How To Pick The Right Contractor

October 27th, 2009

A recent newspaper article spelled out the problems a homeowner may face if they are not careful. “Local remodel contractor files bankruptcy leaving homeowners holding the bag”. This happens too often. I have seen it many times. There is no way tell if a contractor is about to go out of business, but there are steps you can take to minimize the potential problems.

First thing is the interview. Try to get referrals from your friends or family. Call three to five contractors of the referrals or try yellow pages. See how promptly they respond. Set up an appointment and see which contractors show up and who’s on time. During the interview ask probing questions. Use your own intuition about the person. Let your judgment of character work for you. If you feel they are honest, trust your instincts. Try to define the scope of your project in the same way for each contractor to make sure they are bidding the same job.

Remember, you will have this person, their employees, and sub-contractors in your house for some time. Ask for references! These should include a variety of jobs, both in progress and completed. You can ask for vendor references as well.

After you meet, call the Contractor’s State License Board (800-321 CSLB) or go their website (www.cslb.ca.gov) to check out the status of the license and bond. Call the Better Business Bureau (858-496-2131) to check for complaints. Again, trust your own judgment, but always check everything you can.

Once you choose a contractor, there are some things you can do to protect yourself during the job. Make sure the contract is detailed. It should describe all phases of the job and include all the information on the products being used. Before signing, allowances should be set on items such as sinks, toilets, faucets, and floor coverings. The more detailed the contract the less there is to disagree about once the work is under way.

The contract should spell out the payment terms in detail. State law says a contractor cannot take more than 10% (up to a maximum of $1000) as a down payment. For example, a job with a total contract price of $8,000 requires a down payment of no more than $800. The remaining payments should be progress payments tied to progress on the project. As an example, payments on a $50,000 room addition would be $1000 down, $10% at foundation, 10% at framing, 10% at roofing, 10% at drywall and so on.

The idea is to always have enough money left to finish the project if the contractor disappears. If a contractor tells you he needs money up front to pay for material, I would wonder why he has no credit accounts with his suppliers. If his suppliers want cash, that could be an indication of a financial problem. Remember the golden rule: “He who has the gold, makes the rules.” When you give up the money you give up the power. Don’t give up the power until you are happy. Another good idea is to get lien releases from all the subcontractors and suppliers on your project.

There are many reputable, reliable, honest contractors out there. Don’t let the horror stories discourage you. That is only a small percentage of the construction industry. If you do your homework, you will probably have a good experience.k-co_logo_2009

Bathroom Remodel

October 27th, 2009

A significant room in anyone’s home is the bathroom. They come in all kinds of sizes & shapes. Let’s look at a basic bath remodel. bath-baypark

The first step will be the demolition. Make sure you know where the main water shut off is and that it’s working. There are usually two. One is at the street and one is at the house. Often when construction begins neither valve is operable. They are not used much and tend to freeze. Check the angle stops below the sink & toilet. These can be frozen as well. Once the water can be turned off the removal of the vanity, sink, faucet, & toilet begins, being careful not to damage the drywall. If the angle stops are inoperative, this would be a good time to change them. This way you can easily turn the water back on.

Next up, removing the tile and tub. These items can be tricky to take out. Cast iron tubs are very heavy and awkward to maneuver. Is there a shower valve? Replace it too. Even if it has been recently replaced, it would be better to do it now while the walls are already opened up. We like to use a Moen brand pressure balanced valve for the shower.

Now on to the bathroom remodel. A Kohler Villager tub costs about $230 and is a good choice. Black paper and cement backer board is installed around the tub. Ceramic tile can be glued to the backer board after which the tile is grouted. Silicone grout sealer is a popular option to protect the grout. At this point the drywall would be repaired and then painted.Now your new vanity can be installed. If you are using a tile countertop this can be done at the same time as the tub tile. There are 2 styles of sink to consider. First there is the “self rimming” or “drop in” type. This style is the easiest to install or replace. The other is the “undermount”. This style is considered more elegant, but harder to remove if repairs are necessary.

Faucets come in 2 styles as well. They are 4″ or 8″ spread. This refers to the distance between the handles. The 4″ is standard in most homes. The 8″ is used in more upscale settings. Countertops have several options. Some of these are solid surfaces like Corian, cultured marble, granite, & tile. Corian & cultured marble are both available with integrated sinks. Floor installation would be next. Using ceramic tile is popular with sheet vinyl running a close second. Tile costs more but lasts much longer.

The toilets can be installed once the floor is done. The Kohler Wellworth Lite is a good product. This is a low flow toilet that really functions efficiently. Toilets come in round or elongated bowls. Elongated are considered more elegant but take up more room. Don’t use tablet cleaners in the tank, they tend to ruin the flapper. But that’s another article.

