Return to the Kitchens Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Help! What would you do (GC question)?

Posted by sarschlos_remodeler (sarahschlos@yahoo.com) on
Sat, Jan 26, 08 at 6:20

We hired a design-build firm (I thought) to draw up plans for our remodel. We paid $2500. I spent several hours showing him around the house, and everything that we want to do in each room, but in particular the kitchen/family/living/laundry areas (creating a kitchen/dining/living great room & a den and fixing out of code venting for the laundry, new stair railings, replacing windows and doors and redoing the fireplace facade). I was under the impression that the $2500 would take us through the design phase for this partial remodel, at the end of which we would have a set of drawings and an estimate for the job cost. Now I am learning that the design-build guy thought I was paying him $2500 to come up with a list of the elements that we want, and from that list he would then give us an estimate of the cost to come up with the architectural/structural engineering drawings. In other words, he thinks I paid $2500 for him to essentially give me a BID on the architectural portion of the job. We had hired his firm previously for a master bath remodel, for which we paid $2500 and received architectural drawings and a bid on the job itself, so I went into this with that understanding in mind for this project (we ultimately did not use his firm for the master bath remodel because we decided to buy the house we are now remodeling instead of investing in the previous house). The $2500 would be applied to the total cost of the job should I hire him to do the entire project, but is non-refundable if I choose to end the project. I would not have complained, of course, if he had charged more for the drawings this time since the project is of larger scope than the last, but I think it's unreasonable to expect us to pay $2500 for him to come up with a BID. He has excellent references and is in demand even in the down market, so I have every reason to believe that he would do a good job, but I'm nonplussed at the idea that I am paying thousands just for a bid with no idea what the actual cost for the drawings will be. He has offered a full refund of the $2500 due to the misunderstanding should I decide to find someone else.

Would you take the refund and look for someone else or keep going not knowing how deep into the well the architectural costs (let alone the building costs) will be, knowing that before you find out how much the DESIGN will cost you will have invested at least $2500 ($5000 if I ask him to draw up the entire interior remodel)? I'm very frustrated because I really liked this guy, and wanted to work with him, but I am nervous about committing without any understanding of cost with him. TIA!


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

Not my area of expertise, but I'd take a deep breath, ignore my assumptions and disappointments, and examine what I was getting for my money alongside what I'd get for my money from someone else. Is this guy in demand because he's really good, or because his particular segment of the market hasn't slowed? Regardless of what you "get" for your money, i.e. suggestions, drawings, a detailed bid, etc., this guy's time is valuable and he won't spend it on you unless he's confident of being compensated for it. If $2500 was the fee for drawings on a much simpler and smaller project then it's probably not reasonable to expect him to take this project just as far for the same amount of money. If you accept that, then what would seem reasonable to you? Perhaps you can negotiate to some middle-ground?


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

and here's my question - how will this effect what's currently happening (or not happening) in the kitchen?


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

Here's my problem with this: I make bids for work all the time (different line of work, but still), but the time I put into my presentation does not get compensated because it's not the actual work -- it's a bid; a detailed, client-specific sales pitch, but a sales pitch nonetheless. You should hire me for your project because I will do this, and this, and this for you. I simply do not see the difference here, except that I always give an idea of my rates and the cost at the pitch.

What am I getting for $2500? A list of the things that I want done. A list I could have compiled myself based on MY time spent telling him what I want to accomplish and the materials I want to use. In fact, had he asked for one, I have just such a LIST. But I won't even find out how much it will cost me to get drawings from him until I've invested $2500 and it's too late to say that his price is too rich for me.

So far, nothing but planning is happening in the kitchen, so we haven't yet gotten in a position where we can't take the time to find someone else.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

Well, it seems awfully fishy to me. Who charges (especially that much) to give you a bid without drawings? That makes no sense. I would take the refund and run. It sounds like this guy is pretty poor at communication, which in my experience is THE most important skill someone in his business can have. I ditched two different KDs due to their lack of ability to communicate. I ended up with a contractor and cabinet maker who communicated very well with me and I got exactly what I wanted. The KDs who wouldn't listen to me kept attempting to sell me things I didn't want, which was extremely frustrating. I suspect this would be just the first of many "misunderstandings" between the two of you.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

In remodeling, preparing the bid involves anticipating and often figuring out how to solve complex construction problems, so bidding a job well actually involves quite a bit of work. But if you already have a detailed list of requirements with sketches and specifications, by all means hand him a copy and ask him how much time and money would be involved to get you to the bid and drawings stage.

Of course, the other possibility is that he's decided he either doesn't want the job or has a low likelihood of getting it -- in which case, his most financially sound decision would be to cut his losses and run.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

well both times I've used my contractor (who is the same thing - design and build) they did detailed specs and drawings for free that accompanied the bid. In both cases we could have walked away if we didn't like what we saw. I think this is part of the cost of doing business. Now, granted I'm sure I'm paying for those services somewhere in my contract but had I decided not to go with this contractor I would have been out no money.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

I'm not saying I expected $2500 to cover the entire design bill, but I did expect something beyond "here's what you told me you wanted the other day"


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

A set of architectural plans to cover a remodel of the scope you've described would cost far, far more than $2500. OTOH, you generally don't pay a contractor to bid on a job.

