Local Manhattan Beach Resident Bill Simone Named Remodeling Entrepreneur of the Year

Manhattan Beach, CA – June 4, 2014. Three innovative ideas are what led to Bill Simone, President of Custom Design & Construction, being named the 2014 Fred Case Remodeling Entrepreneur of the Year. The award is one of the remodeling industry’s highest honor. A panel of judges from Case Design/Remodeling, Inc., Hanley-Wood and Harvard University’s […]

2013 Chrysalis Award for Remodeling Excellence

Residential Exterior Over $100,000   Before After This design/build project encompassed the complete exterior remodel. The homeowners wanted to take a 150’s tract house and create a Tuscan villa feel. They felt that their home looked uninteresting and dated. They had recently replaced their upstairs windows, which ended up leaving scars on the Spanish lace […]

Avoiding Common Remodeling Misconceptions

Building on last week’s blog about asking the right questions, this week we’ll talk about how to avoid common remodeling misconceptions. As we’ve stated, remodeling a home is a major financial and emotional investment. Making sure expectations are managed and misconceptions are avoided makes all the difference in the world.

Here’s how we recommend avoiding common remodeling misconceptions.

The Better Business Bureau – if the Better Business Bureau doesn’t have any complaints against the contractor, don’t be fooled. Many contractors, though they have no BBB complaints, do not do a satisfactory job, much less a superior one. To ensure you, as a homeowner, are dealing with a reputable professional, use the BBB as a starting place for research, but not the only place! And remember, companies pay to be listed with the BBB.

Too Good To Be True – yes, moving forward with the lowest estimate saves you money, for now. Homeowners tend to look for the lowest price, but when it comes to remodeling your home, ask yourself what is being left out or what shortcuts are being taken. One of the most common signs of trouble ahead is a contractor offering to do work for much less than his or her competitors.

DIY – with so many shows on TV promising to help homeowners save money with DIY projects, it is easy to get wrapped up in the hype. Sure, sometimes the weekend warrior can undertake small projects like painting, hanging wallpaper and routine repairs, but be aware of taking on larger, more complicated projects. All too often a job becomes overwhelming and ends up costing more to have a reputable professional come in and fix what’s been done.

Experience – does experience equal quality? In short, no! Take experience claims with a grain of salt. Just because a contractor claims to have 20 years of experience does not mean that the homeowner will get what he or she wants. Make sure you investigate further to ensure you’re dealing with a qualified professional.

These are just a few ways to avoid common remodeling misconceptions. For more information, stop in to our design and inspiration center to set up a free meeting with one of our talented designers.

Asking the Right Questions

Last week we discussed how to find the right contractor or design firm. This week, we’ll talk about what questions homeowners should ask once they’ve found the right contractor. Remodeling is a major financial and emotional investment, by asking the right questions, homeowners will learn what to expect and how to protect themselves.

Here are the right questions to ask your contractor or design firm:

Are you licensed? For a contractor or design firm not being licensed is illegal. Check your contractor and design firm’s license status by visiting, or call the Contractors State License Bureau at 1-800-321-CSLB.

Do you carry workers’ compensation and liability insurance? If your contractor or design firm does not carry workers’ compensation or liability insurance, as the homeowner, you may be liable for any injuries suffered by the contractor or onsite employees while on the property, as well as property damage.

Will you provide me with a written lien waiver? This legal document confirms the homeowner’s identity and notes that the contractor or design firm has been paid in full for the services rendered. It additionally, states the contractor waives the right to place a mechanic’s lien on the property.

Will you pull the required building permits? This is crucially important to ensure that everything is done to code. If a contractor or design firm asks you, as the homeowner, to pull the permits it may be a warning sign that they are not in good standing with the building department.

Do you guarantee your work? All work should be guaranteed for at least one year and preferably much longer.

Who will be in charge of the job? Make sure the contractor, design firm or designated foreman is onsite whenever work is being done – especially if subcontractors are being used.

Will you provide me with references? A good contractor or design firm will provide references from the last six months to one year. Additionally, homeowners should ask for the name of the contractor’s accountant or banker, to make sure everything is in good standing and financially sound – homeowners don’t want their contractor or design firm going bankrupt in the midst of a project.

What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business? We touched on this a bit last week, but repeat or referral business indicates pleased clients. It’s important.

How many projects, like mine, have you completed in the past year?  Don’t let yourself or your home become the experiment. Make sure there is a level of expertise associated with the scope of work.

How do you handle “dirty work?” Discuss what needs to happen in terms of keeping the project area clean. Make sure that the contractor or design firm has a plan in place to keep the dust contained or notify you when the heavy dust generating operations will take place – to ensure other preparations can be made.

Are you RRP certified by the EPA? If the home was built prior to 1978, there may be special requirements of the contractor or design firm to notify and protect the homeowner from lead dust contaminants.

To learn more about what questions to ask your contractor or design firm, visit our website at You may also set up a free, no obligation meeting with one of Custom Design & Construction’s award-winning designers by calling 310-815-4815.


How to Find the Right Contractor

Thinking about updating your kitchen to something more modern? Or maybe you want to give your master bathroom a spa-like feel? Whatever your remodeling idea may be, it’s important to find the best contractor or firm for your needs – as whomever you bring on board will be spending a lot of time in and around your home!

When thinking about choosing the right fit, it helps to know what you are looking for. Here are few things to think about when starting your search:


While it seems like a no brainer to ensure your contractor is licensed, there are additional important details to confirm before you sign on the dotted line. What’s the good news? You can do most of this online. First, check to see that there is both a license and bond number. Specifically, look at the license status and make sure it says ‘Active.’ Next, take a look at both the issue and expiration date on the license. This not only ensures legitimacy, but gives insight into how long the contractor or firm has been in business. Finally, check the validity of the compensation coverage. There should be worker’s compensation insurance so you, as the homeowner, are not financially liable if a crew member is injured while on the job.

Background & Communication

Get references! Any quality contractor or firm will be happy to provide references. Once you’ve received them, use them. Connecting with these references will help answer any questions, get an overall feel of what the contractor or firm is like and learn more about the process that you are investing in. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. For example, how many of the contractor or firm’s clients were referrals or repeats? What happens if a project is delayed? Who will be the main point of contact? Will there be update meetings – weekly or monthly? Asking questions ensures you, as the homeowner, have all the information you need to feel comfortable making a final decision.  

Before You Sign the Contract…

A proper contract should include all of the logistical and tactical information about the scope of the project and a payment schedule. These details will help to manage expectations and keep the contractor or firm accountable for what has been agreed upon.

Before signing the contract, make sure the contractor or firm surveys the property. By bringing the contractor or firm to your home, both parties are able to get a feel for the space and feel comfortable before signing the contract. You don’t want the first time a contractor or firm steps foot in your house to be the day the work starts!

Once the scope of work is agreed upon and the contract is signed, keep a paper trail of your payments – never pay in cash. For both parties sake, it’s important that a record is kept in the event that any adjustments need to be made.

Getting your Dream Home

Remodeling is fun but can also be complex. Ensuring you’re prepared on the front end will make the rest of the process smooth and comfortable – and end with you having your dream space!

If you’re thinking of remodeling, we encourage you to use Houzz and Pinterest to pull images of homes, rooms and designs you love to share with your contractor or firm. Also, we invite you to attend our next remodeling seminar on June 22 at our design and inspiration center in El Segundo to get a more in depth look at how to select a contractor or firm.