Hiring a Contractor… What you Should Know!

Finding a good general contractor that will be able to build your project in the time frame and budget that you would like is important.  In order to find a good general contractor, there are many sources for information, however your architect is the best person to consult for recommendations. Next ask friends and family to see who has built a similar project and who they used.  I stress similar project because you do not want the guy that does tile work to be the general contractor for your new house. Find someone that is a general contractor to fill that role.  Look online for contractors in your area or ask at the local lumberyard for names of people that they deal with on a regular basis. You can also check out websites such as NARI – National Association of the Remodeling Industry or the NAHB – The National Association of Home Builders.

Consider these questions when interviewing potential contractors. 

  • Have you built a project similar to this before and can I see pictures of those projects?
  • Who will be running my job on a day to day basis?
  • How do you bill for your services?
  • Do you have references from current and past jobs that I can speak to? (At least 3 recent projects)
  • How long have you been running this company or how long has this company been around?
  • How many projects do you have going on at one time?
  • How long do you expect this project to take?
Make sure the contractor you select is licensed and insured.  Contact your state Department of Consumer Affairs to see what licenses are required and then verify that your contractor has those licenses in current standing.  Obtain a copy of their insurance coverage to be sure you will be covered if there is a problem once construction begins.  Understand the contract and the process before proceeding.
This first group of questions can be an over the phone interview designed to see how you feel about the company initially. Pay close attention to how responsive they are in this phase. How quickly do they respond to emails or phone calls, are they on time when you schedule meetings? Are they friendly and courteous? If you don’t have a good feeling at this point in the relationship, I suggest you find someone else to interview.
Your next step is the face to face interview. Depending upon your project, you may want to meet at your house, for a remodel, or their office, for a new home. The purpose of this meeting is to see how you connect, look at work they have done and talk about your project.
If you already have your architectural plans at this point, then you can review those and discuss rough pricing to get some guidelines and make sure your project is reasonable. Meet with 3 or 4 contractors to get a feel for how well they communicate with you. Clear communication and trust are essential as you will be investing a lot of time and money with this person. Ask them about your project and have them walk you through how the process will unfold, what they will do, what you will have to do, how long it will take, when you will be informed of items that you need to select and who will keep track of all of the selections that are made throughout the process. A hint here- DO NOT leave it up to your contractor to document all decisions. Have a notepad with you at all times and write things down as you make decisions.By now you should know if this is a person and a company that you would like to work with. If they are, then ask them to provide a price for your project. Ask them to break it out in a line item format, so that you can compare pricing with other proposals.When you receive pricing form your contractors, sit with them again to be sure you understand what is included in the price and what is excluded. Once you have done that, you can then fairly evaluate the different prices you have. If you received a price that is way different than the others, be wary. Most likely they have not included some items or used different materials or less skilled labor than the others.

Don’t make your decision based solely on price. You typically get what you pay for, so be you are comfortable with the person and company that you are selecting. It is worth paying more to get the company that you believe will do the best job. Trust your instincts, ask many questions and hire someone that you genuinely like!

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Creating your Dream Outdoor Space

Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start to the summer. It’s definitely something to look forward to.  Once the cold weather settles in, who doesn’t start daydreaming of warm summer nights with dinners outside and kids swimming or playing in the yard. There is something about the warm air that makes us more relaxed. Sprucing up the outside of your home is an easy way to add additional value to it and you get to sit back, relax and enjoy all the sights and sounds!
With that being said, there is never a wrong time to start thinking of your outdoor dream space but lets face it, when you are stuck inside on those cold winter nights, it does give you something to look forward to.
In this Newsletter we teamed up with  Liquidscapes to discuss your outdoor space and all that Landscaping Professionals can do to transform your space from average to beautiful.

