Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Design Build Firm

Choosing a remodeling firm can be challenging. You meet with several firms who seem friendly, professional and they have beautiful portfolios that showcase their experience. However, it is a big decision- it’s your home! Apart from purchasing your home, remodeling may be one of the biggest investments you make. Whether you are living through the renovation or relocating during construction, you will spend weeks to months with this firm. How do you make sure you are hiring the right firm? Here’s a list of the top 10 questions to ask before choosing a design build firm.

1. Are they licensed and insured?

Any firm you consider should be licensed in your specific jurisdiction. The license should be held by the company only. Ask for the company’s business license number and verify it online. It is also important that the company you hire is insured. It is good to know what is covered under the company’s policy and how much coverage they have.

2. Can the organization provide you with an outline of their process?

It is important to have a clear understanding of how the firm will develop, manage and execute your project. The firm should schedule regular meetings and discussions to review design ideas, material selections, timelines and budget.

3. Is a permit required and who is responsible for obtaining it?

Most districts require a building permit for a project and there may be several permits required depending on the scope of the project. Obtaining a permit can be costly and time consuming. However, as a home owner, it serves as a source of protection. Permits come with regular inspections by building officials and projects that are built “to code,” are built to a good quality standard. It is important to understand who is responsible for obtaining the permits and how permitting fees will fit into the contract and budget.

4. Who is responsible for overseeing / supervising the work?rk?

There should be a project manager assigned to your home that you can communicate with regularly.

5. What is the projected timeline for the project?

The firm should be able to provide a time frame for your project by comparing it to previous projects of similar scope, the current project schedule, and the number of carpenters in the field.

6. How will the firm monitor and stay within budget?

This is a very important question to ask, especially if you would like to stick within a strict budget. The firm should assist you with selecting finishing’s by eliminating options that are outside of budget and sticking with options that work best for both your budget and aesthetic needs. The firm should also regularly update you with an allowance sheet that shows what you’ve budgeted and selected for.

7. Do they have a list of references you can contact?

A design build firm should be happy to provide a list of references with similar project scopes. Contacting these references should give you a good idea of how your project may go.

8. Do they provide a design and construction agreement?

You should be provided with both a design and construction agreement. The design agreement should include the “as-built” of your home in a 3-D rendering, and multiple concepts depending on the scope of your project and your project goals. A construction agreement is equally important and should outline your entire project. The construction agreement should include: 3-D renderings of your project, a project schedule, schedule of values, and a summary of allowances.

9. How will they protect your home?

Home protection varies depending on whether you are living in the home during the construction and keeping belongings in the home vs. if you are completely moved out during the renovation because the whole home becomes a work zone at that time. In general, the firm should be using Ram-board floor protection for hard surfaces, and protection tape for carpeted floors. The carpenters should leave your home in a broom clean state at the end of every work day. The firm should also provide a lock box to ensure the home is secured at the end of each work day.

10. Do they offer any warranty to their work?

It is important to understand what is covered under warranty and for how long. Be sure to collect warranty information on manufactured items such as appliances, cabinets, windows, etc.

These ten questions should make you more comfortable and confident when choosing a design build firm. Thanks for reading! Leave a comment down below if you have any questions for us.

Finesse Design Remodeling is an award-winning full-service design-build firm specializing in fine renovations and restorations in the Washington DC Area.

5 Mistakes to Avoid with Your D.C. Kitchen Renovation

If you live in Washington, D.C., and you are seeking a kitchen renovation, then here are five (5) mistakes you want to avoid with your remodel.

Improper Kitchen Functionality

A common mistake among homeowners is not considering the overall functionality of their newly designed kitchen. Will your kitchen help you save time in the mornings as you prepare breakfast or lunch for you or your kids? Will you be able to entertain a group of friends in the space? At the end of a busy day, will your kitchen have room for you and your family to congregate and share the events of the day?

