Build on Your Land: Trim, Paint, Flooring, Countertops, and Fixtures

    Things like trim, paint, flooring, countertops, and fixtures are all called "finishes," but they're far from finished. It's not really a new home until the builder hands you the keys. Until then, it's a work in progress.

    Don't get discouraged when things don't look pretty at this point in the building process. You've been eagerly awaiting the finished product where you can see the reality of your vision. When the trim, doors, and cabinets go in, you really start to get a picture of what the home will look like and how it flows. Since it's still dusty and there's no color, it looks rough, and you're emotionally okay with it.

    What To Expect

    Here's where it starts to get weird. Paint will go on the walls and the trim, doors, and cabinets will get painted or stained with your colors. Things will start to look pretty and finished. Then the tile setters will start, and they'll make a mess. The tile will look hazy and dusty, and somebody will put a dirty handprint on the wall.

    The countertops will go in, and scuffs will appear on the kitchen walls.

    The plumbers, electricians, and heat and air contractors will install the fixtures, appliances, air vents, etc. Mysteriously a hole will appear in your brand new painted wall, a light will get broken, and somebody may accidentally step through the ceiling drywall.

    You. Will. Freak. Everyone does. Right now, you're reading this and thinking, "Not me! You told me what to expect. I won't freak out. I get it."

    But I'm telling you, it's different when the house in question is YOURS. There's an emotional connection, an element that defies reason.

    However, console yourself and your spouse with the understanding that every house—the one you live in now, all the homes of your friends and family, even the beautiful model homes you've toured—went through the exact same process.

    Those turned out fine, didn't they? It's part of the process, nothing unusual. Your builder deals with it every day, and that's why you're paying him. I've said it before: You can either stress out about your house or pay your builder to stress out, but don't do both. Pick one.

    Tips for Getting Through the Building Process

    You're close to the finish line of your dream! Here are some tips for getting through this step of the process smoothly.

    #1. Avoid changes.

    Changes slow things down and get very expensive. It's tempting to think, "We only get one shot at this, let's make it perfect." That thought process is totally valid, and I understand it completely. I've built hundreds of homes, including homes for myself, my family members, and my employees.

    I can tell you that those last-minute great ideas, the ones you just have to have to make this house perfect, aren't as great in hindsight. Maybe they would have been nice to have, but honestly, you put a great deal of thought into this house before you started. You've probably been dreaming about it for years. So if that one little thing you thought about right before tile installation was really life changing, you probably would've thought of it before.

    Your builder will be happy to accommodate the change, but you need to understand the cost. You're not only going to pay for the work to be done, but you're going to pay for your builder's time to administer the change. That includes all the paperwork that must be changed, phone calls to be made, schedules to be juggled, restocking fees to be paid, etc.

    You're also going to face schedule delays that will exceed the amount of time required to physically make the change. Why the schedule delays? Because your builder probably already had contractors lined up to do the work, and those contractors have to be on a job working to make their living.

    If you make a change that causes a delay in a contractor's scheduled start, he's going to move on to another job that's ready and come back to yours when he's done. It's the same thing as getting all the way to the cashier at the grocery store and then jumping out of line to grab something you forgot. You lose your place and go to the back of the line.

    #2. Changes have a cascading effect.

    If you bump one contractor, or if the schedule gets bumped for a reason not under anyone's control, it affects everything after it.

    Here's a sample of the phases of construction that depend on previous phases that demonstrates a little bit of the cascade effect:

    • • Exterior concrete before HVAC
    • • Tile before plumbing fixtures
    • • Backsplash before electrical fixtures
    • • Minimizing the trips for the trades

    #3. It's not finished until it's finished.

    When the carpet goes down, it seems like that's the point your house is really finished. But it's not. I absolutely hate putting every customer through that moment of disappointment, but it happens. It's the last major item to be installed, so it mentally seems like it should be done, but it's not.

    All those dents, dings, holes, and scrapes that appeared in what you would think are "finished" items really jump out when you see them in a carpeted house. With carpet, you can really visualize yourself living there. You see your kids wrestling around on the floor or hanging out watching TV on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

    But then you look around, and the house looks like a disaster area. It's dirty, there are random carpet scraps and bits of trash lying around, there's a dirty handprint on the wall, and somebody even managed to crack a window. And why is there no weatherstrip in the front door? Your beautiful house didn't turn out so beautiful!

    #4. It's a process.

    Again, this is all part of the process. Your builder knows what the house looks like, and he has no intention of turning it over to you in this condition. His work is far from done, and he probably already has a running list of repairs and touch-ups.

    Trust him to complete that list and then shine the house up like a new penny before he presents it to you.

    Now, there will still be a handful of items that don't meet your personal standards, and that's completely okay. That's why you'll do a walk-through with your builder, so you can point out those items. They might be totally fine to him, or to 99 other people, but it isn't their home—it's yours.

    Point those things out and your builder will fix them. He does it every day.

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