permit acquisition, it should be stated in writing and a copy of the permit should be provided prior to work starting.

A total price should be as inclusive as possible. Any unforeseeable work or unit prices clearly addressed (like what happens if holes are difficult to dig). If the contract is not understandable, have it clarified in writing. Maintain all paperwork, plans and permits when the job is done, for future reference.

Familiarize Yourself With the Terms.

Contractor’s proposals and Contracts should contain specific terms and conditions. As with any contract, such terms spell out the obligations of both parties, and should be read carefully. Be wary of forms which are extremely short or are vaguely worded. A well written contract should address all possibilities and may very well take more than one page. Payment terms may vary, however most will require payment in full upon completion of all work. Do not pay for all work until the Contractor has finished the job.

Don’t Let Price or Warranty be Your Only Guide.

Many building owners subscribe to the idea of obtaining three bids and if they all appear to be roughly the same, take the low bidder. This is simply not always a good practice, especially if there is a large disparity between prices. Be extremely cautious of prices which are substantially lower than others. It can mean a mistake has been made, or something is being left out. The Contractor may be planning on shortcuts in quality which can make the building owner the ultimate loser.

Be wary of unusually long warranties as an enticement. It is reasonable to expect a year or two of warranty for labor.

Keep in mind a good contract is written to provide clear communication between two parties.  It also protects both parties, and should never be “one sided”.  From my years as a general contractor, a well thought out and spelled out contract (in writing) made for the smoothest projects. When clients followed all of the above suggestions, I knew they cared enough to do “their best” and I was on the same playing field….the one where both of us “played fair”.

Owner Built: Build it Yourself

Build your own garage, shop or barn in this economy?  With unemployment remaining in the nine percent range and the economy sputtering along, the last few years have been less than perfect.  Real estate has continued on an ugly path with no end in sight.  There couldn’t have been any Americans crazy enough to act as the general contractor for their own new pole building right?  According to the Census Bureau, a whopping 53,000 owner built homes were completed for owner occupancy on the owner’s land in 2010.  Let’s dig a little deeper into the census numbers so we can answer the question most of us have…why would you want to build your own building in today’s nasty environment?

Owner built is another way of saying the owner acted as the general contractor for the project.  As the general contractor, the owner takes on the full responsibility for the budget, quality, and overall schedule of the project and either does the work himself or hires trades to do most of the labor.  So, even with the sluggish economy, a huge group of Americans are taking on their dream building projects.

But everyone keeps saying how difficult it is to get a loan, so how did they get owner-builder financing? Surely a bank wouldn’t make a risky loan to an owner who thinks he knows enough to get it done.  I can hear it now, “Build your own building?  We don’t do owner-builder loans anymore.”  According to the census numbers, seventy percent of owner-built homes in 2010 were financed with conventional loans and twenty-eight percent paid in cash.  Apparently, all the horror stories heard about how it’s nearly impossible to get a loan today are more than a bit exaggerated.

If you decided to build your own building in 2010, you must live on a farm where building codes aren’t enforced…we’ve all heard of the Amish barn raisings right? Actually, most owner built buildings were built inside metropolitan statistical areas. These were code conforming buildings!

Owner built projects may have been motivated by the slowing in labor and material costs for building.  According to the Associated General Contractors of America, the producer price index (PPI) for nonresidential (accessory buildings, garages, shops, barns, etc.) buildings rose only 0.3 percent during 2009.  This price change was a huge improvement over the previous several years.  As recently as 2003, this PPI was 9.3 percent and from 2003-2007, the average increase was nearly six and one-half percent per year!

So, 53,000 of you out there decided to build your own home in 2010.  This represents about eleven percent 11% of all new homes built in the U.S. in 2010.  How does this compare with other countries?  Believe it or not, the U.S. is way behind other countries in built-by-owners each year.  A whopping 80% in Austria are built by owner.  Most of Europe is at or above 50%.  What are these countries doing which makes so many more people take on these projects themselves?  What would make you take the plunge and build your own building?  Speaking about self-builders UK minister Grant Shapps feels they deliver “more affordable, greener and innovatively-designed buildings”.

Acting as the general contractor to build your dream project is a great way to save money and get exactly what you want.  More and more Americans are realizing this every year.  Whether you are an accountant, lawyer or writer, you can take on the responsibility of the builder and save tens of thousands of dollars on your new pole building.  Is this the year for you to build your own building?

Pole Building Insurance

Todays guest blog is written by a fellow Rotarian of mine, Rich Wilson, who is an Insurance and
Financial Services Agent for Farmers Insurance out of Coeur d 
Alene, ID.

So you want to build a pole building structure behind your home.  So how does pole building insurance work?

It’s always best to check with your local contractor’s board and insurance company to make sure you are following all local, state and federal requirements before you start the project.

