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Monday, December 8, 2008

Understanding the Flow of your Remodeling Project

When we enter into a relationship with our clients as a professional remodeling firm in Charleston, SC, it is important to be reminded that the pulse of each home remodeling or home renovation project beats at it own individual pace. With all the excitement, demands and temporary lifestyle changes that accompany a project, efforts must be made to stay focused on the goal. It is important that while witnessing bursts of activity and seemingly apparent lolls that you understand progress is under way and is advancing in an orderly fashion.

We move from dramatic, obvious progress in the early stages of demolition and structural work, to less obvious necessities such as wiring and finish preparation. Appreciating the pace of construction helps to manage expectations and ensure your overall satisfaction.

Early in the project, the remodeling process shows daily or even hourly developments. As your project craftsman removes old fixtures and cabinets, tears down walls and rebuilds them, and roughs-in new plumbing and electrical services, the remodeled space quickly begins to take shape. There are also times when your project is put temporality on hold while we wait for sign offs by the building inspector. While every effort is made to assure this process occurs without delay, their schedules are outside of our control.

These early phases of home remodeling happen faster than the finishing stages because they usually involve large-dimension components such as the wall studs and roof rafters. When these large elements are removed or reconfigured you see a sudden change from what was there before. In addition, there are often several workers on the job site at the same time to manage big pieces of material and to shape other "rough" stages of the job. The electrician, plumber, and heating contractors, for instance, may all be present to install their respective in-wall systems before the newly framed areas are filled with insulation and covered over with drywall.

Similarly, the installation of windows and doors, and roofing and siding materials occur nearly as quickly as the remodeled areas demolition and structural reconstruction, resulting in a tangible finished exterior shell. It is an encouraging and exciting time for everyone involved because the new space has become a three-dimensional reality.

From that point, however, the pace appears to slow as the project moves from the "rough" to the “finished” stage. Progress continues but gives way to more subtle improvements. For instance while the placement of drywall occurs relatively quickly, the process of taping and texturing these surfaces to prepare them for paint, wallpaper, or other textures is necessarily slow. Because of the nature of this work, few other elements of the project can be addressed during this phase of the finishing process, so the "buzz" of activity of the earlier phases of the job is now much quieter.

Typically, from this point to the project's completion, our various trade partners must operate in a defined sequence. For instance, the cabinets and countertops must be installed before the appliances and plumbing fixtures can be connected and finished. When hardwood floors are finished, they will need time to cure and during the installation and finishing, no other trade partners will be able to be present. Meanwhile, interior painting is coordinated after the drywall and trim is in place. The small yet intricate details such as installing faceplates, switch plates, light fixtures, detail finishes and floor finishes to only mention a few, are all facilitated and managed by our team.

The necessity for such an ordered rate at which this stage of construction occurs can test the patience of any homeowner. To help ease the anxiety or mystery, we will work to keep you abreast of all progress, as well as map out expectations – both yours and ours. Please remember to refer to your job site notebook. It is a great tool for keeping you informed of what is going on with your project. We also want you to feel comfortable communicating with your project craftsmen, project manager and of course me (Bob Fleming). Our goal is to meet and exceed your expectations and this can only be done if you feel supported and in-the-know.

Whether your new space involves a one room remodeling project, bathroom or kitchen remodeling, or a complete house remodeling in Charleston, SC, each project will be unique and will involve its own challenges and rewards.

Far from grinding to a halt, your remodeling project is always on a steady course towards completion. Understanding the pace of remodeling, from dynamic beginnings to the precision of completion, helps you establish realistic expectations as you look forward to the transformed home of your dreams!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Key to Building a Success Story: Communication

We learned a long time ago that the key to a successful and lasting relationship is our commitment to extensive communication efforts between our team and our client. In fact one of our clients even took the time to write us this: “Your attention to detail in keeping us informed almost became aggravating, but we respect the motivation and efforts. The only thing that confused me during my project is that sometimes the customer service was too good.” Hearing horror stories from those that have not been our clients makes this an exceptional problem to have.

To help ensure a successful and satisfying home remodeling experience, maintain regular and productive communication with your remodeler. Lack of communication is, without a doubt, the single leading cause of headaches and hard feelings. To avoid potential stressors, keep the lines of communication open at all times.

To start with, as you evaluate a home remodeling firm, pay close attention to your comfort level with their communication style even during the initial stages of development. Is he or she responsive to your questions and ideas? Have you been informed about the company’s procedures for regular contact and review during construction? The design and sales approach is often an indication of how communicative the team will be throughout the process and even after completion.

