Building With the Future in Mind Since 1955

Where Do You Start?

A great place to start is right here!   Base camp.  Imagine your destination… is it a remodeled kitchen or bathroom, or an addition to provide you with more space?

No matter what your destination is, perhaps you don’t know how to get there.  We do.  Tell us your destination and we’ll lay out the pathway forward.

We’re remodeling and repair specialists — it’s what we like to do! We just don’t remodel when there’s nothing new to build, like so many others. Our reputation to perform quality work as rapidly as possible has created a long trail of happy clients. Since 1955 our award-winning design/build team has provided this county with a seamless approach to quality remodels and custom homes. We work hard before the project starts to make sure you are happy after the project is complete!

Seems like every contractor is unique.  One way that sets us apart from the majority is that we’re a worker-owned cooperative, having made this transition on July 1, 2017.  This business model, accepted by the IRS as a Subchapter-T Corporation, is rather unique, and worthy of you understanding and, hopefully embracing.  Here’s a brief overview of the structure and principles of our co-op.  This conversion into a worker-owned cooperative has attracted a lot of local attention, including:

Whatcom Talk’s article about us

Bellingham Business Journal’s article about coops in general, and us specifically

Some will tell you remodeling is impossible to bid precisely; others will tell you you’re crazy to do a project on a time and material basis.  So its critical for you to get to know us and how we like to do things. Hence, this page of our website is information rich about our process and we hope you spend the time to understand it. Click on the dark green links anywhere in our website to learn more about topics or questions of interest to you. Past clients tell us that this page is particularly helpful in their understanding of what’s to come.

Once a client describes the project they have in mind, the question that most often follows ‘Where do I start?’ is this… ‘How much will this cost?’

The answer to this question depends upon so many factors that the first step we suggest is almost always an initial site visit. Let’s walk through and around your home and discuss things like:

How long do you expect to live there?

Have you lived through a significant remodel in your past?

Should you live at home during the remodeling project?

How long does it take to accomplish the design work?

Between your excitement to begin this project and the complexity of the process itself we’re sure your list of questions and concerns may feel overwhelming.  Bring ’em on and we’ll help you through them.

Every building project can be viewed as a three-legged stool consisting of design, construction services and material selection. We provide all three of these skill sets under one roof and we hope your search includes coming to our showroom. This seamless approach represents added value worth much more than the sum of the three parts. You are buying more than a finished product; you are also buying our knowledge. Our professional input on all three legs of this stool is part of the purchase price and part of what comprises a full service, design/build company.

We can make this process as seamless as you’d like. The great majority of our work incorporates all three legs of the stool because the design/build strategy is a compelling approach to a complex process. Let us show you how design/build can produce a project that is less expensive, quicker, less prone to communication errors, more seamless, and, all-in-all, less stressful.

Of obvious concern as we, together, define the scope of your project is the current condition of your home and we’ll help you evaluate this:

Old wiring may be inadequate for the project you imagine.

Deferred maintenance may warrant the need for some plumbing repairs.

How leaky is your home, potentially wasting a lot of energy… and dough?

Or, instead, does the air in your home feel stagnant, indicating a home that may be too tight, thereby trapping air and hampering healthy indoor air quality?

If what you’re after at this time is a precise description of our design/build process, then spend some time with this flowchart.

During our initial walk-through at your home we may see something disturbing. Could be the result of  conducive conditions – conditions that promote rot or wood-destroying organisms (bugs). Past, faulty workmanship or deferred maintenance may warrant some repair work so that the damage and deterioration can be nipped in the bud.  Ultimately this will also save you money, as opposed to letting it linger and fester.  We may suggest that we perform a Pre-Remodel Condition Evaluation (PRCE) whose goal is to discover problems in your home you may not even know about.  The logic here is the same as why wellness exams make good sense for your own health care… let’s catch problems early on while they are easier, cheaper and more painless to fix.  It may mean your bathroom remodel needs to be scaled back some to free up some dough to fix something that is quickly deteriorating, but we believe this is sound logic… even though repairing wet rot is not the most glamorous of carpentry work.  We’re here to help you optimize the life expectancy of your structure’s materials and systems. Its why we often refer to ourselves as property preservation specialists.

The on-site Pre-Remodel Condition Evaluation takes part of a day; the actual time on site is directly proportional to the extent of the problems we find.  PRCE may also make sense from the standpoint of how long you’ve lived there. How long has it been since a knowledgeable trades-person checked out your attic, your crawlspace, your wiring… When was the last time your structure had a wellness exam?  The time may be ripe.  The sooner you know about the problems brewing in your structure, the less expensive and stressful are the remedies.

Check out this sample PRCE report, stripped of its name and address for obvious confidentiality.

And will you remember to do another wellness exam again in 5 years? 10 years?  Remember to call on us.  We do physicals!

Here’s what Joyce Pacher had to say about the value of her Pre-Remodel Condition Evaluation in 2012…

“A-1 Builders provided a thorough evaluation of my 85 year old house and offered advice about how to proceed with repairs while being cognizant of costs, maintaining the integrity of the home, following building safety standards and prioritizing the work. Their explanations were thorough. They involved me in the decision-making process, respecting my finances and tastes. The work crew arrived at its specified time and maintained contact with me each day, even making themselves available off-hours to answer questions. They were always polite, cleaned up the site at the end of each day and took care with my pets. I appreciated the pride in workmanship each worker exhibited. Neighbors observing the worksite mentioned how attentive the workers were to details and how they stayed on task. I’m so pleased with the quality of the work — my house is now safer, more energy efficient and ready for another 50+ years.”

With new AD logo cropped & very small.

