When the first set of construction plans were completed, we set out to find a contractor who was willing to build our Dream House. This turned out to be a very difficult task. Home builders generally prefer to build homes that are based on plans that they have constructed before, or that are at least similar in specifications. Bidding the construction of a house that is so radically different from standard homes is a very time-consuming task, and it was difficult to find builders who would even consider the project. New house construction was in full swing in 1999, and the best contractors around had all of the “safe and predictable” work they could handle. After several disappointing meetings with the few home builders who would discuss our project, we decided to take another route.
Undeterred, we found a contractor ( actually a team of two ) who had never built a house, but who had constructed a number of barns and out-buildings, and who had general backgrounds in construction and site supervision. They agreed to be the on-site construction supervisors if I would become the General Contractor. In taking over this task, I was responsible for all of the financial aspects of the construction process; including payments to all the sub-contractors, and the purchasing of most of the construction supplies. As the General Contractor, I chose all of the sub-contractors: the framers, brick masons, roofers, electricians, plumbers, painters, drywall crew, HVAC crew, tile layers, the cement crew, the wallpaper hangers, and the trim carpenters. I met with each potential contractor and shared with them the philosophy behind the building of this house. It was important to me that they understand that this was not a standard project and that I wanted people who were willing to give their best effort toward making this an exceptional finished product.
My site supervisors were on-site for every major aspect of the process, and they filled in the gaps of “odd projects” that did not fall specifically to the sub-contractors. In the end, they did a lot more than supervise, and I could not have completed the project without their dedication and assistance. The construction process took far longer than any of us had anticipated. And, as anyone who has built a Dream House will attest to, cost a lot more than anticipated as well.
From the beginning, we knew that we would be very involved in the construction process. Taking over the role of General Contractor actually made being ultimately involved a lot easier, because I could make all of the decisions without debate. It also meant a huge time investment. I did not choose to do this to save money; the decision had more to do with being in control of the outcome.
As the General Contractor, I was responsible for the schedule, and in this regard I failed miserably. The process followed with reasonable order, and with very few changes, but the unique aspects of this unusually complex project made estimating time frames very difficult. From beginning to completion, the construction phase lasted over two years.
Continued on "The Dream Page 4".