Interview with Wendi Carson

Wendi Carson is Daniel Builders' design specialist. She came to Daniel Builders with a strong entrepreneurial background, and a marketing degree from the University of South Carolina. Wendi is a Greenville, SC native since age 12, but she traces her passion for design back to age 7. It was then she began recreating and regularly rearranging her bedroom. As a teen she was inspired by renovation magazines, long before HGTV existed. At one point she managed her own renovation business. After meeting the owners of Daniel Builders, Wendi says she instantly knew she wanted to be part of the team. Not long after that meeting she was hired.  Wendi not only works as a design specialist, but also plays a key marketing role in Greenville for Daniel Builders.

She recently sat down to discuss her role in the Design-Build process at Daniel Builders. Here’s a few highlights from the conversation.

Was there ever a point in your career where you felt design wasn’t the right fit for you? No. Never. It’s always felt like a natural fit for me. Helping people improve their structures is how I feed my soul.

How do you stay current on design trends?  There's a lot of resources to utilize. Everything from TV shows, to the internet, to publications, to networking with other designers, to group affiliations.

What is your process with a new client? The process starts with asking what is important to them. I focus our efforts on functionality first. Then we get into colors, styles, textures and “feel” they like. This also means trying to establish what they don’t like.

What role does their budget play? Budget is everything. In fact, it really is impossible to design a project without basing it first on a client's budget. 

How can you help a client who feels “stuck” or torn between different design features or selections? Usually, I ask them a series of questions. Sometimes people ask for my opinion. Usually people can start to envision what they want.

What advantage do you see working as part of a team of dedicated carpenters and project managers? Several advantages. We make up a Design-Build team. I’m the customer’s point of contact so I can ensure everything is thoroughly communicated so (the customer) doesn’t need to speak with several different people. It’s an efficient process for transforming their expectations into reality. A lot of time is saved. I don’t have to wait on another company, and the customer doesn’t have to wait on a another design team. All the key people are working together. It’s a very efficient process of minimizing miscommunication and making change orders with ease. Plus, a client doesn't need to fully invest in a project until they are comfortable with their design and selections. Doing all these steps upfront makes the process so much simpler. And the client is never left guessing "What happens next?"

What feedback are you receiving from Daniel Builder clients? Design-Build is a fairly new concept to the general public. Once we can describe the benefits they express relief, as well as excitement. Since all the selections happen up front, customers appreciate how easy scheduling becomes. They also express appreciation when two different opinions, such as a husband & wife, find that happy medium.

Which area of the house requires the most design services? Easy. Kitchens and baths.  Those areas are far more complex than people realize. A lot of finishes and fixtures go into those rooms.

What advice would you give a homeowner who is considering a large scale renovation without design services? That can easily turn into a very frustrating experience, if not a full blown disaster. Many homeowners have a knack for design, but a proven design-build team reduces costly and unpleasant surprises.          

How can Daniel Builders assist you with your design ideas? Contact us at 864.506.5546 to start the renovation conversation with our Design-Build team.   



How Design-Build Compares to Traditional Construction


Excerpt from FROM ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE; Read complete article here

The Problem is Ever Increasing Complexity

By definition, design-build is a project delivery method in which one entity takes single-source responsibility for both design and construction. And to many owners, particularly those undertaking the biggest and most complex projects, it’s a godsend.

Today’s buildings have more demands placed on them than ever before, meaning today’s projects are more complex than at any time in human history. With increasing specialization in everything from smart building technologies and HVAC setups to energy-efficiency and more, no design professional is an expert in every building element.

It takes a robust, multi-disciplined team to get a project right. And therein lies the problem with general contracting.

In the traditional general contracting method, owners first hire an architect, who designs the facility, then bid out construction work to contractors, often selecting the low bidder. As a result, there’s a lack of specialized construction expertise on the design team, leading to incomplete, unclear or impractical design specifications.

These design challenges inherently cause expensive, time-consuming changes late in the project, conflicts between architect and contractor and, ultimately, increased owner risk.

Building innovation into projects from the start

By contrast, design-build brings expert construction and trade professionals — who will ultimately be tasked with executing the designs — into the process from the start.

