How many different bids should I get for my project? This is the most widely misunderstood concept in construction, which we call the "three bid myth." For the sake of explanation, let's say you wanted to buy a new car, and you wanted a great price. You might go to three different dealers and ask for a price. This logic makes sense, as you know for the most part that the car is the same, and you'd simply like to choose the dealer with the lowest price. Makes sense right? Well not so fast, because those three different dealers could be three different brands, and to say that one contractor is cheaper than another could be the same as saying that you can get a Volkswagen cheaper than a Mercedes. Once you look at it that way, taking the time to get three bids just for the sake of doing so seems silly. Instead, you should take that time to search out the builder whose personality, skills, and commitment to satisfaction seem like a good match for your own. It's like we always say, you really need to compare apples for apples if you want to get a true understanding for costs, and in the business of custom construction, that is extraordinarily difficult for even professionals, let alone persons with little or no knowledge of building.
Let's put it this way, we will hire sometimes over 10 different subcontractors on a single job, and we very rarely get even two, let alone three, different bids for various disciplines. Why? Because we're not going to risk service, efficiency, and most importantly quality on saving a few bucks, because in custom construction, you really only get one shot to do it right, and that's what we do.
Any general contractor should have the following before you should even CONSIDER hiring them. A current and valid license from the contractors state license board for the correct license category. A surety bond in a minimum amount of $12,500 as a basic protection for disputes. Active worker's compensation insurance to protect you in the event that a worker is injured on the job. Commercial General Liability Insurance, to protect you from any catastrophic events that could potentially occur during the course of construction.
Can I go by some of your recently completed projects? Absolutely, feel free to call our office for a list of projects to do a drive by. If you would like a closer look, then we might arrange with a previous client to show you the inside of the property, but this would be on a case by case basis as we don't like to impose on our previous clients.
Does DeBernardi use green construction practices? Currently, it is still typically MORE costly to use heavy green building practices, so for tighter budget jobs, we will revert to more conventional building practices. We do, however, have experience in using minor to moderate green building practices and will accommodate any reasonable requests by a client, designer, or local building agency.
Why should I hire a general contractor and not contract with individual specialists myself? Building a custom construction project is an inherently problematic and stressful task. One of the biggest challenges is foreseeing all of the potential problems and, in jobs with many different trades, making sure that every different task has been thought of and is covered in at least one subcontractors scope of work. This job should be left to someone with a very high level of experience and skill. There is also the FULL TIME task of coordinating all of these trades and making sure everyone plays nice. That coordination cannot be left to chance if superior results are expected.
What guarantee do I have that DeBernardi will maintain the promised schedule and stick to the budget given? Mainly you have our track record that is verifiable with previous customers, but we will also offer a written schedule guarantee if your product library is 100% complete at the time contracts are written. The only loopholes we leave ourselves are for design changes by you and weather delays. Outside of these loopholes we will offer per-diem rebates back to you for any and every day that we have schedule slippage. We have heard of no other residential contractor offering this and are only able to do so due to our high level of organization and proven process.
What cities does DeBernardi serve? Our target market is a 20 mile radius from Pleasanton, though we will travel up to a 45 mile radius without the job cost being affected.
Frequently Asked Questions
What questions should I ask when I call a potential contractor's references? How much longer did the project take than you were told?
Were the schedule delays due to lack of specifications by the owner, design changes or weather, or were they due to poor planning and execution?
How much more did the project cost than you had budgeted for?
Do I need to move out of my house during construction? If your project involves modifying the majority of your home, we recommend that you do in fact move out. You do NOT want to be living in the middle of a heavy construction zone, trust me, being in the trade, we've done it ourselves on our own homes, and will never do it again. If you will be remodeling only part of your house, and can live in the other part, then we can set you up with a mobile kitchen or make other accommodations to keep you in your home. In that case we would make every effort to maximize your comfort and cleanliness, and minimize the stress.