Here are some basic areas to be aware of with a couple different scenarios.

Let’s say you have decided you want to be the general contractor for this project.  The first thing to be concerned about is your liability.  What if someone you hire gets hurt?  What if an excavator damages your home?  In each of these circumstances, you as the general contractor could be liable and typically your homeowner’s insurance will not cover it.  What you’ll need is a commercial policy for general liability insurance.  Additionally, if you hire employees you will need a worker’s compensation policy.   Many times you will hire sub-contractors to do some or all of the work.  This is where it becomes very important you do your homework.  If they are subs, not employees, they will likely need to have their own insurance.   What’s critical is that it is up to you as the general contractor to verify their coverage because unless your business policy clearly states subs are covered, your claim may be denied.  So get a copy of each of your subs certificate of liability and have them name you as an additional insured.  If you are having friends help, your homeowner’s policy may cover your liability should they get hurt on your premise but it won’t cover paid sub-contractors, so be careful.

Now what about your materials while the building is being built?  Being the homeowner, your homeowner’s insurance policy will typically cover the cost of materials being used to build your new structure under personal property (check with your individual company because each policy and state may vary.)  So, if you have a substantial amount of building materials on site, you should consider increasing your personal property coverage.  There are some exclusions to be aware of; things like weather damage and mold are typical exclusions should you not properly secure your building or materials.

What about once the building is built? Are we done yet?  There is one more important step to consider insurance wise once your structure is complete.  The typical homeowner’s policy defaults to 10% of your primary dwelling coverage for separate structures.  Say your dwelling coverage is $250K, your separate structures are probably only covered for $25K.  So since you know what it costs to build, you will want to increase your separate structures coverage accordingly.  One thing to keep in mind is in the event of a loss, separate structures will include all non-attached buildings (read detached garage or shop) and fencing.  So if you have a detached garage, new barn and an acre of fence you will want to insure for the combined value.

One more note of caution.  Today there are many contractors and subs who have been downsized and are looking for work.  That may present what seems like an opportunity.  Just remember it’s your responsibility to double check to make sure their insurance and licenses are in order.  Being cautious here could save you thousands when someone is hurt on the job site or digs into your sewer lines.

Thanks Rich, this is great stuff!

To contact Rich – email him at: rwilson1@farmersagent.com

 Mike

Bid Jobs: How Do Contractors Blow Budgets and Still Get Paid?

How do Contractors Blow Budgets and Still Get Paid?

Bid jobs are a miracle all in themselves. Usually they begin from an interested party at an organization realizing, “Hey, we need a new building”.

Bid Jobs

Eventually they will get enough of their cohorts involved to reach a critical mass. One of them will then go forth and (after doing some level of research), obtains some price quotes.

At times, some things tend to be overlooked in the early stages of the process. The most overlooked – between the beginning and the time the project goes out for bid, an architect or engineer will probably be hired. This will generally astronomically increase the complexity of the project. Next most overlooked – if this is a publicly funded building, labor to construct it will probably be governed by the Davis-Bacon Act. This act, dictates prevailing wages and benefits must be paid to laborers who work to assemble the building. This, in itself, can significantly raise the price of the completed project. In many cases, unusual insurance and/or bonding stipulations are required (usually at an architect’s insistence), further bumping up costs.

Assuming all of the previous bid job pitfalls have been survived, the project goes out to bid.

Now reality sets in – as generally the project bids will overrun the initial budget. Often by two or three times budget. Why? Reflect back to the overlooked items above.

The budget either gets bumped up (usually the case, as by now, all are convinced the building has to be built), or the scope of the project is reduced.

And it goes out for bid again…..

I’ve been a general contractor, so I will explain how the results turn out in reality, rather than how they should turn out.

In most cases, the lowest bidder will lose money on the project, exactly as the project is specified in the bid documents.

The answer to this dilemma?  Make darn sure you know exactly what you want in the beginning, and don’t make any changes.

Carefully watch how your money is being spent

After being awarded the bid, the low bidder first does the “OMG – I got the bid”, as they know the lowest bidder has to work like crazy in order to turn a profit.

And how do they turn lemons into lemonade? First, the bid documents are scoured to minimize the cost on every possible item. No stone is left unturned, and if it means a sacrifice in the quality of the finished project, so be it.

The number one way to salvage….Change Orders.

The contractor has been awarded the bid to provide the materials and construct the building. Any changes will be expensive…what is the alternative? Have someone else come in to do some very small portion of the work, or provide an individual item or items? It isn’t happening.

You and your organization have no real practical choice, you have “bought the proverbial farm”.

Change Orders are the low bidders’ salvation; they count on them to guarantee a profitable outcome on any bid jobs.

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