designer doesn't come to home

August 22, 2019

I'm trying to decide between 2 full service GCs. I'm leaning towards GC #1 since their verbal and written communication is clearly laid out and easy to understand. They are organized and seem to have a great system. With GC #2 I really liked the designer but there have been several red flags regarding disorganization and difficulties understanding the estimate/emails... Mis-communication... Both have great reviews, but a different process.

I'm leaning towards GC #2 accept that the designer doesn't come to the home, but more helps u at the showroom. I'm not so sure to the depth of the help but if we end up tearing out a fireplace and replacing it with propane we might move it's location along with adding a window. Due to our lifestyle with kids and mountain views but at the same time some not so nice views... I wonder how many things they'd miss if the designer did not come to the house. Thoughts would be greatly appreciated! thx

Comments (15)

  • PRO
    Sativa McGee Designs

    A designer should always go to the home. Prelim design/elections don't require a site visit but if anything about the layout is being modified a site visit is necessary.

    mamaandsage thanked Sativa McGee Designs
  • scottie mom

    ^^ What RBKU said^^

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  • tangerinedoor

    A "designer" who doesn't visit the space they're designing for? Are you joking?

    mamaandsage thanked tangerinedoor
  • PRO
    Flo Mangan

    I need more info. Are you doing a remodel? Are two GCs offering designers? It is always preferable to hire your own designer. So many decisions you will have to make. No conflict of interest with Independent designer. If you have never done such a project, you don’t know what you don’t know. A designer with construction experience will be invaluable. If you avoid one major mistake, you will have paid for him or her.

    mamaandsage thanked Flo Mangan
  • ShadyWillowFarm

    The designer doesn’t need to come to the house. Pictures and measurements are fine. A designer working with a contractor will know what will work in your kitchen efficiently and what things appear to be simple but will trigger more work or modifications.

    mamaandsage thanked ShadyWillowFarm
  • Helen

    I think you need to explain exactly what you mean by "full service" contractors.

    I had a designer and a GC. The designer designed my space and the GC executed her designs. She came to my location several times during the preliminary design process. How else can a designer get a sense of how the space actually works.

    My understanding is that the kinds of "in house" designers are common in new builds where there isn't much to design in terms of the space but they help pick out the finishes and you are limited to the finishes that the "builder/GC" chooses to make available. Again, with my remodel, my designer chose finishes and materials from wherever she felt it best to source and so I wasn't limited to what a builder chose to stock. We went on a few visits to the Pacific Design Center - tile shops and the stone yard or she would bring me samples of textiles or other stuff for us to discuss - whatever made the most sense.

    mamaandsage thanked Helen
  • mamaandsage

    thx everyone! A bit more background: Interviewed about 6-7 GCs. 2 were referred by designers who would have drawn my design and worked with the GCs. Each GC didn't "make the cut" as they were super $, didn't get back to us... 1 that a designer recommended even had complaints with the ROC so I didn't even call him.

    The ones we are considering offer "full service" meaning we purchase our products in their showroom but we do have the option to purchase some products elsewhere. I need to clarify to what extent we will be limited by their showrooms.

    We had a flood due to a dishwasher leak and insurance is involved and we are past due for when we were supposed to be finished with the project. GCs are busy and these 2 seem to have good integrity, good reviews, and no dings with the BBB or ROC.

    Insurance paid for part of the cabinets and flooring but having been in the house so many years we are doing flooring throughout, possibly smoothing the texture on walls/ceiling (we're removing popcorn currently), putting in all new cabinets, an island where there is currently no island and removing a wall and a pony wall. While we are at it is seems like we may as well add the window to a block wall in the family room with no existing wall that we've wanted to do for years. That caused us to notice how large the beehive fireplace is and we are contemplating replacing with electric or propane and it's on the same wall as the window. New sliding glass door, new front door or glass added for more light in house, solar tube.

    This will put us over budget and we are wondering if we should stick to the kitchen and do stages but some things effect like the flooring and the fireplace and the fireplace and the window.

    I have a designer friend who is ill and unable to help but has the same layout and I feel pretty confident about my layout for the most part since mine will be similar and I've seen hers in real life. Having some different lifestyles and tastes, though, is where I end up wanting more help with layout of furniture/fireplace/window... I feel pretty good about the kitchen layout as I've thought about this for years and did a lot of work back and forth with an IKEA design, but I don't know what I don't know.

