September 2001 Edition

Builder Upgrades

We are in the negotiation stage of signing a contract to build a new house. Do you have any words of wisdom? 

Most definitely! Now is the time to list everything that you want included in the new home from the tiniest detail to the overall energy efficiency of the home. Go thru each room in your mind and make a list of everything you want included from the type of wood trim, floor covering, wallpaper, blinds, etc. List everything you can think of, then ask the builder if everything is included on your list. Be sure to list everything that is included in the contract.


Check out the overall amount of the allowances to be sure the amount the builder figured will cover the quality you want. For instance, if the builder figured the carpet allowance at $12.00 per square yard including pad and installation, go out and price the carpet you want. If the price falls within the allowance, you are okay. If the carpet you want is $18.00 per yard, find out how much that will add to the cost of the house.


Most builders price and installed the lowest efficiency equipment allowable to keep the overall cost down. This is the biggest mistake most builders will make on the project. For a few hundred dollars more, you can upgrade your furnace and air conditioning system to a higher efficiency which will pay for itself in approximately seven years. After that, you will save every year on your utilities.  

Some other items worthy of upgrading are roof shingles, insulation, water heaters, door and windows.


It is important to keep good records of everything that evolves during construction. Keep records of conversations with the builder, changes to the design, changes to the contract amount and anything no matter how small. Always send the builder a copy by memo or email. 

One of the biggest complaints I hear from new homeowners is: “the builder said they were going to do something that never gets done”. Keeping good records prevents misunderstandings. 

Building a home should be fun and rewarding. It also gives you the opportunity to customize the home to your own individual taste. Just be sure that what you are paying for and everything you want is included in the total package. Both you and the builder will end up in a “win-win” situation.

Finishing Basement Foundation Walls

I want to finish a portion of my basement to use as a family room. Should I fur out the foundation walls and use foam insulation or build secondary fiberglass-insulated 2x4 stud walls against the concrete?

We’ll assume that you have either a poured concrete or a cement block masonry wall. With either surface, the finishing options are the same.


Before beginning any work, you must determine whether your basement has any moisture problems. If your foundation walls are only damp on humid summer days, fine—you’re good to go with the methods we recommend. But if you have any problems with standing or leaking water in the spring or during heavy rains, you’ve got some "prework" to do.

Fixes usually are as simple as adding or repairing gutters and downspouts or adjusting the grade to direct runoff water away from the house. But serious water problems may call for drastic measures like interior or exterior drain tiling, or exterior waterproofing, which could mean digging around the house or tearing up part of the slab. You must solve all water problems, or you’ll risk boxing future water in behind a finished wall, ruining it. You’ll end up spending hundreds of bucks re-remodeling a recently finished lower level.

Just about every carpenter or building inspector has a different opinion on how to finish walls against masonry. The methods we’ll demonstrate work well in most conditions, but consult with your county building inspector before beginning any work to make sure you’re meeting building codes in your area.

As you mentioned, there are two methods of finishing against masonry: fiberglass-insulated 2x4 walls and foam-filled 2x2 walls. Both methods include a 3/4-in. foam moisture barrier between the framing and the foundation wall to eliminate condensation from interior humidity and to protect the walls from exterior moisture. Tack the foam to the foundation wall with a few blobs of foam construction adhesive to hold it while you frame the walls.

The easy finishing method is to simply frame conventional 2x4 stud walls with pressure-treated bottom plates (the 2x4s the wall rests on) and fill the walls with fiberglass insulation. Hands down, it’s the way to go—if you have oodles of space in the room you’re finishing. Two-by-four walls are quick to install and there’s plenty of space for electrical work. Plus, you don’t have to hassle with fastening furring strips to concrete, and it’s easier to cut fiberglass insulation than to fit foam. The downside is that each wall steals nearly 6 in. of floor space from the perimeter of the room. In the picture, note that the wall is pushed against the foam and then anchored to the slab with concrete screws and to the ceiling with 3-in. drywall screws. Don’t install a vapor barrier between the fiberglass and drywall because moisture will be trapped in the wall.

Source: The Family Handyman

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If you have a question, change of address, comment, home tip or would like to send Home Tips to your clients, send your letter to Home Tips, Christian Building Inspectors, Inc., 1003 Star Court, Norcross, Georgia 30093. You can E-Mail your questions to us at We reserve the right to edit questions for length.

Quote Of The Month

"You cannot teach children to take care of themselves unless you let them try. They will make mistakes; and out of these mistakes comes wisdom"

H. W. Beecher

A Tip Of The Hat To:

Kirby Douglas

Prudential Atlanta Realty

4390 Pleasant Hill Road

Duluth, Georgia 30096

**** Thank You****