How to Interview Your Design Build Company Before Signing a Contract

Normandy Designer Vince Weber with homeowner

You’ve decided that it’s finally time to remodel and you want to hire a design build company for the project. Congratulations, it’s a big step, and knowing who to partner with can be an overwhelming undertaking. Normandy Designer Vince Weber shares the advice he would offer his own family and friends who are embarking on their remodeling journey.

What is a Design Build Company?

“Not all design build companies are setup the same way,” Vince says. A true design build company is about having one contract that covers the entire project. “The overarching benefit is accountability,” Vince adds. “Having one all-encompassing contract means the design build company will be responsible for handling everything, from the design and architectural drawings, to materials and labor. This means less frustration for you.”

Where do I begin my search for the right design build company?

“I’d recommend getting personal reviews from neighbors, friends or family members,” says Vince. “You can stop by homes that have job signs on their lawn. Ask them how their experience has been working with the companies you’re considering.” You can even reach out to your local building department and speak to the plan examiners. Along with the inspectors, they have a good gauge as to which companies are easy to work with and have a reputation for completing projects the right way.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of possible design build companies, here’s a list of questions to ask in your interviews:

Will I have one continuous contact person throughout the project?

“It’s important to have your designer or primary contact person work with you every step of the way. The person who initiated the project understands you and your project the best and can work as your advocate to resolve any issues that arise,” Vince says. “Maintaining a single point of contact, often your designer, from start to finish avoids the frustrations of being handed off to different people or departments throughout the project, when ideas and promises can get lost in translation.”

Normandy Designer Ashley Noethe with customerAre they problem-solving or order-taking?

“I think our gift as designers is to ask questions, listen to those answers, then formulate solutions that are going to solve your problems,” says Vince. A Design Professional will be able to see your space from a different perspective and offer suggestions you may not have considered. “A designer is a someone who is a problem solver, not someone who simply provides a price without asking in-depth questions or offering their design input,” Vince adds. “You should expect your designer to present several different options for your project. This allows you to evaluate different possible ways to approach your remodel, minimizing the potential for regret after the project is complete.”

 Who will be working in my home?

“Back to the accountability piece, it’s important to understand the relationship your design build company has with the tradespeople that will build your project,” says Vince. “For instance, do they work with a consistently reliable list of predetermined trades, or do they put each project out to bid to find the lowest cost provider?” Another good question to ask: ‘Are the people building your project more like a jack-of-trades or a trained specialist?’ It can mean the difference between having someone who dabbles in everything vs. a plumber, tile setter, and finish carpenter who are skilled in their craft.”

 Normandy Remodeling BuildWhat is and isn’t included in the price?

“Transparency is key,” Vince says. “I’d be leery of long, complicated lists of what’s included and what isn’t. It’s critical that your contract includes a drawing that represents your project, not just a list with a price,” Vince notes. “Additionally, permits and bonds should be managed and paid for by the design build company. Some people shy away from permits, but they are one of the best pieces of insurance you can find. The inspectors work on your behalf to make sure everything is done as it should be, giving you peace of mind for the safety of what’s visible as well as what’s behind the walls.”

 What does the payment structure look like?

Vince also suggests looking at their payment structure. “I would steer clear of those who require huge down payments up front,” he says. “If they’ve already been paid the bulk of the project before demo, it’s easier for them to walk away or allow the construction process to linger much longer than necessary. You’ll have more leverage if the final payment is closer to 10% of the total project cost.”

“The bottom line is to trust your gut,” Vince says. “If something feels off, believe it. You should feel excited when starting your remodeling journey, not fearful. Working with a trusted designer who is a professional that’s come to advise you should remove that fear.”

If you’d like to talk to Vince about your project and Normandy’s process, you can set up a time to chat. Review our Facebook, Instagram, and gallery page for completed project photos.


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