Design/Build Puts the Customer in the Process

 

Written by Mark Redman-

General Manager of Mauck Construction & Renovations and published in the April 2003 edition of The Business Monthly

 

Design/Build is one of the fastest growing trends in the remodeling industry.  It’s popular because the homeowner only has to hire only one firm to handle their project from conception to completion.  This convenient, one-stop shopping concept means one firm is responsible for the design, construction drawings, project management, and construction labor.  Depending on the company, parts of the process may be completed in-house or by subcontractors, but the point is, it should be seamless to the consumer – the Design/Build remodeler is managing every aspect.

Another reason customers like D/B remodeling is that they are much more involved in the design process.  They are part of the design team providing input to create the best possible design for their needs, wants, and budget. And, during the design process, the D/B remodeler will develop a preliminary budget for the project.  This allows the homeowner to make decisions early in the process.  This runs counter to the traditional building process.  Working with separate designers and builders, a homeowner may have their heart set on a particular design, but find that the builders can’t build it within their budget.  

When considering a home remodeling project, you should ask yourself whether a D/B remodeler would be helpful for your project.  If you have a smaller project, such as a bathroom update, a window replacement or a handyman project, a D/B remodeler is probably too small for you (although some remodeling firms do provide these types of services).   Regardless of this, you should look for a D/B remodeler who has experience and/or specializes in the type of project you’re considering.  For example, some remodelers may only consider additions or renovations of a certain size.  Some may specialize in custom designed decks, porches, basements, and kitchen and bath remodels along with additions of varying sizes. 

Once you have decided to use a D/B remodeler, you should start to compile information that will be helpful as you talk to different remodelors.  You should know your budget, your wish list for amenities, and the kind of design style you prefer.   You will also need to locate and make copies of your property information. At minimum, this will be the survey plat for your property and, if applicable, any community association restrictions.

When making your wish list, ask yourself some basic questions.  Why do you want to remodel? What don’t you like about the current style or arrangement of your home? What are you looking to accomplish out of your remodeling project? There is a difference between wanting more space and needing more entertaining area. You might find, for example, that you can solve your problems by re-designing current space instead of adding extra space.   On your wish list, you should think about designs you like (use pictures from magazines to help you) and what kinds of products or materials you might want to use.   Also think about any lifestyle issues – for example, does it need to factor in handicap accessibility.  The bottom line is, the more information you can provide up front, the better. 

The hardest part of preparing to meet with a D/B company is developing and sharing your budget. Some homeowners are afraid they are “giving away too much” if they give the contractor a budget up front.  If that concerns you, talk to friends or look in home improvement magazines to get a realistic parameter to start.  A D/B contractor has a wide range of options available when selecting materials for the build process and those materials come with a wide range of prices.  You’d be sending the D/B remodelor on a wild goose chase if you wanted to have something you really couldn’t afford

Your budget may be derived from what existing cash you have available, the amount of money available through financing, or a combination of both. Aside from the construction costs, you should also consider the cost of furnishing the new space and setting up a contingency fund for unforeseen costs (such as rotted framing or other conditions that were unknown during the design phase) 

While you are preparing your budget, it is also a good idea to take into consideration some factors that will add to savings down the road. For example, if you are adding a large addition to a home, it may be best to add new siding, roofing, or windows to the entire home during this project.  Depending on the age and quality of these exterior items, it will probably save you money over time if these things are replaced sooner, as opposed to having the extra work completed a few years down the road.  It may be beneficial to add insulation to the existing home, as well as make sure any new structure is built with energy efficiency in mind. New building materials and products are constantly being introduced.  For example, you might want to consider Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) to build your project. They can often be cost-effective, and could potentially reduce your utility bills.

As you meet with D/B firms, look for qualities that make you feel comfortable. From original conceptual designs to the final punch list, a D/B project can take from as little as six months to well over a year so you should feel comfortable with the people you are dealing with. Look at the entire package that the D/B company brings to the table. Investigate their practices and policies for design, construction and customer service after the project is over. Get references.  You are working as a team with the D/B remodelor, so establish a good communication up front.  It will be vital to the project’s success and in reducing your stress level during the project.

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