Roarke Custom Builders

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In preparation for 2012 we have produced this remodeling primer to help you as you consider your project. It is our goal to empower our clients to make wise decisions.

These ten recommendations are our free gift to you, much more valuable than a free estimate. They are distilled from 26 years of remodeling experience, networking and education. If you follow them closely you have an excellent chance of spending your money wisely and enjoying your remodeling experience.

The Ten Recommendations:

1. I have an idea on how to remodel my home. What do I do next?
The best course of action is to engage both the builder and an architect simultaneously and have them working toward an agreed upon budget. This is called a design build process. Architects know builders and builders know architects; it does not matter who you contact first. The important thing is not to proceed until you have both on board. You should be able to accomplish this without any of your hard earned dollars out of pocket. Once you have a budget target, you can expect both builder and architect to ask for retained design agreements.

2. My project is small. Do I really need help with the design work?
Contact the builder first. He should emphasize the need for some design service (if for no other reason than to clarify contractually the work) and be able to recommend a design professional for your project. The importance of professional design cannot be overstated. The combination of professional design and professional building almost always leads to satisfied clients over a long period of time.

3. How will I know if I am getting a good price? Why can't I have the architect draw up the plans and then send it out to bid?
Now those are great questions. You have to make the decision early on if you are going to hire based on the lowest price or based on the best available contractor. Using the design build process you are the key partner that has final say on the cost, so you do have control. Letting a project out to bid-I have typically found-leaves the architect out swinging in the breeze (having no conceptual buy-in number with his design), the client with sticker shock wondering if he has wasted his design dollars and a potential low bidder who knows virtually nothing about either the architect or Owner, arriving late to the whole conversation. It astonishes me that this process has had some success in new construction...but remodeling and new construction are vastly different.

4. How are remodeling and new construction different?
I thought you'd never ask. Remodeling is more service intensive and requires more trust. Thus a Remodelers business acumen, employee longevity, depth of comparable project resume and continuing education, to name a few traits, speak volumes when you are walking out your door on Day One and your contractor is walking in to begin demo.

5. Why does remodeling cost more than new construction?
Remodeling involves protection of adjacent finishes, demolition, unknown conditions and significantly more cleanup and coordination in addition to the actual construction.

6. How much does remodeling cost per square foot?
This varies widely based on how many square feet, what you are building and your job site conditions. I have found that you need to get to about 250 sf before you can talk in square foot terms. I always recommend people start with $250/sf. That separates a lot of wishful thinking from the eventual reality.

7. Do I have to make all the decisions up front?
The more decisions you make up front the more money you will save. You will not save the money before you start but after the work has begun. If you were to contract a new home with one of the area's major builders, they would direct you through their showroom to select every last detail. Once the building process begins they must have total control to meet the lower cost per square foot realities of their marketplace. In remodeling we have found that postponed decisions lead to last minute changes, ordering and often expensive delays, needlessly driving up the cost.

8. What kind of insurance do you have?
We carry a $2M liability policy with a $1M umbrella. We carry New York State Workers Compensation coverage at the statutory limits. Our company owned vehicles are covered by commercial auto insurance. These are considered professional levels of insurance. We have an outstanding safety and loss record and this coverage is still approximately $1000 per week. Why do I need all this insurance? You live in NYS, the lawyer capital of the world and you work with a less insured contractor at your own peril.

9. Why don't you use subcontractors instead of employees?
Remodeling requires greater control over the labor. The IRS and the NYS Department of Labor have very strict testing to determine if an individual is an employee and NYS raised the bar higher in October of 2010 with even tougher qualifications. We use qualified subcontractors, typically companies we have known for years, for about 50% of a project. We like to have a dedicated staff member on site all day long each day to provide consistency.

10. Do you use contracts?
We use professionally developed contracts for all our work that follow the NYS Home Improvement Contract Law.

If you would like to take the next step we would be happy to arrange a free initial consultation to discuss your project and recommend preliminary budgets.

Thank you for considering RCB for your project.

NAHB Certified Graduate Remodeler

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Roarke Custom Builders, Inc • 1969 Ferndale Road • Castleton on Hudson • New York • 12033
phone: 518-689-0066 • email: