Subscribe to the Design/Builders Blog

The Design Builder's Blog

LED Lighting Guide for Contractors

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Mon, Dec 05,2016 @ 05:00 AM

LED Lighting Guide for Contractors

light behind the door-WR.jpg


A clear understanding of how LED lighting works can open immense possibilities for contractors to be able to evaluate and compare performance of luminaires. It will also enable providers to propose the right luminaires for clients based on knowledge of light installations and how they are predicted to perform.

Benefits of LED Lighting

LED Lighting info for remodeling contractorsLED or light-emitting diode has revolutionized light installations. This type of lighting requires less energy and loses less heat. The life of a LED bub is longer compared to the traditional ones. Life spans are quoted by companies from 50,000 to 100,00 hours or nearly 100 times longer than the traditional bulb.

In addition, it does not need a lot of maintenance and replacement making it cost-effective. To demonstrate, a typical LED lighting will produce over 100 lumens per watt (LPW). Lumen is the amount of light emitted from a source.  A 100W incandescent bulb will produce the same luminosity but will use up more energy compared to LED bulbs.

Not only is LED cost-effective, it has outstanding color quality and excellent efficiency. Color rendering index (CRI) is the term used to define the ability of light or lamp to replicate the colors of an object on a scale of 1 to 100 where 100 is the equivalent of sunlight.

LED lighting is also smaller and compact, an easy and quick job for contractors.


What to Look for When Purchasing LED Lighting

The most important specification when buying LED is lumen output. This means that when proposing lights for certain living spaces, you will consider the amount of light it produces (brightness) and ensure it is adequate for your customers' requirements. For example, you will need brighter lights in working spaces such as the kitchen and dimmer lights in the bedroom to induce sleep.

reading the paper-WR.jpgThen you will need to look at the LPW or lumens per watt. Put simply, this is the amount of lumens produced for every watt that is used. The higher the number, the better it is in order to match the CCT or the correlated temperature (measurement of coolness or warmth) measured in kelvins (K). It indicates whether a light is warm, neutral or cool white in appearance. Finally, you have to compare the CRI, with a higher rating a better choice, that is, greater than 80 is rated as good and greater than 90, very good.


Other Features to Consider

Safety certifications vary across different regions in the world such as UL, ETL, CSA, NOM and CE. Products must be rated for moisture conditions and intended use/application such as dry, damp or wet. You might see two codes: ingress protection (IP) and insulation contact (IC). IP ratings consist of two numbers: first one indicates protections against solids including dust (0-6 where 0 means not protected and 6 well-protected). IC ratings indicate protections against liquids (0-8 where 0 means not protected and 8 means that it can be submerged in liquids).

Overall, contractors have a large number of reasons for using LED light bulbs as opposed to rival bulb types. As mentioned above these range from flexibility of design and function, to lower energy costs and longevity. The LED bulb's market share is growing just as its purchase price decreases. This is giving contractors the perfect opportunity to create new, stunning and innovative designs, features, and displays that has not been possible until now. Using LEDs will give you the design edge you are looking for to stand out from the crowd.


Guest Blogger: Leigh Marcos worked in home design and lighting before becoming a mother of two and a freelance writer. A keen photographer, she enjoys taking her dogs for long walks through the countryside in the hope of getting that perfect shot.

Topics: Green Considerations, Differentiating your Business, Design Trends, Guest Blogs, Design Options

Contractors Should Know About These Popular New Sink Styles

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Oct 04,2016 @ 05:30 AM

Contractors Should Know About These Popular New Sink Styles

Drop-in sink



The kitchen is one of the most desired spaces for a home remodel. This should come as no surprise as this area is often the gathering place of friends and family. Today more than ever, homeowners are all about customizing this area of the home.  Contractors can better serve their customers by knowing and differentiating the trending sink options available in the marketplace.


In addition to knowing the current trending sink styles, contractors should also be knowledgeable about popular faucet options, too. A helpful online resource, such as Angie’s List, can allow for contractors to read up on what homeowners are seeking out, from pull-down to touchless faucets.

These are the sink style trends that are popular among consumers right now.


Drop-in, also called self-rimming sinks, is one of the most popular styles and also very easy to install. With this style, its weight is supported by a rim that runs above the countertop surface. These types of sinks are available in different materials including stainless steel, enameled cast iron and porcelain. Not only are these sinks affordable, they are also durable and easy to clean, earning them a top spot on the consumer’s most desired list.


