With all of the design decisions made, we turn our attention to getting the space built out as intended. We first seek to obtain quotes for labor and products. Depending on how we divided the scope of responsibility for obtaining bids and hiring labor, some of these quotes will be requested by you and some will be requested by the designer or architect. If you have already chosen a contractor and we’ve been working with them since early in the process, this step will largely consist of the contractor asking for clarification on any questions that might arise from the Construction Documents or the Specifications. If, by this time, you have not chosen a contractor, then you will have everything you need to requests bids from a variety of contractors of your choosing.
We will be available to consult and answer any questions required such that a contractor can submit a complete bid to you for review. Depending on the project scope, it may makes sense for us to meet the contractors on site and walk them through the design in person.
Likewise, again depending how we divided up the procurement responsible, Interior Alchemy may be responsible for obtaining quotes from independent installers for things such as countertops, railing, appliances, tile, cabinetry, etc.
Once you receive the bids, if you have contacted with us to review them and provide input to you, then we will review each bid and offer our recommendations to you. It is very important to factor in a number of things when choosing your contractor/installer. Some types of questions you will want to know the answer to are as follows:
- Why is this single bid so much lower than the others?
- Sometimes, this is because a contractor has a crew that is not being utilized and really needs the work, or perhaps this contractor is large and has deeper discount for certain products than the other contractors. Other times, extremely low bids can mean that a contractor did not fully understand the scope, or they simply have never done this kind of project and have not adequately estimated the hours and costs that would factor into your project. Whatever the reasons are for a low bid, you will want to understand them before selecting the contractor or installer based on low price alone. Just like all designers are not created equally, all contractors do have possess equal skillets and experience.
- What is the timeline for completion?
- Just because you are ready to start immediately does not necessarily mean that a contractor has a crew available. Sometimes, one bid can seem more desirable than another because one can get started earlier or finish earlier. For each bid, you will want to know if your contractor will provide you with a dedicated crew which will be on site until the project is done, or if they intend to work 2-3 days a week at your site and 2-3 days per week on another project elsewhere. These answers will impact the cost of the project, especially if you are living in temporary housing and paying rent.
- Will the General Contractor be on site to manage the crew on a daily basis or will they be planning to check in only if there is an issue?
- A General Contractor’s time is valuable. They are out quoting jobs, addressing site issues, marketing, running the business, etc. If a crew is left alone for long many days at a time without oversight, this will mean that someone representing you needs to be on site every day managing the crew. This rile can be done by you or by the Contractor you hire. Not all Contractors will provide you with a Project Manager to keep the project moving forward in a timely manner. A Project Manager (or someone to fulfill that role) is optional, but our experience is that construction projects often do not go well when no one is in charge of managing the construction process. When considering the bids, you will want to understand how each Contractor intends to maintain adequate oversight of the construction.
Depending on how we divided up the responsibilities for the project, someone (you, Interior Alchemy, or the Contractor) will be responsible for placing the orders. Each purchase comes with varying degrees of difficulty. When purchasing an appliance package, it is pretty simple to call up and place the order, especially when the decision about which appliances was made weeks or months ago. Tile, for example, can be pretty complex to order. Not only does a particular collection of tile come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, but it also is sometimes sold by the square foot, the box, the sheet or by the individual tile! When placing a tile order, one must always order slightly more than needed due to breakage and custom cutting, but the calculation to determine how much extra should be ordered is dependent on many aspects such as the scale of the tile, how many angles and edges are in the room, how easy it is to cut the tile cleanly, how expensive the tile is, quantity of tiles in a box or square foot, and also how long it takes for the tile to arrive at the job site. Weighing in all of these factors is how we arrive at the right amount – which is defined as enough to complete the project, have a little leftover in order to replace a future broken tile, but not too much. Running out of tile during the tiling process is expensive. Crews must stop work until more tile can be ordered. Speciality tile may take 6 weeks or more to arrive on site. Once your tiling crew leaves the site, they will be assigned to another project and it will be difficult to plan exactly when they can return to finish your project since they will likely have an entire pipeline of work filled.
One of the responsibilities of procurement is also managing the receipt of daily packages that arrive, full of products to be installed. Each one of these will need to be unboxed and checked to ensure that the correct product (model, size, color, quantity, etc.) was delivered and also that the product is in new condition. When hundreds of products begin showing up, it is important to stay on top of this critical job. The time to find out that the ceiling fan you ordered has arrived dented is before the electrician has showed up to install it or else you may incur additional trip charges by your electrician.
If your design involves the selection of soft goods such as the procurement of furniture, art, rugs, window coverings, decorative accessories, then we will wait until the appropriate time during the Contractor’s timeline to install those, typically between the final walk-through time with your Contractor and the completion of the final punch list (see below).
