Rollercoaster

Ever wonder how you might feel while remodeling your home?

 

We understand the difficulty making decisions, allowing newly-met people into your home, seeing your house under demolition and construction, and above all trusting a remodel contractor with your investment. Understanding what you’re going through helps us cater to your needs and our unique process allows us to work together on your remodel.

Open concept living next to kitchen by Strite Design in Boise, Idaho

Professional remodeling companies come in different shapes and sizes, from one guy in a truck to the full-service, design-remodel business like STRITE that has a staff of designers, project managers, and others who ensure that every detail of your project is completed to your standards, on budget, and on time. STRITE is the most ideal choice for people looking for the following remodel experience:

Value added design that not only enhances the esthetics of a home, but improves its livability and functionality.

A single point of contact in day-to-day management of the construction process, and accountability for its successful completion on-budget.

Cost savings through the experience to “expect the unexpected,” the skill to execute your vision, and the ability to pass volume savings along to you.

FAQ

A client once showed us an ad from a bathroom remodeling company that she had clipped from the daily paper.  In it, the remodeler claimed that they could complete a bathroom makeover in one day. “Why is it taking you three weeks?”, she asked.

The fact of the matter is that in our business the second most frequently asked question after “how much” is “how long.”

Discarding the possibility that the bathroom remodeler in the ad used a time projection more in keeping with Genesis than with a 24-hour day, the simplest explanation is that things take what they take — and not all remodel projects are created equal. In planning a remodel in which a number of trades are involved, one can’t simply assume that things will be done simultaneously. Scheduling a dry wall installer, a hardwood floor installer, and a painter in any order other than sequentially is a recipe for disaster, if not chaos and compromised quality. If each trade in the sequence takes a week to complete their tasks per the Description of Work (DOW), you’re looking at three weeks. That’s how the real world works, based on the Gregorian calendar.

That said, there are a couple of key factors to getting a project completed as quickly as possible. The first is organization…which in turn is a function of experience. Having done thousands of remodel projects over nearly 40 years, we know how the necessary sequence of tasks mesh, and how to condense them down to a schedule that lets us hit the ground running while avoiding the inefficiencies and errors that occur when people are trying to work on top of one another. There is, however, another factor that ultimately trumps experience when it comes to the timely completion of a remodel project: the willingness of your trade partners to make your priorities theirs. This is especially important when it comes to scheduling work by trades with typically long lead times — concrete and excavation being two such examples. (To better appreciate the relationships we cultivate with our trades partners, we encourage you to read our blog, Don’t Call Them “Subs”!).

Regardless of what a remodeling company may tell you about their project completion time — through an advertisement or in person — the litmus test for their ability to meet a project deadline is how they respond when you ask them for a calendar. What you will likely discover is that most remodeling companies are hesitant to provide project calendars because they don’t believe they can adhere to them — and the most likely reason they can’t is that they don’t have control of their tradespeople. Because of the relationships we have established over the years with our trades, we are in the enviable position of having them build their schedules around ours, rather than vice versa. That makes all the difference in the world when it comes to answering the second most common question in the remodeling business.

Process

For nearly 40 years, the STRITE remodel process has been refined by hundreds of experts: our clients. While good communication is always critical to delivering what you’re looking for, there are steps to getting there that are as critical to the STRITE experience as the people we employ.

While you can review a detailed schematic of the STRITE process by clicking here, the major stages of a remodel project are summarized below.

Input — We ask questions about your expectations and lifestyle, and then we listening. Together, we create a list of your project objectives and prioritize them room-by-room.

Design Agreement — We create an outline of your objectives and an agreed upon budget range.

Conceptual Design — Our design team creates what will be the basis of the preliminary plan for your project.

Final Selections — We provide a shopping list with budgeted allowances for your remodel finishes. Time to hit the showrooms!

Description of Work — We schedule a “trades party” for team members at the project site, and use their input as the basis for a comprehensive “description of work” (DOW) that details every step of the construction process.

Pre-construction — We at gearbox repairs near brisbane walk through the entire scope of work with you and discuss project details, such as the preparation of the construction site.

Construction — During construction, you’ll remain in close contact with your assigned Project Manager, who will provide you with frequent production schedule updates. As your project nears its end, you and your Project Manager will review the “punch list” of details that need to be addressed. Upon completion, STRITE will review the remodel experience with you and provide product information and warranties to add to your Project Binder for safe keeping.

