The Do's & Don't of Building Your Dream Home - It's Starting to Look Like a Home
Fifth in a series: The Systems and Finishings That Are the Heart of a House
(If You Missed Part One Please Follow This
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A home's systems require a great deal of knowledge and experience to design and install. The more eventualities that you can plan on, budget and install before and during the construction phase will be of great benefit after the home is built and you have moved in. If you know that you are going to need a particular system in the future then try to provide the plumbing, conduit and wiring or access panels for that eventuality during construction. It will cost a bit more now, but in the future, this type of planning can help alleviate disturbance and disruption, and save money with the future installation or activation. The cost of goods goes up every day. If you are assured that you are not going to be installing a system that will be outmoded, discontinued or disallowed in the future you win on all counts by acting now.
It would be improper to say that one system is more important, or needs greater attention over all others. Improper or cheap installation of any system is hazardous, and will affect the overall liveability and value of a dwelling when it is finished being built. Good plumbing should not come at the expense or detriment of a good electrical or ventilation system, and vice versa. You must always look at the project in regard to the overall finished product if it is to retain the value that you have put into it. Further, a deficit in one area can, and usually does, lead to problems in others. If a homebuilder installs faulting plumbing, and there is a problem in the future with leaking pipes many other things will need to be repaired, just as when an improper electrical job can cause pumps and ventilating systems to work improperly and cease operation before their true time is due.
If all has gone as planned and you are meeting all your scheduling and payment demands the exterior of the house should now be complete, the studding and one side of the dry wall or paneling could have been installed wherever possible and you are now ready to wire, plumb and run duct work, if required, in your home.
Note: Some, but not all, petitions and ceiling areas can now be "rocked" and enclosed. Be very careful not to proceed to this point in areas that you know require wiring, plumbing or duct work that requires complete access for installation. Enclosing one side of a petition is fine in most cases, and it helps to keep the flow of work going. Keep in mind that going back and ripping anything out is time and material intensive, runs up costs and can be more difficult to finish the second time around. Cutting and then patching holes in drywall requires an optimum of skill if you are to never see the repair after the area is painted. When in doubt, leave it open until you are sure all the other necessary work has been completed and inspected.
Basic Plumbing Watch Points
During your site preparation, foundation and slab work you have undoubtedly made preparations for the septic and plumbing systems. Now you will need to plumb the interior and connect it to these other systems. Most municipalities and states have very strict guide lines for home systems and your architect will have already provided the proper layouts and specifications for them. Your only choices at this point are really the esthetic and design ones. If you are doing the work yourself you should pay to have the system checked and tested by a licensed professional. This will assure your future home from mishap, safely protect you and your family and allow for smooth sailing when you apply for your certificate of occupancy upon completion of the work.
There are basic rules that must always be followed and adhered to when plumbing here is a short list of the most basic ones:
Certain plumbing, heating and electrical equipments are large, heavy and cumbersome. It is best to have them delivered and installed as early as possible to avoid hassles and unnecessary adjustments latter. To deliver large furnaces, hot water heaters, air extractors and blowers, and any other number of things, requires good ease of access. Once you have enclosed the areas where they are to be fitted it is extremely difficult, and at times impossible to install them after the fact. Placing large equipment in basements, or attics prior to installing the subsequent floors and ceilings is recommended whenever feasible. Tolerances can be very tight and to have the luxury of room and movement during installations is an asset whenever achievable.
Further, equipment that is heavy needs to be put into place to insure that any settling that can occur before you go to sheet and finish can also go as planned and not be damaged by any subsequent settling of damage during work. Bathtubs and hotwater heaters are good examples of this.
It should go without saying, but it will be mentioned here to make certain. All systems need to be kept to a minimum, centralized and configured with all other systems considered. Providing a good area for your equipment will, make it all much easier to operate, maintain and service when the time comes. Make certain that any closets or rooms used to hide equipment are water and fire proofed and that they ventilate properly. This insures a longer and more efficient life of operation and increases the overall health and safety aspects of the home as well.
Basic Electrical Watch Points
Although the installation of all systems is important for safety reasons, electrical systems do require a bit more attention. It is far easier to escape a flooded bathroom then a burning house. Electric, like plumbing, is very similar in regard to advanced preparations, planning and installation. Always make certain that your architect has followed all appropriate codes when designing the home and drawing up the schedule of parts and equipment. Purchase the best of these items that you can afford. Due to the heavy voltages and the temperature ranges within wiring systems a professional installation and inspection are highly recommended. Roughing out conduit and pulling wire almost anyone can learn to do quite readily, but the actual knowledge for tolerances and load are not. Be careful.
