Frequently Asked Questions
It’s critical to ask the right questions when choosing a remodeling team, so we’ve compiled the most common questions homeowners ask us about remodeling to help you out.
Choosing the Right Company
What should I be looking for when hiring a remodeling company?
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 that is willing to give you more than a page of five happy clients.
Remodeling is not a perfect science. You should not look for perfect experiences, but rather ask how a company deals with the process they employ and overcoming challenges should they happen.
A company with experience can generally, with some due diligence, determine the upfront cost of just about any renovation project after poking a few holes in soffits and crawling around in your basement. Getting the low price upfront won’t do you much good when omissions and problems mid-project pile up change order after change order.
What questions should I ask a past client given as a referral?
In order to get the best assessment from a referral, here are four simple questions we recommend you ask:
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?
- 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?
- Did they say what they would do, and then do what they said they would, and in a reasonably timely manner?
- Would you recommend this company to your mother or best friend?
Should I get more than one estimate before moving forward?
This ultimately is up to you. The biggest challenge with getting multiple estimates is that to complete a true apples-to-apples cost comparison, all design and product selections would have to be complete. Trying to devise what may or may not be included in estimates, such as the level of product quality and functionality used, while judging design-ability, service, craftsmanship, and the timeliness you can expect is a very difficult task.
If final design and product selections aren’t completed yet, many contractors use allowances. We do not recommend using allowances, because allowances are the number one reason why projects go over target budgets.
Identifying a company that is qualified and trustworthy early on is crucial. In our experience, it’s best to establish a budget based on a reliable up-front preliminary design process and then commit to that company to fully develop your project. This ensures you have a committed team with an established target whose job it is to 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 that is 100% committed and focused on producing your project well is far more effective than three contractors trying to each put together the lowest bid and then figuring out how to produce it for the lowest price.
Why shouldn’t I hire the contractor who has the cheapest proposed project price?
There are many reasons why contractor pricing differs. 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 worth considering. 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 complete your project on time as he services other jobs at the same time.
He may have lower-paid employees on staff, which will likely reflect the quality of work produced. 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 be underpricing your project due to lack of experience or be omitting details and elements not included. We’ve seen carpenters and installers quote kitchen installs lower because they fail to consider the level of design detail or the construction of custom elements. They then come back to the homeowner mid-project complaining that they didn’t price the job for the detail required.
Cost in the remodeling industry is often a relevant indicator of the consistency of project management, the level of expertise of the design and construction staff, the sophistication of the design, and ultimately the quality of the products, craftsmanship, and installation.
Expecting a more qualified company to match the price of a lower-priced competitor, who is typically offering less, is not only unfair but probably not wise. For the more qualified company (which is why you want them) to work for a lower price, they would most likely need to cut services or reduce quality. Unless you are solely concerned about the cosmetic appearance of your remodel for a quick sale, if quality and service are important to you, you are better off paying a good company a fair price for a job well done. Otherwise, you may end up spending more 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.
How will I know I am getting the best company for my investment?
On the surface, this seems like a difficult determination to make. However, your initial experience with a company is usually indicative of how you can expect a project to go. Take note of the following clues:
- How comfortable do you feel with the person you first meet? Really, this is a gut-check question.
- Did they get back to you when they said they would, or do they make excuses and leave you waiting days and weeks longer for an estimate than first predicted?
- Do they return your phone calls quickly and are they “available” to you?
- How professional, and thorough, and itemized is their paperwork?
- Look at a sample of a proposal. Do they use allowances, or do they have an organized system to help with product selections?
- Do they readily provide you with many references from past clients with consistent commentary about their experiences?
- What does the internet say about them? Did you find mostly positive online reviews?
- How many projects like yours have they done?
- How long have they been in business?
- 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?
- What kind of “system” do they have to produce your project?
- Do they have an established “brick and mortar” business location, or do they work out of a vehicle or home office?
How “professional” has your experience been so far? What might this say about what you can expect as you head into construction?
Compared to other transactions you might make that have a rather short engagement timeframe, such as purchasing a car or dining at a restaurant, remodeling is quite different. It often requires an extensive relationship from early budgeting and design through weeks or even months of working together after the design is complete. You literally will “live with” the people completing construction in your home, as you get up every morning for several weeks to people working in your house. Add to the equation the usually substantial investment you are making, financially and physically, and the ramifications of making the right choice are steep.
How will I know that I can trust the company I hire to complete my project on time and within budget?
Estimating a timeline with exact to-the-day accuracy of any remodeling project is difficult for any remodeler to do. We carefully estimate a schedule based on the compilation of every element of a project. It is an estimate that is based on hundreds of projects completed over the past 30 years, but it can be subject to weather delays and elements at times out of our control. Timelines typically cannot consider the additions homeowners inevitably make during construction.
Honestly, the best way to know how good a remodeler is at sticking to expectations is to ask 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.