Undermount sinkInstalled below the countertop, undermount-style sinks offer consumers an easy cleanup in the kitchen and a seamless look. However, contractors should know that this style of sink can only be used with solid-surface kitchen countertops, such as granite, composite or marble. Undermount sinks are an affordable option, and like drop-in sinks, these are available in a variety of different materials — like enameled cast-iron — for example, and colors to fit a kitchen’s design.

Integrated Quartz

A popular choice among homeowners who prefer quartz countertops in their kitchen, this style of sink offers a seamless and sleek look. It is built into the countertop using the same color and materials as the countertop. Today many manufacturers, such as Cosentino North America, are offering this style of sink as an option when installing quartz material countertops in the home.

Porcelain Apron

These sinks are made to resemble the old-fashioned style of sinks that were often found in farmhouses. Quite large and made from materials including the popular porcelain option, stainless steel and even copper, they're hardy and can stand up to whatever task needed.

Integrated Marble

Although similar to the integrated quartz style sink that is built-in using the same materials as the countertop, this kitchen sink trend has a more luxurious flair because of its material. Natural stone marble, which is pricier than quartz materials, is available in a wide variety of stone colors, which makes it easy for homeowners to customize and also clean, offering a seamless design for the kitchen space.

Food prep sinkBamboo

This sink style is not yet mainstream but it is gaining popularity for its unique and exotic appeal. Bamboo has long been a staple in home design and decor for its durability and eco-friendliness. With a water-resistant coating, a bamboo sink can make a kitchen truly stand out.

Food Prep Sinks

Sometimes homeowners want to add more than one sink to their kitchen and cooking area. This is called the prep sink. This style of sink is available in styles like a crescent moon shape, for example, often offering a modern and unique look to a kitchen. This is handy if a homeowner plans to entertain frequently.

Topics: Design Trends, Design Options

The Latest Construction Innovations That Should Be on Your Radar

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Fri, Jun 19,2015 @ 06:00 AM

The Latest Construction Innovations That Should Be on Your Radar

Construction innovations for remodelersWhen it comes to your remodeling business, you want to be the best and stand leagues above your competition. But in a crowded field, this can be tough to do. Your customers expect professionalism and a job well done, which is what most of your peers are aiming to deliver as well. So if you’re seeking that extra edge with your business, you need to also do this – and then some. One of the best ways to impress your customers is by staying abreast of industry trends, and the newest innovations that can save them money and improve their results. Here are a couple of the ones worth watching, in commercial and residential remodeling, along with some tips for keeping yourself in the loop.


Pristine Aesthetics in Commercial Remodeling

As any commercial remodeler knows, one of the biggest challenges in the field is executing significant structural changes without killing the aesthetics of the space. One of the most common needs in commercial remodels is the addition of roof opening frames that provide structural support for HVAC units, coolers, roof turbines, skylights, roof drains, roof hatches and other rooftop equipment. The problem many remodelers have found is that the traditional way of installing such frames required welding, which created a mess and often left the area damaged and unsightly.

A new innovation has come on the scene, called QuickFrames, which takes care of this problem. The bolt-on, adjustable, pre-engineered roof opening frames only require a wrench or impact driver during installation, so there’s no need for the dangerous or ugly effects of on-site welding. Also, many warehouses are trending toward a white bottom deck (which welding would turn black) so using QuickFrames is an easy way to preserve the deck’s clean white appearance. Keeping customers informed about the benefits of using an innovative approach like this will show your vast expertise in the field and that you’re dialed in to their needs, which will ultimately help you win more business.

This video shows how easy QuickFrames can be installed, even as a retrofit


Personalization in Residential Remodeling

Differentiate remodeling designsJust as marketing techniques have all been swept up in the concept of personalization recently, remodeling is not exempt from this trend. In fact, it’s arguable that being adaptable to your customers’ wish lists is the only way you’ll succeed. You might be thinking – wait, isn’t the practice of remodeling personalized already? Yes and no. Yes, because when you remodel a home, you renovate the areas your customer has specified. But it’s not extensively personalized, since many remodeling companies don’t take it a step further and find out how to tailor every bit of construction to the customers’ wants.