    We are not in a high end house at all and I have high end taste so part of me thinks spending more money on another designer after we already have an "upgrade" to some sense (since so many folks just go with a GC and no designer help), I am thorough, and subbed out my bathroom with no GC which turned out beautifully, I wonder if I might be ahead of the game a bit. I keep leaning towards the GC that is more organized and clear as that is very imp to me. thx!

  • PRO
    Flo Mangan

    You have a very large scope of work here and it is very important to have an overall plan. Design centers help builders not buyers. I suggest you be very specific no matter which direction you go. Most, not all, but most GCs that do this type reno work make money from change orders and kick backs from design centers. They say you can pick some things but each item will have usually a additional change order fee. Make sure that is clearly defined in writing in your contract. Also make sure where and who pays for installation. These are just some common points of disagreements in this type job. I would narrow scope to include kitchen remodel because it will impact flooring. Good luck. This is not easy. A good designer with reno experience will save you money and pay for themselves. I promise.

    mamaandsage thanked Flo Mangan
  • live_wire_oak

    I‘m going to be blunt here. There are a lot of red flags on this project. There’s a massive scope of work that hasn’t even been thought out properly, or documented. “Layouts” aren’t designs. It’s one small element. There’s a lot of guessing and assumptions about the whole project, and no design work that lays out the road map.

    No GC can even realistically “bid” this project without a ton of unrealistic lowball allowances that make an insurance claim budget work. Insurance reimbursements are notoriously low. Often 20 cents on the dollar of what it will really take. People have to hire public adjusters to even get ballpark real world replacement costs. Once you start to get specific with choices, they ALL will be over the allowances.

    The first budgets that you got from the “expensive” GC’s are very likely the ones that are going to be where this project ends up. You need to hire your own designer, and use their recommended contractor. Oversight of project implementation as your representative is going to be needed here.

    The old saying that you don’t know what you don’t know jumps off the page here. I hope your oroj ct goes well, but you are ignoring most of the things that will allow that to happen. You don’t even have any valid bids without proper front end design work documenting things! The change orders on something so undocumented and assumed will be huge! They will have paid for two designers work by the time this is over.

    Please get a designer involved on the front end! It will save you money, not cost you money. You’ll get a better job too.

    mamaandsage thanked live_wire_oak
  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    I agree with livewire this is in no way a final plan of anything . I would hire a designer of your choice and get a plan detailed as possible then go shopping for GC

  • Denita

    100% agree with live_wire_oak. Do as the others suggest above.

    The GC's that have their own showrooms make their money off the extra's and limit your selections severely. You are relying on a 'bid' that is a fictitious number.

    mamaandsage thanked Denita
  • PRO
    Flo Mangan

    That is exactly what I was saying - live_wire-oak. This is a disaster waiting to happen. No GC can effectively even bid this job. You have to know what you want and how you want it to look in the end. You are no where near getting this done. I fear the "deadlines" need to be renegotiated to give you proper time to do the proper detailed planning. If you want to stay within a budget, you must select every element, document it, and know the pricing. Then you can stay close. Give yourself a 10-15% contingency fund, for unexpected issues. I fear for you.

    mamaandsage thanked Flo Mangan
  • Helen

    I just finished a gut remodel of my condo and luckily my designer was very competent and guided me through the process in terms of everything - not just the aesthetics.

    Like many others at the start I didn't realize exactly how the process worked so I learned during the process asked questions.

    As everyone else has posted, it is absolutely impossible to get a bid on anything unless there are very detailed plans which detail every single item including the types of finishes because installing some different types of finishes are more or less costly in terms of prep and labor even without the difference in the actual cost of materials.

    At least in my jurisdiction, the scope of your project requires permits and permits require that a very specific plan be developed and submitted. I paid for this plan as the first stage of the process. It was mine to keep. There was a separate "plan" that dealt with the aesthetic design of the remodel - what most people think of as what designers produce. I chose to have this done at the same time as the plan needed for the permit and the bid because my designer explained that it was slightly cheaper for me to have it done all at one because there were cost savings for her in terms of time. Since I knew I was going to use her and go ahead with the project, I had them both done at the same time. These were NOT to be confused with the design board which was her vision for my my vision.

    Not to be repetitive but you are nowhere near being able to move forward with a project of this scope. You need someone - NOT the contractor - to draw up detailed actual plans and then have those plans bid on. That person will be able to design a plan within your actual budget. I don't think you need an architect - my "designer" was much more than an interior decorator as she knew a lot about construction and what was feasible and needed to be done for Code etc. I wouldn't have her design a house from the roots up.