 

Inside Strite

Remodeling your home, whether we’re talking about updating the look of a guest bathroom or a second story addition, is a big decision…and quite possibly one of the biggest lifestyle investments you’ll make outside of the original purchase of your home.  We naturally expect that our clients will have a lot of questions during the decision making process, and throughout the remodel.

We’ve dedicated this blog to publishing a running list of the most frequent, and most thought provoking, questions that we hear from our clients.

Q: What is a “trades party?”

A: A “trades party” is an important step in the process of creating a description of work (DOW) and a fixed price agreement for our remodel projects.  At a trades party we invite our construction partners to the job site (i.e. your home) to review the project with our design and production staff and provide their input.  By giving them the opportunity to share their expertise and experience at the onset of a remodel we not only identify potential challenges, but also potential savings.  We also ensure that they fully share in the knowledge we have of the project plan, and can safely and profitably fulfill their part in its completion on time, within budget, and to the expectations of the homeowner.

For more information, read our blog post, Party Time!

Q: What is STRITE’s warranty policy?

A: Another, and more relevant, way of posing this question is to ask, “Does STRITE stand behind its work?”  The immediate answer is a resounding, “yes!” — but the heart of this question gets down to the difference between “explicit” and “implicit.”  Explicitly, all STRITE remodel agreements include a one year labor warranty, with materials and products subject to the warranties of their respective manufacturers and suppliers.  Having said this, however, we should add that in nearly four decades of doing business, warranties have never been an issue for our company.  The reason for this is not simply that we stand behind the quality of our work, but more importantly because we believe that, “once a STRITE customer, always a STRITE customer.”  To better appreciate the “implicit” side of our warranty policy, read our blog post on the subject.

Q: Why does experience matter?

A: For most of us, it goes without saying that the more experience we have with doing something, the better we get at doing it. While this may be true for individuals, however, it isn’t necessarily the case with organizations — especially in an industry where every job is a “custom build.”  Where the rubber meets the road is in how an organization builds “repeatability” into its processes — and how it in turn inculcates those processes (think “standard operating procedures,” if you will) in its staff and associates.  For STRITE, this “repeatability” resides in our project database — a rich information source for how we approached a project, the costs associated with that approach, the challenges that arose, and most important, how we managed those challenges.  For more insight into how repeatability benefits our customers, read our blog post “Why Experience Matters.”

Q: What does integrity mean in our business?

A: This is a frequently asked question that we can answer in six words: keeping our end of the agreement — which is, of course, another way of saying “doing the things we said we were going to do.”  As an integral part of the STRITE culture, this value goes beyond the notion of contractual obligation.  Sure, our contracts require us to produce what we’ve agreed to on paper, but our interpretation of “integrity” is more about truly having the best interests of our customers in mind throughout a project and beyond.

Q: What does “value” mean?

A: For us, the concept of value starts with how we see our business, which is to provide a high quality service and product.  If you think about a “higher calling” associated with any business, ours is to fulfill a community need — and after all, improving peoples‘ homes is certainly an investment in the quality of a community.  Focusing on this aspect of our business model, rather than on simply making money, forms the basis of how we look at value.  To this, we add integrity (doing what we do honestly and professionally), talent, and experience.  For more about how we define value, read our companion blog.

Q: What does it mean when we say we know our numbers?

A: “Knowing our numbers” is more than just a point of professional pride at STRITE — it is part of the value we bring to our clients when we undertake a remodel project.  Knowing what things cost, based on years of experience with a wide variety of remodel situations, comes from tracking every cost for every project we’ve ever completed.  This knowledge benefits our clients in two very tangible ways: it makes for an accurate estimate at the outset of a job (which translates into a fixed-price contract), and it ensures the absence of “change orders” through the life of the project.  For a better understanding of what this means to our clients, read our blog, Knowing Our Numbers.

Q: What kind of relationship do we have with our local trades people?

A: Mutual respect, when it comes to our treatment of our trades partners as well as our clients, has been an indelible part of the STRITE culture for as long as we’ve been doing business.  While this respect cuts both ways, there are other reasons that our trades partners tend to make our priorities their priorities. It’s good business. Our trades partners know that when they attend a “trades party” to preview an upcoming STRITE project, they are virtually assured of getting the job. They know that when they show up at a STRITE job site, it will be ready for them to get to work. Finally, they know that we pay when we say we’re going to pay, and that once they’ve met our qualification standards (which include being insured, bonded, and reliable), they can count on a consistent stream of jobs. All of these things contribute to the profitability of our trades partners, and benefit our clients by ensuring that the folks who work with us fit our schedules into theirs, rather than the other way around.  For more on this subject, read our blog, Don’t Call Them “Subs”!.

