Remodeling costs tamed via magic of `design-build'

April 28, 2002|By Adele Evans | Adele Evans,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Because remodeling costs often add up quicker than clients expect, many builders are turning to a process called "design-build."

With design-build, the builder is responsible for designing and building the project, within a preset budget.

The client gives the builder a budget up front, along with the wish list. Then, the remodeling team, which usually includes an architect or engineer, aligns the job to fit that budget.

If there is $20,000 for the kitchen, the client will get a $20,000 kitchen. No haggling; no nasty surprises; no going over budget.

There are fees involved for this kind of service that can make it cost up to 20 percent more than traditional remodeling - but many think it's worth it.

"It costs more money but you have a project manager who will be a liaison and you feel like your hand's being held," said N'ann Harp, president of Smart Consumer Services, a nonprofit group outside Washington that helps consumers with construction contracts, legal concerns and basic contracting information.

"There's no chasing down a contractor. No leaving five to 20 messages. He's on call," Harp said.

The traditional remodeling process involves the client making specifications, hiring an architect or builder to draw plans - and then receiving bids - often finding out that the costs involved are way out of budget.

"The most common line I hear [with traditional work] is, `Oh my God. That costs more than the house did when I bought it 30 years ago,'" said remodeler Jay Van Deusen, who has done design-build for years.

"A design-build plan is in parallel to the budget," remodeler Mark Redman said. "You don't design what you can't afford. The homeowner is part of the design team."

The process improves communication between client and builder throughout the project. A company liaison is always on hand to listen to the client, give updates and keep the job within the budget.

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