 

When it comes to your outdoors, there are so many options and personal decisions that you need to think about in order to make the space exactly what your families’ needs and wants are.
Do you have space for a pool or spa and is that something that is necessary for you?
Do you like to entertain? Having a covered porch or patio area with an outdoor kitchen is a great idea. It brings the inside living out and allows you to enjoy all the glory of nature.
Do you need privacy or want to add a fence? Having natural fences like tall local trees  and bushes creates a softer look than a typical fence and can even be added in front of fences as an additional barrier.
Do you have young children who need to have open grassy space for sports games and a swing set?
Do you enjoy gardening and lots of foliage? Creating custom flower boxes throughout your yard is a fun way to add color.And don’t forget the lighting! This seems to be forgotten way too often. You want to be able to enjoy those long summer nights and adding lighting is a great way to do that. It can be simple along a walkway or around a patio, or a fire feature for natural light.
As you know, the list can go on and on and your wants and needs can be as elaborate or as simple as you see fit but even making small changes to your yard can make a big difference.
 
Enlisting the help of Landscape Professionals like Liquidscapes when thinking about your outdoor space is always a good idea. Many times, these professionals have an eye for space unlike our own. They will take into consideration your wants and needs and find the best way to make it fit appropriately in your space while giving you the freedom to just enjoy the process without having to worry about all the details. They have knowledge  in local trees and shrubbery that will work in your yard dependent on your location, soil, etc. They can recommend pool sizes and shapes based on the size of your yard.
Creating a more personal space is what landscape professionals specialize in. Small budgets or large, they can work with you to create a space all your own and one that you feel happy to be in.
We are a product of our surroundings so make your surroundings beautiful!A big thank you to Howard Roberts from Liquidscapes for sharing his work and knowledge!
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Determining Your Project Budget

(An excerpt from the Paul Rugarber’s forthcoming book Architecture to Construction and Everything in Between)

“Got no checkbooks, got no banks. Still I’d like to express my thanks – I’ve got the sun in the mornin’ and the moon at night.” – Irving Berlin

The project budget is probably the biggest item that gives people anxiety – and rightfully so! I have worked with clients who have large budgets and those who have small budgets. One of the similarities I’ve found is that each client wants to maximize their dollars spent for a return on investment – which of course makes sense! The part that doesn’t make sense, though, is the decisions that are made at times by clients during the process.

The budget is the driving force of the project and the expectations of each client are very different. Personally, I love both the jobs with a modest budget as well as the elaborate jobs with exotic materials and lots of detail. However, you need to keep in mind that these are two very different situations and the owners’ expectations for time spent coordinating and making selections for each are very different – and so they must be treated and priced that way. A $15 door knob and a $250 door knob require vastly different levels of care, precision, and specifications.


The most important item to establish is how much you would like to spend and then understand what is possible for that amount of money.

One of the most important questions I ask my clients has to do with their total project budget. The budget will determine the way the house is designed and built. Put simply, the budget equates to how much time is spent on a project. A simple addition will take a set amount of time and is easy to figure for pricing – but a more elaborate house with a large budget is more complicated. When you tell your architect and builder what your budget is, it should be the actual budget. Be sure to communicate whether it’s a firm number or a ballpark. You should always include 10%-15% for “extra” items and adjustments that need to be accounted for as the project progresses.
The budget will also help you set realistic goals. Many times clients just don’t understand costs and have no idea what the project will cost. In asking local builders or architects about costs, it will help you with your planning. There is no sense in wasting time planning an entire second floor addition with a $15,000 budget. On the other hand, I have clients who say they are planning to spend $2,000,000 but it is not a hard number and getting their wish list is more important than the total cost.
The most important issue for you is know what you want to and can spend and then understand roughly what that amount of money will allow you to build. Of course the quality of construction is where the amounts vary greatly. Don’t ever assume that you are getting the same product when someone quotes you half the price of the other guy.


For those of you that have no idea where to start or what you should expect a project to cost, I recommend discussing this with your architect to get a better understanding before establishing your budget. Even if you are only talking about rough budgets, understand what is included in those prices. Site work and landscaping are often additional costs and interior items such as cabinetry and appliances may be as well. There are always unknown costs so be sure to understand what will not be done and is your responsibility as much as you understand what will be done for the price as they all have to be factored into the overall budget that you create.