Q: How long will my remodel take to complete?

A: The easiest answer to this question is that things take what they take — and not all remodel projects are created equal. There are, however, a couple of key factors to getting a project completed as quickly as possible. The first is organization…which in turn is a function of experience. Having done thousands of remodel projects over nearly 40 years, we know how the necessary sequence of tasks mesh, and how to condense them down to a schedule that lets us hit the ground running while avoiding the inefficiencies and errors that occur when people are trying to work on top of one another. There is, however, another factor that ultimately trumps experience when it comes to the timely completion of a remodel project: the willingness of your trade partners to make your priorities theirs. For more insight into this frequently asked question, read our blog How Long is it Going To Take?.

Q: How do we treat our clients?

A: For STRITE, customer relations is as necessary a cost of doing business as meeting our payroll.  One of the legacies of our company’s founder, Jim Strite, was to make customer care not simply a rigorous discipline, but the subject of on going study.  Rather than handing out reading assignments on new construction techniques, which our project managers were already inclined to learn as a matter of perfecting their craft, the STRITE team was asked to study books like “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”  As a result, STRITE’s weekly production meetings typically focus as much on the emotional states of our remodel customers as they do on construction details. To better understand STRITE’s approach to client relations, read an interview on the subject with vice president Brad Milspaugh.

Q: What is a DOW?

A: Try to imagine filming a blockbuster movie without the benefit of a script, and you have some idea of how integral a “description of work” (DOW) is to the successful completion of a remodel project.  In essence, the function of the DOW is to take everything we’ve learned from our clients in discussing their project goals, everything our trades partners have told us about those aspects of the project they will contribute to, and all the costs and lead times for materials, appliances, fixtures, and finishes involved in the final outcome, and then compile this information into a “narrative” of how the remodel will proceed from beginning to end.  For our clients, the DOW serves as a way of confirming that their expectations will be met, while giving them a way to gauge the project process.  The DOW also provides the broader context for scheduling the work of our trades partners and for the creation of the project calendars we provide our clients.  To better understand the role that the DOW plays in the overall remodel process, click here for an overview.

Q: How do we deal with mistakes?

A: Nobody is perfect — least of all builders.  In any endeavor with as many details and complexities as a remodel, errors are bound to occur.  Our goal is to minimize their frequency and impact through detailed planning and an in-depth knowledge of the construction process, and then take ownership of our mistakes if and when we make them.  This, of course, begs the question of when something is a mistake versus an unforeseen situation that arises in the course of a project.  Because STRITE routinely generates a “description of work” (DOW), we never try to hide behind a “change order” as a thinly disguised mistake — which is why we don’t use that term in our business.  Between the DOW and our ongoing communications with our clients, there is never any doubt as to the difference between an outright error and a mere “complication.”  The truth is, neither matters when it comes to our obligation to do the right thing, on time and within budget.

Brad Millspaugh at his desk
Inside Strite

Every now and then we confront the perception in our market that “STRITE is expensive.”  Our usual reply is that we’re simply realistic.  “Knowing our numbers” is more than just a point of professional pride at STRITE — it is part of the value we bring to our clients when we undertake a remodel project.

Knowing what things cost, based on years of experience with a wide variety of remodel situations, comes from tracking every cost for every project we’ve ever completed.  This knowledge benefits our clients in two very tangible ways: it makes for an accurate estimate at the outset of a job (which translates into a fixed-price contract), and it ensures the absence of “change orders” through the life of the project.

From our perspective, change orders are too often used as a way to cover a contractor’s mistake in estimating a project, or in failing to anticipate a problem along the way.  If we neglect to budget for a detail in our description of work, we don’t issue a change order — we simply make it right at our expense.  Mistakes have their consequences, but those consequences should never be borne by our clients.  Learning curves are a cost of doing business.

What STRITE does have to cover the possibility that our clients will expand the scope of a project is what we call an “additional work request,” or AWR.”  Note that unlike the change order, the operative word in AWR is “request.”  There are points in any project where a client might want to address a wish list item that wasn’t part of the original description of work (DOW).  Say, for example, that as part of a kitchen remodel we are replacing vinyl flooring with hardwood, and the client decides that they’d really like to take out the carpeting in the adjoining family room and extend the hardwood into that space as well.  If it wasn’t part of the DOW, it becomes an AWR.

