At What Point do I Need to Select a Contractor?
In residential new construction, asap. A good contractor will have up-to-date pricing on labor and materials that will either affirm your budget or help reshape your vision in order to fit your budget. Assuming you already have construction drawings, or even a preliminary design, you need to know if your budget is reasonable. You don't want to have your project 75% completed and realize you are going to be 25% over budget. Unless documented change orders are made during the project, your contractor should keep your budget in check as per your construction agreement. Commitment to this agreement should start before a single shovelful of dirt is moved.
Do I Need a Contractor?
Normally, when the project is a full custom, single family residence new construction, this is a no-brainer. Quality, cost, and speed of construction are the 3 parameters we strive for as contractors but realistically know it's only possible to achieve 2 of these at any given time. This reality check has been learned through education (both paid and unpaid), licensing, and the most effective tool available: experience. There are, however, exceptions to every rule. For those contemplating this journey on their own, I would advise you to take at least 1 year minimum away from your current employment in order to "git-er-done". Short of this, to assume it's reasonable to build, what, for most people equates to their largest single investment, in your spare time, is difficult to comprehend.
How do I Choose a Contractor?
Longevity in Business. Has the contractor always had the same business name and contact information? Businesses relocate on occasion but that not what we're talking about. We have all been through tough times, but how we handle our business during those times reflects true integrity. This is by no means meant as a slight to those who have had to "change gears" due to circumstances beyond their control. However, whatever the reason may have been, chances are there were suppliers, trades, and quite frankly customers that were also effected. The important question to ask is were all these parties still treated as agreed or did they become casualties of a failed business entity?
References, references, and references. In reality, this should be what ultimately makes your decision to hire a contractor. Make sure references are in chronological order from the last project completed to a minimum of 5 years prior. Do not allow cherry picking. Make phone calls. It's not difficult to determine a contractor who truly believes in customer satisfaction versus a contractor who is only selling it.
Subcontractor labor. As few custom homebuilders carry all labor trades in-house, subcontractor labor is a necessity. Does the contractor use the same pool of subcontractors or does it change? Once again, due diligence on your part is necessary. Constantly changing subcontractors are commonplace in commercial construction where lowest price and completion timeframe are the priority with quality taking a backseat. Enough said.
How Much does it Cost to Build?
How much does a vehicle cost? Difficult to answer accurately without more information. Expectations, budget, and realistic visions of both will help create a range of costs that hopefully your purchase falls within. Comparatively, when asked the perennial question of "Can you build a custom home for $X.00 / per square foot?" the answer is.........."Possibly". Every home should "keep the rain off your head" but let's get real. There are many choices to be made in custom residential construction that will in fact have a major effect on your bottom line. In our business, diligence without exception gives the best opportunity for success. Without spending a reasonable amount of time discussing your objectives, and hopefully reviewing a set of construction drawings, your price of $X.00 / per square foot may, in reality, represent someone else's "version" of your dream home.
What are the Advantages of using a Design/Build Firm?
The obvious advantage is one stop shopping. Information between client, designer, and builder is assimilated more efficiently than if using separate entities. Questions are answered quicker, oversights are less common. Efficiency is key. This is not to say using separate entities can't be utilized effectively. To the contrary, many of the projects we have successfully completed have been with our services provided soley as the builder. However, in addition to saving time, money is also typically saved as a design firm build will offer discounts if more than one of their services being offered is utilized.
What does "Green Building" Mean?
The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) defines green building as a broad term that refers to building design and construction practices that encourage people to be more responsible with energy, natural resources and the environment. According to the USGBC and its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, green buildings reduce the negative impacts of buildings on occupants and the environment in five general categories: sustainable site planning, safeguarding water and water efficiency, energy efficiency and renewable energy, conservation of materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.
What does "Value Engineering" Mean?
"Value engineering" is term defined as "a systematic and organized approach to provide a necessary function in a project at the lowest cost". In residential construction, however, this term can sometimes be disguised as simply a means to lower costs for whatever the reason may be. What the consumer needs to be aware of, when faced with this term, is are you actually getting "value engineering" or simply a lesser product. Using a laminate surface versus slab granite for a countertop is not value engineering (although many unfortunately would argue this point). The reality is, while they both can function as a countertop, there are obvious distinctions that would indicate slab granite to be a superior product. True value engineering would offer a product similar in performance to slab granite but at a lesser cost. So as you can see, "value engineering" is easier said than done. You may ask, "Is this even possible?" Yes, in certain situations but it takes willingness to be challenged and a desire to put forth the necessary effort with the possibility of, even after all the research is completed, there may not be a "value engineering" solution for your application.
Can we still live in our house while it's being renovated?
It depends on the scope of the renovation. If your project allows for sleeping/living quarters, a full bathroom, and a quasi kitchen not part of the scope or that particular phase, then it's possible. Everyone's emotional stamina is different. Before committing to this, all scenarios should be visited to determine feasibility with a significant amount of focus placed on "what ifs". Keep in mind, at the beginning of a renovation, tasks move quickly. Towards the end of the project, when you get to the finish stages, tasks slow down considerably as quality can't be rushed.