Customer Service Award-GuildMaster

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We are thrilled to announce that Potter Construction has been awarded a 2015 Guildmaster Award for exceptional customer service. GuildQuality, an independent customer satisfaction surveying company, has powered the Guildmaster Award since 2005 to celebrate service excellence in the building, remodeling, contracting, and home services professions.

Potter Construction was selected as one of the over 300 North American builders, remodelers, developers, and contractors recognized by GuildQuality for their superior delivery of customer care.

Over the past few months, GuildQuality reviewed numerous survey responses submitted by customers of Guildmaster candidates. In granting awards, GuildQuality considers two primary metrics for each candidate: the percentage of customers who would recommend and the percentage of customers who responded. Potter Construction achieved a recommendation rate of greater than 90% from their customers, who were surveyed through GuildQuality.

For more on the 2015 Guildmaster Award and qualifications, visit www.guildquality.com/guildmaster/.

 

Planning before Construction

Preplanning Before Construction

On time, on budget, and exceeding customer expectations starts with a thorough preconstruction plan.

To finish a complex project on time and on budget, the Professional Remodeler must have a thoughtful, thorough and well-developed preconstruction planning process. It can feel like a slow way to start, but the time spent upfront pays off in more ways than some homeowners realize.

Despite its importance, planning is one of those success factors that gets too little credit. Most homeowners understand that the project must be completed on paper before work starts, but not all of them realize the full extent of the prep work involved. This work goes well beyond blueprints.

For a project to come off without major problems, the remodeler must plan every detail and activity for every stage of the project. The right materials and products have to be in place at the right times, workers and subs must be ready to go when needed, and contingency plans have to be created for weather and other obstacles. The more detailed the plan, the smoother the workflow and the faster the job will get done. This is especially important if the homeowners will be living in the house during construction.

Such planning may be relatively simple for a small project like a new deck or bath facelift. But the details that need to be tracked for a major renovation can be staggering, and can include hundreds of colors, components, finishes, and model numbers. The absence or presence of specific words in the plans and specifications can dramatically change estimated costs, finished appearances, and scheduling. Calculating and determining correct quantities, costs, and delivery times for all these items demands real organization. A decision made today will determine whether the right personnel and materials are on the job a month or two from now.

The plan must also consider bureaucratic entities such as zoning boards, architectural review committees, and homeowner associations. A good plan will ensure that their rules are taken into account during every step of the project.

Then there are communication issues. A large-scale remodeling project has much in common with a relay race, where the baton gets passed between participants at key points. The most crucial of those happen during the planning phase, when a lot of information has to be passed intact from the salesperson, to the designer, to the production manager or lead carpenter. A professional remodeler will have a management system that makes sure these transfers happen smoothly and accurately.

Someone on the remodeler’s staff must also confirm that key details are communicated to all members of the project team—homeowners, architect, interior designer, project manager, contractor—at the right time. This person must also ensure that everyone on the team understands their own, and everyone else’s, responsibilities.

A project that starts with this type of detailed planning stands a much better chance to come in on time, on budget, and with minimal stress. By taking the time up front to think through all the details, the remodeler can ensure the best possible outcome for the homeowners. The ultimate benefit of this is a finished project that reflects the vision of the homeowners, and a sense of pride and satisfaction for all who had a hand in completing it.

Warm regards,

Gary Potter

Surviving a Room Addition

No one likes to think about having to “survive” anything, and certainly not a remodeling project. But in our experience as professional remodeling contractors, we’ve come to learn and advise our clients that there will be ups and downs with every project. It’s our job to minimize stress and flatten out inevitable emotional peaks and valleys.

Room additions are often the most complex and time-consuming types of remodeling projects. The scope of work on these projects makes stress management especially important.

Consider, for example, the impact of removing an entire roof to accommodate a second-story addition, or displacing a kitchen to add an adjacent family room. A family’s day-to-day life can be impacted for several weeks. That doesn’t mean, however, that the payoff isn’t worth it … especially if client and contractor work together to manage the project and minimize stress.

To help our homeowners cope, we take time to go over the entire scope of the remodel before we sign a contract. We work with our clients to identify and rectify “pinch points” that might cause anxiety. We’ll find out how we can be as unobtrusive as possible. We’ll find out the best time to start in the morning and explain how we’ll control dust and boot prints from getting past the construction zone. We work hard to accommodate the sensitivities of our clients and reduce the amount of intrusion—and related stress—they feel.

