A custom design/build is an exciting time. Most of our customers are seeing a dream of many years come true at last. We always lay out the build schedule to our customers because we want them to know what to expect, and how long it will take. But there are lots of factors that can impact the timeline of building a dream home, and even the best general contractor can only do so much to mitigate them. Among the things that are unfortunately out of our control:
Up here in the north, the weather is both predictable and unpredictable. We know we’ll have cold and snow in the winter, for instance. We might have those in the spring and fall, too. We know it will be hot and muggy in late summer. Those things are predictable. But when a custom design/build is scheduled to take months, unpredictable weather can have an impact. For example, a three-day drizzle might make it impossible for the roofers to do their job. Even when the work can go on, rough weather is going to slow things down at some point. Even working inside is slower during the winter. A hot dog (space heater) can only do so much in an uninsulated space after all, making every task just a little bit harder. The good news is that we’ve been there before. We have strong relationships with our crews and subcontractors, and we work with people we can trust to power through and get the job done right.
Another problem that can disrupt a design/build is a materials shortage. These can happen for lots of reasons, some of them surprising. For example, general contractors generally don’t have to concern themselves overmuch with import tariff policies, but the on- (and on- and on- and on-) going softwood trade dispute between the United States and Canada has impacted lumber prices for decades. So much that the dispute, as a whole, has its own Wikipedia page. Most of the wood used in framing a house is softwood, so any time this trade dispute flares up again, it can cause lumber prices to spike and supply to plummet. Natural disasters can cause the same problems. We don’t begrudge anyone rebuilding their home after a disaster, but a hurricane in Florida can sharply increase demand for construction materials, causing a disruption to the normal distribution of those items around the country.
Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruptions to the global supply chain are also still impacting delivery dates, especially for things like windows and appliances. For instance, windows that used to take approximately one month to arrive are now taking up to five months. There are appliance manufacturers that are up to a year behind on production. Some plumbing fixture manufacturers temporarily discontinued some of their unique color and finish offerings because they were so far behind in production of the most common and basic colors and finishes. These are the types of things that designers and home buyers tend to have specific preferences for, so planning for those delays is sometimes the best we can do. It’s not that there aren’t alternatives, in brand or style or color, but when you’re designing and building custom dream homes, you generally don’t want to have to compromise on your vision.
Building a custom home is like shuffling a deck of cards. There are lots of moving parts, and they all have to come together correctly and in order. For instance, the framing needs to be done before the HVAC, plumbing, and electrical rough-ins can be completed. Drywall can’t be done until those rough-ins have been completed. Then comes paint, tile setting, finish carpentry, and some other activity, which all has to be finished before the HVAC, plumbing, and electrical installers come back to the jobsite to finish their work. If any one of these contractors is delayed—illness, equipment failure, simple bad luck—it can ripple through the other contractors and delay the build. Most of these contractors also have other job sites they’re working on at the same time. So it’s possible for a different job to impact yours, though as experienced general contractors, adjusting to these circumstances is part of the job.
At Dotty Brothers Construction, we know what we can and can’t control. The things we can control, we make sure they’re done the right way. And the things we can’t control, we adjust and adapt to make sure things still get done the right way. Even if it’s a few days later than we’d planned.