Frequently Asked Questions
As a company do you manage multiple jobs at once, if so how?
Yes, but we have the ability and commitment to focus individually on each of our clients—we only take on the work we have time and manpower to produce. We pride ourselves in our long list of satisfied customers.
How do you manage your jobs - is there a foreman on site daily?
You will have a lead carpenter (foreman) that is assigned to your job from start to finish taking care of the day-to-day, hands on work and scheduling. Additionally, your Project Developer stays involved throughout the project and will handle everything from estimating and materials selections/design at the beginning to project management, scheduling, troubleshooting, financials and communication (phone, email and weekly site meetings) throughout the course to final walkthrough and punch list at the end.
What is your business model and pricing structure - time and materials or fixed fee?
Our business model is a spin on the design-build model, where we work with outside architect and design partners. CornerstoneCG is a residential remodel specialist and incorporates what we call the "Project Developer" model, that is a single project manager/sales person takes a client from design all the way through production as opposed to having departments for sales, estimating, production and project management. This provides a great sense of continuity for our clients throughout the remodeling process.
We like to say you get all the advantages of the small builder (creative problem solving, individualized attention, personal service, and experienced field knowledge) without the disadvantages (slow response times, disorganization, and thin resources--labor, time and ability to meet deadlines), while having the additional benefits of a larger company (organization, clear lines of communication, highly evolved processes allowing for predictable outcomes of time and budget plus a larger labor pool).
CornerstoneCG prices the majority of our projects on a fixed bid-pricing model. For the consumer this pricing model offers the most security and for us the most risk. To successfully administer fixed bid contracts the client, the design team and the contractor must make all decisions up front. We must compose a detailed project specification/bid often requiring some destructive demo to investigate existing or suspicious conditions. Once done a fixed bid contract is a guarantee that the project will cost what the contract says it costs - barring the discovery of the dreaded dry-rot or client initiated changes, of course. The fixed bid includes a mark-up that covers overhead, contingencies and profit.
Do you do time and materials projects?
Yes, we will occasionally do a time and
materials or T&M project. Although more risky for the client some projects
have too many unknowns when developing the specification. For
example if windows need to be replaced in old house where signs of rot or
insect damage are present, or if mixed knob and tube wiring is suspected, or if
a client wishes to “design as we go” then the work is best administered under a
time and material agreement rather than fixed bid. T&M projects are invoiced at cost of labor
and cost of material plus a percentage for overhead and profit. T&M project will also be administered
transparently where client can see all invoices as requested.
How does your design-build relationship work - what is your process?
There is a cost for each of the steps below; the amount for which depends on the scope of the project and will be negotiated at the first meeting. At that meeting we will match you with one of our design partners, talk through your vision, priorities and needs and set up the next meeting.
At our second meeting we will meet with the designer to discuss your project in detail and measure the space to produce an “existing layout” or “as-built.” The designer then creates a schematic design from the as-builds usually giving 2 or 3 variations.
At the third meeting we will review the designs and make changes by the end of that meeting you will know what your project will look like and have made many of the decisions. Also at that meeting the Project Developer may present the preliminary estimate.
For many projects what is produced in schematic design is sufficient to begin construction or permitting. If the project requires structural changes or is an addition the schematic designs will be expanded to produce the permit set of plans.
Once permit plans have been approved we can finalize our fixed bid contract. This involves a “sub-day” where the principal subcontractors will visit your home and collect the information necessary to produce their estimates. Once all the information is gathered a fixed-bid contract is drafted for your approval.
Do you hire and pay your own subcontractors, do we, or do you have an all in-house shop?
We do work with subs and we ALWAYS pay them on time. Most have been with us for many years. How many subs we use on a given job depends on the job. We are capable of self-performing a lot of what other companies sub out, the issue of what we do and don't do is a matter of efficiency. Unlike smaller contractors who self-perform even plumbing and electrical (a really bad idea) we will only do work we are licensed for this includes electrical which we have as a subdivision of CornerstoneCG.
