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Old 10-08-2007, 04:33 PM   #1
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how to bid out my project

New here.
I have been planning a major renovation of my kitchen as well as a new front entrance and install of a coffer ceiling in a large dining room. I have an architect and kitchen designer and we're nearing final plans.

The kitchen job is fairly complex. This is a house I doubled in size 15 years ago but cheaped out on the kitchen. I took the house from 2K square feet to 4,100 in 1993.
The kitchen foot print will be 400 sq feet and requires removing the ceiling and structural "beefing up" of an old roof which had been over framed. We're raising a header from 8' to 9'10" or so. A bearing wall is involved.

I am well funded (no bank loan is needed). My archi is suggesting I go on more of a time and materials basis or maybe I buy the materials and pay my contractor a management fee. He thinks that just bidding this project out--for a hard number might result in alot of over bids (prospective contractors fear). However, I will have detailed drawings--we've been up in the attic many times.

I'm thinking of getting bids based on me paying all the bills (his subs) as well as the materials (I'd pay the lumber yard)---my KD plans will allow me to source the cabinets on my own. This way--the winning contractor will be assured a profit--and I'll see the true costs involved. I'd pay him a "management" fee.
I'm probably going to have $30-40K in demo and rebuild costs to white box state in the kitchen (electric--plumbed and drywalled state) This number would include the new front entrance and DR coffer jobs.
Let's say I'm close-
----WHAT % age fee would be fair
--Would a contractor be attracted to this arrangement? (everybody has their cards on the table)
-----Should I just bid it out for hard numbers?
---If I go with my plan---should I ask for an accurate estimate--and base my decision on that (plus of course references--my interview--etc etc)?

I think I'm looking for a smallish operator--one whose owner is hands on and here on the job--a master carpenter type who has good subs for plumbing---electric etc etc
I don't want some big home builder who is strung out due to the housing crash--and looking for some cash flow--something to keep his idle crew/s busy (but maybe I'm wrong on that)
--I want an operator who fits my job (not too big a contractor)

Any input or questions would sincerely be appreciated.


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Old 10-08-2007, 06:02 PM   #2
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I would not like that kind of arangement myself. I would come in and bid hard numbers. I dont like % and T&M jobs. I also would much prefer to purchase the materials myself and pay for them and include those costs in my bottom line.

I agree that you are going to want someone who does this themselfs and not some large home builder. You want a true kitchen remodeler. A skilled one should be able to give you solid number on MOST of the aspects. Some may need to be T&M or soft estimate (something with a hard number IF everything is as expected).


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Old 10-08-2007, 07:19 PM   #3
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Good luck with that

I really can't recommend that approach, and would be surprised if you find a qualified, quality, company to operate that way

T&M rarely works out the way the client/customer would like, as the little things that pop up that are in the (so-called) "over-bid" pop up no matter how one is paying
It's not a money thing, it's a happy customer thing
T&M almost always comes out more than the customer expects, and they are rarely happy

Professionally, I rarely let the client/customer purchase materials
Again, it's not a money thing, I never make up my time (money) doing so in any mark-ups
It's a "making sure the right stuff and all of it are where and when I need them" sort of deal

I certainly wouldn't want a homeowner micromanaging my sundry expenses (most have no clue how expensive-and important-the little things are)

I think mostly unscrupulous contractors would be attracted to this proposition

I think I'm looking for a smallish operator--one whose owner is hands on and here on the job--a master carpenter type who has good subs for plumbing---electric etc etc
If that's true then find one and pay him what he/she wants
Which will most likely be a hard number
Doesn't hurt to ask though
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Old 10-09-2007, 05:26 AM   #4
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Robert and Slick
That's exactly the feedback I was hoping to get-glad I found this site and that contractors like yourselves visit the consumer side of this forum.

My architect was the one encouraging me to go with the T and M format.
I had been thinking hard bids---and then select my best value contractor

With the credit crunch etc---I need to be very careful about who I hire. That's why I was thinking that if I served as the "bank", it might be of benefit for all involved.