These are just a few questions to ask yourself while in the design phase. After-all, it doesn’t make sense to have a new kitchen if it doesn’t function the way you want it to. If your kitchen doesn’t serve your needs, you may not enjoy it as you should, which means that you will spend a lot of money on a renovation that keeps you and the family away. Also, a poorly designed kitchen will negatively impact the resale value of your home.

Opening up Your Kitchen

It is not uncommon to have a small and closed off kitchen space, especially if you own a home in Washington, D.C. Having a closed off kitchen area makes it tough to entertain family and friends. It is also a challenge while cooking if you need to keep an eye on your children.

One solution you may want to consider is to open your space by removing a wall that closes off the kitchen to an adjacent room.  You may even need to consider removing a load bearing wall and re-supporting the structure in a different way.

In a residential situation, a load bearing wall is a wall that supports the structure above. Getting advice from a professional design-build firm in Washington, D.C. and their recommended engineer will help determine what structural members are needed to support the span that is being opened.

There are several ways in which a load bearing wall can be removed while the opening is re-supported and it can be a lot less expensive than you realize!

Not Considering the Work Triangle

While planning for an upcoming kitchen renovation, it is very important to consider the work triangle of the space. This is a commonly used term by kitchen designers, which refers to the three primary work areas of the kitchen:

  • Your kitchen sink
  • Your cooking areas such as a range or cooktop
  • Your food storage, as in your refrigerator.

It is very important to make sure these three primary areas of your kitchen are properly placed within the space. You want to ensure that they are not shoved up next to each other or too far away, and you need to make sure that they are forming a triangle.

Also, you want to make sure that no one leg of this triangle is shorter than four feet if you can help it, and no leg of this triangle is longer than nine feet long, again if you can help it. This will make sure that you have an efficiently designed kitchen that will work for you.

Not Having the Right Lighting in Your Kitchen

Another important element to consider in your upcoming D.C. kitchen renovation is the lighting in your space. There are four main types of lighting your designer will be considering when planning your renovation:

  • Natural kitchen lighting. This is the light that comes in through the windows in your kitchen or through a skylight in the kitchen.
  • General kitchen lighting. This is the artificial light that you will need in the kitchen when it is night time or for those cloudy days outside. You can still get the proper general lighting to walk safely through the kitchen, and be able to illuminate what you are doing. Types of general lighting will be recessed lighting on the ceiling, or other surface mount types of lights, such as track lighting or decorative fixtures mounted to the ceiling.
  • Task kitchen lighting. This is most common with your under cabinet lighting, and it is important because it illuminates your work area, so when you are prepping food, or you’re cooking, you can clearly see the countertop area.
  • Accent kitchen lighting. This type of lighting is used to illuminate certain features in the kitchen, such as lighting that is placed above the crown molding over the wall cabinets to bring to life the ceiling. This type of lighting adds a little extra dimension to your kitchen space.

Not Getting Professional Help

There are three paths you can take when designing your kitchen:

  • Research online and DIY. This is not the recommended approach if you are trying to implement a beautifully designed kitchen that will fulfill your functional needs. If you are not a general contractor, and you are seeking to go this route because you think of yourself as a quick learner who can watch several YouTube videos and know how to design and build a D.C. kitchen in your spare time, then you will be sorely disappointed. A project of this scope requires expertise.
  • Hiring multiple contractors. One approach some homeowners consider is to hire many contractors to implement a kitchen remodel. While you may be able to save money in the short-term, in the long-run the quality of the craftsmanship may not live up to the potential. Also, by hiring multiple contractors (e.g. a plumber, an electrician, a tile company, cabinetry, ) you run many risks with projects taking longer than expected, going over budget, and worse – not being the final product you originally wanted. Each contractor is working on different schedules, which you or the general contractor will need to coordinate, and not all contractors work well together.
  • Hiring a design-build firm. This is by far the recommended approach when designing and building the kitchen of your dreams. When you hire a reputable design-build firm in Washington, C., you will be working with people you like and trust. The right company can be with you each step of the way from design to implementation, and won’t pass you off to another department, or different project manager. Plus, you get the added reassurance that your design will come to life with professionals who have the knowledge and necessary experience, and make it all happen without you having to hire multiple contractors and dealing with that coordination headache. Working with a good General Contractor will give you peace of mind and you will ultimately enjoy the kitchen of your dreams with those you love most.

