The BIG Question

So, just what is a remodeler?
Remodelers take your dreams and aspirations and transfer them into reality. We change an intangible concept into a substantive result, thus creating real spaces for real people.

Please understand that we do this without the luxury and benefits of prototypes or the ideal environment of a factory. We must bring our manpower, equipment, and extremely diversified materials to your home. In addition, we depend on as many as a dozen or more different subcontractors, plus many material suppliers. Acting as the facilitator of the entire process is an enormous and complex task.

Furthermore, as you see the project taking shape, you will initiate changes to bring it more in line with what you want. Changes are to be expected and are controlled with change orders. Each of us, including you as the client, act as part of a production team and share the responsibility for making timely decisions to ensure that the projectstays on schedule.

We cannot emphasize enough the importance of working together with all parties to make sure your desires are realized. Frequent communication, by telephone, e-mail, documentation and in person meetings are the heart of this project.

The following pages will describe “The Process” in more detail. By following these accepted industry practices, we can eliminate disappointments and make this a pleasant and educational experience for you.


Getting Started

The Feasibility Study

This first step allows us to determine the feasibility of remodeling your home, what the potential design could look like & what the associated costs would be.

Initial Interview
Our first meeting is a mutual interview – we want to make sure that we’re right for you and that your project is right for us. We’re both looking for a comfortable fit. We will consider the following, discussed in greater detail below:

What do you have in mind?
First, give us an overview of what you want to accomplish and why. In doing that, you’ll also let us know what you don’t like about the existing space(s). We will talk a little about your lifestyle and how we can make your home better. We’ll generally discuss what materials or products you’d like to use to change colors and designs and improve spaces. Tell us your “ideal” scenario – your desired finished look.

Let’s talk about your budget
Budgets are the foundation from which we proceed; and therefore, nothing can continue until a budget is established. To get the dialogue started, we’ll toss out a verbal ballpark price at the first meeting based on similar projects. Understand that the purpose of the Feasibility Study is to give you an accurate estimate based on the design we choose and your specific situation.

By talking about budgets up front, we ensure that the project scope is within the realm of your desired budget. Time is saved for both of us. When you look at a new car or home, the price category of what you’re looking at lets the salesperson know your financial commitment. We don’t have that information unless we talk about it first.

Follow-Up Meetings
Second Meeting1.  We obtain a fee for the Feasibility Study.
2.  We take exact measurements of the area(s) to be renovated – this may include the entire home and we transfer these into a new CAD-generated floor plan. We create one set of existing and plans and others including the changes.

Third Meeting
1.  We review the possible designs and discuss the pros and cons of each plan.
2.  We will discuss product and materials selections and potential cost ramifications.

Designing, the Fun Part
This part is trial and error, like trying on new dresses or suits. We try to consider many things here—relationships of spaces to each other, form and function. We think in terms of traffic patterns, sound transmission and lighting effects (natural and artificial). We visually walk through each area that’s affected. We look for at least one area, if not the entire project, to offer a dramatic effect, while still being functional.

Actually, the designing part should be fun for you. For us it means back to the computer and the CAD program, but it’s worth it. We like to see the smiling faces of our clients. Let’s consider all the options. Later we can change them or eliminate those deemed not viable. This is an exploratory time.

Fourth Meeting
1.  Between the third and fourth meeting a computer generated estimate, using allowances, will be completed for your specific project.
2.  At this meeting we will review the specifications for your project and the established budget. This budget will have a 10% to 15% margin of error.
3.  We will decide to move forward into design development by collecting a “commitment” payment moving us into Design Development that will be applied to your final contract or part friends.


Next Steps

Design Development

This step allows us to create a definitive comprehensive document stating the final costs, material selections with brand names, and all particulars of the project as agreed upon. It also includes a complete set of CAD drawings and plans.

Preparation for this includes evaluation of existing construction and current building codes. If a room addition is involved, site planning is needed as well. We also will host a site visit at your home with all specialty trade sub contractors and our production team.

Design Development can be compared to a “brief” in the legal profession, which is defined as “a document containing all facts and points of law pertinent to a specific case.” Preparing this document takes a tremendous amount of a professional’s time.

