Tag Archives: septic systems

Barndominium Subcontractor Bids

Barndominium construction bids are very important. Be diligent! For each contracting or subcontracting job for your barndominium, get bids or estimates from at least three contractors. Make sure bids are for similar work and be sure job specifications are identical. 

Never accept a bid “by the hour.” It doesn’t work. Remember Murphy’s Law; “If you want to see how long a job can take, pay someone by the hour.” You may pay a little more for a fixed price bid, but it’s worth it for peace of mind.

For example, if an excavator quotes $X per hour per man plus $X per hour per piece of equipment, insist on a firm total. If he (or she) won’t offer one, move on to the next excavator on your list.

People and companies you will be contacting know how to give estimates based on plans and are used to being asked for bids. Don’t worry, this is part of their job, whether you eventually hire them or not.

I take my building plans, drop them off or email them to a subcontractor or supplier, and say, “Give me a price on XXX. If you see anything else on these plans you can provide, give me a price on them too.” You might be pleasantly surprised – excavators often also do septic systems, driveways, backfill, rough and final grading, and a few others. They also usually know others who do foundations, concrete slabs, flat work, etc.

Your suppliers and subcontractors will determine the nearly exact number of items and square footage of materials needed based on your house plans. This is called a “take off.”

NOTE: GET ALL BIDS & ESTIMATES IN WRITING!

What is the difference between a bid and an estimate? A bid is a firm price to do a given scope of work, an estimate is “about” what it will cost. Obviously bids are what you are after.

Here is what you should expect when getting bids for various jobs.

Plumbing:

Plumbing bids should include all plumbing fixtures right down to toilet seats. They will not include accessories such as toilet paper holders. If colored fixtures are to be used, specify color and brand. Plumbing showrooms are your best bet for selection of these fixtures. Magazines and brochures don’t tell you enough and often don’t give prices. Most plumbing showrooms won’t tell you wholesale prices, but you’ll be paying list anyway, as plumbers make a profit on each fixture and it’s included in their bid. Don’t make an issue of this. This small profit in fixtures is one of a plumber’s sources of income and they earn it.

HVAC:

Your heat and air-conditioning contract should include vents (generally fan-powered) for  bathrooms, clothes dryer, stove, and range hood.

Electrical:

Electrical bids should include all switches, wiring, receptacles, circuit breakers and their respective panel boxes, a temporary service box and installation, saw service, wiring of all built-in appliances, and installation of ovens and ranges, furnaces, heaters, and air conditioners. Electricians in many areas do rough wiring for phones and the Internet (if you are not wireless).

Utilities must be connected. Exactly who is responsible for running water lines, sewer lines, and electrical hookups will vary with each subcontractor involved. Get responsibility pinned down when you are hiring subs, then follow through to be sure it is done properly.

All subcontractors should be responsible for obtaining needed building department inspections, but make sure they do (before paying them) or you will have to do it yourself. Lack of inspections can cause delays. Proceeding without getting inspections can be troublesome and expensive.

Stilt Post Frame on Permafrost

I have written previously about post frame design involving concrete slabs on grade in areas of permafrost: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2018/04/post-frame-permafrost/. Today we will venture into a land where “stilts” are a design solution.

Permafrost is loosely defined as soil and/or rock remaining frozen for more than two years. Big trees do not guarantee an absence of permafrost; it might just mean permanently frozen ground or ice is down far enough so soils in those spots can support a larger root system. Only way to be certain of what ground contains is to have a soils test drilling done.

With permafrost, a safe bet is to it avoid it altogether and move to another piece of land. This is easier said than done, particularly because of a scarcity of affordable buildable land. If you decide to build on permafrost, be as strategic as possible. Smaller and simpler structures will tend to fare better than larger, more complicated ones.

Minimal site disturbance is an accepted practice. Trees and ground cover are your best friend. They protect and insulate ground from summer’s heat. A great example is green moss you find on many shaded low-level areas. Moss has a high insulating value, and in many cases if you dig down a couple of feet, ground might still be frozen in middle of summer.

Strategies for construction on permafrost include:

  • As a general rule, organic layer of ground cover provides insulation and should not be removed, as this will increase risks of thawing any frozen ground underneath.
  • Elevate and properly insulate bottom of your post frame building to prevent floor system heat losses from reaching ground underneath, leading to thawing.
  • Use a thick gravel pad significantly wider than post frame building itself (also insulated if possible) to stabilize the ground and spread building loads.
  • Embed columns to a depth able to both support the structure and resist frost jacking from seasonal ground movement.
  • Cut trees sparingly to maximize site shading (while permitting for a fire break).
  • Build a wrap-around porch, which will help shade the ground around and underneath your post frame building.
  • Incorporate large roof overhangs to shed water away from building and provide shade.
  • Install gutters and manage site drainage well away from building.
  • Retain a geotechnical engineer familiar with local soil’s conditions to assist in designing a foundation system adequate to safely support your post frame building on soils specific to your site.
  • Septic systems also must be engineered to function on permafrost, and remember conventional systems might risk thawing the ground.    

More information on permafrost is available at these websites:

If you have a question, contact the Cold Climate Housing Research Center at info@cchrc.org or 1(907)457-3454.