The Pros and Cons of being your own General Contractor…

Living a life is like constructing a building: If you start wrong, you’ll end wrong.”
– Maya Angelou


For those adventurous owners that would like to be their own general contractor, we devote this newsletter to you educating and cautioning you about this process.
If you have the time and knowledge to perform this aspect of the job, it is a fantastic opportunity, however it is also a very daunting task that should not be taken on by those unfamiliar with the construction process.

There are Pros and Cons to becoming your own General Contractor and we would like to give you a quick idea of both and what’s important when taking on this responsibility.

– Save money when well executed
– Save time when you are on top of it
– Get exactly what you want since you pick all the materials used
– Bragging rights with your friends ūüôā

– Lose money if not well executed
– Delays in scheduling and extended time frame
– Requires an enormous amount of time and flexibility
– You are responsible if anything goes wrong

The above are just a few of the main advantages and disadvantages we have seen. There are a few more items which should be considered when taking on the GC role.

Communication is key! Learning how to effectively communicate with building inspectors, sub contractors, and suppliers will help ease your frustrations. Listening to others is a very important part of this process. Even though you may not act on everything you have been told, its always good to hear different thoughts or ways to do things, especially if you are unfamiliar.

Scheduling is the most important and time consuming part of the job! As your own general contractor, you are responsible for when materials and subcontractors show up on the job. With all of the various activities going on, its essential to be on top of things and communicating with material suppliers is key.
Scheduling is the most difficult task you will need to accomplish and it is essential to keep a written timeline showing each phase of the project and when it will occur. Time is money and the sooner you complete the job, the sooner you can enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Communication and scheduling are key aspects of running a smooth job!
Some of the key items you will be responsible for as the General Contractor on your project. This includes ordering materials, unloading deliveries and hiring subcontractors to perform the work.
Ordering Materials
Heating/Air Conditioning
Gypsum Board
Interior Doors/Trim
Kitchen and Bath Cabinets/Counter tops

We have provided the basics to give you a quick understanding. Now its time to think carefully about acting as your own General Contractor!

For a more thorough understanding of the entire process, read our book Architecture to Construction (and everything in between) available on Amazon today.

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House Lifting – What you need to know!

Every town has different zoning requirements, however FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is the agency that dictates the various flood zones. FEMA sets the Base Flood Elevations (BFE) and it is up to the local municipalities to enforce these standards. Each Municipality has a Flood Plain Manager, which is a person responsible for determining exactly what flood zone your house is in. This person can help you with any questions regarding how high you may have lift your house. 

Enlist the services of an Architect.They will need to draw up plans for your house raising and can also work with you, the town, and the site engineer to ensure that what  you want done will be done correctly and within the required guidelines. 

You may want to lift your existing home and build an addition at the same time. Your architect will coordinate with the Flood Plain Manager, Site Engineer, and Zoning Officer to determine exactly what your unique constraints and possibilities are based on your property. 

You will need to have your architectural plans or engineering plans, or both depending upon the scope of work. With this information will be the survey, soil boring, and flood elevation certificate (FEC). You will also need letters from your utilities stating that gas, water, sewer, cable and phone have all been disconnected from the house. 

As the house is lifted, cribbing, which is typically 8″x 8″x 4″ wood members are stacked under it (see pictures)

Utilities are now reconnected and landscaping repaired.

PDRdesigns Architecture has assembled an excellent team of professionals in order to serve you in an efficient  manner. We know this is your home and your memories and we care about you. This is why we are the top Architectural firm at the Jersey Shore. and why we released a new book recently, Architecture to Construction, which walks homeowners through the entire design and construction process. We enjoy sharing this with our clients to better educate them!


The above pictures show the progression of this Hurricane Sandy damaged home along the Jersey Shore. This home held sentimental value to the homeowners so PDRdesigns kept this in mind while creating a home that would suit the needs of the family. In the end, this home turned out exactly as the homeowner hoped it would. Enlisting PDRdesigns and a site engineer early on in the process allowed for a smooth transition from start to finish.

These steps are what you can expect when you are lifting your home. 

