Why does construction seem to slow down in the winter?

In climates like Oklahoma’s, we really shouldn’t see a major slow down in construction during the winter months. And, we certainly build homes all year round. But, we do have to watch the weather and keep some things under consideration when building during the coldest months of the year. Here’s a few:

Freezing temperatures can impact foundation
We must pay attention to freezing temperatures when building. We can’t have any frozen water or frost accumulate on an excavated ground or involved in any of the foundation work, so we watch our construction schedule to make sure we handle this particular part of construction during warmer days. Thermal blankets can be used during long stretches of freezing weather, but Oklahoma usually doesn’t have extremely long stretches of freezing weather.

It can be difficult to predict start dates or completion dates of subcontractors
Construction also can seem to slow because the colder weather can make it more difficult for different sub contractors to finish their portion of the work during colder months as quickly. With more moisture possible and colder temperatures guaranteed, it’s harder to predict start and finish dates with construction centered in winter months.

Days are shorter and contractors cannot work as long hours as summer months.
The sun has a strict bedtime in the winter, and that stops most work earlier than warmer months of the year. This can slow down your contractors, making jobs take a few days longer than it would in the spring and summer.

Good news: Many contractors are more available in colder months, meaning you can scoop them on when you’re ready
Since construction does seem to slow down for many, if you’re construction schedule has you plowing through winter, you might enjoy the benefits of scheduling contractors eager for work and available when you need them. And, if you can time your construction schedule to dovetail where all your outside construction is finished and all interior work is left, you work schedule will not be impacted nearly as much as the work will be indoors.

The short answer is that a quality homebuilder doesn’t need to slow down in cold months – they just adjust, prepare and know that the project might be slowed due to factors outside of their control (snow storms, shorter daylight hours, rain delays). Work with your builder to make sure you understand their expectations of how winter construction should go. Or call us to let us answer any other questions you might have about winter construction.
 

Five tips to prep your home for the holidays

Before you string up the lights or fluff the wreaths, be sure your home is readied for your holiday transformation. Decorating is certainly an integral part of preparing for the holidays, and your home is on display during these festive times more than any other time of the year. So, along with all the wreaths and trees and garland and lights, be sure to do these things as well before the holiday parties begin, out-of-town relative crash on your couch and Santa slides down your chimney.

Outdoor maintenance
Before you blow up the giant inflatable Frosty for the front lawn, take the time to make sure your front lawn is clear of debris, doesn’t need one last mow and leaves are brushed away. You’ll be amazed how much more your Christmas outdoor decorations pop when you have a clean slate to start with when decorating. Also, use this time to check all exterior lights. You want a safe and well-lit path to your front door for evening guests. If it has been icy (good luck in Oklahoma) or it plans to be icy, be sure you have supplies on hand to deal with clearing walkways or shoveling driveways. Above all else, be sure your home is safe to enter and exit. Even if your home is exquisitely decorated, Christmas is still ruined if Grandma breaks a hip on the way to her car on an icy path or leave-strewn driveway! (Forget getting run over by a reindeer!)

Declutter before you deck the halls
A home decorated for Christmas is one of our favorite things – but a home that is decorated on top of the everyday decorations just looks cluttered, clunky and distracting. When holiday decorating comes around, take this opportunity to take a haul to charity. Chances are, over the course of the year since you last decorated for Christmas, you’ve collected another layer of junk that is ready to leave your house. Go room by room and collect trash that is ready to be someone else’s treasure. After you’ve pulled all you want to give away or throw away, then think through your regular display pieces and decide which ones you want to tuck away for the season. Stow these non-Christmas decorations in a closet so that your surfaces are ready and cleared for decorating. Here’s the rule: Every Christmas decoration you bring out should replace a decoration you already have. Trust us, you’ll love how much more you can see your Christmas décor and you won’t miss your everyday trinkets during the holidays.

Use seasonal scents
Did you know that memories have their strongest tie to smells? Add seasonal scents throughout your house to make memories for the little ones and spark old memories for the adults. Candles add ambience as well as aroma and warmers can be left on while you do other things. Sprinkle a mixer throughout your home to create an instant, warm, memory-inviting part of the holidays.