In putting together a job estimate, we generally counsel our clients that additional work requests will probably make up between three to five percent of a job.  This means that for a $100,000 project it is realistic to expect that a client might choose to add $3,000 – $5,000 in additional requests for products (think appliance upgrades), materials (how about granite instead of tile), and services (could we just go ahead and bump out that breakfast nook and pick up some more space in the kitchen as long as we’re reframing).  Industry wide, our percentage of AWRs (vs. change orders) is very small, which suggests to us that our planning and estimating phase in the description of work process is thorough…and that our numbers weren’t based on inadequate allowances designed to jack up revenue or “buy the job.”

When remodeling companies fail to “know their numbers,” they either shift the burden of their ignorance to their clients, or they lose money.  Either way, they most likely don’t stay in business for very long.  So while it may sound a bit arrogant, we feel very confident in stating that if we tell you that a remodel project will cost $20,000, and someone else tells you the price is $10,000, you need to be wary.  At the very least, you need to ask, “Do you know your numbers?”

Inside Strite

Recently, a client looked over our final invoice at the completion of a project and compared it to our original “description of work” (DOW).  “I know you guys did a lot of additional stuff during this remodel.  You should include those things in the invoice and show their value, even if you aren’t charging for them,” he commented.  Our response was that the additional paperwork wasn’t really worth our effort as long as he appreciated what had been done — which was really the point to begin with.

His observation, however, got us to thinking about the way we look at integrity in our business.  How we define that term is a frequently asked question that we can answer in six words: keeping our end of the agreement — which is, of course, another way of saying “doing the things we said we were going to do.”  As an integral part of the STRITE culture, this value goes beyond the notion of contractual obligation.  Sure, our contracts require us to produce what we’ve agreed to on paper, but our interpretation of “integrity” is more about truly having the best interests of our customers in mind.

In terms of how our definition of integrity is experienced by our customers (besides seeing things accomplished beyond the DOW), it involves maintaining a critical eye throughout the life of a project in order to present options that will create a better outcome.  It is important to point out, however, that presenting these options does not necessarily mean adding cost, but instead ensuring that down the road our clients don’t find themselves wishing something had been done differently when an alternative could have been presented earlier in the process.  From a client perspective, you might say that our sense of integrity is felt most keenly as an absence of regret.  For us, it simply means viewing our obligation to our clients as going beyond the particulars of the description of work.  Fulfilling a contract is one thing, leaving your customers with an abiding sense of fulfillment is quite another — it’s a seeming intangible that is at the heart of what the word “integrity” means to STRITE.

President, Bob Mundy
Inside Strite

For most of us, it goes without saying that the more experience we have with doing something, the better we get at doing it. While this may be true for individuals, however, it isn’t necessarily the case with organizations — especially in an industry where every job is a “custom build.”  Where the rubber meets the road is in how an organization builds “repeatability” into its processes — and how it in turn inculcates those processes (think “standard operating procedures,” if you will) in its staff and associates.

For STRITE, this “repeatability” resides in large part in our project database — a rich data history of how we approached a project, the costs associated with that approach, the challenges that arose, and most important, how we managed those challenges.  The benefit of capturing the experience that comes with having done nearly 400 kitchen remodels, for example, is the ability to predict problems before they arise in our next kitchen remodel, and to offer options that add value and/or reduce costs (knowing that a truss can be successfully used in place of a beam, for example, can save a thousand dollars alone).  Although our clients sometimes perceive this ability as some form of “x-ray vision” on our part, the apparent magic of seeing beyond what is in front of you comes from the hindsight of having seen something similar before — many, many times before — from the perspectives of both design and production.

Beyond the ability of our systems to replicate success, however, there is a more fundamental level of experience that our staff brings to every project. STRITE’s president, Bob Mundy, has spent 50 years in the construction business in both residential and commercial markets, while our founder, Jim Strite (now retired), travels the country helping other remodeling businesses improve their practices by sharing the knowledge we’ve gained over nearly four decades.  After all, experience counts for little if it can’t be shared.

 

Nari

Having a Home Remodeled? NARI Offers Tips for a Homeowner to Stay on Top of a Home-Improvement Project. The first step to take is pre-planning, which can be started by making two lists about the room that you want to remodel: Things that you like and things that you dislike. Then, write out: Features you […]