  1. Plan Your Raise¬†‚Äď Not all raises are alike. In most cases your home will simply be lifted up higher,¬†but in other¬†cases you might choose to alter your decks, porch and stairs, or even add onto your home.. Therefore, the process starts with planning. This is what your architect will do.¬†
  2. Secure Your Permits¬†‚Äď A house lifting is a big project. Permits are still required before you begin the process. In most cases, your contractor will handle all of this process for you.
  3. Demolition Begins¬†‚Äď Before the raise can begin, exterior features like stairways and attached decks may have to be removed based on the scope of work. Decks and masonry chimneys can be lifted with the house if needed.
  4. The Structure Is Lifted¬†‚Äď The main part of the job is the lifting. Most New Jersey house raising firms use computer-connected jacks to precisely lift a structure, inch by inch, until the desired height is reached.¬†DeVooght House Lifters in Brick, NJ has raised homes since 1964 and works with local builders to ensure a successful house lifting experience for their clients. Visit them at¬†¬†
  5. Foundation Expansion/Construction¬†‚Äď After the desired new height is reached, your foundation will either be removed and replaced or added on to raising¬†it up to meet the new height of your house.Your house lifting project is near complete
  6. New Porch, Deck & Stairs¬†‚Äď At this point, decks and stairs will be altered or rebuilt¬†entirely, depending on your scope of work.¬†
  7. Finishing Touches & Moving In¬†‚Äď . Minor things such as repairing cracked drywall and then final inspections will take place. Now, you move back in and enjoy!

Raising your home is a big deal! Be prepared with all you need to know right from the beginning! 

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Front Porch Additions and Expansions

With the FALL season in full swing and the Holidays right around the corner, we start thinking about entertaining family and friends and decorating the inside and outside of our home. Fall Mums and pumpkins and Christmas lights and trees all make a home feel warm and welcoming. If you don’t have a front porch or large entryway and have been thinking about making this change to your home, then what better time than now to follow through with it.



There are so many different options when it comes to porch design and entryways that the possibilities are endless.

Requests that we get are for large covered porches with ceiling fans and room for plenty of seating, enclosed porches with screens or large windows, or smaller entryways with just enough space for a chair and flower pot.

Whatever style it is that you are looking for, there are many options to choose from. We suggest looking at pictures online; Pinterest, Houzz, or PDRdesigns website. PDRdesigns has its own Pinterest Page on Enclosed Porches so check it out here:

When you are ready to take the next step and have an idea of the look you want, the critical item you will need to know before moving forward to construction is if the expansion is allowed.

  • Know your site constraints (your survey will show you this) so that you know exactly how much of an addition you can add.
  • You may need to get a variance depending on the size you are looking to have (you should check with your local zoning department)

Once you have this information, your next step is to hire an architect to do the sketches and plans which are needed to apply for the building permit.

Whatever your reason is for wanting one, a porch can add value to your home in many ways and you and your guests will enjoy walking up to your new welcoming entryway.

Are you interested in learning more about the Architecture to Construction Process? Check out PDRdesigns YouTube channel with videos featuring Local Builders and Designers!

Click on the link below to view these videos!

Jersey Shore Builders and Designers

We at PDRdesigns are committed to treating everyone with respect and honesty.We would be honored to help you design your dream space. Please contact us with any questions you may have or to schedule a meeting to go over your next home project!

Paul Rugarber, owner of PDRdesigns, LLC is an architect specializing in New Homes and renovations with extensive expertise on waterfront design. You can reach our office by calling (732) 703-3799 or you can visit us on the web at

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From Ideas to Construction

The kids are back in school and routines and schedules are now in full swing, so what better time to put your ideas and thoughts down on paper so you can move forward with that home renovation that you may have had on hold.

The fall is a great time for new beginnings!

As an architectural firm, we enjoy meeting new clients and working with them closely to help them achieve their dream home.

If you are contemplating a home renovation or have questions, this information will help you understand the process and what you can expect.