We find it useful to sit down with all members of the household to discuss the project, address any potential impact, and map out responsibilities and concerns. It also helps to plan contingencies, such as temporary cooking or sleeping areas, and make those spaces as comfortable and “normal” as possible. The goal is to create a partnership—between our company and family members—so that everyone feels connected to the project and excited and committed to the ultimate goal.

We also advise homeowners to prepare their neighbors. A room addition project often requires several tradespeople, as well as our crewmembers, which can limit street parking. It is helpful to let your neighbors know what’s coming, the time frame for completion, and our daily start and stop times. It might also be a nice gesture to invite them to an open house when the project is done to show them your new space and thank them for their support.

The most important stress reducer by far is effective communication. We make it a point to set up regular meetings throughout the project to discuss progress, make decisions or selections, and address any concerns. It is incumbent on both contractor and client to keep those lines of communication open, honest, and respectful. If there’s a problem that crops up between scheduled meetings, we can usually tackle it right away, keeping everyone’s stress level in check … and our clients out of “survival” mode.

Warm regards,

Gary Potter
Potter Construction, Inc
5606 California Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98136
(206) 935-9696 – phone

info@potterconstruction.com
www.potterconstruction.com

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How to avoid remodel mistakes

Avoid Common Mistakes

How professional remodelers avoid some of the most common construction mistakes.

Most homeowners judge a quality remodeling project by the obvious: a design that’s a joy to live in, a streetscape that wows passers-by, great natural lighting, and lots of storage. The list goes on.

But some less obvious details have as great an impact on the homeowners’ satisfaction over time. While the homeowners have little control over these details, a professional remodeler with a sustainable business will make sure they get done right.

The possibilities for bad work are too many to list. A few examples should make the point.

Poor moisture control

Mistakes here can potentially raise the chance of mold, mildew, and rot. Steve Easley, a California-based building consultant who investigates moisture problems, sees the same errors again and again. Three common ones:

  • Horizontal valleys. Such valleys include where a roof slopes into a chimney or wall. The detailing here needs to be close to perfect to keep water out.
  • Lack of overhangs. In a Canadian study, 80 percent of examined homes with moisture in the walls had no roof overhang, making it easy for water to flow down the siding and into the wall.
  • Improper housewrap. When water gets behind the siding, flashing and housewrap should direct it back out before it can get into the structure. Mistakes here are rampant. Take the example of a piece of flashing that laps over the one above it. Anyone with a basic grasp of gravity will understand that if water dripping down the wall hits this intersection, it will flow into the structure rather than out. Shockingly, building science experts say that it’s one of the most common errors they see in the field.

Under-performing mechanicals

Modern heating and cooling equipment is very efficient, but efficiency doesn’t guarantee comfort. Equipment must be well sized and ducts properly sealed. Sadly, these aren’t always properly done.

Some HVAC contractors still use rule-of-thumb calculations to size furnaces and air conditioners. That may have worked for old, drafty structures but with today’s tighter homes the result is often oversized equipment that costs more to buy and operate, and leaves the home less comfortable than it could be. Smart remodelers work with HVAC companies that carefully calculate the home’s heating load and precisely matches the system to that load.

Another rampant problem is leaky ductwork. If the leak is outside the main living area, such as in a basement, living and sleeping spaces won’t get the air they need. There will be resulting comfort issues, and the equipment will have to run longer to satisfy the thermostat. If ducts run through a totally unconditioned space—for example, a hot attic in summer—leaks will create a slight vacuum that pulls unwanted outside air into the house through leaks in the floors, walls, and ceilings.

Sloppy insulation

When insulation is installed without enough attention to detail, the home can end up with hot and cold spots and uncomfortable drafts.

John Tooley, a nationally known building science consultant and energy expert, says that the most common problem areas he sees are attic kneewalls and vaulted ceilings. In the former the insulation usually gets installed without backing and so falls away from the wall; in the latter it’s stuffed into the ceiling cavity, leaving heat-sucking voids. “Insulation has to touch the surface of the drywall to do its job,” he points out. “That’s obviously not happening in a lot of cases.”

