The Blog

Hiring the Best Design-Build Firm

A design-build firm means that one firm handles everything for your project from start to finish. This one-stop shopping model has a lot of advantages. 

  • The designers and builders work together with one contact point for you
  • There is only one contract. One point of accountability. 
  • There are significant potential cost and time savings compared to a traditional design-bid-build scenario where you hire a designer and builder separately.
  • Fewer disputes and change orders.
  • The process is often less overwhelming for homeowners.

Of course, design-build firms have potential disadvantages, too.

  • This model requires a high level of trust from the owner to the firm.
  • There is no competitive bidding process.
  • No independent third party checks behind the contractor.
  • The homeowner has less control.

If you know that design-build model is the route you would like to take, here are some ways to know you are hiring the right team .

7 key qualities in a design-build company

Once you get past the basic important questions and the deeper ones, it’s time to decide if this firm is truly right for you.

Phase One card (designers and contractors)with white flowers

1. Trust

With a design-build firm, your ability to trust this group of professionals is more important than ever. You are making a major investment with this group of people and giving them full control. So they’ve got to be the best.

This issue is actually why we choose the niche we do at Phase One. We frequently provide just the design work and allow you to choose your contractor separately. This gives you more control.

Be sure you vet them as trustworthy people who you believe will act responsibly for the time and resources you provide for them. Opt for a team that instills a sense of confidence in their work, work ethic, and the way they relate to clients.

2. Competency

Yes, it takes some time, but check through the references a firm gives you. Ask the hard questions of former clients.

Get their honest feedback and be sure this is a company that keeps its promises, delivers quality work, communicates well, and treats clients with integrity and respect. 

Be sure to ask about timeframes and schedules, as well as any problems the clients may have experienced and how those were resolved.

Ask about how organized the team was and if they were prepared for work daily. Inquire about unexpected price increases and unexpected expenses during the build process.

Examine the previous work of this firm closely to ensure that the quality and craftsmanship is worthy of your investment and trust.

While you’re checking references, also ask for a list of vendors and subcontractors the company has worked with and ask them questions, as well.

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3. Availability

The best design-build firm in the world won’t be much help to you if they are overbooked.

Be sure they have time to work on your project and that your home remodel won’t be an afterthought or something they just try to squeeze in here and there when it is convenient.

If the firm provides a shockingly short timeline upfront, that could be a warning sign. Be sure you know how long a project like yours should take so you can have realistic expectations going in and so you can be alert to misleading promises.

If they have no schedule at all, that’s also a problem. Make sure there is a thorough and set schedule before the project starts.

4. Honest and effective communication

You want a firm that will be upfront with you about budget issues, potential setbacks, problem-solving, and every aspect of your home renovation project.

Be sure that the company puts a thorough contract in place in writing before beginning. If a contractor won’t give you a written, signed contract, that is a glaring red flag.

You also want a company that will respond quickly and efficiently to clients. When you know you will get a prompt response if you have questions or concerns, your level of stress will be a lot lower.

If you feel the team brushes you off or that you are not a priority, it’s unlikely you will be satisfied with the experience. 

5. Style-match

It’s wise to opt for a firm whose niche is building the general style of architecture and remodeling work that you want to be done on your home remodeling project. Find someone whose comfort zone and bulk of work matches what you want to do.

If you desire to build a Craftsman-style home, don’t choose a firm that mostly designs and builds contemporary homes. Yes, they may be able to do it, but it may be more challenging for them because this isn’t their daily bread and butter.

Friendly Phase One design-build firm staff member speaking with a customer in the design center kitchen

6. The right staff

Verify that the firm has all the experts you want to work on your project. If you have your heart set on using engineers, architects, or designers, be sure they have those professionals on staff, in addition to contractors.

This is especially true if your project is particularly complicated or a very large-scale job.

7. Reasonably-priced bids

Just a friendly reminder, the lowest bid is not generally the best choice when you are hiring a general contractor or a home renovation team.

Sometimes designers and construction teams use a seemingly lowball price to draw in customers, but later they inflate the price. Of course, a greatly-inflated price also indicates a problem. 

Be sure to do some research to get a ballpark figure of what a project like yours should cost so that you can recognize a quality design-build firm vs. one that may not be trustworthy.

Phase One Design Draft Build

The Phase One difference—the best of both worlds

At Phase One, we combine the advantages of a design-build service with the advantages of the traditional design-bid-build model. You end up with more advantages and fewer disadvantages this way.

We provide a much-needed hybrid option for the market.

We have designers, drafters, and contractors on our team to give you great design work. But we can also coordinate with your contractor to help ensure the build process moves forward seamlessly.

Ready to connect with a design-build firm in Columbia, SC?

We have years of experience in design, drafting, and general contracting for luxury home remodels. (We can even do the construction, too!)

To see the finished results of our design work, please visit our gallery.

Let’s chat! If you’re ready to get started, contact us today. 

February 26, 2021