Another Q----Should I employ a construction escrow company? A disbursing agent (these companies charge very little--and handle all the needed lien waivers---etc etc)? Have you guys ever done your jobs this way?

Thanks for the great feedback--please keep it coming
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Old 10-09-2007, 06:34 AM   #5
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Why can't you handle the lien waivers your self? I just built my own home, and the few people I invited to work on the house got a check and a waiver. I emailed my bank that serviced the construction account, told them what went out and to expect the waiver. They emailed me when it was received and I checked it off. If one didn't come back in a timely fashion a friendly phone call took care of that.

Another person/group on the mix seldom makes things work better. Unless your just not capable or want to hire it out, you're better off knowing what's going on and the status of the waivers. Ultimately it's your butt that's on the line.

Regardless, have your attorney read the waiver to make sure your protected BEFORE sending any out. Some waivers don't follow the chain too well from GC to Sub. I got my bank to fit the legal bill on the waiver they wanted me to use.
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Old 10-09-2007, 06:48 AM   #6
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I could of course handle the waivers--but I'm not an attorney and really don't have one other than some friends. And--Attorneys cost money anyway.

I went through a $300K project on this same house 15 yrs ago--and the general at that time insisted on me having an disbursing agent. I don't think they cost me more than $600 total. My contract with the general detailed various stages of project completion (drywall--roof etc) when I'd fund the escrow account--he'd submit his bills and they'd pay them and obtain the waivers. At the end of the project they guaranteed my title remained clear

just another time saver for me, maybe.
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Old 10-10-2007, 08:29 PM   #7
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From my standpoint, I would not touch a job like that. Way too many people involved, and gauranteed that the job will end up costing more due to delays, misunderstandings, and numerous "not by job" items that you will have to pay someone extra for, and most of them will be your fault, because of lack of understanding of scheduling and job descriptions when working with the various individuals you will have to hire for the trades. I believe you will be much better hiring a general for the job.

As usual, there will be replies claiming that as a pro, I am just trying to discourage any DIY projects, but I have witnessed quite a few of these types of projects (always from an uninvolved viewpoint), and they do not have happy endings.
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Old 10-10-2007, 11:05 PM   #8
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Are you saying your budget for all of this is $40K? I don't know what ,"white box state" is.
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Old 10-11-2007, 05:17 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Ron6519 View Post
....I don't know what ,"white box state" is.
He's using the term to describe getting the area to the drywalled stage (all utility lines in & walls enclosed).
- Build Well -
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Old 10-11-2007, 08:31 AM   #10
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Yes--"white box" (also referred to as "grey box") means an electrified and plumbed drywall space--ready gfor cabinets--flooring--you name it.

I am going to source the cabinets--flooring etc on my own with aid of a recently laid off employee of a high end St Louis area kitchen shop (he's my KD) although I'm open to have one GC also complete the kitchen install (based on his experience in this area--and quote for that)

Yes, based on this feedback and more I've gotten locally---am now inclinged to bid based on hard numbers--and I realize that "stuff" will always come up--I have gon thru this before on a much larger addition and rehab of this house ($350K plus 15 years ago).

Another Q---should I (is it common practice) for a homeowner to ask for an ID on the subs proposed in order to check them out? (or is that micro managing the GC)?