    I also very much benefited from her acting as my Project Manager. My GC was great - she had worked with him before and recommended him but she was there as my advocate and was able to prod him and to give me bottom line advice on stuff.

    mamaandsage thanked Helen
  • Ted and Kathy Howe

    I wish you the best of luck with your project... we just completed a similar (though larger) project ourselves.

    We had a house fire in May 2018. Relatively little structural damage (shell of house was intact, about 6 floor joists and a couple of interior wall studs had to be replaced/sistered for strength) but the entire house was a gut down to the studs due to smoke damage. We decided NOT to put the house back exactly as it was and instead did some upgrades/layout changes that we had been thinking about for a while. (Our house is 45 years old and we've been in it for 15 years).

    Though we didn't use a public adjuster, it is definitely something to consider.

    Instead, for us, we found a local design/build firm based on references/reputation that we felt good about working with. Knowing that we were talking about an insurance rehab job - but one in which we would have to justify the rebuild cost but wouldn't be actually building that plan - we ended up signing a project development contract with the builder.

    There were months of back-and-forth with the insurance company with the builder advocating on our behalf (and us doing the same) and when all was said and done, the insurance company was about 10-12% short on the amount it would take to restore the house. Since we were also putting our own money into the upgrades/modification we were then able to negotiate with the contractor to meet somewhere in the middle on the "base" work and agreed on an overall project budget for what we DID end up building.

    Our contractor is a small independent builder with a long history and good reputation locally. They have an architect that they work with, who helped us realize what was possible within the walls of our space and got us everything we wanted without having to bust the budget and expand the footprint. Their in-house designer worked with us - both at various showrooms and at our house - to determine what worked for us in the space and helped guide us toward the best value for the $ we were spending.

    Our GC's system was to negotiate an up-front price for the project overall which included selections allowances. Selections budgets included their markup and they agreed to a few categories of specific carve-outs for owner supplied materials. (Ikea kitchen cabinets, kitchen/laundry appliances, smart-home switches and fans) We agreed to the up-front amount with the following two understandings: 1) we would end up paying for change orders for anything that involved truly new scope that changed either subcontractors' costs or project duration 2) we were free to spend more or less money on the selections budget items and any variances would increase or decrease our overall project budget by the retail amount that we spent (or saved)... their profit was built on the contract amount - so it didn't matter to them if we spent more or less. This seemed fair to us and very reasonable.

    In the end, we underspent the selections budget by about 5% (saving nearly $7k).

    We also had change orders along the way that totaled about $11k - which on a $500k overall project seemed to be very reasonable. This included, by the way, several deductive change orders for work that was not done when we tweaked the plan in a few small ways.

    All of this info is to reiterate what others have said - your scope, while not as large as ours, is pretty significant and insurance will make it all the more complex. Be prepared to spend a lot of time negotiating and advocating for yourself (with the Insurance Co. and with the builder) and be aware of what you are committing yourself to when working with each type of business model that a contractor may have.

    We feel lucky that we found a contractor that was kind of a middle ground between "full service" and "just a GC".

    mamaandsage thanked Ted and Kathy Howe
  • mamaandsage

    Thankyou for all your info. I don't know if this matters but I want for folks to understand we are in a home that might not be worth more than $300k-$350k at the end of this. I hear what you all are saying with not being able to have a great understanding of the my very rough estimate (I have had other estimates from window companies, people who just do fireplaces, flooring...). In regards to insurance, we got $7k and if we were to finish the work within 6 mths we'd get the last $1k for flooring. They said if we show we are making progress they should pay out the $1k even if past 6 mths. So far we completed the bathroom. My very rough estimate of what we need done in the house (including extras like lesser expensive windows in the whole house and painting the outside) will likely cost $80/90k if we can keep it on the low end. We are not planning on doing high end. If I can save money on butcher block or cement countertops and a stove vent/lighting... from home depot or wayfair... We were the GCs of the bathroom so we also have a tile guy, electrician, drywaller... that we might be able to utilize if needed.

    I might with the contractor who utilizes their designer to help us come up with a design and solid prices before the work begins. I can see the benefit of using someone separate however I liked this company's processes of how everyone communicates via a system, GC comes to job 1+ xs/day, designer is the one I'd work with most up front, going to various stores and coming to the home then as we go along she is available if anything comes up. Small family run company and I value those awsome reviews. I see what was said here about the lack of benefit of the designer who doesn't leave their showroom and the limitations.

    I am now thinking of going with the contractor where the designer is involved quite a bit. Another perk with them is they are ok with us providing our own products to an extent, even countertops. I appreciate the advice regarding change orders and variances.

    I appreciate it!

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