At this point, the bath accessories can be installed. Mirrors & medicine cabinets come in many shapes & sizes. Surface mount medicine cabinets above the sink are popular now. Towels bars and paper holders come in all varieties. Lighting is usually placed above the sink on the wall. This is the best location because no shadows are created when looking directly into the mirror. Remember, “Lighting is everything”. The plugs should be changed to a GFI type when possible. City codes require a bathroom to have an exhaust fan or a window. I prefer both when possible.

Most full bath remodels cost between $10,000-$25,000. That number can vary tremendously with all the different choices out there. Pick up any home magazine and you’ll see there is no limit to what you can do…have fun with it!

 

Want To Be Your Own General?

October 27th, 2009

Many people I talk to say they want to act as their own general contractor. They believe if they run their own project they can save money. Some will succeed in doing this; however most will find they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. We have been hired many times by a homeowner that has gotten in over their head. The old adage about being your own attorney comes to mind.

Choosing the right sub-contractors can be a hard task. Let’s say you want to build a small room addition. Did you know that it could take 10 sub-contractors for that project, one for each phase of the job? If you were to interview 3 for each trade, that’s 30 different contacts to make. One of the advantages of hiring a general contractor like myself is that I already know which sub-contractors to use. I have gone through a lot of subs over the years, and I remember all the bad ones. Yes, it is possible to get lucky just by opening up the yellow pages or calling someone out of the paper but how lucky are you feeling today? The subs I use have been cultivated from years of experience. I am given a lower price from them because I use them over and over. Even if a person were to call the subs that I use, the price they would give them wouldn’t come close to the price they would give me. Sub-contractors may have experienced problems with a naive homeowner doing their own project. This could make them nervous and could cause them to raise their price to you even more.

An important part of my job is scheduling the subs. This is an area that is very tricky. Most subs have a lead-time. In other words it may take them a week or more from the time you call them until they can get to your job. I get quicker service because I use them week in and week out. If you are not ready for them the day they show up a trip charge can be assessed plus you might have to wait a week for them to return. There are certain parts of projects that aren’t covered by subs. Those things will need to be done before you can proceed. The subs will not go out of their way to talk you through this.

I like to think I can sell a job at a price that will allow me to make a profit while the homeowner benefits from my years of practical knowledge. I have been in this business for close to thirty years, and I have learned a lot from my mistakes. People who think they can run a project and not make mistakes are fooling themselves. If you make one error, it can wipe out any savings you might have had. Time is another factor. Most people are employed full-time. If you were to try and run a job in your spare time, it could drag on forever. The building department is very wary of homeowners “playing” contractor and the inspectors will certainly be looking for code violations. The codes are changing all the time. It’s quite a task just keeping up with them.

It’s your house and your money. Consider how you can best create your dreams with the least amount of negative impact on your daily life. Construction doesn’t have to be a nightmare. It’s up to you!

Roofing Basics

October 27th, 2009

Roofs have two main styles: sloped and flat. The pitch, or slope, of a roof is measured in a ratio of run vs. rise. In other words, the number of inches the roof rises across 12″.

The ratio for the average sloped roof in our region is 4 in 12. Flat roof is a construction term. All flat roofs must have some slope or ponds of water will form on the roof. A minimum slope is ½” in 12.

There are several common roof types in this area: shingles, tile, torch down, and hot mop. The pitch of the roof can be a factor in which type of roofing is used. Shingles can be used on roofs with a slope as slight as 2 in 12 but a roof flatter than that requires hot mop or torch down.

Shingles come with 20, 25, 35, or 40 year warranties depending on the thickness and expected life. The most popular shingle style now is the “dimensional” shingle. They are designed to give the illusion of thickness. Dimensional shingles start at the 25-year level and hide bumps when roofing over existing roofs.

Tile roofs come in many styles. Although more expensive than shingles, they are called lifetime and will last 50 years or more. Tiles are much heavier than shingles and not all roofs can handle their weight. If you are not sure if yours can, don’t take a chance–consult an engineer. There are lightweight tiles available that don’t require an engineer’s report, depending on your roof style, although these are more expensive than the regular tile.

Torch down is a modern method using a modified bitumen torch-applied system. A fiberglass base sheet and all metal trims are applied first. The torch down roofing is rolled out and heated with a hand-held torch. It melts to the fiberglass base and welds itself to the adjoining roll. This is a very popular method because it is easy to work with and fairly durable. A torch down roof will last for 10-15 years.

Hot mop is less popular lately. Asphalt is melted in a kettle and pumped up to the roof and mopped onto the felt. The most common roof consists of three layers of felt and tar. Gravel or a cap sheet is installed on top to protect the asphalt from the sun.

Re-roofing is one of the most important jobs around your home. If you wait too long or have a poor job done, you will have leaks that cause other expensive damage.

The average re-roof costs around $4000 and lasts 25 years. This means the cost per year of that roof is $160. If you try to make your roof last “one more year”, you are saving $160. Put that into perspective: if that roof leaks and your drywall and carpet get wet, the $160 you saved represents only the down payment on the repairs you will need.

Once you have decided to invest in a new roof, you will have several decisions to make about the project. For example, one decision you will have to make is regarding tear off. The City says you can have three layers of the same kind of roofing material. Your roof is designed to hold this weight. One advantage to tearing off is being able to inspect the wood below. One disadvantage is that it adds approximately $1000 to most roofs. Some roofing materials cannot go over an existing roof and must be torn off to install properly.

Another decision is the warranty. Warranties vary on all these roofs. Some are from the manufacturer, some from the installer. Some are transferable, and some are not. Be sure to check this out and think about what is best for your situation.

One decision that should be a slam-dunk is to use a licensed contractor, and to check references. Be sure you also verify the contractor’s insurance coverage for both liability and worker’s compensation.

As Seen In San Diego Magazine

September 15th, 2009

 

BBBLogoAwardwinningKCOGreenBuilder

 

 

 

K-Co Construction is an award-winning design/build firm run by Dave and Ruby Konstantin, with the help of their children Dalen and Chad. Founded in 1995, K-Co Construction has an impressive list of more than 1,000 happy customers, with project ranging from minor bathroom remodels to extensive work on multi million-dollar custom homes. With such a sterling track record, it’s no wonder K-Co Construction has repeatedly won The San Diego Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics and a council of Better Business Bureaus International Award. The Konstantins and their children live in the San Diego neighborhood of Clairemont, where they’re deeply involved in serving the community and promoting neighborhood values. “We treat everybody like we’d like to be treated, in an ethical, honest and professional way. When we take on a new project, I tell our team to act like they are working on their grandmother’s house,” says Dave Konstantin. “Every one of our customers has access to my mobile number.”

Increase Your Homes Value

September 15th, 2009

Lots of homes in San Diego have increased in value over the last year or so. It’s great when the value of your home increases for any reason, but there is a difference between an increase because of market conditions and an increase due to improvements to the home.

Homes that go up in value simply because of a strong housing market can just as easily lose that value if the market weakens. A home that’s been improved is less likely to lose the added value if things go south, since their increased value stems from tangible things like additional rooms, or an updated interior.

Here in Clairemont where I live, many homes look virtually the same as they did when first built in the 50′s. While “original condition” might be good when you are talking about classic cars, or collectibles, when it comes to a home, it’s not always so good.

This is especially true if you are planning to sell your home in the next 5-10 years. You’ll be competing for a buyer with newer homes and updated homes, so your “50′s original” is going to look poor in comparison, and you are likely to have to settle for less in the sales price. ClairemontFamilyRoom

Even if you aren’t planning on selling, building materials and techniques used to build the 1950′s home can’t compare with today’s energy efficient and convenient home features. Take windows for example: in the 50′s, it was significantly cheaper to heat and cool a home, so the thermal loss through windows wasn’t a big issue. I don’t have to tell anyone in San Diego that that isn’t true any more. Today, the investment made in new dual pane windows can be recovered in savings on the old power bill.

And there’s another consideration-lifestyle. Think about how many entertainment options your family enjoys at home–renting movies and DVDs, video games, the Internet, dinner parties– so why not make your home as comfortable as it can be? An extended family room, an eat-in kitchen, a luxurious master bedroom and bath suite could convert your “plain old” home into the home of your dreams.

With the political situation in the world being what it is, you may be thinking that this might not be the right time to spend the money on your home. You might be concerned about our economy in this time of war overseas and terrorism here at home.

The way I see it is this: if we stop spending money–fixing up our homes, buying big screen TVs, taking vacations– then we become part of the problem. The best thing we can do to keep our economy strong is to continue to invest in it. Buy stock, improve your home, take that trip to visit your relatives back east, and know that you are supporting the world’s greatest economy.

And don’t forget to support your neighbors, the locally owned merchants– like K-Co!

GO TO www.KcoConstruction.com

September 15th, 2009

 

Our 3rd commercial is up and running now! We tried something a little different with getting our potential clients to visit the our website! Let me know what you think!

Kitchen Remodeling

September 15th, 2009

kitchen-baypark

Remodeling a kitchen is a complex project. There are many choices to make and a few problems to experience. The main problem is being without your kitchen during the process. Restaurant and microwave food can get old (and expensive!) fast. After washing your dishes in the bathtub for a week or two you will know what I mean.

When remodeling your kitchen the first thing to consider is the new design and budget. We recommend not moving the utilities unless the new design won’t work without changing them. Moving the sink to the other side of the room can add a lot of expense. After the budget and design is worked out on paper you can move forward.

