Enjoy this continuing series as we follow Jonna and Doug through the design and build of their family’s new Kenilworth home. In this episode, Lisa Pickell and the couple talk about what goes in before the drywall goes up on a custom home.
The framing process can be an exciting time for a family building a custom home, but what comes next can be a little more challenging. Lisa Pickell explains, “It’s not a sexy time—it’s all about conduit. There’s a lot going on behind the walls, and we want it to be right before the drywall goes on. For clients, progress doesn’t feel as tangible as in other phases.”
After the framing walkthrough, and any necessary adjustments are made, mechanicals go in. During this time, the Pickell team performs critical walkthroughs of electrical, low-voltage, plumbing and HVAC systems. “Plumbing and HVAC are fairly straightforward,” offers Lisa. “Electrical can be more involved. First, we’ll meet in our office to go over every detail—that can take several hours, and people can get tired of answering questions. Are you right-handed or left-handed? Where do you charge your phone at night? Do you use a hairdryer? Curling iron? Electric toothbrush? We’re not kidding when we say that we’re building a house that is exactly right for you.”
All of these responses are incorporated into the plan. Then, for the final, on-site walkthrough, Pickell teams nail up junction boxes and cans, without conduit, to show where lighting and controls will be. That way, changes can be made efficiently. Once everything is agreed upon, conduit and wires go in.
Preparing for Smart Appliances and Fixtures
While mechanicals are being installed, clients are tasked with finalizing an enormous number of selections. “People may wonder why so many decisions have to be done months in advance,” adds Lisa, “But this is when we’re running wiring and plumbing, and determining where fixtures and controls will be placed. Of course, things can be changed later if necessary, but we’d all prefer not to go back and cut into walls.”
The move toward smart controls, appliances and even window blinds makes careful planning especially important, as there are additional elements that must be incorporated behind the walls.
Jonna and Doug, for example, chose Alexa-enabled Kohler bathroom mirrors, as well as an app-controlled shower and bathtub, which required ethernet/low-voltage wiring and interfaces to be installed. “Doug is excited that we can ask the mirror about the weather or to order shampoo,” laughs Jonna. She’s more enthusiastic about the sound of a digitally controlled, heated bathtub that stays warm for more than a few minutes.