In 1986 we moved our operation into this location at 3310 Northwest Avenue in Bellingham, Sure didn’t look like this, though, when we started out! Here’s our look since 1999 when we created the iconic readerboard so many of our neighbors adore. Want to see what it looked like in ’86? Click on ‘about us’ in the menu, then click on ‘our story & more’, then to our company history, then to the post entitled ‘continuous improvement at 3310 NW Avenue….’.

One more thing about wellness, but this time about the health of you, your other family members or your coworkers who share the building you’re in.  Buildings can make people ill to varying degrees.  This can be caused by various issues:  stagnant air; out-gassing of new building components; spider mites or dust.

Dust?  Chronic respiratory issues are often tied to the quantity and quality of the dust in your home or office.  If you or someone who shares your space has chronic respiratory issues like hay fever, asthma, or the like, we suggest you listen to Rick’s KMRE radio program that specifically addresses this concern with proven, straight-forward solutions.

If your project involves the need to repair your exterior shell (e.g. siding; exterior trim; deck deterioration; window leaks, etc.), likely caused by water infiltration, we strongly suggest you read the following two posts:

1.  Flashing, Anyone? PLEASE Pay Attention to Yours…

2. Significant Damage Results From Substandard Waterproofing in Exterior Walls

Let’s deal with some frequently asked questions now, each one in green; each one is a link to a more explicit answer.  Spend some time here; you’ll learn a lot about some important choices you need to make. Let’s tease apart this complex process you are thinking about undertaking. (And if you adore frequently asked questions, there are a whole lot more.)

Consider cost for a moment.  Sometimes our first visit to your home will result in a very rough estimate for the cost of your project.  With very little information and no conceptual drawings, one should consider such an estimate as nearly worthless……… but better than nothing!  This guesstimate may enable you to go to a bank and pre-qualify for a loan if you’re going to need one.  At least you would know the order of magnitude of the money you’ll need to borrow in order to accomplish your goals.  We call this guesstimate a SWAG… a Scientific Wild-Ass Guess.

How accurate are price guesstimates made by us or other designers or builders during an initial visit, or at other times during the design process? Can you rely upon them?  Should you choose your contractor based upon a guesstimate made early in the design process?

A fabulous guideline regarding your approximate project cost is to study Remodeling Magazine‘s “Cost Versus Value Report”. This annual study reviews common remodeling projects, estimating their approximate cost and then comparing this cost to the home’s increased resale value. (When you view this report. be sure to select the current year and the correct region of our nation so that the data is most accurate.)

At the other end of the spectrum of price accuracy is to rely upon the plethora of reality TV shows highlighting remodeling.  C’mon, now… a kitchen remodel orchestrated before your eyes in just 12 hours! For only $8,500! Consider this short piece Rick wrote about these shows for a prior e-newsletter of ours.

Since the creation of a project budget is so important, has carried many articles about this topic.  Here’s one of them our clients have appreciated:  What to Know About Budgeting for Your Home Remodel

How attentive should you be to the resale value of your project?  What if you spend more money than your home or neighborhood warrants?

Another question that arises all too often is this…  how much will your project cost per square foot?


Two of our three site trailers.

The next step after this initial site visit is typically the design stage of the job. Who will you choose to be your designer… an independent designer or a design/build firm like us?  This is a very important question.  Rick Dubrow, our First Hammer, is often heard saying this: “The logic behind hiring a design/build firm is so compelling that if you decide not to hire us, I implore you to hire another design/build firm… one that has a design and construction division under one roof.”  So why hire a design/build firm?

Once you have a design in hand, who’s going to build it for you?  There are two different approaches to take in your selection of a contractor:  you can get competitive bids from numerous contractors, or, instead, select the contractor you’d really like to work with and negotiate a contract with them, a process we call ‘cooperative bidding‘.  Both processes involve meeting many contractors, but isn’t your selection of a builder amidst your most important decisions?

About 90% of our work is achieved through cooperative bidding, approximating the national average in the professional remodeling industry. 

One of the many significant differences between competitive and cooperative bidding is that if you go out and get numerous bids, you need to have very detailed drawings and specifications so you can make sure your bids are comparing apples to apples… the apples need to be described very well! Since your decision about proceeding towards competitive or cooperative bidding is so important, we strongly suggest you read the following: should you choose a ‘competitive bid’ or a ‘cooperative bid’?

Step three is to get the permits and financing necessary for the project, and here lies another one of our strengths. The quality relationships that we have developed over the years with the regulatory and banking communities allows us to work within the system better than most. Since there are so many gray areas in the regulatory and financing fields, this mutually respectful relationship with these important organizations in Whatcom County can smooth out many of the rough edges.

There’s another significant decision you need to make…  should you hire a contractor based upon a ‘fixed price’ or a ‘cost-plus’ bid? Cost-plus is also referred to as a ‘time and material’ project.

Do your remodeling plans include the elimination, or the addition, of a bedroom?  Have you wondered what this decision might do to the resale value of your home? 

Let’s continue understanding our process by learning more about design. 

Visualizing the strength of design/build... here's Project Manager Mike Gill asking Designer Maggie Bates to explain a construction detail on a job she designed and he's building! The reasons to use the design/build approach are so compelling that we strongly suggest you find and hire another design/build company. The value added of this design/build approach is so much more than the sum of the individual parts.

Visualizing the strength of design/build… here’s Project Manager Mike Gill asking Designer Maggie Bates to explain a construction detail on a job she designed and he’s building! The value added of this design/build approach is so much more than the sum of the individual parts. You want your designer and builder collaborating as much as necessary and we make this happen right here.

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