Initial meeting with client –¬†sit down and discuss ideas, thoughts, layouts, budget, site constraints
Documenting Existing Conditions  Рmeasuring all existing buildings, floor plans and elevations in order to establish a beginning point for all renovations and addition projects
Schematic Design –¬†Rough sketches are created to provide the client a beginning point for discussion. This stage is about traffic flow through the site and functional relationships. Since design is a fluid process, nothing is hard lined at this point. It may take 1 or 2 more iterations before the Client approves the schematic design and moves to the next phase.
Design Development  РRefining the rough sketches into plans, elevations and detailed drawings. Materials and mechanical systems will be discussed during this stage. These drawings will form the basis for the construction documents and will be approved by the owner before moving forward. This is the time we like to identify consultants to include on the project team.

At PDRdesigns, we believe that best projects are the result of the combined efforts of the Client, Architect, Designers, and Contractors.
Construction Documents

Providing detailed documents so the permits can be obtained by the General Contractor. All jurisdictions require a code compliant set of documents to issue a building permit. We work with you and your contractor to ensure you are able to obtain your permits.


Are you interested in learning more about the Architecture to Construction Process? Check out PDRdesigns YouTube channel with videos featuring Local Builders and Designers!

Click on the link below to view these videos!

Jersey Shore Builders and Designers

We at PDRdesigns are committed to treating everyone with respect and honesty.We would be honored to help you design your dream space. Please contact us with any questions you may have or to schedule a meeting to go over your next home project!

Paul Rugarber , owner of PDRdesigns, LLC is an architect specializing in home renovation and additions with extensive expertise on waterfront designs. You can reach our office by calling (732) 703-3799 or you can visit us on the web at

New office address:
501 Laurel Ave, Suite 4
Point Pleasant Beach, NJ 08742

Stay tuned for release details and dates very soon!!

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PDRdesigns Exciting News!

Top 5 Tips Homeowners Need
(when taking on a home renovation project)

As an Architectural Design Firm, we work with many homeowners who have done renovation projects in the past and were not happy with the results.

These are the top 5 items that homeowners need to know when taking on a new project:

  1. Time
  2. Cost
  3. Need for an Architect
  4. Quality Contractors
  5. Surprises/Delays

Time: Without having been through a construction project in the past, clients have unrealistic expectations as to how long a project takes from design to permitting to construction. When the time issue is not addressed up front, conflicts ensue that could have been avoided with a clearly laid out timeline.

Cost: Watching renovation shows on TV is great for ideas, but terrible for understanding the true costs involved. Find out up front rough costs for the entire project including design, landscaping and construction. Balancing this with your budget will give you peace of mind.

Need for an Architect: Although you may have an idea of what you want, an Architect will give you ideas and possibilities of what can be done and the constraints of what cannot be done. Simply put, Architects are problem solvers that look at the issue and come up with the best solution that meets your needs.

Quality Contractors: A quality contractor is professional, on time, returns calls, is a good communicator, and has built projects similar to yours in the past. Check their references, look at their work and choose someone you feel will do the best job. Always remember, you get what you pay for.

Surprises and Delays: All construction projects have issues come up that were unexpected and may add to the cost or time frame. If you expect that this will occur along the way, then it wont cause you stress when you get that phone call. As with all problems, expect it, understand the issue, discuss the solutions, make a decision and move on.

Knowing and Conquering these Top 5 Items will help you to enjoy this exciting process!!

We are excited to announce that we are in the final publishing stages of our book and are highly anticipating its release in the very near future!!!

Architecture to Construction (and everything in between) is a step by step book containing a wealth of information to guide homeowners in the Architecture to Construction process. As an Architectural Design firm, we know the ins and outs of the Design and Construction process and relay those to you. With this book, you can be proactive and ready to take on your next home project, knowing you have the information needed right at your fingertips.

With Paul’s background in both Architecture and Construction, and his relationships with builders and designers, he was able to write this comprehensive and valuable book to help homeowners like yourself!

Stay tuned for the official release date and he sure to grab your own copy of Architecture to Construction (and everything in between).

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Lighting Design


PDRdesigns has been named Jersey Shore AIA Architectural Firm of the Year for 2017!!!