We hope you found these tips helpful. If you reside in Washington, D.C. and you are in the market for a kitchen renovation, then reach out to us for a free design quote.

Finesse Design Remodeling is an award-winning full-service design-build firm specializing in fine renovations and restorations in the Washington DC Area.

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DC Kitchen Remodeling: Tips to Ensure You Get the Most Out of Your Kitchen this Spring

Spring season in D.C. is a time of rejuvenation. It is also a time in which many homeowners begin working on projects to spruce up their space so they can improve their quality of life and time spent home with loved ones.

Below are several tips to ensure you have an appropriately designed DC kitchen so you can truly maximize your space and get the most out of your home.

Do you have adequate space in your kitchen?

There are many important aspects to consider with a functional kitchen. Take for instance the placement of your refrigerator, sink, and cooking areas, and the placement of your countertop areas. A poorly designed kitchen will prevent you from using your kitchen appropriately, and it can even result in accidents.

If you feel like your kitchen doesn’t have adequate space, then why not open up your kitchen to your living or dining area?

You can take advantage of removing load bearing walls and re-supporting the structure in a different way. This is an ideal way of opening up your kitchen space and can greatly improve the way it functions. This will also make your kitchen and your living space look bigger than it actually is and accommodate more people in both areas at the same time.

Is there a proper traffic flow in your kitchen?

A poorly designed kitchen space can also impact your traffic flow. If you have more than one person in charge of cooking, or you like entertaining guests in the kitchen, then having a narrow walking space can cause a traffic jam.

The ideal width of a kitchen walkway is usually three feet but varies depending on a number of factors. If you are considering an island or peninsula in your kitchen, you should think about the size and placement of this feature as this can contribute to a narrow walkway and bad traffic flow if not designed correctly.

The location of doorways around your kitchen also dictates how traffic will flow through the space. A poorly located door can direct traffic right through a critical kitchen prep area, which will interrupt you while cooking or tidying up. Lastly, it is important to consider the arrangement of your kitchen appliances, tools, cabinets, workstations, cookware, and others to create proper traffic flow in your kitchen.

How about efficiency?

Have you ever had a hard time working on a meal because your kitchen design was outdated? Dated, malfunctioning products or an outdated kitchen scheme will cause you to be inefficient with your meal preps, which can create a stressful situation and make you want to work and entertain less in your kitchen.

Implementing more modern features, maximizing the function of your cabinets, and designing specific work zones will help you be more efficient in your kitchen. Modern appliances are also easier to manage and use, giving you more time to spend entertaining your family and friends rather than laboring all day in the kitchen.

Have you considered the location of your kitchen?

Easy access to other rooms, such as a porch or a deck is ideal for your kitchen. Having an outdoor grill off the kitchen makes it simple to add healthy grilled options to your warm weather dinner routine. Additionally, your family and guests will surely enjoy dining on freshly cooked meals al fresco with the freshness of spring in the air.

If this is not possible, but you still want to bring in some fresh air, try getting your kitchen rearranged to have access to bigger windows without compromising the function of your kitchen.

What is the island’s function in your kitchen?

Many kitchen designs have islands, and these kitchen islands are not just about being pretty. Some homeowners want to have the convenience of enjoying a meal inside the kitchen or creating a gathering space for family or entertaining. Other times, the primary goal of an island is incorporating a different workspace or enhancing the prep area.

If you want to use the island for eating or seating, it is imperative that if this is in conjunction with a primary work area that appropriate space considerations are taken into account. This is especially important if you have a cooking surface in your island for the safety of a seated individual. As mentioned earlier, you must also consider whether you have enough clear floor space to allow for proper traffic when incorporating a kitchen island. Having a kitchen island can be an elegant way to add storage and function to your kitchen, but it doesn’t always mean you need and can have one.

