Building With the Future in Mind Since 1955

A roadmap to manifest your dream

Here’s a fairly brief overview of our process:


We meet with you at your home, at no cost or obligation. At this one to two hour visit we want to:

Learn about your hopes and dreams

Get to know you and your home

Describe our design/build process in detail


Sutton Finals (22) resized & compressedA follow-up email includes more information about our company, your project in particular, and our Design Agreement.

Following an optional visit to our showroom and office, and any further discussions about us and our process, you sign our Design Agreement.

One of our three in-house Designers comes to your home and initiates these tasks:

Get to know you and your project, answering any further questions about the design process

Measure your house and then draw it, using our CAD 3D program [‘Chief Architect’]

Draft one or more design concepts

Meet with you in our showroom to review these conceptual designs

Draft the final concept based upon your input

Select materials, documenting these specifications for our Proposal

With our Estimator, create a ballpark price, or SWAG [scientific wild-ass guess], for your project

Review the SWAG with you, then decide how to proceed [sometimes the scope of work changes at this point; we refer to this as our ‘negotiated bidding’ process]

Complete the development of the design and specifications, getting them ready for estimating


Our Designer and Estimator price the refined design and specifications

Review our Proposal price with you

Assuming the price is right we proceed to the mutual acceptance of our Agreement, or contract

If the price is off the mark we work together, modifying the design and specifications until we agree upon the right design, specs and price

We convert the Proposal into an Agreement; you sign the Construction Agreement; we schedule construction and select one of our Project Managers for your project


Designer completes permit-ready plans

Apply for all necessary permits

Final ‘shop’ drawings are completed by Designer [drawings needed by tradespeople that weren’t necessary for estimating [e.g., cabinetry; counter tops, etc.

Access or confirm that all necessary financing is in place

Protect all surfaces and furnishings as needed

Plan location for dumpster, portable toilet and trailer



Site work and concrete


Exterior work [e.g. siding, roofing, decks, hardscaping]

Mechanical [e.g., electrical, plumbing, heating]


Drywall and balance of interior work [e.g., painting, flooring, trim, cabinets]

Finishing touches [e.g., punch list, professional cleaning]


In 2005 EnviroStars awarded us its highest rating — 5 Stars — and this 5-star certification continues to this day (2016). A-1 Builders is not only the first builder to receive the highest EnviroStars 5-star rating in Whatcom County, we were the second builder in the entire state to be certified as a 5-star EnviroStar!

In 2005 EnviroStars awarded us its highest rating — 5 Stars — and this 5-star certification continues to this day (2016). A-1 Builders is not only the first builder to receive the highest EnviroStars 5-star rating in Whatcom County, we were the second builder in the entire state to be certified as a 5-star EnviroStar!

That’s the short version, but since the devil is in the details, let’s dig deeper…

Most remodeling projects are unique, with variables such as:

How many decision makers are there and how quickly do you make decisions?

How will the construction project effect your ability to live at home?

How much of your home will be affected by the work?

How much of the work, if any, will you take on yourself?

Given so many variables, how can we describe what’s typical for that which is unique? It’s tough to achieve, but let’ give it a try. Roughly speaking it can typically take 3 to 12 months to get from your initial phone call to us, until the actual construction work can begin.  This 3 to 12 months involves design, estimating, permit acquisition and access to financing. But one of your initial questions, even before design begins, will probably be: “When can you start construction?” Answering this question accurately involves our ability to look into a crystal ball 3 to 12 months down the road to forecast which projects we’re already involved with will, or will not, come to fruition.

Sadly, we don’t own such a crystal ball. Happily, the best you can achieve is to find a transparent, experienced and ethical contractor who is right-sized for your project and will work as hard as they can to reach your stated goals. We will do just that.  Robert Kunzig shared this worthy metaphor:

“The late novelist E. L. Doctorow once described his writing process this way: “It’s like driving a car at night – you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”  We don’t have to be able to see the whole road ahead to a happy end – but we have to believe that we can get there.” 

As important as ‘belief’ is ‘trust’.  You‘ve got to believe in, and trust, the team you’re assembling to achieve your goals and objectives.   Sprinkle in a liberal amount of ‘patience’ and your tool box is nearly complete!

So let’s start with assumptions, knowing that every specific project will yield its own unique tasks and timeline. Please don’t get hung up on assuming that everything you read here will affect your unique needs… you’re too special to be typical!  What’s they expression…”you’re so unique, just like everyone else!”

Bike Repair KioskASSUMPTIONS

Let’s imagine a project that involves a complete kitchen remodel [down to the framing, often referred to as a ‘gut remodel’].

Let’s further assume that this project requires design work, a wellness exam [say what? more about this later], permits, and financing.

The time frames described here are WAGs [wild-ass guesses] and they assume that the tasks are performed in a linear sequence. So, for example, seeking financing is assumed to occur after estimating, and permits are sought after estimating and financing are done.  That said, some of these tasks can occur simultaneously, thereby shortening the time frame, something usually driven by how risk averse you are.  Why? Because if you start down the permitting process before knowing your project ‘s price, and then find out the project costs too much, you may lose some of the dough you already paid to the permit center for initial plan review.


Someone from our company visits you at home. This free brainstorm session usually occurs within two weeks of your initial phone call or email to us.

In our follow-up email to you we include our two-part Design Agreement. Signing & returning Part 2, along with your $1,000 retainer, gets you into our design queue.  Our designers often have a waiting list.  Waiting time for active design varies from two to six months.


Our designer wants to get to know you early on, right? So an in depth version of our first visit with you will take place.

We first explore design constraints [e.g., setbacks; watershed issues; height restrictions; etc.] answering the obvious question: how are our hands tied?

Our designer reviews the images you’ve saved in or in Pinterest or wherever, so that she can start to see through your eyes

Our designer creates a conceptual design or two and then meets with you for feedback

Then, with a refined preliminary concept in hand, we typically create a ballpark price range, formally referred to as a SWAG, or Scientific Wild-Ass Guess.

We then refine the plan further [e.g., floor plan drawings, elevation drawings, cabinet schedule, electrical plan, etc.] and generate specifications [the narrative portion of your plans, which includes material selections]

Go Hawks' DanceWELLNESS EXAM or PRCE [Pre-Remodel Condition Evaluation]

If you’ve lived in your home for many years, and if it’s been a while since an experienced set of eyes has studied your place, especially the attic and crawlspace, it usually makes sense to hire us to perform this PRCE, or wellness exam… something that typically costs on the order of $200 to $500. Our goal here is to be proactive about avoidable surprises, as well as to help you spend your dough wisely.  Sure, a modernized kitchen may make sense, but what if there are unknown crawlspace or attic issue that are critical to be addressed?  Perhaps some of this urgent work is included in our scope of work.


The PRCE typically adds no time to the Design Phase because it is typically performed simultaneously.


Once the drawings and specs are complete the project moves into the hands of our Estimators, Justus Peterson or Shawn Serdahl.  One of them will arrange a ‘marathon bid’… our term for when we meet at your house with relevant subcontractors (e.g., plumber, electrician, drywall, etc.) so they can see your home and generate their price for us.

In the meantime, we gather pricing for the rest of the story… concrete, framing, tile, cabinetry, countertops, hardware, etc.

We bring all of this information together into a Proposal we then submit to you, face to face. During the Proposal meeting our Estimator will typically provide you with a draft project schedule.

If our price hit the mark, we schedule your project for the next available construction start date and we turn the Proposal into a Construction Agreement.

If, instead, this first realistic Proposal price misses the mark, then we turn the team… you and us… into a cooperative bidding machine. Based upon your input about how far off the mark we are, we alter this and that, together, until, hopefully, a second or third Proposal hits home and you say “GO! Let’s build this!”


LOW: 1.5 weeks [not many subs needed; straight forward project]

TYPICAL: 2-3 weeks

HIGH: 4 weeks [complications encountered; some materials discontinued; some subs late in getting us numbers; more complicated and larger project]


Typically our clients ask us to take care of this process, for good reasons.  It’s usually a complex process with a steep learning curve.  And the turn-around time depends upon so much that is out of our hands. [Know that our relationship with the permit centers is such that when the City of Bellingham permit center did their own remodel years ago, they turned to us as their designer!]


LOW: no time at all because either:

We get the permit over the counter the same day, or

You gave us authority to apply for the permit while we were estimating

TYPICAL: 2 -3 weeks [numerous departments need to weigh in but the permit center isn’t slammed]

HIGH: 6 weeks [the permit center is slammed and/0r the process gets bogged down with unforeseen complications]


If you need a home equity loan the lender doesn’t really care what you do with the dough, nor who you plan to hire! Assuming your finances are in order, this process can be swift… or not [again, out of our hands].

If you need more dough than can be accessed via a home equity loan, the step up is a Construction Loan, whereby the lender takes into consideration the value of your place after To that end they require signed plans and a signed contract, or Agreement, with your contractor.


LOW: no time at all because either:

You have the cash on hand already, or

Your home equity loan is approved within days, or

You secured your financing while we were estimating

TYPICAL: 4 to 6 weeks [you shop around for a lender and run into a typical amount of speed bumps]

HIGH: 12 to 16 weeks for a construction loan which wasn’t applied for until you received and approved our Proposal price


Once you sign our Construction Agreement you will be put on our construction schedule, assigning you the next available start date along with your Project Manager, the person who will live and breathe your project.

Awaiting your start date, we order all special order items and schedule all relevant subcontractors.


LOW: 10 to 12 weeks [material choices install quickly [e.g. no templating required]; not many subs; relatively straight-forward plan

TYPICAL: 15 weeks

HIGH: 20 weeks [more complex plan; templating required; many subs]

TOTALS [from initial phone call to us until construction is completely done; rounded off some]

LOW [adding all of the ‘low’ numbers above]: 5 to 19.5 weeks, or 4 to 5 months

TYPICAL: 37 to 43 weeks, or 9 to 10 months

HIGH: 70 to 74 weeks, or 18 months

What a wide range, eh?  But until we can wrap our heads around your particular project, these projections are the best we can do.

Again… belief, trust and patience.  It’s what you need.  Bring them to our door and we’ll then apply over 6o years of experience to bring your dreams to fruition.

Our dream team is awaiting your challenge.

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