Are you comfortable allowing your clients to source some materials directly?
We will work with you to execute the job, as you prefer. Most clients provide their own appliances and surface mounted light fixtures. Many provide their own plumbing fixtures (although, there are good reasons not to). And occasionally they will do their own finishes, paint, tile, flooring and granite. We can work with you on this to find the best solutions. Ideally, we'd rather not share the labor portions because there is no clear dividing line between what is "yours" and what is "ours" and muddies the waters and can strain or even damage relationships.
Do you have experience with large projects and additions?
Yes, whole house remodels and additions fit well within our capabilities and makes up probably 60% of our work.
Do you do small projects?
If there is one thing we hate to hear is a client who is embarrassed to ask us to do a "small" project. We do projects of all sizes, WITHOUT DISCRIMINATION! We are passionate about our Home Repair and Services division, which specializes in small projects. One third of our business is made up of small projects. We will get our guys in and out in a hurry and leave your home clean and tidy.
Do you guarantee your work?
We have an industry standard 1-year legal warranty but a "do the right thing" attitude that often goes beyond the legal warranty.
Do your Project Developers have more than one job at a time?
We find that one Project Developer can run between 2 and 4 jobs simultaneously without compromising customer service. What enables us to do so is the systems and processes we have developed and our innovative use of technology (as well as our collective 50+ plus years of construction experience).
Matt, one of the owners says, "I have been that small contractor who is not only running multiple jobs at the same time, he is also doing the carpentry work, making sales meetings, estimating and doing the books—typically late at night. It is no fun and despite my best intentions I could not give my clients the attention I wanted to. This is why we have built CornerstoneCG; now I take the jobs I want and have redundant systems and a great team to cover my bases so I can focus on providing excellent customer service from start to finish."
Can you give a rough cost estimate of my project?
We would be happy to provide a "preliminary" estimate. There can be many hours involved with even a preliminary estimate and a lot of guesswork so will usually include this estimate at our first design review after we have some idea of what we are building. Because of our experience we can usually come pretty close to the final numbers. Before that we can send you a "comparable" project, which should give you an idea or ballpark anyway. This helps make sure we have a general understanding of the cost possibilities.
What makes CornerstoneCG different - why should we choose you?
We will provide concierge service which is all about treating the client with deference, priority and respect. It means going above and beyond. It means bringing product samples to them or taking them to the showrooms and doing the legwork needed to get answers. It means advocating for them and really understanding and responding to their wants, needs and priorities. It’s about answering questions within 24 hours. It means respecting their property and dealing decisively with anyone associated with Cornerstone who doesn’t. It’s about proactively anticipating problems and preparing them for it. It’s about saying “yes” whenever possible.
We will be a people centered company. Really, what is a people centered company? For us it is about creating an environment or culture where employees want to work, where partners (architects, designers, vendors and subcontractors) want to do business and clients feel appreciated and listened to. We believe creating such a culture will payoff in big and small ways with goodwill that advertising dollars can not buy.
- For employees this means feeling they are an important part of the company, their opinion matters and they are appreciated, high standards are made clear, accountability is expected and compensation is generous and performance based.
- For business to business partners it means treating them as equals, listening carefully to what they want and expect, following through on promises made and paying on time. Leads from partners should be rewarded as well and loyalty shown to those who are loyal to us.
- For clients it means providing consistently clear communication and listening carefully to their thoughts, priorities and ideas. It’s going the extra mile and following through on commitments. It means doing the right and safe thing for their home—even if they don't want to. It’s about meeting expectations and going the extra mile for them.
For us the best projects are those that involve a team approach. A typical scenario involves 3 important and independent groups, the Construction Group, the Architect Group and the Designer Group, which support the Client—we think of this as a 3-legged stool with the client as the seat. The team approach utilizes the specialized talents and strengths of each group with each looking out for the interests of the client. This also provides a "separation of powers" with built in checks and balances where despite—or perhaps because of—the inevitable competition between the Construction Group and the Design Group for ideas, budget and implementation methodologies; the client wins.
