Home construction/renovation photography tips and techniques

Take progress photos to save money

Imagine that it is two years after the completion of construction of your new home or cottage and suddenly there is a leak coming from the base of a bedroom wall. You can’t locate the source. It hasn’t been raining but the puddles are getting worse, threatening to destroy your carpet and more. Horrors! You don’t want to start tearing down whole wall or ceiling sections to solve the problem. But, how else will you discover where the water is coming from?

Then you remember you had the wisdom to take a progressive series of pictures of your home while it was under construction. You pull them out and a quick review shows there is a water line buried in the wall, with a coupling only a few feet away from the leak. A likely culprit!

Instead of tearing down the entire wall, you cut out a small opening where the picture shows the coupling is located, and voila! There’s the water line where it came loose from the coupling, spurting water like crazy. You tightly reconnect it, mop up the water, dry things out and patch the relatively-small hole you cut in the wall.

Then, you pat yourself on the back for having the foresight to take construction progress pictures, and reflect on how much money and inconvenience those pictures just saved you.

The foregoing story describes only one of many scenarios where pictures that you take while your home or office is being built can be a boon later on. Here are some others:

  • If you ever decide to sell the house and wish to show the quality of workmanship that went into your home, what better tool to use?
  • And prospective purchasers will no doubt consider the benefits of your providing them with construction pictures if they decide to buy. That’s one more reason for them to choose your house.
  • If you have to cut through a wall and are not sure where the electrical wiring is, pull out the construction progress pictures. They are almost as handy as having X-ray vision.
  • Even if you want to simply locate a stud to hang something heavy on the walls, your construction progress pictures will be helpful.Your insurer may even provide you with a more favorable premium cost with pictures as evidence that their construction requirements were met.

The pictures can be helpful even during construction. For example, if your contractor covers up something before the building inspector has seen it, your photo records may satisfy the inspector and save having to tear something down just so an inspection can be completed. (Don’t count on it, though. Many inspectors must actually see the work before they will pass it.)

Or, you may need to pick up some obscure material or tool from the building supply store, in which case a picture from the construction site can show the sales representative exactly where the material is to go or what tool is needed. A great time-saver.

You get the message. Your camera can be an invaluable tool while your home is being built.

Here are hints to follow in shooting construction progress shots:

  • 1. Start taking pictures before the ground is even broken. Do a complete photo inventory of the area. You will have a permanent record of what was there from the very beginning.
  • 2. Photograph the emplacement of surveyor’s markers. Most will likely disappear over time, and when there is a later boundary dispute with a neighbor, the pictures could be invaluable.
  • 3. Don’t overlook shots of the foundation and anything else that will be buried over or covered from sight, before and after concrete is poured. Such records may prove helpful not just if repair problems crop up, but also to ensure that your contractor follows the plans. The photos will reveal any deviations or shortcuts. Besides, an unscrupulous contractor who is likely to take shortcuts may not do so if he or she knows there will be a permanent photographic record of the job.
  • 4. Ask your contractor to cooperate with you, and to inform you when significant work will be done so you can photograph the area before a floor goes in or drywalling occurs.
  • 5. Be sure to use flash when called for, especially since you may be shooting down a dark hole or an area where there is only a single bare bulb for illumination. If you need to photograph a large area that your flash cannot fully-illuminate, then use a tripod and make a time exposure.
  • 6. Clearly identify individual pictures so you will know which area of the building they represent. Use the same room designations as are shown on the house plans. Don’t just write “Suzy’s bedroom” on a picture unless that is how the room is identified on the plans. Write dates on them, then store them in a Home Construction album in chronological order to make it easier to refer to them in future. If you are shooting digitally, consider using filenames that contain the date – e.g. “2010-06-17-bsmt.jpg” would be the filename for a basement construction progress image photographed on June 17, 2010.
  • 7. Take both overall shots and close-up construction details, and use color film for all your shots because so many construction materials can be identified by their colors.

A final pair of safety tips:

8. Wear appropriate safety gear on any construction site, even your own home. Get a safety helmet and steel-soled, steel-toed boots.

9. For your own protection, always check with the contractor before going into areas where there may be exposed hot wires, the possibility of something dropping on you or the danger of flooring giving way because it is not yet fastened.

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