For example, a hot craze this year is around making your home kitchen more like the commercial kitchens you’d find in a five-star restaurant. You may have a customer come to you and ask for a kitchen remodel, and they’ll ask for everything from granite countertops to a modern backsplash, upgraded appliances and maybe space for a wood-burning stove. They’ll think they’ve covered all the bases, but it’s your job to share with them what more they can do. Show them how their built-in refrigerator and freezer can be customized to their preferences, and how they can even request a butcher block island countertop that allows for multiple workspace heights. The goal is to go beyond the usual suspects in every area of the home, and offer new and personalized changes that you can bet the customer would love.

Stay in the Know

Beyond the latest tactics and greatest new products, your success in the remodeling field also depends on how connected you are in the industry and how up-to-date you are with new information. The two best ways to flex these muscles are by attending relevant tradeshows and by reading important industry publications. Many large manufacturing firms participate in several events year to year, where they debut their latest developments. By attending pertinent conferences, you can gain new insight and make important connections. You may also have the chance to meet people who work in industry press, who could later turn into valuable resources when it comes to getting your company exposure in remodeling publications. And even if PR isn’t on your agenda, simply reading all the big industry magazines can go a long way in educating you further about the field.


Rebecca HasulakGuest Blogger: Rebecca Hasulak is a prolific writer and dangerous dreamer. She sharpened her skill with the written word while she was an Associate Editor of a beauty and pop culture magazine, and further during her time as a Public Relations Executive. Rebecca now writes and delivers PR services under her business Quotable PR, and is happiest when with her daughter and loved ones. Follow her @BecksChristine.


Sign up to join our mailing list

Topics: Differentiating your Business, Design Trends, Guest Blogs, Design Options

Selling Bathroom Remodels? Talk to Homeowners About These 3 Important Aspects

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Sat, Feb 07,2015 @ 11:51 AM

Selling Bathroom Remodels? Talk to Homeowners About These 3 Important Aspects

Selling bathroom remodelingBathroom renovations make homes more modern, but the return on this investment is lower compared to other home remodeling projects. The average amount recouped from a mid-range bathroom project (those costing around $16,000) upon selling is 70 percent of total costs, according to Remodeling magazine. Kitchen remodeling projects recoup about 80 percent of costs, as do siding and windows replacements.

Contractors can do themselves and their clients a favor by helping them decide on the particulars of their projects to maximize ROI and aesthetic value. Homeowners are more likely to close deals with contractors looking out for their best interests versus one simply looking to make a profit.


The Money Conversation

Selling bath remodelsMost homeowners already have a budget in mind for their bathroom renovation. This is where a contractor's expertise can win the trust of prospective clients.

The National Kitchen and Bathroom Association recommends bathroom renovations cost between 5 and 10 percent of the home's total value. The bill not only includes materials and labor, but back-end expenses like supplies, legal services and secretaries. Thus, homeowners should feel comfortable and confident paying $25,000 for a bathroom remodel in a $250,000 home.

If another contractor is offering to do the same job for far less, emphasize to the prospective clients that they will ultimately get what they pay for. When contractors lower final costs simply to close deals, they are cutting costs elsewhere to make up the difference. Always provide detailed, itemized estimates, so prospects can compare your market-value offer to bargain-basement options.


No Rearranging

Some ambitious homeowners may envision moving the toilet where the tub once was and adding a second sink for a his-and-hers effect. But unless they have an unlimited budget, it's not a good idea.

Janice Costa of Kitchen & Bath Design News told HGTV that the quickest way to make final costs skyrocket is relocating the plumbing. A new sink in a different location means a new hot water pipe must be added. A new toilet waste pipe can add upward of $1,500 or more to the final bill. Moving the vent stack—which regulates air pressure in the drainage system for multiple-story homes—could add up to $10,000 to the final bill. Keep the existing plumbing to keep costs down.


Choosing Materials

Since most bathroom remodeling projects require ripping into the floor, new tile is inevitably going to be part of the job. Safety-conscious homeowners—particularly those with elderly family members—will want flooring that looks good and mitigates injury risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are 85,000 bathroom slips and falls resulting in hospitalization every year. Tiles with textured surfaces and matte finishes are best to prevent these types of injuries. Smaller tiles with more grout lines are also recommended.

how to sell bathroom renovationsA common theme for master bathrooms these days is removing the tub altogether in favor of a spa. Of course, there are caveats when it comes to installing an indoor hot tub—for starters, they are large and difficult to get indoors, and many must be installed on a ground floor due to their weight. In addition, there could be problems with humidity levels when the spa cover is removed and floor damage if the unit leaks, according to Hot Tub Works.

