As experts in the custom home design and construction industry, we
receive a wide array of questions from our clients before, during
and after the process of creating their dream home.
Here are a few of the more commonly asked questions. If your
questions aren't addressed below, don't hesitate to
contact us today.
- How do I select a custom home builder?
- What are the benefits of using a design-build firm
- How long will the design process take?
- How long will the actual construction take?
- Should I competitively bid my project to several
builders or negotiate with one builder?
- How do I analyze competitive bids on home
- Should I insist on a fixed lump sum or is it OK to
have a time and materials contract?
- Why do so many people have home construction nightmares?
- How can I minimize the problems associated with a
home construction project?
- How do I avoid overruns?
- How do I avoid being taken advantage of on change orders?
- Why are so many builders and subcontractors evasive?
How do I select a custom home builder?
Selecting a builder is one of your most important tasks. While there
is no foolproof way of making the right decision, ultimately, it comes down to trust... a gut feeling. Do not get
involved with a home builder you do not trust, regardless of how
attractive the price is. You want someone with experience, competence,
service, and value for your money. Referrals are good, but they can be
misleading as some of those people providing the referrals may not know a good job from a
bad one. It is best to visit some previous
projects, and to see the workmanship first hand. Ask questions of past
clients and don't be shy. This is your hard earned money at stake.
What are the benefits of using a design-build firm like Greywood
Design-build firms (such as Greywood) offer greater participation in the design and planning process for you, the owner. One firm provides both design and
construction which means you enjoy superior continuity of service, clear
communication and accountability with one company. The combined design
and construction experience of a professional working team provides you
with efficiency, fewer surprises, a project that fits your budget, and a
positive, rewarding experience.
How long will the design process take?
The design process time is determined by a variety of factors
including but not limited to the size and type of project, its
architectural and structural complexity, the level of finish, and the
ability of the client to make time efficient decisions. Generally
speaking, for interior renovations, we will work through preliminary
design in one or two months. For one and two story additions, the time
might run two to three months and for new custom homes additional time
may be needed. Click here to
learn more about our process.
How long will the actual construction take?
Construction time varies based on project type, size, complexity,
level of finish, access and many other variables. We establish a
construction schedule once your project is authorized and have an
excellent track record of completing work on time. Each project has its
own custom schedule. Typical durations for some projects are:
Bathroom Full Remodel — three to six weeks
Kitchen Renovation — four to ten weeks
Interior Renovation — six to sixteen weeks
One Story Addition — three to five months
Two Story Addition — four to six months
Whole House Renovation — three to six months
New Custom Home — six to twelve months
Click here to learn more about our
Should I competitively bid my project to several builders or
negotiate with one builder?
Unfortunately, there is no right way. To negotiate with one
builder whom you have researched thoroughly and believe to be reputable
and trustworthy is probably the best approach. The danger is that
if your judgment is wrong, you could end up paying way too much for your
project, or they might be very fair on pricing but incredibly
inefficient, which could end up costing you more than dishonesty.
On paper, a competitive bid process makes a lot of sense, but the
reality is that it can be wrought with danger. A competitive bid
on a project is essentially a game, because the bid is based on a set of
plans which usually have mistakes and are generally incomplete.
Competitive bids are never "apples to apples", since each builder is
calculating on a different level of quality and service. Some builders
bid low and make it up on extras, and some builders bid sloppily and
make it up on poor workmanship. There are others who will scrutinize
the plans for errors and omissions, and find areas that they can exploit
to their advantage. Sometimes you can win the competitive bid game, but
you can also lose. The more you do your homework and find out what
things should cost, the more likely it is that you will get value for
your money. If you find a good builder whom you can trust, and he or she
has a reputation for pleasing clients, being efficient and fair on
pricing, this is the builder you probably want.
How do I analyze competitive bids on home construction projects?
The first thing you want to do is make sure that the bids are as
descriptive as possible. Every home builder has his own way of
estimating and may use different approaches or descriptions than his
When the plans are given out to bid, an outline should be given to
each builder, breaking down the project the same way. You should then
require each builder to fill out the outline with his bid, and then you
can compare the electrical price and the plumbing, etc. Choosing a
home builder should never be based on price alone, but the more clear
information you can obtain about how the bid prices were reached, the
better chance you have of making the right decision.
Should I insist on a fixed lump sum or is it OK to have a time and
A cost plus contract with an unethical or inefficient builder can be
tragically costly, but even with a fixed price, the cost can go up
dramatically, as certain conditions are usually not covered in a
fixed price, nor are changes and extras. Another major problem with a
fixed price is that it puts you and the home builder on opposite sides
of the table. Every quality decision the builder makes costs more or
less money, so while the price is fixed, the house is not, and the
builder could be compromising the quality of the home. A cost plus job
creates more of a team atmosphere, and in general, will cost you more
money, but you will have a better quality job.
