Good Timing

Renovation-Timeline.jpg

How long should a major renovation take?

Renovations can be unpredictable. Each is unique and creating a realistic timeline is part science, part art. One thing is certain: Accurate renovation timelines are based on careful legwork, not guesswork.

From a customer’s perspective here’s how that legwork looks.

1.       Pay attention to small promises. Little things like arriving on time, receiving references when promised, and getting a follow-up call when scheduled all indicate how a contractor manages time, and ultimately how well he’ll manage your project. Speaking of references, check them. They, combined with online reviews help you evaluate a contractor’s promise keeping ability. Sometimes more in depth information is available in the form of customer surveys. A track record of fulfilling promises (both large and small) indicates an ability to keep a project running on time.            

2.       Seek “bad news” sooner than later. Large problems are avoided if they’re addressed early. For example, hearing about a delay a week before it happens creates a much smaller dilemma than finding out moments before it happens. What if out of town guests are coming and you need this step complete before their arrival? Suddenly making adjustment for everything else becomes significantly more difficult.    

3.       Clarify the scope of work. Or, maybe a better way to say this is Identify Your Assumptions. A detailed scope of work clarifies expectations for both customer and contractor. Know what is included and not included in your renovation. Forming a reasonable timeline is possible once expectations are clear. Without a detailed scope, assumptions eventually lead to confusion, frustration, inefficiency and delay.  Not to mention, contractors can be held accountable when a clear scope is created and communicated in writing before construction.

4.       Make selections before construction. Deciding on the right fixtures, hardware, flooring, paint colors, etc can take time, but should never interfere with construction. Making these decisions during construction only bogs down the construction schedule.

5.       Get the drawings. Putting a well-crafted design or drawing on paper helps you and your contractor share the same vision for your renovation. Otherwise you may visualize one thing and your contractor something entirely different. Don’t rely on your contractor to guess what you’re thinking. Inevitably, this leads to inefficiency and an unreliable timeline. 

6.       Establish a fixed price.  This may sound obvious, but starting a project based only on estimates is far too common, just like the delays they cause. Your goal as a homeowner is to eliminate unexpected costs. To be clear, not every uncertainty can be eliminated. What you find once you start tearing down walls is really anyone’s guess.  The point is stopping a project because of cost will destroy a timeline. Know what you’ll pay before you start.

7.       Know the change order process. You as a customer may decide to increase the scope of your renovation during construction. This happens frequently, but an unclear change order process can lead to huge delays.  Have your contractor clarify his/her change order process before moving into construction.       

Good contractors anticipate your questions/concerns in each of these areas, and offer established processes for you to follow. As you consider your next renovation, save yourself time (and needless frustration) with an accurate project timeline, not based on guesswork. After all, a little extra legwork is well worth the time!

Renovation Laws of the Universe

20171228 Universe.jpg

Production

  1. Don't be hurt by a little dirt. Work sites can get messy. Keep in mind it is a WORK space, and some dust & debris is expected. Trades and carpenters are responsible to maintain a level of cleanliness, organization and safety, but deep cleaning and detailing happens after the work is complete.
  2. Stick to the scope. Existing imperfections not addressed in the scope of work will still exist at the end of a renovation. Examples include:                                                                         *Trim not replaced or painted will still have old paint & stain imperfections.                       *Foundation problems will negatively impact a new renovation potentially                          causing floors not to be level and walls out of square.                                                         *Marginal electrical and plumbing won’t improve unless included in the renovation             scope.
  3. Acknowledge the unknown.There is no way to know for certain what is inside existing walls, ceilings, and floors until they are open and exposed.
  4. See colors change. Paint & stain colors appear different based on lighting, surface type, material type (wood, brick, hardie plank, etc) and even angle of viewing.
  5. Give up match making. Matching an existing stain perfectly is impossible.
  6. Blend in, but not seamlessly. Seams are part of a counter top hard surfaces. They can blend into the surface, but can not be completely invisible.

Scheduling

  1. Anticipate inactivity. Sometimes on site physical activity slows to a halt, and that doesn't always indicate a scheduling delay. Actual delays (those that push back the project end date) will be communicated by the Project Manager.
  2. Permit a permitting delay. Local permitting and inspection offices operate on a schedule outside the General Contractor’s control, which may contribute to scheduling delays.
  3. Weather the storms. Poor weather negatively impacts a renovation schedule. 
  4. Specialize in patience when special ordering. Special orders have been known to create scheduling delays. Delivery and product condition of a special order impact when it can be installed.
  5. Expect a variety of inspectors. Different code inspectors interpret codes differently. Sometimes satisfying a particular inspector requires extra time, effort, and possibly, unexpected modifications.
  6. Stay ahead of invoicing. Invoices are issued prior to milestones, but due at the milestone. This form of proactive scheduling keeps your project moving efficiently.

