Owner-builders should always take lots of photos (and videos, where appropriate) throughout the construction process. It’s easy, free, and you already have all the tools you need in your pocket. At minimum, it’ll be fun to look back on progress photos, and documentation may be a godsend when you need to work on your house later (say, if you want to know where the plumbing is in a bathroom before remodeling). Of course, if a major issue, question, or dispute arises, good documentation becomes critical information and evidence.
Photograph everything: views of the whole site, details, labels on products, stamps on lumber, hardware, jobsite conditions, vehicles, etc. etc. etc. Make sure photos are geotagged and date stamped to establish when and where they were taken. Don’t worry about taking “good” photos or about taking too many. You’re creating documentation, not art.
Here’s just one example from my build to show why this is so important. When I was having my framing reviewed, several professionals commented on the fact that the first floor joists weren’t bearing on the basement wall. Everyone said the same thing: the foundation must have settled. There was no other reasonable explanation! But construction photos showed that my original framing contractor had simply built the basement wall too short and the gaps had always been there. It was an utterly bizarre decision on the part of the contractor, and one that nobody would have believed without photographic evidence.
It’s also worth mentioning that this advice is just as useful for contractors and subcontractors as it is for owners. On most projects, multiple companies work in succession in the same small spaces. Blame for expensive problems–say, leaking plumbing or a cracked countertop–can be hard to pin down without documentation. By thoroughly documenting work and jobsite conditions, a sub can protect him or herself and help ensure that responsibility for problems doesn’t get assigned unfairly.
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