Frequently Asked Questions

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Where do I start?

Contact Complete Design to set up an appointment to discuss your needs and wants. It works great if time can be spent together at the site to discuss orientation, views, approaches and exposure to weather. From here we can set the base for direction, scope and timeline of the project.

Do you need to be a licensed architect?

RCW 18.08.410 This chapter shall not affect or prevent:

(5) Any person from doing design work including preparing construction contract documents and administration of the construction contract for the erection, enlargement, repair, or alteration of a structure or any appurtenance to a structure, if the structure is to be used for a residential building of up to and including four dwelling units or a farm building or is a structure used in connection with or auxiliary to such residential building or farm building such as a garage, barn, shed, or shelter for animals or machinery;

(6) Any person from doing design work including preparing construction contract documents and administering the contract for construction, erection, enlargement, alteration, or repairs of or to a building of any occupancy up to four thousand square feet of construction;

(7) Design-build construction by registered general contractors if the structural design services are performed by a registered engineer;

(8) Any person from designing buildings or doing other design work for any structure prior to the time of filing for a building permit; or

(9) Any person from designing buildings or doing other design work for structures larger than those exempted under subsections (5) and (6) of this section, if the plans, which may include such design work, are stamped by a registered engineer or architect.

 

How much will plans cost me?

Our base rate for residential work varies on complexity and size of a residence. You can pick a design package or the components that you would like for us to work on. In some instances other components or sheets will need to be created as they are the base for the components that you would like for us to work on.

Do I need to choose a builder before the plans are done?

You do not need to have a contractor to begin designing construction plans, however it is often wise to begin the communication process with a contractor(s) during the design process with the ability to gain input from your preferred contractor of choice in some decisions made prior to completion of structural drawings. As part of the building permit it is required that a contractor be selected by the time the building permit is issued.

Are electrical and mechanical plans provided?

Not as part of our standard design package but can be added at an additional fee if you would like to have them. The building department does not require them as part of the building permit requirements for a single family residential project.

What should I do before meeting with a designer?

To make your meeting with a designer more productive we ask that you gather up the following information and bring it along with you (or send us before a phone meeting):

  • Building Site Information
  • Boundary survey with property lines dimensioned including bearing information (e.g. Lengths and Bearings).
  • If there are any curves in the property line is sure to include the curve data table.
  • Make sure that any easements are shown and identified.
  • Unless the lot is dead flat, include the topographical survey showing the lot slope.
  • Identify any views from the property.
  • Provide the legal description.
  • If your site is steep, a soils report is often required - bring a copy if you have one.
  • Zoning designation (e.g. R-1) and building setbacks.
  • Subdivision specific CC&R restrictions - bring a copy if you have one.
  • If any height restrictions apply, what is it and how is it measured?
  • If an architectural review board applies, provide any information available.
  • Lateral engineering requirements; design wind speed, exposure, seismic zone when applicable.
  • Identify the general parameters such as area target size and amenities required.
  • List each room and include specifics desired such as size, orientation or other features.
  • Identify architectural style desired. Any photographs or clippings from magazines are helpful.

Scheduling the Meeting -

After you have collected the information listed above, contact our office using the links or phone numbers to schedule an appointment. Depending on your location and needs, the meeting may be in our office, or via phone, fax or email. Of course, feel free to contact is if you have any questions on the information contained on this page. Being prepared for your initial meeting will help to avoid any unnecessary delays.

 

When more space is needed in my home, do I build on top of the existing construction or add to the footprint of the structure?

It is cheaper to build on an existing home by putting up, say an additional story, than to move out and expand. There may be some cases where land is available adjacent to the existing building so one might start the foundation here. Building on an existing home does not involve cost of a foundation which is quite significant. We would ask you to consider these variables before making your final decision:

  • Does the present foundation support an additional story?
  • For reinforcing the existing foundation to build up an additional story, find out the cost and compare the same with that of a new foundation in case you wish to expand out.
  • Check with your local municipal or other applicable building regulations about the height restrictions in case you wish to add an additional story.
  • If you build up, you may have to add bracing to the existing house's walls, which means removing part or all of the siding or interior sheetrock.
  • Expanding out into the adjacent space close to existing building means reducing your yard space.
  • Check out if there is additional space to store/stack the building materials - cement, aggregates, sand, steel, bricks. Also, during concreting operations, how easily can you transport or place concrete.
  • In case of home extension, get your plans approved from appropriate authorities.