When choosing faucets and fixtures, the quality comes down to the material they're made of. Brass is the most expensive but also the most durable, particularly in homes with hard water. Zinc-alloy faucets will corrode eventually and need replacing. Chrome-plated faucets are durable but require a lot of maintenance to maintain their shine. Avoid faucets with plastic cores altogether.

Homeowners know contractors need to make a profit. But the more information you give them upfront, the more they'll entrust you to do the job.


Brian WilkinsGuest Blogger: Brian Wilkins is an Arizona State University journalism grad who has worked as a radio broadcaster and banking industry professional. He is an independent journalist, blogger and small business owner who loves life. He lives off-the-grid and has not owned a TV in more than six years.


Topics: Managing Allowances, Sales Considerations, Guest Blogs, Plans and Specifications, Design Options

Design and Spec Considerations for Remodelers Looking to Break $1Million

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Wed, Feb 04,2015 @ 08:57 AM

Design and Specification Considerations for Remodelers Looking to Break $1Million

contractor_with_couple-wrIf your goal is to grow your remodeling business past the $1Million installed sales volume threshold the business will need a design and or specification process.  That process must support the ability to perform a "handoff" between the salesperson and the production team that will build sold projects.  Without adequate plans and specifications the production team and a project's lead carpenter will be constantly contacting the salesperson for the information needed to build what the customer is expecting.

Even if you do not plan to offer design services, or even if you work from plans created by an architect, it is likely the projects you build still require design and or specifications at some level. For example replacing a back entry porch and stairs can involve designing the railing style, or specifying the decking materials your business recommends to the homeowner to serve their expressed purpose.

Here are several design and specification considerations remodelers should address if their plan is to grow past $1Million. 

Be honest about the level of design you can offer

Skills needed to offer remodeling design servicesBe honest not only to your customers, but also with yourself.   I fortunately recognized very early in the building of my business that I was not a designer.  I can build any design you give me, I just don't have the right talents to design renovations at the level my target customer expected and deserved.  So, if you do offer or plan to offer design services make sure you find the right talent to do so.  That person could be an employee, or as in my case, that person could be a subcontractor.  Don't risk having your client tell you they don't really think you or someone else from your team is a designer.


Manage your risks before you offer design

Insurance coverage for remodeling design servicesFirst, make sure you can legally offer design service where your business operates.  Next, make sure you and or your employees have the right construction, product and building science knowledge and experience to offer design and or specification assistance.  Value engineering for a prospect may help you sell a project, but what if you suggest or substitute products that compromise the design, the structure and or the purpose of the project?   You may own the end result and it could cost you a lot of money.  Consider professional liability insurance coverage; sometimes referred to as Errors and Omissions coverage, to protect you from such risks.


Make sure designs and specifications are complete

Creating remodeling specificationsThis may seem like an obvious point but here me out.  If your goal is to bust past $1Million your plans and specifications should include not just what might be needed to sell the job and or get a permit.  Your plans and specs should really be communication tools that your production team will use to build from.  Measurements, product sizes, rough opening dimensions, center lines and clearances all become critical when building, and even more critical if you want to protect your margins and project schedules.   With the right plans and specifications you can protect your profits and only have to build the project once.



Design considerations for remodelersAs produced volume increase for a remodeler, that remodeler must decide between being a contractor and a construction business owner.  As a contractor you can do all of the above yourself, but breaking $1Million will be challenging, require lots of work hours and may not be practical depending on your target project types.  As a construction business owner your role will be to profitably run the business not the jobsite.  If that is your goal make sure your team members will be creating the information each department needs to successfully sell profitable projects and perform their assigned responsibilities.


read blog articles about breaking 1 million

Topics: Plans and Specifications, Design Options, Working with Design Professionals, Insurance Considerations, Breaking $1Million

Window Treatments Upsell and Differentiate Your Designs and Projects

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Sep 04,2014 @ 06:00 AM

Window Treatments Decoded: What to Use Where

Window treatments for contractors


When it comes to building a house, you've got it down. You've got your favorite brands of windows and insulation, and you know all of the best places to get quality materials. But when it comes to the finishes, making the right choices can be tricky, especially when it comes to so many window treatment options. Here's a breakdown of the various types of window coverings with the advantages of each to help make the selection process easier for your next project.  Consider adding them during the design stage to upsell your project, make your designs stand out and differentiate your offering.


