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Newsletter #227

Builder Contractor Delays

New House Building: Money Saving, Convenience and Healthy House Tips

James Todd
July, 2004
Happy Independence Day

All past newsletters are archived online at:



  1. Window Selection (2nd in series of articles)
  2. Contingency Plans - Builder/ contractor delays
  3. Rugs or hardwood floors
  4. Thought for the Day
  5. Subscription Information
Please forward this newsletter to anyone whom you think may be interested!

1. Windows Frames

Refresher from last month's newsletter ... 1) The ER number, or Energy Rating for a window is based on the entire window package which includes the glass envelope, sash, the seals, and the frame, and 2) The higher the positive ER number, the better. Keeping these two items in mind, the actual choice of window frame/sash design and material may seem to be cosmetic only. Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple. Frame and sash designs significantly impact the "condensation resistance" of windows. If you live in a hostile environment where the temperature goes below freezing at times, frame choice is especially important. Frame material also impacts ongoing maintenance of your new home.

Wood is a traditional material for frames and sashes, and it has good insulating characteristics but unfortunately it is quite expensive and must be sealed by paint or some other material or it deteriorates very rapidly. Wood windows and frames may be clad with vinyl or aluminum, making a very durable window package but vinyl and aluminum have additional considerations described below.

All-aluminum frames and sashes are very strong and low maintenance but expensive, and aluminum conducts heat easily unless a thermal break is designed into the frame or sash. Aluminum may be left bare or coated with special paint to ensure long-life and low maintenance.

PVC (poly vinyl chloride) has a pigment permanently embedded in the material ... this color is most commonly white, but is available in other colors as well. PVC is least expensive, low maintenance, has excellent insulating properties and can be ribbed or honeycombed for strength and filled with foam. It is the weakest of the materials and may require aluminum or steel inserts for large windows and all doors. In most cases PVC is a very good choice for residential window frames and sashes. PVC may discolour and may become brittle over a long time, and is difficult to paint over, although it is possible.

A relatively new material for frames is fiberglass (glass reinforced polyester). This material is stronger than PVC and has lower maintenance requirements than wood. As with PVC, the fiberglass can be honeycombed and filled with foam for even higher insulation rating. It accepts the same UV protective coatings as aluminum and is generally considered superior to wood, aluminum, and PVC. It is also possible to paint fibreglass frames.

Tips on Window Frames

  1. When choosing the color(s) of the exterior façade of your home, whether wood, brick, stone, siding, stucco or some other material, be sure to consider the color of your windows, frames and doors.
  2. Never, never use abrasive cleansers to clean painted aluminum, PVC or fiberglass window frames and they will grow old gracefully.
  3. Take the time to research your windows thoroughly.
In next month's newsletter we will cover the last of the 3 articles on windows - Low E Coatings and Other Films on the glass.
2. Contingency Plans - Builder/ contractor delays

As a potential new homeowner, you owe it to yourself and your family to do your administrative homework. For most people, the outlay for a new home is the single largest expenditure of funds that you will encounter in your lifetime. A new home can also introduce a huge amount of stress in your life, even if everything goes according to plan.

Whether you are buying an existing newly built home, buying a still-to-be-built home, or having a home custom built, each of these scenarios carries different risks.

It is important to have a clear contract, which details all the terms and rights for the buyer and the seller, and provides for various contingencies during the construction and closing of your new home. The contract will include all the terms of your purchase, such as price, amount of deposit, financing terms, closing date, possession date, personal property to be included in the sale, tax adjustments, right to inspect, and possible contingencies, such as attorney's approval, financing, or the sale of your present home. Other matters that may need to be addressed include existing land title, well and septic issues, right-of-way, right of access, easements. The House Building Guide comes with a sample building contract that covers many of these issues.

Although the House Building Guide is a great place to start for developing a contract. The laws in each state are different, and you should definitely consider hiring a lawyer and getting legal advice. If you must sign a contract before meeting with your lawyer, always add the following words: "My agreement to the terms and conditions in this contract are subject to and contingent upon the review and acceptance by my attorney."

When entering into a contract, you must keep in mind that home construction is complex and involves many materials and sub trades. You must be reasonable in your expectations and if there are critical dates and items in your new home construction, you must identify these up front and in writing. Make sure they are included in the contract.

Dream Home Source has over 15,300 house plans easily searched from their online database. You decide how many bedrooms, bathrooms, and garage stalls your new home will have, along with many other key features. Dream Home Source has an enormous variety of house plans for every taste, from traditional to contemporary, from 500 to 10,250 square feet. Register and receive a free home plan CD-ROM or DVD-ROM. Visit us today!

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The New House Building Guide – Learn How To Save Thousands Building Your New Home

Intimidated by the idea of being your own builder? You’re not alone. Most people don’t have the time, expertise, or contacts to perform this task. The good news is that you don’t have to. You can use your own builder and still save thousands. Get the House Building Guide and learn how. The Guide contains step-by-step instructions, sample specifications, an example building-contract, and dozens of money saving, convenience and healthy house building tips. This is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in building a new home.

