Does anyone have experience with building a custom home?


By Kevin   Follow   Sun, 18 Nov 2012, 12:46am   10,311 views   171 comments
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I've decided that since I have to live out in the 'burbs anyway, I might as well live in the perfect house. 9 out of 10 builders around here just slap together the same old generic qasi-craftsman style homes with awful layouts and pointless features like tiny unusable porches and formal living rooms.

We have a crap ton of money and I'm overpaid.

We're looking to buy a few acres of land and then spend ~$800k to build the thing (architecture, land prep, construction, etc.)

Does anyone have experience with having a custom home built (particularly modern design; no shingles or crown molding here)? Was it worth it compared to what you could have bought for the same amount of money? How was the financing?

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  1. bob2356


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    12   10:26am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    swebb says

    In the end they were probably 6+ months over schedule, perhaps 50% over budget

    That's way below average for cost and time overruns on customs I've seen. They did well.

  2. upisdown


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    13   10:32am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    bob2356 says

    In the end they were probably 6+ months over schedule, perhaps 50% over budget
    That's way below average for cost and time overruns on customs I've seen. They did well.

    6 month overages are below the average? Only if the builder wants to go out of business. Maybe during the peak bubble times where every mope with a pulse was somehow a "builder".

  3. Kevin


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    14   10:36am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    No I don't want to know about resale. I'm interested in how the financing (construction loans vs single close) and overall building process went.

    Adding 20 windows in a large modern style home is quite a bit, but not unreasonable. I imagine it added a good $25-50k to the price tag though. Our builder suggested budgeting $1200-1500 per window since we want high grade aluminum instead of vinyl .

    Yes, I'm borrowing money to build. I only have $350k available so I'm financing the rest. Money is cheap right now. Borrowing $800k is only going to cost me $3800 a month. I could never get a house like this for anything close to that without custom building.

  4. Kevin


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    15   10:40am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    bob2356 says

    swebb says

    In the end they were probably 6+ months over schedule, perhaps 50% over budget

    That's way below average for cost and time overruns on customs I've seen. They did well.

    You must only work with incompetent people. Our bank is only willing yo work with builders with a track record of hitting budgets and deadlines. 50% over budget would be an utter failure on the part of the builder, and would likely end in a lawsuit.

    My father did residential construction for 40 years and never had anything close to a 50% budget overturn. 15% was considered a major fuck up. I just wish he was able to help me with my own plans.

  5. Kevin


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    16   10:46am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Were going with a design/ build firm owned by two architects. They do both the architecture and construction management / GC. Architects fees are 10% of construction costs, or about $70k in our estimates.

    Where did your parents build that 2x6 framing wasn't standard? I'm not sure you can meet the energy code here with anything less.

  6. Kevin


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    17   10:48am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    Kevin says

    Our bank is only willing yo work with builders with a track record of hitting budgets and deadlines.

    LMAO.

    Speaking of BS.

    I'm sorry, how many homes have you built? How did your financing work out? Have you ever owned property in your life or even held a job that paid well enough to consider it? If not, go away, there are adults speaking.

  7. upisdown


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    18   10:54am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    Kevin says

    Our bank is only willing yo work with builders with a track record of hitting budgets and deadlines.
    LMAO.
    Speaking of BS.

    Yes, the whole post is BS, and I'm not going to play along any further with it for somebody's amusement.

    Good luck "Kevin". LOL

  8. Bigsby


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    19   10:55am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    bob2356 says

    swebb says

    In the end they were probably 6+ months over schedule, perhaps 50% over budget

    That's way below average for cost and time overruns on customs I've seen. They did well.

    Friends in Palo Alto built a custom and I rather suspect they went through that. The house is fantastic though, but I can't even begin to imagine how much it all cost. You need deep pockets in that part of the world. Very deep.

  9. New Renter


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    20   11:18am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    insulation.

    lololol. 6" walls is CODE.

    Where you are perhaps, not necessarily in more temperate climates.

  10. New Renter


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    21   11:19am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    I DO have experience (re)building a custom home here in SJ.