Sticking with projected budgets is something we take very seriously. Every element is line-itemed in detail and priced accurately. We typically don’t use allowances. Unless you change something, the quoted price will not change. Unexpected change orders only occur when something appears during demolition that we had no way of seeing in advance, such as concealed wood rot or hidden electrical. We take extensive measures during walkthroughs to find hidden items and we usually know where to look for them. Asking past clients about their experiences and reading reviews is a great way to find out how good a remodeler is about sticking to numbers.
Is there an advantage to hiring a company that provides all of the products and services necessary for a complete project experience?
It depends on how you would like your project produced. If you plan to run your own project, buy products at box stores or online, and hire your cousin and high school buddy to do electrical and plumbing, then this type of company is probably not for you.
If you cringe at the idea of how you will coordinate purchases from one end of town to the other, have no idea of how to make your project come together in a cohesive design, are busy with family, your job, and don’t have time 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 months, then a company that coordinates all of that may definitely be the obvious choice for you.
A great remodeling company that 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-designed, and beautifully produced project free of headaches and frustration while you enjoy the process as well as the result.
How do I determine which company provides the best value when comparing remodeling companies?
It’s interesting how most homeowners’ questions and concerns are centered on the quality and service they want to receive but they rarely 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 prices as the only indicator of best value. This can be a dangerous mistake when considering a sizable investment in a home renovation project.
We have found that it’s the quality of the services performed that tend to make or break a project experience, hence determining the true investment value in the end. Many homeowners have completed a renovation and love their new home but hated the experience.
About My Project
Can I provide my own products?
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 product pricing that is competitive and fair. The successful design, installation, and end performance of every item we place in your home are directly relative to our familiarity with the product and the company that 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.
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 products are outside of the protection of our warranty process.
Can I do some of my own work or hire my own subcontractors?
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 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. Please discuss this further in your meeting since every situation is unique and can be addressed on a per-project basis.
Will it be more expensive to hire a company that handles everything than if I try to do it all myself?
Probably not. 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!
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 project costs in advance.
Should I budget for costs beyond the proposed amount?
This depends on who you hire, how prone you are to changing your mind or adding last-minute additions, and how old your home is. If you hire a reputable company that is thorough and has a reputation for 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-project or add some bells and whistles at the last minute, 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 over fifty years old, this could be wise advice. However, an experienced company that is diligent on the front end should be able to troubleshoot issues in advance and point out any areas of concern that may be uncertain until the demo occurs.
Older homes may be subject to surprises by past homeowner “do it yourself jobs” not up to code, outdated wiring/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 “sunny with no chance of rain” forecast.
Do I need an architect for my project?
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, an architect will likely 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.
Do I need to get a permit for my project?
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 twenty-five different building departments, we still inquire thoroughly about each project to stay on top of changes in code.
Beware of contractors willing to work without a permit. Some people view permits as a painful additional cost, but ultimately the permit serves as protection for you and your property. Without a required permit, homeowners can be subject to fines, halting of work, and removal of work already done to bring projects in line with village requirements.
We recommend permits on every project. We 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 the required code in every instance regardless of permit requirements.
What type of client makes the best remodeling client?
We were asked this question only one time by a client, and we thought it was a smart question for a homeowner to ask because it allowed us to reverse-engineer the two-way street that makes for great remodeling experiences. Here is the answer we gave them:
- A client who quickly recognizes, develops trust in, and appreciates our systematic planning approach and learns 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.
- A client who appreciates and trusts the talent of our diversified design team, listens carefully to their recommendations, and enthusiastically employs the team to accomplish their goal.
- A client who is open and honest throughout the process and expects and appreciates open, honest communication with our team.
- A client who has a reasonably calm personality and a willingness to understand that remodeling is not a perfect science but trusts that when all is said and done that our team who cares for them and their project will always do whatever it takes to give them the very best outcome.
- A client who hires us for our expertise, service, and hard work, and is willing to pay a fair price in exchange for a well-done job.
- A client who sincerely expresses their feedback during and after project completion and is willing to enthusiastically become a Raving Fan who tells their friends and family all about their experience.
There is one thing for sure, clients who abide by this advice have the best remodeling experiences and report that they enjoyed the remodeling process far more than they anticipated! One client expressed this sentiment after completing their project, saying “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”, said Janet Gaffney of Crystal Lake.
About Our Process
Does Advance Design provide a free estimate?
Yes, we do. We understand how difficult it is for most homeowners to estimate what it may cost to produce their renovation plans. In your first meeting, our design team is adept at helping you estimate a cost range for your project. If that range is agreeable, we produce a detailed Financial Analysis of your project plan. This analysis estimates an entry breakdown for your project produced with average fixtures and features, a midrange breakdown with options for upgrades in finishes and materials, and sometimes a higher-tiered breakdown which may include not only upgrades but also undecided options you are considering.
Used in conjunction with a preliminary design, the financial analysis is used by you and our design team to agree on a “target budget” that will be used as a goal during the next phase of design development.
Does Advance Design “bid” projects?
In our experience, 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 the design and product selections to eliminate the frustration of these 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 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.
Why is having a “budget direction” so important when planning a renovation?
