Q: We don't know where to start for our desired room addition. Should we hire an architect to design our new space?

A: Although hiring an architect is an option that you may consider, it probably is not your best option for most room additions. Rather, you should consider hiring a design-builder remodeler who has the experience and capabilities to design and build your project within your stipulated budget for two main reasons. First, by working directly with a remodeling contractor to design and build your project, you will control your budgeted costs. The contractor knows the costs of construction and will design the plans and specifications within predetermined budgets. This eliminates additional design fees which frequently occur when an outside architect or designer draws a project without knowing the costs to ensure the project can be built within budget. This is one of the most common problems and frustrations many homeowners experience when not having their plans drawn by someone other than the remodeler who will build it. Second, the byproduct of the reasons explained above is that the design costs will usually be less costly than hiring a third party architect. Also, it should be a more enjoyable experience for you in working with a knowledgeable and experienced contractor who is totally responsible for the design and construction of your remodeling project. You'll be working together from inception to completion as a team with one major goal in mind - designing and building your dream project within your designated budget.


Q: Is my remodeling contractor required to give me a warranty on its work?

A: No. A surprising fact that many homeowners find out too late is that a remodeling contractor is not required by Texas law to provide the consumer with a warranty. Unless an agreement or contract clearly stipulates a warranty provision, there is no binding warranty provision to ensure quality workmanship and required repairs if defective products or workmanship is discovered. Always ask the contractor to see a copy of the written provisions of the warranty to ensure you have adequate protection from defective work.


Q: What's the typical cost per square foot to add on a room addition?

A: Remodeling is such a unique and custom form of construction that it is impossible to accurately quote a project by square foot price without knowing all specifications of the job. Prices can vary dramatically depending upon several factors including size, location, materials used, demolition to existing house, tie-ins to existing, etc. Some additions are built for $100.00 per square foot, others at $200.00 per square foot, while some additions cost $300.00 per square foot and up. Have you ever tried to buy an automobile per square foot? Which do you think would cost more to buy per square foot - a Chevy Cavalier or BMW 450 SL Convertible? It's pretty obvious that one vehicle will cost two or three times the amount per square foot as the other. The same is true with room additions and other remodeling projects. It all depends on specific details as noted above. The best way to proceed in getting a price estimate is to discuss your ideas with a qualified remodeler. He or she can give you a ballpark estimate based upon the type of job involved. Contact a member of the Greater San Antonio Builders Association for more information.


Q: Wouldn't I save money for my kitchen or bath remodeling project if I bought all the materials myself from Home Depot and give them to my remodeler to install?

A: All experienced remodeling contractors have overhead costs as part of doing business. These include salaries, office, rent, administration fees, trucks and vehicles, insurance, computers, accounting, etc. In order to pay for these expenses and earn an honest profit for the risks of being in business, remodeling contractors need to count on sufficient gross profits from all jobs. Part of the gross profits includes markups on all labor, subcontracts and materials to form the basis of sales prices. If a contractor cannot include a fair markup on the products used in a remodeling project, he or she will not have sufficient gross profits to cover over-head , expenses and earn a fair profit. There just would not be enough mark-up on labor only to provide enough return in exchange for the risks of being in business. An analogy would be, if you walked into your favorite fine restaurant with a grocery bag of food bought at the local food market and asked the restaurant to cook your food and reduce the menu prices accordingly. I'm sure you know what the answer would be. The restaurant counts on a fair markup on all their food (products) in order to receive sufficient revenue to cover their operating expenses and earn a fair profit. Remember that experienced remodeling professionals don't just provide an installation, they provide a valued service to assist you in design, analysis of all products and materials to be used, quality workmanship, and warranties to protect your continued satisfaction with the products and services provided. Allow your contractor to earn a fair return for their expertise and assistance in making your remodeling project an enjoyable one for you.


Q: Why did I receive such a large difference in prices from the five remodelers that I had quoted my job?

A: The easy answer is that you received five different sets of products and services provided by the different remodelers quoting your project. This is what happens in nearly every situation in which a clearly defined set of working drawings and detailed specifications are not identified by all contractors. You will always end up with an "apples to oranges" comparison of products, services and prices. What should you do in a situation like this? First, you should never have more than three qualified contractor estimate any project. Spending the time and effort dealing with five contractors is usually a waste of time and energy. Second, give each contractor a written, detailed list of all included items to be incorporated into the proposal. Include product manufacturer numbers to be as specific as possible. Many contractors prefer to just deal with product allowances rather than pricing specific products. When using allowances, do you think the contractors are giving you enough to allow for your specific tastes? The vast majority of the time, the answer is no. Typically, homeowners who sign contracts with contractors using allowance figures end up paying substantially more for those products when final decisions are made on selections. This is called "low-balling" a price. This allows the total sales price to be lower than a contractor who has priced more expensive products. Although one contractor may appear to be lower priced, it is not uncommon for that contractor to actually have a higher price after final overages from contract allowances are figured into the final change orders. It's equally important to understand that remodeling is not a "products" business, it's a "service" business. A remodeler has to provide you with a level of quality workmanship and services to ensure your satisfaction and happiness throughout the complicated remodeling process. Make sure you feel confident with your remodelers' past experiences by talking with previous clients. Would they do business again with this contractor? The greater number of satisfied clients, the better your chances of having an enjoyable remodeling experience with that contractor.


Q: How much money should I give my remodeling contractor so I can be sure he won't skip out before finishing my job?

A: If you have any doubts about the ability of your remodeler to perform on your contract to your full satisfaction, you should not do business with him/her in the first place. If you do not know the contractor or know someone else who has done business with him/her, contact the local building department of your city and ask questions about the contractor's capabilities. Each contractor has their own policies and procedures concerning homeowner payments. Typically, remodelers require a down payment of 25-50% of the contract price for small jobs and 10-33% for large jobs. The remaining payments are typically spread out over the term of the project based upon work performed at various stages. Before paying the contractor in full, you should have all work completed to your satisfaction. If one or two minor items remain to be completed at the end, most remodelers require the entire project to be paid in full except a small holdback amount until completion of those items. Remember that remodelers are not bankers and rely upon the homeowners to provide sufficient payments to pay their bills, including payroll, and office administrative costs. While it is the responsibility of the remodeler to provide quality workmanship and good service, it is the homeowners' responsibility to make prompt payments as stipulated in the sales agreement.