Crescent Builders Blog
Surprisingly, I am asked quite often whether or not a major remodeling project, even additions, need permits...YES!!
Not only is it a legal requirement, but here are some added benefits:
1) Pulling and completing a permit means there is a record of home improvement within your township's files that helps to increase the value of your home.
2) There is an independent inspector coming to inspect at integral moments of the construction process to ensure that everything is being performed to code. This provides major security to the homeowner.
3) Permits not only make the contractor liable to conduct the project to code, but also ensures that the contractor has all the necessary licensing and insurance, and that they provide a warranty for work performed. Without a permit, a homeowner can have little recourse against the contractor if things go wrong.
This all said, the permitting process can be long, arduous, expensive and seemingly ridiculous at times, but overall, there are very good reasons why townships take their time to approve major construction projects. Think about it...permitting prevents your neighbor from blocking your view, makes sure things are being built safely and makes sense for the community at large, or prevents someone from painting a house fluorescent yellow and building something which looks straight into your bedroom - all that and more.
So, despite the fact that a permit is a legal requirement and we would never consider working without one, you can see that there are many benefits of a permit for the homeowner. Construction is a marathon event, not a sprint, so patience with the permitting process is just a first step of the process. The more you cooperate with your township, the more they are likely to expedite and push things through.
No matter whether you're undertaking a bathroom remodel or building a new home from the ground-up, we always tell homeowners: put together your team. As we all know, your house is your home, you want people working for you that understand your vision for your home and those that you jive with.
You will need a set of plans. You will need an architect or at the very least someone savy enough to create a proper set of plans to submit for permit and understands the system. An architect should be the first person you call. A good architect will be able to speak to rough costs and be able to work within your budget, or tell you that your budget is unrealistic. Don't be afraid to interview several architects and see which one might be the best fit.
A list of architect, engineers and designers that we work closely with can be found on our Resources page on the website - these are firms that we've worked with and have formed a good working relationship with.
Once a preliminary set of plans are drafted, bring in a general contractor. Often times architects have their go-to Contractors who can provide a rough approximation of how much things will cost and if the design is in-line with the budget. A good GC (general contractor), can help value engineer a project (come up with ways to reduce costs). When plans are ready for proper bidding, we and the CSLB (Contractor's State License Board) suggest getting three bids. We also suggest getting no more than three bids because GC's already face a lot of competition and go through a lot of work that is unpaid to provide a bid. We pass on bidding if there are more than three GC's.
Once you establish a relationship with the people you want to work with, they begin going to work for you, and will help guide you through the process. It is an intimate process that can last a long time - building a house takes at least a year. You want to have confidence in your team and really like them.
Things have been busy here at the Crescent Builders, Inc. office over the past couple of years...really busy...and we've been compiling a list of helpful topics that we think might be helpful for homeowners to know. When we looked at our last blog post, we couldn't believe how long it had been. We look forward to sharing helpful items and as quickly as we can, and will begin posting some great information on topics such as: building green, building inexpensively, permits, permitting and the inspection process in Marin County, living at home during a remodel, and more! Please always feel free to reach out to us - we're always happy to answer questions, no matter what stage of home construction you may be in.
When we get calls from people looking to do a major remodel to their home: adding square footage, adding a bathroom, bumping out a room, converting a room, or a complete remodel, we always enjoy discussing the project. Occasionally, people reach out us before contacting an architect, designer or engineer. If looking for some rough numbers of what a project might cost, reaching our to a general contractor (GC) first is fine, but you're only going to get rough (very rough) numbers and all those numbers from different GC's may vary quite a bit. If you're really wanting to move forward on a project, your first step is to get plans drawn-up. These are not only necessary for submitting when pulling permits, but will help in getting you accurate bids from the contractors you're looking into, as all work in spelled-out on the plans. Depending on the project, the plans could take a while to be approved through your township, so it is a good idea to get that going if it's not an 'over-the-counter' permit.
We encourage reaching out to designers and architects because they are the ones with the artistic visions, creativity, and conceptual ideas. That said, make sure you are clear with your architect/designer as to what your budget is, and if they are not able to crunch numbers with you and stay reasonably within your budget, you have not found the right fit.
Remember too that a structural engineer should not be weighing-in on artistic visions, it is not what they do. Too many hands in the pot can lead to over-design and/or a mish-mash of designs that aren't cohesive.
We at Crescent Builders, Inc. can talk shop all day long, and enjoy giving feedback and ideas, but ideally an architect/designer is trained in this and will ultimately be the one drawing up your plans, so establish that relationship first and then begin to reach out to GC's. If your project is just a 'facelift' so to speak, and no plumbing/electrical is being moved, you can do this without an architect/designer and without professional plans - this is something for which you can begin calling GC's on at any time, but you need to know what you want and be prepared to source and supply any homeowner supplied items.
Please always feel free to give us a call to discuss your next project - we work with many different architect, designers, structural engineers and many more who can help put together a stellar project! We can always refer people and always enjoy the excitement of new construction.
As you sign your name on your building permit application as an owner-builder, know what your responsibilities are - it may be more than you want to manage.
Firstly, you are the one supervising the job, the job site, and scheduling all workers, obtaining building permits and requesting inspections. This is a huge full-time job. In order to prevent huge costly gaps between your different trades you need to know how long each job will take and get people in line. If one thing goes wrong, you need to reschedule everyone.
Secondly, if you hire unlicensed contractors, you could be responsible for registering with the state and federal government as an employer; you'd be responsible for withholding income taxes, paying disability insurance, etc. You'd also be required to provide worker's compensation insurance - not cheap.
In addition, it is on you, the owner-builder, to manage correcting any work and getting re-inspected should any of the new construction not pass inspection.
Managing all the workers, their emails, invoices and liens are lengthy. You face the possibility of mechanic's liens against the home should a payment not be made.
A licensed general contractor - like us, knows the ins and out of all this, and this is what we get paid to do. We know when to schedule our people, and we already have our people in place instead of the owner-builder sourcing all labor. We already have our worker's compensation insurance and liability insurance in place. We have an office and staff devoted to managing these things.
So owner-builders - we encourage you to think about undertaking renovations without a licensed general contractor - it could end-up costing you a lot more than hiring a professional to take care of it all for you.