'Specs' paint a picture of project

Home Work

June 07, 1998|By Karol V. Menzie and Ron Nodine

WHATEVER TYPE of remodeling project you plan, it begins to take shape first on paper, as the contractor assembles the drawings and specifications that provide a clear picture of what will be done and a clear listing of every material and item needed.

There are few steps in a renovation that are not tedious by themselves, and drawings and "specs" may seem to take a lot of time and effort while nothing gets built. But it's a lot less tedious than it was before the arrival of computers and sophisticated programs that allow a savvy contractor to show you exactly what your completed project will look like, down to where the handles will be on the drawers.

In addition, some programs keep track of every item depicted and provide the contractor with a list of such things as how many 2-by-4s the framing will require, how many shingles to buy and how many pounds of nails will be needed.

Such precision is useful when it comes to pricing, for the written specifications spell out exactly what materials will be used and what procedures will be followed, and are the basis of the construction cost. The drawings and the specifications provide the details of the work to the many tradesmen and suppliers involved.

Schematic drawings show such things as the existing floor plan, the proposed floor plan, how the exterior will look, cabinetry and trim. (There are two types of views in these drawings: plan views, which show length and width; and elevations, which show height.) The schematic drawings paint a picture of the project, but it's the working drawings that provide the road map for building. Working drawings are like the instructions you get when you buy a bicycle and have to put it together; they show the details.

The drawings for a project should include the following:

* Site plan -- Shows the existing property lines and dwelling with setback dimensions (distance of house from property lines) and any proposed additions. The setback requirements will vary in different areas and should always be checked.

* Foundation plan -- Shows how the foundation is to be built. It could be a concrete slab on a block wall, or a monolithic pour, that is, footing, foundation walls and slab all poured at the same time. If there is a crawl space or basement, the walls are usually block or poured-concrete walls on a concrete footing.

There's also a relatively new system that Ron is using on an addition he's building for a client. It has prefabricated concrete walls that are waterproof and don't require a footing. This system can be less expensive than block and can be installed in a day. It's not for every situation, however.

* Floor plan -- Shows both existing and new layout of walls, stairs, doors, windows, cabinetry and fixtures. Can also show floor and wall finishes.

* Framing plan -- Shows size, spacing and layout of floor joists, beams and columns, wall studs, and roof rafters or trusses.

* Elevations -- Provide views of the structure from the outside, showing the front, back and sides, and from the inside, showing views of kitchen and bath cabinetry and hardware.

* Sections -- Show cutaway views (as if you took a building and cut it in half) to display the layers of construction. They will show the studs, drywall, insulation, exterior sheathing, vapor barrier, siding and so on.

* Electrical -- Shows location of light fixtures, switches, outlets and equipment.

* Mechanical -- Shows plumbing and heating systems, size and location of furnace, condenser and ductwork, and locations for plumbing pipes and fixtures.

* Perspectives -- Give 3-D views of interior and exterior.

The drawings will have some specifications on them, but the written specifications encompass all the details of the project.

Once the "specs" are completed, prices can be attached to every item. (If certain items have yet to be selected -- drawer pulls, for example, or a chandelier -- they will be assigned an allowance.)

This is where you not only get to see the shape of the project, you also find out what everything will cost. At this point you can make adjustments and find out quickly how they will affect the price. Once the plans and specs are approved, it's time to decide who will do the work.

Next: Choosing a contractor.

Ron Nodine is owner of American Renovator Inc., a Baltimore design-build remodeling firm, and current president of the Remodelers Council of the Home Builders Association of Maryland. Karol Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, e-mail Ron at henovator.net or Karol at karol.menzialtsun.com. Or write c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

Pub Date: 6/07/98

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