He can give you a solid bid based on a conversation but many contractors won't. Architectural drawings would be needed.

Can you take the refund, tell him you liked the experience with his firm last time but realize that you have a larger job and need architectural plans and you'll get back to him when you have something more precise?

Sounds like he's charging you to create a written scope of work -- which would be different than charging for a bid.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

Rococogurl, what is the difference between a written scope of work and a bid? I've seen a lot of "scope of work" documents in my line of work, and they are always in response to a Request for Bid. And there is no charge for this -- because it's laying out how he would go about the job should he get it. Now maybe I just don't understand how the construction process works -- admittedly this is my first foray into home remodeling involving outside contractors instead of DIY.

He's a design-build. The last time we hired him, we received architectural drawings as part of this scope of work process.

I understand that the architectural drawings will cost more than $2500 in total because the job we're asking for is larger than the previous job. What has me concerned is that I invest the $2500 with no knowledge whatsoever of the expense I'm really looking at to generate the architectural drawings and then he comes to me with a "scope of work" for the architectural drawings that is ridiculously high but I've already sunk $2500 into an essentially useless list of items/products he wants to use.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

My SO is a commercial contractor and may put 80+ hours working up a bid and not get the job. That is the way the construction business works. We know many carpenters, both commercial and residential, and this guys practice is unheard of in my area. Were charges for services discussed at all or did he just bill you after the fact? If he is not willing to negotiate and be upfront about the costs, I'd run fast. Design/build seems to be the new trend in construction. What we've seen on the commercial end is that architectural specs are very sketchy and the jobs are run very loosely. Many things are missed and they want to deal with things on the fly which leads to more costs. Many architectural firms in our area are going this way in order to minimize their costs, but the overages are passed on to the owner. We are always extremely cautious with design/build estimating just as you should be. You don't want to put yourself in an open-ended cash-pit situation. Here's a bit from Wikipedia that describes just what we've seen with this type of construction:
"Potential problems of Design-Build
Cost estimating for a design-build project is sometimes difficult because design documents are often preliminary and may change over the course of the project. As a result, design-build contracts are often written to allow for unexpected situations without penalizing either the Design-Builder or the owner. Several organizations (such as the Design/Build Institute of America) provide standardized form contracts for design-builders to use, but it is not unusual for the design-builder to provide its own contractual documents.
This uncertainty requires the owner to rely a great deal on the integrity, accumen, and competence of the design-builder. As the certainty of estimates decreases,the opinion of the construction professionals of the Design-Build firm must be trustworthy, accurate, and reasonably verifiable in order to minimize risk.
Additionally, the brevity of the process restricts regulatory review efforts to a potentially cursory overview. Projects may be designed as they are built, thus providing those with the responsibility of oversight little to no time at all to review completed plans and specifications. Projects completed before they may be reviewed can be forced into costly change orders to bring the project into compliance with regulatory requirements."

If you go with this firm, be sure you talk with previous customers, find out about his process - how he runs his jobs and have a solid contract in place.

-trix


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

Sweeby has it right! He's already decided that 'he either doesn't want the job or has a low likelihood of getting it -- in which case, his most financially sound decision would be to cut his losses and run.' He's made it easy on you by charging you for a bid. He is trying to chase you off. If you really want him, then keep reading.

When I work with clients in either field that I'm trained, I do not get paid for coming up with a game plan A, B, or C to fulfill the desires of the public. Of course I have to put thoughts to paper to persuade a client that I have a full understanding of the job, requirements, and costs involved. IF they do not agree with me, then I leave without a contract or customer. THAT is the way the
cookie crumbles. AFTER the client agrees with my ideas and hires me, I execute and complete the job, then I get paid.


My brother is a builder of high end homes. He would NEVER, EVER take a job like yours because there are too many high expectations and opportunities to fail here. You're all over the page. You want TOO many 'things done'. You will
be hard pressed to find anyone decent to take you up on your 'opportunities' to do all that you want in one fell swoop and be on budget, one time, and you be happy. You are throwing a huge hook out their empty to catch a crook. A crook will bait your hook and throw it back in your face hoping that you will throw it back to them. Then YOU will be taken down, hook...line...and sinker because YOU want a 'certain type of fish'. Be very careful fishing for contractors. There are too many UNKNOWNS doing a remodel which will make your job probably cost 2 or 3 times whatever ANYONE bids. You see, your 'remodeler' will have to figure in a HUGE pucker factor on your bid because he will have to be there so long and it is worse than building a house from the ground up. Each phase has it's own set of problems. There are demolition problems, connstruction problems, repair problems, permits or code/inspection problems, sub contractor problems,
and installation of all that you want new problems. It's hard enough building a house and worse remodeling IF you are living there in the house. I am assuming that you ARE living in the house now; is this correct?