Contractor Consultations and Site Visits
Before demo or construction begins, if we have not done so already, typically we will walk through the existing site with the entire project team to highlight any areas which will require special attention so that the final product matches our intent.
As construction and installation begins, we participate in progress meetings with you and your contractor by phone to answer questions that come up during the process. It is not uncommon for questions to arise or a mistake to be made during construction, and a good contractor will want to pause to consult with you, the designer, and the architect to find out what the best way to handle something is. For example, if a crew installs the pantry door 2 inches farther to the left than the drawings specified. As soon as this mistake is identified, it is important to check with the person who located the pantry door there to find out if the offset 2″ really matter. In some cases, it may not matter at all. In other cases, leaving the door there may cause interference with the adjacent luxury european kitchen cabinets such that you would no longer be able to use one of the cabinets that you have already purchased and planned for, thus creating a design issue. Your contractor may ask you if the placement of the door is ok, as is. You will always want to consult with us to verify the repercussions of that change to the drawings.
In the commercial design world, these questions are called RFIs (Requests for Information) and they are written and become part of the written documentation of the project. In residential design, we can typically handle these via phone, text or email, but after the fact, all decisions will be written and shared so that each stakeholder in the project understands the outcome of new decisions which may impact the project.
One time, our client’s contractor was on site framing a new kitchen and bathroom and figured out a way to add headroom to the kitchen and asked the homeowner if they would like to do this. Of course, the homeowner said, “YES!” – who doesn’t want taller ceilings? But then the homeowner consulted with us, per our contract requirement, and we were able to find out rather quickly that raising the ceiling at that location would create issues which would create an unintended consequence for the upstairs bathroom addition, rendering that newly built out space no longer code compliance for the bathroom that we had spent 3 months designing. If the client had not asked us, weeks would have gone by before any realized that the contractor and client had just created a situation in which Portland Building Development Services would never issue final inspection approvals to use the space as a bathroom.
In addition to phone consultations during construction, we will make additional site visits. There will always be things which come up that could not have been anticipated. Sometimes, it takes an onsite visit to re-work something during construction. You have all seen this happen on HGTV when the contractors remove a wall to open up the kitchen and all of a sudden you realize that there are pipes inside that wall cavity that cannot easily be moved. When these kinds of things happen, we would come on site and consult with you and the constructor to determine the best path forward.
We have likely chosen most of the products and materials and they are described in detail during the Construction Documentation phase. However, occasionally, either because we specified a generic version of a common element (e.g. 3″ x 6″ gloss white subway tile and white grout) or because we specified a product and the contractor has access to somethings similar that could save you money, a Contractor will want material approval before they make the executive decisions to substitute or install the product and risk your disappointment. We all know that there are infinite shades of white and your contractor may not know that we picked a particular white tile because of its blue undertones and how the subtle blue matches the countertop and paint in the room. When a Contractor requests to substitute any product which is specified in the Construction Documents or when they have chosen the item that was generically specified, we will review and research the product to ensure that the submittal is an approved substitute which will not adversely affect your design vision or the cohesive outcome of the project.
We perform walk-throughs to double-check that the Contractor is on track to fulfill the client’s vision of the design. Designer walk-throughs are not intended to substitute for a construction supervisory or project manager’s role. As the owner, it is important that you maintain an active presence on-site as well. While your project manager should regularly visit the site, on a major construction project, the owner’s presence on-site does wonders to ensure that the site remains clean and the work is on schedule.
After you have have passed all permit inspections and when the construction and installation are largely complete, the last step of every construction project is a final thorough walk-through with you, Interior Alchemy and your contractor to make a final list of everything which still needs to be completed in order of the contractor to send the final invoice and hand over the space to you.
Together, we will walk though the built space and together draft a “Punch List” which will detail everything which needs still to be addressed by the construction crew in order for the construction to be deemed complete so that you can release their final payment. At this stage, the kinds of items on a punch list tend to be rather small, such as touch up some paint here, order and install missing door hinge, adjust sliding shower door so that it rolls more smoothly, but there tends to be a lot of them. Drafting this exhaustive list of everything remaining to be done before you make the final payment and the contractor leaves the site with his crew and tools is critically important.
After this meeting, the list will be transcribed and conveyed to you and the Contractor. When the Contractor addressed the last item on the punch list to your satisfaction, the Contractor will deem the final payment due.
If your project included the procurement of furnishings, art, decorative accessories, or window coverings, it is around this time that we will work with you to make arrangements for the final installation of those design components. Once those items are placed in your home, we will ensure that you are satisfied with the arrangement by making a final walk-through of the furnished space with you and creating one last punch list, if necessary. Once you are satisfied, the project is complete!