Privacy and Plenty of Light

Cellular shades

Cellular shades are a type of hard window treatment that provide complete privacy while also allowing natural light to filter into the room. The shade's honeycomb design is constructed for maximum energy efficiency and provides a layer of insulation to help keep warm air inside. As windows typically account for 25 percent of heat loss in a home, states The Shade Store, this is an easy way to mitigate the problem while also softening up the look of the windows. Cellular shades are ideal in bathrooms, street-facing bedrooms or rooms that are prone to heat loss. While the light-filtering option is most commonly used, cellular shades also are made with heavier materials so they can double as blackout shades.

Timeless Design

Wood blinds are a safe choice of window treatment because they have a classic style that adds a rich, polished look to any room. This is an ideal option to use for a spec home or a house that's being remodeled as it has wide-ranging appeal. Wood blinds are made in a variety of wood finishes, so you can easily find them in the same material or stain that you're using in other finishes in the house. While a bit more expensive than standard horizontal blinds, wood blinds offer a higher insulation value and have a higher-quality appearance.

Form and Function

Roman Shades


If you are looking for the decorative impact of drapes with the functional advantages of blinds, roman shades are the ideal choice. Made from heavy, durable fabric, roman shades are an easy way to soften the look of a room. While available in lighter fabrics, most are blackout quality and are perfect for installation in a bedroom, says Houzz, or anywhere that privacy is of utmost importance. While roman shades look great, there are a few downsides. They are all or nothing when it comes to letting light in and they can be difficult to keep clean as dust accumulates.

Unmatched Elegance

Drapery brings a refined look into any room of the house. For the best results, opt to have custom drapery made. One of the main downsides of drapery is that it can be difficult to select a material that will appeal to all homeowners. HGTV suggests silk drapes to instantly wake up a dull room. Additionally, drapes can add a lot of depth as well as the illusion of height to a room. To make the ceilings seem higher and to make the room feel a bit more spacious, install the curtain rod close to the ceiling rather than just above the window.


Sleek Sun Protection

Solar Shades

Solar shades are the ideal window treatment option for rooms that have a lot of sun exposure. They offer UV protection while also reducing glare. This is a great option in rooms with a beautiful view, as the shades won't disrupt. One caveat is that solar shades do not provide privacy; therefore, solar shades are best in main living quarters of the house like the living room, great room, kitchen or dining room. Furthermore, this type of window treatment is a must if your clients have expensive art, antique furniture or other valuables that can be harmed from too much sun exposure.


Allison Wilkinson


Guest Blogger:  Allison Wilkinson is a WAHM, an explorer, an amateur chef and a fitness buff. You can find her Instagramming photos of her (adorable) son or researching everything from the latest parenting theories to healthy hacks for desserts.

Topics: Differentiating your Business, Design Trends, Guest Blogs, Design Options

Creative Driveway Designs Bring Attention To The Rest Of The Project

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Aug 26,2014 @ 06:00 AM

Creative Driveway Designs Can Bring Attention To The Rest Of The Project

Driveway designs



The driveway is among the first things visitors and passersby see when they look at a house. Like the front door, the driveway creates a lasting impression and perception of the home and because of this; it's the perfect time to try something a little unconventional. Even more than the front door, the driveway has to be functional as well as visually appealing, as it’s a service area of the property. Plus, a really cool driveway design can bring the contractor more business from the customers' neighbors asking, "Who did your driveway?"


Not Their Father’s Driveway

Your clients may have memories of their dad brushing smelly black sealant on their childhood home’s driveway or patching cement cracks with a trowel and wet cement. But those are not the only options for driveway surfaces. A driveway’s appearance is limited only by your customer’s budget and (hopefully not) your creativity. Gravel, pavers, natural crushed shell, brick, basalt, permeable (or pervious) concrete and recycled materials are just some of the possible materials you can use to design a unique driveway.


Factors in Driveway Design

Contractors and consumers should take a few things into consideration when designing a driveway. Budget is an important factor during construction and installation, but don't forget driveway maintenance over time. The materials used to construct the driveway, as well as its style, should complement the house, not clash with it, as well as be durable with a layout that is logical and easy to navigate by foot and vehicle.

A driveway created with pavers can be one of the best values, providing beautiful design possibilities, with low maintenance and a long shelf life, commonly lasting 30 to 40 years. Crushed shell driveways offer soft colors and good drainage, while pervious concrete made with almost no sand deliver a light, porous surface to avoid run-off issues.