What colors should you use?

Trying out new colors for the kitchen is a great idea, especially as we now enter the spring season. This year, there are a few trends in color schemes that can bring spring inside your kitchen. Greenery and jewel tones which focus on natural colors of nature can be refreshing and eye-popping, especially in the kitchen.

Two-toned cabinets can change your kitchen’s ambiance dramatically. If you have a small kitchen, using shades of white or other light colors can make the whole room brighter and bigger.

We hope you found these tips helpful. For additional tips, be sure to join our community of DC homeowners below who received weekly tips and insights from us – straight to your inbox.


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DC Kitchen Remodeling Proper Heating and Cooling and the Work Triangle

Here at Finesse Design Remodeling, we want every household in D.C. to have gorgeous and functional spaces, and this should also be true for your DC Kitchen Remodeling. For the next few weeks, we will talk about important factors to consider when remodeling your kitchen. You can check out last week’s tips for proper sub flooring and lighting here. Without further ado, here are this week’s tips:

Elizabeth Mitchel

Partner at Finesse Design Remodeling

When you are planning for an upcoming kitchen renovation, it is very important to consider the work triangle of the space. This is a common term used by kitchen designers and refers to the three primary work areas of the kitchen- first your kitchen sink, second being your cooking areas such as a range or cooktop and third being your food storage as in your refrigerator.

It is very important to make sure that the placement of these three primary areas of your kitchen are properly placed within the space. You want to make sure that they are not shoved up next to each other or too far away. You need to make sure that they are basically forming a triangle. You must also make sure no one leg of this triangle is shorter than four feet, if you can help it, and no leg of this triangle is no longer than nine feet long, again if you can help it. This will make sure that you have a very efficiently designed kitchen that will work for you.

Brian Bielski

Partner at Finesse Design Remodeling

We’ve had a lot of homeowners who have requested a little sunroom addition or maybe we enclose a porch and they want to make sure that they have the proper heating and cooling. To ensure that you have the proper heating and cooling is kind of expensive. There’s a couple ways you can do it, you can either specify an entirely new system for just the addition, or you can what’s called a mini split.

A mini split is a sort of a cassette that can be matted on the ceiling or the wall and there’s an outdoor unit with it. What you don’t want to do is tap into the existing home’s ductwork and simply try to pump air into that space. It’s not going to work. Number one reason is it’s like trying to force air into a vacuum-packed can- it’s not going to happen. You have to have return air. That’s additional ductwork that has to be considered.

On top of that, typically when the mechanical contractor sizes the equipment for the home. They do with that what they call manual J’s which is low calculations that tell you what size unit you have based on the square footage of each room, how many windows, doors and things like that. That unit is sized for the house the way it is and not for the addition, so if you are going to try to heat and cool a new addition, you are going to need to consider an entire new system to handle that capacity that it needs.

We hope these DC Kitchen Remodeling tips help you!

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DC Home Remodeling: Spring Temperatures and 2017 Design Trends to Consider

If you reside in the D.C. area, then you know winter temperatures weren’t predicted accurately by our groundhog friend, Punxsutawney Phil. The first day of spring is Monday, March 20, and spring-like temperatures are here already (minus the snow from the other day). This means spring cleaning and home projects are soon to be underway.

Instead of waiting until spring to release our home design trends for you to consider with your upcoming interior home design and remodeling projects, we figured it would make better sense to go ahead and release some insights now. So without further ado, here are some popular trends in 2017 for you to consider:

The Colors of 2017

The Color of Nature

The beauty and colors of nature can put anyone in a good mood, especially inside your home. One current trend that is stunning in the modern household is the wood element as it provides a feeling of getting closer to nature. Panatone also named “Greenery” as their 2017 Color of the Year, is a vibrant and refreshing shade of green reminiscent of lush foliage. A great way to incorporate this dramatic color into your home is through the addition of potted plants in your décor.