The thread running through these situations is that the remodeler lacked a quality system and process to make sure insulation was installed right, mechanicals properly sized, ducts sealed, and the home protected against moisture. And if those tasks escaped scrutiny, chances are others did as well.

Warm regards,

Gary Potter
Potter Construction, Inc
5606 California Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98136
(206) 935-9696 – phone

The High-Performance Remodel

Many of our clients are less interested in “green” construction than they are in projects that offer health, comfort, and low ownership costs.

“Green” remodeling hasn’t been as big a hit among homeowners as some contractors hoped it would be. It’s easy to see why. Green has been over-used as a marketing term, often supported by vague definitions and poorly defined customer benefits. But while many homeowners are no longer moved by pleas to “go green,” they remain very interested in upgrades that use less energy and require less repair and maintenance.

The good news is that making a home more energy-efficient and durable also reduces its impact on the environment. And its owners reap a harvest of concrete benefits.

That point is echoed by no less an authority the U.S. Green Building Council, which defines a green home as “healthier, more comfortable, more durable, and more energy efficient, with a much smaller environmental footprint than conventional homes.”

Matt Power, editor-in-chief of Green Builder magazine, agrees that the term “green” doesn’t connect with a lot of homeowners – even though builders and remodelers who embrace the term do a great job meeting those homeowners’ needs. “What we have come to understand as green is really just good building practice. It’s a high-performance home that’s healthy, safe, and comfortable, with predictable expenses.”

Of course a newly-remodeled home will be better on all these counts than it was before work began, but high-performance professional remodelers raise the bar even higher.

These remodelers prioritize health, comfort, and energy efficiency with top-shelf doors and windows, high R-value insulation, careful air sealing, and ventilation systems that provide a steady supply of fresh air. By doing so they reduce heating and cooling bills, eliminate uncomfortable drafts, and ensure that the homeowners enjoy a healthy environment. These techniques also keep the home quieter by helping to muffle street noise. The result is a home that’s a sanctuary—a retreat that is the focal point for family gatherings.

When it comes to heating, cooling, and electric bills, the savings can add up fast. A savings of just $120 per month is $1,440 per, or a five-year savings of  $7200.

High-performance remodelers also use quality products and careful construction detailing to reduce costly repairs over time. These details include good moisture management to keep water out of the structure, eliminating worries about mold and rot, as well as top-end mechanical equipment that will last for years without the need for replacement or repair. For instance, with today’s variable speed furnaces the fan runs at low speed much of the time. Besides requiring less fuel to operate, the fan will last longer than one in an older furnace, which runs only at high speed and is constantly switching on and off.

Determining which details to prioritize are driven by budget and client needs. For instance, the homeowners may want to replace all the home’s windows when they add that master suite, but may decide to put a furnace replacement on the back burner for now. Local climate and utility rates can also factor in the decision: upgrading the home’s insulation might offer the quickest return on investment in one case, while better windows might be the first choice in another. The professional remodeler can help the homeowners choose the best options for a particular project.

The ultimate benefit offered by upgrading a home’s performance is peace of mind. “What we’re really talking about is making the home more resilient,” says Power. “Because the home has a lower cost of ownership over time, the homeowners are better able to plan for, and weather, economic ups and downs.”

Warm regards,

Gary Potter
Potter Construction, Inc
5606 California Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98136
(206) 935-9696 – phone

info@potterconstruction.com
www.potterconstruction.com

 

 

Change Orders and Costs with your Remodel

The Impact of Change

Even small changes made after work begins can have surprising effects on the budget. Here’s why.

Minimizing change orders is one of the most effective things homeowners can do to control costs during a remodel. This is especially true when you have a fixed-price contract. The reason is that seemingly small changes can have cost impacts beyond the remodeler’s control—costs that ultimately are borne by the customer.

We’re not talking about unscrupulous contractors who write vague specifications to create low bids and then nickel-and-dime clients with change orders to increase profits. We mean honest remodelers who write detailed specs, price accurately, and manage their jobs in a professional manner.

Arriving at a contract price for a complex remodel that gives the clients value for their money and provides the remodeler with a fair profit takes a lot of time and experience. The remodeler must plan the job down to the last detail. Deviations from that plan after project kickoff tend to raise the budget.