Mix N Match and Layouts

Creative driveway ideasTo help your work stand out from other contractors don’t settle for the same old same old when it comes to designing driveways for your clients. You can mix and match materials like asphalt and brick border, or broken concrete and gravel. Instead of a straight path from the street to the garage, consider a rolling driveway layout to add some sensuous curved lines to the property.

Hiring a qualified sub contractor to perform the work  is often the best route.  But if you would like to do all or even some of the work in-house you can rent the equipment you need to do it right. Compactors, electric hammers, and other equipment are readily available as long as you know what you will need.


Creative Borders

Driveway can help sell a house


Creative borders go a long way toward creating an attractive driveway. Liven up a traditional straight driveway by planting a low hedge on each side, plus a decorative flowering tree for more vertical interest, such as a dwarf flowering crabapple tree. Add interest with grass between pavers or broken cement. Use a homeowner’s favorite design element or theme to line or highlight the driveway with split logs and tree trunks or a mass planting their favorite flowers.

Beautiful, unique driveway designs add a visual highlight as the first part of a property to be seen and used before arriving at the front door. It’s worth the extra effort to think more about materials and plan a unique part of the property that everyone passing by will see and your customer’s will enjoy for years to come.



Heidi CardenasGuest Blogger: Heidi Cardenas is a freelance writer with a background in human resources, business administration, technical writing and corporate communications. She specializes in human resources, business and personal finance, small business advice and home improvement.



Topics: Differentiating your Business, Design Trends, Design Options

10 Ways Some Architects Do A Disservice To Contractors & Home Owners

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Thu, Jun 26,2014 @ 06:00 AM

10 Ways Some Architects Do A Disservice To Contractors and Home Owners

Why contractors don't like architects


If you have been a contractor any length of time you have probably had negative experiences trying to work with architects.   You have probably also witnessed the frustration, disappointment and financial challenges some architects cause for home owners due to their methods of doing business and how they do design development.   Keep in mind I purposely said “some architects”.   Just as there are good and bad contractors, there are good and bad architects. I have personally worked with a handful of great architects.

I know I am taking a risk here and that I will definitely get some passionate comments from architects.   That said, below I offer 10 ways I think many architects do a disservice to contractors and home owners.  Feel free to offer additional reasons and or to dispute my list.   All opinions are welcome, as long as you are respectful and appropriate when doing so.

  1. Bidding on architects plansThe architect either invites multiple contractors to bid on the project or gives the homeowner the names of 5 (or more) contractors to bid on the project, essentially setting up an auction.  So 5 contractors and all their subs do free estimates for the chance to be the lowest bidder (biggest loser).  Then when the home owner actually buys from a contractor they are the ones paying for all the free estimates that contractor did for the people who did not buy.  I think it would be interesting to hear the reaction home owners might have if they knew they were paying for other home owners’ free estimates.
  2. Do you know any architects who have estimating training and or experience? Many architects say they can and will design to a budget and or quote square foot costs to their clients that are unrealistic.   Then if the contractor bids come in over budget many architects will blame all the contractors for being over-priced.   These same architects then even have the nerve to charge the home owner to redesign the project to get it closer to the original budget.  Why do home owners put up with being treated that way?  
  3. Many architects create multiple designs and plan sets for the same project, most of which ever get built from because they do not take into account all of the related considerations (Budget/cost, zoning, soils, incomplete plans/specifications…). When this happens often times the home owner spends so much money on the unusable designs that they have to then scale back the project budget.  Unfortunately the home owner pays for it all the wasted services and contractors waste their and their sub contractors’ time doing multiple estimates, typically all for free. 
  4. Some architects charge contractors a referral fee for introducing them to the client, but tell the contractor they don't want the client to know about it.  In my opinion this is not ethical.   I have no problem with the referral fee as long as the contractor is OK with it.  But hiding it from the client is deceptive because now the cost of the referral is a cost of the project, and, in essence, the architect is asking the contractor to lie about it.   I don’t think contractors need to volunteer the information.  But, if asked about it by the client, or if it’s a cost plus contract, I think the contractor needs to be honest.  For T&M contractors, letting the home owner know that their markup on costs has to help cover the cost of the architect’s referral fee could help justify the markup percentage.
  5. The architect provides incomplete and or conflicting plans.  This one creates big challenges for the homeowner as well as the contractor.   If the contractor points out the missing details he can be accused of throwing the architect under the bus and probably won’t get the job.  On the other hand if the items are missed or ignored when the contractor provides a price the missed items become change orders and the home owner has to pay the additional cost.
  6. architect's plans are over budgetMany architects take the plans too far before knowing if the customer can actually afford the project and or if the project can actually be built.  I think this is one of the worst things architects do to their customers.   Wouldn’t it make sense to make sure the there are no zoning issues and that the project and or the scope are realistic before spending the client’s money to bring the plans from concept to ready to apply for permit?
  7. Some architects require the contractor sign the AIA contract.   That contract essentially says once under contract the contractor has to eat any additional costs to meet building code requirements even if the plans and or the design don’t meet code.  Shouldn't a licensed architect be responsible to design to code and be responsible to their clients for the additional costs of what they missed?
  8. Not allowing the contractor to meet the home owner before providing a bid.   I’m really not sure why architects do this.   Why refer a contractor to the project but then not allow both the home owner and the contractor the opportunity to meet and make sure there is a good fit and that the budget is realistic before asking the contractor to invest a lot of his and his trade partner’s time assembling an estimate?  I think this may have to do with number 2 above.   The architect has no idea what the project will really cost and doesn’t want to risk that the contractor will help the home owner figure that out.  If contractors allow this to happen and still submit a bid, shame on them!
  9. Designing to a budgetThey over-design the project past the agreed budget without providing realistic insight about the additional costs.   Again, assuming the architect agreed to design to a budget, refer to number 2 above.   If the home owner asks for things and or the architect suggests things that will blow the agreed budget, shouldn’t the architect make the true price difference clear to the home owner first and ask if they will commit to increasing their budget before expanding the design and collecting bids from contractors?
  10. The architect specifies products he has no experience with.    This one has caused many contractors a lot of money and or lost sleep; including me!  Often the products can be difficult to procure, may be new and have not yet been proven to serve their intended purpose long term, and or may be way outside the client’s budget.  By doing this the architect often creates financial hardships for the contractor and the home owner, and can cause serious project failure and or warranty problems that typically fall back on the contractor, not the architect.


