Cookie Cutter Builder - What should I watch out for? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 01-25-2012, 01:26 PM - Thread Starter
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My wife and I just relocated to the Atlanta area and are leaning toward building a new home and of course we are planning on building a new HT.

Unfortunately the builder is a "cookie cutter" builder and doesn't allow for too many changes. Most of what is in place I can work around and make work for us, but what I'm curious to know is what I should watch out for from an electrical perspective? I believe the standard service is 200A.

Is there anything else I should watch out for?

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post #2 of 12 Old 01-25-2012, 01:41 PM
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I was not impressed with Atlanta's tract construction when I came here in 1996, nor when I purchased one of those cookies in 2000. And even since then I still see the majority of construction being questionable from a code perspective. Buyer Beware.

"What we do in life echoes in eternity." General Maximus Decimus Meridius
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post #3 of 12 Old 01-25-2012, 01:44 PM
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So are you looking to spec the house and have it built? Or moving into a house that was spec-built?

When we bought our house, (fairly spec-homed) we learned after that the builder could have done much more to accomodate changes. It was just the lazy realtor/construction sales rep (son of the owner kind of deal) that was too lazy to offer us the various options.

It wouldn't hurt to identify the actual foreman at the community and "Bump into him" while out looking at plots. Then ask him about what is available in addition to just the sales guy.

Also, inquire about the low voltage wiring. When we built ours, the crew didn't care if we came in after the electrical was roughed in, but before the insulation was installed and add some more low voltage stuff.

I was able to go in on a Saturday afternoon and easily add a number of runs of CAT 5e and coax that would have cost me over $500 to have them do it.

(Not really related to HT, but I also replaced the light junction boxes in each of the bedrooms with ones that were designed to support ceiling fans prior to insulation and drywall. The builder wanted an arm and leg to install ceiling fans so we just speced the most basic light fixtures then installed the ceiling fans ourselves after moving in.)

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post #4 of 12 Old 01-25-2012, 02:11 PM
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My wife and I just finished building a new home (Ryland) and found that they offered us 5 so-called "non-standard" changes. They quote these to you before hand so you know if they are worth it or not. Here are the options that I added that were home theater/whole house distribution related:

1) 9 foot basement - I was suprised to find that this wasn't already on the option sheet. I thought most builders would have this as an option that you could purchase but I guess not. They quoted a fair price and this has been the best money that we added to the house. I would have paid double what they wanted to do it.

2) Up the panel size to 300 amp - This was an option that they offered so I jumped on it. They specifed it next to the main panel in the garage. This is where I changed it. I had them install it in the basement so I could have easy access. The whole house is wired into the 200 amp panel in the garage and I have a completely empty 100 amp panel in the basement to fill as I see fit.

3) Had them install (3) 2" flex conduit from the basement to the attic - This way I can reach every floor (2 story house with basement) in the house either by going through the ceiling or the floor. I have one for power should I need to bring power from the basement panel to the second floor and I have two for network or AV cabling. This will probably come in really handy once all my components are in the basement and I am viewing them from any TV in the house.

I would have done more while they were building (running my own cables) but we were told that it would be removed if they found it. I wasn't willing to risk losing money in cabling or worse, delaying the schedule, to run a few lines.

It might help to make a list of each room and what you might want to do or view in those rooms. Then figure out how you might want to accomplish that. And reading all the stuff you can on here. That definitely helped me...
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post #5 of 12 Old 01-25-2012, 02:12 PM
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If you want to do the room right just plan on ripping the walls down to the studs (one days work) and starting over. If possible have them run extra HVAC ducts to the room and be sure it has a Return, not just one out in the hall.
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post #6 of 12 Old 01-25-2012, 02:47 PM
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Try to get them to group the utilities together instead of scattering them around the basement at whatever spot is most convenient to them.

Getting a bathroom roughed in my be a big plus.

9 foot pours.

