Good Timing


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

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  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.


  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.


  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?

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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.