Honest Common Sense Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Home Remodeling – Renovation Projects
It’s critical when choosing a company to make your remodeling dreams come true that you are asking the right questions. So we’ve compiled some of the most commonly asked home remodeling questions. Our goal in outlining the questions that homeowners typically ask us about remodeling is to help you out, and to explain why Common Sense Remodeling makes, well; common sense!
Not usually. Most homeowners are able to live in their homes during the renovation – remodeling process. It depends on how extensive the renovation – remodel is, but most homes undergoing a single or even double room renovation like a kitchen and a bath are still inhabitable during construction as long as you don’t mind some noise and a little mess temporarily.
We even will help you set up a temporary kitchen in another room, basement or garage during your renovation. One homeowner had us set up an “apartment” in one half of her house while the other half underwent a renovation, and then when it was complete they switched to the other side and we renovated the “apartment” area! Talk to us about your project plans and we’ll help you figure out the best direction for you and your family.
The answer to this question may seem obvious, but people always are asking this question! The number one way of knowing a company does what it says it will do is to ask their clients. When you can talk to multiple real clients and hear their experiences are consistently the same, generally you can safely assume that you will receive the same treatment. It’s easy to see what a company values when you hear it in the responses from 3rd party online reviews and directly from homeowners. Look for a company who is willing to give you more (many more) than a page of 5 happy clients (anyone should be able to do this).
Remodeling is not a perfect science (remodeling is actually more difficult than building a new house). A seasoned company with experience can generally with due diligence pre-determine with amazing accuracy the upfront cost of just about any renovation project after poking a few holes in soffits and crawling around in your basement. However, how a remodeler handles surprises and remedies issues is an important aspect to consider when looking for a reliable company that can be trusted. Getting the low price up front won’t do you much good when omissions and problems mid-project pile up change order after change order.
In order to get the best assessment from a referral, here are four simple questions we recommend you ask:
1. Did they work with you to establish a reasonable budget up front, and then design a project that met with your goals and visions for your space?
2. How well did they provide a complete design and construction experience that made the project an easy and enjoyable experience for you and your family?
3. Did they say what they would do, and then do what they said they would, and in a timely manner?
4. Would you recommend this company to your mother or best friend?
The biggest reason is because the potential for renovation budgets is pretty much unlimited. Imagine for a minute you are looking to purchase a home, and you start out telling your realtor, “Just show me some options and I’ll let you know”. The problem is, they wouldn’t know where to start. Additionally, you could fall in love with the 1st home they show you, only to find out later that you can’t really afford that home. It’s just counter-productive to not begin the process with at least an affordable budget range if you wish to get the best result from your realtor and the searching process.
Remodeling works the same way. With a pre-determined budget range, your design team is much more effective at developing a preliminary design, product recommendations, and an initial construction budget that fits not only your needs, but also your pocketbook on the first round – and no one’s wasting valuable time guessing.
We find that most people who haven’t done any major remodeling recently aren’t really sure what a renovation might cost, that’s why our design team is great at helping you create a preliminary design direction coupled with a preliminary budget range that will help you to get starting in the right direction right away.
The answer to this question depends on how you would like your project produced. If you plan to run your own project, buy products at box stores from bulk, and hire your cousin and high school buddy to do electrical and plumbing, then this type of company is probably not for you.
But if you cringe at the idea of how you will coordinate purchases from every store from one end of town to the other, don’t have a clue how to make your ideas come together in a cohesive design, are busy with family, your job, and life and don’t have a year to spend researching, purchasing sale items, and trying to piece together trade professionals who might be able to commit to a coordinated construction schedule while your house is torn up and covered in dust for six months…then this type of program IS for YOU!
A great remodeling company who can meet these criteria will be able to create a cohesive project for you from start to finish, all in one place. The benefits are a timely, well-produced project free of cost overages delays and re-designs, headaches and frustration, beautifully designed and executed all while you actually enjoy the process, not to mention the end result.
Probably not. The reason is that most homeowners who try to save money by doing it all themselves often find that the process is way more difficult and time consuming than they thought. It can be said that designing a successful renovation, purchasing all the products, locating and coordinating qualified individuals as a general contractor, and then executing a project in a timely manner is a HARD JOB, even for us, and we do it every day!
