How many jobs does it take to build a house?

By on July 19, 2010

Fourth in a series
When we left off, we had reached 127 jobs at 69 percent of our project budget. Now it’s Phase 4 as our series examines the human impact of the construction downturn.

Phase four is always the most fascinating and frustrating for the homeowner.

The outside of the house and the interior walls seem to go up with lightning speed. Once the trim starts on the interior, things slow down and the work requires a finer point.

It takes time to cut, measure and install floor trim, doors and window trim, molding around the ceilings and even chair rails. The trim had been installed at the conclusion of our last segment.

Accessories make the outfit . . . and the house

Once the trim is finished, the next step is tile. More and more homes feature ceramic tile in bathrooms and kitchens, forgoing the old linoleum or other veneer floor coverings of the 80s. Our builder, Carl “Pogie” Worsley, places an order for the tile with his sales representative, who in turn hands it over to a clerical worker for processing. Usually three installers are present for a total of five jobs.

Next are cabinets — bathrooms, kitchens and anywhere else the homeowner has chosen. Kitchen and Bath Works, another local company, was Worsley’s choice on this job. A salesperson and installers use three workers.

We’re up to eight jobs in this phase.

At this point, the builder usually “trims out the trades.” If you remember in our early phases, the plumbers, electricians and heating/air contractors install their pipes, ducts and electrical wire before the drywall is hung, leaving stubs for later connections. Now that the cabinets are installed, these same three vendors come out and complete the work, attaching the pipes to sinks and faucets, installing commodes and placing the outside heating and air units.

None of these jobs are counted again for our purposes, but it is important to note that their livelihood is dependent upon all phases of the construction process.

In the case of the electrician, we will add some new jobs. Light fixtures are generally chosen by the homeowner early on. Now, Worsley heads to Griggs Building Supply and picks up those fixtures, switch plates and covers and anything else needed to finish this phase. Four new jobs increase our count; the salesperson at Griggs, another clerical worker to handle the paperwork, warehouse employees to pull the order and a delivery driver who brings the fixtures to the construction site.

We have now reached an even dozen jobs in the latest phase, and the electrician is done . . . for now.

The interior painting is next. Worsley will use the same contractor he hired for the exterior painting, so once again, no new jobs are created but the painter relies on this phase for his or her earnings.

A short break

Job sites are messy places. Local codes and just plain necessity require a place to stow all of the boxes, unused cuts of lumber and other trash that accumulates. Typically, a large trash bin is delivered to the site and periodically swapped out as it fills with trash.

A local company, Site Services handles that, and the company’s bin has sat at our house location since Phase 1. Now we will add these jobs, which include the owner and a driver. Local government also plays a role in this, as construction debris is typically hauled to the county dump near Stumpy Point, where the trash is weighed and bulldozed. Let’s count four workers for construction debris, two public sector and two private.

We are now at Sweet 16 in our Phase 4 count.

We return to our regular program

We’re down to the home stretch. A trip to Mill End Carpet in Currituck is required for the remainder of the home’s flooring. Count one sales person and two people to deliver and install for three additional workers.

Cooking with gas . . . or electricity

Manteo Furniture is our next stop. It’s time to buy, deliver and install appliances.

Ken Daniels, Manteo Furniture
Of all the local companies profiled in the series so far, Manteo Furniture goes back the farthest — to 1945
full story »

The electrician is involved one final time in hooking these up. Worsley wasn’t sure of the exact number involved in this process. So I went to the source, Ken Daniels at Manteo Furniture.

A dozen more workers. Here is the breakdown: one salesperson, one account receivables clerk to enter the billing, one to contact General Electric to order the appliance set. A different employee enters the order into the computer. Three more to unload the incoming truck from GE and reload the inventory onto the delivery truck. One receiving clerk checks in the inventory from GE. Two employees to deliver. Another employee schedules the jobs and dispatches the various drivers, and one final employee installs the appliances for the electrician to connect.

After speaking with Daniels, it is obvious that for many of our “warehouse” type orders of bulk items, we may have underestimated the number of “backroom” jobs involved in the process. But for now, we’re at 28 people.

Once the interior work is completed, two employees come in and clean, dust and basically detail the house for the new owners. A trip to get trash cans from the local government is required. Finally, one more pass is made on the lot to smooth out the grade, fill in any tracks left by trucks and plant grass seed. Two more workers here and we have added five total—four private sector and one public.

All through this process, the government building inspector and the surveyor have revisited the site several times for various inspections and additions to the survey as decks and other items are added which could encroach on setbacks and boundaries.

Our final total for Phase 4 is 33. We have now used 160 jobs to build our house. But we are not quite finished.

Next: The final installment looks at some non-construction jobs, such as lenders, attorneys and Realtors, as well as some common optional construction workers who were not used in our example but whose services are commonly used even on smaller homes.

Previous stories:
Part I, the foundation »
Part II, the framing »
Part III, the plumbing, wiring and insulation »


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