    I'll try to be as concise with my advice as I can:

    Overall - spend money on the "bones" of your house, not the window dressing.

    Think long term: For example having cared for my elderly, handicapped father and having children of my own I was particularly sensitive to making the house as handicap and child friendly as I could. Also think not just what you want but strong selling points to the person who you will someday sell the home to.

    Shop around: Go to as many open houses as time allows. Get a feel for what the current trends are as well as what you like, what others like and what you think you can do without. Decide what is important to you - do you need a 5 gar garage? How about a workshop? Sunroom? Sauna?

    Modeling: Buy a good software package and make as complete a 3D model as possible of what you think you want. If possible have a professional set you up including an accurate model of the lot with contour and scenery. Do lots of virtual walk throughs. A lot of things look fine on paper but turn out to be hard-to-correct mistakes in the end. You NEED to have a very good idea of what you want even before contacting an architect.

    Codes: Get to know the local building codes. Builders make mistakes and ultimately you are on the hook for them. Our builder also told us several untruths which would have cost us dearly had I not been vigilant.

    Lumber: Look into borate treated lumber.
    http://www.archchemicals.com/Fed/WOLW/Products/Preservative/Sillbor/default.htm
    http://www.greatsouthernwood.com/products/n-durz
    I love this stuff! Lifetime protection against insects and dryrot. If you can't get the wood pretreated you can easily do it yourself with boracare.
    http://nisuscorp.com/builders/products/bora-care
    If you don't use it for the entire structure at least use it in strategic areas, e.g. outer walls and subfloors.

    Our builder used some kind of resin fiberboard beam for the headers. It looked damn solid. I was assured it would never twist, sag, be eaten or rot away. I believe it. If I had the option I would have used such beams extensively throughout the entire house. If you are to use a post and beam foundation I'd recommend you explore using such beams there.

  11. New Renter


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    22   11:19am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Subfloor: Our house had a 2x6 TnG subfloor. It was SOLID, no give at all! I've lived in tract homes that had a lot of give in the floor. Bendy floors feel cheap. Spend money on a good solid subfloor.

    Windows: Design in lots of them. I used fiberglass framed Milgard. I preferred fiberglass as it does not rot, transmit heat, and unlike vinyl is paintable.

    Ceilings: 9' or greater throughout. Coffered or vaulted in large rooms.

    Hallways: Make them wide enough for a wheelchair.

    Doorways: Again wide enough for a wheelchair. Use solid core doors. The cost difference is not that much over hollow core doors. Pocket doors are great for doorways that will normally stay open but you will want to sometimes close for noise or privacy (e.g. kitchen or laundry room).

    Flooring: I like carpet and tile. I hate laminate. Neutral on hardwood. Vinyl and linoleum can work in small rooms. If you go with carpet use carpet with a nylon or triexta fiber. Both are tough and will last a good long time. I'd give preference to triexta. It’s amazing stuff.

    Little details:

    * Suntunnels: In bathrooms, master closet, laundry room and hallways.

    * Skylight and/or dormers in kitchen and entryway for lots of natural lighting

    * Bullnose ALL wall corners for safety

    * Insulate all interior walls to kill sound – its not expensive and adds value.

    * Centrally locate water heater and HVAC in attic or basement to save interior space

    * Run A/V wiring in large rooms and patio

    * Optional – hardwire in Cat6 or better in all rooms. This might not be as necessary as wireless improves

    That’s all I can think of for now.

  12. swebb


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    23   11:25am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Kevin says

    Where did your parents build that 2x6 framing wasn't standard? I'm not sure you can meet the energy code here with anything less.

    Kentucky, early 2000s. All of the new construction houses I have seen in KY were 2x4.

  13. swebb


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    24   11:34am Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    New Renter says

    * Insulate all interior walls to kill sound – its not expensive and adds value.

    Sound insulation has more to do with construction and not any batting you put between the walls (fiberglass insulation does very little for sound). Mass is helpful (5/8" drywall) and isolated sill plates and top plates with staggered studs is really where it's at. A laundry or utility closet adjacent to living space might warrant this extra expense, but probably not for other interior walls (my opinion). Cast iron drain pipes are another "hidden luxury" I would consider for sound reasons.

