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Ferguson - West Seattle
Fixture Gallery - Greenwood
Best Plumbing - Wallingford
frequently asked questions
I’m just starting to plan my project. Who do I call first?
You can start with a call to us. We can talk about ballpark costs, general feasibility based on available public records, and process. We can also put you in touch with architects and designers who can help you with detailed feasibility and plans, and are likely to be a good fit for you and your project.
Can you tell me how much my project will cost?
The answer depends on how much information you have and if you already have developed plans and specifications. Generally, the more information you have, the more accurate our estimate will be. With fewer details, we can estimate a ballpark range of cost. This is still useful information because it helps you understand what projects like yours generally cost. Some projects are difficult to estimate on a ballpark basis, particularly when they are on steep slopes and don’t yet have engineering, are very unique or involve a list of otherwise unrelated items, or parts of different projects.
Can you give me a bid for my project?
Bid usually means a fixed price for a specific scope of work. We generally work on a Time and Materials basis, which means you are billed for the direct costs of the project with a markup and tax added to the total. This is also called Cost Plus, the plus being the markup that covers overhead and profit. A bid also includes overhead and profit, but that amount is usually not disclosed in the price. We do not engage in competitive bidding (where multiple contractors are asked to provide a fixed price) because of the large amount of staff time it requires. We prioritize having our staff take care of clients who have hired us for projects over working on projects for which we have not yet been hired. But with a preliminary set of plans and specifications, we can provide a Rough Order of Magnitude estimate by line item that will be helpful in planning and decision-making and should give you enough information about likely cost to select our company.
How do you put together your estimates?
When potential clients are interviewing contractors, they typically ask for an estimate of cost based on an incomplete set of plans. This estimate is usually Rough Order of Magnitude (meaning it includes unit and square foot costs and extrapolates from relevant subcontractor costs rather than relying on in-person visits from trade partners). We use recent data from other similar-sized projects along with square foot and unit costs to assemble the estimate for your project. It is accurate enough to be a useful budgeting tool and to help clients understand how contractors approach their projects, both with planning and process. Once selected for the project, and as decisions are made on materials, we price with all subcontractors and vendors to arrive at a contract price for the work.
We are on a tight deadline to finish this work. Can you remodel my bathroom/basement/kitchen before we move into our new house next month?
Remodeling requires deliberate and detailed advance planning, including design, material specification and ordering, and pricing for all aspects of the work. Additionally, many projects require permitting and structural engineering. Typically, the planning process for projects--even ones that may seem small, like baths--takes 3-6 months. During this time, engineering and permitting can also take place. It turns out that this extended timeline for planning often works out for contractors’ schedules as well. It’s not unusual for contractors to be booked out 3 months or far beyond, so the time required for the planning process allows you to interview contractors as you are planning, and select one so that you can reserve a space on their schedule that coincides with permit issuance. It is virtually impossible to thoroughly plan and price a project, interview contractors and receive back pricing from them, sign a contract and have all materials in hand in just a few weeks. Smaller projects like baths and kitchen usually take 5-6 weeks to complete, while larger projects like basements and additions are often more than 3 months in length.
I’m not really changing the layout of my kitchen/bath/laundry room. I just want to gut it and install new finishes. Do I really need a set of plans for that?
Intuitively, it may seem that a small space requires less design, but it’s actually the smaller spaces and those that are filled with cabinets, tile and fixtures of specific sizes (like baths, kitchens and laundries) that require the most detailed design. There are specific building codes around spacing and rules of thumb about best function, and hiring a design professional will ensure that your finished space will meet those codes and function optimally. The developed plans will also give your contractor clear instructions and specifications to work from while pricing and building your project, which means fewer decisions made during construction.
I’m concerned about budget. What is the best way to control costs?
Projects that grow in scope also grow in cost, so the primary way to control cost is to choose a scope of work and only add to it for “must do” items, like needed repairs uncovered during demolition. The other strategy is to select absolutely everything that will go into your project before you start. That allows your contractor to price everything instead of leaving “allowances” in the contract. Allowances are dollar place-holders for a particular item or task, and are invariably not the cost of the item you choose. By eliminating allowances and telling your contractor what you actually want, they can price the item, the cost of installation and the other connected costs. A great example is something like windows: All-fiberglass windows don’t have to be painted, but fiberglass windows with wood interiors do. If there is a $500 per window allowance for fiberglass windows, that doesn’t include the cost of painting. That allowance would also assume standard hardware and screens. Choosing the specifics of your windows and everything else will yield the most accurate cost at the start of the project, instead of revealing true cost in process.