Decisions, decisions, and when should owners be on on site? is part 3 in a series.

Part 1: Overall strategy

Part 2: Budget, builder selection, and contract types


Finally, let’s break ground!

It will be a long road ahead with many challenges for everyone.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions: I am tired from making choices, I am done right?

The assumption that all work is spelled out in the plans is erroneous almost all the time.  There will be lots of decisions during building.  Unforeseen changes in site conditions, product, weather, or budget all affect building, as well as structural challenges or outdated specifications. This is why there is the need for intelligent on-site supervision.

In custom home construction, delay of information is the biggest culprit in increasing costs and missing completion dates.

Your OPM should give you weekly updates and have a system for managing communications and controlling decision making.. This way the owner is never taken by surprise or asked to make a decision without enough notice and information.

If I am busy or reside far away from my new home being constructed, when should I plan to visit the site?

When visiting the site at any time, get a sense of the mood on the site. Is there cooperation between the various field workers or is there in-fighting?  Are the workers glad to see you?  A job site with a good attitude will result in better workmanship and fewer complications.

The following building stages are the most critical for the owner to be present:

  1. When the building is being located on the site or “staked out.”  Many nuances will appear which may not have been considered earlier, such as trees to be cut, elevations relevant to site conditions, or surprises with view orientation.
  2. In 2 to 3 months when framing of exterior walls is taking place.  It may be appropriate to create “mock ups” of major view window openings so owners can stand back and see the framed view before the wall is assembled.
  3. During the final stages of utilities.  Normally lighting and wiring will be the last of these major items.  This time is a must for owners and the design team to do a thorough walk through.  Take time to visualize each wall in its finished state; do the items now implanted on the wall fit the future image?  Is there a wire for a thermostat protruding right where you would like to see your great art piece?  Lighting is often refined during this time when wiring and fixtures can still be moved much easier than after the surface is plastered or painted.  We at WA also strive to lessen what we call “wall acne” of switches, controls, etc.
  4. When finishes are being completed.  Although finishes have been selected earlier, it is comforting to see them in reality and to see how they affect each other.
  5. Final punch-out.  It is advisable to get directions of how to use the various controls and features of a home prior to the first night’s occupancy.  Your OPM can prepare an extensive homeowners manual that includes photographs and instructions on use and normal maintenance as well as dealing with emergencies.

During your move-in you will likely want the help of a skilled carpenter to hang heavy pictures etc.  Plan ahead with your Owner’s Project Manager to ask the builder to supply you with a tradesman to help make your house feel like home.


Richard Wodehouse can put the experience and knowledge gained over 37 years of building fine homes to make your experience predictable and enjoyable.  He will become your trusted adviser giving you informed guidance through the entire process.