How much cost is involved in the addition of my home?

It is very difficult to give a universal reply in this case as labor and material costs vary from place to place, region to region. The square footage cost of additions is generally more than new construction the type of finishes used will have a large effect on the final cost.

 

Can you convert covered spaces into another room?

Structurally, such conversions are generally quite straightforward. It can change the elevation of the house. You are recommended to be fully aware of all the options since such a change might affect a lot of other installations. Creating garage space into a room can potential create a problem meeting with the local energy code as many do not meet the energy requirements with below grade insulation at the perimeter of the slab for a thermal break. As well use ability to condition the space with heat should be looked at.

Is it advisable to buy an existing house or to have a custom one built?

Building your own house offers many advantages. It gives you the flexibility to plan an efficient and beautiful home as per your requirements. Building your own home can also be very rewarding. You may save more money in building your home. In fact home-building is a great learning experience. After locating a piece of land on which you would like to build, contact a local design professional who is experienced with design and construction issues in your area and can also provide initial site evaluation services. It is important that you should keep your design simple and efficient. Your construction costs can vary significantly depending on many factors, which may include your region, the site, the design, local construction activity, as well as other factors. You can check with local home listings to determine what the cost per size and amenities provided would be for your area.

How do I find the best builder for my home?

Build a list of potential builders from:

  • Friends and neighbors who've had good experiences.
  • Building-products suppliers – they'll know who has good credit and who doesn't.
  • Real Estate brokers who work in your neighborhood.
  • Local financial institutions that lend to builders.
  • Residential Architects and home designers in your area.
  • The Better Business Bureau
  • Your local Home Builder's Association (find them at www.nahb.com)

What should I ask the contractor?

Find out:

  • How busy the contractor is; how much time can they will devote to YOUR project? How do they intend to supervise your house - on their own or through their assistant?
  • How many jobs do they undertake at a time?
  • Do they finish on time and budget or within reason?
  • What type of contract does the contractor go in for - cost plus, lump sum, etc.?
  • Do they have a reputation concerning quality...check for references?
  • Contractors in general have some standard building products and methods they insist on. What are theirs, if any?
  • Does the contractor have a license and insurance?
  • Could they provide you copies of them?

How can I be a Owner-Contractor for my house?

Occasionally homeowners prefer to be the owner-contractor with the idea of saving money. One can save money, but one must weigh that against the unforeseen circumstances that may crop up. You will have to line up all sub-contractors - electrical, plumbing, masonry, painting, etc., and oversee their crews/work-force from time to time.

 

What is the loan amount that can be loaned?

Banks/Financial Institutions sanction loan amounts based on certain criteria depending upon your repayment capacity (which takes into account your age, qualifications, assets, liabilities, stability of occupation, savings history) and according to your income. You can include income of other members in your family too, in case you want to increase the amount of your loan. The maximum loan that can be loaned varies with housing finance companies. Generally, the maximum loan amount is 80 to 85% of the cost of your home.

What is meant by an EMI (Equated Monthly Installment)?

An EMI is the monthly amount to be repaid to the bank or financial institution against a loan amount borrowed for a fixed period of time. An EMI has two components, the principal component and the interest component. There are two methods - reducing balance method and the monthly reducing balance. The Reducing Balance method reduces the principal amount already paid from the outstanding loan amount. Every time you make a payment, you pay interest on that part of the original principal sum that has remained unpaid till then. The loan carrying the lower EMI for the same tenure is the cheaper option.

 

What is a guide to use for establishing a home that I can afford?

Monthly mortgage payment should not exceed 33% of monthly household income for most families.

What is the best kind of flooring to choose?

Your flooring choice will depend on your preferences, your budget, and where you are going to install it. Here are some of the main choices:

Vinyl tile squares: The least expensive type of flooring, vinyl tiles come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Since they are impervious to water, relatively easy to clean, and quick to install, they are commonly put in kitchens and bathrooms. As vinyl tile gets old it tends to fade and discolor. It is easily scratched or cut, but individual squares can be removed and replaced.

Vinyl sheet: Prices range significantly depending on quality. Vinyl sheet flooring is often selected because of attractive patterns and because it covers a large area with no risk of individual tiles working loose at the edges. It is impervious to water but can be cut or scratched easily.

