Two models: Design/Build vs. Contracting…Which is right for you?
Let me start by saying that HM Remodeling is a Design/Build remodeler. So, my position is not unbiased. However, we were not always Design/Build and I do have a fairly objective perspective on the relative merits of the two approaches.
Let’s start with a few definitions. Design/Build remodelers provide design services, typically for fees that may be applied to the project price. Contractors may also offer design services by working with independent design companies where appropriate. Almost every homeowner wants a “free estimate” before they decide which firm to select. However, an estimate is not a firm price or a quote. It is merely an educated guess as to what the project might cost.
Free estimates are basically sales tools. They aren’t altogether meaningless. But, they are no substitute for a professional design that addresses questions like; How will the existing flaws in the current design be addressed? Where should everything be located? What should the cabinetry look like and how should it function? What type of fixtures should be used? What type of flooring, tile, countertops, shower glass, etc. will be used? What’s the most cost effective combination of all of these choices?
Before we became a Design/Build remodeler we’d simply quote a price based on whatever the homeowner told us during the “free estimate”. If we were selected, we’d lock down the scope of work and then go to contract. If and when something changed (which was always the case) we’d have the client sign a change order an increase the price accordingly. Frankly, this is where contractors make most of their money!
In fact, two of the biggest complaints from consumers about contractors is that the final price was higher and the project duration was longer than expected. The root cause of the disappointment is that the project price and timeline were determined before the design choices were finalized. So, price changes and delays are almost inevitable.
That said, the contractor model works quite well for homeowners who know exactly what they want and who have the time and the expertise to manage the process themselves. This means researching the choices, identifying the best sources for materials, obtaining the cabinetry designs, etc. Perhaps most importantly, this approach requires constant communications with everyone involved. And, with contractors it’s best to do so in writing in order to avoid confusion.
If you don’t have the patience, time, or expertise to manage the myriad of decisions, process step, vendors, workers, etc., you should select the Design/Build approach to remodeling. That’s why we switched. We’ve found that Design/Build remodeling enables us to do a better job of making our clients happy to recommend us to their friends and colleagues.