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Your builder will include a "force majeure" clause which talks about war, acts of God and so on. These and other clauses are often referred to as "boiler plate" implying that they are routine, and there is nothing you can do about them. That isn’t necessarily true. You are entitled to know what happens in the case of a force majeure, or other delay; and, if your house is not available on the specified date, for whatever reason, make sure your contract specifies who will pay for the double move, storing of furniture, hotel costs, etc.

Remember, it is generally in everyone’s best interest that your home is ready for occupancy as scheduled, but there are many things that can and often do prevent that from happening. Here a just a few examples of some of the items that could happen and delay your move into your new home:

  1. Your builder goes bankrupt and you are committed to vacate your old house.
  2. Your general contractor disappears with the house unfinished, leaving things in a state of chaos.
  3. The partially completed home (not yours yet) burns to the ground.
  4. There is a massive carpenters strike for 3 months.
  5. Regular materials are delayed or custom ordered materials such as counters, fixtures, stone, special windows, are not available when needed.
  6. Landscaping is not completed.
  7. Paving is not done and it is a sea of mud around your completed house, yet everyone wants you to move in.
  8. There are municipal/state/federal building code violations
  9. The municipality will not yet grant an Occupancy Certificate.
  10. The municipality will not grant clear title to the property because the builder has not met some condition for the subdivision.
  11. You discover that there are one or more "mechanics liens" against your home, because some of the sub-trades were not paid, even though you've already paid for your home and can prove it.
  12. You lose your job and purchasing this house is no longer a good idea.

Be sure you understand your Purchase Agreement and contract. Ask your lawyer to explain all the terms in plain language. Be sure that all your questions are answered to your satisfaction and your lawyer's satisfaction BEFORE YOU SIGN OFF. Have clear and strong language about delays and who will pay for the added cost associated with them.

In next month's newsletter we will cover steps you can take to deal with a home that has been delayed, aside from ensuring all of the legal issues have been dealt with.

Some useful links to check out

Useful Links

3. Rugs or hardwood floors

Many new homeowners compare installing carpet vs. hardwood flooring strictly from the viewpoint of cost. From this perspective wall to wall carpeting will be the winner in every case, with the exception of very high end expensive carpeting.

If price is the main issue for you, then the most appropriate approach is to select the carpet and hardwood floor covering you would prefer and request a quote from several flooring companies to allow you to compare bids and installation cost. There are of course low end and high end products in both types of flooring and you will need to select your grade of flooring from the many products available when requesting your quotes. You can then decide which floor covering best fits your budget.

There are many other variables that one should consider in your choice of floor coverings. Here are just a few:

Noise – Carpets are very quiet to walk on, absorbing almost 100% of the sound and they also absorb much of the sound from other noise sources such as TV or radio that carry through the home. Hardwood floors on the other hand do not absorb sound and are a much noisier option.

Cleaning – Carpets should be vacuumed regularly to prevent microscopic amounts of dirt to penetrate into the weave. Rug shampooing should also be done on a regular basis. Hardwood on the other hand can be vacuumed easily and damp mopped. In both cases the exhaust from your vacuum should really be blown outside to avoid microscopic particles from just being redistributed throughout the home.

Liquids – Liquid spills can have dramatic effects on carpets especially if they stain. In most cases with water spills, the water can be easily absorbed with cloth towels and the rest can dry over time. Extended dampness may cause the formation of mildew. Wood flooring on the other hand should have all spills cleaned up immediately. While wood is very resistant to stains, prolonged exposure to moisture can cause discoloration and expansion, even warping of the wood.

Warmth – Carpets are very warm to the touch especially in colder climates, were, hardwood floors will feel quite cold. The impact of cold hardwood floors can be minimized by placing area rugs in strategic places.

Lifecycle – Carpets can last 10 to 15 years or longer in some cases depending on the care, maintenance and amount of traffic that is placed on it. Carpet will tend to matt over time and be more and more difficult to return it to that clean new installed look. Hardwood floors with appropriate maintenance and care can last a lifetime unless there is severe damage from moisture or prolonged heavy traffic. However, depending on the amount of traffic, you may have to sand and refinish the floor every 10 to 15 years.

Your Health - The final consideration is one that involves your health. Carpets are perhaps the worst offender, when it comes to building a healthy house, (specifically, man-made carpets.) They can contain a variety of substances that outgas for many years. These gases are precisely what you are smelling when you enter a carpet store or a newly carpeted room. The many nice features you can purchase for carpeting, such as color fastness, stain proofing, fire resistance, etc., are achieved by the use of chemicals. These chemicals are outgased at the highest rate during the first few years but continue slowly for many years thereafter. The House Building Guide contains more information about how to build a healthy house.

The following links discuss several issues associated with types of flooring. As we indicated at the beginning, the choice is a personal one and will depend on the variables that are important to the homeowner.
Useful Links

Indoor Air Quality

Floor Comparison Chart

Flooring Type Comparison

4. Thought For The Day - Human Dignity
View “success” as the journey you take on the way to reaching your goals. Success is not the destination; it is the daily progress you make in small steps toward that destination.

5. Subscription Information
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