Laminates: Laminate flooring is constructed of several layers of plastic-type resins compressed under high pressure to a hard fiber or particleboard core, with melamine backing and printed surface. It can be made to appear like different types of wood flooring or even marble and flagstone. It is put together in tongue and groove fashion and is not attached to the subfloor as are standard hardwoods. Many carry a 10 year or more warranty against staining or fading. There is some difference of opinion, even among experts, about whether to use laminate in a place where it will get wet.

Ceramic tile: Wide range in costs depending on quality, color, and material. It wears well and is not easily stained. Because it also repels water if the grout is sealed properly, it is widely used for entryways, kitchens, and baths. If installed over wood, it must have solid underlayment that will not flex and subsequently crack the tile. Installing a solid underlayment, however, may raise the finished floor higher than adjacent flooring, causing an uneven transition unless calculated in advance.

Hardwoods: Hardwood floors cover the spectrum in color, types of wood, style, and price. They are available as traditional tongue and groove strip and plank to parquet squares. Hardwood floors range from labor-intensive parquet requiring on-site sanding expertise to factory finished products often installed by homeowners themselves. Newer finishes and finishing techniques make wood floors much easier to care for than in the past. Factory-finished floors come in a wide array of patterns and edge treatments. This type of floor can be laid quickly and without sanding dust and odor. Unfinished floors offer a wider choice of wood but require expert sanding and finishing in the house. The final appearance is more dependent on the people doing the sanding and finishing than on the wood itself.

 

What frequently adds costs to construction?

Change orders and building delays.

How is square footage determined?

Builders, Architects, Real Estate Professionals, Bankers, Auditors, and Appraisers often all count square footage differently, to better suite their particular needs. House plan services also vary in their area-calculation protocols; in order to compare floor plan areas accurately you've got to be sure that the areas are counted the same. Generally, builders and Real Estate Professionals want to show that a house is as big as possible; allowing them to quote a lower "cost per square foot", and making the house appear more valuable. Appraisers and County Auditors usually just measure the perimeter of the house – a typically very rough way to calculate area – and call it a day, while Architects break the size down into components; first floor, second floor, porches, finished lower level, etc. To arrive at an "apples-to-apples" comparison of house areas you've got to know what's included in the totals. Does the area include only heated and cooled spaces? Does it include everything “under roof” (I've seen open porches and garages figured into some plan areas!) or only "heated space"?

How do you determine cost per foot?

Cost per square foot is typically calculated by dividing the total cost by the square feet of living area. Costs such as impact fees, water meter fees, sewer hookups, septic systems, wells, temporary utilities, plumbing, garage doors, cabinets, appliances, site concrete work such as driveways and sidewalks, and landscaping are included in the total cost and affect the cost per square foot calculation. But they are unrelated to the square feet of living area in the home. Consequently, smaller homes generally cost more per square foot than larger homes because there is less finished square footage to divide these costs into.

What are "Allowances"?

The sales price quoted by most builders includes "Allowances." Allowances are budget amounts for items the Buyer is allowed to select but which may not have been selected prior to entering into the contract to build the home. If the cost of the items selected by the Buyer exceeds the Allowance, the sales price is increased by the difference. Common allowance items include cabinets, countertops, light fixtures, appliances, tile, flooring, and landscaping. Low Allowances could make the cost per square foot appear low.

How is unfinished space looked at for cost?

Some homes might contain unfinished or partially finished areas - like basements and attic "bonus rooms." These unfinished or partially finished areas obviously add to the total cost of the home, although the cost per square foot of these unfinished or partially finished areas is less than the cost per square foot of finished space. If the square footage of this unfinished or partially finished areas is included in the cost per square foot calculation, the cost per square foot would appear low. On the other hand, if this square footage is excluded, the cost per square foot would appear high.

Do you offer material lists?

We don't at this time because depending on your location, different materials will be used and it is more accurate to give no information than the wrong information.

How do we get a material list?

Most lumber stores offer free material lists to get your business, best part is that they use materials that are available in your area. They will need to borrow a set of your blueprints to work from.

What about the new "styrofoam-block construction"?

This method costs from 10% to 25% more to build at this time but has an R-Value of about 20. And since styrofoam is said to last a million years by environmentalists it makes good sense to build houses with it. As this method gets more and more popular, the costs are likely to drop as well.