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As-Built Drawings Key to Future Repairs

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Knowing how to find items around your home is key to making repairs and for planning remodeling projects.  This is why smart new homeowners document the building process with as-built drawings.  These drawings are created while the new home is being built to show exactly where plumbing, electrical, ductwork and structural components are located.  Because once the dirt is backfilled and the insulation and drywall is installed, it’s a guessing game to find exactly what’s hidden under the dirt and behind the drywall.  Having dimensions on the house plan showing exactly where items are installed can make a remodeling project or repair much simpler.

As Built Drawings

What Exactly Are As-Built Drawings?

As-built drawings are notes made on the house plans showing the exact locations where critical components are located within the walls, ceilings and underground.  You might be saying to yourself, “wouldn’t these items be located on the house plan already?”  In theory, yes.  However, things change out in the field as a new home is built.  As a builder, I’ve seen the exact same house plan built twenty times and none of them came together exactly alike.  Why?  Let’s take a look at some of the variables that cause variances between the house plans and the completed home.

  • Materials Used: If you decide to use a steel beam or column instead of wood, this will require a different amount of space than wood components. 
  • Engineered Components: Most new homes come with engineered trusses, beams, floor joists, and columns.  These are typically sized by the company providing them.  So, depending on which vendor is chosen to supply the material, the exact size and location of members will change.
  • Ductwork: Each trade contractor designs and installs the supply and return air system differently based on experience and the particular calculation methods used.  This can change the size, location, and types of ducts running throughout the walls of the home. 
  • Plumbing: Have you ever seen a home that has just had the rough-in plumbing installed inside the framed walls?  There are a million and one different ways to run the drains and supply pipes.  And because of the variability of the first three items discussed above, the plumbing varies accordingly.
  • Building Codes: It would be so nice if every community throughout the U.S. used the same building codes. 


Items to Locate on As-Built Drawings

So we know it’s a good idea to create as-built drawings of new construction projects.  But what types of things are most important to document?  Here are some items that can be noted on the construction drawings to save time and effort in repairs and future remodeling.

  • Plumbing Drains and Supplies: Mark the size and exact location of all pipes in walls, floors ceilings, and under concrete slabs.  For the most basic task of hanging a picture, it pays to know where the water supply lines are located to avoid piercing the pipe with a nail.
  • Ductwork: Mark the size and exact locations of supply and return air runs.  I was watching a DIY show the other day and they decided to take down a wall to open up the kitchen to the family room.  Nobody thought there could be any ductwork in the wall and when there was, the moving of the items completely killed the construction budget.
  • Major Wiring: There’s way too much wiring in a home to document every piece and location.  At the least, make note of the location of large quantities of home runs.  These are wires run from the main electrical panel to a final destination.  In some cases several of these wires can run through a given wall so we want avoid cutting these when tackling remodeling projects.
  • Columns and Beams: Based on the design of the home and the structural components used, there will be columns and beams hidden within the walls of the home.  You want to avoid cutting into these walls as they will cost big money to replace or move.
  • Underground Utilities: The gas, electric, water, and sewer services run to the home can be very expensive to repair or replace.  For this reason, it’s a good idea to mark their exact location on the engineered plot plan as they are installed.  Once the trenches are backfilled, it will be difficult to find them without special equipment.  Have you ever had to dig up a sewer line for any reason?  You don’t want a repair contractor digging test holes in your perfectly manicured yard to find the exact location of the pipe.  It’s always important to call the location underground utility locate service before digging.  But they won’t be able to locate the water and sewer service as these are private.

Timing for Noting As-Built Locations

The best time to mark the as-built locations on the house plan is right before they are covered up.  For underground utilizes, this will be the day they are installed.  All of the other items can be documented just before insulation is installed.  Once the insulation goes in, it can be tough to determine the exact locations.

Michael Luckado

Michael Luckado has built, remodeled, and repaired thousands of homes across the U.S. He co-founded to help people save money and time creating their dream home.

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