Generally speaking, whatever you think you might save by trying to do it yourself is often lost in time spent and cost overages for fixing errors (and some remodeling errors can’t be fixed!). Most problems with budget occur simply because it’s extremely difficult for homeowners to accurately predict cost in advance.
On the surface this seems like a difficult determination to make, but your initial experience is usually indicative of how you can expect a project to go. Just take note of the following clues:
1. How comfortable you feel with the person you first meet? Really, this is a gut check question.
2. Did they get back to you when they said they would, or do they make excuses and leave you waiting? Are you waiting days and weeks longer for a proposal or estimate than first predicted?
3. Do they return your phone calls quickly and are they “available” to you?
4. How professional and thorough is their paperwork? Is there itemized detail in the information they provide?
5. Look at a sample of a proposal, how well written is it? Do they use allowances, or do they have an organized system offering education about and help with making product selections?
6. Do they readily provide you with references, MANY references from years of past clients?
7. What does the internet say about them? Did you find mostly positive online reviews?
8. How many projects like yours have they done?
9. How long have they been in business?
10. Do they have in house staff to handle all the elements of your project, or do they send you elsewhere or subcontract most of their labor?
11. What kind of “system” do they have to produce your project?
12. Do they have an established “brick and mortar” business location, or do they work out of a vehicle or home office?
13. How “professional” has your experience been so far? What might this say about what you can expect as you head into construction?
What makes this question especially critical is that compared to most other transactions you might make that have a rather short engagement time frame (you buy a car, you eat at a restaurant, you purchase a product), remodeling is quite different. It often requires extensive relationship from the early process of budgeting and design, to often weeks or even months of working together after design is complete in order to implement. You literally will “live with” the people completing construction in your home – where you get up every morning to people in your house.
Add to the equation the usually substantial investment you are making, and the ramifications of making the right choice are steep. After all, if you decide later you don’t like the car you bought, you can always trade it for a new one, something you most likely will not do if you decide you don’t like the new doorway there or the new kitchen doesn’t function well.
That’s a great question. Estimating with exact to-the-day accuracy on any remodeling project is difficult for any remodeler to do. We carefully estimate a schedule of days or weeks based on the compilation of every element that goes into each individual project. It is an estimate that is fair and based on 25 years of experience, but one that is subject sometimes to weather delays and occasionally the odd element out of our control, and cannot initially take into account the additions homeowners inevitably make during the course of construction.
Honestly, the best way to know how good a remodeler is at sticking to their time estimates is to ask other past clients. Remodeling is not a perfect science, and anyone who tells you it is, or promises to pay you for every day past a “deadline” most likely has a lot of fine print in their agreement.
As for sticking with projected prices, this is a topic we take very seriously. Every element of your project is line itemed in detail and priced accurately. We use no allowances. Unless you change something, a quoted price will not change. Unexpected change orders only come when something appears during demolition that we had no way of seeing in advance, like concealed wood rot or hidden electrical. We go to some pretty extensive measures during walk throughs in order to find hidden items and we usually know where to look for them in your home.
Once again, asking past clients about their experiences and reading reviews is a great way to find out how good a remodeler is about sticking to their numbers.
That ultimately is up to you. The biggest challenge with getting multiple estimates is that in order to complete a really accurate estimate or a real cost analysis, all design and product selection needs to be totally complete. Trying to devise what may or may not be included in estimates or bids, the level of product quality and functionality used for an estimate, all the while judging service, craftsmanship, and the timeliness you can expect from a company is a very difficult task.
If final design and product selections aren’t completed yet, it’s for this reason many contractors use allowances for most interior products, and sometimes for other construction materials and labor. We do NOT recommend using allowances, because allowances are the number one reason why projects go over target budgets.
Identifying a company who is qualified and that you trust early on, establishing a budget (based on a reliable up-front pre-design process), and then committing to that company is in our experience the superior way to progress. You then have a committed team with an established target whose job it is to now produce your project within an agreed-upon parameter.