  14. New Renter


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    25   12:41pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    swebb says

    New Renter says

    * Insulate all interior walls to kill sound – its not expensive and adds value.

    Sound insulation has more to do with construction and not any batting you put between the walls (fiberglass insulation does very little for sound).

    Fiberglass DOES help as this video attests. I agree though there may be better options available:

    I also agree a good home design will also work wonders. Carpet helps kill sound as well. Solid core doors and yes, sound deadening drywall may also help:
    http://www.homasote.com/products/440-Soundbarrier.aspx?gclid=CNLH4s-s2bMCFYw-Mgods1QAaw

    Insulating the interior walls may add $500-$1000 to the project. On the down side insulation may make later projects more difficult (e.g. running wires, pipes etc).

    Ask yourself is it worth the luxury of being able to watch TV at a reasonable volume without keeping the entire house awake? How about using the toilet without everyone knowing your business? Being able to get busy in the bedroom with the kids sleeping one wall over?

  15. New Renter


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    26   1:13pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    The public is too stupid to do this.

    99.999% of them yes, I'm giving the OP the benefit of the doubt :)

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    Unneccessary expense. Understand your needs, prioritize your wants, browse floor plans at a CAD house, buy the plans that most suit your needs and then red line them for construction.

    Sorry, I was unclear. by modeling I mean modeled in software e.g. CAD house.

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    Not true. In the bid documents, the GC is responsible for meeting all code requirements. He' owns code compliance and he alone. If the local building dept doesn't sign off on a CO, guess what..... it's the GC's problem.

    The key is if the inspector doesn't sign off - some cities are more flexible than others in interpreting code. I have personal experience with this. In any case I'm sure you will agree that the owner should keep a close eye on the construction to minimize such problems. If you catch problems early its not a big deal to fix. Catch them later and you will have a bigger fight.

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    Again.... IBC requirements exceed the personal opinion of the untrained person.

    That they may - I did not spend time reviewing the code on this matter as the subfloor was not replaced in my project. All I know is that in the 1970s tract homes around here were build with crappy thin plywood subfloors and they flex when you walk on them. It sucks. What is the minimum the IBC allow for these days?

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    New Renter says

    Windows: Design in lots of them. I used fiberglass framed Milgard. I preferred fiberglass as it does not rot, transmit heat, and unlike vinyl is paintable.

    Watch your wallet on this stuff. This is a profit center.

    I dunno, I didn't pay for it. The OP mentioned aluminum. That was not an option on my project. I don't think fiberglass was much more expensive than vinyl.

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    New Renter says

    Ceilings: 9' or greater throughout. Coffered or vaulted in large rooms.

    Soffit ceilings are nothing more than IFS detail. It's an upsell, unecessary and goes out of style. Stick with timeless IFS's.

    All a matter of personal taste.

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    New Renter says

    Doorways: Again wide enough for a wheelchair. Use solid core doors. The cost difference is not that much over hollow core doors.

    Another profit center. Watch your wallet.

    I think the cost difference was about $30/door. No extra labor charges.

    I agree with Darrell that its easy to go overboard on extras. A fully itemized cost breakdown will help you decide if a particular feature is worth its cost to you.

  16. New Renter


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    27   1:15pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    New Renter says

    Where you are perhaps, not necessarily in more temperate climates.

    You cannot use 2x4"'s in perimeter and shear walls on a two story structure, period.

    Did the OP say the home was to be multi-story? I must have missed it.

  17. Kevin


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    28   1:21pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    @New Renter, a lot of that stuff doesn't make sense for modern design. Straight lines and lots of glass here. Bullnose corners would be weird.

  18. New Renter


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    29   1:37pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Kevin says

    @New Renter, a lot of that stuff doesn't make sense for modern design. Straight lines and lots of glass here. Bullnose corners would be weird.

