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RE: Allowance opinions on an 850K home? (Follow-Up #18)

posted by: sherilynn on 07.31.2014 at 08:57 am in Building a Home Forum

OK, I read the first several posts... and skimmed the rest. As a Realtor and someone who has built a moderately high end home with similar specs, and someone somewhat familiar with builders, tricks, and what-not; as well as, a person that has had to take a cabinet maker to court for failing to perform per a very detailed contract. I believe I have some serious insight. (This forum saved me from losing my mind.)

First, you have gotten some sage advice above. Heed it. Secondly, I do not believe that I would EVER do a cost plus contract building. Why would you? There is NO incentive for the builder to watch out for your budget, build wisely, or serve you at any turn. The more he spends, the more HE MAKES! DUH!!! RESCIND that decision now! BACK OUT. Contact and attorney to get out of it. Best $400 you'll spend. YOU are taking ALL the risk!!!! (I know, builders are in my family!) Your lot is $165K +/-, which in the Midwest, I assume is a lot with a view or large acreage. At $850K, that's over $200/sf. You should be able to build an exceptional home for that amount of money.

If I had a builder hand me that list above, I'd crumple and scrunch it into a tight ball and throw it away for someone insulting me and wasting my time. Ten years ago, we built and acted as our own General Contractors. We now have about 4,500sf finished. About 2,500sf is Brazillian Cherry and the wood and install was around $20,000, as posted above. The rest of our home is a combination of travertine, porcelain, and carpet. All flooring was around $35K. I have 5 bathrooms with Toto one piece commodes, 11 sinks throughout the home, and 4 custom shower doors. The frameless MBa door was $1,500 alone. (I got bids from $4,300 to $10K for the glass doors in my bathrooms, so BIDS are IMPORTANT.) Cabinetry: OH. MY. LORD. Bids were all over the place. Many companies literally demanded to see the entire home plan. They bid on the home based on the overall price of the home. How? They figured they'd charge 10% of the value of the home, not including appliances. I went with a custom guy that obviously was a CROOK and CAD. (I will not go there.) I have a terrific kitchen. Upgraded, yet not too extravagant. 48" Thermador Dual Fuel Range, Advantium 220v oven, Fisher Paykel Dishwasher, Compactor, Franke Pro 12" deep sink, $600 faucet, Franke disposal, Warming Drawer, And a standard fridge, and two separate under-counter U-Line fridges with icemaker and a freezer models. I do not have two sinks or a pot filler; but will in the next house. My kitchen is about 16'x28', with an additional 6'x6' pantry. It's a very nice kitchen. 4'x8' island, Beautiful granite and mosaic back-splash behind range. I think about 83sf of granite with a double ogee edge, and 1/8" metal plate under island granite. Granite is a Level 3 granite: Delicatus ��" Polished. Price for all of my home granite was around $8K. Appliances around $22K or so... and had I bought a 48" fridge about $6K more. Opted for undercounter fridges and other home cooling fridges spaced throughout for convenience. (Six in all.) Let's see: Cabinets in the house near $35-40K. Roof: I have a 50 year shingle, too. Shingles alone were about $4K, not including install. Prices to install the roof, with weather watch in valleys and 'cut up' areas, ran from bids from $4,500 to $22,000! Bids to install did not include the materials... only labor. I went with the group of guys that I found that were roofing all of the 'high end' homes around here. And...drywall finishing with a level 5 finish was pricey. We bought all materials. Contracted for labor that bid $6500. He tried to bill us twice that much... got a lien, etc. He wasted SO much drywall, since we were buying materials. I would rethink that next go around. ( I would also make sure that all electric, speakers, etc... was marked on the ceiling as soon as sheetrock was installed. I would also take pictures with two cameras BEFORE walls were closed up in case one camera fails.) GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING. (We did and won.) When you GC a project yourself, you front all the money and MUST MANAGE. If you want to use a builder's money and he fronts all the money, then HE manages the project. IF you do a COST PLUS, THE BUILDER DOESN'T CARE WHAT YOU change or spend BECAUSE HE MAKES MORE MONEY FOR YOUR IGNORANCE and every single change. Just Don't DO IT.

Choosing a builder: Make sure you have a full understanding of every cost of every specified nail, screw, how your drywall is installed (nails or screws), change up costs, etc... Do not trust "your friend" from childhood, blood relation, guy from church, etc. I hate to say it, but at the end of the day, you'll get screwed. Just do not get into any building relationship unless you have your builder putting some skin into the game and manages YOU and YOUR money. Everything that you want and agree to do is to be in writing. (My bro is a builder. His policy, sad to say, is screw them first or he'll get screwed.) Many builders think that way. I hear their positions all the time. SOMEONE WILL PAY for screw-ups. Make SURE your finances are PROTECTED from their mismanagement. Make SURE you fully understand your contract and what is expected from you.