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Creating a Custom Backsplash


Whether you like simple white subway tile or an intricate mosaic tile, when adding a backsplash to your kitchen you are creating an element in the space that is custom to you and your likes. With so many different options available from stone to glass and everything in between, you can create a look that’s simple or one that’s artsy and colorful.

In this month’s newsletter, we’ve collaborated with Nova Tile and Stone in New Egypt, NJ to give you some ideas on what you can do to spice up the look of your kitchen. Everyone would like to create a one of a kind space, so when it comes time to think about the finishes you want and how you want your room to feel when you walk in it, don’t forget to enlist the help of a tile and stone specialist. These professionals know what works well together and what may not. They can ensure that you can find a design element that fits your needs and will make a large impact in your space all while staying within your budget. You don’t need to have a large budget to create a custom backsplash look!

With the evolution of DIY and the overabundance of home renovation projects we see on TV today, its important to remember to “Invest in your Nest”. Enlisting the help of design professionals is the best way to make sure you get the custom look you want without having to worry about the overwhelming decisions that need to be made. Changing a kitchen backsplash is a small design and construction project, but can add so much character to a space. Three items to consider are:

Color – does it lighten up your space and compliment the counter and cabinet tones? Is your grout color blending with the tile or a different hue to make the tile pop?
Pattern – will the new pattern emphasize a horizontal look, create vertical lines to show height at key openings or have a mix of both elements? A band of a different color, style or size can act as a decorative break in the main tiles and behind the stove is a great place to mix up the colors, patterns and textures to create a special touch of your own.
Texture – Do you prefer a rough antique tile look or a glass tile with a smooth  feel to it? This will depend on the location to the elements of the stovetop and cleanability. Small glass tiles are very popular right now and super easy to wipe down.
“Fall in Love with the Process and the results will come.”
– Eric Thomas
When your home renovation is complete and you can sit back and enjoy the results, you will be happy you decided on a custom backsplash. This is the fun part, so enjoy the process and make it your own! You wont be disappointed!
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)-830-3366 or you can visit us on the web at http://www.pdrdesigns.com.
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The Laundry Room

Laundry Room
“The Forgotten Room”
With school back in session and kids sports schedules in full force, we would like to talk about the laundry room and how to make a not so enjoyable chore more enjoyable. With the right design elements you can create a laundry room that you actually look forward to being in. We all know that with the hustle and bustle of the busy family, we are always looking for ways to make the everyday tasks a little easier. How can we simplify things and stay organized?

“A place for everything and everything in its place.”
– Benjamin Franklin

To some this may be a second thought room, but to anyone that is responsible for this daunting task, this room needs to be a priority! When designing the location and lay out of your laundry room, you should consider where it’s most convenient for your family’s needs. Some choose to have the laundry room on the first floor next to the kitchen while others prefer it on the second floor near the bedrooms, making it easier to put clothes away. Whichever location works best for you, making this room inviting and organized is very important. Allowing enough space for cabinets and storage will create a simple clean look. Sinks,a counter area for folding, drying racks, and even a window ledge for plants are also among clients wish lists. Light cabinetry and cool wall colors create the sense of a fresh and clean area and one that you are excited to be in. This room does not need to be a large space to make it work. With the right layout and use of floor and wall space, a small laundry room can be just as inviting as a larger one.

While the Laundry Room may not be the first choice of rooms you choose to renovate or add on, we can assure you that with all the time spent doing laundry these days, this room is just as important as the next.

Remember, a small change can make a large impact.

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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)-830-3366 or you can visit us on the web at http://www.pdrdesigns.com.

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The Perfect White

“Creativity is Contagious, pass it on.”
– Albert Einstein

The kitchen is the heart of the home. Where memories are made and traditions are passed on. Kitchens are becoming larger and often include an island or peninsula with stools, as well as a table for everyday meals. The latest trend is eliminating the dining room altogether and creating a large open kitchen perfect for entertaining. Cabinetry and wall colors are key when designing your kitchen and creating the atmosphere perfect for your lifestyle. Over the years, white kitchens have become increasingly more popular because of their timeless simplicity. When you add pops of color to white, it can be very warm and inviting.