Some more background---ON the kitchen job---I started out last Spring--not wanting to get this involved--my intention was to hir on a local kitchen "turn key" company--a design/build operator. I invited two in for interviews. I was told that generally the kitchen project wold be in the $120K to $140K area and that the cabinets could be 50% of that. At that point--I had only a general notion of what I wanted. I was then referred by my archi to a KD firm. At the end of that interview--the owner laid a document on me to retain her services for $2500--with very specific outline of number of visits allowed---changed in design etc etc. The last paragraph--has a legal clause that said the resulting KD plans wold remain her possession unitl/unless I bought the cabinets from her and I had to pay her $2500 for the privilege (oh--I'd get a credit for the retainer fee off the cab buy). I showed her the door. However, realized that a huge profit element in a kitchen job must be the cabinets and of course--look at hw many cabinet suppliers are on the market--it is over whelming.
So, I set out to find an INDEPENDENT kitchen designer--one not conected to a kitchen shop. NOW---try to find one of those!
But I did---a guy who is working on the side from his high end kitchen design build shop where he's been employed for many years (and is seeking to make a name for himself independently).
I'm at the final stage of his plans and now able to directly source the cabinets.
Has anyone ever heard of Knitch Kitchens,in Vermont? They're a custom cabinet company selling direct to consumers (no dealer mark up)
Knight Kitchens, Fine Custom Cabinetry - Direct From The Factory

Does anyone know of other such companies?

My next mission (coincidental with my GC search) is going to be to get cabinet quotes---I need to start putting my numbers together.

Needless to say---I'm in this more than I had intended--but it's serious $ (for me). And as my friend said "you had better figure out what YOU want" (or your open to paying way too much)
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Old 10-11-2007, 12:43 PM   #11
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just a couple of comments from a desk jockey DIY'er.........

My wife is an interior designing and works with some very high end custom builders. Most of her jobs are major remodels or new custom homes so there is a lot of contact with the the construction side. We have built up some very good relationships over the years with folks in the biz. We are on our 4th house, and have done lots of work on the all the previous ones. We leverage the relationships where needed to get work done or advice. We "recently" started a whole house remodel (our biggest project yet). A big problem we have is the custom house taste (from the wife) and no big bankroll to back it up. So enter me, the DIY'er.

Basically I am doing the project, and hiring out specific tasks where needed. After some discussion we found a framer (small crew) to do the job on a T&M basis. As a general rule he does not mark up material so whether I got it or he did, he didn't really care. It was more an issue of getting the right material on the job site when it's needed. It didn't take me long to understand that saving $500 on a load of wood delivered the next day didn't make much sense if you're paying the crew $700 day to stand around waiting for the wood.

We got bids all over the place, and the ones we did not know very well were not interested in homeowner participation at all. I believe we got the T&M thing going only because we leveraged the relationships and the people we hired knew we had some knowledge of what we were getting into. Also, just as a base line our house is approx 2500 ft. We are messing with approx 1900 of that. Raising the ceiling in all of it, which requires re-framing all the walls (long story), moving the kitchen, and some interior wall movement. Framing bids alone were as high as $65k, turnkey. Complete project estimates in the $300k range, hiring it.

Whatever you think it costs, it will cost more. I didn't believe this at first, thinking upfront research will cover all the basis....and my upfront research is detailed (engineer, and take a lot of grief for it). I've concluded that no ammount of research will cover everything, which is why the hard numbers always seem high. (I'm amazed at how many $25 packs of sawzall blades you go through and how fast a 20 yard debris bin fills up).

Trying to organize subs.....tough. At a fixed cost, the GC is highly motivated to make sure the subs are there, working, and the subs respond better to the GC becuase there is likely more work to follow. A homeowner doesn't have the pull, and the next sub is very quick to say more $$ or more time if everything isn't ready for them.

In our case with the framer, we had a set time frame (4 weeks). As the end approached, I prioritized things. In the end, it was not finished, but I was ok with it. I paid what I was expecting to pay, and I knew 4 weeks was aggressive. As things progressed I saw how many unexpected things come up. As it neared the end of the 4 weeks, I was expecting (and prepared for) having to complete the framing myself (the easier stuff). BTW, we also had detailed architect plans complete with under the house /attic pictures from my many trips into those areas.

All the construction people I've met and worked with all have the stories of the nightmare client, as does my wife. Almost all of the stories are based around the client micro-managing the project, or wanting to supply material, or shopping out every last box of nails or simpson strong tie.