So, that’s my list. 

I have more but I think that’s enough to get the conversation going. 

Design Build for contractors


By the way, if you are a contractor or a home owner reading this, there is a better way.  True Design/Build Contractors use a process that can eliminate every one of the challenges listed above.  Check out this article titled The Advantages of Design/Build for Remodeling Clients for more on why Design/Build might be a better way to go for many contractors, home owners and even for architects.  



Topics: Customer Relations, Design Options, Working with Design Professionals

General Contracting Starts With a Good Construction Contract

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Sun, Dec 30,2012 @ 06:00 AM

General Contracting Starts With a Good Construction Contract

Diane Menke and Tamara Myers


Guest Blogger: Diane Menke, VP/Operations Manager of Myers Constructs, Inc.  Diane Menke (left) and Tamara Myers (right) are the co-owners and principals of Myers Constructs, Inc., an award-winning design to build firm serving the greater Philadelphia region. A certified Women Business Enterprise, Myers Constructs is also a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, NARI, and NKBA.



General Contracting Starts With a Good Construction Contract

Construction ContractOver the years, I have heard from many contractors — some of them with very big companies — about how they handle drafting their business contracts. Many times, these documents consist of a collection of "stuff some guys I know have in their contracts" cobbled together. It doesn't even occur to these business owners that laws vary by state, or that they might need an expert to customize contracts to fit their own business's unique needs. By not having a professional create legal documents that fit a clear sales procedure and overall company goals, they are putting their company at serious risk. I know because we learned the hard way, too. 

When we first started our business, we used "homemade" and very simple carbon copy contracts that Tamara put together over the many years she was a carpenter working for herself.  Basically, it stated: "Seller will do X for Buyer for $Y." Like most carpenters and trades people, Tamara loved working with her hands and helping people. Carpentry was a joyous creative outlet for her. At that time, if a customer didn't pay, Tamara would "make nice" in order to "keep the peace and her good name" and move on to the next project. Lucky for Tamara, most of her customers were good people, the projects were small, and she probably didn't lose as much as she could have. 