And generally watch out for beams, columns, and HVAC trunk lines in your prefered HT spot.
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post #7 of 12 Old 01-25-2012, 03:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vanice View Post

My wife and I just finished building a new home (Ryland) and found that they offered us 5 so-called "non-standard" changes. They quote these to you before hand so you know if they are worth it or not. Here are the options that I added that were home theater/whole house distribution related:
I would have done more while they were building (running my own cables) but we were told that it would be removed if they found it. I wasn't willing to risk losing money in cabling or worse, delaying the schedule, to run a few lines.

Ryland is one of the builders we're considering. It's interesting to hear about running my own cables. I'm surprised they'd be like that. We haven't gotten to the "changes" part yet, but once we do I'm curious to see what they offer down here. 9' foot ceilings in the basement are standard for us, although we were spoiled in our last home with 14'! Do they offer a "whole-house" surge protector option, and if not, is it easy to get installed? We had one in our last home and it saved the day. Lightning struck between the houses one summer and we escaped with some external singeing. Neighbor lost practically everything plugged in.

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post #8 of 12 Old 01-25-2012, 04:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blipszyc View Post

Ryland is one of the builders we're considering. It's interesting to hear about running my own cables. I'm surprised they'd be like that. We haven't gotten to the "changes" part yet, but once we do I'm curious to see what they offer down here. 9' foot ceilings in the basement are standard for us, although we were spoiled in our last home with 14'! Do they offer a "whole-house" surge protector option, and if not, is it easy to get installed? We had one in our last home and it saved the day. Lightning struck between the houses one summer and we escaped with some external singeing. Neighbor lost practically everything plugged in.

In the Pacific Northwest, PGE will install whole house surge protection for free as long as the customer pays for the devices to be installed at the meter.............not a bad deal. Not too many lightening strikes, but those darn Californians are constantly hogging our dam electricity!!!

Sorry......just a play on words.............dam
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post #9 of 12 Old 01-25-2012, 05:53 PM
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Negotiate everything you want done special for the theater in advance of signing a contract and get it in writing, The housing industry is still struggling and if anyone at the local sales office gives you push back, go over their head.
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post #10 of 12 Old 01-25-2012, 07:44 PM
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Again not related to HT directly, but go in after all rough ins are done, right before insulation. Take many, many pictures of all the open walls. Try and shoot them straight on and with sufficient detail that you can go back years later and figure out basic dimensions (count over 4 studs from the side to get to that wire, etc.) to drain pipes and electrical cables, etc.

Never know when it will come in handy.

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post #11 of 12 Old 01-25-2012, 08:10 PM
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I don't remember the whole house surge protection being an option. Had it been I'm sure we might have done it. Unless it was crazy expensive. May need to look into that soon. Especially once I start adding in more toys.

I completely agree with taking all the pictures you can before they close up the walls. I took 200 or 300 pictures of every wall and ceiling. They have already paid off.
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post #12 of 12 Old 01-26-2012, 05:22 PM
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The biggest problem I had with spec homes wrt HT was poles in the basement. More poles mean smaller spans of cheaper wood can be used. The square footage is the same, but cheaper for them to build. The sales team are typically realtors for the builder, so they're happy to close a sale based on your misunderstanding of what you're actually buying. It will show as wide open space on the plans, perfect for say a 17 x 32 HT. Once you start building you'll find there are poles everywhere preventing you from using the space as intended.

Some tract builders will let you eliminate the poles for extra money. We talked to Toll about it and they were willing to put a steal beam in. But a steal beam protrudes down into the room and any hvac or plumbing have to go under it which can make it even more intrusive into the room. Better than steal are engineered trusses. They have the strength to make longer spans without needing to rest on top of a steel beam. The closed types are most common and allow plumbing and HVAC to be run between them in 1 direction - North/South or E/W. Better still are open web trusses, which allow the same freedom in 1 direction, but open additional space for perpendicular runs through the webbing.

 

 

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