Heads UP! This isn’t my usual “sunshine and happiness” post, but I think it might be one of my most important ones and hope you read all the way through. In my eyes, this post is precisely why we recommend using a reputable builder that uses best practices that can only be learned by experience.
Now, on with the story!
After recovering from the excitement of delivery day, it was time to settle in for the finishing process. A lot of people seem to think that as soon as the house lands on site (or at least shortly after) you’re able to move in. I wish that were the case but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
To finish the house we still need:
- The roof and the two modules to be “stitched” together
- Attached garage, front porch and back deck to be built on site
- The remainder of the siding to be installed
- Completing the shingles on the roof
- Completion of the flooring, interior doors and a few finishes inside
- Installation of the heating system and completion of plumbing and electrical work.
And that’s just the Quality Homes work!
We also have responsibilities to be taken care of now:
- Coordination of the hydro trenching and connection to the house
- Completion of the well hookup to the house and installation of any water treatment systems we might need
- Final grading for the house and driveway.
This is the stage where the build becomes more like a site built home which means that we’re now more vulnerable to weather and schedule variations. Fortunately almost all of the materials to complete the home came packed either in the home or on a flatbed truck on delivery day which removes possible supply chain worries. Knowing that this isn’t the first home that Quality Homes has built in the winter was definitely reassuring; we were confident that they had all the “what if’s” accounted for.
Then the Winds Came!
Before leaving on delivery day, the crew worked diligently to ensure that even though our home couldn’t be completely sealed up, it would be protected from the elements as much as possible. Our home was delivered on a Tuesday and the delivery crew was scheduled to deliver another home on Thursday so not much happened on site in the first few days. Our Project Manager told us there would be blocks of time when not much would be happening so we weren’t really surprised.
The first weekend after delivery brought with it some howling winds off Lake Huron. Our home isn’t waterfront but we’re close enough that we can still hear and feel its mighty roar. Since we’re staying close to the build, Brian and our brother-in-law went up to check on the house. The first good news to come through was that no trees had fallen into the build zone but we lost a couple at the edge of the forest. Sadly, the house wrap was no match for the wind; they found a large section had been blown off and some of our on-site building materials were blown into the trees. We were lucky that no precipitation came with that wind but it was in the forecast.
As soon as I had pictures to send, I sent them off to our Construction Manager to let him know that our roof was no longer protected from the weather and that there was more wind and a lot of rain in the short term forecast. He soon had someone on site to secure what they could. We knew that since they can’t work safely in high winds and rain, we’d have to wait out the storm.
Then we got the bad news that the framers he had lined up for the garage and other site build portions had fallen through. At the time I didn’t think that was as big a deal as it turned out to be. I soon learned that since the site-built elements all tied into the main roof structure, the roofing couldn’t be completed until they were complete. Without a complete roof we’re vulnerable to weather; it’s as simple as that. I don’t think learning this earlier would have changed our decision to create these elements, but we would have been more emotionally prepared for what was to come.
More Wind … and Rain Too
The wind came again, and it brought a lot of rain with it this time. As soon as the weather had passed we were on site again to check things out. Unfortunately water had gotten into the attic and found its way through a couple light fixtures and down walls at the front of the house. Frankly, it was both heartbreaking and anxiety-producing to see.
Assessing the Damage
The master bedroom and bathroom were the worst affected as far as we could tell. Of course if the water was coming in through the ceiling, we wondered what condition the attic and insulation would be. All we could do was take a bunch of pictures and quickly get them off to our Construction Manager. He responded quickly and assured us that someone would be there the next day to frame the peaks over the house including plywood and a weather barrier. That should help keep the water out. He mentioned that they will then be going into the attic to remove any wet insulation, and clean up any water in the attic and on the floor.
Attempts to clean up the water were made, some insulation was pulled from the attic but it didn’t feel like enough. I guess I was expecting them to stop the water from coming in as well as cleaning up inside. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to see that they couldn’t do much with the relentless weather we were experiencing. Humbly, I admit that now that a little bit of time has passed since the first water infiltration, the amount of water that found its way at this point was less than it seemed at first.
