What Happens When You Work With a Design and Build Company?
If you’re thinking about hiring an expert to design your home, here’s what you should know
Professional advice from: Bobby Bunev of GDL Property; Alex Strikovs of Home Republic; Saimir Zejneli of The Home Refurbishment Company
These specialists give what is sometimes known as a ‘turnkey’ solution for your home project. In essence, that means their team will manage both the design and build (construction) aspects of the work.
This all-in-one approach means less of a headache for you: in theory, all you’ll need to do is approve the plans and let your chosen contractor get on with things. Having one company can also help keep overheads down.
“Design and build brings an abundance of advantages that traditional methods can’t: faster project delivery, overall cost savings, reduced risk and a single point of accountability,” Alex Strikovs says.
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During the initial meeting, you’ll be discussing the basics of your project and your expectations.
“My biggest tip, from experience, would be to keep it as open as possible,” Bobby Bunev says. “It’s vital to have a clear vision of why you’re doing this project – is it because you require more space, more light, better heating and so on?
“Any moodboards and ideabooks will be very helpful at this stage,” he adds. “We’ll ask plenty of questions, aiming to get a clear image of what the requirements are. Finally, it’s important to find out what the target budget is.”
“It’s good for us to also know the value of a property relative to the job,” Saimir Zejneli says. “For example, a property might be worth £500,000 and the client wants an extension and full refurbishment throughout the building at a cost of, let’s say, over £100,000. It might be, however, that in that area, the most expensive similar property with an extension is around £600,000.
“But if, say, we know it’s possible to also have a loft conversion costing another £70,000, then the home might be valued at £850,000-plus, so the client might do both. Our aim is to add value to the property.”
You’ll want to be certain that your design and build company understands what you’re asking for and can fulfil your demands.
Establish who’ll be involved in the project, how long works will take, at what point builders will become involved, and which elements may be contracted out to third parties. Find out if what you’re asking for is feasible within the budget you’re proposing.
Also ask about timelines – a slipping timetable is a common problem, so try to work together. “A schedule of work is important so you can share it. And set up some dates – it will make everyone comfortable and offer a target to hit,” Saimir advises.
It’s also important to ask if the professional can foresee any possible obstacles or challenges to what you’re proposing. Request to see previous projects, either in-person or via images on Houzz or the company’s website. Enquire whether they’ve completed any similar projects recently.
It’s a smart move to find out deadlines for any possible changes, too, as many of us have a tendency to change our minds as things unfold and reality becomes clearer.
After the initial meeting comes the planning stage. “The next step in the process, if the client doesn’t have any plans in hand, is to invite one of our in-house architects to conduct a measured survey and draw the space,” Bobby says. “They will produce drawings in two formats – existing and proposed.”
Once these plans are approved by a client, Bobby explains the team will submit a planning application to the local authority on the client’s behalf in order to obtain permission to build.
“At that time, we start creating a schedule of finishes and discuss the interior design of the space,” he says. “It’s vital to make sure everyone in the household is happy.
“Once the drawings and schedule are in hand, we produce a full tender breakdown,” he continues. “We then await the green light to exchange contracts and line up our teams for the kick-off.
“With the approaching completion, we’ll provide a practical completion and satisfaction certificate, signed once works done have met the client’s expectations,” he says. “Apart from this, we issue a copy of all relevant certificates connected to the works.
“The completion of the project doesn’t mean our responsibilities towards our client are finished,” Bobby adds. “In our guarantee period, we’ll cover any necessary touch-ups or issues that may occur.”
This will vary from firm to firm, so always check exactly who’s on the team. At Bobby’s company, for example, most of the staff are in-house, except for heating engineers and some specialist contractors, while other firms may have external teams.
“It’s best to get a structural engineer, architect and interior designer involved at the beginning,” Saimir says. “If the customer would like a full design and build, then it’s best to separate costs for the above professional teams and separate building costs.”
Typical issues on any house project include increased costs due to unforeseen problems, or the project taking longer than expected. However, one advantage of a design and build company is it’s easier to pinpoint what’s happening, as you’re only dealing with one firm.
Choose a professional you feel is open to your ideas and easy to talk to – that way it will be easier to collaborate when issues do arise.
“Communication is important,” agrees Saimir, who uses Whatsapp group chats to keep in constant touch with his clients. Look out for professionals who use Houzz Pro management software, as the client dashboard will allow the team to provide you with clear daily updates on all aspects of your project.
Perhaps most importantly, the professional also needs to understand you as a person. “In my opinion, it’s important to understand the background and ethnicity of a client,” Saimir says, as this can have an influence on their taste and interior design ideas.
He also recommends you discuss whether you’re planning to move out in the short-term ahead of time – to avoid panics down the line. “A customer might rent a property for a short let or move out at an agreed starting time,” he says. “In some cases, that means we can start to fully strip out the property to save time.”
More: How to Plan a Renovation When Prices Are Rising
Again, there’s no set answer to this. However, Alex says that a flat in a block would, on average, take around four months to refurbish. “A complete house renovation takes around five to eight months,” he says, “and a house where a basement needs to be excavated, and therefore underpinned, would take eight to 10 months.”
“Clearly, the cost will depend on things including the type and size of the property, the scale of the project, the specification, the timeline, access and finishes,” Alex says.
He explains that for his company to refurbish a simple mansion block apartment, the costs tend to range from around £1,600 to £2,500 per sq m. “For a house renovation, the figure is closer to £2,500 to £3,000 per sq m.”
Basements are pricier, often £6,000 to £7,000 per sq m, Alex says, with much of the extra cost tied to excavations and creating a shell and structure.
Prices have been rising more rapidly than usual lately, though, so ensure you check your chosen company’s updated costs when budgeting.
Have you hired a design and build company? Share your stories in the Comments.