Our Remodeling Projects all start with our Design service and are completed with our Build services: offering a Turn-Key Design/Build package for our customers. The level of detail, client centricity, and unique insights seen in our Design service are carried through to our Build services.
Why are the build services we provide so unique? Dan is one of the few contractors left who are holding the line on old-school high quality construction techniques in the face of today’s trend of inferior practices, which we firmly believe are a result of our Disposable Society Mentality which has become accepted as the norm.
Refrigerators that we used to expect to last 20 to 40 years, today barely seem to make it through the 5 years warranty period. The majority of tile installations I have seen that were done from the 1930’s and 40’s lasted 40 to 60 years without cracking or failure, while most tile installations I have seen in new homes built from 1990 to today are lucky if they last 10 years.
Today, Home Structures are Stronger and More Well-Built Than Ever
In our four decades in business, there have been significant improvements to the techniques and practices used in the construction industry that increase the structural integrity and energy efficiency of new homes (and alterations to existing homes) nationwide. Those advances have resulted in homes in which foundation and structural failures are far less likely to occur than with older homes, and hopefully, will be more likely to protect occupants through natural disasters.
However, the Same Can Not Be Said for the Products We Install in Them or Their Current Standard Installation Techniques. How Has This Downgrade Happened?
The progress made in the engineering and implementation of new knowledge in construction has not taken place with the surfaces and products, that we use every day inside and outside those same dwellings. The construction industry seems to have ignored and moved away from timeless centuries-old engineering knowledge in favor of inferior mass production techniques just to sell more products. Designed Obsolescence is the name of the game today.
Industry standards, building codes, and what is now considered common knowledge of installation techniques reflect this downgrade in quality workmanship. Large corporate financial interests in general play too big a role in influencing building codes. Specifically, the tile industry is run by large tile manufacturers that have drastically downgraded their production and installation standards in their zeal to sell more product. They argue that there are not enough trained and qualified installers around the country and that they need to come up with alternate means of installation that less skilled technicians or even homeowners themselves could follow. I feel their need, but the products they started pushing on us as their alternative methods back in 1980 were not just inferior. They ignored and defied the centuries-old engineering knowledge that tile and other earth based products, when applied to buildings made of wood or other materials that were prone to move or expand more than the tile, needed to have a slip sheathing barrier that stopped the energy of movement in the wood to the tile. If that energy is transferred to the tile, it will (and does) crack. There is a long list of products that prior to 1979 were not accepted building practice and were not accepted as part of the building codes due to this omission. (vinyl shower pans to replace hot mop pans & green-board, denshield or precast concrete panels to replace lath and mud tile installations on walls and floors have created the largest number of failed tile systems over the last 30 years, and there is a new breed of products many of which will be no longer lasting).
The industry tries to argue that products don’t last as long because they are more complicated today. I know better. The real reason, Designed Obsolescence, has taken hold. Manufacturers make more money if they can sell you a new product every 5-10 years than every 20-40 years.
Our society seems to have embraced this trend, accepting and expecting mediocrity and seeing it as the norm. Our current generation’s parents and grandparents made buying decisions based on Quality – How Long Will It Last! That is what we base our business on: our installations last.
We refuse to participate in this downgrade in quality! We will continue to hold the line against this trend, and hope to play a role in turning the tide by educating the public and working to return building codes to safety standards based on science, not unproven opinions, and assure they are free of political manipulation of any kind.
If you value quality first and foremost, we could be a very good match for you and your project.
If you are just looking for another bid to compare to, please understand we are not a good match for you.
Kitchen and Bath Remodeling Pricing
Estimated Project Costs
The most common question all homeowners considering remodeling have is: How Much will it Cost?
I highly recommend reviewing Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs Value Report for San Diego, CA, which provides average costs for various remodeling projects AND the percentage of the remodeling project costs recouped if selling the property after the project is complete. This report is very accurate and is updated yearly. It gives the range of what specific projects will cost in many regions around the country. It has been published for decades, and is particularly informative when you look at the changes that have occurred each year.
Specifically, prior to 2008, the reports showed that major kitchen remodels, major bath remodels, and bath additions were extremely profitable additions and homeowners could actually make considerable profit in those remodels before selling.
Unfortunately, that ended in 2008 and a return to that profitability is not in sight until there is a significant change in the current loan appraisal process. The culprit is not that those additions do not add the same demand from potential buyers. It is that banks refuse to add that value to the loan when the home is sold as was done prior to 2008. The new property value for the loan after sale is based solely on comparable properties within a much more limited vicinity of the home sold.
Is Your Home Worth Remodeling?
Because of this current market condition, I routinely tell clients contemplating major remodels that they must be very careful not to spend more money on the remodel than a current appraisal would cover the cost of when sold. In most tract neighborhoods, a major remodel could easily be an over-improvement of the home. The keys are always:
- How long do you plan to live there? If 5 years or less, don’t overspend on a remodel. If 15 years or more, don’t worry about it, you will get the use out of the property and market conditions change. Enjoy it while you have it!
- Is your home currently at or above the average value for your neighborhood? If so, under the current appraisal system, you will not likely get an immediate return on major work.
- Is your home currently undervalued for your neighborhood? You may be able to make a good investment in your home remodel. See a good realtor and ask them what the more expensive homes in your neighborhood cost and what improvements will bring your home in line with the those more expensive homes to find out how much and where you can intelligently invest.