Basically.....good luck with your approach. I believe it will be difficult to find the right contractor.
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Old 10-11-2007, 01:07 PM   #12
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REALLY appreciate the thoughtful reply

That's why I posted in the first place--for great feedback like yours.

I absolutely want a general and have absolutely no interest in running subs with which I have no leverage nor will likely ever do business with again.
I have enough to do in my life than to learn how to be a general contractor (especially a one termer).

However, are you saying I'm micro managing to source my own cabinets (appliances etc etc)?

Also, I think it's wise to include the flooring with the "white box" general---(he'll have to install the correct underlayment anyway---and I'm still debating wood vs stone/tile). Have been told that easiest floor install is pre cabinet install---(makes sense) anyway. Make sense?

and of course all the lighting will be included in the GC bid As can lights need to be drywalled around etc. But---am I off base to retain freedom to source the fixtures?

Having lived through a total gut rehab and 2K foot add on of this house 15 yrs ago (using a GC)---roof tear off---utility shut down (I moved out for 9 mths---)----I am fully prepared for the unknown (extra $ ). However---I also learned from that experience that I can't plan enough on the front end and as the scope of these project/s are less complex (don't get me wrong--this kitchen thing is a bear)---I hope to get this detailed out as much as possible on the FRONT END. I think I owe it to myself (so I don't look back and say "gee--why didn't I take an extra month to think through everything completely?)

I'm not as anal as I might sound---Just trying to look at all the angles and do my due diligence. Once I've done that---I'm hoping to stand back and watch it happen---not be a micro manager (because that is what I'm doing now with the detailed plans)

Additional input is appreciated by all.
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Old 10-11-2007, 01:50 PM   #13
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Sorry, didn't intend to call you a "micro-manager", I was just trying to describe some of the input I've received from the trade and the things that make them cringe.

As for your specifics (keep in mind, my day job is not in the construction biz):
Cabinets: In my wifes work, the custom builders have their stable of tradespeople, including cabinet makers. The project manager on a job is going to be more comfortable with a cabinet person they have experience with. They know how they work, expectations, scheduling, blah, blah, blah. I've seen the custom guys say here are 2-3 recommended people ranging from a high end to medium low end. This gives the h.o. choice but it's still somebody familiar for the GC. Bringing somebody in completely new just adds a little unknown to the equation from the GC point of view. I say that for background. I personnaly don't think sourcing cabinets is micro-managing. That is a huge piece of the project and being happy with that is critical. You just have to make sure everybody can play nicely together in the sand box.

Appliances....spec away. I don't think this is micro-managing at all. I would decide, by model number, the appliance. Get a cut sheet, put it in a binder, give it the GC and ask the GC when it needs to be on site. Spec-ing the exact model gives the GC the required rough-in info.

Floors - I've heard both pre and post cabinet. Our cabinet guy says, floors post cabinet (wood floors). Cabinet guy will provide trim for toe kicks. His comment, "why would you put the finished wood floor under your dishwasher? Put something under there that can handle a leak." Hmm, good comment, I thought.

Fixtures: Similar to the appliance, I would definetely spec them. The GC will always have a recommendation (no shortage of opinion). I would suggest making up a complete schedule for everything including, lighting fixtures / trims, appliances, hardware, hardsurfaces, mouldings, and anything else you can think of that affects the earlier work of the trades. I would review the schedules with the builder to make sure there is agreement. From that point, I wouldn't think you actually sourcing the specified material would be a problem. Being knee deep in my project, I'm surprised at how the spec's for all the finish details affect the early stages.

Just another comment.....I've seen less than smooth relationships between designers, architects, builders, and subs. With my wife's biz, I've been to homeowner hosted kick-off "get togethers" where the homeowner has the architect, builder, designer, and any other key tradespeople over for a BBQ or something. A couple of beers, getting to know the players, a little shop talk, share some war stories, blah, blah. This seems to go a long way in breaking the ice and getting the players more comfortable with each other. I think it makes the builder feel a little more comfortable picking up the phone and calling the archetict with a clarification question.


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