To spec or not to spec?


So let me preface this with the fact that I've spent all 5 years of my career doing commercial and institutional work (90% of my projects are renovations with lots of selective demolition and strategic reuse).  I did a couple of residential projects when I first graduated, but nothing large or high-end.

So now I'm in the process of buying my first house, which I got pretty cheap given the market conditions here, but it needs "TLC" as realtors like to say.  I'm planning on putting an addition on the back of the house where the existing kitchen currently is, in order to have a new kitchen and dining area that will eventually lead out to a patio.  The house is an old 1940's style Cape Cod, so nothing fancy.  The addition will amount to about 140-160 sf of new space.  I am planning on preparing all the documentation and hiring a GC to do the work.

Should I prepare full specs for this?  I don't know what the standard fare is for a project of this size and scope.  When I was doing residential, we just used to make a book of cut sheets and call out specific materials on the elevations and details.  Does it make sense to prepare a full set of specs, or is this overkill?  This is not a high-end project, but I still want a good level of craftsmanship.  Also, I do not want to end up with GWB from China that will disintegrate my studs.

Thanks in advance.

Dec 27, 12 2:50 pm
vado retro

when i did high end residential, we had a spec page. i have reduced scanned drawings although i don't know if the specs are large enough to read. if so, i'd be glad to send them to you.

Dec 27, 12 3:05 pm  · 

For a 160 sq. ft. you can pull the builder aside and directly tell to his or her face what you want in 15 minutes. If you want new cabinets, just make a drawing of it and write what you want on the drawing itself. Same for other parts of the addition. Don't overkill unless you want to have a large set of documents for people who are not accustomed for that kind of documentation for that size of a job.

Dec 27, 12 3:26 pm  · 

My experience is you can put all the information on the drawing and not do a spec for an addition of this nature. If you do a spec it will be  filed behind the seat of his pickup.

Think of your addition in the same manner as a large project. Figure out all the things which are important to you then be sure they are carefully considered in your drawings.

You know like door trim window trim, base trim. Contractors like to buy off the shelf  colonial trim and well it might not be what you had in mind.

Loads of luck!

Dec 27, 12 5:14 pm  · 

I have remodeled several houses, and the most effective tool  that got the end results I wanted was to present a picture from a magazine that looked close.  I found a great picture of a beach type fireplace , and the contractor matched it exactly.  

A picture is worth a 1000 words.


Dec 27, 12 7:00 pm  · 

Do NOT just pull the contractor aside and TELL him/her what you want... Most of the info will probably fly in and out the other ear.

Dec 27, 12 7:18 pm  · 

Do a short-form unifirmat spec book that's about 15 pages long and expands only on most critical components in terms of aesthetics/performance.

If that sentence sounds confusing, just don't worry about it. You'll be fine. 

Dec 27, 12 7:40 pm  · 

Work with a contractor who is  a contractor, out one of those guys with a ladder and a pickup, who looks at your plans and says WHATTTTS Ziz?

Dec 28, 12 10:59 am  · 

Thanks for the advice everyone!

Dec 28, 12 12:24 pm  · 

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