In my opinion, you are going about this in the wrong way and will chase off every decent remodeler or tempt them to take advantage of the situation. Sometimes temptation is just too great for some people. I believe it's best to keep everyone on a short leash of accountability.

I have a list of questions and statements for you to think about to get you going. I hope these statements help you get on the road to a successful remodel.


  • You need to decide if money is no object. If it isn't, then move out of your house and hire the first guy. Limp along and you'll pay more than if you built from scratch. If you were going to hire me, then we would have to be a team.

  • IF you are wanting this to be done as cost efficient as possible, then you would have to do your part.

  • I would want you to draw me a layout of your present house, if possible, showing noting every single outlet and water source location. The more you can do to help the process the less intrusive I would be and we can complete your jobs as soon as possible.

  • I would ask you to study your drawings hard and come up with a list of what you want done. YOU NEED o do this homework BEFORE you meet with any remodeler. Let them know that you, too, are invested in this process and are trying to communicate with them. This will give the remodeler you hire some confidence that you are trying to communicate and that he might be able to trust working for you.

  • I would want you go room by room listing every single element you want Fixed, Changed,Built, or Replaced on a second copy of your drawings like the first copy.

  • Write F, C, B, or R in red over each area that you want fixed, changed, built, or replaced. Example
    1
    : You need the flue fixed on the Fireplace. Write F on the drawing showing where your fireplace listing 'replace
    flue' on you accompanying list of what you want done. AND if you know exactly what model/color of flue you want, include that element in your list. The more information you give, then the less chance of
    miscommunication or error happens. Example 2: you want a new sink, new faucet, new commode in your bathroom. Decide if you want to use the same
    cabinets or completely replace the cabinet vanity. Decide the exact model of sink you want. If you say R: replace pink sink and commode with new white ones and new silver fixtures. Then I go in and put in a small round white sink, small round white commode, and the cheapest silver faucet I could find, then I will have fulfilled your white cultured marble oval sink centered over dark oak cabinets with a cove door profile with an American Standard Elongated commode #xxx9837y, and Moen satin nickel faucet model #9839fxxee. Detailing the model number for elements you want used is imperative. Continue making your list for every area of the house. If you want a puck light over a book case, then list the color and model of puck light to install. If you want directional lighting in your living room, then you had better do your research and find the exact lighting you want used. Once the list is completed and you have every single element identified., then less chance of error. REAL life example for you: I hired an electrician to install 8 lights in my living room. 4 lights were canned lights and the other four were small swiveling directional lights. The electrician bid $300
    to install these lights and supply these lights. When it came down to it, he showed up with disgusting can lights and unacceptable lights for the small pivoting lights that would not have fit in our octagonal ceiling. After I chased down the correct lights and trims and ordered all of the transformers, etc, that the electrician needed, those 8 lights came from Seagull Lighting to the tune over almost $600, not including shipping or install. My electrician wasted a DAY of time plus we had to wait two days for the lights to arrive. The electrician had blocked only two days to do my job and couldn't return for two weeks. So, let me strongly suggest that YOU have every single nut, bolt, and puck light model # chosen before you begin construction.

    I would sit down with the remodeler and come up with a plan to execute your
    remodel. Example: Give each Plan a number and each phase of the plan a
    name/number, too. Let's say we have a Kitchen plan. As you complete each
    phase, then the remodeler can expect a draw against the completed project to
    pay for items and to pay himself. If the entire kitchen is $60,000 and
    cabinets are ordered, then figure maybe 50% of the cabinet cost should be
    paid when ordered, then the rest when installed so your remodeler could pay
    them. (Better yet, handle the cabinet maker yourself and the installation.)


  • As you get to each Plan to execute and you have financing in order to
    do the work, THEN get a bid. Why wait? Because if you get a bid today and
    you can't afford the plan for three years, then the bid will no longer be
    good. Look, most people do NOT charge you for a bid. If you just aren't
    financially ready to afford a project, then no harm to you financially. You
    may find that this is the only way you can afford to do all that you want to
    do with this house. You may decide to hell with it and quit after the first
    Plan you execute and buy a new house. You could also learn so much watching
    the remodeler than you decide to take on some of the work yourself in
    subsequent plans. Some of a remodeler's work is 'monkey see, monkey do
    business'. One just never knows....

  • I would start on the Plan that would bring you the most benefit and bang
    for your buck. If that is redoing the kitchen, then start there.

  • I would not pay for a bid. Period. If a permit needs to be pulled and
    the county require new architectural plans and structural engineer plans,
    THEN I can see that there would be a $2,500 fee to pay for those plans to
    SUBS. IF any other plans are involved or drawn, then I would expect that the
    remodeler would have to draw his own plans so he could execute his job. IF
    YOU want plans drawn up by someone other than the remodeler (i.e. a
    specific, named kitchen designer or architect), then you should expect to
    pay their fees separately.

    Do this in Plan/phases and do your own designs/layouts, then you can save
    a ton of money. The more people do for you, the more it will cost at the end
    of your project. Research, research, research. You can do this. You're
    already ahead in this game because you found Garden Web before you got into
    a contract.


    FWIW: Get your $2,500 back from the guy. Wait a few weeks and call him
    back up when you have your plan in your head done and on paper and you've
    done all of your research. He'll be far more eager to work with you then.
    PLUS you'll be better educated and won't end up over paying him. If he
    insists on being paid for his design/bid, then by all means let him walk. He
    is NOT the only game in town. Give a handy-dandy Jack of all trades a shot
    at your work. That's what we did. We found two guys that we alternated using
    for jobs. Why two? Because if you use the same guy for all jobs, then the
    costs start inflating. Knowing we had another guy to go to do work for us,
    kept each of their work and costs in line with reality. Plus, they never got
    too comfortable with us, knowing we would have the other guy check out the
    work that they did. It works, believe me.


    Last thoughts here. IF you find it difficult to manage people and
    communicate effectively with people that work for you, then believe me, you
    are opening yourself up for major disappointment and the cost of whatever
    you have contracted WILL ESCALATE. You may need to just buy a new house. If
    you can't, then You WILL pay more than you ever wanted because SOME SUBS ARE
    CROOKS. They decide from DAY ONE whether or not you are 'ripe for the
    picking' and whether or not they can take you for a ride through the courts.
    Believe me, don't trust anything that is not in writing. NOTHING. I don't
    care if it's your Sunday school teacher you're dealing with here.


    DO NOT let anyone start working in your home or on your property that
    does not have a detailed contract with your signature, or is not licensed or
    insured. You MUST make sure that ALL permits are pulled yourself and have
    the insurance company of your contractor fax you a copy as proof of their
    coverage.


    I did not write anything to waste my time. These are warnings about
    tricks from the trades, pitfalls of failure, and wisdom I've learned along
    the way. Ask me how I know any of the pitfalls and warnings....


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

sarschlos -- The scope of work explains what needs to be done. It can either be generated by you or by a designer, architect or builder.

From that, you usually proceed to architectural drawings. They would want your agreement on the scope of work to move forward to the drawings phase. It's the designer's equivalent (at least where I live) to a letter of understanding. I can see how you'd see it as paying for a bid. But I don't feel a reputable contractor will give you a bid based on a conversation -- too much room for misunderstanding. Especially not now with volatility in energy and materials prices.

Having gone through a whole-house remodel, I'd suggest architectural plans. That's the only way to get a reliable estimate, I believe. I always build it a healthy margin for upcharges and changes but at least you have a document that states exactly what the work is to be.

I'm sure there are many ways to approach this. I did a whole house remodel with a set of plans that were slightly mushy and incurred a tremendous number of changes. We added and expanded tremendously. Fortunately, we had contractors that could work with us to get a good result. But it definitely cost us more to work that way. No question.

My neighbors recently put two apartments together. They had precise plans drawn by an excellent architect and a solid contractor. There were few change orders and they came in on budget.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

My first question would be whether you had a written contract? That's where the expectations should have been spelled out.

There are, in fact, GCs that charge for a bid. (I could name several this very moment.) By "bid" I mean a solid number that one could then negotiate and sign a contract for. The cost of bids can run from $2,000 to $3,500. (And, of course, there are equally reputable GCs who will do a bid free.) But to do a "bid" you have to actually have a solid plan or else all you are getting is an "estimate."

An "estimate" is what we all want before we decide on the scope of the job or else we have no way of knowing what we're getting into. I thought that design-build firms would be the best for this process of juggling what-I-want with what-I-can-afford but I am pretty sure that the down side of this benefit is that you pay up front (or the overall cost is higher and you pay later). So, for example, I was offered an estimate with conceptual drawings from a design-build firm for $5,000 (after which I would not even own the drawings). Part of the cost of this was that they, as a design-build firm, would bring out their plumbers and electricians etc. to check out the building prior to getting involved in design. Also, most important, this company did not want to lose a dime in drumming up business...the very costs that most companies are willing to absorb at least in part. Anyway, this high cost put me off and I know that now this company now does not charge so much or does their estimating in different ways. But the main point is that an estimate is still very rough and that's why you often don't have to pay to get one.

On top of everything, it's clear to me that contractors are always changing their practices and changing their minds and what they say or think seems to vary by the week if not the day. I think others made that point!

