What Did You Expect?

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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


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!

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The Daniel Builders Team 

After the Storm

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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.                 

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.