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Success at Last

Ironically, our most successful new construction projects grew out of a terrible tragedy. On the weekend of October 20, 1991, 2,700 houses in the Berkeley Hills section of Oakland were turned into charred ground in a firestorm that burned for more than two days. People’s lives were turned upside down, and among the many challenges they faced in the aftermath was deciding whether or not to rebuild. Stories of disappointment and misplaced expectations were common over the next few years for many of the firestorm victims. They were faced with arduous insurance negotiations, nonperforming architects and contractors, and builders who had never built a new home before or who came into the area simply to take advantage of the situation. Between 1992 and 1995, we built four detailed custom homes using three different architects and subcontracting everything except for project management and some finish carpentry. All of the clients were wonderful people to work with and they are all pleased with the work we did. During that period, we tracked our new construction and remodeling work as two separate profit centers so that we could have an accurate idea of how each branch of our small company was performing. Both made money. The success of the four Oakland Hills projects represented the culmination of all our years of experience. Our system, boiled down over time to a set of forms and processes (see ""), enabled us to have two custom homes underway at once, while maintaining the production schedules and exceptional quality levels. And both our remodeling clients and our new construction clients feel well cared for throughout the entire building experience. We continually use the knowledge we gain doing new construction to run our remodeling work more profitably. Many of the lessons we learned while making the transition from a company that did strictly remodeling to one that also did new construction have been distilled into templates and paper forms that our project managers use regularly in the course of their work. Here is a description of some of the most important forms we use.

Subcontractor Bid Solicitation Form.

This form allows us to make apples-to-apples comparisons of bids.

Subcontractor Bid Sheet.

We use this form to record all of the subs and suppliers who have been invited to bid on a project, as well as the status of their involvement.

Subcontractor Expectations List.

This no-nonsense list spells out what we expect from our subs. It covers everything from liability and workers comp insurance to job-site dress codes.

Checklist of Checklists.

We developed a series of checklists to monitor the work of our subs. The Checklist of Checklists enables our own project manager to obtain a complete set of the forms needed for any given project.

Inspection checklists.

These seven individual inspection forms are used on every job. They include foundation, backfill, insulation, framing, drywall, finish, and final.

Winans Construction

I N C O R P O R A T E D

Inspection Prior to Backfill

READ BEFORE DOING WORK

        Job Name: ________________________                                                                    Job Address:______________________                                                                   ________________________________                                                                   Job Supervisor: ____________________                                                                   Date: ____________________________ Initial _____ Foundation honeycomb, if any, patched and sealed watertight _____ Tie broken off and all tie holes filled with black plastic cement _____ Seam between foundation and footing sealed watertight _____ Foundation waterproofing complete according to quality standards _____ Footing drains installed properly according to plans where appropriate _____ All debris and garbage removed from trenches _____ Check drainage of slabs _____ Check floor drains:

            [ ] Location

            [ ] Elevation _____ Other __________________________________________________

             _______________________________________________________ _____ Other __________________________________________________

             _______________________________________________________ _____ Other __________________________________________________

             _______________________________________________________                                                                                     Signature _________________ _____ Read next checklist before beginning next phase. The Inspection Prior to Backfill checklist (above) is one of seven standard forms the author’s company uses to manage new construction projects.

Meeting Notes.

Our experience has taught us that a project is more likely to go well if communication is good. To avoid misunderstandings, we hold a weekly meeting with the client and architect throughout the entire project. Our project manager uses a standard form to document the minutes of the meeting; afterwards, we clean up the notes with a word processor and mail or fax them to everyone involved.

Winans Construction

I N C O R P O R A T E D

Meeting Notes

Job Name: ___________________   Job Address: _____________________ Prepared By:__________________  Date of Meeting: __________________ Attended By: _________________  Location of Meeting: _______________ ________________________  Date Notes Published

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Discussion: ___________________________________________________

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Resolution/Further Action: ________________________________________

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Discussion: ___________________________________________________

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Resolution/Further Action: ________________________________________

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_____________________________________________________________ Page____of____ The Meeting Notes form (above) is filled out by the job supervisor during weekly meetings with the client. A summary is prepared using a word processor, then faxed or mailed to all involved parties.Paul Winans and his wife, Nina, both NARICertified Remodelers (CR), own and operate Winans Construction in Oakland, Calif.