Monthly Archives: August 2016

WHAT TIME OF YEAR IS TOO LATE TO BUILD A SWIMMING POOL?

Nobody wants the summer to wind down, but just because the colder weather is approaching doesn’t mean it’s too late to build a pool. Late summer is actually a good time in CT to build. Fairfield County summers can stretch into late September, and several of our clients enjoy their heated pools and outdoor spas into November, depending on the weather.

Pool Timing

How late is too late to build? It’s not ideal to build a pool in winter, but it can be done. Just as with home construction, we build pools year round, despite the cold and harsh CT winters. Of course winter is not nearly as popular for pool building as the other seasons, but it is possible to accomplish if your timeline calls for it. The key is to incorporate the right process and materials. Ideally you want to take the winter to plan your pool and perhaps start the process with the idea of breaking ground when the soil is not frozen and there will be no issue with concrete curing.

The length of time required to build an in-ground, gunite pool is typically six to eight weeks, including permitting, drafting and plan approvals, construction, gunite cure time, and basic masonry surround. It will likely take more time if you’re planning extensive landscaping, masonry work, dramatic changes to grade, blasting, or pool house construction.

As builders in Fairfield and Westchester counties, we’re no strangers to difficult terrain. We’ve come across severe building challenges, most of which were overcome with diligent planning and engineering. There can be heavy ledge in Greenwich, Westport, Darien, and most other area towns. If this is the case, we need to blast the pool site. Depending on the extent of the ledge, this can make the project considerably more expensive.

Another typical building challenge that we’ve seen is sloping property. In some cases, heavy excavation and outside fill can help reduce the slope. For more extensive cases, retaining walls can be built to carve out a level section for the pool. With creative design and attractive masonry, a natural stone retaining wall can play into the layout in an appealing way. Spas can also be built into the slope to create a tiered approach.

If you’re planning to build a pool, talk with your builder in detail about your plans for the site, and make sure to inform them of all the amenities you would like to include. Although it can be an investment in time and capital, the lifestyle payoff can be significant.

COMMON HOMEBUILDER CODE VIOLATIONS AND WHY WE ALWAYS BUILD TO COMPLIANCE

About 45% of residential home construction inspections result in a code violation, according to a survey done by the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). This was a fairly surprising figure to me. There are probably hundreds of home builders and contractors in Fairfield and Westchester County, and it’s likely that a fair amount of them are not qualified to build homes, particularly luxury homes. They simply don’t have the experience, or they do not employ the appropriate measures to undertake complex home construction projects.

Code

Building a luxury home is an extremely complex undertaking that requires in-depth knowledge of a wide range of construction processes, regulations, and materials. The planning phase alone for a 12,000-square-foot home, like the ones we’ve built in Greenwich, Westchester, and Darien, requires months of working and reworking. And when you consider building on the waterfront, the complexity can be staggering to new builders.

The top violation, according to the study, was missing documentation such as the engineer’s foundation letter, structural plans, HVAC plans, etc. Most builders get into the business because they like working with their hands and being outside. This is understandable, but the reality is that luxury home construction projects require a lot of desk time and paperwork. As a result, residential contractors need to be extremely diligent and organized. They also need to have a propensity for strategic planning, assessment, and estimating. Most important, they need to know how the entire home gets built — including engineering requirements, site assessments, foundation, complex framing and load requirements, trade management, code requirements, etc.

Achieving this goal takes determination, commitment, and experience. Unfortunately, a lot of builders get into the trade with little or no experience, thinking they can do it all. I’ve seen this happen, and the results can lead to real problems.

Several of the violations involve structural elements, including improperly placed anchor bolts, braced wall errors, weakened joists and beams, and deck ledgers and braces. This is when we can all be thankful that we have thorough building code requirements. These types of errors gone unchecked can lead to major structural issues that have the potential to cost large sums of money down the line for the homeowner — or, worse, the next owner. And let’s not forget about the safety issue. Collapsing decks are too common, and can result in people getting seriously injured and worse.

The next set of violations is related even more directly to safety. They include stair rise/run errors, improper stair handrails and guardrail heights and sturdiness, and missing or inadequate fire blocking. Homeowners often take these safety measures for granted, but building a safe home is critical to the delivery of the end product. We are responsible not only for the comfort of our clients, but also for ensuring the home is safe for years to come.

The last two code violations, according to the study, were air-barrier gaps, and exposed kraft-faced insulation. These can also lead to safety issues. The bottom line is that when you hire a homebuilder, you need to be confident that they understand how to build a luxury home properly. The vetting process should go well beyond the review of their portfolio. Most of the time, the best builders have been in the business for years.