Monday, May 12 2014
Whether you are commissioning plans to build your dream home from the dirt up, or contemplating a remodel of the home you already have, there are bound to be a lot of professionals and tradespeople involved in the process, and it is easy to lose your voice in the crowd when trying to communicate and get what you want. At a minimum, the players in your soon-to-be-real-life-drama will include architect, builder, interior designer, sash and door dealer, cabinet supplier, plumbing and fixture supplier, flooring supplier, subcontractors….okay–you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong, these people are critical to the success of your project. But the key phrase here is that this is your project. Get what you want. Or at least get as close as you can.
Keep in mind that building a house or even remodeling one is often cited as the most stressful time in a couple’s life—right up there with becoming new parents!
In my 27 years in the custom millwork business, I have often heard people say “What I really wanted was this, but my [insert any player from the list above] said I couldn’t have it.” This cringe-worthy statement is exactly what I’m talking about. Yes, building codes and ordinances do govern– and in some cases dictate or limit– what materials (glass type, fire-proof tiles instead of a wood shake roof, etc.) can be used in certain geographic locations—for example building in a fire zone in California requires that glazing in all doors and windows have two panes and that one of the panes be tempered.
To illustrate the point, a customer of one of our dealers came to the factory about a year ago to look at our retractable accordion screen systems for the estate they were building in a fire zone. As she ran her hands reverently over the beautiful wood interiors of the doors in our showroom, I asked her why she was only considering our screen system and why she was buying aluminum doors with no wood interiors when her house was Spanish style. You guessed it. She said, “Wood is what I really wanted, but my architect said I couldn’t have it because we’re in a fire zone.” If she’d done a little homework, she would have known that her architect was incorrect; she could have had almost exactly what she wanted: aluminum-clad exteriors in any imaginable color, and any wood species she wanted on the interiors–and would have exceeded the CBC requirement for doors and windows in a fire zone. But the aluminum doors and windows were already on order and paid for, and it would have been downright cruel to say anything to her at that point.
So doesn’t it makes sense to arm yourself with basic knowledge of the restrictions, allowances and requirements that will affect your project before your architect invests a great deal of your money designing in one direction when you may want to go in a completely different direction? This is especially true if you are working with an architect who practices mostly in another region—maybe she designed your ski chalet in Tahoe and you want her to design your new house in Santa Barbara where local design and building requirements may be completely different.
You might be thinking, “My [insert any player from the list above] is supposed to be the expert– that why I’m paying them the big bucks!”
Well that, my friend is a good way to get what you don’t want. You need to know a little bit about the requirements for your area so you can be sure you are getting the correct information from your experts.
Before you start pushing dirt around….
and before you start to write checks, it is important to sit down with your family and brainstorm for a bit on how you live in your current home and what changes would enhance your life in your new home—do you wish you had an outdoor eating area or outdoor fireplace? Does your family spend most of its together time in the kitchen? Is your home or future home in an area where screens are a must for bug-free living (horse country)? Do you pine for the warmth of real wood on the interior side of your doors and windows? Visualize the placement of your various patio doors– will it be all about admiring an ocean or mountain view, or does the door look out onto a fence or garden wall? If the doors open out to a narrow balcony or side yard, sliding doors will take up less outdoor living space than Bi-Fold patio doors or swinging French doors. There are more styles of patio doors and entry doors to choose from than ever before, and there is a lot to consider.
So be clear and firm about what you want, be realistic and flexible about what is possible, and make sure that your voice is heard in the crowd. This is your project. Oh, and by the way, you might want to keep a marriage counselor on speed dial.
This opinion piece was written by Maria Schell Burden, and does not necessarily reflect the views of AG Millworks. A special thanks to Rich Mathieu of Associated Building Supply for fact-checking on building codes.