If you are right that he charged you $2,500 to give you a bid on doing the architectural drawings (that's a paraphrase of what you said) then something really isn't right. I spent that same amount to an established architect recently to obtain conceptual drawings, full house measurements, and a plan. This was not the final plan --that includes all the tweaking, the many specifications, incorporates structural engineering, etc. -- that is needed to obtain permits, but nonetheless a very solid plan. As someone who is going through the bidding process right now (for solid numbers), I can say that if I had handed those plans to a GC I could have gotten a better estimate than I would if I just described what I wanted but I could not have obtained a solid bid because so much is left open -- how many light fixtures, how much tile, what kind of countertops (a GW fixation I share!!), the amount and type of cabinetry. So, be clear about the distinction between estimates and bids.

So, I think I'd take the money back and accept equal blame for the misunderstandings...unless you think he was trying to cheat you, in which case you owe him nothing except to learn to have clarity and put things in writing in the future. (I learned this lesson the hard way.)

Oh, and last, you should be able to get a set price on doing a set of drawings! A bid for doing drawings is absurd.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful comments. I would like to clear up a couple of points -- to clear his name and mine. First, I don't think he was either trying to cheat me or trying to get rid of me. We had a written document that referred to "design elements," which, based on our prior working relationship, I believed to include the architectural drawings because that was the product I had previously received. This was both our mistake because neither of us discussed the details as we should have. I think we both thought we were on the same page because we had gone over the money on the last project. I think this was just an unfortunate misunderstanding.

I was contracting for architectural drawings for the whole house remodel, with the understanding that the construction work itself would be bid out separately on individual projects over time. The plan was to have a full set of plans (not project bids) so that we could make sure that work done this year would not need to be undone/redone when we get around to the next project and so on. This was his idea, and I heartily agree.

Sherilynn, as for the suggestion that I was somehow remiss in not having drawn up my own detailed architectural plans of the house in order to contract for detailed architectural plans for the house, this is just silly to say the least. Of course I'm not going to learn autocad and teach myself how to measure for every outlet and every duct, etc., when I am hiring someone to do that for me.

We did not have just a "conversation." He was here for several hours, he looked through every room, I took him on a tour, showing him every change I want made in every room, he looked in cupboards, under vanities, in showers, tubs, under sinks, in the attic, under the crawlspace, in the garage, in the circuit breaker, inside the fireplace. I sat down with him and we went through his detailed questionnaire about what I wanted to accomplish in each room. I showed him pictures I have collected, which show my very clear vision for the house. I am not all over the map with what we want done, nor am I somehow disorganized or otherwise unreasonable. In fact, he was happy (VERY HAPPY) that I have such a clear vision for the entire project, that my style is a known quantity and my wishes are clearly defined.

I have to say, Sherilynn, I found your assumptions that I am some sort of disorganized house remodeling harpy to be both false and unfair. I have been researching exactly what I want to do in this house for years. I searched for a house in this neighborhood for YEARS, developed my style on a lesser quality "practice" house, and absorbed, absorbed, absorbed. I have been posting here, peppering people with questions for MONTHS. We are not looking for miscellaneous handymen to do odd jobs around the house. Each project flows into the next -- and it all starts with the kitchen. These are not miscellaneous odd jobs, but taking a house that has been the victim of handymen odd jobs over the years into its proper and beautiful form. I have spoken with several people about the job and NO ONE complained that they wouldn't want to do it.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

I totally agree with all Sherilynn detailed. If OP is having such a monumental misunderstanding in square one, I see somebody ripe for the picking, maybe with a sign on forehead. The scope of square one wasn't even detailed. Scope of Work for square one comes from OP, only.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

What's the point of hiring a professional if one does ALL of the work that Sherilynn set out? That doesn't make sense to me. It doesn't allow for any working collaboration between the architect/designer and the homeowner.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

Thank you so much, Sarschlos for starting this thread. For me, this is a prime example of how lurking/eavesdropping in on the problems of others on this forum, can so often yield problem-solving material for my own various dilmemas. Although I can see where several who have responded to you may have missed the mark in accurately assessing and addressing your specific situation, I must say that I have found great general insight and advice from just about everyone who has responded in this discussion so far. In that respect, I must also say that I especially concur with Sherilynn's advice -- and not because I think YOU are a "disorganized house remodeling harpy" but rather, because for most of my own calamitous whole house remodel, I have been! Unfortunately, because I have learned about so many of the pitfalls the hard way -- from project conception and design, to contracting for goods and services, to managing the actual remodel process, I found her post to be especially thoughtful, credible and personally applicable. Thanks for sharing!


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

I asked my father (before I even read the responses), because this sounded so far off to me. He has been a builder for 50 years. He said, "Tell her to tell the architect to take a running jump. Take the refund and run the other direction."

The $2500 might not cover complete architectural plans for the whole house, but easily could have included preliminary design drawings, especially since you did receive these before.

It sounds like he's honorable--there's no contract where there's no meeting of the minds and he's offered the refund.

Design/build firms tend to be the most expensive around. Architects have been getting into the interior design business and treading where they're both over qualified and under trained. Add that to the building portion, and you're paying a lot of money for qualifications that you're not really utilizing. Considering the amount of effort you've put into the kitchen design yourself, you really don't need an interior designer, and that portion doesn't need an architect either.