Why do so many people have home construction nightmares?
For most people, a major home addition or the building of a new house
represents one of the largest financial commitments of their lives, and
if you analyze most construction nightmares you will find a common
theme: they were seduced by a low bid. The problem is that you are not
buying a product that you can go compare the same model, size, year, and
features, and then find the one store that has it for the lowest price.
When purchasing a new home or renovation, it is extremely hard to do
comparison shopping, since every builder builds differently. Don't get
seduced by a low bid.
Why are there so many problems on a construction project?
Even when you are involved with a good home builder, there could be a
variety of reasons why there are a number of problems with the project,
that even a good home builder can not be in control of. One
problem that often occurs is that there are mistakes on the construction
plans. Also, it could be that many of the materials used in construction
are continually changing because of competition or new technologies.
Many of these changes are not fully tested in the real world before they
come on the market, and a product that performs beautifully in one part
of the country may not in another. The more custom your project
is, the more vulnerable you become to the unknown and a good home
builder can shield you from a lot of problems, but construction is
inherently problematic. The good news is that almost every problem has a
How can I minimize the problems associated with a home construction
The first step is to understand that all construction problems can be
reduced to issues of money or communication. If money was not an
issue there would be no problems, because you would simply buy your way
out of any mistakes, compromises or misunderstandings. Money is an issue
regardless of your wealth or budget.
People dream about houses just beyond their means or budgets. Set a
budget, then set a contingency over that budget and adhere to it,
because budgets usually don't go over because of one item, but they
deteriorate incrementally as those "little things" add up.
Before the project begins know what your builder is charging you for
markup, overhead and profit, extras. Understand fully who pays for what
if something goes wrong, understand your warranties and guarantees,
understand who is responsible when cracks or shrinkage or expansion
occurs months after you have paid the builder. Go over all the money
issues you can think of before you sign the contract.
Communication with your designer, with your builder, with the
electrician, and all other members of your team, is paramount.
Having a formal meeting with the builder (and architect if one is
involved) every week or every other week is very helpful. Even if you
are doing a renovation and talk to the builder every day, a formal
meeting forces people to communicate about the current issues of money,
time, quality, and problems.
How do I avoid overruns?
Overruns are the amounts spent building your custom home or
renovating your house that go beyond the original budget. This might
include changes, additional work, low estimates, or unforeseen
conditions. It is always good to start a construction project with a
contingency. It is rare that a residential construction project doesn't
go over budget. Changes and additional work can be kept to a minimum by
fully understanding what you are building before you start. If you can't
read plans, then have the architect or builder explain to you everything
that is on the plans. Once you have accepted the design then you have to
maintain the discipline to enforce the budget. You can always make the
house nicer; but that costs money.
How do I avoid being taken advantage of on change orders?
Changes are inherently inefficient, so even if your builder is honest
you pay a premium for changes because they disrupt the flow of work.
They create inefficiency, and some builders bid jobs low, planning to
make up the money on their change orders. Once you are captive to a
builder or subcontractor who sees changes as a gold mine, you've got a
problem. Obviously, the best strategy is to keep changes to a minimum.
It is important to explain in the contract how changes are going to be
handled. What type of markups and overhead and profit is your builder
going to charge you. If you can get an estimate of the entire project
that is broken down into very detailed categories before the
construction starts, that is very helpful. Then you will know what each
item costs. This forces the builder to give you proper credit for items
you already had in the project. Some builders may not have this
information or may not want to share it with you. A good, honest,
efficient home builder should. The more information a builder doesn't
want to reveal to you, the more you should be wary of getting involved
with that builder.
Why are so many builders and subcontractors evasive?
There is a language spoken by many people in the construction world
that we call "Vaguese." It is an interesting language where words and
phrases are combined to create vague impressions. Sentences are
constructed to avoid any personal responsibility. It is a defensive
language used to shield individuals and companies from financial
liability. Since almost every problem in construction comes down to who
is going to pay for it, and often times there are gray areas and several
entities to blame, many people in the industry learn to speak Vaguese or
risk owning the repair bill. As a consumer, you should try to find a
home builder who doesn't speak this language, a home builder who is
direct and honest. You should also consciously make sure that all of
your communications are direct. If you make a mistake, admit it. Set the
tone. Create a climate where you expect total honesty and you live by