Communication

  1. Pinpoint your project point person.Communicating directly with trades can unknowingly complicate a renovation. Keep communication channels clear and current with an appropriate point person, or Project Manager.
  2. Get routine updates. Expect (at minimum) weekly written updates from your Project Manager. Anything longer and small problems grow into large problems. 
  3. Don't let concerns linger. Immediately notify your Project Manager if you see a problem. If your concerns go unresolved, notify the Production Superintendent. If still unresolved, go to the business Owners.  Unresolved concerns breaks down trust, and makes for a miserable experience.
  4. Communicate what you don't appreciate. Trades and carpenters are meant to uphold the values of your General Contractor. When that doesn't occur a project manager needs to be notified. Renovation teams are only as strong as their weakest link, so definitely communicate if someone acts "out of character" with the business. 
  5. Make progress accessible. Communicate any special instructions for gaining access to the work site throughout the day. An extra set of keys or lock box is helpful. Being unable to access all aspects of a job site creates production delays. 
  6. Help them help you. Communicate any unique needs involving pets, noise, dust, etc. prior to the renovation. This info keeps everyone safe and comfortable throughout construction.
  7. Outline the "off limits". Communicate areas not suitable for dumpsters, parking, portable toilet, and staging materials prior to the start of the project. The less time spent moving stuff means more time spent being productive.
  8. Minimize outside damage. Communicate any special landscaping needs outside your home. Keeping your yard from damage is a top priority during a major renovation.   






 

What Did You Expect?

20171114 Reality.jpg

Since 2007 we’ve completed literally hundreds of renovations. Over that time we’ve identified the single most important element to a successful renovation is establishing Clear Expectations.
As you can imagine guesswork and unwanted surprises create big problems during a renovation.  To be clear (notice how I’m clarifying expectations here) no process completely eliminates every surprise. Still, you can and should always establish clear expectations in regards to price, timeline, scope, communication, and warranty before moving into construction. 
Here are five reasons to hire a contractor committed to clarifying expectations:

  1. Price is Firm. A renovation with a fluctuating price can feel like a scary roller coaster. Clear price expectations require legwork from your contractor, and those willing to do this legwork are typically worth your business. Agreeing to a fixed price is the best way to avoid being trapped in a renovation with unknown, or escalating expenses.
  2. Time is Honored. Waiting is hard enough, but when you’re uncertain about how long, or even why, it can be excruciating. Good contractors outline schedules and communicate delays so you can avoid this anxiety. Don’t misunderstand. Waiting will be required. Renovations don’t happen as fast as you see on HGTV.  However, clear time expectations from the start makes your wait much easier.
  3. Value is Defined. Not all contractors are created equal. Some leave you wondering, “Why did I pay so much (or so little) for my renovation?” Answer: Value was never established or documented. In other words, be certain your contractor knows what level of quality and service you expect before any agreement is reached .     
  4. Trust is Built. Trust is so important because few things in life go exactly as planned. A good contractor communicates and addresses his mistakes when they happen. Problems only grow larger when ignored.  Asking for references and reading reviews help shape an accurate expectation of a contractor’s credibility.  
  5. Service is Ongoing. Unfortunately some problems become evident after a project is complete. This is especially difficult when a contractor is unwilling to return. Understanding the warranty must happen before a project ever starts. Ask your contractor how warranty related issues are handled. Again, check his track record by reading reviews and contacting references. Knowing your contractor stands behind his work brings valuable peace of mind.        

Eventually you will know if you and your contractor share the same expectations regarding price, time to complete, scope of work, communication, and warranty.  The key is clarifying these expectations before it's too late.   

Our Open Letter

RM_Big50.jpg

Dear customer, trade partner, and Upstate Community:

Hope you're enjoying Autumn in the Upstate! We composed this open letter to address something we care deeply about.  

In their September issue, Remodeling magazine named Daniel Builders among the “Big 50” best remodelers in the country (see article here). This recognition is indeed a “Big” honor, but far from our biggest. It pales in comparison to serving the greatest customers, working alongside the best trade partners, and being part of a phenomenal Upstate community. In fact, the best part of this award was representing our relationships of trust on a national level.

For that we express deep, heartfelt gratitude. Thank you for making the Big 50 possible!

20171005 D&B Award.jpg
20171005 1D&B Award.jpg

Sincerely,

The Daniel Builders Team 

After the Storm

Wind-and-storm-damage- 2 1152x528.jpeg

Here are 7 ways to approach storm damage to your home.

1)      Stay Safe – first & foremost keep yourself out of harm’s way. Climbing on your roof with a chainsaw is highly inadvisable. Damage to your home is far better than personal injury or death. 

2)      Minimize Damage - Find a reputable tree arborist to remove fallen trees/heavy limbs from your home, immediately tarp the area, and remove valuable furniture from the area to minimize further water damage. Quick, temporary repairs prevent further damage until the major structural issues can be corrected by a contractor.

3)      Be Patient – Fixing true structural damage is a process that requires careful planning and craftsmanship. Making unwise decisions to “speed up the process” causes more time consuming problems.

4)      Choose Your Contractor Wisely – Get references, read reviews, and ask the 7 interview questions.

5)      Stay Local – Local contractors understand local permitting laws, and their reputation isn't a major mystery if they've been in the area for a while. Plus, they're less likely to skip town without warning. 

6)      Get Everything in Writing – Verbal agreements don’t mean much until they’re in writing. Written agreements not only protect against fraud, they also minimize disputes and misunderstandings regarding project expectations.  

7)      Meet Project Manager - Meeting face to face with your “point person” (ie. person responsible for completing your repairs) ensures a) you're communicating with the right person and b) you're comfortable with this person being in and around your home once the project is underway.

Are you seeing major storm damage in your area? Let us know how Daniel Builders can be a resource to you, your family or friends.                 

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.