Shine up that microwave
I know – Who ever heard of cleaning your microwave as part of preparing for the holidays? It’s not exactly as festive as making your list and checking it twice. But, hear us out: With holiday parties and house guests common all throughout your holiday season, your microwave gets a workout. More people see inside of your microwave from Thanksgiving to the New Year more than they do the rest of the year combined! So, take it from us: Take a few minutes during the early part of December and get your microwave clean. Wash the middle turntable in the dishwasher, and wipe the rest out with some warm, soapy water or warm-lemon water. Enjoy the fragrance bonus, and consider similar reviews of your dishwasher and frig.

Get the kids involved
Children make Christmas not just a wonderful time of year but also a magical one. They see Christmas through a hazy, marshmallow-and-cocoa lens that I wish the rest of us could still see. (Polar Express, anyone?) So, toss out your notion of what your tree should look like and let the kids in on the action. String popcorn! Pick out family ornaments! Let your 5-year-old hang all the ornaments near the bottom and all on one side (Oh is that one just me? Don’t worry, you can fix it all once she’s asleep)! Point being: They will only enjoy the magic of the season for a few short years. Relax, enjoy it and try to see it as they do – you did too once upon a time.

Get Your Home Fall Ready and Winter Prepared

Fall is here – with its beautiful foliage and crisp breezes. Our mums and pumpkins were on point for Halloween, and now our fall wreaths are in place in time for Thanksgiving. Cool weather brings out the fun, festive decorations –that’s about all you need to do to prepare of the year’s nicest season. But, Old Man Winter is starting to make his way towards us. Here’s a few things to do this month – and every year at this time – to prepare and protect your home from winter’s wrath.

Dodge the drafts and clean the gutters:

  • Drafts can waste up to 30 percent of your energy use.
  • Check around recessed lighting, windows and door frames, electrical outlets.
  • Buy – or make – door sweeps and caulk around other drafty spots.
  • Wait until most of the leaves are on the ground, and give the gutters a thorough cleaning.
  • Once winter’s rains and snows start, leaves and other debris not cleaned out can clog drains, seeping into the house or backing up on the roof.
  • Take those piles of leaves, and after the kids have had all the fun they can stand, either remove them or mulch them for your grass or flowerbeds.
  • Fall’s fallen leaves provide many nutrients back to the earth, but avoid a large pile collecting in one area – a rainy winter can produce moldy leaves.

Check the furnace and clean out the ducts and fireplace:

  • Do a complete check of your furnace – before it gets cold and you need it.
  • Consider investing in an annual inspection and tuning of your furnace by a professional.
  • Replace pinched duct pipes, fix gaps with a metal-backed tape.
  • Vacuum ducts every few years.
  • Chimneys should at least be inspected every year before use. Additionally, sweep it out at least annually as well.
  • Take this time to replace all air filters. Your family will be inside much more during winter, and good, clean air will help limit bacteria.
     

Check all house alarms:

  • While this won’t really help winterize your home, it is a good time to get into the habit of checking – and changing the batteries – on your home’s smoke detectors.
  • Invest in carbon-monoxide detectors as well, or test the ones you have.

If your home is new (or just built by us!), your checklist to get your home ready really will only consist of the natural elements outside. However, if you currently live in an older home, be sure to take a day before the bitter cold gets here to secure your home. We have great relationships with lots of wonderful guttering, HVAC, chimney and fireplace vendors who we’d be happy to recommend to you to help prepare you for the upcoming season. Contact us anytime for advice or information!

How recent natural disasters and wildfires impact local building costs

From record-breaking hurricanes to devastating wildfires, 2017 has given us some of the worst natural disaster this world has ever seen. And, in the direct aftermath of these monster storms, fires and earthquakes, the construction industry sees a spike in the cost for many of its needed materials. It’s a classic case of supply and demand – there is a surge in demand so strong that local resources in these impacted areas are depleted quickly. Because of this, contractors are forced to get supplies from outlying areas causing higher transportation costs, more overtime wages and other similar hard-cost factors that drive up price of materials.

