A tenacious if not wise man once said: “If there was a problem: Yo, I’ll solve it!”
Now, I’m not saying you need to hire a faded hip hop star from decades past to create your dream home. You just need to make sure your builder is a collaborative problem solver.
Yo, VIP, Let’s Kick It
Your job as a custom build customer is to know (or be able to figure out) what you want. You need to make the right decisions for what will suit your tastes, needs, and budget. Your general contractor is left with the hard work of finding solutions for the ceaseless parade of problems that flow out of a build, whether they are caused by the site, weather, materials, subs, or the owner.
As an owner, you may want to be very hands-on or maybe to keep your distance and only provide creative direction. I’m a hands-on guy who struggles with a strong urge to commit random acts of home improvement (our current rental home now has GFCI outlets, some new caulking, re-sealed toilet footing, a fixed range hood fan, and a solution to the slug infestation). I have to fight the urge to try to jump in and help solve too many problems and instead trust the Murphys and let them do the job they are so good at doing.
Before you even begin your build, you should establish a good working relationship with your builder. Get a solid idea of how much of your particular style of “help” they need or can accept. Figure out if they are okay with you tampering with the worksite (running your own speaker wire, hiding secret vaults, etc). Know your limitations, be ready to share ideas, and trust your hired delegates to do the job right.
I’ve done my share of “helping” around the job site. Fortunately, I haven’t worn out my welcome with my builders quite yet. The opportunities for me to get in their way are rapidly diminishing anyway now that the drywall is up.
My favorite thing about working with Murphy Building Co is that all three brothers are very good collaborative problem solvers. Maybe that’s just one of the skills you build after working with family for a few decades? I can’t say, but I have to respect them for it.
Stop, Collaborate, and Listen: A Brief Case Study
An innovative feature common in many new homes is a laundry room upstairs near the bedrooms. The major problem is that leaking washers can destroy parts of the living space on several floors. One of the first upgrades we asked for was a drain and pan to be installed under both washer and dryer (the dryer also has a water hose attached for steam features). I’ve experienced destruction caused by a stuck valve solenoid or a malfunctioning water level sensor in a washing machine, and the cost of the drain was well worth it.
Our builder had his plumber install the drain pipe, but I was dismayed to find a tiny 3/4″ pipe draining to the yard. Surely such a tiny pipe could never keep up with two or even one free-flowing water supply lines when a standard sink drain is twice the size.
My insistence that we solve the problem “right” by upping the pipe to standard drain size and connecting it to the sink drain pipe drew resistance from the plumber–with a reasonably defensible position: Drainage to sewer would require a trap that remains primed with water to block sewer miasma. Granted, there are several simple solutions to this problem (drip primer, TrapGuard, prime with cooking oil, etc…), but they are all hacks to get around issues with a particular solution.
Mine was a myopic focus on the larger pipe and what it would take to make it work. However, it didn’t need to be 2″ black drain pipe connected to our sewer. There was another solution out there.
Enter the water shut-off valve. Bob Murphy had the drain pipe up-sized to 1″ to accommodate more flow, but more importantly, he accurately identified and addressed the underlying concern. He had the plumber install a leak detection and shutoff valve kit. If the water source is shut off as soon as a leak is detected, a drain of any size should suffice.
Bam. Collaborative problem solving.
Murphy’s on the Scene. You Know What I Mean?
In ours, just as with any build, we’ve run across a handful of snags. Thankfully, we’ve got a builder whom we can trust to solve problems. As we near the long finish work slog portion of the build, I rest easy knowing that these guys have our best interest in mind. Frankly, the build itself has been the least stressful part of this entire project thus far.
As a side note, I had no idea Mr. Van Winkle actually has an ongoing TV show about remodeling when I came up with the concept for this post. Clearly he’s a renaissance man. Tune in to the DIY Channel Sundays at 10PM/9C for more of this: