By Caroline Wright
As you turn these pages, you might be thinking about rebuilding, adding on or constructing a new home from scratch. And if you’re like most people, you might be overwhelmed by all of the things you need to consider. Budget, materials, design, family preferences, ordinances and codes… Where to begin?
Project coordinator Joshua Vasconcellos is an aging in place and universal design specialist and a Master Builder, certified by the National Association of Home Builders. A founding family member of Atlas Construction, Vasconcellos offers several tips on how to approach your project with the confidence that comes from knowing you’ve done everything you can to make it a success.
Learn as much as you can about the process
If this is the first time you’ve ever built or renovated a home, you’ll probably have a long list of questions. With a team whose expertise, commitment and creativity have driven hundreds of projects to successful completion, Atlas Construction offers free educational sessions that can help bring you up to speed.
“We help educate homeowners before they make decisions,” says Vasconcellos. “Every month we host two seminars, and we also have a monthly Open House featuring a project that we’re finishing. We educate homeowners from a real estate standpoint, to make sure they’re doing the right thing for themselves and their family, at the right cost.”
Get to know your contractor
You can save yourself a million headaches by learning as much as you can about your contractor’s prior work and professional reputation. A respectable contractor will meet with you multiple times and provide references and addresses of completed projects. Vasconcellos compares the process to test-driving a car.
“With construction, the closest thing to a test-drive that we can offer is to come to our Open Houses and see how we build, the type of materials we use, and the quality,” he says.
Keep green within your budget
Building an environmentally conscious home is a noble endeavor, but a full green-build home is very costly, according to Vasconcellos. “We help our families find a comfortable level. We’ll offer different estimates: If we go all green, here’s the budget for that; if we eliminate some of the pricier products, here’s the budget for that.”
When cost is a big consideration, he recommends implementing affordable options like solar water heaters and low-E windows with low emissivity coating. “There are a lot of newer products; people can find balance with what they’re able to afford. Even appliances are more energy efficient nowadays.”
Build for your family’s future
It’s very hard for most of us to imagine our “golden years,” much less plan a house in which we will spend those years. A good contractor will ask you plenty of questions about the ages and lifestyles of everybody in your family, and if any of you will age in place in the home.
“We often hear from people who want to build a two-story home with all the bedrooms upstairs, and the kitchen and living room downstairs,” says Vasconcellos. “You’d be surprised at how many older people want to add on or alter their homes because when they first bought or built them years ago, they could go up and down the stairs. Today, it’s a different situation. Because they don’t have a bedroom downstairs, they have to turn the living room into a bedroom.”
Have an open mind
As you plan for your project, remember that some of your ideas might be difficult for your contractor to execute exactly as you’ve envisioned them. “Most families have an idea of what they want, but they don’t necessarily understand everything that’s involved,” says Vasconcellos. “We make sure we give them the pros and cons of implementing their ideas. Maybe the plans change from what they were looking for at the beginning, but at the end they understand why, because now they’re educated on every aspect of the build.”
Additionally, although you’ll want to customize your home to your family’s current needs, remember to keep your plans flexible enough that areas in your home can be transformed as those needs change. Building the fantasy home of your dreams might not be possible, but with the right contractor as your partner, the reality might be even better.