In an industry where the mantra for almost every company is “on time and on budget” why are these ideals so rarely reality? We believe the key to the first part of the equation and to earning trust of our client and a reputation of trust in the marketplace is predictable project management. For us a project lives or dies by the project schedule be it general and informal or detailed and formal, timelines and deadlines must be met or delays justified and communicated. Another key is consistent communication, to that end we schedule weekly site meetings with the client, the Lead Carpenter and the Project Developer and, if appropriate, the Design Team. Weekly site meetings are where we review the schedule; discuss gains and losses, along with any important decisions or critical path items, which need to be addressed. Additionally these meetings allow personal connection, a set time to air grievances and a chance to celebrate along the way. We are very serious about the process being enjoyable and even fun and we believe predictable project management goes a long way to making this a reality.
We believe the market needs more remodeling companies who offer fixed bid pricing. For the consumer this pricing model offers the most security and for the contractor the most risk. To successfully administer fixed bid contracts the client, the design team and the contractor must make all decisions up front. The contractor must compose a detailed estimate often requiring some destructive demo to investigate existing or suspicious conditions. Once done a fixed bid contract is a guarantee that the project will cost what the contract says it costs.
Everyone hates and fears them but change orders are an inevitable part of the construction process. What distinguishes Cornerstone is our change order administration. Change orders are any work clearly outside the fixed bid scope of work. Most of the time these are client-initiated changes. Our change order policy ensures client control as like the contract, change orders are fixed bid and as a rule will be approved before the work begins.
Mobile and computer technology has made this is a truly great time to be in construction. From CRM, estimating and project management software to cloud computing and devices like the iPhone and iPad for documentation, information sharing, real time communication and reporting has never been easier. All these advanced technology channels are leveraged to our clients benefit and link the office, the field, and the client together. If the client is away on business or vacation progress photos, change orders, invoices and requests for decisions can be made. If a problem comes up, say the discovery of dry rot, the field staff can send pictures and get direction from the Project Developer on the spot. Even change orders can be created and signed on the spot. Daily logs and time reports can be completed and shared with the office and that data can be input and correlated automatically. Schedules can be shared and updated electronically and architects and designers can share details with everyone who needs to know.
If technology is an effective method for the delivery of a great client experience then our processes are the container. Our highly evolved processes not only set us apart from our competition they bring us together as a company ensuring the parts function as a whole and our clients and partners are served predictably and consistently. From our change order process to our daily logs and time-sheets, from our estimates and project schedules to our communications guidelines, from our employee standards to our safety program each is well thought out, understandable and relevant. They set the expectation of performance and keep everyone accountable.
We like to say, “you may not be able to afford the best but we can help you get the next best thing” this is what value engineering is all about. Our Project Developers pride themselves in being able to suggest alternatives that help to achieve the desired “look” while saving money.
Creativity is so important in remodeling. Nothing ever happens as expected; a project, which seams simple enough, may suddenly require engineering or even (gasp!) redesign. What you thought you could afford comes in much higher than anyone anticipated once its detailed and priced. That wall you thought you could take out requires a very expensive welded steel moment frame or can’t be moved at all. The addition you've dreamed about its too close to the property line. The granite countertops you chose are backordered 6 months. That paint color, which looked so good in the swatch book looks AWFUL on the walls. All these are common problems what sets Cornerstone apart is how we solve them. We don't panic we come up with solutions. Good solutions to bad problems require creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. When necessary we will regroup gather the team together and figure it out.
Bottom line: we do projects of all sizes without discrimination. Whether a custom home or siding repair we are set up to efficiently and effectively make it happen. A client should never feel self conscious about bringing small projects to us. Small projects are what keep our Home Services and Repair Group in business!