A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an entry on the process of having a room addition build. However it occurred to me later that it would make sense to go back and revisit this with a little bit more background information on the decisions that must be made prior to beginning the process. With that in mind, I decided to write today's entry.
When a homeowner considers adding onto their home they must decide how exactly they plan to go about the process. There are two primary ways of doing this. First is the traditional approach of hiring an architect to help develop the plans, this then leads to a need to obtain bids from different contractors and then finally selecting one, typically based on a combination of their price and their perceived competence. The second approach is what is referred to as design/build.
There are many companies in the home improvement business who bill themselves as "Design/Build" firms, however many home improvement consumers may have no idea what this actually means or whether it would be a good fit for their situation. With that in mind, I wanted to take a moment to explain what design/build is and how it compares to the process of blueprint/bid/build.
In the simplest description, design/build allows for a single source to guide you through the entire process, from concept to completion of your new living space, all of the parts of the project are contracted to one company. There are several key advantages to this approach when compared to the alternative process. First of all, this can be a more cost effective approach. The cost of using an architect to design your project can often be a significant portion of the project. Further, this cost is above and beyond the actual cost of construction. By comparison, the cost to work with a designer at a design/build firm is often significantly less and in many cases the design build firm will credit the design costs against the project costs if the customer decides to move forward with the project (Legacy credits any design costs to the project for customers who decide to move forward).
After completion of the design process it is often necessary to obtain various permits, surveys, etc. This is another aspect of the process which can be expedited by working with a design/build firm. When following the traditional approach, the homeowner would ordinarily be responsibly for obtaining these items. This can be difficult for those who are not familiar with building codes, code officials, etc. Streamlining this part of the process can make the overall experience much less stressful.
Once all of the necessary permits have been obtained and work has begun, there will be a variety of tradesmen who may be involved in your project. From the concrete work, to the framing, pluming, electric, HVAC and finish carpentry, there could be literally a dozen different subcontractors involved. If you elect to utilize an architect and to get bids on different aspects of the work, you will effectively be acting as your own general contractor. If you have a strong background in this kind of thing, then this could work. Otherwise, it may make more sense to utilize a design build firm as they will be able to co-ordinate the various trades and make sure the work, from foundation to finish, is done properly.
After the conclusion of the project you will hopefully find that you are a happy customer who is enjoying a problem free project. If however you find that there are issues that need to be addressed still, it can be difficult to get individual contractors to accept responsibility. Often the blame is shifted from one trade to another. If you managed the project on your own, this can be a nightmare. On the other hand if you elected to work with a design build firm you will be able to rely on a single point of contact to handle your concerns. A good design build firm will be able to determine who made the error and ensure that it is corrected.
Based on the differences between design build firms and the more traditional route, I believe homeowners can achieve great results for their home at a reduced cost and with less head ache by working with a well regarded design/build company.