November 10, 2018

Our Estimate and Design Process

Renovating even the smallest bathroom in your home is more like building a new house than you might think. Every home system is included (water, electric, HVAC) and it requires the skills of a carpenter, plumber, electrician, tile installer, drywaller, painter, ventilation pro and more. And you need to choose materials, fixtures, patterns and colors so you can create satisfying design that make it all worthwhile.

Once that initial demo is done there’s no turning back, and mistakes in the initial planning process can be very expensive later on. It’s why we don’t rush our initial budget process, there’s to much at stake.

A 3% Difference: Our Unique Process

We recently reviewed 20 of our past projects and compared the initial Good Better Best budget to the actual final cost of the project and found that on average the final total varied by only 3 percent from the original budget!

The key to an accurate initial budget is two fold. It starts with creating a detailed scope of work that outlines everything that should be included in the project. Then you need to decide on what type of products you want installed. You can spend $5 a square foot on tile or $25. Similarly a faucet can cost $250 or $2500. Choosing product that meet your needs and your budget is critical.

So we’ve created a process that includes two meetings and a specialized Good Better Best budget to create for you the absolute best cost estimate we can for your project.

So How Does it Work?

Not every contractor is right for every project. For example, we specialize in kitchen and bath remodels for homeowners who want to invest in spaces that improve the way their home works for them. Other contractors may be more focused on budget fixes that are designed to make a space look good for just a few years but we are more focused on remodels that will last for decades.

Read more about choosing the right contractor towards the bottom of this page.

Start with a Phone Call

The first step in our process is a 15 to 20 minute phone call to make sure we are the right contractor for your project.  The purpose of the call is to learn about your project, what type of contractor you are looking for and to get an idea of your budget for the project. If you’re not sure of your budget we will give you an idea of the potential cost based on our experience with similar projects.

After our initial discussion we should be able to decide together whether or not we are the right contractor for you. If for some reason we are not a good fit for your project we are happy to recommend you to one of our trade partners. If together we decide we are a good fit then we’ll schedule your initial home visit.

A Home Visit

At the initial home visit we’ll have a change to get to know each other a little better and learn more about your project. We’ll take measurements and create a sketch of the existing space.

Then A Showroom Visit

After the home visit we’ll invite you to our showroom where we will go over potential products for your project and create your initial budget using our Good Better Best process. Once the GBB process is complete you should have all the information you need to make a decision about your project.

After You Approve Your Budget

Once approve the initial budget for your project we will ask you to sign our design agreement and pay a 5% project development fee. We’ll then schedule your first design meeting so we can get started creating your design and fixed price proposal.

Step 4: Initial Design Meeting

After you approve your budget and pay the project development fee we’ll create your initial design. We review the design together at the initial design meeting. We’ll get your feedback at make changes as needed. We’ll also start making product selections.

After the first meeting we’ll schedule additional home visits so our subcontractors can look at the project and submit accurace bids. We update your project cost at the end of each meeting so you can tell if you are over or under budget.

Step 5: Second Design Meeting

The goal for the second design meeting is to have a finalized scope of work and have most of the selections completed. That was we can send final bid requests to all our sub contractors and create your fixed price proposal.

Step 6:  3rd Design Meeting

The third design meeting is about all the little details. We’ll review the details of your lighting plan (where to switches and plugs go, which ones should have dimmers etc…) plumbing plan, tile layout, cabinet pull location etc…

We like to have all the details nailed down before the project starts. Of course things can and do change, sometimes its a little different choosing a towel bar location on paper than it is in person, but we like to have a good planning going in.

Step 7:  Final Design meeting

Before the last showroom meeting will schedule one last home visit to confirm dimensions. We’ll then review the final proposal with you and have you sign any necessary permit documents. We also schedule your pre construction meeting and start date for the project.


What Kind of Contractor Do You Need?

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Before we dive into our estimate and design process I think it’s important to talk about the different kind for contractors you can hire for your home remodel. Different contractors have different approaches to remodeling. It’s important to understand the pros and cons of these approaches so you can pick the right contractor for your project.

Chuck with a Truck

These are the guys that do all the work themselves. All the demo, framing, tile, trim, painting etc…There’s nothing wrong with the ‘chuck with a truck’,  in fact many GCs (including me) started out that way. A more common term might be Handyman, or home services contractor. On the plus side this type of contractor is usually less expensive.

But there are some downsides as well. They usually do not provide a project schedule or project plans preferring instead to “work it out as they go”. Design and product selections will be left up to you. The quality of work will vary a lot, it’s hard to be good at everything. While their initial estimate may be the lowest be prepared for surprises. Unfortunately they can be unreliable and will not always show up to the jobsite when expected.

The Contractor (aka Builder)

Most kitchen and bathroom projects should be done by a licensed Contractor. Only a licensed contractor can pull permits and they will subcontract the work to expert tradespeople or ‘subcontractors’. This is the best way to get the highest quality of work done. Some Contractors will also do part of the work themselves, others will just supervise.

Most contractors will still leave it up to you to pick out your cabinets and fixtures. They may recommend a few showrooms or they may just leave it all up to you. I would be prepared to spend more than they estimate on cabinetry and fixtures as they are not experts in product selection.

The Showroom 

A lot of homeowners start at the showroom because that is where all the visual selections are made and they are easier to find since they have a physical building and most contractors do not.

Showrooms are generally not licensed contractors so they will either have to recommend someone to you or ask you to find a contractor on your own. You want to make sure you have a contractor and showroom that can work well together.

A showroom will price your cabinets and fixtures accurately and provide a wealth of knowledge to help you choose the right materials for your project. They most likely will not be able to properly price the construction costs though. You’ll need to find a contractor for that.

The Design / Build Contractor

We are a design / build remodeling company. We happen to be the only design/build firm in town with a full service kitchen and bath showroom. I opened our showroom about 3 years ago because we wanted to offer some new products that were not really available in Tallahassee and so that we could streamline the planning phase of the project.

In our showroom we carry cabinetry, tile, flooring and countertops but we also work with online vendors and other local showrooms if needed.

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