Ask your attorney to make SURE that the numbers are fixed and you know EXACTLY what the home will cost and every single appliance model #, finishing item, cabinet quality, with half of a sample door in YOUR possession is written into that contract. IF it's in the contract, then you won't end up with an expensive home, but one as you expected. Because I had every light fixture, finish, model number, stainless screws, name of every single item, We won at every issue. I've had grown men CRY in my face trying to plea away errors and omissions. I had a contract and I will pursue it to be fulfilled. If you don't pursue, you will get screwed. Be prepared and professional. Every agreement with everyone is to be in writing. Also get them to sign releases when completed and you are satisfied. If they warranty an item or service, get that in writing, too.

Blessings to you.

Story: Gal I know hired guy from church to frame her home. He told her, "I'll charge you $20K to frame if you pay me cash. If you have to write me a check, then the framing costs will be $25K." She chose the former method. All was well until the last two draws. She stipulated that she needed 48 hours of when he needed a draw to get the money. He agreed. All of this was verbal. 2nd to last draw, he told her on Friday that he needed the money THAT DAY. She said, "I'll have to give you a check." Framer was fine with that. On the last draw, she expected to pay him $5,000. Framer said, "No. It's $10K, you didn't stick to our agreement." She balked. He threatened to file a lien on her property that afternoon and "all in the church would know she didn't pay her bills". She knew we had a few liens and she didn't want to be embarrassed... so she acquiesced and caved. She paid his demands. Later, I said, "Why would you allow him to bully you that way? It was HIS responsibility to prove your agreement to the courts. I wouldn't have paid him one red cent more than the $5K and let the courts decide. I am confident you would have won." She was more worried about her pride. I would have been concerned about my allegiance to my family and I would have told everyone that asked about that cad. I don't care if he did go to my church. He's a 'business church goer' and people needed to be warned of his tactics.

OK... sorry for no paragraphs. I just realized I could. Back to pricing. Electric LABOR was $16,000, which was to include basic wiring. Electrician left an account open and did not pay it for our home wiring and we had to clear a $2K mechanics lien. (Yes, TRHEE issues concerning liens while building.) The lighting was also worth $18,000. And no, not gold plated. I have 64 doors in my home. Yes, 64. Windows are top of the line, triple glazed, argon gas, etc. All windows trimmed out, etc. Bricking, $40K. Stairs: Oh. My. Lord. WHAT A shocker. Labor and materials were around $25K+ and it was a Brazillian cherry stair and riser, wood rails and BC banister and turned at the finial areas. I've since forgotten all the parts. I was shocked at what it cost. So, finishing inside the house was pricey. I'm not touching on painting, fireplace, mantle, porches, fans, and plumbing. Your prices above are a JOKE in today's world.

Also, many counties have impact fees and other fees besides a building permit fee. Our county started adding fees up to around $20K now just to build. These are important numbers to know.

FYI: If you are in a flood zone and must have flood insurance, you had best check with FEMA to find out the new building codes... because the fees will apply and new building codes must be followed. It's your responsibility to do this due diligence.

I am most appalled at about your post is that I cannot believe anyone would sign any agreement with unsubstantiated and 'hard numbers'. I hope you have more paperwork than what you are presenting. I doubt that you really have signed any 'contract' with any builder except to secure a lot. It appears that you should back out of your plans because I would never encourage a client to rush into any contract with the information you gave.

Without going into story after story, I will give you the punch lines: I have personally known people that HAVE gone into a building situation like this and when it came to closing, the people ended up in divorce court, law suit, and one guy committed suicide. Why? All ended up getting screwed at the closing table. The builder 'gladly' changed anything and everything to make the client happy. One person was to have a $750K home, with change ups and client demands... turned out to be almost double. Another, $350K MORE. The builder had it in their agreement that they would pay for all change ups, modifications, etc.

ANY changes, even adding a light switch, will cost you double than had it been on the plan in the beginning. Don't even try to add a closet or enclose something. It's best to get the house built, then change whatever after closing.

Building is stressful. If you are independently wealthy, then no problem. If you are like most moderately well off American that wants what they want, make sure you do it wisely and have well proven, wise advisers help you build. It is also a huge bonus to have honest employees/contractors.

Lastly, make sure you have several web cams on site to keep an eye on your building supplies. Keep everything locked up and make sure builder does too. What goes missing or is stolen, will cost YOU more in the end. It will be the best money spent.


clipped on: 07.31.2014 at 09:39 am    last updated on: 07.31.2014 at 09:40 am

energy efficiency specs

posted by: energy_rater_la on 01.23.2013 at 03:07 pm in Building a Home Forum

this is a short version of the spec sheet I give my
clients for building an energy efficient home.

lots of posts about lots of things here, but
over and over I read about things that could
easily have been dealt with in planning & early
construction phases of the build.
hopefully, this will help to bring some of these
to light now in the decision making phase of
your build.

things that don't 'show' are important choices.
efficiency costs are always upfront & savings long term.

