For the past 6 months I have been working spreading myself thin between remodeling a part of our house in Norway, working to finish my master dissertation paper and being a full time, stay at home dad. The house is now done, the paper finished, and as I contemplate the last six months I realize that the most important lesson I have learned about remodeling a house actually came from the interviews I conducted for the dissertation paper.
It may not appear so but, when remodeling or building a house, if you can cut out 90% of waste you can drive down expenses to about three quarters of what they were. The way to achieve that is to get to really know the dimensions of the construction materials as they are coming out of the factory. Then, as you are working through your building plans, you can work adjust them, so you will make full use of the sizes of fabrics you get from the store.
Isn’t That Already Worked into the Design of the Components?
As you start working on a remodeling job, like I did, you start to be amazed at just how nice and precise some of the larger pieces fit together. Wall panels are the exact size to span the gap between 2 by 4s, and mineral wool of saw dust insulation is perfectly sized to fit between them. You may also note that the panels are 2.4 meters, which is the standard height of a room if you take into consideration a nice hardwood floor.
And yet, I have even stopped counting the number of panels that I through away after cutting and using only a quarter of the width of the thing. That is because panels fit into each other and if you have not planed the dimensions of the wall properly, you will, inevitably have to sacrifice a lot of a last panel. Hardwood floor also, have only one side that click neatly into place with another, so there go another dozen or so of panels.
Since I have only now started in construction, I also tend to over buy stuff just to be sure that I do not run out of it. That is why I bought a 20 kilograms bag of tile adhesive when only 5 kilograms were needed. And here is a small pro tip to take into consideration: you do not need a professional to draw the plans for your project; your own shaky hand can do a good enough job, and, by brining those plans with you to the store, the more knowledgeable shop assistants will know to advise you about what quantities you really need.
Can You Really Design Around Factory Sizes?
So no, except for some very large areas of construction, perfectly matching factory sizing to your projects does not happen automatically. If you are building a new house from the ground up you can certainly can design around the sizes of the materials. Things get a little more complicated when you remodel because then most of the main wall are already in place.
There are ways around that though! For one thing, an extra layer of thermal insulation has never hurt anyone and while it may feel like you are eating into the size of the apartment you are saving money on the heating and cooling bills. And in the second place, if by adding those few centimeters you are saving an entire wall panel, insulation panel, struts, screws and whatever else may be on the floor, then you are really doubling your savings. And just in case you need that extra Oomph! of motivation, just consider that all these savings can add up to you buying a new, bigger house or the plot of land where you can build from the ground up.
Are You Really Saving That Much Money?
The question is mute considering the last paragraph but there is a very pertinent example to talk about. Here in Norway the price of labor usually exceeds by a factor of two or more the price of materials. So you might want to argue that you really do not care about the price of materials. However, all those tile workers, carpenters, even plumbers and electricians are really spending a lot of time making standard parts fit into non-standard plans.
It is by coming up with plans that fit the standard products that some of the best advisory companies get to hire professionals instead of cheap amateurs. In my case I did hire an affordable amateur for some of the work and, while I was very happy with the end result, he was forced often enough to redo the same detail several times to make it fit. Ultimately, I probably could have afforded a professional if I had worked out my plans properly from the beginning.
How Did I Come Up with This Idea?
I have already answered this question in the introduction where I talked about the interviews I have conducted for my master dissertation paper. However, as a means of paying credit where credit is due, this question is here. The interview was with the managing director of Green Advisers, a company I talked about in my article on sawdust-based insulation. His company is one of those whose reputation was built on outstanding levels of quality delivered at an average price. The key to their success is that they design their buildings around the materials and they have a close to zero building performance on almost all their buildings.