- I am a BUILDING PROFESSIONAL
- I am a CONSUMER
Getting Started – make your wish list, call a designer or architect,
select a builder or subcontractor, prepare for construction
Make your Wish List
Before any nail is pounded in, before any light fixture is wired together, you should spend time determining what you want. Research product features, design, and color. Check your CCR's for prohibitions. Simple improvements, such as new paint or light fixtures, will have a relatively short start-to-finish timeline. For projects requiring a building permit or dirt moving, it may take a couple of months just to get through the procedural hurdles.
Call a designer or architect
Let's use a reverse timeline example of a garage addition to be done by the 4th of July. Following an average schedule, the foundation should be poured around May 15th. The plans should be turned in to the building department by early April. The Engineer should receive the Architect's drawings with topographic survey by early March. This sequence assumes two key facts – your survey was done before snow obscured the property and you have already met with a designer or architect who has turned your vision into plans. If your project does not require dirt moving, for instance, a plumbing and electrical change in the bathroom, then your timeline is reduced. You may still need a building permit and possibly a set of "as-built" (current) plans.
Select a builder or subcontractor
A contractor's bid may seem high compared to the work performed. What are you paying for? Knowing when and how to apply for a permit, purchasing materials, foreseeing problems and scheduling sub-contractors are all things your contractor will do. Remember too that building in the Truckee/North Tahoe area is more highly regulated and challenging than other parts of the country. Local builders know the codes and environment.
Prepare for Construction
Think about recycling your construction waste. Have a backup plan if you will lose use of your kitchen or bathroom during construction. Keep in touch with your contractor and create a paper trail of changes and decisions.
Save time and money, and enjoy your building process. Fill out the "Request Construction Bid" form or select a designer or building professional from the CATT Directory to get the wheels turning. Protect your assets - hire knowledgeable local professionals.
The Basics about Contractor Licenses
In both California and Nevada, licensing of contractors falls in three main categories: General Engineering Contractors, General Building Contractors, and Sub-Contractors. Each licensed contractor is given a number for identification purposes. Based on the category of license, a letter code will also be assigned.
What's a General Engineering Contractor?
Although each state has its own laws and descriptions relevant to the type of work allowed under the different licenses, a General Engineering Contractor usually performs infrastructure work such as excavating, trenching, grading, and surfacing to install water or sewer pipelines, build highways and streets, etc. In both California and Nevada, these contractors have an "A" license.
What's the difference between a General Building Contractor and a Sub-Contractor?
A General Building Contractor usually oversees a multi-faceted project and coordinates the specialty contractors or sub-contractors for a job. Specialty or Sub-Contractors are usually hired to perform a single kind of work. For example, if you need only roofing or plumbing work, you may want to hire a sub-contractor licensed in that particular specialty. Both states have divided the specialty license into more specific classifications. There are more than 40 different classifications, ranging from landscapers, window installers, to painters, electricians, plumbers, etc.
A general building contractor may also perform the needed specialty work, such as roofing or plumbing, but must hold a specialty license for that work or actually have a specialty contractor do the work.
The only exception is if the job requires more than two types of work on a building. Then it is appropriate for a licensed general building contractor to contract for and oversee the entire project. For example, if your kitchen remodeling will involve plumbing, electrical, and carpentry work under one contract, you should hire a licensed general building contractor. Under these circumstances, a general building contractor may perform all of the needed work (plumbing, electrical, and carpentry), or subcontract parts of the job to those contractors with specialty licenses.
In both California and Nevada, General Building Contractors have the letter "B" with their license number and Sub-Contractors have the letter "C" with their number. California has added a "D" letter code to further define a specialty license (i.e. awnings, paperhanging, hydroseed spraying, etc.).
ALWAYS CHECK WITH THE CALIFORNIA OR NEVADA LICENSE BOARD TO MAKE SURE YOUR CONTRACTOR HOLDS A LICENSE IN GOOD STANDING AND IS PROPERLY LICENSED FOR THE TYPE OF WORK TO BE DONE. Contact the respective board by phone or visit their website:
- By adding a room, such as an office or family room, you gain new space.
- An alternative is to enlarge your home's footprint, making existing living areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms more spacious and comfortable.
- For people with homes on hillsides, often there is unused space to add a room or two under the lower floor or deck.
- Garages are a good addition for those without one. In our area, the jurisdictions prefer off street parking, especially in the winter, and it is usually fairly easy to get variances to add garages.
- Garages also offer extra storage if built deep enough as well as add livable space above (the apartment or granny unit concept).
- Another option is that your garage roof top becomes your new sun deck or patio.
Take a look around your home and imagine how you could easily create more living space. Give the CATT office a call or email and we'll gladly send out your Construction Bid Request so you are connected with designers who can help you imagine the possibilities to create nicer living spaces.
- Tile, stone (travertine, granite, marble, etc.), wood (solid and laminate) carpet, rubber, concrete, linoleum, cork, bamboo and even brick are available as flooring materials.
- The cost of flooring can vary somewhat depending on material and the size of the floor space. In general, however, inexpensive flooring will not offer a significant savings compared to the more expensive materials. So, consider choosing a higher quality wood or tile as both offer greater durability and will add to the value and appeal of your home.
- Each type of flooring material has its own set of design accoutrements. Borders, medallions, and inlays now come premade for wood, tile, and stone floors. Don't overlook the grout between tiles as a design element. Grout joints can be narrow or wide, plain or colored - depending on the desired look.
- Accent pieces can be used to break up a large expanse, to highlight a focal point, or to define one area of a room. In a multipurpose room, a good design plan may use different types of flooring to define two or more areas. Contrasting textures add interest to a room. In tile flooring, texture can be expressed through different glazes and finishes. Stone can be honed, tumbled, or polished for a variety of appealing looks. And carpets offer many textural choices: closed or cut loops and sheared or carved pile, for instance.