These professionals aid the design team by evaluating designs for cost, schedule, constructability and sustainability at the onset of a project. Specifications can be value engineered from the start. Cost overruns can be eliminated. And schedule can be streamlined.

The process paves the way for all project parties, owner included, to work creatively as problem solvers. Innovation is now part of the project, and instead of being encumbered by complexity, owners can take advantage of emerging best practices and technologies.

Operating as a cohesive unit from start to finish, the team — again, owner included — identifies better building methods, smarter technologies and best-value solutions.

Reducing uncertainty and risk

Design-build aligns all project parties on one team, eliminating disputes between architect and contractor for the owner to settle. With all project parties working together, the design is more robust and complete, requiring far fewer late-game changes on the job site.

And the numbers bear this out. When compared with general contracting, design-build sees 11.4 percent less schedule growth and 5.2 percent less costgrowth during construction. That means less uncertainty, fewer change orders and significantly reduced owner risk.

Jody Luke Business Development Director, The Korte Company. The Korte Company, founded in 1958, is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri with offices in Highland, Illinois; Norman, Oklahoma; and, Las Vegas, Nevada. The company manages more than $200 million in annual construction volume.



7 Questions for Your Contractor

Hiring a renovation contractor is a major investment. As with any investment, you must determine cost (not to be confused with price; more on that difference here), and value. This info can be acquired by asking your contractor the right questions. Here are 7 questions for evaluating a renovation contractor.

1. Are reviews and references available?

Avoid making mistakes others have already made. Instead, listen to their feedback. This feedback is available in the form of reviews and references. Reviews can often be found by doing a simple online search. Houzz, Guild Quality and Angie’s List are places to look. Before getting too serious with a contractor (especially when a large project is at stake), request references. A reference typically has favorable feedback, but will also speak specifically to what matters most to you (ie. your interest in quality, communication, timeliness, safety, etc).

Bottom line: Word of mouth feedback can take the form of reviews and references, and is still a great method for assessing a contractor. 

2. Do you provide a detailed scope, appropriate renderings/drawings, guaranteed cost and clear payment schedule?

Red flags should fly up if any of these are missing. Detailed scopes and renderings provide a clear idea of what to expect. As opposed to being unpleasantly surprised by getting less than you expected. Don’t just “hope” you and your contractor share the same expectations. Get clear documentation and renderings before construction moves forward.

Bottom line: Clear, documented expectations ensure you and your contractor are on the “same page”.

3. How long is your craftsmanship warrantied?

Move quickly away from the contractor who offers no warranty. A contractor unwilling to warranty his work likely has little confidence in the quality of his craftsmanship. Or, he sees little value in customer service. Neither scenario is good.    

Bottom line: The best contractors stand behind their work for years to come and beyond.

4. Will you provide a copy of your insurance and contractor’s license?

Many “would be” contractors attempt to skip this requirement, and consequences can be devastating. Some of the potential problems include investigations, fraud, and liability disputes. Instead, protect your investment (ie. value) by hiring someone who is operating legally.  Plus, you can be assured any person trying to circumvent the law is likely to take advantage of you as well.

Bottom line: Don’t entrust your home to a contractor breaking the law.     

5. What is your process for handling change orders?

Changing your mind or encountering unforeseen problems during a renovation can be costly, but it happens. Knowing the change order process upfront can really protect your budget. (No renovation is worth bankruptcy.) A contractor who says, “Let’s worry about change orders when they happen,” is really saying, “I don’t have a process.”

Bottom line:  A clear change order process prevents the homeowner from feeling trapped when unforeseen expenses escalate.     

6.  How frequently will a dedicated project manager communicate with me throughout the project?

“I can’t get my contractor to call me back,” is a far-too-frequent complaint among homeowners working with contractors. This is a great topic to discuss as you speak with references. Before starting a project make sure you 1) meet the project manager assigned to you and 2) receive an overview of the communication process. Otherwise, your renovation might cost you significant confusion, frustration and lost time. 

Bottom line: Know the plan for communication before construction begins.   

7. How do you resolve disagreements? 

Granted this is a bold question to ask and may cause a slight bit of awkwardness. However, that’s a small price compared to a project gridlocked by a disagreement. A serious disagreement can still happen despite every effort on the front end. The good news is disagreements don’t need to be terrible experiences. A clear method for resolving disagreements will ultimately strengthen the credibility of a contractor.

Bottom line: Disagreements can be costly if not handled in a professional, ethical and timely manner.

Renovation Roller Coaster

Have you ever strapped yourself on a roller coaster and within moments asked yourself “Why?!!”

Why does anyone willingly subject themselves to sheer terror? The appeal is somewhat a mystery. Here’s the point though: Roller Coasters are meant to be terrifying. Expecting less is unwise.

Meet Takabisha , the world's steepest roller coaster. Located in Japan, this machine moves from 0-60 in less than 2 seconds going down at 121° grade for 141 feet. Translation: Terrifying!  

Imagine boarding Takabisha convinced this was a calm, gentle ride. You tell yourself Takabisha is like a horse-drawn carriage moving through a serene countryside at a predictable pace. You feel confident a courteous tour guide is included. Someone to periodically explain the landscape around you.

Those expectations would be obliterated in the screaming chaos of Takabisha!

Major renovations and roller coasters share some common characteristics. Excitement can quickly turn to terror if you’re uncertain how the ride goes, and especially how it ends.

The key to enjoying a major renovation is knowing what to expect. A good contractor sets clear expectations before starting, and communicates regularly throughout the process. The customer never feels “jerked around” regarding the project’s timeline or outcome.   

Here’s an overview of common emotional ups and downs during a renovation.

1. The design phase (UP) – At least it’s where a renovation should start. Skipping this first step could be disastrous. Creating a well-thought-out design ensures everyone is on the same page.  The outcome is clearly defined. Otherwise you’re on a roller coaster launching out into the unknown.

Plus there’s low stress and high delight visualizing and designing possibilities. 

2. Workable Drawings (DOWN slightly, but quickly back UP) – As you go through this phase you may experience a few frustrations as details are analyzed and discussed. Once everything is clarified you’re back on a high note, and should be feeling very confident about proceeding to the next phase. 

3. Bidding the Project & Agreeing to a Contract (DOWN)  - The process takes a big drop here if your contractor wasn’t involved in the design phase. The bidding/pricing get’s dicey, and you quickly realize general contractors come in all different varieties. Some will offer great pricing, but you wonder about the quality. Others offer extreme quality, but you wonder about the affordability.

Skipping this stage all together is preferable. Taking a Design-Build approach makes it possible. A Design-Build renovation has the contractor involved from the start.

4. Construction Begins (UP)– High levels of excitement characterize this phase. Visible progress is happening. Seeing this progress typically makes the customer very happy! The speed of Demolition and Rough Framing makes the customer feel they’re on HGTV. That fantasy doesn’t last long though.

5. Rough – Ins (Down dramatically) - Plumbing, heating, electrical and insulation trades all get involved at this stage and production slows way down. Frustrations begin to surface as the customer starts to feel their home has been “under construction” way too long. These frustrations are minimized by a good project manager who keeps the trades moving efficiently and the customer clearly informed.

6. Hanging/Sanding Drywall (Down further) – This might very well be rock bottom on the renovation roller coaster. (Call it “sheet rock bottom”.)  The customer still hasn’t seen the beautiful progress they expected, and their patience is usually wearing thin about now. Might feel like the ride has stalled, but rest assured progress is happening.

7. Trim & Cabinet to Painting (Up) – Finally traces of true craftsmanship are seen. The customer is able to visualize the end product. Emotions improve dramatically through this stage.

8. Punch List complete (Up higher) – Emotions continue to rise as the end is only a few simple steps away.

9. Move In (Up higher still and coasting to a gentle stop) – Relief and celebration occur. After seeing the finished product the customer quickly forgets all frustration. Now the outlook is bright and cheerful. Only one thing left to do. Enjoy the newly renovated space for years to come!

The takeaway: If you plan to ride the renovation roller coaster, ride responsibly. Choose a contractor able to ensure the level of quality, service, and calm you expect. Choose someone who will provide a clear path to completion, while minimizing stress and frustration along the way.

Ballpark Cost

You know what’s fun? Brainstorming renovation ideas. It’s a blast. Both customer and contractor enjoy this dreaming phase, visualizing what “could be”. These pleasant conversations eventually lead to a big elephant in the room. COST.

