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707.823.4899
6791 Sebastopol Ave #140
Sebastopol, CA 95472
 

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions – LEFF Construction Design Build

You probably have a lot of questions! Hopefully, we’ve answered the most commonly asked questions on this page, but if you need further information, send us a quick email by clicking the “Contact” button, or, by calling us at 707.823.4899. We look forward to speaking with you!

How long have you been in business?

We’ve been remodeling and building new homes in Sonoma County since 1978. We also do select commercial work and tenant improvements..

Are you licensed, insured and have worker’s comp?

Yes, we are a licensed General Contractor, #521133. We maintain Workers’ Compensation Insurance in compliance with California state law, and we maintain liability insurance as well. You can verify the license of any California contractor online through the California State Contractors License board here: www.cslb.ca.gov

What kind of work do you prefer to do or have the most expertise in?

We can be most useful for clients who need help determining what design makes the most sense for their remodel or new home and how to most cost-efficiently achieve the desired design intent. The projects can be large or small, but if there are multiple design, cost and scope of work variables, we can be extremely helpful.

In what areas in the county do you work?

We work in all of Sonoma County and a bit into the surrounding counties depending on the job.

Is my project too small for you?

Your project probably isn’t too small. We’ve worked very hard in the last few years to develop and maintain project management systems that are efficient on all jobs, large and small, so that we can provide construction services on a wide variety of projects. If a job is too small for us to manage in a cost-effective way, it’s usually because it’s a maintenance-related project of very limited scope or would require the use of a single subcontractor. Should that be the case, we’ll be glad to refer you to the professionals who can help you. For our past clients especially, we will go out of our way to accommodate their needs regardless of the scope of work or the size of the job.

How hard will it be for me to get a building permit? Do I even need one?

Most projects involving changes to the building structure, plumbing, electrical, heating or roofing will require a permit. The processing of a permit through a building department can be intimidating if you are not familiar with the process, but we have doing it for so long that we have learned what is necessary to obtain necessary permits as quickly and as easily as possible.

My structure was not built to code. Can I still remodel? How can you help me with this?

Many older homes in Sonoma County do not meet current building codes but in most cases, as long as there are no life safety issues or zoning violations and as long as a non-conforming condition is not being altered, it can remain as is. Any altered conditions will have to be brought up to current building code.

Can I build a new house with the septic system I have?

The county’s requirements for septic systems become more restrictive over time and often limit the extent of work that can be done on a site. We have maintained positive working relationships with the county septic department as well as with professional septic consultants in the area so that we’re able to work effectively through whatever septic restrictions might apply to you property.

What will it cost?

The cost of a remodeling project is entirely dependent on a long list of variables including the level of finish, site characteristics, whether the project includes an addition or is a reconfiguration of an existing floor plan, and the complexity of the building. Square footage cost rules-of-thumb do not apply to remodeling projects. Online cost calculators tend to give unrealistically low numbers for the northwest region of the United States. If you’re at the very conceptual stage and just pondering the idea of a remodel, the best place to get a general idea of costs would be Remodeling Magazine’s Cost Vs. Value Report. The report is here:
http://www.remodeling.hw.net/facts-and-figures/cost-vs-value-report/
In our design-build approach, we provide budgetary estimates early on so that we can test the initial design concept, and then as we develop the design we regularly consider the cost implications of design decisions as they are made. This way, we can insure that you get the most of what is important to you within your budget. There will be no surprises, and you will not end up with a design that you have fallen in love with but that is too expensive to build.

Shouldn’t I get three bids?

We don’t bid projects competitively. Generally speaking, competitive bidding is a very unreliable way to assess the cost of a project or to select a contractor. Most people unfamiliar with construction don’t realize that a set of plans is widely open to interpretation. There is no way you can be assured that each contractor is interpreting the plans in the same way, and you shouldn’t assume they are. When you put a set of plans out to competitive bid, you have higher architectural costs as a result of having to provide complete details for everything on the plans in an almost impossible attempt to make them unambiguous. Then you are essentially asking each of the bidding contractors, without letting you know how they would do it, to find as many ways to cut corners, use cheaper materials or hire less competent employees and subcontractors so that they can build the project at a lower price.

Projects that are underbid can be problematic later on during construction, and it’s very difficult to stop a project and pick it up again with a new contractor should it begin to really go south. The most reliable way to choose a contractor is to get referrals from people you trust, do your homework and educate yourself, interview the contractor at length, and go with who you feel most comfortable given the parameters of your work and needs. A reputable design-build company will provide high quality service during design and construction and will stand behind their work long after the project is completed.

This is a big investment for me. How do I know I’m making the right choice?

You’re right, construction projects are a big investment not only of money, but of trust. As a design-build firm, we oversee projects from the early design conception through to completion. We offer the complete spectrum of services including design, engineering, permit processing, high quality construction, and we are always here for you long after your project is completed. As part of this spectrum of services, we consider ourselves “keepers of the budget.” Early in the design phase, we provide accurate and reliable cost estimates so that as we develop the design of your remodel you can make informed decisions.