The infrastructure must also be considered. Some people will reuse their appliances and some will buy new. The appliances’ additional electrical or gas needs must be considered. In most older homes additional electrical must be brought over to the kitchen because dishwashers, microwaves, and refrigerators require their own circuits. Sometimes your main electrical panel won’t have this capability and must be upgraded. Modern refrigerators require a 1/4″ copper water line for the icemaker and water. Make sure you provide a filter for this line as well.

Kitchen lighting is critical. City code requires you have fluorescent lighting as a primary source. That is usually a ceiling mount or recessed unit. Can lights can be used for tasks such as over an island or sink. Under-cabinet lighting is a nice touch. All lighting choices need to be defined long before anything is built.

We recommend custom made cabinets instead of the mass produced cabinets sold at the large home improvement stores because you get more for your money with custom. Consider your lifestyle when designing the layout of the new cabinets. Do you cook a lot or entertain frequently or both? Do you need more storage or countertops? There are also convenient features you can add, such as lazy susans, pull out shelves, pan racks, pot drawers and more. You’ll also choose wood species and color of wood for the cabinets.

Very often the floor will be replaced upon remodeling the kitchen, but if you choose to keep your floor, consider how it will look with the new cabinets. Will the footprint of the new cabinets match the floor? Drywall and paint must be done during the remodel. The paint color must coordinate with your new cabinet finish. Most kitchens are painted with semi gloss paint for easy cleaning.

Countertops are another choice to make. In order of expense your choices are: plastic laminate, ceramic tile, Corian, Silestone or granite. Silestone is a new product made mostly of quartz and simulates natural stones. All have their pros and cons and associated costs. Consider full height splashes if you like that.

There are unlimited choice of styles and finishes for sinks and faucets. Sinks are undermount, or drop-in. Under-mount is considered more elegant and drop-in is easier to replace later. Today faucets come with filters built in and many different pull out choices.

Whether you are buying appliances, plumbing fittings, countertops, or cabinetry, we recommend using quality name brands items in your kitchen. Any money you save buying cheaper off-brand items can disappear if your item breaks prematurely.

This is just a brief overview of the process. Getting professional advice is crucial to experiencing a cost effective, minimally disruptive kitchen remodel. Most qualified contractors can take you through the process smoothly.

K-Co Commercial #2

August 25th, 2009

Here is our second commercial. We changed it a little. Hope you enjoy. Give us some feed back let us know what you think.

Window Replacement

July 10th, 2009

In my last article, I talked about re-stuccoing your home and mentioned window replacement. Replacing your windows is an important project for many reasons. There are two ways to replace your windows. First, which I consider the right way, we call “new construction”. We order your custom-sized windows to fit in the existing openings exactly. Once they are delivered, we breakout the stucco 6″ around the windows. The old windows are removed and the new ones installed.

An important step is the waterproofing. As the windows are put in, flashing paper is strategically placed around the nailing flange. Since stucco is porous this flashing keeps the water out. Chicken wire and stucco are then placed around the window. A color coat is then matched around the window as closely as possible. It is difficult to match stucco exactly so this is why I suggest you replace your windows before you re-color coat. If your windows have been measured correctly, little repair is necessary on the outside. Usually a bead of caulking and minor touch up paint is all you need. I feel strongly about the “new construction” method for one reason, if done correctly, it’s problem free for years.

The second way to install windows is called “retro-fit”. These windows are custom ordered as well. When the windows arrive, the existing window sashes are removed and the frame is left in the wall. The retro-fit window has a large fin on the outside, which covers the old window frame. A bead of caulking is applied to the fin and then it’s secured to the stucco. A vinyl trim strip is applied to the inside to cover the old window frame. With this method there is no stucco or drywall repair, but I question the integrity of the waterproofing. It’s the caulk on the stucco that is the protection. The retrofit is a less expensive way to go. Windows La Jolla

Some houses in Clairemont have wooden, single hung windows. These can be replaced easily if you leave the wood frame in. The advantage is it’s a less expensive installation. The disadvantage is having to paint the wood trim. Most windows these days are dual glazed. This means there are two panels of glass with air sealed between them. The air acts as insulation for sound and temperature transfer.

Some of the other options available are grids, tint, Argon gas and Low E.

-Grids come in many designs to match the look of your house.

-Tint can be included and is smart if you have a window that gets a lot of sun, although it doesn’t change the heat transfer much.

-Argon gas can be injected between the two pieces of glass. Argon, which is different than the air, slows down the heat and sound transfer.

-Low E is applied to the window and helps block the harmful ultra violet (UV) rays of the sun. UV rays can damage your furniture, draperies, and flooring. Low E does little to slow heat & sound transfer and does not change the color of the light.

We feel an important feature of replacement windows is the guarantee. We recommend Milguard windows. They are a great value, they boast a lifetime guarantee, and we have had great results with their products.