The kickoff usually happens at the preconstruction meeting, where the remodeler and clients review and sign off on product and design choices. Purchase orders are then generated and sent to subcontractors and suppliers, setting firm prices for every part of the job. If clients request changes after this point, they are responsible for any extra cost.

How much cost? That depends not only on what is being changed, but also when. For example, suppose a major kitchen remodel includes a new door to a deck or patio. If the clients decide later that they want a sliding door rather than a standard door, it will cost less if they decide before or soon after demolition. If they wait until the standard door has been installed and the walls around it wired, insulated, and drywalled, the change is more costly.

Less obvious are seemingly minor changes that have a ripple effect. These can multiply the cost of an item to several times what it would have been as part of the original specs.

Suppose the kitchen remodel also includes a nearby powder room, and the homeowners decide they prefer a pedestal sink over the small vanity they had chosen. The remodeler’s staff has to cancel the order for the vanity and possibly for a granite top. If those items have already shipped, the supplier will likely charge a restocking fee. The pedestal must be ordered from the plumbing supplier, taking additional time. If the hot and cold water pipes are already in place, the plumber has to move them, and the plumbing inspector has to inspect the change. If the wall has already been finished, the drywaller must be called back. This minor change may throw off everyone’s schedule by a week or more.

Every change also requires time from the remodeler’s staff—time to complete and track orders, to reschedule workers and subcontractors, and to update the budget. That’s why change orders include an administrative fee.

This explanation is not given to discourage important changes. Clients are entitled to make their home their own, and most clients decide to make at least some changes during a project. But they should do so with a clear understanding of the costs those decisions will bring. It’s a reminder that making firm selections up front is in the clients’ best interest.

Warm regards,

Gary Potter
Potter Construction, Inc
5606 California Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98136
(206) 935-9696 – phone

info@potterconstruction.com
www.potterconstruction.com

The New Media Room

Thoughtful planning will help homeowners get the most from this popular amenity.

Home theaters were all the rage ten years ago. These rooms were designed for passively watching TV and movies, and were acoustically separated from the rest of the house. While some homeowners still want home theaters, most now opt for a media room that doubles as a game room. Getting the most from these spaces requires careful planning.

Media/game rooms are popular because people are spending more leisure time playing games— from multi-player virtual reality games to the weekly Texas Holdem night. A multi-purpose room that serves all these activities will enhance homeowners’ family time and increase the home’s resale value.

The new game room might include multiple, flat-panel plasma or LCD displays for watching television, surfing the internet, and playing video games. There may also be surround-sound audio, multi-port outlets, and docks. Throw in a card table or pool table and you have a place to keep everyone happy.

Homeowners working with their remodeler on a media/game room need to think through how it can best serve their lifestyles. Things to consider include:

Where to put it. Location is the most important question, and the answer depends on how TV watching and game playing blends with the family’s other activities. Some homeowners want the floor plan to naturally flow from the kitchen or living area to the media/game room, which lets parents keep an eye on kids and makes it easy for guests to get drinks and snacks during the annual Super Bowl party. Such rooms typically have sliding doors so they can be isolated when needed. Other homeowners want the room in a space that’s completely separate from the rest of the house, such as the basement.

Controlling noise. The room can be acoustically isolated with products that dampen sound transmission through the walls, floors, and ceilings. Cost-effective solutions include framing techniques that separate one side of the wall from the other (so it doesn’t vibrate like a speaker) to special membranes, insulation, acoustic tiles, and sound-deadening drywall products.

Managing daylight. Natural light is great for that Saturday afternoon card game, but when it’s movie time, most people want darkness. Options include motorized screens and draperies that smoothly draw across the windows and are controlled by remote devices or wall-mounted panels. For tighter budgets, consider hand-operated blackout shades.

Accommodating technology. Though most homebuyers purchase their own consumer electronics, the media/game room needs a floor plan and a wiring infrastructure to accommodate these devices and their data feeds. People who love movies may want a 6 to 10 foot wide screen and a 7.1 surround sound system. Others may want several video displays fed by multiple signals—satellite, cable, wireless internet. Regardless of design, essential touches include flexible task lighting (tracks are good for this) as well as more electrical outlets than the homeowners think they will need.

