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Remodeling University: What You Should Call Mega Builders For

The tern ‘home remodeling’ is far too encompassing and general to be of real value. All too often we get a call or an email from a homeowner who approaches us because we are a Los Angeles remodeling contractor with questions about work elements that we do not do at all.

So here is a short run down of the areas in which we have developed a level of expertise, proficiency and know-how that enable us to not only give you the best possible product, but also helps us do it for the most competitive price:

1. Design/Build – almost without exception, we designed all of the hundreds of projects featured on our site. We are very proud of our core competency in design. From a kitchen remodeling to a custom home, our new floor plans and designs are always creative, magnificent, rewarding to live in and, as importantly – your budget centered. Our expertise include complete teardown and rebuild, additions (first and second floors) and whole-house remodeling projects. We have done hundreds of those through the years to our clients complete delight.
2. Kitchens – we have remodeled well over 1000 kitchens to date. Of particular note in this regard is the fact that we are the exclusive North American distributor for the Mal Corboy Cabinets. These amazing museum-caliber creations are on par with or exceed the quality, fit and finish of the best of the European brands, from Poggenpohl kitchens to Snaidero and so forth. Aside from Mal Corboy Cabinets we have extensive lines of custom cabinets for almost all budgets and styles.
3. Home Damage Restoration – since the 87′ Whittier quake we have handled thousands of insurance related losses. Dealing with an insurance loss (examples of which would be fire damage repair, water damage repair, etc.) is very different than dealing with a regular remodeling project. Securing a fair, complete and amicable settlement from the insurance company should not be taken for granted and rarely happens without massive, concerted and particular effort on behalf of your ‘team’. You need representation when dealing with an insurance company (never go at it on your own!) and we put together a team of the best professionals (public adjuster, etc.) out there. Repair work for home damage restoration too is very different than ‘run of the mill’ remodeling.
4. Solar – We carry a specialty license for solar. Although we could ‘do’ solar with our general contractor’s license, it was important for us to demonstrate to our clients that we have the particular core competencies involved with solar power panels, solar systems, building science and green technologies. The fact that our expertise and experience also include building and roofing makes us particularly equipped (unlike almost anyone out there) to deliver a quality product that will serve you without fail for many years. Our design awareness and know-how is helpful as well. We do our best to come up with solar system solutions that are not only well priced, reliable and efficient – but also architecturally pleasing.

Anyone can lay claims for expertise and experience. But the ‘proof is in the pudding’ as the saying goes. The many projects featured on this site speak volumes to that end. Furthermore, our multiple licenses and certifications (not to mentions media coverage, awards, etc.) should be further proof. Last, but not least, our top rating with the BBB (a rating of A+) is second to none and ahead of almost all companies in this industry. It is reflective of our client-centered approach and unwavering dedication to our clients’ satisfaction and to delivering on (and exceed) all of our promises.

Happy remodeling!

Remodeling University: Do You Really Need a General Contractor?

With all the discussion (see previous posts) about the best way to hire a general contractor, Los Angeles residents might ask themselves a legitimate questions: “do I really need a general contractor on my project?”

Well, in my opinion, the answer depends on your particular circumstances.

Generally speaking, the more complex your project is and the larger it is, the more a competent general contractor is needed. Many homeowners might not be aware of it, but being an owner-builder is a viable option for many remodeling projects. That category (owner-builder) is also recognized by the city for the purpose of securing permits.

