Thursday, January 1, 2015

What does Design-Build mean?

It's a building term that a lot of remodeling and construction companies are throwing around.
In fact, it's become a rather common category in the building industry. Unfortunately, many are using it wrong. And this creates confusion for the homeowner.
A design-build contractor is not a contractor who can draw with Revit or AutoCAD as well as swing a hammer. Although many would like you to think that this is true.
Rather, a design-build contractor is one who makes sure that everything drawn on Revit or AutoCAD meets all of your needs.
In short, a true design-build contractor makes sure the project only has to be done once.
How do you know if you are speaking with a true
Design-Build contractor?

You will know in a matter of minutes, because we start with questions--a lot of them--and then we make suggestions.
  • We figure out the root of the problem you are trying to solve.
What does this approach look like? Many people tell us they need more space in the kitchen. This seems pretty straight forward. A simple place to start would be to check to see if an addition will work.
Have you considered a sunroom addition?
We added drama and light by opening up the cathedral with windows.

We ask why. Is it because of a need for storage? Counter work space? An island where all the kids can sit at once? Would you believe that most of the time the customers who come to us looking for more space end up deciding to reorganize their existing space?
  • We determine whether you want your project to "fit in" or if you want you project to be "transformational."
And we have a different design approach for each. We are not there to sell you the latest and greatest. We are there to give you budget responsible solutions to your problems.
  • Large or small, transformational or subtle, we work within your budget.
  • We help you prioritize your needs, wants, and wishes so that you can get what's most important to you relative to the amount of money you are willing to invest.
    Stained glass window
    These clients needed to add a storage room but didn't want to lose the light from the existing window. We created a light box behind the glass and installed stained glass to create a piece of art that served as an additional light.
Let's face it. We can never have everything we want. A true design-build
contractor will be honest with you about this. We will help you decide if you will be happier with upgrading the countertops, or if the money should be spent on creating dramatic views with patio doors. Often times we help our customers find less expensive solutions than they thought possible, simply because we start at your budget, and then fit all of your dreams into it.
  • We won't lie to you.
Many of our jobs are accomplished without change orders. This is because we take time in the planning phases, and we approach your budget honestly and responsibly. If you call us and say that you want those granite countertops, we won't make it happen by giving you lower quality cabinets, and then hit you later with a change order for the upgraded doors. We won't tell you we can give you everything just to win your business. We respect you and your budget more than that.
  • We want you to be a lifelong customer.
Life changes. All the time. And it is likely that you will need a number of transformations to your house as life evolves. Frankly, your lifelong business is worth much more to us than the extra bit we might make by getting you to buy the expensive light fixtures that you really don't need.

We provide solutions that are
Designed for Your Life.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Trades are a Lousy Plan B: 3 Reasons

Right now we are facing a shortage of skilled tradespeople.

And it's only going to get worse.

Many of our most skilled workers are nearing retirement age, and with the high schools pushing college over training programs in the trades, employers who need these skilled workers are looking down the barrel at some tough years ahead.

It's a problem of our own making.

For decades, high schools have pushed the idea that college is the goal. But college does not make everyone happy. Not every student, no matter how successful the school (or how smart the student), wants to continue their education at a university. Even so, many succumb to parental and student counselor pressure to continue on with a college education.

The school of thought has been that if college doesn't work out, the trades are a good "plan B."

Here are 3 reasons the trades make a lousy "plan B."

1) School is expensive. Very expensive. The student is not only investing thousands of dollars to sit in classes, but they are also losing out on employment income while they do so. The college investment is often figured out by the cost of tuition, etc., but when you consider wages lost while spending time in the classroom, that cost could more than double.

Additionally, most students take out some loans to pay for their education, which means if plan "A" (college) doesn't pan out, they are now not only jobless, but also they are jobless, lack work skills, and have debt.

2) The trades should be respected. The men and women who build our houses and bridges and roads make it possible for the country to move and grow. Speaking for those of us in the construction industry, we would rather train a worker who feels good about their life choices than try to reprogram a disappointed, disillusioned, college dropout who feels like they failed by getting a job in our industry. We like what we do. We make a decent living. We are proud of our jobs. Let your kid be proud of who they are too. 

3) Life moves quickly. And the trades are learned almost solely in apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship pay is (and this is a huge generalization) roughly half of what a Journeyman makes. For someone just starting out, this can pay the bills. Add a couple of years, some debt from college, and maybe a family to support, and many people can't afford to begin an apprenticeship program, even though the outlook for future income is well beyond what they currently make.

The fact is, the trades make a great career. Journeyman aspirations should not be considered any lower than college aspirations, and we need to stop pushing our kids to fit in the college box.

There are jobs to be had. If your kid isn't relishing the idea of going to college, please support them and let them explore some of the other options. 

Here is a link with some information on jobs in the trades.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Non-TV Remodel

I flipped on the TV and tuned in that popular home improvement station—yeah, you know the one.
Suddenly, I was transported to California, land of sunshine and perfect weather, watching house flippers discuss what it would cost to remodel a wreck of a bathroom.

Now this bathroom was in a neighborhood of near million dollar houses, where granite was old school, a basic landscape plan would make even the fattest of wallets clamp closed in disbelief, and where the neighbors looked like Ken and Barbie—every last one of them.

They called in their contractor, authentically and reassuringly garbed in jeans and a t-shirt, met him at the door, and the viewers were treated to all the scripted non-scripted grunts and groans at every new discovery.
Finally, the contractor stands back, rubs his chin, crosses his arms, and with feet planted firmly on the warped subfloor of the trashed and flooded house, nods his head back and forth and pronounces it might cost up to $6000. The flippers gasp, the camera cuts to private shots of the husband and wife team as they wrestle with this potentially budget-busting surprise, and then, the commercial break. Oh the drama, the intrigue, however will they do it?

I clicked off the TV.

Did you know that just the tubs in houses like that can be more than $6K? Forget everything else.

Yet when people call, they seem to be convinced that any remodeler could recreate that miracle for $6K, well, actually less, because we are in Wisconsin, and things should be cheaper here. Right?

Wrong. Truth be told, I can’t figure out where they get their numbers. They are laughably unrealistic.
That doesn’t mean that a lot can’t be accomplished in a bathroom with $6K. In fact, you can have some major upgrades for a lot less, and if you are interested we can take a look at your home and let you know how much difference an investment like that can make.

But it won’t necessarily buy you a new bathroom with in-floor heating, a copper tub, a shower that threatens to drown anyone less than 6 feet tall, and the most expensive imported tile.

You see, what they don’t show you on those shows are the months and months of planning that go into creating the perfect space. And then they don’t show you the insanely talented and hardworking craftsmen that work around the clock to get it done in the TV studio’s time frame. And they really don’t show you the down to the pennies budgets that a real contractor works under.

We will show you, though. We take the time, we follow your budget, and we build to your specifications. It might not be done in 24 hours, and it might not be that special European tile, but there will also not be the surprises, drama, and the overall budget mystery.

Do you want a well-built, budget responsible, space designed just for you? Give us a call.

Designed for your Life.