When installing wiring of any kind (electrical, telephone, Internet, cable TV, audio/visual, etc), just like plumbing, centralize the system whenever possible for each area of the house. Also make certain the hangers and fasteners for all of these systems are plentiful enough. Wiring, although it may appear to be lightweight, will sag under its own weight over time. This can put stress on connections and create shorts, overheating and outages. Unlike a dripping pipe at times, faulty wires can be a very hard problem to locate. When pulling wire through conduit, chases or holes within the frame work needs to be done with care. Any stripping, crimping or damage to the wire will also result in future problems and will make the system unsafe.
When laying pipe, pulling wire and installing any equipment for these systems always follow the specifications and label everything as you go. Tag and identify anything that may later be confused or if you know another installer will be working on that system after the initial work is complete. All valves, fuse boxes and switches need to be identifiable after construction, too. Taking care and doing this efficiently will make your home a much more habitable place, and add to the resale value as well.
Basic Principals of Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Systems
More times than not a separate contractor is needed to perform this work. After a basement or crawl space is complete they will arrive on site with an experienced crew and install all the heating and cooling equipment, the required piping, radiators and plumbing (if it is a hot water heating system) and the basic wiring, the duct work and the ventilating equipment (if it is a forced air or cooling system) you have accepted for your design. As in any sub-contracted work do not sign off and pay the installer in full until you are certain it all passes inspection and is how your plans show it should be.
Basic Principals of Insulation and Venting
Once the plumbing, wiring systems and HVAC has been installed and inspected it is time to insulate the home before closing the openings completely. The first thing to be done is to face one side of all interior petitions with either drywall or paneling. Second is to hang or apply the insulation between the studding and joists where specified in the plan. Then hang a plastic moisture barrier over the insulation in the exterior walls. Although a good installation job will fill every possible space that there is make certain that in any space that is opening to an outside soffit or vent is not, or will not, be obstructed in the future. The house must breath for all the systems to work properly, keep it cool in the summer months and warm in the winter. It also helps to conserve energy and its costs and it makes the home a healthy and pleasant environment for the inhabitants.
Basics Principles of Drywall and Taping
Whether is is called drywall, gypsum or sheet rock, this next phase is what will make your home look more complete then any other step so far, and quickly. Since the advent of sheet rock, and the many fast and easy ways to secure it in place, home building has become a much faster and efficient job. Not only is it an easy product to work with, it requires few tools and two men working together can produce a lot in a day's time. Whether it is being fastened by hand with nails or screwed or tacked into place with either a "screw-gun" or air activated stapler a good finished result is easy to achieve. Most sections are cut by hand with a razor knife and a snap of the board. Some cuts are done with a small hand saw and others, like receptacle box holes, can now be punched with a device similar to a cookie cutter.
A few very important things to remember when "rocking" or supervising a drywall installation is that enough fasteners are used, no unnecessary cuts, rips or punches to the surface and whenever possible, abut two factory edges that are feathered. The fasteners not only hold the boards in place but they also prevent sagging and bowing after a few months time. Drywall is very heavy and will succumb to its own weight if not enough fasteners are used, especially on the ceiling or under a staircase. The edging is important so that after the "rock" is hung, the tape and compound can be applied without leaving any traces that it is there under the surface. Nothing looks more unseemly then a bulging joint that runs from the floor to the ceiling. Many varieties of drywall are on the market but the two most prevalent are standard and water proof. Use the water proof boards in all bathrooms, behind all sinks in kitchens and powder rooms in laundry area and wherever else you believe water or moisture will build up and come in contact with the product.
The proper finishing of sheet rock, is a craft. To tape joints well enough that they are not seen under a coat of paint is something that takes time and conscientious effort to achieve. The nuances and "secrets" to this craft are what sets a good taper apart form the rest. After you have put so much time and energy and money and heart into your home, to improperly finish the drywall by leaving ridges, humps and divots will surely detract from its worth, both to you and to prospective buyers years later. Installing the boards themselves is a process that most people can learn, they may not have the speed of a true tradesman but they can get them into place. The finishing touches, however, are best left to an experienced professional if at all possible.
Well it's been a very busy and productive day, once again it is time to step back and marvel at what one can do when they put their mind and body to the task. The house is now in the home stretch and the finishing touches are what will be discussed next. It's time to start cleaning up the site and the interior,hauling away uneccessary equipment and debris, and getting it ready for the final phase. Ceramic tile, plumbing and electrical fixtures, cabinets and wood trim, and some floor coverings and paint are about all that is left to do.