Finishing the House

Whoa. It’s crunch time. We’re trying to finish this house in the next 10 days. There are about a dozen guys scrambling all over the place. The great room is still a wood shop, but the painters are trying to work around everything.

I suspect if you have a 12-18 month construction schedule you can avoid this. But, we’ll finish this house 7-1/2 months after breaking ground. That requires some overlapping of tasks.

Of course everyone wants to “go last.” More precisely, the painter, electrician, and plumber all declared that they should be the last people on the job. I suspect that if I had wood floors, the floor guys would also want to go last. The reality is that everyone ends up iterating a bit at the end to work around each other.

2 thoughts on “Finishing the House

  1. Michael Boyer


    any insights into how you have been able to get your house done on such a tight schedule? did the poured concrete floor help move the project along? or is it more a factor of availability of subcontractors in this down economy? or are you just a supreme taskmaster?


    1. KTU Post author


      I think there are three main factors:

      Good project management. Modesty aside, I’ll confess to being a pretty good project manager. I’m very completion oriented, I notice details, and I worry a lot. Put those things together and generally I stay a few steps ahead of the “gotchas” that plague most projects. I think most GCs are probably stretched a bit thin, as they have to be to make any money. As a result, I think a skilled owner-builder who really cares can probably out manage most GCs, just in terms of having materials ordered on time, making timely decisions, and so forth.
      Slow economy. A lot of the time in a project can be consumed by waiting around for subcontractors to get to your job. My subs are now pretty busy and we’ve run into a few delays near the end for this reason, but since May 1, we have never really waited more than a day or two for the next guy to jump on the job. That’s a huge advantage, which is not easy to plan for. You have to get lucky.
      Simple design. The only thing that has been at all tricky about this house is the roof framing. Pretty much everything else has been very straightforward. Most subs walk through and say “piece of cake” in terms of the basic tasks. The simplicity was baked in from the very start. The architects called the house (appreciatively) a “barn with a garage on it.” Next time I’d make the roof structure even simpler. The more complex the design, the slower the build. Simplicity also extends to materials and finishes. The more different trades you need to coordinate in finishing the house, the more time will be required. If you have tile, paint, wallpaper, carpet, and wood you’ll spent a lot more calendar time finishing up the house compared to a house with concrete floors and painted walls throughout.

      The critical path (the sequence of dependent tasks that dictate project duration) for this house was probably as follows (with the real calendar time required in parentheses):

      Excavation (2 weeks)
      Footings + Foundation (1 week)
      Basement slab (1 week)
      Framing (8 weeks)
      Roofing (1 week)
      Plumbing+Heating (4 weeks)
      Fire sprinklers (1 week)
      Insulation (1 week)
      Drywall (1.5 weeks)
      Basic Finish Carpentry (doors, casing, baseboard) (4 weeks)
      Paint (1 week)
      Finish Electrical (1 week)
      Final Misc Punch List (1 week)

      Everything else was fit in around and in parallel to these tasks (e.g., central vacuum, landscaping, driveway, terrace, siding, windows, finish plumbing).




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