The lighting of a space makes a huge impact on how it feels and your experience. One of first rules to follow is to have ample lighting in the room. The second rule is to light up the correct surfaces.
Ceiling mounted fixtures will spread light over a larger area. Recessed lights come in various sizes and shine light onto walls or downward to the floor. Wall sconces spread light up, down, or out. Track lights can be decorative and enable light to be directed to where it is needed. Rope lights enable light to be flexible and decorative, and provide a soothing accent.
Think about how you want a space to feel and what type of fixture will help you create that feel. Utilizing a lighting designer will allow you to get exactly what you want in a space as they understand all of the different light fixtures, styles, light output of each, and how to provide lighting that is specific to the tasks needed in each room and the mood you want to feel.

I caught up with Robert Newell, my lighting designer, to get his thoughts on what makes up a quality lighting plan.

Everything is Design.

– Paul Rand

“The best time to bring a lighting designer onto your design team is at the end of the schematic design phase. This allows them to help you in the creation of details that will get the most out of your light locations. Typically your architect will recommend a lighting designer as they will introduce you to option that you may not know existed. I stress the quality of illumination with my clients, not the quantity. All rooms have different tasks performed in them and therefore need to be lit differently. I strive to capture the feel of the space by creatively utilizing the walls, ceilings and floors to capture the light. Indirect lighting provides an ambient glow, which adds immensely to the visual interest in a room. This is what creates the atmosphere that the client desires. After understanding how my client will use each space and what the family routine is, I provide lighting plans, details and full specifications as to what light fixtures to use. Hanging fixtures are noted, but typically your interior designer will select those items. 
The interior and exterior are designed around what each unique client and site condition warrants.¬† Some clients call me in for a room addition or remodel and some utilize me¬†for a¬†complete house and landscape lighting plan.‚ÄĚ

Robert Newell Lighting Design
654 North Ave. W
Westfield, NJ 07090



Interested in learning more about the Architecture to Construction Process? Check out PDRdesigns YouTube channel with videos featuring Local Builders and Designers!

Click on the link below to view these videos!

Jersey Shore Builders and Designers

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Integrated Technology Design Options

Families today are reliant on technology. ¬†Incorporating technology into a project is no longer an option, it is considered a necessity. ¬†A great way to test this theory is to unplug your router one day thus shutting down wifi / internet to the house. ¬†You will hear immediately from all family members “Internet is down!” ¬†That is just one example of how critical technology is to everyone today for both staying productive and relaxing. ¬†With the most recent advent of smart phones, tablets and wireless devices, everyone wants to have¬†a robust internet signal throughout the house as they do not want to be eating into their cellular data surfing the web at home when they could do so from a properly designed Wifi network.

Being educated during the design phase as to what technology options are available today is very important.  Systems such as Distributed Music, Lighting and Shade Control, Surveillance and Security as well as Sub Systems integration to HVAC, Garage and Entry Doors and Pool and Spa Control are just some of the many technology offerings which should be discussed before starting construction.  Incorporating these systems will impact other trades work ( electrician, cabinet maker, HVAC contractor, etc ), having everything planned out in advance allows the homeowner to understand how these options will tie-in other trades and ultimately enhance the enjoyment of their new home.

The details are not the details, they make the design.

                                                        РCharles Eames


Joe McNeill, from iTEC Consultants discusses how important client education is in an excerpt below.

¬†“We start by educating our client’s as to what technologies are available today and then see what resonates with them. The time invested before a project begins is integral to the satisfaction of our clients and trade partners, we want everyone to “be on the same page”. ¬†iTEC Consultants engineers, installs and services systems such as Wireless Networks, Distributed Music and Video, Multipurpose Media Rooms and Theaters, Telephone / Intercom Systems, Surveillance and Security and Subsystem Integrations such as Gates, Driveway sensors, Heating and Cooling sensors, etc.”
Joe shares how important it is for each client to have the opportunity to understand the value of prewiring their homes to support the systems they may get upon moving in or would want to add down the road.  Proactive communication throughout the design, construction and aftercare process is of the utmost importance to each member of the iTEC team.

 iTEC Consultants
101 Park Avenue, Union Beach, NJ 07735
Joe McNeill
Phone: 732-710 9086



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