Our new build from heck (insert expletive here)

August 15, 2019

I am not looking for advice, but am merely venting my frustration about our new home under construction. It feels like a nightmare I can't wake up from.

We signed a contract last October with a builder who came highly recommended by a former neighbor and who also was highly rated online. This is the house we're building:

Don Gardner Serendipity

We obtained a building permit December 28 after having a minor delay because we had to have our ditches cleared.

It was a rainy winter, so the build got off to a slow start and the footers weren't poured until late January. The rain continued through February. The raised slab foundation was poured March 22. Unfortunately, the whole foundation wasn't poured at that time, because apparently part of the concrete block wall was originally made too short. The addition wasn't secured well enough, so it gave way. This was fixed later.

Framing began the following week. That week the builder asked us what windows we wanted and threatened to pull the framers off the job if we didn't give him an answer that day. My husband had been asking him about windows for months prior to this, but the builder didn't provide much in the way of a response. The bulk of the framing was completed by the end of April and the house was under a shingled roof by May 9.

This is where things started to go very wrong. First, this was the state of the house at that time: no windows and apparently lack of support to the back porch roof.

April 21:

May 5:

This was fixed after a call to our builder. We wish he had caught it because it was a symptom of a much larger problem....

Ultimately the windows weren't delivered until June 4. This was two months of extreme frustration because unlike the weather delay, we felt like this was avoidable had the windows been ordered earlier in the process.

Once the windows were delivered we were itching to have them installed after the long delay, but the windows weren't installed until a few weeks later. When they were, it was abundantly clear that there were much larger problems.

Unbeknownst to us, the house had been sitting for two months without adequate critical support points in the (very large) attic. This caused the weight of the roof to rest heavily on the exterior walls and not on the interior point load areas (engineers reading this: forgive me for the terminology). Now the exterior walls were out of whack. On June 26, the builder decided that the old framing crew needed to go and a new crew was summoned to fix the structural problems. Also to fix this tray ceiling, which was not centered in the room:

HVAC and electrical was installed while the reframing was happening. The new framing crew had to remove several of the windows and reinstall them. Here is the attic with the roof now supported. The architect came in and is satisfied that the roof has enough support.

The big arched front window came in two parts and apparently took some specialized expertise to put together and install. It was finally installed on August 2, three months after the bulk of framing was finished. The mahogany front door has been sitting for a few months without being stained or sealed. Fortunately it is sheltered by the porch roof, but it is showing signs of water having gotten to it. There is a 'dent' in the roof where the porch roof meets the main roof. The framers still haven't fixed it.

We passed HVAC inspection but on Tuesday we failed electrical inspection and still haven't had a framing inspection. The drywall guy came yesterday and marked all of the places that the framers need to fix so that the drywall will lay flat. He is not happy with the framers. If we could get a crew of framers in for two solid days, all of this could be fixed and we could move on with the build. The framers told my husband they aren't around much because they're working on a 60,000 square foot apartment building. Clearly our house isn't a priority for them.

With as slow as this build has gone, we have only had 3 1/2 days of construction this month and we are halfway through the month already. The plumbers came one day but didn't finish their rough ins because they didn't know what shower valves to put in. I have known for months what shower fixtures I wanted, but the builder never asked. Had he asked what fixtures I wanted before the plumbers came, they could have been on site and ready for the plumbers.

I'm also annoyed that the builder had said months ago that the cabinet people would template the kitchen so that the electrician, plumber, and HVAC would know where to put their rough-ins. That never happened. I was there on days when the trades were at the house asking me about where to put things, so I ended up templating the kitchen and bathrooms myself. I don't feel like that's my job, but I didn't want to slow down the build.

To say we are frustrated would be an understatement. We are seeing houses that started well after ours already finished. We have a camera on the property and I've been documenting what happens every day. There have been 80 days of construction since we started in January and if things don't pick up, we are on a trajectory to finish in March next year. I hope that doesn't happen, but I'm not holding out much hope.

The builder said that a lot will happen next week... I really hope he's right, but he is notoriously inaccurate with his timelines.

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