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Frequently Asked Questions

What is design-build?

Design-build is a form of construction in which the design aspect and building aspect of a project are done under one roof, as opposed to hiring a separate designer and builder. The design-build model features one point of contact for the homeowner, streamlined communications, and an efficient work process. We go into more detail about how design-build is different from other models in this post

How much will it cost?

Ultimately, it’s up to you how much your project will cost: we can design and build for any budget. We’ll guide you through the process of discovering your own personal taste, understanding how the costs work, deciding what’s worth paying for and what’s not, and finding the greatest value for your money.  We use thorough planning, honest pricing, and transparent communications to help your costs feel as reliable and trustworthy as possible. This is such an important question that we’ve written a detailed article about it here: How Much Will It Cost?  

Why is your estimate different from other estimates?

Contractors offer bids in different ways, and it’s important to ask a lot of questions to figure out what’s included and what’s not. Some estimates offer higher-quality fixtures, appliances, and finishes; some offer higher levels of technical skill and professionalism; and some are just overcharging you. We go into more detail on what to look for and what kinds of questions to ask here: How to Choose the Right Contractor for You.

How does the payment process work?  

We’ll create a payment schedule to suit the size and timeframe of your project. There are usually 2-5 payments total, scheduled throughout the course of the project to keep things flowing efficiently and to reflect the work being done. Each payment is due at the beginning of a new phase of the project, and the last is due upon the project’s completion.

Is the design fee included in the total budget, or is it separate?

Whenever we talk about the total budget, we’re including the design fee. Design fees generally run somewhere between 5 and 10% of the total, depending on the kind of project and the level of detail required. That means that if your total budget is $100,000, the actual construction budget will be $90,000-$95,000. Projects that involve designing an entire house entail a lower design fee (more like 5%) because there are more spaces (like bedrooms) that don’t involve as many design details.  

Can I manage the construction part myself?

Sure—just be aware of what you’re getting into. If you want to serve as the general contractor, you’ll work directly with a designer and then do your own direct contracting with your own tradespersons to do the building. While you won’t need a contractor’s license, the same laws will still apply to you. You’ll need to obtain permits, have insurance, pay your subcontractors, deal with banks, keep good accounting records, and follow the health and safety laws.

This works best if you have:

  • Plenty of time and willingness to learn the laws
  • Some experience with construction or remodeling and know what to look for
  • Good relationships with high-quality tradespersons

Without these, your project will be filled with learning experiences: 

  • A project can take much longer than expected If a homeowner doesn’t understand the flow, process, lead times, and selections.
  • The sub-contractors who work on these projects sometimes end up feeling frustrated, either because of extra trips they may need to make or because of extra expenses due to delays.  
  • Costs usually end up being higher for everyone.

Learning experiences can be valuable! We’re always learning new things. It’s just a matter of being aware of what you’re getting into. 

Can I supply some of the materials myself? Can one of my relatives do some of the labor?

Generally, no. The client’s goal in these cases is usually to save money, but we’ve found that most people don’t find the savings they’re looking for in the end. Why?

  • Client-supplied materials often either cause delays or are of inferior quality, resulting in unforeseen costs. 
  • Though your cousin may be an excellent craftsman, we can only work with professional tradespersons who do consistently high-quality, efficient, and reliable work—all of which are crucial to a successful project.
  • The time and energy it takes to coordinate disparate systems, work flows, and materials ends up being costlier than expected.

We do make exceptions, but we want to help people understand that the integrity of the product and the process are vital to a successful project. We guard against any possibility that could make your remodeling experience dissatisfying. Over the years we’ve built trustworthy relationships with vendors who provide high-quality products and guarantees, along with tradespersons who do highly professional work, and we find that these end up being the most cost-efficient components for your home project.

Your experience of the remodeling process is important, and we want it to be enjoyable and affordable. No matter what, we’re always trying to help you find the best value for your money and make wise choices for your home, lifestyle, and budget.

We already have a building team that we want to work with.  Can you just do the design part?  

Sure. Some clients love our design work but want to do the building phase with another contractor. There can be various reasons for this:

  • They know a builder already and have a good relationship with them
  • Their home is outside of our work area
  • They want to do the building themselves

No problem. We take responsibility for the design end of things, and our knowledge of the building process makes our designs particularly detailed and trustworthy.

We already have a designer that we want to work with.  Can you just do the building part?

Yes. Many of our projects don’t involve much design work: we’re either re-doing projects that have been done by other contractors (see How to Choose the Right Contractor for You) or freshening up spaces that don’t need much designing. In other cases, a client may already have a designer or architect they want to work with and are just looking for a trustworthy building team. We put as much intention and care into our building projects as we do into all our projects, and many clients find that our eye for design enhances their project in surprising ways.  

Why do you need to know what our budget is?  

We’ve designed some amazing spaces for many different budgets, and we can do the same for your project. By starting with a realistic budget, we can tailor our ideas and designs to your needs instead of wasting everyone’s time with ideas that don’t suit you. Whether your budget is $50,000 or $500,000, our goal is to help you find the most value for your money and to create a space that serves and enhances your lifestyle. 

One of the advantages of design-build is that we have a good sense of the costs of building. In contrast, many designers and architects only have a general sense of building costs, and the actual numbers can end up being wildly outside of your budget. We’re engaged in the building process all day long, so we’re skilled at designing to suit your budget. If you’re not sure what a realistic budget is for your project, give us a call and we can offer some ideas.  


More questions? Give us a call or send us a note here. We’d be happy to help.

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