Discussing cost is not only necessary, it should happen early in the quoting process. Delaying a cost conversation makes "sticker shock" more likely, which neither contractor nor customer enjoy.         

 A ballpark cost is a good place to start.

So what are reasonable ballpark costs for common renovations? Here’s a short list compiled by Remodeling Magazine.  *Important* These are AVERAGE COSTS for an area of the country known as the South Atlantic region.


Each project in the list below links to a detailed project description and diagram. Once budget and ballpark cost align, creating an accurate quote is the next step. Utilizing Design-Build ensures quoting accuracy and scope clarity. 

Average Midrange Pricing

Basement Remodel - $65,552

Bath Addition - $39,916

Bath Room Remodel - $17,020

Deck Addition (composite) - $16,383

Deck Addition (wood) - $9,729

Family Room Addition - $82,726

Major Kitchen Remodel - $58,865

Minor Kitchen Remodel - $19,693

Two-Story Addition - $168,587

Universal Design Bathroom - $14,217

Average Upscale Pricing

Bath Room Addition - $77,171

Bath Room Remodel - $57,000

Deck Addition (composite) - $37,284

Major Kitchen Remodel - $118,641

Master Suite Addition - $240,629




Why Design Build?

What makes a major renovation stressful?

Well, for starters, a lot of money (not to mention your home) is at stake. Then you have an endless list of “what ifs?”  Like, what if my contractor and I aren't on the same page?  Or, what if we have unknown expenses? What if the finished project doesn't come close to what we expected?

It's not hard to see how quickly stress can build.

Renovation stress needs to be addressed well before a project begins. Failure to get clarity may result is some serious misery. Daniel Builders addresses renovation stress with a Design-Build approach. Design-Build is a process that allows our customers to  “kick the tires” (so to speak) before committing to a major renovation. Here’s how it works. We start the process by listening. We carefully listen to you describe your project in your own words. This usually happens in a meeting at your home. After you articulate your renovation ideas and a general budget, we craft a Design/Build agreement. The agreement guarantees 3 important deliverables - a detailed scope, plans (and possibly renderings) and a price.

So how does Design-Build minimize renovation stress?

Here are 5 stress-reducing reasons to choose Design-Build for your next major renovation.
Clarifies Expectations
In renovation work the phrase “I didn’t expect…..” is usually followed by something negative. Like, I didn’t expect my project to take so long. Or, I didn’t expect my contractor to use such cheap materials. And the sword is double edged. Contractors can easily feel the same way when customers aren't communicating. Successful renovations require both parties share the same expectations. A Design/Build approach clarifies the design, scope, cost, material selections and timeline so those “I didn’t expect…” conversations don’t happen.
Saves Time and Money
Without a detailed scope, design, and quote you're basing your renovation on a lot of assumptions. Assuming anything in a renovation is risky, and often leads to re-work (ie. doing it over), which is time-consuming and costly. Who ultimately pays for re-work? The contractor? The customer? Both to some degree. Design-Build allows you to avoid this troublesome scenario altogether by clarifying scope, design, and quote before construction begins.  
Design-Build also allows the contractor to provide input early in the design process. Having a contractor participate in the design phase ensures the project is feasible. This approach puts contractor and architect on the “same page” from the start.  

Simplifies the Process
As the diagram indicates, a Design-Build approach creates fewer steps in the renovation process. Translation: it’s efficient. The customer isn’t required to evaluate and coordinate among architects, engineers (if necessary), and contractors bidding on the project. Instead, every step of the project is predetermined to eliminate unnecessary steps.  

Provides an Exact Price
Ever experience sticker shock?  Sticker shock occurs when you're billed much more than you expected. Not fun. Better to know the price before it’s too late. This is exactly why “estimates” are so dangerous. They typically change, and often in an upward direction. A quote based on a Design-Build approach doesn’t change. All factors contributing to cost (such as time, materials, and labor) are carefully calculated based on your budget. Only one person can change your price - you.   
Creates Peace of Mind
Uncertainty leads to stress. Design/Build removes uncertainty and clarifies the outcome. As mentioned earlier, its the closest thing to “kicking the tires” the renovation world has to offer. Knowing the outcome allows you to relax and turn your attention to more important matters. Like how much you, your family and friends will enjoy your newly renovated home!