Chris Black, president of Dallas' CB Construction, doesn't like to surprise his clients.

The same can't be said of all home remodelers.

It happens to the savviest of homeowners: They decide to remodel their kitchen or add a master bedroom to their home's second floor. Maybe they want to add a third bathroom or turn an attic into a kids' room.

They call remodeling companies in the area, asking for estimates of what these contractors think the projects will cost. The homeowners compare the bids they receive and then go with the contractor who promises to complete the project for the lowest price.

Unfortunately, this method rarely works. Contractors routinely soar past their bid prices, and homeowners watch helplessly as the price of their remodeling work continues to rise. Homeowners can pull the plug on the project, but then they're left with a half-finished kitchen, master bedroom or bath. And a new contractor will have to charge even more to finish the job.

"I've seen it happen to a lot of homeowners," said Black. "They think that by getting bids on a remodeling project they are protecting themselves. But unless there is a complete set of plans and specifications detailing exactly what a contractor is being asked to do when jobs are needed to be completed and how much supervision of the entire project is required, a bid doesn't mean a whole lot."

Black and CB Construction take a different approach. CB Construction is a design-build remodeling firm, one that handles the entire remodeling process. CB Construction works together with architects to create plans and specifications that fit an agreed-upon budget. A design-build firm also works with homeowners to create a project timeline so that clients know exactly how long a project will take.

To set the right budget, Black interviews homeowners about their projects. Maybe homeowners want to add a new bathroom to eliminate the logjam that occurs every school day as their children race to get ready for the bus. Maybe they want a new master bedroom because their house doesn't feature any quiet space.

Once Black knows exactly what homeowners want, he can work with them to develop plans that allow them to reach their goals. And, most importantly, he can present homeowners with a realistic budget. If homeowners think Black's quoted budget is too high, they can work with him to adapt their remodeling plans until they reach a price that is within their budget.

"You can't bid out a project until you know what homeowners are really looking for," Black said. "Too many contractors just throw out an estimate. I don't. I determine what homeowners want, how much it will cost to give them that and how much I'll need to spend in materials and time. Then when I do give an estimate, it's an informed one. And it's a guaranteed one."

As a design-build construction firm, CB Construction charges its clients a flat fee. That fee only changes if something unexpected -- construction crews have to build a new retaining wall, for example -- happens during the remodeling process.

Black said that this fee arrangement eliminates much of the stress of a remodeling project.

This doesn't happen when homeowners work with a traditional remodeling company. In the traditional approach, homeowners first meet with an architect who designs plans for their projects. The homeowners than take these plans to contractors who bid on them.

And all too often, contractors underbid to get the work. When the job starts, homeowners are swamped with extra bills, and soon their remodeling project is soaring past its budgeted cost.

"Homeowners won't receive a stream of bills from us," Black said. "That can happen with contractors who don't use the design-build approach. They send their customers bills throughout the construction process. The homeowners then can only sit back and hope that another bill isn't coming."

Black's bid includes a list of what CB Construction will do for homeowners. For instance, many contractors send workers to their job sites without providing any oversight. Black's project proposal will state exactly the level of supervision required for their project.

Black's proposal spells out, too, how often he will meet with his clients to update them on the progress of their remodeling project. This regular communication helps ease the stress of a home remodeling job and is rarely scheduled in the bids that traditional contractors provide.

Black uses an analogy to explain why consumers can't just rely on generic bids when picking a contractor. When consumers buy a new car they look at the sticker prices. But they don't rely solely on them. They also want to know if that sticker price includes built-in GPS, satellite radio and a warranty.

It's the same with the bids from contractors. Homeowners want to know how much a remodeling project will cost. But they also need to know what they'll be getting for that price.

Want more information about the bid process? Call CB Construction at 214-773-5566. CB Construction serves the Dallas communities of Lower Greenville, Lakewood, Lake Highlands, White Rock Lake, University Park, Highland Park and surrounding areas.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call or email me.

Chris Black

5711 Mercedes Avenue
Dallas, Texas  75206

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