Building the Box

Don't forget what to do once the calculations, contracts, drawings, and all the talking finally give way to the action of building.

Building the Box


My adrenaline really starts to run when the noise of construction rings in my ears. As a remodeler, getting a demolition permit from the town was always like Derby Day—let the fun begin!

The calculations, the contracts, the drawings, and all the talking can finally give way to the action of building. In a sense, the construction phase of your project officially starts the moment you hire the builder to do the work. With the plans spread before you, you can imagine what the finished spaces will be like.

But the process seems much more real when the men and women of the crew arrive in their vans or pickups. Depending on the job, you’ll see anywhere from one or two workers to dozens of them. The materials may fit neatly into the trunk of a single car, or require repeated visits from flatbed trucks. It may require hours or days or weeks or months to finish the work. The price may be a few hun­dred or a few hundred thousand dollars. That all depends on the scope of the job

If you’re putting on an addition, you’ll need a hole in the ground for a new foundation. There may be demolition to be done to remove portions of the structure that will be changed in the remodeling. After the demolition debris has been carried off, carpenters and/or masons will build walls. A roof will rise atop the walls and you’ll see the new shape of your home emerge in broad strokes and coarse materials.

If your remodeling job is limited to work within the existing building, there will be fewer steps, perhaps, but the process is much the same—some demolition, some construction, and the spaces begin to emerge.

When the rough construction is completed, the volumes of the house will be approximately those you will see at the end of the process. The spaces won’t look the same—the skeleton of the house will be visible, there’ll be tools and materials everywhere, and few surfaces will appear finished. The work site will be ready for the next set of workers to arrive, the subs who’ll fit the working systems into the skele­ton like the nerves and muscles and other tissues of the human body. All of that will then be hidden behind the plaster, paint, and patina of the completed project.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that, having hired all the right people, you can sit back and let them do their jobs. Your attentive eye is a necessary presence on the construction site. You don’t have to be there every minute, and perhaps not even every day. But periodic visits are the only way you can moni­tor the process. Even if you’re less interested in the structure of the place than you are in the finished product, remember that what lies beneath the smooth plaster and decorative moldings will have an impact on their final appearance. The better you understand the process, the more you can anticipate problems and communicate effectively with your designer and contractors.