Summary of Energy Efficiency Specifications

Air Infiltration Goal is .25 Natural Air Changes per Hour�heating. Gaskets such as Owens-Corning FoamSeal R or Dow Sill Seal between sole plate and slab is recommended. For 2nd story or bonus rooms, insulate and seal openings between floor joists, under walls with foam board sheathing material. Seal all windows and doors jambs with minimal or non expanding foam.

Seal all wire penetrations especially those through top plate.
Incorporate Airtight Drywall Approach throughout home. Run sheetrock all the way to bottom plate behind showers and tubs, seal plumbing penetrations under tubs especially on upper floors.

Minimize use of recessed lights or install Insulation Contact Air Tight (ICAT) lights. Existing recessed lights that are not air tight can be retrofitted with air tight trim kits. Get name brand and model numbers of lights to order trim kits.

Windows Double-glazed with Low-E glass and non-heat-conducting frames are recommended. Look for U-values and SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient) of less than .3 for best performance in this area. Go to to learn more about window types and labels on windows.

DOORS Steel, polyurethane foam core (R 2.5 to 5.0) with high quality weather-strip. Solid wood door with double-glazing allowed for front door. Exterior-type foam-core doors with good air seals on doors to all attic spaces and knee-walls.

Walls 2x4 walls R-15 un-faced insulation with double sided 1" foil sheathing boards. 2x6 walls R-19 also with double sided foil sheathing boards.

Face unprinted side to exterior. Sheathing must cover top plate to sole plate. Seal all seams with foil tape. Use �" foil sheathing in between 2X headers instead of plywood. Insulate behind tub and shower units before installing units.

Ceilings R-30 minimum with a Radiant Barriers are recommended for this climate. Visit Florida Solar Energy Center�s web site for more information on radiant barriers

Seal and insulate attic accesses when in the conditioned areas. If attic staircase s in conditioned area, seal with attic tent or build a box with 2x12 with �" plywood for top, insulate and weather-strip to seal well.

Unvented attics Open cell foam. foam must meet R-value
code requirements. No quanitive values accepted.
foam must fill rafter bays and faces of rafters.
Foam must seal from roof to attic floor to create true
unvented attic. Full inches to be installed, not
'average' fill. No areas with 1/2" of foam to 9" of
foam to be averaged for overall R-value. Unvented
attic with foam is a semi conditioned attic.

Use only closed cell foam in floors for homes
on piers. install minimum of 3"

Use Energy efficient (O.V.E.) framing at corners and partition walls, See LaDNR Builder�s Guide To Energy Efficient Homes in Louisiana or Doug Rye video.

Continuous ridge vents ( with wind baffles) and continuous soffits vents. One square foot of net free area for every 150-sq.ft. of attic floor space, divided equally between ridge and soffits vents.


Duct Leakage and Insulation Duct loss must be no more than 5%. Before insulating hard pipe seal all joints & seams. Use Mastic or an approved UL-181 rated mastic tape, such as Hardcast #1402 mastic tape.

Have HVAC contractor size A/C system using Manual J. Design duct layout using Manual D.
Upgrade insulation values from a standard R-4.2 to R-6 or R-8 is recommended.

Water Heaters Compare Energy Factors (E.F.) Gas E.F. of .65 on a standard tank and E.F. of .95 on an electric standard tank.

Adding an insulating blanket can also increase the efficiency of water heaters.

Instant, tankless gas water heaters have higher E.F. of .85.
Electric tankless water heaters are not efficient.
instead look at standard hign EF electric tanks
The most efficient for electric Heat Pump water heaters (also called heat recovery or desuperheaters) provide 90% to 100% free hot water in summer months.

Cooling 14 SEER, 0.75or less Sensible heat fraction (SHF) mandatory minimum requirement. 15 to 17SEER is recommended.
Heat pump if all electric.

Two speed or variable speed system if over-sizing of tonnage.
Consider Zoned system versus multiple units.
700 sq. ft. per ton as opposed to old
rule-of-thumb of 400 to 500 sq. ft. per ton.

Bigger is not better!

Heating Gas furnace AFUE 80% minimum.
Efficiency on these units up to 94% (condensing unit with PVC flue).
For Heat Pumps specify a minimum of HSPF of 8.0. Variable speed heat pumps will have up to 9.0 HSPF.
(May change to higher AFUE with IRC code changes)

Lighting Use fluorescent lighting whenever possible. Compact Fluorescent in all fixtures like recessed lights.

IC Air Tight recessed lights are mandatory requirements. Existing recessed lights can be retrofitted with air tight trim kits available at lighting stores and box outlets.