There’s a considerable amount of work it takes to fully “design out” an estimated project, and most reputable companies will not spend the time to complete this phase without a commitment. A cohesive team 100% committed and focusing on producing your project well is far more effective than 3 contractors trying to all put together the lowest bid to get the job, who then have to figure out how to produce it for the lowest price.
There are many reasons why one contractors pricing is different from another’s. It’s not to say that the company proposing the cheapest price is not always a good company, but it could be an indicator of many things you should consider. Frequently the contractor with the lowest price has a smaller capacity that may be reflected in lower overhead. He may do a good job by the time he’s done, but he also may struggle to be on your site consistently as he services other jobs at the same time causing your project to take much longer than it should.
He may have lower payed employees on staff, and that may be reflected in the quality of work they produce. He may not have legal limits of liability and workers compensation in place, which could become a risk to you should a worker be hurt on your property. He may simply be under pricing your project due to lack of experience, lack of understanding how to run a financially successful company (a problem for many small business owners), or simply an omission of details and elements not included. We’ve seen carpenters and installers quote kitchen installs way low as they fail to take into account the level of detail and intricacy of a design or the field construction of custom elements, and come back to the homeowner mid project complaining that they didn’t price the job for the level of detail required.
Cost in the remodeling industry is often a relevant indicator of the attention and frequency of project management, the level of expertise and experience of the design and construction staff, the level of detail and sophistication of the design, and ultimately the level of quality of the products, craftsmanship and installation.
Expecting a more qualified company to match the price of the lower priced competitor (who is typically offering less) is not only unfair but probably not wise. In order for the more qualified company (which is why you want them) to work at the lower priced level, they would most likely need to cut services or reduce quality in order to meet the lower price. Unless you are upgrading a home and are solely concerned about cosmetic appearance for a quick sale; if quality and service are important to you, you will be better off paying a good company a fair price for a job well done. You may otherwise spend what you thought you might save paying for someone to correct the problems created by the first company later on.
There’s a saying that goes; “You get what you pay for”’. In the remodeling industry, that phrase is pure gold.
It’s interesting how most of homeowner’s questions and concerns are nearly always centered on the quality and service they want to receive, but rarely do homeowners think to compare the value of services relative to the cost when evaluating what each company has to offer.
In today’s economy, it makes sense that people are looking for the best value. Unfortunately, too many people regard low price as the only indicator of best value. This can be a dangerous mistake when you are considering a sizable investment in a home renovation project.
We have found that it’s the quality of the services performed moreover that tend to make or break a project experience, hence determining in the end the true value of the investment. Many times a homeowner has completed a renovation and love their new home, but hated the experience.
Yes we do. We understand how it’s difficult for most homeowners to estimate what it may cost to produce their renovation plans. Upon our initial meeting, our design team is adept at helping you estimate a cost range for your project. If that is agreeable, we produce a detailed Financial Analysis of your project plan which estimates an entry breakdown for your project produced with average fixtures and features, a mid-range breakdown which includes options for upgrades in finishes and materials, and sometimes a higher side breakdown which may include not only upgrades, but also may include undecided options you would like to consider.
Used in conjunction with a preliminary design, together this and the financial analysis is then used by you and our design team to agree on a “target budget” that will be used as a goal as the project goes through the next phase of design development.
It’s our experience that producing completed plans and engaging in the bidding process is not the best way to get the most out of any talented remodeling company. It can be difficult for anyone to bid construction plans with 100% accuracy before every material selection and the final interior designs have been completed. Allowances can leave room for substantial cost overruns and we strongly recommend finalizing design and product selections so as to eliminate the frustration of these kinds of surprises.
If you haven’t hired an architect and begun drawings yet, we invite you to meet with us first to discuss the “Common Sense” option in order to maximize your experience from the start. If you have completed plans and wish to find out what they may cost to build, contact us and we’ll be happy to review your plans.
Not for project management and carpentry. <a href=”http://advancedesignstudio.com/meet-our-team/”>Our team</a> of management and fine carpentry are on your project almost daily, and work to oversee and construct your project under our direct employ and oversight.
We do use specialty subcontractors for specific areas requiring other expertise. We have a diversified and talented team of craftsman; many whom have worked in a trusting partnership with Advance Design for more than a decade, and we consider them an important part of our team.
We require annual proof of current licensing and appropriate insurance to protect homeowners from liability. Written agreements with our sub-contractors ensure they are backing our warranty guidelines. As part of our Common Sense Process, we handle everything including permit requirements, estimating, field meetings, final pricing, coordinating, approval of work and payment to all subcontractors on your project.
Good subcontractors can make or break a job, and we are well aware that our reputation is impacted by our ability to provide and maintain the best local specialized expertise for our clients at the most reasonable cost possible.
No. We maintain ongoing relationships with several local architects, each talented in specific areas of architectural design and licensed appropriately. When the services of an architect are required, we match prospective client projects with the most suitable architect partner. We handle the design process in conjunction with our Project Design Team and Project Management to assure a cohesive architectural design experience that aligns with our preliminary design process and your project’s predetermined project target budget.
One of the unique advantages of the Common Sense Process is our ability to create feasibility studies of preliminary design ideas in house, before the services of an architect are engaged. This simple step has saved many of our clients from over-designing projects, protecting them from investing thousands of dollars into plans that fall outside of the targeted budget range; often saving them months of time and heartache.
As a project progresses, there are countless benefits to having all of your experts on board early on. With pre-design and budgeting, a qualified architect partner, space planning/kitchen/bath design, and your builder guiding the whole process with the end result in mind; your project is destined for success from the get-go. To us, it’s just Common Sense that the big picture is created right from the start.
We strongly discourage supplying any of your own products. Our company has developed over many years solid relationships with product suppliers. We are familiar with the products we recommend, their performance, and installation procedures. We maintain pricing on products that is competitive and fair. The successful design, installation, and end performance of every item we place in your home is directly relative to our familiarity with the product and the company who supplies it.
Most products due to accurate measuring and specifications are intrinsically linked to a successful and smooth building process. Order accuracy and timing, accompanied by reliable shipping, tracking, and organizing are all critical factors in the success of a detailed and coordinated time schedule.
With a few exceptions, it is important that we control the process so that you receive the benefits of the well-run project and the final functioning space that you desire. Delays due to ill-fitting products, long lead times, measuring mistakes, miscommunication, re-scheduling, and a myriad of potential issues that can occur in relation to home-owner supplied products often do not outweigh the perceived savings one might gain.
Please keep in mind that products supplied by homeowners leave the homeowner responsible for correct sizing, shipping, checking for damage or problems, and subsequent returns if necessary. Project delays caused by damaged or missing goods cannot be controlled when out of the hands of Advance Design. Additionally, owner-supplied product is outside of the protection of our warranty process.
We recommend for clients who wish to save some money on their projects that perhaps they would do some demolition in the form of removal of cabinets and appliances. Painting is another area homeowners may excel in. When it comes to other work, it may be possible to fit in some homeowner supplied labor, like installing a tile floor in a new kitchen.
Please keep in mind that construction schedules are pre-set and arranged in advance. Once one task is completed, the next crew of specialty workers is lined up and ready to go. Owner-supplied labor, whether your own or by someone else you hire may have a difficult time fitting into a pre-arranged schedule. The money you might save in hiring your cousin or doing something yourself may be sacrificed later in significant completion delays, and corrections to problems resulting from miscommunication with others outside the control of our management.
Labor supplied by homeowners is not protected under our warranty policy, leaving the homeowner responsible for everything in connection with the work in question. Some types of owner-supplied labor can work with projects. Please discuss this further in your meeting since every situation is unique and should be addressed on a per project basis.
Initially, remodeling a room like your kitchen seems simple enough. However, when you get into it you may begin to realize that it’s a large task to coordinate hundreds of product options, design requiring accuracy to the 1/8”, and all the different trade specialties it takes to complete a successful renovation. When you’re spending thousands of dollars on something that you plan to do “once”, you want it to be right. It’s not like buying a car that you can test drive, and if you decide you don’t like it – you can trade it in for another down the road.
When a financial analysis is done with the “Common Sense” system, each decision for every line item we include will need to be accommodated for eventually – whether done by us or by someone else. Here are a few tips on what to look for when estimating project costs:
1. Is every detail included? One of the most common ways to produce the lowest cost estimate is by leaving things out.
2. Is the design fully complete?
3. Are the labor costs accurately matched with the level of design and detail?
4. Have all the product selections been made? Product and installation costs can range widely, and allowances leave room for error later.
5. Are you piecing together proposals from various different suppliers and trades? This can leave tremendous room for omissions and errors in estimating.
Most homeowners want us to provide an accurate answer to the big question, namely; “What is my project going to cost before we fully commit”. Although it may initially seem like “Advance Design is expensive”, our Financial Analysis may be the first time you have seen “all of the numbers” on paper, in one place. Our process insures that every detail is accounted for.
When you see and understand the “Common Sense” solution of compiling specifications and figures for your project, you will no doubt see the value of our systematic approach that assures the smoothest process possible when it comes to your project.
We discount all projects paid with cash/check, and can help homeowners with attaining financing for projects. Inquire with your design team and they will find out more about what you require.
Whether or not an architect’s services will be required depends on the project scope. If you are planning an addition, or a substantial remodel requiring structural changes, most likely an architect will need to be involved. Some villages may require the oversight of a licensed engineer or architect for even simple structural changes. This can be determined by Advance Design during our initial meetings together.
Most of the time. Permit requirements are set by the jurisdiction that you live in, and most of the time a permit is required for any change that involves electricity or anything even slightly more extensive. Although we are adept at navigating over 25 different building departments, we still inquire thoroughly for each project in order to stay on top of changes in code.
Beware of contractors willing to work without a permit. Some people view a permit as a pain and additional cost, but ultimately the benefit of a permit is the protection of you and your property. Additionally the homeowner can be subject to fines, halting of work, and removal of work already done in order to bring projects in line with village requirements.
We recommend permits on every project, and conveniently handle drawing, fees, and information submission, licensing requirements, and site inspections as a part of every project we produce. All our work is properly licensed and performed per required code in every instance regardless of permit requirements.
It depends. It depends on who you hire, how prone you are to changing your mind or last minute additions, and how old your home is. If you hire a reputable company who is thorough, and has a reputation of producing projects on budget; then you may not need additional funds to complete your project. That obviously is the best case scenario.
However, if you think you may want to change something mid-stream, or you think you’re the kind of person who might want to throw in an additional arched doorway, or add some bells and whistles last minute – well then you may want to plan a little extra funding to suit your fancy.
Industry “experts” advise homeowners to plan an additional 10% contingency fund when remodeling. If your home is older than 50 years…this could be wise advice. However, an experienced company who does it’s due diligence on the front end should be able to troubleshoot issues in advance that they know will need to be addressed, as well as point out any area of concern that may be slightly uncertain until the demo phase occurs.
Older homes may be subject to surprises by past homeowner “do it yourself jobs” not up to code, outdated wiring and plumbing, and out of square structures hiding rotting wood or other initially unforeseen issues. Any homeowner in this position would be wise to choose a remodeler carefully, and be leery of the one who predicts a sun with no chance of rain forecast.
Great question, and the answer is nearly always; “It depends”! It depends on the type of project, the amount of structural and mechanical changes, the extent of surfaces affected, the number of rooms involved, and the level and design of products chosen.
Typically, master baths take anywhere from 3-8 weeks to renovate, kitchens average 4-12 weeks depending on the extent of renovation and the surrounding rooms effected, basements take between 4-12 weeks as well, and additions or whole home renovations can take between 3 and 6 months to complete. All projects usually require on average 1-2 months of planning time, sometimes more for larger projects involving many rooms.
It can be difficult to determine accurately how long your project might take without getting into the planning process and understanding the scope of what is required to achieve your goal. You can be assured however that when the planning process is explored, that this question can be answered at that time quite easily by our experienced design team.
Beware any remodeler who gives you unrealistically short time frames, it’s often a ploy to get the job; and later you may find out after a few excuses that your timeframe was not at all reasonable to complete your project the right way. Once a project is headed for production, a detailed timeline will be provided by your Project Manager so that you can stay abreast of the development of each stage of completion with your team.
