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Today we signed the contract to have our house rebuilt. It was long and hard getting to the signatures even after we had the firm handshake. Like most things involved with this fire there are contingencies one would never consider and there are choices that are not obvious.

After wading through stacks of types of contracts we settled down to two different contracts that had the same intent. I decided that using the one that the Contractor used most of the time was a better choice since it was one that gets used in our area. We modified it to meet our needs.

We are using a process that is somewhat new to most people, it certainly was new to us. In this type of contract there is an Owner and Builder collaboration with the goal being to finish the project well, quickly and to save money. The savings are split to the owner and the contractor from a 0% to the Owner and 100% to the Contractor, the opposite, or in some split. We decided a 50/50 split seemed equitable.

One of the genuinely unique aspects of this type of contract is the active participation of the Owners and Contractor in a relationship that in essence is a partnership. The basis of payment is the cost of the work plus a fee. There can be a guaranteed maximum price or not. In our case, we need one so that we know where we stand and what decisions we might need to reevaluate along the way. Curiously the work can commence before the GMP is set. We will start with an excellent estimated GMP but it will not be finalized until after we start. This is particularly helpful for us since the design and the build stages of our home are happening at the same time. Another reason it will be good to have a few weeks into the project to set the final GMP is because we cannot see the ground. Our contractor has no idea what is under the snow!

Even without seeing the ground, work can commence. We can plan, we can obtain permits. We can start lining up subcontractors, we can shop and sometimes buy things that we know we will need. When the day that the ground thaws comes we will have much work done. We can move quickly and stay on schedule since we will have fewer problems just building a building compared to building at the same time you are trying to buy the stuff to build a building. There will be inevitable construction delays but if the wood has been ordered and we are just waiting on a delivery date or there are potties in the third bay of the garage in his huge temporary home, we don’t have to chase them down and can focus on hammers, nails, sub floors, house wrap and insulation.

This is another unique aspect of our project. Because it takes a lot of time to hunt down cool stuff to build your house with, and we are replacing a lot of cool stuff I had hunted down for our big remodel in 2010, I am in charge of buying a lot of the fixtures and finshings. Luckily, I can pull out the 2010 invoices from those things and see how we can do in 2013. Some things are less expensive, others more. The most valuable thing that we have is my knowledge of the market. I know where to go get potties and paint.

Our contractor has built over 200 homes. He knows where to get lumber and subcontractors and how things work. He has been trained in the computer program that the Insurance company used to estimate the cost of rebuilding our home. He has all the knowledge of what to do with the potties I buy. Without him I would have a garage full of potties just sitting there useless for anything other than performance art.

So this is going to be an interesting venture. I am very pleased to be participating so fully in the rebuild of our home. It will save us money, it will help us get the things we want rather than pick off a menu of things that might be all right but are not what we want.

The most important part of this process for me is that I am fully active in getting our lives rebuilt. I am not watching them rebuilt, I am helping to rebuild them. It may be the active part of this contracting method that attracts me. I have not been traumatized by the fire but it has made a deep impression of me and at times makes me feel totally powerless. Picking up a hammer or a computer keyboard and actively doing things to create this new space will be empowering. As it turns out the length of time since the fire and the length of time to build the house are about the same.

Being actively involved make the time between now and then a lot shorter than the distance between then and now. Shortening the time we are in limbo waiting for our lives to return to normal is a good thing. It is a thing that can be measured better by the heart than by days on a calendar. In my heart, today, we are almost home


Here are some pictures and commentary on our 2010 remodel.

picture of a deck with a mountain view

photos of three bathroom sinks

photo of a small room with antique furniture

photo of small kitchen with new stainless steel appliances

photos of a living room with antiques