    Maybe I'm not using the term right. By bullnosed I mean rounded wall corners:
    http://www.customhometrends.com/rounded-drywall-corners/

    I discovered these during a visit to a friend who had bought a home in a planned retirement community. Her house had been designed for elderly occupants so all walls had rounded corners. As I said I have kids and at the time an elderly father so these had strong safety appeal for me.

    If you can you may wish to check out a model home in such a community. Some of my suggestions may sound odd but you may change your mind when you see them applied.

  19. Kevin


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    30   1:43pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    I live in a house with bullnose currently. It works well with traditional design (craftsman, Tudor, queen Anne, etc) but straight corners are more appropriate for what we are doing.we actually won't have many outside drywall corners though.

  20. New Renter


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    31   1:44pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    New Renter says

    Did the OP say the home was to be multi-story? I must have missed it.

    Then why use them?

    I didn't say one SHOULD use 2x4" only that 2x6" may not be required by local code for outer single story walls.

  21. New Renter


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    32   1:46pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Kevin says

    I live in a house with bullnose currently. It works well with traditional design (craftsman, Tudor, queen Anne, etc) but straight corners are more appropriate for what we are doing.we actually won't have many outside drywall corners though.

    My project was a rebuild of a 1970s CA ranch. It worked well there too. In your case of course you should do what you feel works best. Its your house after all!

  22. C Boy


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    33   1:46pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Hire a retired code inspector or one who moonlights from a nearby town.

    Official inspectors catch almost nothing, especially if they are buddies with the builder.

  23. New Renter


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    34   2:51pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    New Renter says

    Where you are perhaps, not necessarily in more temperate climates.

    You conflated the dimension with climates not code.

    Which would make sense if the additional thickness was necessary to combat more extreme climates than we have here in coastal CA.

    I am not a builder, I have a limited knowledge of the code so yes, 2x6s may be a universal requirement for all outer wall construction. Perhaps Darrell you'd care to prove your point by directing our attention to the applicable portion of the California building code?

  24. New Renter


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    35   2:54pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    C Boy says

    Hire a retired code inspector or one who moonlights from a nearby town.

    Official inspectors catch almost nothing, especially if they are buddies with the builder.

    Agreed.

  25. New Renter


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    36   2:59pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    IBC governs.

    Fine - point to the applicable portion of whatever code applies

  26. New Renter


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    37   3:20pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    Go look it up yourself bud.

    http://shop.iccsafe.org/2012-international-building-code-1.html

    Thanks but I have better plans for my money than that.

  27. New Renter


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    38   3:26pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    You're lazy.

    That is true. I am also cheap. The link you provided is to purchase copies of the code for a minimum of $122.

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    Go look it up yourself bud.

    http://shop.iccsafe.org/2012-international-building-code-1.html

  28. Kevin


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    39   3:28pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    New Renter says

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    New Renter says

    Where you are perhaps, not necessarily in more temperate climates.

    You cannot use 2x4"'s in perimeter and shear walls on a two story structure, period.

    Did the OP say the home was to be multi-story? I must have missed it.

    It will be, but that's beside the point. I don't know of any reputable builders that frame with 2x4s around here. Between the added structural integrity and the additional insulation, the relatively small price difference is well worth it.

  29. Kevin


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    40   3:29pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Oh, and the IBC isn't really adequate if you live in/near a big city. In seattle, something like a third of the IBC stuff is modified by addendums anyway. It's crazy.

  30. New Renter


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    41   3:34pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    According to this 2x4s on exterior walls are not a violation of code:

    http://www.askcodeman.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=270

  31. New Renter


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    42   3:34pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Kevin says

    It will be, but that's beside the point. I don't know of any reputable builders that frame with 2x4s around here. Between the added structural integrity and the additional insulation, the relatively small price difference is well worth it.

    Just to clarify - you are in Seattle?

  32. Buster


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    43   4:08pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    upisdown says

    The architect was OK with that? Doubtful at best, because it throws his design out of whack and affects the HVAC systems too.

    I can assure you..... he wasn't. And Buster is floating a line of shit here.