Creating these documents takes anywhere from several weeks to several months, when taking into consideration designs, meetings with specialty contractors and material suppliers, and estimating, plus the time mandated by permitting requirements.

The “estimating” process involves many hours of line-item costing for every single operation of each phase to reach the final cost. It is also based on each sub contractors fixed bids as well as fixed bids from the suppliers.

These documents eliminate nearly all surprises and ambiguity once in construction, ensures an agreed upon contract that is realistic and viable, and discusses everything – on paper.

The fee for design development is usually about 5% of the budget established in the Feasibility Study. Upon acceptance of the final contract, we credit this fee against the contract total.

Team Meetings

The first meeting in this phase is a site visit to your home with our production team and any specialty sub-contractors. It typically is an early morning meeting and takes a few hours. It’s a good chance for you to meet the people who will be working in and on your home.

The role of subcontractors
Subcontractors are those contractors who provide their own specialty services to your project. Over the years we have built relationships with our sub-contractors. We know that they will give us the service we desire and the quality of service you desire with a reasonable price tag. We invite them to your project early on so that they can evaluate the existing conditions, review the proposed plans and point out any challenges related to their trade. They are a critical part to our “production team.”

Subsequent Meetings

Finally, the schedule

When will we start and more importantly, when will we be finished? At ART Design Build we work on a “Project Manager” system. This means that your Project Manager is also the carpenter, is also the coordinator of sub-contractors and is also ordering products. We have found that when talented people are given a chance to create a project they have full responsibility for, they soar. This does not mean that they do not have support. Everyone that has been involved from the beginning is still involved, however, the baton is now passed to the Project Manager to run his or her leg.

Since each Project Manager is responsible for only one project at a time, scheduling can be difficult. Unexpected things arise on each project. We will be able to give you an approximate start and completion date. Be assured however, that once the Project Manager arrives on your project, he or she is there 5 days a week until the project is complete.

Also, in an effort to maintain open lines of communication throughout construction we arrange a Pre-Construction Conference at your home about a week prior to our start.

Pre-Construction Conference

Communication is imperative. This can be a fun venture, but only if we are all realistic about the entire process, its highs and lows, understanding the entire process in advance.

Again, please keep in mind that changes and delays are not unusual but typical when building a prototype, which every remodeling project is, and especially when involving so many companies and people other than our own staff.

We hope that we have explained The Process to your satisfaction. Please be neither apprehensive nor anxious about it. We will guide you step by step through the entire journey.

The purpose of this “synopsis” is to provide you with the basics of standard practices in the remodeling industry, as well as our own preferences, to ensure a smooth flow of the work to be done.

As kids we were taught to be nice, fair, and honest. Some things shouldn’t change as we become adults.


Other Articles

Charging for Estimates

A significant number of builders have withdrawn the traditional customer bait

Ask your colleagues and competitors whether they charge for estimates and you’re likely to get an earful in return. It isn’t a particularly divisive issue; for the most part, those who don’t charge say they wish they could. But the reasons for and against are as ingrained as personality and preference. The building and remodeling industry has, for reasons lost in time, created its own tradition of free estimates. Every builder soon discovers that a whole lot of time goes straight down the tubes on estimates that never pan out into contracts.

Regardless, there remain those who accommodate and those who don’t. A recent question posted to JLC’s online forum (www.jlcupdate.com) generated a slew (sixty-four, to be precise) of responses to the two-part question “Do you charge for estimates under any circumstances? Will you do a preliminary design for free?” Fifty-three percent of respondents replied with a frequently qualified no, as in “I rarely charge for a basic estimate,” or “At one time, I tried to charge, but soon found out that most people won’t ask you to give them a bid – now I give free proposals ….” Of this slight majority, a few charge for insurance estimates, assuming that they’re merely fulfilling a “get three bids” requirement with little chance of actually doing the job.

Everyone knows why they don’t charge. We decided to follow up with some of the builders who offered solid and successful reasons for bucking that tradition. Although the design side of the question can be inseparable from the pricing process, we’ve kept our primary focus on the issue of free estimates.


Copyright © 2011. ART Design Build. Web Design by Rocket and Walker.
ART Design Build is your Bethesda-based builder and remodeler since 1994. We specialize in kitchen and home remodeling in Washington DC.