You're right to make a plan for everything you want to do and then portion it out. A good GC should be able to tell you where the different bits overlap for doing your phases.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

Yes, plllog, that is exactly what I said this morning. My SO has 30+ years as a carpenter and owns a successful business. He is a hard working, talented tradesman - there aren't many left. I, in my spare time (my day job is a Network Administrator) am the business manager, so I know what goes on in this business. I didn't ask his opinion on this issue, though it struck a nerve with me, since it is one of our common discussions. My life is surrounded in the construction field - and yes I really like it; problem solving is all the same whether it's computers, networks, joists...though I'm personally better at the technology end. I really can't express fully what our opinion is of architects - (I think he would tell me to shut up about now). To put it minimally, they can draw up nice plans (so can many of us can), but they don't have a clue what really goes on in the field.

I'm rambling, but these are the problems discussed at our dinner table every night. There are a lot of unqualified people in this business. And this is also why so many people(GW'ers)have researched and educated themselves pertaining to this business - so we are not taken advantage us. Scarsclos, I'm just saying to be very careful with the design/build process. It's a process that individuals in this business are taking advatage of. Our life is the construction business and see this every day. That's my 2 cents.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

OP, I do believe that it is fair to say that the majority of the people that contribute on GW are in some way DIY-ers 'do it yourself-ers'.

Since your original dilemma on this thread was based on miscommunication and assumptions, I was assessing and commenting on solutions on how to go about handling your project. What you conveyed that you wanted completed came across as 'all over the house' fixes, be it remodel/repair/replace. It read overwhelming and could be very numbing to hear it spoken at first meeting. I am sure an experienced general contractor WOULD easily nod, squat, and compliment your input BECAUSE that is EXACTLY WHAT SOME GCs do and HOW they act to GET a CONTRACT signed ASAP. THIS is how they communicate to you that they fully understand you, even though you may not understand anything about the process. They let you bloviate and tell you how wonderful you are and how great your ideas are.

Once you have a contract, figures can become very fluid even if you were persuaded to believe that you had a meeting of the minds and you thought the numbers were 'hard'. IF you did NOT have everything in writing as I suggested and things start going south, then that contract you signed can be an albatross around your pretty neck. I was trying to give guidance. Don't shoot the messenger. You asked for opinions.

I do not know you, nor you know me. I have no idea about your finances or education about building matters. Your perception of the guy you want to hire came across as though you were possibly being set up to be taken advantage. Of course, that could not be because 'you know him.'

I have had some professional guidance building our home and have several "diplomas" from HKU. (Hard Knocks University). I am also a real estate agent and have experience managing subcontractors and people. The "seminars" I have taken building our home could have paid for a degree from Harvard....tuition, books, living expensed, and sheep skin included. The one reason I was on GW today was to motivate me to go back in there and finish what I hired professionals to do and they failed us. Unfortunately, I do not have the money to pay for cabinets to be redone for the third time. I have learned how to do this myself.

I also learned AutoCAD and designed my home. Why? Because I'm was motivated. What I was suggesting to you was to save time and nickels and meant for you to sketch out a basic layout of your home. It appears that you don't have the want to or need to do either. You can afford to pay someone to do all of this. If you trust the people in your life so much, then why are you on this forum ready to dump on someone trying to help you avoid getting screwed?

I find it odd for people to complain one night, then make excuses for someone they have already decided that they want to hire and try to cover for them. I wonder if anyone else thinks this odd. By all means, sign on the dotted line with that GC ASAP.

"Seminars" are given every day...even to people that can afford them. I was offering advice for someone that could not afford a degree from HKU.

If by chance you need someone to commisserate wtih should you need a shoulder to cry or lean on during your remodeling endeavors, there's a huge support system here on GW, willing to forgive should things go awry.

BTW, I apologize for nothing I wrote. I was trying to be helpful, albeit blunt.

c'est la vie


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

Just an update -- we have decided to take the refund. Thank you all for your input. I am saddened and disappointed that some of you felt the need to be insulting. There is a difference between blunt and insulting. I do not wear a "dumb" sign on my forehead, thank you very much, and I am not all over the map with my remodel. What I listed as projects were meant as a sketch only, flavor if you will. While I am not in the position to say that money is no object, I also do not have the TIME to teach myself AutoCad, nor is that something that I feel I should be obligated to do.

"If by chance you need someone to commisserate with should you need a shoulder to cry or lean on during your remodeling endeavors, there's a huge support system here on GW, willing to forgive should things go awry."

Not sure why exactly I should be forgiven for asking a question and being insulted. I have spent a lot of time on this forum and have tried to provide valuable input to others in return. Hopefully others have appreciated my input as much as I appreciate theirs.


 o
Update

Just an update -- we have decided to take the refund. Thank you all for your input. I am saddened and disappointed that some of you felt the need to be insulting. There is a difference between blunt and insulting. I do not wear a "dumb" sign on my forehead, thank you very much, and I am not all over the map with my remodel. What I listed as projects were meant as a sketch only, flavor if you will. While I am not in the position to say that money is no object, I also do not have the TIME to teach myself AutoCad, nor is that something that I feel I should be obligated to do.

