The Savvy Owner Builder

The #1 rule of real estate is location, location. location. The #1 rule of home improvement is consultation, consultation, consultation. The savvy home builder exhausts his resources for principles and practices, technologies, codes, green issues, efficiency issues, and especially costs. A complete package. An understanding of a unique project. And believe me, all construction projects are unique.

Even if an owner builder has entered the construction process, consultation should not be ruled out. Many a time the savvy owner builder can save big bucks by understanding the trades with a little advice from someone on the inside. Case in point:

I had a long time friend who called ‘out of the blue’, with a major issue threatening to over run his costs. He was remodeling a restaurant to adhere to ADA (American Disabilities Act) codes in the bathrooms. He had a set of plans drawn to reconfigure the men’s and women’s bathrooms to make them both code compliant to ADA standards. I went to the location and reviewed the site. The plans called for a relocation of one of the bathroom walls that was back to back with the electrical service room. In that wall was a 400 amp service panel that carried ‘home runs’ of heavy cable to the kitchen area. The panel would have had to move further away causing the electrical cables to be removed and replaced. Not to mention a structural problem with a roof support column. Can you say “Cha-ching?” . It seemed the only way to make the remodel work was to follow the architects plan. But, if the architect had seen what I had seen, the plans would have been drawn differently.

The bathrooms are separated from the kitchen by a long wall. On the other side of that wall perpendicular, was a bank of stoves some sixteen feet long. The fire suppression hood for the stoves are the same length, but what the architect did not see, was a seven inch extension at the bathroom end of the hood. This was the key! I over drew the plan to move the hallway wall allowing the extra seven inches to be incorporated into the ladies bathroom and move the bathroom sideways in the end of the long hallway. Now the men’s bathroom could stay intact and all utilities reconfigured inside both bathrooms to meet code. The electrical service room would remain unaltered. I asked the owner to take the plans back to the architect and have them redrawn. Without charge. They did and the remodel was completed (to my credit) and saved the owner almost $13,000.

Consultation, consultation, consultation. It’s cheaper than a divorce lawyer!

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