residential remodeling & new construction
Are you a licensed contractor? What kind of work do you do? How many people do you employ? Do you give free estimates? Who does the design? How should I choose a contractor?
Yes. After working in the trades as a laborer and then as a carpenter for nearly twenty years, I got my own California State contractor’s license in 1993. I am also bonded and have always maintained full liability insurance.
I am a general contractor specializing in residential work. I do all kinds of home repair and remodeling. This includes rebuilding porches, interior and exterior stairs, installing doors and windows, upgrading home exteriors, including cedar sidewall shingling and deck work.
Since becoming a licensed contractor I have built a number of additions as well as free standing back yard studios and garage reconstructions. I have also done kitchens and bathrooms.
I have no standing crew. In order to maintain low overhead, which I pass on to clients, and to maintain tight cost control, I have chosen not to have a standing crew of employees. I use subcontractors when appropriate, but enjoy doing a substantial amount of basic carpentry on my own.
I will always meet to discuss work with a potential client at no fee and on smaller jobs often submit competitive bids or estimates at no fee.
On larger projects, if preliminary 'ballpark' estimates for cost are found to be suitable by the client, I work on an hourly fee to assist the clients in refining the costs of a project according to a designers plan. This process includes getting specific costs estimates from subcontractors and material estimates from suppliers.
I consider myself to have a good design sense backed by experience. I work with clients on basic design and construction problem solving, but in general I do not do any formal design work or drafting for permit purposes beyond basic plot diagrams and simple elevations for basic permits like deck repair or window replacement.
Kitchens can benefit from an experienced design professional, but often that is not warranted and working with a good custom cabinet shop a client and contractor can generate a functional design at minimal cost.
Most often clients shop for contractors once they have secured an architect or designer and have at least come up with a preliminary design. I have been presented with plans, which are detailed and complete, and other times the details are refined in conjunction with contractor input as part of the budgeting and design process.
An architect will generally render a set of basic design drawings, which are used to navigate the zoning and preliminary design review process. At some point, structural and engineering specifications must be added in order for a municipality to give final approval and issue permits. This latter set of drawings may not be considered a complete set of drawings for construction. Many details can be refined in construction and the contractor may be the best person for this task, or it may be a collaborative effort between the contractor, architect and client. It is usually most cost effective to complete as much design detail as possible before construction begins. An architect should be clear with the client as to what level of service is being provided in this regard. Any prospective contractor should vet the plans thoroughly to determine if adequate construction detail is provided for their satisfaction.
I have a short list of architects who I recommend to clients.
Start with a referred contractor if possible, but especially on larger projects, be sure to pick somebody with whom you feel comfortable working. The rule of thumb is to get three estimates. Depending on the spread between the estimates, the conventional wisdom is to choose the middle bidder, but one must ask questions to insure the services offered are comparable. On a larger project this can best be assured by having a full and detailed set of architectural drawings.
It is always good to check with the state to confirm a contractor is licensed and to review their record for complaints: http://www2.cslb.ca.gov/CSLB_LIBRARY/License+Request.asp
In my early twenties I got into construction as a novice doing repair for a property management company in Berkeley, and concurrently enrolled in construction and wood shop classes at Laney Junior College before going on to work with a handful of different East Bay contractors over the next decade. These include Cheng Design, Hamlet Builders and Allen Trigueiro, as well as working on projects with Abrams, Milliken and Kent who developed Fourth Street shopping district in West Berkeley.
I enjoy practicing the archetypal craft of building shelter. I have worked on many buildings, which are older than I ever expect to be, and I expect some of my more substantial projects will outlive me as well.
I applied and was appointed to a four-year term on the Historical Advisory Board (HAB)of the City of Alameda where I make my home. For more detail on the HAB click here.