In our experience, even with the worst disasters, these spikes in prices stabilize after a few months. And, proximity to these disasters directly correlates with its’ impact on the construction industry of an area. So, for those in Houston and even in Texas, the spike in construction costs this past summer and fall was hard to miss. However, for those in Oklahoma City, the spike was more of a hiccup. And, we’re settling down again. We’re confident the spring will be a great time to build with stable prices and available materials.

In fact, our supplier and friend Blake Hurlbutt, Builders First Source Area Sales Manager, said that the recent hurricanes on the Gulf Coast isn’t impacting the OKC much at all.

“There are multiple factors that go into our costs not changing much around here,” he said. “First, there is always some initial panic buys whenever we have a natural disaster of this magnitude. This can be seen in the small bump in lumber pricing shortly after Hurricane Harvey. Second, with national starts being down, there is not enough demand from the storms to significantly move the needle. Third, the rebuilding effort takes time for insurance and government assistance funds to get to these affected areas. And finally, going into winter with the normal seasonal slowdown in activity, this will also help keep prices down.”

He said, for these reasons, he does not expect to see any drastic movement in the lumber market in the short term for these recent storms. However, he did say the recent wildfires in California and the west could present risk in driving costs of lumber skyward.

“The only risk we could see in lumber pricing has less to do with any hurricane rebuilding effort, but more to do with the results of all the wildfires on the west coast and Canada,” he said. “These fires prevented loggers from harvesting rough timber, and it also pulled logging labor away because many of these loggers are also fighting fires.”

All disasters should be offset by both the slower winter months of construction and the slowed national home stats. Together, this should help keep lumber prices stable through the spring.

How HGTV gets it wrong – and right

Oh, man, how we love a good HGTV marathon – whether it’s Fixer Upper, Property Brothers or House Hunters, we just can’t seem to get enough of it. In under an hour, these shows transform houses, lives and families forever. It’s almost magical to watch the time lapse videos that take a run-down house into a showpiece. We’ve been known to get weepy, we won’t lie.

But, is the TV magic a good expectation of what all of us real-life people can expect when we tackle home building or renovation projects – or even when we buy a home? Of course not.

Just like car chases in movies rarely end in the police arrests or even in crashes, home renovation shows also always seem to produce alternate realities.

Here are some things to keep in mind when binge watching some of our favorite home improvement shows:
For viewers, a home is transformed in an hour, but in reality, it takes much longer. 
One episode of Fixer Upper takes eight weeks to shoot, but you wouldn’t know it from watching an episode. For those of us in the home building business, that makes JoAnna and Chip Gaines seem more human and like the adorable super heroes they appear. It’s good to know that these home projects take about the same length of time as it takes in real life to complete similar projects. For people consider renovations or building projects+++, keep in mind that it will take you and your builder weeks and months to get the dream results you want – not an hour.

3D models are amazing – and take time and money to create
We love 3D models. They allow for a tangible view of your new home that regular blue prints just can’t do. On television renovation shows, these models often are used liberally and often to show the viewers what to expect. We love when the use them – they are fun and useful. Keep in mind that while on TV it all happens in a few minutes, in real-life, 3D models take about two weeks to create. And they are still relatively expensive because the technology used to create them is still pretty new. When you enter the home-building process, we’d love to explore creating a 3D model of your home. How cool would that be to be able to really see what you’re home will look like? But, just prepare yourself for the time and money needed to do it.

Now, just because HGTV sometimes distorts the reality of home projects, that doesn’t mean we don’t love it. Here are few things to focus on when watching these shows.

HGTV shows are great for noticing trends in the home-building industry.
From shiplap and big porches to open concept floorplans and planned outdoor spaces, HGTV is the place to see a lot of the current trends in our industry. Watch to see these trends in different forms, and you can see lots of examples to determine if you like them or not.

HGTV can do some of the research for you. When you are first considering what you want in your next home, and even throughout your home building process, HGTV’s programs can showcase a lot of the products and choices you will need to make. Watch for appliances and light fixtures you like. Check out the style of the different homes featured. Notice the floor plans explained and what people like or don’t like – or want to change. By using HGTV as research for your future decisions needed, you’ll be much better prepared to make decisions yourself when it is your turn.

We love HGTV and what it has done for our industry. Our clients are more informed than ever before because of the steady diet we all have of these shows that have become part of mainstream culture. Be sure to glean the good trends and tips for yourself, but just keep in mind that these shows lean heavily on production values to make the process seem much quicker and easier than they often are in reality. That doesn’t mean we can’t still love them, it just means we have to understand how home building without cameras really works.

Thinking about building a home?

Ask yourself these questions to see if you are ready 

For most people, building a home is something they only go through one or two times in their entire lifetime. And as such, it can be difficult to ascertain what exactly you need to do to prepare for such an endeavor. Sure, you can get pre-qualified or search through floor plans, but what else should you be thinking about before you decide to build your dream home?  

Here are some good questions to ask yourself to see if it is a good time to build a home for you and your family:

1. Do I have enough energy to build a house right now? Even with the most skilled builders and designers, building a home can feel a bit like an endurance test. It’s full of fun things like picking out light fixtures and paint colors, but you also are adding a major project into your regular life. Homebuilding has to fit in with the rest of what your life has in it. Think through your free time and other responsibilities, and make sure you have the energy left over to use on building the home of your dreams.
Remember: You will need an extra amount of energy when you are building your home, but with our dedication to utilizing efficiencies, this extra energy will only be needed until you move in. And then, you’ll have your new house and you can relax.

2. Do you have the time to build a home?  Building a custom home that fits your needs and style is going to take more time than if you just bought a home. With the typical build lasting about six months, you’ll have to be sure that timeline matches up with your needs. If the timeline to build a house matches in your life, then make sure you have the time in your daily and weekly calendar for it. While the vast majority of the work and stress is carried by the homebuilder, you will need to make time for periodic meetings, time to make selections on materials and products desired, and set aside time to watch the building process take shape through the different stages of home development.
Remember: We make the process fun, but any project this big is going to take some time – and take some of your time – to complete. 

3. Do you know your style and preferences when it comes to your new home? While customizing your home can be exhilarating, it can also give you paralysis when it comes time to make a decision. Take time to find your style, desires and wants so that selection of materials are decided upon easily – and so you get what you want. One of the best things about building your own home is that you get to pick out every single faucet, doorknob and drawer pull. Be sure you know the types of things you like – and more importantly, don’t like – before you need to select choices. This will help you not to be overwhelmed throughout the homebuilding process.
Remember: Take time and think seriously about the kinds of things you want in your home. And have fun with it! This is what Pinterest was made for – pin away, and we’ll take your dreams and turn them into reality!

4. Are you a patient person? When building a home, you’ve got to have a dose of patience. Homebuilding is a process that sometimes is fast and furious, and sometimes it slows down to what feels like a snail’s pace. While we pride ourselves on maximizing efficiencies, some delays that are beyond anyone’s control will happen. For example, it can rain for a week, and we can’t pour a foundation. Or we will have to wait on a city inspection before we can move forward. Having patience with the process is helpful to manage your own stress level. Of course, we have to tell ourselves this too – we get anxious to see the progress on these homes as much as the homeowner.
Remember: When you build a home, no matter how well it goes, things won’t go completely as planned or when it was planned. Patience is a virtue, and that is no less true when building a home.

5. Are you prepared financially to build a home? Financially, prepare yourself as best you can for the process of home building. For the vast majority of people, their home is their largest investment, and it is also their largest expense.  Before moving forward with a builder, sit down with your financial planner or chosen financial institution to talk through your options. Just like buying a home that is already built, if you walk in knowing how much you can spend on building a house, you’ll be much farther along in understanding what kind of home you can build. In addition, home building often comes with additional loans like construction loans that traditional home purchases do not. Your financial advisor can walk you through all of this.
Remember: Talk with your financial institution to see what options are best for you. The more you know on the front end, the more prepared you will be when it comes time to start building the house.