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How to Avoid Hiring Unreliable Contractors for Your Project?

We were inspired to write this blog with a real case, where the Client became suspicious of the quality of the work performed and the length of the time frame, so they asked us for a second opinion. Eventually we stepped in on the project and realized that kitchen cabinets weren’t even ordered, even though they were paid for 4 months ago.

This is not the first time we have helped our Clients to deal with the consequences of a contractor that failed to comply with their agreement. Here is the inside story on why this is happening and how to prevent it from happening to you.

While unreliable contractors can cause a lot of loss and serious reputation damages for the industry, in most cases there is no intent to cause trouble to the Client.  

I would group contractors at fault in 3 categories: Risk Management Failures, Technical Failures, and Financial Failures.

Risk Management Failures

This is the least dangerous out of our 3 categories. In the best interest of both Client and contractor, risks must be calculated and included in the estimate.  This helps to make sure there is a fair budget set aside for taking care of unexpected problems like: materials being out of stock, so the contractor needs to find a more expensive way to get materials and keep the schedule; availability of people or subcontractors when the contractor pushed for more expensive labor than was planned; unexpected technical issues when the contractor has to spend more time or materials to keep the promised level of quality; etc.  

The longer the project, the more trades involved, the less experience the contractor has for a specific type of job, the more risks. It is necessary to make sure that these risks are budgeted for to help make the project go smoothly, without delays or reduction in quality.

Technical Failures

This happens when the contractor signs the job with lack of knowledge about it or doesn’t spend enough resources to supervise workers. As a result, the job is done with serious mistakes at rough stages which can affect the intent of the project to the point that it is not acceptable for the Client, and can even result in more serious issues, such as failure to pass city inspection. Correction is always more expensive than to do it right initially; that’s when the contractor faces the hard decision to lose money and redo the work. Most unreliable and unlicensed contractors will start to cut corners and use cheaper labor, even if they realize the loss is too big for them, which could result in them abandoning the job.

Financial Failures

The contractor that falls into this category is most likely to attract you with the price. Some residential contractors are trying to get projects just to stay busy, planning for minimum or zero profit. The danger of this is that general contracting has high risk operations and people do make mistakes from time to time. Signing a few zero-profit projects in a row is financial mismanagement, as a company can’t function without profit. The contractor may start to cover lack of profit, damaging the cash flow, and finding themselves in the situation of “financial pyramid”- when the deposit from a new project is required to finish the current work. This is hard to identify because this can be a contractor with good reviews, a professional team, good history and job portfolio and several ongoing jobs, but if there will be no new job signed while your project is ongoing, you’ll face serious schedule problems in the end of the project and potential default of the contractor.

Now let’s talk about how to protect yourself and significantly reduce the chance of having problems during upgrading your home. The first general rule is to always hire a licensed contractor and have a written agreement with the scope of work, contract amount, and time frame for your project, as well terms for termination of the agreement.

Avoiding Risk Failures

Ask your potential contractor to show how much is allocated for unforeseen conditions in the estimate and try to talk about what risks the contractor can think of. That is how you will push your potential contractor to do a simple risk assessment, even if it’s not a standard practice for them to do so. 

Avoiding Technical Failures

This is extremely hard to spot not being a construction professional, but you can ask about warranties and protect your project by asking to follow building permits and inspections practices and regulations. Getting a city permit can put some technical limitations on you project, but the city inspector will help prevent expensive mistakes made by the contractor and make sure the job is done right.

Avoiding Financial Failures

Make sure the contract has a fair performance payment schedule and follow it. If the contractor uses subcontractors or orders custom materials, for instance kitchen cabinets, don’t be afraid to ask them to show the receipt –from transferring the deposit to start manufacturing — or other confirmation that the contractor placed the order in a timely manner. It’s not common practice to ask for the whole amount of the agreements with subs, and you don’t need it. Confirmation of transferring the deposit timely is all you need to make sure your deposit and progress payments goes toward your project, not financing another.

Maintaining the quality of work and taking care of the items described in this blog requires resources. That’s why trying to save money by hiring a less expensive contractor could lead to much bigger losses, stress, and dissatisfaction with the renovation you paid for.

We hope that this information will help you avoid mistakes and that your project will go smoothly with the quality and budget you expect.

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Newly built home with modern features and pool

Should You Renovate or Rebuild Your House?

There are so many options when it comes to renovating your home, but one of the biggest decisions is whether to renovate or rebuild. There are pros and cons to both options, and knowing those can help make your decision easier.

If you’re looking at your house and thinking it needs a little love, you might also be wondering if it would be more beneficial to fix up the existing house or just tear it down and start over. Both are valid options.

Determine Your Goals

To determine what to do with your home, you first need to establish your goals. Are you looking to sell your home soon, or stay for many years to come? Renovating can add a lot of value just by updating one or two rooms. However, rebuilding could be a better option if you’re planning to stay.

Renovate Your Existing Home

Renovating your current home can be a great way to add value, and may be less costly than rebuilding. Depending on what needs to be done, it may also be helpful to take your projects on a little at a time. For example, you could get your bathrooms updated one at a time before moving on to a kitchen remodel. This way, you’re not stuck without all of those essential rooms at once.

Renovating your home also usually takes a lot less time than rebuilding does. Plus, if you work with a general contractor, the work could get done even faster than doing it yourself.

Start Fresh and Rebuild

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work your current home needs, rebuilding may also be a good option. Does the layout not work anymore for your family? Or does the home need a lot of structural work? Your home may need more than just a facelift, and those projects can get pricey and overwhelming.

Instead of pouring more into your current home, another option may be to just tear it down and start new. This gives you a clean slate and the ability to get creative. Now, you can build a home that works for you and your family. Plus, you can rest assured knowing that your new home will not require any more work for a long time.

Get Professional Advice

Still not sure what to do with your home? Ask a general contractor! We know what to look for and what amount of work will be necessary.

Whether you choose to renovate or rebuild your current home, you will be adding value and creating a home that works for you. Know the pros and cons before making your decision. Contact ModernGeneralContractor with your renovating or rebuilding questions!

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Outdoor Living Space Ideas

Looking for outdoor living space ideas for your backyard? Look no further, it’s right in your own backyard! A backyard oasis may be closer than you think, whether you have a small patio to work with or acres of land.

Does your vision of paradise include an outdoor kitchen? Maybe even a pergola or fire pit area? The possibilities for a unique space are endless! The great outdoors are worth spending time in, so here are some ideas for your own outdoor space.

Fun Outdoor Seating

Spruce up your outdoor living space with some fun seating, such as a swing

Of course, in order to enjoy the outdoors, you should have somewhere to sit. Spruce up your space with fun and comfortable seating, such as a porch swing. You could also try some bright colored cushions, or make a statement with an outdoor sectional. Whichever you choose, you and your guests will be comfortable and excited to spend some time together on beautiful days.

In addition to a porch swing, another great idea for fun seating is a hammock. Whether you like to read, browse social media, or just stare up at the stars on a moonlit night, a hammock is a fun place to spend that time.

Add Some Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor string lighting, also known as bistro lights

One very popular trend right now is outdoor string lights, also known as bistro lights. These fun lights add a touch of elegance to any outdoor space. They’re perfect for entertaining, or enjoying a quiet evening alone. You can also add some fun lighting with torches, lanterns and more.

Enhance The View

California, especially the Los Angeles and surrounding areas, boast some amazing views. Show off those views and even enhance them with the right outdoor decor. Try positioning furniture to face the view, rather than away. Enjoy that beautiful view by keeping it clear. A fence or other structure may block the view, but there’s other options such as glass panels or a pergola that could work instead.

When it comes to creating an outdoor living space worth spending time in, the possibilities are endless! If you’re not sure where to start, we would be happy to help with outdoor living space ideas. Give us a call today and let’s get started.

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Framing of walls and roof for new house construction

New Construction Pros and Cons

Have you been saving up for a brand new home? Looked all over and just can’t find that dream house? New construction might be the best option for you, but it’s good to know the pros and cons before diving in.

Buying a home that doesn’t exist yet can be very difficult, so don’t go into it blindly. There are pros and cons to both renovating an old house or building a brand new one. We want to share the biggest pros and cons of building a new home, and ways to make the process go much smoother.

Pros

There are quite a few pros when it comes to building your new home, and many times these will out weigh the cons. The best advice we can give you is to analyze and weigh your own pros and cons to get a better idea of what will work for you.

Customize Your Dream

Now this is the fun part! When you buy an existing home, you have a choice to keep it as-is or to invest time and money into renovating. If you choose to build new, though, you skip this decision.

Building a new home allows you to personalize everything from layout to finishes. Many people find this to be the most fun part because they can get creative and choose options that work best for their unique situation and family.

Up To Code

Another big advantage of building a new home is that everything will be up to date with current building codes. In tune with current building codes, a newly built home will also use safe and energy efficient materials. Plus, many often incorporate trending technology and smart home features.

This also means that as a new home owner, you’re less likely to deal with large scale problems like a leaky roof, or failed systems. Many contractors offer a limited warranty though, in the chance that something should happen.

Cons

As with any decision when it comes to your home, there are some cons to keep in mind. Your decisions concerning your newly built home of course will depend on which factors are most important.

Building New Takes Time

Building a house brand new can take months, sometimes even up to a year or more. There are a lot of factors that determine how long it takes, such as permits. You will need to be prepared to cover the cost of staying in your current residence or renting temporarily. The good part about this though is that once your new house is complete, you will be able to move in right away!

Hidden Costs

When buying an existing home you may be able to negotiate on the purchase price, but this typically isn’t the case when it comes to building new. There are often unexpected costs that arise along the way, such as upgrades to finishes, closing costs and more.

Weigh the New Construction Pros and Cons

Your situation is unique, and deciding which path to take is a big decision. Weighing your pros and cons will help make your decision a little easier, and help you know what’s right for you and your family.

If you’re ready to start working towards building your dream home, give us a call and we will get you a plan. We specialize in new home construction, so you can trust that you’re working with the right general contractor.

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3 Ways to Increase Home Value in 2020

We all know that it’s important to take care of your home. But, when it comes to improving the value of your home, where do you even start? The good news: a little bit goes a long way here!

Looking ahead to the coming year, there are plenty of ways to build equity on your forever home, or also get top dollar if you’re looking to sell. Here are some ways to increase the value of your home in 2020.

Start Outside

Curb appeal is very important, especially here in California! First impressions are everything when you’re looking to sell your home, but it’s also important for increasing the value of your home. You can spruce up your exterior by:

  • Adding plants and fun landscaping options
  • Create outdoor living space with a pergola, fire pit, outdoor kitchen, etc.
  • Add a pop of color with a painted front door

These are just a few ways to make your neighbors stare, but they can easily increase the value of your home and make it more attractive to buyers!

Head Inside

Add value to your home with simple changes such as updating light fixtures and paint colors

Now that you have your exterior looking top-notch, it’s time to move inside your home. Have you ever heard the saying “kitchens and bathrooms sell houses”? Well, it’s true! These are two rooms that people spend the most time in, so they should be fun and inviting.

You don’t have to tear everything out and start new in these rooms. Try starting with a fresh coat of paint on the walls, or even on cabinetry. You will be surprised how much paint impacts a room, and this also applies for any room in your home.

You can also make simple changes like switching out hardware, mirrors and wall décor, or even light fixtures. After all, it’s all about the details!

Go Big, Stay Home

There comes a time when every home owner should consider larger remodels. Not sure if it’s time, yet? Check out this article about how often a home should be remodeled.

A larger remodel is an investment of time and money, but it can dramatically increase the value of your home. In our years of experience, we can definitely say that kitchens offer the highest return on investment. You can even expect a greater increase of home value if you are remodeling a very outdated kitchen.

Other large scale remodels, such as bathrooms, flooring, additions and garage conversions will also offer dramatic increases to the value of your home. The great part of doing a large scale remodel is that it will benefit you whether you are looking to sell or plan to stay for years to come.

Increase Home Value in 2020

Now that you have 3 ways to increase home value in 2020, it’s time to get started! Don’t worry, you don’t have to tackle the large projects all by yourself. Contact a pro to start working out the details. ModernGeneralContractor can help make your dream home a reality!

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Creating the 21st Century Los Angeles Smart Home

We live in an era where everything in your home can be controlled by voice or app. It’s called the Internet of things and if you’re a tech-savvy homeowner, then transform your analog residence into a technological wonder with ModernGeneralContractor.

The modern smart home goes far beyond Google Home and Amazon Echo speakers placed around the house. It can be a complete system from lighting to door locks that lets you run everything from your smartphone or digital assistant.

If you’re thinking of remodeling your Los Angeles home, then why not deck it out with the latest technology.

Choose Your Preferred Digital Assistant

When it comes to a personal digital assistant, the main three are Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Microsoft’s Siri. While many products use multiple assistants, many do not. You’ll want to choose your preferred digital assistant based on your preferences and the brands you want to work with.

The last thing you want is using multiple assistants in your home. Why? It could be utter confusion trying to run the different smart devices. You don’t want to have your lights in your bedroom run by Alexa and the lights in the living room run by Google.

Smart Homes Add Safety and Security

There was a time if you went on vacation; the only way to fool thieves into thinking you’re home is through light timers. If you’ve seen “Home Alone,” you know this doesn’t work out so well.

With smart lights, you can turn them on anytime from wherever you are. If you’re on your way home from dinner, then turn them on when you’re a few blocks away for safety. If you’re in the Bahamas sitting on a beach, you can turn them on and off at random times and truly fool burglars.

Smart locks allow you to control who goes in and out of your house without the use of a key. If you have someone coming over to check on your home while on vacation, you can give them a one-time passcode to get in.

Many systems have cameras attached as well, so you can see who comes to your door before letting them inside. It’s unparalleled protection and security for your home.

The Internet of Things Adds Convenience

Thanks to wireless Internet there is almost nothing your smartphone or digital assistant can’t control. Smart plugs allow for even analog devices to be controlled. Do you have a large wall of electric blinds? Don’t bother getting up to push the button because it can be controlled from your phone or you can say, “Alexa, open blinds.”

There are even appliances such as ovens, refrigerators and crock pots controlled via app and assistant. You’ve seen science fiction movies where people walk into their home and just tell the house what to do. That can be you.

Digital thermostats let you control your home’s heating and cooling to such a degree that it can save you money on utility bills. It’s a win-win situation.

Smart Home Will Be The Norm

If you have new construction or are thinking of a home remodel in Los Angeles, then consider creating a smart home from scratch. We can work with you to make sure the wiring can handle the equipment and your home has the latest technology.

Modern General Contracting is your one-stop-shop for residential remodeling and construction. We’ll handle the renovations and hiring sub-contractors so you can keep living your life. For more information, please feel free to contact us today.

 

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DESIGN BUILD

Design Build and Design Bid Build are two very different construction delivery methods used in today’s society. DB and DBB construction are differentiated in this article to highlight key components that compare and contrast each method.

Joint Venture between General Contractor and Designer Design Builders have both parties within the same entity
making it much easier for the owner throughout project
development.

ONE POINT OF CONTACT

The owner will only have to contact the design builder for any project questions or concerns.

Fastest Delivery Method

Simply eliminating the bidding process saves a significant amount of time. Site preparation can begin prior to the finalization
of all building details.

Least Risky to the Owner

Only one entity is held accountable if problems occur thus, eliminating owner liability for design and construction issues.

Most Cost Effective

Design builders have access to most recent construction costs so designs are created with the most cost-effective materials
and methods.

Integrated Services

Combining both design and construction services eliminates conflicts that arise in most areas of project development. All parties are on the same page allowing fast track schedules and on time delivery.

Construction can begin while design process is still being developed

With this method, construction and design services over lap to enable a faster delivery while allowing the owner to make any last-minute changes before the design is finalized.

One Contract

Instead of having a contract with the architect and one with the general contractor, the owner will only have one contract with the design

DESIGN BID BUILD

Separate Entities for Each the Design and Construction Part of the Project

The owner has to seek out each company separately. The architect and general contractor have no connection until the plans are placed up for bids.

Goes Through a Design, Biding and Construction Phase

Because design and construction are not integrated in this method, it takes a lot more time for the project to be completed from start to finish. Each phase is implemented separately and cannot start until the previous has been completed; unlike design build where the phases overlap each other to ensure a quick delivery.

Design Team Does not Have Access to Construction Costs

Likely cost increases occur during the design phase because designers do not have access to construction costs. This could cause project delays if the construction documents must be recreated to reduce costs

Construction Cannot Start Until Designs are Finalized

Until plans are finalized construction will not be allowed to begin. This adds more time onto the over all development of the project.

Increased Risk to the Owner

With Design-Bid-Build the owner usually has liability for design and construction in your contract with
the general contractor

Multiple Points of Contact

Owner serves as mediator for any design and construction issues that occur for each party.

Multiple Contracts

Contracts between the designer and general contractor are separate of which the owner now has liability for
anything the goes wrong.

Source: https://thedesignbuildblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/design-build-vs-design-bid-build/

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WHY YOU CAN’T HAVE AN OPENING THERE

Why You Can’t Have an Opening There

It’s a trend to make living space open by building wall openings merging kitchens and living space, bigger windows, huge patio doors and so on. This article will help to get a closer look at where, why and how we can do this keeping intact structural integrity of the entire house. Everyone familiar that in order to building to be structurally reliable members of a structure have to withhold a vertical load, but lateral load is not having the same popularity over Clients.

With this we introducing the shearwall term as a key to understanding why having main vertical structural members intact we still can’t make a large opening without a significant structural change of a building. A well-engineered shearwall resolves the lateral (wind and earthquake) forces on a house and directs those forces to the foundation, where they are resisted by the concrete and the ground. The magnitude of these natural forces varies depending on the region, proximity to seismic zones, exposure to wind, etc. Most people don’t realize that even in earthquake zones, wind forces tend to govern the design of shearwalls more often than seismic forces. In heavy winds, the walls of a house tend to act like big sails, and something needs to keep those sails in place. That something is not, we are sorry to say, big windows or openings.

The diagram below shows a simple roof/floor and wall relationship. When wind or earthquake forces are applied to the house, the floors and roofs want to move sideways. In order to keep those roofs and walls right where they’re supposed to be, a sturdy connection to a shearwall below is required.

Getting the lateral force from the exterior walls to the roof or floor and into the shearwall is only one step in the sequence, though. Once the forces are distributed to the shearwall, the integrity of the shearwall itself becomes an important factor. The diagram below to the left shows how a shearwall resolves the applicable lateral forces applied to it. The connections between the framing (2x4s or 2x6s) and the sheathing (plywood) creates a wall member that works as one element (think of it like a big wood block).

Without the sheathing, the wall fails to act as one member and the individual connections between framing members fail under the same lateral forces as in the diagram above to the right. When the shearwalls of a project are inadequate (or absent) and cannot resolve the load of the shifting weight above due to lateral forces, it can result in something like the image below. Garage doors, as it turns out, are not recommended in lieu of shearwalls.

Wood has its limitations as far as shearwalls are concerned and there are certainly other solutions, but they come at an expense. Steel braced frames (below, left) are excellent at resolving lateral forces but they’re expensive and the diagonal steel members still get right in the way of the view. Moment frames (below, right) keep the structure to orthogonal lines, opening up the majority of the wall for that nice, big window, but the steel and labor involved puts a price tag on that window in the thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars.

 

We also think it’s the job of a good architect to figure out elegant structural solutions within typical conventions; without the gratuitous use of steel, without throwing a bag of money at the issue. So back to wood …

There is an important relationship between the proportions of a typical wood shearwall; the taller it is, the more of a tendency it has to turn over when a lateral force is applied. In order to be effective, tall, skinny shearwalls either need to grow in width or the connections between the sheathing and framing members need to be increased. Increasing the connections typically results in larger nails at a greater frequency attaching the sheathing to the framing. As a general rule of thumb, shearwalls should have a minimum length of five feet. Shorter than that and you should plan on sending your structural engineer a bottle of something nice.

If we take a closer look at the shearwall diagram, you’ll notice that the lateral pressure of the wind or earthquake creates a rotational force on the shearwall. Because the shearwall acts as one member, the single force on the wall produces a compression force at one corner of the wall and a tension force at the other. This “couple,” as engineers like to call it, is reversed when the lateral force comes from the opposite direction. So both sides of the wall typically need to resolve a compression force as well as a tension force. As difficult as it is to resist making a joke about couples and tension, let’s stay on track here.

Compression forces in the shearwall assembly are resisted through columns (or studs in wood framing speak); multiple 2x4s or 2x6s typically satisfy most situations, 4x4s or 4x6s can be used for larger compression forces, and the occasional steel post is used for excessive conditions. If these posts sit on the foundation, they transfer the force directly into the concrete. If they sit on a wood framed floor, the load is transferred to the next floor down and resolved in a similar way until the force reaches the foundation.

There are some other things to be considered to withstand lateral force for example poor wood resistance to tension, however above should give you the blast of information to plan your project with understanding that you can’t have a full window wall where you need to transfer lateral forces from the roof down to the foundation — without throwing bags of money at it. But if you approach the design process intelligently and respect the structural engineering, the shearwalls can most likely be smaller and smarter. Most importantly, don’t mess with mother nature — she cares less about your windows than you might think.

 

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