The potential range for renovation budgets is pretty much unlimited. Imagine for a minute you’re looking to purchase a home, and you tell your realtor, “Just show me some options and I’ll let you know”. The realtor wouldn’t know where to start. You could fall in love with the first home they show you but find out later that you can’t afford it. It’s counterproductive to not begin with an affordable budget range if you wish to get the best result from your realtor and the process.
Remodeling works the same way. With a predetermined budget range, your design team is much more effective at developing a preliminary design, product recommendations, and an initial construction budget that fits both your needs and your pocketbook.
We find that most people who haven’t done any major remodeling recently aren’t sure what a renovation might cost. Our design team excels at helping you create a preliminary design direction with a preliminary budget range that will help you start in the right direction.
How long will my project take to complete?
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 products chosen.
Typically, master baths take anywhere from 3-8 weeks to renovate. Kitchen remodels average 4-12 weeks depending on the extent of renovation and the surrounding rooms affected. Basement remodels take between 4-12 weeks as well, and additions or whole home renovations can take between 3-6 months to complete. All projects usually require an average of 1-2 months of planning, 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 that during the detailed planning process this question can be answered quite easily by our experienced design team.
Beware any remodeler who gives you unrealistically short time frames, as it’s often a ploy to get the job. Once a project is headed for production, a detailed timeline will be provided by your Construction Manager to keep you well-informed of the development of each stage of completion with your team.
Will I need to move out of my house during the remodel?
Most homeowners can live in their homes during the renovation process. It depends on how extensive the renovation is, but most homes undergoing a single or even double room renovation like a kitchen and a bath are still inhabitable during construction if you don’t mind some noise and a little inconvenience temporarily.
We can help 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 was renovated. When it was complete, they switched to the other side while 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.
Do you take any special measures to handle dust during my project?
We do. It’s important to understand that all remodeling causes dust. Anyone who tells you otherwise is pulling your leg. We take as many measures as we can to reduce the amount of dust generated during construction. We employ the use of plastic dust barriers and drop cloths, and cover HVAC registers to encourage a “negative airflow” to keep construction dust out of your ventilation system. But this is just the start.
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. Don’t settle for anything less than a professional filter system during your renovation, you won’t believe the difference it makes!
Advance Design Studio looks really nice, are you expensive?
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 is 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:
- Is every detail included? One of the most common ways to produce the lowest cost estimate is by leaving things out.
- Is the design fully complete? What is the complexity of design details?
- Are the labor costs accurately matched with the level of design and detail?
- Have all the product selections been made? Product and installation costs can range widely, and allowances leave room for error later.
- Are you piecing together proposals from various 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 ensures 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.
About Our Team
Does Advance Design use subcontractors?
Not for project management. Our team 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 of expertise. We have a diversified and talented team of craftsmen; many of whom have worked in a trusting partnership with Advance Design for decades, 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 subcontractors 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.
Does Advance Design have architects on staff?
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 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, a space planning/kitchen/bath designer, and a builder guiding the whole process with the end result in mind; your project is destined for success. To us, it’s common sense that the big picture is created right from the start.
Can you tell me about the workers who will be in my home during construction?
One of the advantages of hiring Advance Design Studio is most of our construction crew is directly employed by our company. Our clients benefit from this in several ways. Our Construction Managers and carpentry crews are tightly connected. Your Lead Carpenter communicates with your Construction Manager, directs all the crews, and communicates with you regularly.
Our staff is trained regularly not only on their carpentry skills, but also in leadership, teamwork, and client service. They understand they are there to do a job (one they all care deeply about), but also understand that you live in your home while they work. This requires a level of care and concern unlike the business of new construction where a homeowner is not present.
Our subcontractors are generally our specialists in concrete, drywall, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical. They are assigned 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.
There are many ways remodeling companies supply labor for their projects, but we don’t see labor as a task. We see it as an integral part of the service we provide that is just as important as every other relationship you have enjoyed with our team up until that point. We take pride in “our crews”, check out our client reviews and see how past clients have spoken of their experiences with our team. Many of our clients say how much they miss them when they’re gone!
See Our Work
Dreamy Dundee Kitchen & Bar
Luxury Lakewood Bath
Lake in the Hills Screened Porch
Barrington Family Room Addition
“Advance Design delivered on their ‘Common Sense Remodeling’ promise. From the design team to the execution team – everything was straight forward like I imagined. The project turned out exactly how I envisioned, I enjoyed this process and absolutely would recommend Advance Design Studio to anyone. “
Ben & Laurie Feinzimer
“Advance surpassed our expectations in regards to efficiency, responsiveness, and their desire to support us. Todd and Christine were great to work with. The whole team has continued to exceed and surpass all of our expectations. We have continued to rely on them for some smaller projects since the completion of our home, as well as we continue to refer them to friends. If we build again in the future, we will absolutely use them again.”
Paul & Mindy Hoover
“We would recommend Advance Design Studio to everyone. The people we worked with were great! We would certainly use them for any future remodeling. Thank you for our beautiful bathrooms.”
Monica & Jim Brett
“The people that work for Advance Design became like family. They care so much. It’s not just hiring somebody, some home remodeling contractors, you’re hiring somebody that’s going to uproot for life for a couple of months and then put it back together.”
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