As an owner-builder, you act as the GC (general contractor). So let’s say that you live in Los Angeles and Kitchen remodeling is what you are considering. You might decide to do the demolition yourself, have an electrician take care of the electrical work, a handy man patch the walls, you’ll do the painting, the Home Depot would supply and install the cabinets and a friend of yours would install the tile counters. Is that a legitimate approach? It sure is…providing;

Here are some of the challenges you should be aware of:
1. Like for anything else, for this too there is a learning curve. Even if you are a very fast learner, chances are that you’ll have a few missteps the ‘first time out’.
2. Design knowhow: the more complex the project, the more critical the design would be. Unless there is a design professional on your team, yours would be a hit-n-miss experience.
3. Code and construction knowhow: Someone on your team needs to be knowledgeable in the various codes pertaining to your project and in the best sequencing for your particular work.
4. Competent supervision: while a layperson can review finish work and judge it satisfactory (or not), the same does not hold true for ‘rough’ work. As a layperson, can you tell if the plumbing is run correctly, the wires properly sized, the drywall legally nailed, etc?
5. Availability: will you be able to be on site to see that things are done as agreed to or as needed? Was the gravel base placed before the driveway was poured? Was the second coat of paint applied? Were the old pipes abandoned and new ones ran in the wall? Unless you are – A. On site to supervise and note all these things, short cuts are certain to take place and B. Even if you are at home to supervise, do you know enough about construction’s ‘best practices’ to be able to effectively supervise?

None of it is ‘rocket science’. Truly. But there is enough complexity in today’s homes that you need to consider your options; if you have a basic project that does not involve multiple trades, is not too complex and the overall scope and budget are small, I think you can take it on yourself, should you be so inclined. Just take the time needed to educate yourself (endless resources are available online) and stay on top of everyone. If, on the other hand, the home remodeling you are considering is complex, involves structural work, requires design and/or is broad in scope and budget, I strongly recommend that you team with a competent, professional and experienced general contractor. Without a doubt, that would be in your best bet.

Happy remodeling!

Remodeling University: Choosing A General Contractor

As noted before, the subject of how to choose the best contractor for your project is of critical importance. It is probably the most important decision you’ll have to make with regards to any substantial remodeling adventure. It is also a subject that is impossible to cover adequately in a single blog post. So here is the second installment;

Beyond the brouhaha of a sales pitch and independent of the appeal of low, or too-good-to-be-true quotes, an alert homeowner can find clues and telltale indications relating to the remodeling companies being considered. The challenge of course, is to ignore the pull of the ‘great’ low quote or the charisma of the persuasive salesperson long enough to be able to objectively evaluate these criteria.

1. Contract: educate yourself about what a complete and proper Home Improvement Contract should contain (in California, use the CSLB website). Ask the contractor for all his contract papers and compare to what’s required. You will often finds remarkable short falls in what the contractor’s contract looks like to what it needs to be. Note that these state mandated contract elements are there to protect you, the consumer.
2. Payment Schedule: Never, ever work with anyone that requires substantial sums ‘with commencement’ of anything (unless you are ordering a custom item, like cabinets). A good Payment Schedule is hinged upon Completion of stages of work, not commencement of them.
3. Success leaves clues: if the contractor is indeed professional, experienced and competent and has been doing this for a time – what does he have to show for it? Did he receive any awards? Any positive media recognition? Talk is cheap – the proof is what you need to look for.
4. Scope of Work: how detailed and complete is the Scope of Work? Worry of its not. Did you hear the sentence “don’t worry about it” once too often? Worry about it.
5. Portfolio of work: well, first many construction companies in Los Angeles (and I’m certain, elsewhere) don’t have a portfolio of their work, but may be doing great work. If you did not look through a portfolio ask and go look at projects (recommended at any event). The point here is about those who do show you a nice portfolio. Are these pictures of projects these contractors actually did or are these pictures off the internet, manufacturer’s brochures and so forth? A keen observer should be able to tell.
6. Deposit amount: are you being asked for an unreasonably high amount up front? That’s a big red-flag. In California, the deposit cannot exceed $1000 or 10%, whichever IS LESS!

These are just some quick examples of indications you might be heading into troubled waters. Remember that in remodeling the amounts involved are relatively large and the ‘entry threshold of membership’ is very low (it doesn’t take much to present oneself as a contractor or even to procure a license to be one). Together, these two factors are a recite for trouble.

A proactively cautious homeowner that is diligent and careful about any hiring decision will likely end up fairing better with regards to the project than those owners that are not.

Happy remodeling!