Seating, storage, and snacks. In many media/game rooms, it’s not unusual for family members and their friends to be engaged in multiple simultaneous activities. Consider including different seating zones, as well as built-in cabinet storage for Xboxes, Wiis, and other tech gadgetry. Small kitchen setups, complete with sink, microwave, mini-fridge, and counter workspace provide additional convenience in this self-contained haven.

Although these aren’t the only questions that need to be answered when planning a media/game room, they show the complexity involved in designing a successful one. A close working relationship with a professional remodeler is the best way to ensure that the final space works for everyone.

Warm regards,

Gary Potter

Design/Build: The Secret to a Stress-Free Remodel

Would you like to make your next remodel quicker, less expensive, and less complicated? Then our design/build process is perfect for you. From design plans to permits, carpenters to cabinetry, Potter Construction handles every facet of your remodel or addition. You get a design you love, at a cost you can afford. And you can feel confident that all the details are properly taken care of. Here’s how it works:

1. Visualize Your Dreams

In the first step, you tell us your wants, needs, and dreams. That way we can begin to visualize the newly remodeled living space you have in mind and come up with custom solutions to fit your requirements.

2. Getting Started

In order to seamlessly blend the old with new, we have to know exactly where we were starting from. So we begin the design process by taking measurements of your current layout. We also look carefully at the flow of traffic through every room of your home to find the best way to integrate the addition or remodel. Then we create what is called an “as built” drawing of your present house.

3. Plans, Options & Ideas

Now it’s time for us to dig in. From the “as built” drawing, we create two or three design options for you to choose from for your remodel. Once you select a design, it is redrawn using an innovative design program. This 3D visual shows you the newly remodeled room with views from both the side and ceiling, and shows the placement of permanent fixtures such as windows and doors. It also maps out the new flow of traffic.

4. Take a Virtual Tour of Your New Space

Next, we stroll through your remodeled home using our innovative 3D software to see exactly what your new space will look like from all angles. Wonder what would happen if you moved the stairs to the left, or the kitchen island to the right? No problem. We can test out options and make design changes right then and there. Many of our clients think this “virtual tour” is the best part of the whole remodeling process (next to moving back into their new space, of course)!

5. Decisions, Decisions

At this stage our expert designers work closely with you to choose big items like cabinetry and appliances. This phase is actually the most critical to the overall success of your remodel, because the decisions made now have a tremendous effect on how we build your new space—and how much it will cost. So we take the time to get it right.

6. Planning for Success

At this point there are still a few details left to be decided (like whether you want chrome or brushed nickel faucets). But with most of the planning and major choices behind us, we can now give you an accurate timeline for your addition or remodel. That way you know exactly what to expect before construction starts.

7. Turning Your Dream into Reality

Now we coordinate ordering all the final bits and pieces, and the actual construction begins. Throughout the process, the lead carpenter assigned to your project is always on hand to make sure your remodel goes smoothly. We also schedule weekly progress meetings to keep you in the loop. Should you have any questions along the way, we are always there to help.

8. The Best Part

After a stress-free remodel, we send in our cleaners to wipe away the construction dust. Then it’s time for you to move back into the renovated space and start enjoying your new home!

Why is it So Hard to Estimate What My Project Will Cost?

Have you ever wondered, “Just how much will the remodel of my dreams cost?” If so, you’re not alone. At Potter Construction, we often get calls from people wanting to know how much it would cost to remodel their kitchen or bath, or add an addition to their home. Unfortunately, it is just not possible to provide an estimate until we have a lot more information. Accurately estimating a remodel is tricky for a number of reasons:

First, your project is unique. So we can start with a general estimate based on other similar remodels, but the specifics you have in mind can significantly affect the cost.

Second, there are many steps involved in a great remodel. Your total cost is a combination of estimates for everything from design, construction, plumbing, electrical and finish work (just to name a few).

The third factor in estimating remodel costs (and one that can have a big effect on final cost), is the selection of materials, appliances and finishing touch items that reflect your personal style and taste.

The fourth and final factor is the existing condition of your home. Everything from how it was built, to how difficult it is to access construction areas such as basements or crawl spaces, can affect the cost of the remodel.

Thankfully, with Potter Construction’s start-to-finish design/build process, you’ll know exactly what your remodel or addition should cost long before the first carpenter walks through your door!