Can I come by one of your jobs in progress to see how you operate? Of course, you are welcome to come by any of our jobs by appointment, or if you see one in progress, feel free to ask one of our workers or subs to show you around. We only ask for appointments for safety reasons. If you feel you must check up on us to see how we operate without notice, please bring a hard hat, boots, jeans and safety glasses before proceeding on the job, and even then you should knock on the door and ask the owner's permission. If you would like an appointment, please just call us and we'll set one up for you.
What types of insurance and qualifications does DeBernardi carry? We are currently licensed by the state of California as a class B General Building Contractor, as well as a C-17 Glazing contractor. Our license number is #604607. You may check our license status athttp://www2.cslb.ca.gov/OnlineServices/CheckLicense/LicenseRequest.asp .
We carry a $2,000,000 aggregate commercial general liability insurance policy (CGL insurance) written by Allied Insurance. You may call Allied at 510-233-2600 to check our insurance coverage.
We carry a $12,500 surety bond on file with the CA Contractors State License Board.
We also carry workers compensation insurance as required by California law for any and all employees
Does DeBernardi charge for estimates? We do not charge for our 24 hour no hassle ROM estimate, or for our initial consultation. Any minor design work, additional meetings, or detailed proposals are billable items. Should you desire detailed proposals and then hire us do perform work, the cost of those detailed proposals would be credited toward your job.
Am I allowed to supply my own materials? Yes you are, and you can even save in doing so by eliminating our markups, but we do not recommend it, see below.
What exactly is an allowance? Ouch, the A word. An allowance can be defined as "An amount that is allowed or granted." We assign allowances when a certain specification is unknown, so that there is still money set aside for that item in the contract. To avoid allowances and their inherent risk of cost overruns, one option would be to have all of the specifications for your job decided upon before contracts are signed, a.k.a. complete your product library. This is the best option for making sure you stay within your budget and schedule, as the one of the few things harder than building, say, a high end custom home, is building that home while not knowing what many of its components are supposed to be.
How soon do I need to pick out all the products and finishes for my project? If you would like your project to run smoothly, on schedule and on budget, then you would want to have these decisions made before construction starts. If you don't mind paying more than you thought and having the project take longer than you thought, as well as having many battles with your general contractor along the way, then you can decide as you go along, it's your choice. If you choose the latter, then your best bet would be, respectfully of course, to find another builder, as we don't operate that way. If you're having trouble, remember we can help!
What is a change order? A change order is one of the other "nasty phrases" of construction. Basically a change order is written when there needs to be a change made to the original contract. A change order can be for a dollar amount, either negative or positive, or it can be for a specification change, or even a schedule change. The most common reason for change orders at DeBernardi Development is when our customers would like to make a change to the specifications that were originally spelled out in a contract. The most common reason for change orders at some of our competitors is when the builder wasn't thorough enough in their estimate, or didn't have the foresight to think of everything needed to complete the job. This is another primary reason why the "three bid myth" exists, because many competitive bids simply don't all include the same thing, or even any contingency for the things NO ONE thought of. 90% of the time, the low bidder will find a way to change order the customer to death, to help them recoup the money they need to finish the job using an estimate that had no real validity to begin with. In other businesses, this is called "nickel and diming" and I have not heard of a consumer yet who enjoys that.
Why do you add a markup to products that you supply when I could get them myself? There are two primary reasons for a contractor's markup in custom construction:
The first is for the inherent financial risks in supplying materials for a job. What if the color is a little off? What if the item comes damaged and can't be returned? What if it gets ordered wrong? The second is for all the time required in locating the product, verifying compatibility with other products, ensuring that the product is the right size, and basically making sure it will work. This takes experience, and the peace of mind you should receive in knowing that everything will be right should outweigh the 10-15% you might save for taking on this burden yourself.
If I don't get three bids, then how do I protect myself and know that I'm not getting ripped off? Your single most valuable resource for general contractor selection is not three bids, but instead is checking references. Use other peoples actual experience to your advantage, and make sure you ask the right questions.