- Adding a full coverage wired warm floor system under a tile floor in a room with a programmable thermostat will enhance the comfort, energy savings and value of your home. Fully wired warm floor systems eliminate cold spots. A warm floor system with flamed granite tiles feels like walking on a warm beach!
There are many choices for countertops: laminate, ceramic tile, natural stone, quartz, concrete, wood, acrylic, plus countless green products. Price, style, durability, and maintenance are important when choosing your countertop material, but no product is perfect, so balance performance with your personal taste and you should be satisfied with your selection.
- Laminate countertops are a popular choice because they are versatile and affordable. There are many textures, patterns, and colors from which to choose.
- Ceramic tile countertops offer plenty of choices for your individual style. They are popular because they are durable and easy to clean, plus the tiles come in a wide variety of sizes.
- Stone countertops include soapstone, marble, slate, and granite. Due to the variety of natural and man-made stone products that are available, the consumer should be informed on the benefits and requirements of each.
- Quartz is a man-made product offering a lower maintenance option but a feel closer to that of natural stone.
- Concrete has also become very popular because it offers creative choices in shape, color, and inlaid objects.
- Wood countertops come in a variety of species ranging from the exotic to locally harvested. With offerings in FSC certified, uncertified, or reclaimed, the wood options and styles are many.
- Acrylic countertops offer a variety of design options and are virtually maintenance free.
- "Green" countertops are another option and include recycled paper, FSC certified products, recycled glass, plus a multitude of new products that are coming to market on a daily basis.
Your remodel design, budget, and style will reflect the type of countertop you choose. Because bathroom and kitchen counters are generally not replaced very often, it is worth spending a bit more on your countertop if you have it. The right countertops are key to a finished look that is stylish, modern, and just what you envisioned. Do your homework to match the product to your lifestyle as all products have different care and use requirements.
By replacing your interior doors, you can change the look and feel of your entire house. There are many different natural wood species to choose from as well as paint grade options and product styles (French doors, sliding doors, bi-fold doors, and pocket doors).
When selecting a natural wood door, it is important to insure that the door has engineered stiles (vertical pieces of a door) and rails (horizontal pieces of a door). This will help prevent warping over time.
Most doors come in a raw form although there are several quality door manufacturers that have pre-stained options. When finishing a door yourself (or having a professional finish it), remember that all six sides must be sealed – that is crucial! Improper sealing is the most common reason for door-warping.
Lighting sets the mood, tone, and overall feel of a home. In the main work areas – the bathroom and kitchen – lighting is especially important because it allows you to see up close and personal when it matters most: make-up for day or night, the early morning shave, food preparation, or cleaning counters.
It's easy to make your old rooms feel like new again by adding new light fixtures. Change the finish of your light fixtures to stainless steel, bronze, or copper to update the room. Imported glass fixtures give an old-world feel while remaining timeless. Add a chandelier and you've set a stylish mood.
Powder bathrooms also merit a good part of a lighting budget. It is one of the most used rooms in the house and also a place to impress the guests. Replace the old three-light vanity above the mirror with a beautiful cascading pendant over the sink or flank the sides of a pretty mirror with elegant sconces.
For the dining room or powder room, don't forget the dimmer so you can add natural candlelight when guests are over.
Above it all, recessed lighting can be used to accent work surfaces, bookcases, art, and other design features of any room.
Ironically, lighting is typically the last item ordered on any construction project, but it is likely the first thing people see! The lighting budget sometimes suffers because it comes into play later in the progress of a construction project. As a result, the overall mood and ambiance of a room may change from what was expected. Don't let this happen to you! Make sure you leave room in your budget to light all of the beautiful cabinets, wall surfaces, and design features to which you have just devoted so much thought and time.
Request Construction BidInstead of trying to sell, many homeowners have turned to retrofitting their homes and investing in comforts that will make their homes more enjoyable. Before you electronically retrofit your home, "Think about what you want not just now but three to five years from now." Consider future wiring needs such as:
- Connecting computers to your TV to stream shows right into your living room
- Remote access
- "Green" energy efficient technology
- Integrating your audio, video, lighting, shading, data, security, and other controls
Here are the most popular upgrades:
Structured wiring system: all cables are pulled to a single equipment location within the home. This system gives the homeowner a lot of flexibility. It's very easy then to upgrade from cable TV to satellite or to distribute music to different areas of the house.
Automation for daylight harvesting: allows homeowners to use touch panels or computers to control the home. Professionals can accurately program window shades to go up or down at certain times of the day based on an astrological clock. The end result of "harvesting the daylight" is that the amount of heating and cooling that's required within the home is decreased.
Control systems: the ability to control systems within the house from pre-determined locations. For example, you may want to know if your child's room is warm enough. Simply by going to any touch screen, you can easily view all the rooms and the exact temperatures, then adjust them right on the spot. The touch screen can be used to provide "global" control of other systems like motorized shades, lights, security, cameras, video, and whole house music.
Media servers: are computer appliances that allow you to view videos, music, Internet video-streamed shows, and more. You'll notice on an increasing basis that the content you get on your display is actually Internet-streamed content. It's becoming more common that you'll be watching YouTube or media sent to you from services like Netflix. Televisions are being sold with an Internet jack on the back of the TV, enabling a quick connection to the World Wide Web. A few years ago, no one would have thought about running a computer cable to a TV but now it is certainly something to consider!
Energy Management: this is integrated technology providing total environmental control to conserve energy and lower costs. You control lights, shades and internal climates simply by activating automated settings and timing. This approach reduces energy usage and carbon output, while extending lamp life and yielding cost savings.