By David Wulff, AIA

Before I begin this, let me say that this is not directed at any specific builder, as there are many in the area that are terrific.   This is just an observation for the homeowner to assist in choosing a builder.

 Often you hear home buyers observe that “it is a quality home because it has granite counters and crown molding”.  I also have heard “he is a quality builder because he builds million dollar homes.”

Well, let’s look a little deeper.

 When home buyers describe the quality of a home, they are describing the features and amenities.  We refer to these elements as “eye candy”.  Sweet stuff that gives you short term satisfaction, won’t fill you up and gives you an upset stomach when the reality sets in.

 Amenities and features are important elements in a home, but please don’t confuse them with quality.  Cramming all the amenities in the world into a home does not mean it was put together well. 

 Building the largest home on the block does not mean the builder understands how to build a home (construction science).  I could make a living taking buyers on tours of “million dollar homes” that were designed and built by individuals who know as much about building homes as I do about cold fusion. 

 Hint, I don’t know much, hence I am an architect and not blowing up nuclear bombs (probably a good thing).  Yes, I know cold fusion and nuclear bombs are not one in the same, ‘kind of proves my point.

 Quality is not what you do but how you do it.  Quality is the “meat and potatoes” of a home.  When you have a well built (quality) home, you have a sense of satisfaction that often comes after a big steak meal.  No sugar rush but a sturdy well built home that performs well and justifies the price you paid for it.

 Examples;

 Granite counters which are currently found in many homes; however their installation, seam location, matching slab colors and aligning them on the cabinets can vary greatly.  It would come as no surprise that the cheapest (lowest skilled) installers usually do the poorest installation job.

 Wood flooring are in high demand, however, upon closer examination you will discover not all floors are the same.  Some are made up almost entirely of 2’ or 3’ long boards.  We call these leftovers.  The end result is a wood floor that looks choppy and pieced together.  The better (quality) installations use longer pieces and blend them so the end seams are not all together.

 The best carpenters miter, glue and sand their splices (were two moldings come together).  They also work to minimize splices or place them in inconspicuous areas.  This takes time and forethought, not just throwing the molding up on the wall.  As you suspect, these carpenters cost a bit more and take a bit more time. 

 When you see this attention to detail in the visible elements of a home, you can have greater confidence the builder showed that same level of detail in the parts you can’t see, such as the wiring, foundation, framing, duct work, plumbing, etc..

  “Quality is not what you do but how you do it.”  So please, before you become enamored with the eye candy of granite, crown moldings and rubbed bronze faucets, look deeper into the home.  Just as with real candy, any short term sugar rush you receive will wear off, but the issues the eye candy was hiding can give you an upset stomach.

David H. Wulff, Architect Emeritis 

David is an architect who lives in Lake Lure.