"If by chance you need someone to commisserate with should you need a shoulder to cry or lean on during your remodeling endeavors, there's a huge support system here on GW, willing to forgive should things go awry."

Not sure why exactly I should be forgiven for asking a question and being insulted. I have spent a lot of time on this forum and have tried to provide valuable input to others in return. Hopefully others have appreciated my input as much as I appreciate theirs.


 o
Oops

Sorry for the double post. Computer error.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

Sarschlos, Now that you're taking the refund, I'd like to suggest that you find a really good handyman for some of the work, or better yet, a finish carpenter who's willing to do a little general work as well. Some carpenters, for instance, do the kind of repair work you mentioned with the railings and ducts, as well as replacing doors and windows.

Bbtrix, Frank Lloyd Wright, arguably the greatest American born architect of the 20th century, made great art, but uncomfortable furniture, dim houses in lands of sunshine, and most of all, and most unforgivably (IMHO), roofs which notoriously leak. :D

In my lights, hire an architect if you want a design concept for a whole building, especially if you want something using unusual materials, shapes, etc. Architects are trained to look for things like prevailing winds and orientation of light. You're paying for art.

Structural engineers (good ones) are excellent folks who figure out if the land will hold the house and if the foundation will hold the roof. And with luck, they'll make sure the roof drains :)

General contractors (good ones) handle all facets of the scope of accomplishing a job, most especially getting all the trades in at the right time and in the most efficient way.

Interior designers (good ones) can put together color schemes which create a statement or mood, lighting plans that do the same, creative space planning, work flow and organization, plus they can save you a lot of shopping. I've met very few really good ones. They're out there. But then there are the ones who don't do scale drawings (or any measurement) then don't understand why the furniture doesn't fit. A good one can fit a custom chair to you the way a tailor fits pants.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

How much do architect drawn plans cost, do you intend to have some done ?

if you are not working with a designer, would the architect you select play that role as far as guiding and suggesting, based on your list of wants and needs ?

it seems that the guy you selected initially was doing that job and was demanding remuneration to do it; you can get tons of "free" estimates for now and possibly that will guide you as what to expect your whole project will cost ; if you then decide to go ahead with the project, you would be better equipped to feel confident with the initial guy and pay him 5000$ to come up with the detailed plan and firm estimates, detailed and on a contract/agreement.

architectural/structural engineering drawings seems to me to be what you need at this stage of the game.

If your total project is going to be 100,000$, the 5000$ fee is only 5% of that and you said it's refundable should you go with the firm. If you own the plans, I would say it's worthwhile going ahead with it so that you have a solid understanding of the scope of the project.

should you not go with the firm, after paying the 5000$, the knowledge and understanding you will have gained will be invaluable as far as shopping around for your project with other gc's or building firms.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

At the risk of sounding rude, but in reality trying to be direct and clear, I'd like to ask what is it you were wanting the design/build firm to draw?

If I recall correctly, you've been very active on the forum lately asking all sorts of questions - keep the dining room?, U-shaped kitchen or L-shaped?, add French doors?, peninsula or island?, which sink?, what countertop? And this is good! These types of questions are exactly what the GWeb forums are all about.

And once you have the answers to these questions and have determined that you want this layout with those windows and that sink and these countertops -- then you will be a design/build firm's ideal client. Informed, decisive, ready to go -- an efficient client who can be served profitably.

But - (and this is where it's going to sound rude, and I'll apologize in advance) - if you're asking us these questions, how clear can you possibly be to the design/build firm about what it is you want them to draw? How can they possibly promise to draw it out for you for $2,500 (or any amount) when it sounds like their target is constantly moving? How many revisions would be necessary before you and they came up with a design you love that they can build? And then to try to price it out and hope that it falls within your acceptable budget limits? Add that to your earlier aborted project and that's why I suggested they mat have decided to "cut their losses and run."


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

Mitchdesj, the total to get the plans is unknown, and the $2500 I've already paid is refundable only because we talked at cross-purposes. I will not "own" the plans outright, but I will have a right to use the plans on this house.

Sweeby, we're not at the design stage, which is the reason he's willing to refund the deposit. We just started last week. If you will recall, I asked help to make these decisions because we wanted to be on the same page BEFORE we started down the design/drafting path. I am definitely working on choosing everything before the designing starts. That's why I have been here for 6 months asking questions.

I will be very careful from now on what questions I ask on this forum. How unfortunate.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

From a completely unbiased eye I read sherilynn's post as genuinely trying to help you (or anyone reading this, for that matter) get all your ducks in a row. The more information you have the better. Think of it when one of your children is sick and you take them to the doctor: the more information you can give the RN / MD about your child's state, the better-informed and the better able they are to give you useful, helpful feedback. And the better you are to come back with "no, that won't work because of X" or "we've already tried that" or "okay, let's give that a try." No one knows your children better than you.