    Nope. The house ended up with 60 windows, most of them quite large. Of course I had to pay for them with an upcharge/change order. It took some design modifications yes. HVAC was not a problem as I had already upgraded to the maximum all wall, ceiling, floor insulation and it was a three zone system. Oh, and why are you convinced that I am floating a line of shit here? Anything can be changed & built. You need to get out of your dirt cave more often.

  33. New Renter


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    44   4:09pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    New Renter says

    According to this 2x4s on exterior walls are not a violation of code:

    http://www.askcodeman.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=270

    Not on 16" centers.

    Fine

  34. upisdown


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    45   4:36pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like (1)   Dislike  

    Buster says

    Nope. The house ended up with 60 windows, most of them quite large.

    You're trying to get everybody that reads this, to believe that you increased the total number of windows by 20, and that it had 60 total, and that you did not changed the dimensions or proportions of the floor plan.

    I'll say it again...........BULLSHIT. LICENSED architects have design parameters that they must, and do follow regardless of whatever ficticious HVAC modifications that you made, simply because it causes over-cycling of those units. That doesn't even take into consideration the comfort level, and overheating/cooling issues.

    I don't know if you're really that stupid, or that you think that everybody else is, as you.

  35. New Renter


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    46   4:38pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    Buster says

    Anything can be changed & built.

    Of course it can. We bid on and win challenging projects all the time. We just have to find someone stupid enough to pay for all the bad ideas.

    In your case, that stupid person was you.

    Darrell is renowned for his excellent soft skills.

  36. Kevin


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    47   4:48pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    upisdown says

    Buster says

    Nope. The house ended up with 60 windows, most of them quite large.

    You're trying to get everybody that reads this, to believe that you increased the total number of windows by 20, and that it had 60 total, and that you did not changed the dimensions or proportions of the floor plan.

    I'll say it again...........BULLSHIT. LICENSED architects have design parameters that they must, and do follow regardless of whatever ficticious HVAC modifications that you made, simply because it causes over-cycling of those units. That doesn't even take into consideration the comfort level, and overheating/cooling issues.

    I don't know if you're really that stupid, or that you think that everybody else is, as you.

    I dunno, it sounds plausible based on what I've seen in modern designs.

    That he didn't have to upgrade HVAC is a bit odd, but maybe he was buying triple glazed things that were as well insulated as walls or something.

    I imagine this also depends greatly on climate. In central or northern CA where nobody insulates anything anyway because it's between 50 and 80 year round, it probably doesn't matter. In minnesota I'm sure it affects things greatly.

  37. New Renter


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    48   4:56pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    New Renter says

    Darrell is renowned for his excellent soft skills.

    Look bud..... I'm not here to be your friend. If you want friends, head on over to facebook.

    Sooo I guess I won't be getting a Patnet friend request from you then...

  38. bob2356


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    49   5:25pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    bob2356 says

    Nonsense,

    Wrong again. 2x4 are prohibited for multistory structures.

    And PS...... slapping together houses is barely considered "construction". Get out sometime and take a look around you.

    NJ ICC code says you can use 2x4 at 24" for 1 story and 16" for 2 stories with 10' or under walls in table R602.3(5) You must use 2x6 on 3 story houses. Where is your AZ ICC code link that disagrees with this or a revision to NJ code I don't know about?
    www2.iccsafe.org/states/newjersey/NJ.../NJ_Res_Chapter6.pdf

    and PS. I have no idea what the fuck you are talking about get out and take a look at what?

  39. New Renter


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    50   5:30pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Kevin says

    Adding 20 windows in a large modern style home is quite a bit, but not unreasonable. I imagine it added a good $25-50k to the price tag though. Our builder suggested budgeting $1200-1500 per window since we want high grade aluminum instead of vinyl .

    Any particular reason for going with aluminum?

  40. New Renter


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    51   5:34pm Sun 18 Nov 2012   Share   Quote   Permalink   Like   Dislike  

    Darrell In Phoenix says

    bob2356 says

    Nonsense,

    Wrong again. 2x4 are prohibited for multistory structures.

    And PS...... slapping together houses is barely considered "construction". Get out sometime and take a look around you.

    @ Kevin: ARE you considering a multi-story house? If not this tangent is meaningless.

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