Jewels Tones are big for 2017

The colors from jewels tend to capture the attention of many designers as well as homeowners. The saturated and bold colors of jewel tones, from emerald green to sapphire blue, is perfect for accents in home furnishings and art pieces.

Taupe or Shadow

Whether you prefer the drama of “Shadow” as Benjamin Moore does, or a softer version such as “Poised Taupe” by Sherwin Williams, these trendy purple shades for 2017 will surely bring class and warmth to your space. Neutral yet impactful, when combined with other colors, they give joie de vivre (enjoyment of life) inside your home. A departure from 2016’s Color of the Year, “Simply White”, these new neutrals further demonstrate that 2017 is all about color!

The Kitchen

The Two-toned Craze

Two-toned themes have maintained popularity in kitchens. Most two-toned kitchens use rich wood finishes combined with lighter hues of white or cream. However, grays, blues, and even navy are making a presence especially when tempered with or with luxurious champagne bronze or brass tones. These color combinations let the whole kitchen look well designed, rich, and fabulous.

Everything Clean and Simple

One popular trend with kitchen designs today is a simpler and clean look. Many homeowners, for instance, prefer to have cabinets with simpler door designs such as a slab or shaker profile. The simpler door style goes hand and hand with the more dramatic trending kitchen tones of 2017.

Quartz on the Countertop

Tiles on your kitchen counter or mainstream granite colors can give your kitchen an outdated feel. Although some homeowners still prefer granite countertops for both their kitchen and bath, quartz composites are starting to get more attention. Quartz has the same durability as that of granite but because it is a manmade product, it lends itself beautifully to contemporary or transitional designs. Plus, quartz countertops are non-porous, so sealing is not needed.

Essential Cooking Wares

Technology in the kitchen is catching up, which means you better be ready for more modern cooking tops and other appliances inside your kitchen. Induction cooktops are gaining popularity, especially when gas cooking is not an option. Built-in microwave drawers that save space with a modern appearance is also a great idea for the kitchen.

The Bathroom

Closer to Nature in Contemporary Style

Contemporary style with a touch of nature is now in. Whether it is your sink, tub surrounds, shelves or linens, the touch of nature with neutral wood and greenery colors is a 2017 trend. Most of these designs can be seen in spas where people go to aide in relaxation, and this trend has slowly dominated in the residential sector. The modern twist of nature-inspired bathrooms can easily attract homeowners because of its relaxing qualities.

The Tile Styles

Geometric tiles are getting more attention, creating a more artistic and unexpected twist from your classic square or subway tile inside the bathroom. Another style getting attention is Moroccan inspired tiles or encaustic cement tiles which feature different lines, shapes, and patterns. If you are not into attention grabbing patterns, then classic subway tiles with a contrasting grout may come as a better choice for you.

Contemporary Fixtures, Cabinets, and Sinks

Many homeowners want a contemporary style integrated with their whole interior design. Most of the contemporary fixtures, cabinets, and sinks are simple, easy to maintain and simply stunning. Undermount sinks are a staple in contemporary bathroom designs, and the greenery trend is also incorporated well on contemporary fixtures, cabinets, and tiles by using neutral colors and adding wooden elements in the design.

The Technology for Your Home

A Smart House in the Palm of Your Hands

Your whole home can slowly become easier to maintain and control with the help of cool new apps. Want to have a warm bath ready? Tap your iPhone. Want to have the lights dim during the night, or the air conditioning on a steady temperature during the day? Set it up on your smartphone, so you don’t have to come home with rooms that are too hot or too cold.

We hope you found these insights helpful as you embark on your home design and remodeling projects. If you are in the market for a free home design consultation, then don’t hesitate to contact us.

You can also become a member of our awesome community below of D.C. homeowners who receive weekly tips and insights straight to your email inbox: