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keeping organized when the world's gone wild

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Jan 10, 2013 01:03 AM
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by bubba of the bubbles ( last modified Jan 09, 2013



This is a very busy time during the build. The plumbing's going in and needs to be checked as does the electric. We're ordering the lighting package and working on the cabinets. We're putting in some low-voltage wires. There are conflicts between plumbing and cabinets, electric and cabinets, plumbing and electric, plumbing and framing. Details are looked at, looked at again, and overlooked. Opportunities and challenges arise out of seeing reality. Insulation and drywall, which will mummify all this stuff, is coming soon, so the details need to be worked out quickly. And how's the landscaping plan coming?

There's a lot going on!

As it turns out, this phase of the project hit at the perfect time for me: over the holidays when I have some time off (and before my busy season). Nonetheless, I'm juggling a lot of balls at the moment, and it's been a struggle at times to keep everything organized. The system I've settled on is this: Write everything down (I have a special notebook I write in and also take notes on my phone), organize issues/comments/observations by trade, and then keep the whole kit-n-kaboodle somewhere central and accessible.

This is my special notebook. 
If I leave this baby on-site, I doubt that 
any of the subs will take this pink polka-dotted wonder.

With so much going on from so many different directions (and given how scatterbrained I am), I have to write stuff down to remember it. And I have to write it down right when I think of it or else it is gone ("Hmmm.... The framing on that outer wall doesn't seem enough to support the loads which will eventually fail and result in sudden deat...  LOOK!!! SQUIRREL!!!!") So I'll write it down in my special notebook (with hopefully enough detail I'll know what it means later...) or, if I don't have my special notebook with me, I use a note taking app on my phone (or send an email with the note or thought). The key is to get the notes down in writing. Every once in awhile, since I can't always write stuff down (not advisable to write a novel while driving down the highway) I'll methodically walk through the house to jog the memory (or see new stuff) and then write it down. I'm a natural list maker (I deal with the SQUIRREL!!!! issue at work as well...), so this comes easily to me.

Back at home base, I'll then organize the notes by trade. Early on, my notes were in a single pile, which was fine when we were only dealing with the builder and architect. But once a bunch of trades and vendors start getting involved, the single pile approach doesn't work too well ("Hold on ten minutes while I sift through my list of 342 items..."). I'm also keeping a list of certain measurements I make or learn about so I have one place I can go to get them.

Finally, a key piece of this organizational puzzle is having the list easily accessible from wherever you are. You never know when an opportunity will arise to discuss this stuff with the builder, architect, or sub. We've chosen to do this by posting the list on a tab on this blog. Since we always have our phones with us, we can always access the list wherever we may be. If you prefer something less public, perhaps using Google docs (your docs in the cloud!) would work.

Speaking of Google docs, we've also created a shared spreadsheet using G-docs showing the nature and cost (or, every once in a long while, credit) of change orders as well as which items we've already purchased or plan to purchase. The builder is very attentive to keeping us informed about the cost of change orders, and appropriately so: This is where a lot of conflict can come up at the end of project when the bills come due. On this same G-doc, we've also listed items we've already purchased or plan to purchase. We want to minimize confusion over who has boughten what.

And speaking of keeping a list of stuff we've bought, we've also created and posted on the interwebs a repository of "cut sheets" for various items in the house. Cut sheets are sheets that tell the trades what they need to do to install stuff. I think one of the reasons builders prefer to use central vendors for buying stuff is that the central vendors provide the cut sheets. For the stuff we've purchased, the builder has asked us about the cut sheets, so I've gone out and found them. And since I was already in the mood, I went ahead and pulled the cut sheets for (nearly) everything else (something I would have done at some point in the future anyway to have digital copies of all the owner's manuals [cause that's how I roll...]). I've also included photos, operation manuals, and any other information that might be useful i these folders.

On Friday, I was on-site when the electric sub asked if I had the specs on the oven-microwave combo. "As a matter of fact, I do," I replied, and quickly pulled them up so the sub could check the electric specs. Be careful here, though. If you pull and provide the wrong information, you'll be partly if not entirely responsible for any boos boos made based on that information. Check and double-check.

The builder has noted (politely and statement-of-factedly) that I'm detailed oriented. As Mies van der Rohe said, "God is in the details." (or as I like to say: "God is in the details, and so is the devil.") The builder also noted that I'm about five times more into the details of building a house than his normal client. However, he also noted that this was good because now is a good time to get stuff right. It takes much more effort (and therefore much more money) to fix stuff once the insulation and drywall are up. I don't so much think of it as chasing down the details as much as conducting QA/QC at a time when it's relatively easy to address mistakes or create potential.

The bride works with a fellow who has worked on lawsuits concerning construction, and he said that in his experience, a more engaged homeowner is far less likely to run into problems (and thus havnig to file lawsuits) down the line. That's good to know.

Building a house is truly a team effort.



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