Our build at Palmetto Bluff progresses on schedule, a result of careful planning and outlining expectations with crews and subcontractors at every step of the project. The Gantt Chart shows it running at about 6% per week. With a typical custom build taking 8 - 12 months, that represents a cracking pace although our ability to keep this pace is yet uncertain. All manner of things can delay a build, although right here and right now I'm really pleased with the team. It is indeed the unusual problem you face having a project going much more quickly than expected. We are over 8 weeks into the build as defined by the first concrete truck beginning to pour. We are, in truth, much further into it if you represent when we bought the land (3 years ago), commissioned the architect (18 months ago) or started to clear the land (4 months ago). However, all that is in the past, the timeline was really under our control, and we were in no hurry. I am now.
The 8-week mark has us reaching some big milestones. The 2000 sq. ft Garage/Carriage house with an apartment above has passed all its multitude of inspections along the way, and now the drywall team will start work internally having set their sheet stock this afternoon. The main house has progressed to adding on the second floor level with our SIPS panel systems meaning they are framed, sheeted, electrical rough-in is 30% done as is hurricane strapping. Insulation is 100% completed save for the roof. We have passed all the inspections to this point though that required a few partial passes pending completion of work on a large site such as this. Not all work is completed in all parts at the same time.
Our crews and subcontractors are, to coin a phrase, "knocking it out of the park." We took time to speak with them beforehand as most are new to us, a result of the fact that Charleston SC has been our traditional base up to now. We discussed our own timelines and what they needed to complete their own responsibilities, including when they required payment and what materials and decisions would become gatekeepers if not addressed. Our insulation crew completed their work in a day and a half just as the inspector arrived! Fireplaces were delivered three days ago and masonry is completed save for the brick veneer. Roofing is ordered, painting is imminent on the garage/carriage house. Long lead time items are due for ordering in the next weeks, flooring is in the process but will need some serious machinery to complete on site (at $3 per square foot for 100-year-old longleaf, very wide plank southern pine we would buy all the machinery needed twice over)!
With the Garage/Carriage House now dried in (see previous blog HERE) this stage allows trades to work in the building unaffected by weather and also gives us some much-needed storage space, similarly protected. Externally we have started the trim and expect delivery of windows this week. Once the trim is completed we can paint and affix the roof before heading out of the sun, inside to complete the trim out.
At 6 weeks in, the main house had some issues, this being one more of an inconvenience than a major problem and happens all the time in a build when plans go awry. Our land is quite low, lower than the road and lower than the surrounding lots. A storage room floor was designed to be 5 feet below the main floor level, legally below FEMA Flood allowing for a master bedroom located above to be about 2'6" above main floor level. However, after further looking at the topography, we envisaged it was likely to flood when the area became sodden with summer rains. A simple solution was to raise the side structure by 2 CMU blocks being about 18 inches total, allowing any water to drain off rather than flood the building. A conversation with Pearce Scott Architects and application to the Palmetto Bluff DRB (Design Review Board) for an amendment and we are all approved and can elevate the side structure slightly. Comparing Palmetto Bluff approval procedures to those we experience building in downtown Charleston, this was a breeze!
So we installed all blockwork to the revised plan. We called for Footing and Slab inspections, backfilled the blockwork and called a Foundation inspection. We then set the floors, a considerable task given they are each 18 inches deep, 20 feet long. We then called an underfloor inspection before moving on to the first-floor subfloor structure. We use Advantech flooring from Huber - it's an engineered product, wax impregnated. Costs a bit more but can take rain and weather exposure without damage during the build before dry-in is completed.
Lastly, amongst the adrenaline of success, we are writing a lot of large checks to suppliers who understandably expect to be paid! Without a doubt "cash flow is king" in the construction business and a fast-paced clip at the build also means cash is burning quickly. So we need an unusual frequency of Bank Inspections to draw down on our loan. One advantage of using a local bank who was pre-warned of our plans. South Atlantic Bank funds a lot of our projects and have truly become a partner in this process that can often turn adversarial if each party does not fully understand their role and responsibility. There is a reason why Project Management is important even on a straightforward construction project. It allows your General Contractor to sleep at night. A second call was made on our construction loan from South Atlantic Bank. They will estimate the percentage completion and release funds accordingly. This is an imprecise science and may not exactly equal expenditure, especially if deposits have been placed or materials are on site but not installed. Your Mobilization Deposit has several uses, filling that gap being one of them.
So as our Bluffton build progresses, our garage/carriage house is over 50% completed, the main house is now becoming more of a focus and is 30% completed. We are 8 weeks into this project. Way to go, team, way to go.
Click on previous blogs below to follow the series along from the beginning:
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