This month we sat down with Wendi Smith, Interior Designer and owner of Leftover Luxuries and asked her about white as a color and how it works in kitchen design.

Here’s what she had to say.
“White is truly a color; white isn’t just simply white anymore! But whites can be tricky; so many of them have an undertone, and if the paint is not mixed correctly, the end result may not be what you were looking for.

I LOVE layering white in a room. White really does need more white! On the walls, ceiling and floors, it is important to layer the room with more touches of white through accessories, mirrors, upholstery, lighting and furniture then add splashes of color through pillows, lamps, throws, and even the warmth of rich woods. I also love using gold in a white room. And whites should definitely be used in rooms with lots of light.

I love to use white on architectural features, moldings and textured ceilings. Normally a flat finish is preferable on ceilings—imperfections do not stand out as much—but a ceiling with a great design like coffers, trays or even something as simple as beadboard or planks of wood definitely calls for a semi-gloss finish. And semi-gloss should always be used on trim; I prefer the oil-base option for this application.

As far as specific whites, you can never go wrong with Benjamin Moore’s White Dove (OC-17). It is a very soft, warm white with just a hint of gray. I also love doing a fifty-fifty mix of two whites—White Dove and Decorators White. It truly makes a lovely, splendid creamy white.”

Now that you have some information on how overlaying whites and adding color to a white kitchen would work for your design, we encourage you to visit websites like Houzz, Pinterest, and Google Images for some ideas to help you create your own “perfect white kitchen”.

A warm thank you to Wendi Smith, Interior Designer and owner of Leftover Luxuries for her design expertise and addition to our newsletter this month. For more information about creating a custom design look for your home, visit Wendi’s website at http://www.leftoverluxuries.com.

“Less is More”
– Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
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 D. Rugarber, owner of PDRdesigns LLC, is an architect specializing in home renovations and additions with extensive expertise in waterfront designs. You can reach our office by calling (732) 830-3366 or visit us on the web at http://www.PDRdesigns.com.

 

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Making Your Great Room Truly Great

“Tomorrow, you may roam; but while you’re here, just feel at home.”
Unknown
The “great room” is such an amazing name! Who wouldn’t want to be in a room like that? This should be a room that welcomes, inspires, and comforts you – a gathering space where friends and family are drawn and feel at home. So how do we create this evocative “great room”?
I like to begin by deciding what location on the site will invite the best views. Perhaps you have an ocean or river view, or a pool or yard you’d like to see. Sometimes it might simply be avoiding the view you don’t want to see! The views into the yard need to be considered – specifically, how you want to frame those views. What style window and/or doors, and what size and layout would work best? Basically, how much glass and what shape will make a huge difference in the feel of the space, and will also dictate how much the outdoors becomes an extension of the room. Other design items that can be considered are ceiling designs, such as a simple crown molding, applied trim, coffer details, or wood beams – these can draw the eye upward or add that “wow” factor.

How can you create the great room that you love? One of the most unifying and comforting pieces is a fireplace. This can be wood-burning for the hearty, adventurous type, or gas-burning when that is more practical. The fireplace serves as an anchor in the room, and with the right design, can be a true joy to behold.

Now, think about which rooms you want adjacent to this space. The most popular layout is open to the kitchen, the other common gathering space for family and friends. This connection makes sense and allows for a smooth flow, both of people and of conversations.

Cabinetry and shelving are another option that adds style to your space. I advise selecting books and family pictures you love. Shelving and cabinetry can be as simple or ornate as you choose; it’s up to your taste and the feeling you want to create.

Flooring for the great room presents another opportunity to do something different. Whether you like wood and want a simple border with another color, or a pattern, or possibly tile designed to look like wood, make sure it complements the style you are creating and welcomes you to the space. Throw rugs are a great way to add charm and fresh texture to your room as well.

Whatever you choose for your great room, make sure it is you. This is your house – your personal space – so let it be an extension of your personality! That’s the only way you will truly enjoy it. We look forward to the opportunity to help you design your dream space! Call us at 732-830-3366 or email paul@pdrdesigns.com to get started today.
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