As you research remodeling firms, make sure you feel comfortable and confident in working together and that the precedence is set for open discussion of your project and its progress. For instance, Classic defines specific points in the project where we set onsite meetings between our clients and our team: prior to the start of construction, before the installation of sheetrock, and then again at the completion of the project. We have a daily log that remains onsite that documents the progress of construction. Learn early on about opportunities to conduct on-site meetings. Ask who you should contact when you have questions and how quickly you can expect a response.

You should also expect to see a detailed scope of work for your project prior to the start of construction. What the scope does is to outlines exactly what the specifics of the job will entail. This document defines the construction process along with a written schedule. Use it as a guide to ask for information. Together these written documents along with the tangible progress of work will provide you with a “three dimensional” understanding of the construction process. The scope and schedule will also help establish deadlines for when you need to make key decisions.

While efforts are made to avoid changes to the contract, clients may request that additional work be completed or unforeseen conditions might be discovered after the project has begun. You should know how to deal with such issues before your job is started. You should also learn the details of your warranty program. Classic provides an unprecedented 5 year limited warranty to insure our clients that we will stand behind our work now and into the future.

Successful builders have plans in place for communicating effectively with their clients throughout the sales, construction and warranty stages. It is always a good idea to state upfront what guidelines will accommodate your life style and comfort level. A productive flow of information will be facilitated if there is a clear understanding of the best way to reach you and when is the most convenient time. If Classic Remodeling is your professional remodeler of choice, and of course we hope we will be, you can be sure that we will do everything possible to keep you informed, involved and empowered.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Livable. Desirable. Sustainable.

We are looking forward to hosting our first annual design-build seminar series titled "Livable. Desirable. Sustainable." Throughout our many years of service, we have observed that there is a certain level of confusion and uncertainty that all homeowners face as the begin to tackle a remodeling project. With that in mind, we have crafted this seminar series to help you differentiate between what is essential and what is unimportant, between what is fact and what is fiction. You will learn strategies that will help you establish if remodeling is a cost effective solution, and, if so, how to proceed from concept to completion and beyond.

Schedule of Events

When is Remodeling the Right Decision?
October 11, 12 and 24, 1-2pm
Factors to consider as you choose whether to find a new home or expand and improve your existing space.

Navigating the Permitting Process
October 17, 18, and 19, 1-2pm
Understanding zoning regulations, FEMA standards, architectural review requirements, and building code constraints.

Going Green: Environmental Considerations
October 25 and 26, 1-2pm
A proactive, user-friendly approach to healthy environments and earth friendly practices.

Hosted at our office (1832 River Road | Johns Island, SC 29455) and presented by our award winning design team. Call 843-763-3297 to reserve your place.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Frequently Asked Questions

We are often asked these questions from prospective clients. I hope you will find these answers informative and that they will add credence to what we feel helps make Classic unique.

1. We are interested in an extensive renovation to the kitchen, bathrooms and need additional space. Do you take on projects of this type?

Yes. We have completed a large list of projects similar to this on both older and newer homes in Charleston and surrounding areas. Some of them can be viewed online at www.classicremodeling.com. Two of our highlighted projects, Himmelein and DeBiasi, are award winning and historic in nature.

2. How many historic home remodels have you completed?

We have completed numerous projects over the past 19 years that Classic has been in business ranging from simple repairs to million-dollar plus renovations. A typical project for us is a whole-house renovation with additions, kitchen upgrade and master suite. Many of the projects we work on are located in the historic district, and we have competed hundreds of projects on older homes with involvement/interaction with Mt. Pleasant TAC, City of Charleston ARB, Historic Charleston, and other historic agencies.

3. If requested, would you be willing to provide a list of client references for these projects?

We always provide a list of client references. We are proud of the fact that many of our clients refer us to their friends and family, and we are often asked to return for more work at a later date because of our successful client relationships. We also employ a third-party surveying firm to assess our performance, which allows for unbiased feedback from the client. This constant feedback tells us where we can improve and where we excel. Our client relations coordinator will provide a list of client references, along with other testimonials. Testimonials can also be readily viewed on our web site.

4. How many projects do you typically have going at the same time? Are they primarily residential or commercial?

All of our work is residential. We often have several projects going on at the same time, but each project has an in-house project manager and project craftsman assigned to it. Each project manager typically handles a few larger projects and a few smaller projects at the same time, but the project craftsman stays onsite with the project 95% of the time. This gives us much better control of quality and coordination of subcontractors.

5. Geographically, where are your current residential projects located?

Mt. Pleasant, Charleston, West Ashley, Sullivan's Island, and Isle of Palms.

6. Is there a job site that we could visit?

Absolutely. Anyone anticipating a remodeling project should visit some ongoing projects to get an idea how the prospective contractor works. You should be looking at quality of workmanship, cleanliness (safety) of the jobsite, and how the crews interact with clients/children/pets. Every project has challenges specific to the project and there will be things that crop-up along the way. You should be asking those past clients how the contractor handled issues that arose during the project.

We are very proud of our projects and client relationships. I would be happy to arrange visits to both ongoing and past projects.

7. For which trades do you typically use your own crews, and which do you typically subcontract?

We are self-performing in all carpentry areas (demo, foundation layout, framing, exterior siding/trim, interior trim, and final detailing/punch). All of the specialty trades are subcontracted to include masonry, electrical, plumbing, heating/air, drywall, painting, cabinetry, and tile (along with some other minor trades). Many of our specialty trade partners have been working with us for years.

8. How long have you been in business in the Charleston area?

20 Years. We are very proud of our longstanding commitment to our community.

9. If requested, would you be willing to provide credit references from suppliers or banks?

We are happy to provide this. We have strong relationships with our banker and vendors, and maintain good credit by paying all of our bills on-time. Vendors are paid within their terms, and we often take discounts for early pay. All of our specialty trade partners are paid weekly.

We bank with Carolina First locally, but our primary contact is located with Carolina First in North Carolina (he is also a client of ours)
JW Davis: 828-693-7376 / j.w.davis@carolinafirst.com
Dan Bannister: 828-693-1851 /

Our Customer Relations coordinator will be pleased to provide a list of vendors with contact information.

10. How do you typically structure contracts for renovation/remodeling work? (e.g. itemized bid, cost plus percentage, cost plus fixed fee)

We only work on a fixed price. Cost-Plus or Time & Materials contracts are not usually successful because of cost overruns throughout the project. Our estimates are itemized as far as quantities and quality of materials, with a room-by-room breakdown of pricing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Now May be the Best Time to Remodel

Many clients have asked us if now is a good time to remodel. From an emotional standpoint the answer is no. It is easy to understand this point of view: the news media reports disheartening stories that scare and intimidate us. However, from a rational standpoint, now may be the best time to remodel. Below are several key points that you may find useful as you continue to consider remodeling your home.

1. Local Housing Values

Every housing market has its own conditions, and every market reacts to those conditions differently. The following graph, provided by Zillow.com, illustrates values in the Charleston market.

Zillow.com tracks every recorded sale in every major market and provides accurate statistical analysis. The national news media has reported that housing values have “plummeted” by 13% recently. What they do not tell you is how well those same homes appreciated in the years prior to 2008. In the graph above, you can see that a home purchased in early 2000 in the Charleston market for $100K would have appreciated to nearly $215K over a 6 year period, held constant for another year, and then adjusted to an approximate value of $195K. That equates to an annualized appreciation of 7.5%, which is very good! You can also see that although Charleston housing values made a downward market adjustment in early 2007, they have begun to increase in value once again.

2. Comparative Housing Values

Charleston housing values have held very well in comparison to other communities. This is because Charleston continues to be a favored destination to live, work, and retire. Many other markets have declined substantially as the populous leaves cold northern climates for more favorable destinations such as Charleston. This creates demand, which keeps our housing values strong.

3. Cost of Construction

The cost of construction materials has held relatively constant over the past year, with a slight decrease in recent months. But as the price of oil rises, construction materials can do nothing but increase. The following graph, provided by CBUSA, shows the condition of construction materials pricing.

CBUSA, a builder buying group, tracks construction material costs for major metropolitan markets on a monthly basis. You can see that prices have fallen in all of the major markets, as well as in Charleston. This is due to weaker demand coupled with a backlog of vendor inventory. The red line indicates lumber prices at the wholesale level. You can also see the sharp increase in prices due to the rising cost of oil. As soon as local vendors deplete their inventories, you can expect to see an increase in construction materials prices in direct correlation to inflation and rising oil prices. Projects started now will definitely cost less than those started in the future.

4. Interest Rates

Interest rates have probably gone as low as they are going to. With continued inflation and upcoming elections, the Federal Reserve will likely suspend further rate cuts and may even begin raising rates again to curb inflation. Finance costs will likely increase in the months and years ahead.

5. Availability of Qualified Tradesmen

Construction activities from 2000 through late 2005 were very robust in Charleston, which created a severe labor shortage of qualified tradesmen and specialty trade contractors. Now that the market has returned to a normal pace, specialty trade contractors are more readily available, and some have reduced their pricing to attract more business.

It is a given that construction prices are going to increase with time. If you are interested in pursuing a remodeling project now, we can help control costs through purchasing commitments made before price increases occur.

I hope that you have found this informative. If any of the staff at Classic can answer your questions or be helpful in any way, please do not hesitate to contact us.