Over the next few weeks the rain would come and go, and each time it seemed that water would find new ways into the house. There were a few breaks in the weather and the framers took advantage as much as they could to resume work to close things up. Even with that, each time we went to check, our home kept showing new signs of water damage.
The signs of water infiltration weren’t all big and scary like the puddles in the foyer and master bathroom. Most signs were subtle, like bubbling paint, a drip of water from a light fixture, a new crack in the drywall here and there, or trim turning yellow. What really freaked me out was that those were the things we could see; what trouble couldn’t we see?!
Sorry for the poor lighting in the pictures, they were taken without proper lighting because we don’t have hydro yet. I should mention, the builder isn’t responsible for the hydro hook-up; we’re at the mercy of Hydro One for that.
After a few weeks with little progress, I had visions of the benefits of a factory built home slipping away and the idea of our dear sweet home being compromised filled me with dread. I had to do everything I could to protect our home! So, after an especially emotional visit to the house, I decided to escalate the issues via a detailed email to upper management at Quality Homes.
I wrote my picture-filled email on a Sunday afternoon, with the intention that it would be in their inboxes for action on Monday morning. Remarkably I received an email from the COO that same day to acknowledge our concerns. He assured us that they’d have a plan of action put together and communicated as soon as possible.
Sure enough, Monday morning I had an email from our Construction Manager outlining their first next steps and advising me that a crew was on its way. I still had trouble sleeping due to worry that night, so I decided I’d run up to the house before work on Tuesday morning to see what progress was being made. As I pulled up the driveway I noticed the construction bin was full of insulation. Well, that felt like good news and bad news simultaneously: good that it was out, bad for the extra waste.
Two men were working up in the attic, looking it over with a fine tooth comb and taking pictures when I got there. One came down to discuss his findings and what their plans were for the next few days. I got my most important questions answered and set off to work confident that our home would be taken care of.
Slow Progress is Still Progress
Even with heroic efforts, we were still at the mercy of the weather and outdoor working conditions. I was assured that as long as it’s not raining, they’ll work outside in any other weather. And work they did! Not only did they remove the insulation in the attic but they worked on the framing. To go one step better, they removed the drywall in the foyer and living room to see if any water was lingering behind. There was none! Luckily the water seemed to have travelled between the vapour barrier and the drywall instead of through the insulation. WHEW! Our Construction Manager even took down some wood in the garage to show us that there was no water sitting behind the shower unit in the master bath.
And then came the Christmas Break when they shut down for a well deserved two week break.
Before the break our:
- Garage was framed, boarded and wrapped,
- Our back deck was framed and decking laid.
- Our front porch was framed.
- The areas with the worst visible water damage had been opened up for assessment.
- We had our well head prepared and well pump installed but not hooked up yet because we don’t have hydro.
- The furnace and water heater had been installed and made ready for hook-up to the propane.
- The waste lines to the septic system had been connected.
All of that framing meant that our chances of water getting in through the holidays was greatly reduced. And if water did get in, we’d be able to see it right away.
When I think about it, that’s a heck of a lot of work that took place in a very short block of time! I can only imagine how much progress could have been made if we didn’t have the water set-back.
The Road Ahead for Completion of Our Factory Built Home
Before the holiday break I received an email from our Construction Manager. In it he broke down a few things that might happen over the holidays and his plan heading into the new year. Since the roof and some interior work was to be completed by sub-contractors, there could be some work through the holidays. The exterior work was slated to resume mid-January.
Moving Forward / The Up Side
Even though we had a bumpy, and emotionally draining first 6 or so weeks on site, I’m impressed with how Quality Homes has handled the situation overall. I’m confident that they have a recovery plan in place and that our home will be completed to their standards and our expectations. Now, our Construction Manager seems to always be one step ahead of my questions; I see that as a very good sign.
I know that anything can – and does – happen in construction, just as it does in life. The most important thing is how we recover and move forward. Now, I’m optimistic that we’ll continue to regain our footing after the holiday break and our Quality Home will be completed just as promised.
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