Read more about our Design Build process on the “Our Process” page of this site.

How do I begin?

Give us a call at 707.823.4899. We’ll ask a series of questions to get a general idea of what you want and where you are in the process. We will arrange to meet with you onsite to discuss the project, explain how we work, and map out the next steps specific to your project.

What the heck is Design/Build and why does it matter?

Design/Build is a collaborative, one-stop shop approach to designing and remodeling or building a home. We have in our company a team made up of an architect and/or designer, an engineer, and experienced contractor working with you, our client, to create a design that best responds to your needs and desires and to build it within the your budget. Since all of the building professionals work together as a team from the initial design meeting on, there is inherently more efficiency and less likelihood of miscommunication between the team members. There is no need for you to go out and hire a separate architect, engineer, and then a contractor and hope that they will be able to work well together.
The more traditional approach would have you hiring an architect, who would design your remodel or new home, and then you would put the complete plans out to bid with a number of contractors. Since most architects do not have experience with or an understanding of building costs, it is very often the case that all of the bids would come in over budget, and at best the project has to be redesigned at considerable expense or at worst, completely abandoned.

Why would I need an engineer?

While it is still possible to design and build a code-compliant, un-engineered building, most projects have at least some engineering. That’s why we have an engineer on staff who works closely with our architect, estimator and crews to deliver projects that meet code, are economical, and satisfy our clients’ desires.

Can you help me with the design and plans too?e

Yes, in fact, we’d prefer to be involved from the very beginning. We have an architect and an engineer on staff, stellar interior designers at the ready, and we are fully equipped to be your one-stop shop.

I already have my own architect/designer/engineer. Will you still work with me?

Yes, we would be happy to work with any of the design professionals you have already selected. We can facilitate a design/build approach just as well with outside design professionals.

Can you help me pick out materials and finishes?

Yes. At our LEFF Design Center, our professional interior designers are expert at helping you make fixture, finish or color selections. We have a wide array of fixtures, finishes, tile, carpet and cabinetry from our vendor partners that are available for you to choose from .

I’m nervous about living here while the work is ongoing. Will you respect my space and my property?

We have remodeled numerous projects with the clients still living in their house. We have worked very hard to develop systems to control dust and maintain tidy job sites. And sometimes, when a kitchen is being remodeled as part of the project, we have set up a temporary kitchen in another part of the house. In addition, we have worked hard to hire, train and keep qualified, respectful personnel who understand that we’re guests in your home.

What about my children?

We are family friendly and safety-minded. We want to keep everyone safe on the jobsite. The work area will cordoned off with zip walls or caution tape. If children or guests absolutely need to enter the construction area, they need to be accompanied at all times by the homeowners with the knowledge of the crew.

Are your crews pet friendly? Do I need to sequester Sylvester?

We understand that pets are part of families and deserve as much respect. It is imperative to keep your pets confined away from the work areas for their safety and ours. Tell us what you need to keep your pets safe, and we will do it.

What can I expect from the crew?

We have very low turn over among our staff here at Leff Construction. Our low turnover, ongoing training, and reliability has created an atmosphere of mutual respect within our company and for our clients. We all operate as a team, and when your project is underway, you are a part of that team too.
Each of our projects is managed by a working superintendent. That person is responsible for the day to day activities on the job. He will coordinate all of the activities on the job including managing our crew, supervising and coordinating subcontractors, ordering and checking in material deliveries and meeting regularly with you. He will be working on your project from day one through the final inspection, and he is responsible for seeing that the job stays on budget and on schedule.
We have excellent, longstanding relationships with our subcontractors, and they pride themselves on working to our mutually shared high standards.

What is the payment schedule like?

We issue Progress Billings weekly or biweekly depending on the size of the project. You are only billed for work that has occurred during the billing period.

How do change orders work?

With our fixed price contract, the only time that there is a change in the scope of work or in the cost is if you initiate a change or if we discover a condition that we had no way of anticipating that requires additional work at extra cost. Change orders often entail additional work time. This duration is clearly noted on the change order and communicated to you prior to undertaking the change. The schedule is then immediately revised to accommodate the changes in the project duration and communicated to you.

Will my project stay on schedule?

As part of our ongoing program of developing systems within our company to manage projects, we create a project schedule before we start the job. This allows us to control timing and costs, order materials in a timely manner, and allocate manpower so that there are no days where work is not underway on your project. The schedule is a working document and is revised regularly throughout the job. Your project manager will keep you informed of the work coming up, and you’ll receive copies of revised schedules if/when change orders are requested or required. The schedule performs as a tool to ensure the project flows smoothly and efficiently until the last day.

Ifsomething happens after the job is over, who do I call? What kind of warranty do you offer?

We want our clients to be clients for life. If anything happens, please call us here at the office. Anyone who answers the phone will see to it that you are helped by the right person.
Even if you have a question unrelated to the project we did with you, please feel free to call us. We have a wealth of information and resources, and we’d love to be of assistance to you.
We offer a one year warranty on materials and labor on our work. Manufacturer warranties are specific to the appliance or fixture.

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