Appliances Purchase Energy Star Appliances for high efficiency, especially refrigerators, freezers and water heaters which run 24/7.
Look for Energy Guide labels in the lower range for more efficiency.

Additional Links:
La. Energy & Environmental Resource Building Science Corporation
LSU Ag Center Hot Humid Climates Builder�s Guide
Energy Star Program


Energy efficiency
clipped on: 06.18.2014 at 03:58 pm    last updated on: 06.18.2014 at 04:01 pm

RE: LED recessed cans guide for kitchen ... (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: davidtay on 01.30.2012 at 12:39 pm in Lighting Forum

For your situation, it would probably look more symmetrical if the lights are centered on the aisle and there are no other sources of light for general lighting.

On the other hand, a counter argument can be made that as there probably will be pendants over the island, the cans should be placed around the edge of the countertop.

There is a LED Continuation thread that covers strip lighting. Puck spacing really depends on the output of each puck and the length of cord between. Installing puck lighting could be more work than the equivalent strip light since each would have to be individually fastened and aligned along with the cord between.

Island pendants can take many shapes from a suspended tube light to individual lamps (40W / 60W/ ...).

LED bulb tips
1. Always look for the output in lumens. Never rely on vague claims of "output like X watts" which is an old trick.
2. If the output per watt is ~ 20+ per watt, that is no better than using a halogen. The L-prize bulb from Philips produces > 90 lumens per watt.
3. The CRI should be 80 or better.

Here is a link that might be useful: LED UCL continuation


clipped on: 12.23.2013 at 10:12 am    last updated on: 12.23.2013 at 10:12 am

LED recessed cans guide for kitchen ...

posted by: davidtay on 01.30.2012 at 01:27 am in Lighting Forum

A collection of tips/ answers
Since kitchens have higher lighting requirements, I like to use 35 lumen per sq ft as a rule to compute the number of lights. If there are additional sources of light that will be used, the output (lumens not watts) from those sources can be deducted from the total.

Placement/ layout
1. Cans should be > 24 to 30 inches from the wall (on center). Most countertop spaces have upper cabinets (typically ~ 12" deep) + crown molding. The edge of the can may be spaced ~ 12" away from the edge of the crown molding (if present or cabinet if there is no crown molding) making the average distance between 26 to 30 inches.

2. Assuming the need for a fairly uniformly lit space @ 35 lumens per sq ft, the cans may have to be spaced closer together - between 3 - 4 ft apart (if all general lighting is provided by recessed lights). A fairly regular pattern is preferable to a random layout.

3. The actual layout of cans will be impacted by the location of ceiling joists, HVAC ducting, electrical wiring, plumbing, ceiling height, fire suppression sprinklers and other obstructions above the ceiling.

The Cree LR6 series lamps do not dim as well as the later models (CR6, ...). ELV dimmers probably work better with LR6 than incandescent dimmers since the total load of the lights may not meet the minimum load requirement for the incandescent dimmer.

Dimmers such as the Lutron Diva CL dimmers work well. The max output is 95%.

Some Choices (in order of preference) and notes
Cree CR6 or ECO-575 (Home Depot branded CR6)
ECO4-575 (Home Depot branded Cree CR4 4" recessed light)
The above are only available in 2700k light color.

Cree LR6 series - including the LE6.

The Cree CR6 and LR6 lamps will not fit into 5" housings.

The standard LR6 behaves more like a surface mount than a recessed light as the LED emitters are close to the surface and the recess is shallow. Some may not like the amount of light spillage (standard LR6).

There is a higher output version of the LR6 that has a much deeper recess.

To prevent the Cree lamps from falling out, the 3 prongs have to be fully extended and a slight clockwise twist made when push installing. The slight clockwise twist will ensure that the prongs are fully extended.

The Cree lamps are currently the best available today (2012).

Sylvania RT-6, RT-4. The lights could be easier to install than Cree lamps as they utilize the torsion spring mechanism. However, the lights do not look as pleasant as the Cree lamps.

The Cree and Sylvania lamps do outperform 26W CFLs (and incandescents) in a standard recessed can in terms of light spread and output as the standard bulb in a can solution traps a significant amount of light. The Cree and Sylvania recessed lamp solutions referenced above have all the LED elements facing outwards so that the effective light output is higher.

The CRI (Color Rendition Index) of Cree and Sylvania recessed lamps > 80.

There is no warm up time required for Cree recessed lamps, unlike CFL light bulbs.

Most recessed lighting is used with flat ceilings. Sloped ceilings would require special solutions such as the LE6 or some other form of lighting (i.e. -non recessed lighting).

Some common objections to recessed can lights stem from
1. looks and performance of traditional can lights (standard bulb in a can)
2. swiss cheese effect from too many holes.


clipped on: 12.23.2013 at 10:10 am    last updated on: 12.23.2013 at 10:11 am