What motivated us

Remodeling ContractIn 1998, we incorporated as Myers Constructs, Inc., because we had taken on a huge and complicated renovations project. We knew we needed serious business structures in place to protect us, so in 2001 we asked Dana Priesing, an attorney who is now our office manager, to read our contracts to look for problems. (She had us sign a contract before she did so!) Dana interviewed Tamara to better understand how she sells, and how our customers buy, and then gave us a few recommendations right off the bat:

  1. Don't give away design work. That was a huge lost income stream. It drained endless hours of Tamara's time, and sometimes we didn't even get the project. Dana advised us to bill for it, and she created a contract just for design work. We can now use the same contract if a customer with an architect needs consulting work during the design phase. 
  2. Our income streams should be separated out, and clear and simple contracts should be created for each one. We now have one for fixed price contracts and one for time and materials contracts, which are typically smaller, simpler projects.
  3. Don't use "softening statements" EVER in contracts. By softening the rules, boundaries and regulations of our agreements, and by being vague about price, payment schedules, and customer expectations, we had unintentionally created confusion. Our customers didn't know what we needed from them in order to do a good job, so Dana created a contract for us that clearly and separately identifies buyer's and seller's responsibilities, rights, and remedies.

 Protecting our investments

Contract Clauses for construction contracts


Our company supports a lot of people. We have invested decades into it, and we are depending on it to help us retire. It deserves great contracts to protect those objectives. And great contracts mean we can sleep soundly at night because we know we are doing what we agreed to do at the right price, and we are protected against any possible issues that may arise.


Liked this guest blog?   You might like this one too:

What Happens In Vagueness Stays In Vagueness!


Topics: Legal Related, Contracts, Guest Blogs, Legal Considerations, Opinions from Design/Builders, Design Options

Designer or Decorator – Know and Manage the Difference

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Jun 12,2012 @ 05:00 AM

Designer or Decorator – Know and Manage the Difference

Reva Kussmaul, remodel coach

 Guest Blogger: Reva Kussmaul, owner of Remodel411.  Reva began her practice as a remodeling coach in 1998.  Reva believes that remodeling should be a 50/50 relationship and if it wasn’t cultivated as such - nightmares can occur.  According to Reva, those nightmares are typically caused by a gap in communication and it could come from either side.  For Reva it became quite obvious that someone who knew about and cared about both sides was a missing piece to the puzzle of remodeling nightmares.   So, she decided that both homeowners and contractors could use a coach when it came to their relationship - the remodeling relationship that is.  In this guest blog Reva talks about the difference between an designer and a decorator.  Check out her book: Remodel 411: Secrets to a Successful Remodeling Relationship





Designer or decorator, whats the difference


Contractors & Homeowners:  There is a distinct difference between someone who chooses pretty things for the home (see the definition for decorator below) and someone who knows what choosing pretty as well as designing for the building/installation of pretty is (see definition of designer below).

Designer:  A person who plans the form, look, or workings of something before its being made or built; a creator, planner, inventor; maker, architect, builder.

Decorator:  A person who decorates, in particular a person whose job is to decorate the interior of someone's home, by choosing colors, carpets and furnishings.


Many decorators call themselves designers and they are far from it

I’ve worked with them, so I know.  Now, I’m not making them wrong for what they do, I’m saying how they define themselves is incorrect.

Perhaps it’s easier to sell one’s services if called a designer as opposed to a decorator - maybe more money can be charged?!  However, there is a very important difference.  When a decorator, who sometimes has no true knowledge about building, has a plan B with possible change orders for “unforeseens”, etc.; the project suffers UNLESS they have consulted with the contractor and are willing to refer to their expertise.  Then, we have what is called “a team” and an experience is created.

Design/Builders can offer the full service option

This is also part of the remodeling relationship I write about in Remodel 411: Secrets to a Successful Remodeling Relationship. My advice to homeowners - choose a design-build firm that is full-service and if you feel a need to have someone help you decorate with pretty, simply ask if their company is staffed for that service as well.  Save yourself time, money as well as emotional fall-out.  In the long run, this is what will create a great remodeling relationship.

difference between a decorator and a designerMy suggestion to design/build firms is to have a decorator either on staff or one you’ve built a good relationship with available to you, that is willing to work in conjunction with the designer and/or contractor as far as the pretty aspect of such things as tile lay-out, mirror and sconce placement goes.  This is where creating a team comes into play.  When all parties are able to communicate clearly with one another and work together everyone wins.  That’s the whole point - everyone does what they’re good at, has a good time and works together so more business is forth-coming.

It’s about clear communication and teamwork

A great team, which includes quality craftsmanship, is what creates a win/win experience for all involved. It’s not about anyone being right or wrong, it’s about creating an amazing experience.


Topics: Guest Blogs, Plans and Specifications, Opinions from Design/Builders, Definitions, Design Options, Working with Design Professionals