- In this economy, it is a good idea to first see what it costs to buy another home that has the features you need, before deciding to remodel the one you have to meet those needs.
Fixed Price Contract vs. Cost-Plus
Our pricing and costs of remodels is very closely in line with the Remodeling Magazine Report link above. Beware of any contractor who says they can do your project for less money that this report states. There are no magic bullets — there are, however, a lot of trades people who want your business and will say almost anything to get it. The most common misconceptions they spread and prey on:
- You can save money by not getting building permits. The building permit process costs are minimal. Most companies who encourage you not to get permits or say you do not need permits for kitchen or bath remodels are not telling the truth and/or are not licensed contractors.
- You sign a contract for a fixed price and you will not need to pay any more than that. The overwhelming majority of contracts used in San Diego for remodeling are not Fixed Bids. They are actually what are called Cost-Plus Contracts.
In a Cost-Plus contract, there is a fixed price you sign for, but it does not includes many items needed, but not specified, and also often rely on allowances with no caps or explanation of what is included in the allowance. Why? Because in the companies’ zeal to lock you into a contract and get you off the market, they do not want to spend a lot of time going over all the details and specifications needed to sign a Fixed Bid Contract. They are also afraid that if you find out how much it is actually going to cost, you will choose not to do the work. Sounds crazy, but it is real. It is the primary reason why the most common, after the fact, complaint against contractors is the project cost way over budget. Cost-Plus Contracts trap customers into projects that routinely run over budget.
In our opinion, Cost-Plus offers no reason for a contractor to get a project done within budget. To the contrary, it is to the contractors benefit for the contract to come in over budget and with as many change orders as possible. Cost-Plus is like handing a contractor your check book. Our appreciate that our clients have confidence in us, but we do not want that kind of responsibility.
We have a moral objection to cost plus contracts, and only do business with Fixed Bid Contract for remodeling projects. Because of this, and the incredible amount of time it takes for both us and the client to prepare an accurate Fixed Bid, we rarely give bids on projects we have not also designed. We readily give clients verbal ranges of what the job may cost, but that range cannot be pared down into a specific bid price until the client makes many of the key decisions that influence the final project price.
Our contracts and specs are very clear. We accept the risk and responsibility to get the project done well and make a profit. Work to be performed is detailed, itemized, and priced based on our estimates of the cost of materials and our labor. We include our margins for profit and overhead in all itemizations, so the only extra costs clients will ever see are those arising from asking us to do additional work beyond the scope of our original contract.
This real life example will hopefully give you a lot of clarity:
He gave me a set of plans he had paid an architect to create for the large addition on his home, and asked me to give him a bid for the project. After looking closely at the plans (for which a permit had already been issued), I found numerous major expenses that would be required but were not specified in the plans. These types of omissions are the norm — it is extremely uncommon for me ever to receive architects’ or other professionals’ plans from a client that are complete enough to give a fixed bid.
I priced the project with all the additions needed and not just what the plans called for, as most contractors do. My estimate was $750,000, and I gave my friend a list of all the stuff needed, but not specified in the plans, about $250,000 of work. The unspecified work including a major retaining wall (over $100k alone) and larger footings both required because the plans did not specify the addition was too close to the existing hillside (no contour plans were included in the permit plans). And I included a realistic budget for all the finish materials to complete the project, that were not and rarely are specified in the plans.
My friend got one other price from a good contractor at only $490,000. We sat down and had a discussion about the price difference. I asked him if the other contractor had mentioned the need to get the retaining walls or increased footings and included them in the estimate, or if he had finish materials specified that were similar to what I added to my estimate. My friend said no, they were not brought up by the other contactor. More than that, he was afraid to ask him about those items. I asked why not discuss those items beforehand to avoid unpleasant surprises.
He answered that he had worked with this contractor before on work done at his church. In that interaction, there were issues that came up where items that he and the church thought were included in the bid were not. He said this contractor was very accommodating and seemed to give them some items at no additional cost and did not charge a lot for other items. I asked, “so you think you can work him over on these items to keep the costs lower and give you things at or below cost?” He said yes. My friend noted this contractor did not have my expertise in design, cabinetry, and lighting, so he wanted me to revise the plans for the kitchen, baths, and lighting plans and supply the cabinets. He would have the other contractor remove those items from his bid and have me interface with this other contractor for the parts I was designing or supplying. I was happy to help and very interested to see where it all would lead. I was also hopeful, but not optimistic, about my friend saving any money.
This other contractor was very good and a pleasure to work with, and the project turned out great. When we were all done, I sat with my friend in his new kitchen and asked, “How Much Money did you save?” He said, “I have not added it all up yet, but I am pretty sure I would have saved money, and definitely a lot of my time and worry, by just having you do the project.”
I can not say this would be true for your project, but I hope it gives you insight into the process and why it is my opinion that rather than shopping for price it is most important to shop for a contractor you would trust enough to go into business with as a partner. For the two or more months you will be working on your project, he is your business partner in getting it done to the level of quality and within the budget you have set.
All the online or print advisers who state the importance of getting at least three bids never talk about or even understand how easy it is to give minimal but legally accurate bids that lead to huge overruns in cost before the project can be completed, and how often that happens.