Now that you’ve gotten through the architectural design process for your custom home, it’s time to dive straight into the pre-construction phase!
With an organized custom builder on board, your pre-construction phase is going to be full of progress, some of which you will see and participate in, and some of which is going to be accomplished behind the scenes. During this time, your builder’s list of to-do’s is long. There are HOA approvals and city permits to obtain, utility orders to put in place, potential constructability issues to solve, selections options and guidance to provide, builders risk insurance to quote, a project schedule to build, a budget to refine with each additional selection, subcontractor agreements to execute, and key trades to line out.
Let’s dig into several key items your custom builder should be doing during this time.
Create (and Follow) a Pre-Construction Timeline
Your custom builder should create (and send you) a pre-construction timeline. Truth be told, this is really about builder accountability. Hopefully your builder has effective internal processes in place to ensure the success of each phase of their projects. If they do, there is a very good chance that part of their process already includes creating a timeline with target deadlines for their team’s pre-construction action items. If your builder does NOT already have internal processes in place, you will want to set the expectation now that you’re counting on effective organization for your project. Requesting a pre-construction timeline will help with that.
Creating a pre-construction timeline is one of almost 60 line items on our Pre-Construction Checklist that we use for each of our projects. Every pre-construction timeline is different because each custom home and location is different, but they generally include target deadlines for the following:
- Completion of structural engineering (and civil if required by HOA/city)
- Creation of comprehensive construction budget (several deadlines for this multi-step process)
- Completion of various surveys, drainage plans, MEP plans, etc. required by HOA and/or city
- Submission to HOA for approval (and expected approval date)
- Submission to city for building permit (and expected permit date)
- Creation of comprehensive selections schedule for homeowners
- Providing of guidance to homeowners for key selections items
- Creation of detailed construction schedule
- Execution of sub agreements
- Kick-off meeting with key subs
- Preliminary site work (tree removal, temporary fencing, etc.)
Many of the dates on this pre-construction timeline will be TARGET deadlines, not hard deadlines. The important part of this step is that the builder goes through the exercise of organizing their team and their responsibilities in order to efficiently and effectively get your home to the starting line.
Provide a Clear Selections Schedule
This one is HUGE. Making as many selections up front is critical to ensuring your home’s construction moves smoothly. Your custom builder should be able to provide you with a detailed list of selections they need before breaking ground. Having a clear path forward from your builder will help make the selections process much more manageable and less daunting for you and your interior designer.
It’s important that your custom builder have an internal process in place for collecting selections from you as well as procuring materials so that construction stays on schedule. Oftentimes we hear of builders relying too heavily on interior designers to handle the entire selections process. The builder simply provides the plans up front and then sends requests as they need specific selections from the homeowner and designer. This makes the process more stressful, frantic, and frustrating than it needs to be. By providing a comprehensive selections schedule during the pre-construction phase, the homeowners and interior designer know far in advance when selections will be needed throughout construction. Even better if the builder also sends regular updates highlighting which selections to focus on next.
Among the selections needed BEFORE breaking ground on your home are:
- Windows and exterior doors
- Exterior materials/colors/details
- Plumbing fixtures
- Interior beams
- Fireplace details
- Interior flooring types
- Floor plug locations
- Mechanized shades locations, if desired
All of these selections are needed early because they have an impact on the architectural design as well as the plumbing groundwork, electrical plan, and/or foundation of the home, which happens very early on in the construction process. For example, interior flooring material has impacts on foundation height variations, so it’s important to figure out which areas will have carpet/wood/tile in order to get the foundation right. In addition, these selections need to be made early because many of them have long lead times.
Create a Project Schedule
It is absolutely imperative that your custom builder create a customized construction schedule for your home before breaking ground. It provides both their team and their network of subcontractors a roadmap to follow and hold themselves accountable to. Without tracking this schedule, material ordering deadlines can be missed, steps can be done out of sequence, sub stacking and coordinating on site becomes more difficult, and more. All of these errors can cause considerable construction delays.
Reviewing your project schedule with your custom builder helps to ensure they are organized and accountable when it comes to your project. Also, it helps you to understand how construction on your home will progress through the different phases.
The efficiency with which your builder moves through this pre-construction phase as well as the amount of selections progress you make before breaking ground will have a HUGE impact on how smoothly the rest of your homebuilding journey goes. Best of luck!