We do. It’s important to understand that all remodeling causes dust and anyone who tells you otherwise is pulling your leg. That being said, we take as many measures as we can to reduce the amount of dust generated during construction like most remodeling companies do. We employ the typical measures of plastic dust barriers and drop cloths, and cover HVAC registers to encourage a “negative air flow” which will keep construction dust out of your ventilation system. But this is just the start.
Plastic dust barriers, shop vacs and fans just don’t do enough. Brooms and vacuum cleaners just stir it up more. We use a professional HEPA air filtering system to eliminate 90% of airborne dust. The <a href=”http://buildclean.com/”>BuildClean</a> Dust Control System draws air from the surrounding environment, passing it through two particle-trapping filters, and returns clean air to the space. We’ve invested in this system to save you the stress and aggravation of finding dust in your toothbrush, your dog’s fur, and just about every nook and cranny in your home.
We advise our clients to continue their regular cleaning cycles during construction, because stopping cleaning allows for normal dust in addition to construction dust to accumulate. And frankly any home could use a thorough cleaning post construction to make it look its best after final construction is complete. But don’t settle for anything less than a professional filter system during your renovation, you won’t believe the difference it makes!
<strong>Read blog about Dust Control <a href=”http://advancedesignstudio.com/home-remodeling/hate-dust-when-remodeling-7-ways-to-reduce-it/”>Here</a></strong>
One of the advantages of hiring Advance Design Studio is our construction crew is in-house, meaning they are direct employees of our company. The benefit of this is reflected in a number of ways to our clients. Our <a href=”http://advancedesignstudio.com/production-management/”>Project Managers</a> and <a href=”http://advancedesignstudio.com/carpentryfield-crew/”>Carpentry Crews</a> are tightly connected. Your Lead Carpenter communicates with your Project Manager daily, directs all the crews, and also communicates with you daily.
Our staff is trained regularly not only on their carpentry skills, but also in leadership, teamwork, and client service on an ongoing basis. They understand that they are there to do a job (one that they all care deeply about), but to also understand that you live in your home while they are doing so. This requires a level of caring and concern unlike the business of new construction where a homeowner is not present.
Our subcontractors are generally our specialists like concrete, drywall, HVAC, plumbing and electrical. They are assigned on projects on specific days, and are overseen by ADS staff directly. Most of our specialty trades have worked with ADS for many years, and are closely in tune with our philosophy and culture. They understand that they answer directly to ADS management and have a standard to uphold that they are accustomed to.
There are many ways remodeling companies supply labor for their projects, but we don’t see labor as a task, rather we see it as an integral part of the service we provide that is every bit as important as every other relationship you have enjoyed with our team up until that point. We take pride in “our guys”, check out our client reviews and see how past clients have spoken of their experiences with our field team. Many of our clients will say how much they miss the guys when they’re gone!
We were asked this question only one time by a client, and we thought it was a really smart question for a home owner to ask because it allowed us to reverse-engineer the two way street that makes for really good remodeling experiences. So here is the answer we gave them:
1. A client who quickly recognizes, develops trust in, and appreciates the systematic planning approach we excel at and learns how to use it to their advantage to get their design on track early on, and develop a budget that is then used by the design team to maximize their return on investment.
2. A client who appreciates and trusts the talent of our diversified design team, listening carefully to why they advise what they do, and enthusiastically employs the team to accomplish their goal.
3. A client who is open and honest through-out the process, and expects and appreciates open and honest communication with our team.
4. A client who has a reasonably calm personality, and a willingness to understand that remodeling is not a perfect science, but rests in the assurance that when all is said and done that our team who cares for them and their project’s success will always do whatever it takes to give them the very best outcome.
5. A client who hires us for our expertise, our service, and our hard work, and is willing to pay a fair price in exchange for a well done job.
6. A client who sincerely expresses their feedback during the project and at the project end, and is willing to enthusiastically become a Raving Fan; telling their friends and family all about their experience.
There is one thing for sure, clients who abide by all of this advice have the best remodeling experiences and report that they actually enjoyed the remodeling process far more than they anticipated! One client in particular expressed this sentiment after completion of their renovation project; <em>“We thought we understood all that you were talking about in the beginning, but now that we’ve experienced it, we really understand what you were trying to say – and we’re glad we trusted you and went through the process”</em>, said Janet Gaffney of Crystal Lake.