It came across that sherilynn, as well as others, are trying to give you a firmer place from which to start. As you yourself wrote, there were (gross) misunderstandings on both your and the designer's part(s). Let's say you had a complete list, written, not drawn out via AutoCAD (and to be fair, no one was suggesting you master a new program, they were only writing that that was what they had done), of all you wanted accomplished in each room. Yes, you did walk the designer through your house, room by room, but even if it were all typed out so that you two could have checked them off together, you'd be part of the way there.

No one is suggesting you don't intimately know your house -- you live there, after all! But the designer doesn't know it, and he (or even a GC) having your list would make it that much easier for them to come back to you with an estimate. I know you're talking about drawings / plans, but I'm following sherilynn's point. And she really does make many, excellent and highly useful points, maybe not to you right now but for the general point of remodeling / building. As I've written to you before, we are thick in our whole-house remodel and I can see the validity (and sanity- and money-saving utility) of her points.

Back to the analogy of you with your children, no one cares about their welfare more than you, so it behooves you to go in to any meeting pertaining their well-being (choosing a babysitter, nursery school ...) having done as much of your due-diligence as possible. You and your family will be the ones living through the remodel and then living with the after-effects of said remodel, so naturally you'll want it to be the house / design you really want and which really works for you.

It's true that you've asked many questions of this forum and received exponentially more replies filled with wonderful advice as well as real kindness. Everyone who has taken the time to respond to you is only trying to help you and your project, and many of us are bringing our own experiences and cases of 20/20 hindsight to try and help. I believe that is why you're here, asking for help?

What you are undertaking is incredibly stressful. You have two small children and it appears you also work outside the home. ??? Plus, it is so clear given your posts that you are working really hard on planning this whole-house remodel. It is hard! Any of those three is enough for a full-time job -- I only have two of the three (don't work outside the home), and as I've written elsewhere I have become a swearing machine during this remodel.

Good luck to you -- one day you'll hopefully see that everyone here, in their own style (even if it's not your style), is trying to help you get the best possible kitchen / remodel because that's genuinely what they want for you.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

OP, not sure if you want to mess with this or not, or if it would help you. But Google has some free software that is free that will do 3D drawings. My bro uses it on one of his computers and he's a builder. He has done some interior layouts and they look great. It's intuitive and you'll get the hang of it pretty fast.

Here is a link that might be useful: Google Sketch Up


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

I would take the refund with the caveat that you would like to compensate him for his time, aka a 1 time consulting fee-- especially if he gave you good ideas.. We did this 15 years ago with a high end artchitect & his fee was $700, it hurt but great advice & vision. He spent about 2 hours with us & we concluded that we should move.

Recently we paid $4,500 for architect kitchen plans (another bid was $18,000-- plans only) that involved removing walls. Once we had those plans we interviewed 12 kitchen designers. Hired the one w/ best recommendations, best general contractor at our price point.


 o
RE: Help! What would you do (GC question)?

Wow...1 question...Is $2500 reasonable for what I'm getting? Simple answer seems to be 'no.' After that this post took all sorts of directions, some helpful, some hurtful.

Lots of conclusions jumped to on all sides. I think the earlier post from sherilynn was meant to be helpful, even if it didn't all pertain to this particular situation. It was taken too personally--But her 2nd post did seem to get personal, since I didn't note any 'crying' or 'complaining' in the original post...Just an explanation that, evidently, didn't give the whole picture to some...But sometimes that's hard to do in writing, and quickly.

Other assumptions here...Architects are 'just artists?' I hope they are creative and somehow artistic (some I've met decidedly aren't), but they ARE engineers. Much of their college education is in math and physics and they are very paid for engineering type tasks in your plans (beam calculations, load bearing structure, etc.), and pay high liability insurance for that reason. I admit that I'm not sure where the line is between architect and structural engineer, and why some plans and situations require the latter.

Yes, some architects don't know how to nail 2 boards together, but some are skilled and trained construction managers, and can be your best ally in the project, fighting your battles to make sure every detail is to proper specs. The trick is to find the people with the skills and talents for your particular project and who can communicate with you, producing what you need/want in the end. Sometimes you need a designer with an architect or structural engineer to OK construction specs. Sometimes a full-fledged architect would be a better value. Sometimes a good builder can fulfill most of the design and construction needs. It's different for each project and each owner.

I've had a lifelong passion for architecture and house plans, as well as exposure to building materials business and construction, so I like to do my own drawings, but others don't, and don't have to. Many should not. ;-)

Best wishes, Sarah. Sorry you're having a rocky/uncertain start to your project. There is definitely some good advice through this thread. I hope you can pull out what you need to help make your project successful.


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Kitchens Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here