Q: What is your square foot pricing?

Not an applicable concept to remodeling – it’s like asking “how much does a car cost per pound”?

New homes usually cost around $170 per square foot, whereas remodeling often runs $200 to $500 per square foot and even higher, depending on the project specifications. Unlike with a whole new house, remodeling projects costs vary greatly based on old work included, accommodations for continuing occupants, the product mix such as kitchens, baths and finish levels. Much of the higher costs are related to the tie-in between the “Old” and “New” construction, and the blending of these into an integral home.

Q: How do I finance my project?

Three ways:

  • Out of savings – cash
  • Equity loan or line of credit – loan based on the current market value of the structure, as- is
  • Construction loan – loan based on appraisal value as if the proposed remodeling project was completed. Obvious advantage – total loan amount can be increased – we can refer you to a competent, professional construction lender

Q: Do you have references?

Yes – of course we do and we are happy to make them available to you on a one on one basis when you are ready for them.

We work hard to earn the right to use past customers as references and we respect that privilege by protecting those references from nuisance shopping by unqualified prospects that are not at all close to being ready to make the decision to hire Cook Bros. in the first place. References should only be checked as a final selection stage step, right before taking the plunge to hire the contractor, not as a method of narrowing down a list to start investigating.

Q: Do you work all year round?

Of course we do – our workers’ bills come in year round. We are in a moderate weather region that rarely interferes with our ability to work. There is rarely good reason to schedule around the weather or the time of the year.

Q: What is your availability for start dates?

We operate on “first come-first served” basis, however; we need to keep a constant, consistent workflow for our employees. That said, for most remodeling projects we can usually start construction within 4-6 months of your engaging Cook Bros. I.e., at the time you sign our Design/Deposit Agreement we will lock in your start date, which will typically be 4-6 months into the future. Note that this is relatively quick when compared to other professional remodeling companies, due to our advanced management and scheduling capabilities.

Q: Do you have a stable core of sub-contractors?

Most of our trade contractors have a long history with Cook Bros. We demand the same qualities from them that you do from us, i.e., fair pricing, quality service and responsiveness. Cook Bros. typically represents a significant portion of our trade contractors’ total revenues, which insures their priority attention toCook Bros. projects.

Q: Are you licensed and insured?

Yes we have the top VA general contractor’s license, “Class A” and have been licensed to do business in Arlington since 1985.

We carry a multi-million dollar general liability policy as well as all workers compensation coverage and fidelity bonding. Once you become a Cook Bros. customer, upon your request, we will receive a certificate of insurance provided directly from our insurance company to you.

Q: How do we get started?

Call us and speak with one of our friendly office staff persons. They will ask you a number of questions to gather necessary information about you, your home and your plans. If it is clearly a good match, they will set up an initial meeting at your house. Alternatively, they may need to pass your info on to Steve or AJ to determine how best to proceed. Once an in-home appointment is arranged, Steve or AJ will visit you to perform an actual inspection of your home and discuss your plans with you.

Q: How long do typical projects take?

That depends, of course, on what the project is. No matter what the project is, we work constantly and consistently until completion – i.e., we don’t work one day a week on your project, then abandon you for the rest of the week. Projects can vary from 4 – 20 weeks; our typical two story addition – first floor family room with kitchen, second floor master bedroom and bath above, will take 14 weeks to complete while a typical bath remodel may take 4 weeks. We will give you a good indication of the anticipated duration at our initial meeting at your home, as well as an approximate start date.

Q: Do we need to move out during construction?

Most likely, not. Out of thousands of projects in 25 years we have only had a handful of customers relocate for the duration of the project. Obviously, it can get a little inconvenient if we are tearing out your only bath and you will be without a bathroom for several weeks. However, our crews are the best in the business at minimizing the unavoidable intrusion into your daily lives. We realize that our job is in your home, not just in a vacant building, and although it is our worksite, it is your home.

Q: How do I know if there are any zoning issues with my proposed project?

We ask that you have a survey plat for our review at our initial in-home consultation. We are experts at identifying potential zoning issues and will discuss them with you at that meeting. If a variance appears necessary, we can advise you of the process and help you prepare your zoning variance application.

Q: What is a “low-ball” bid?

A low-ball bid that is grossly insufficient, whether provided by an unscrupulous contractor trying to entice you to sign up with him, or by an incompetent contractor who has overlooked many unavoidable costs, it will have the same negative impact on you if you sign up with either of them. Remember the old adage, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” You won’t know you have been a victim of a low-ball bid until it is too late. When considering any bids use your common sense in judging the bidding contractor’s thoroughness and professionalism.

Q: How do I know your price is fair?

To start with, see #12 above. This is a difficult thing for homeowners to judge. You will find no comfort in collecting a slew of different bids, as those prices will inevitably be all over the board. Neither will you avoid such a wide range of bid prices by going down the path of having architectural drawings prepared and put out to bid. As logical as that approach seems, to attempt to obtain apple to apples bids, you will be sorely disappointed with the reality. This leaves you with, trust. To establish trust, and this is a two-way street, you must establish a relationship. If the underlying relationship between a bidder and a homeowner consists of only a ten-minute interchange then there will be no trust on either party’s part, and therefore the bid or estimate cannot be trusted. Alternatively if you have developed a meaningful relationship with a contractor, committing to him so that he can safely invest his time and expertise in preparing your estimate, then his bid will be much more trustworthy and reliable. To summarize, you should find a trustworthy contractor as soon as possible and engage them to design and build your project for you so that they can then work in earnest preparing your pricing.

Q: Is my remodeling project a good investment?

That depends. As a general issue, no matter what your project is, if it is poorly designed and constructed, you have wasted 100% of your investment, so beware of low bidders. It is better to pay 10% – 20% more up front and have a solid investment to show for it, than to “save” 10%-20% and lose the other 80% entirely. There are many services available which attempt to generically answer your return-on-investment questions. Some are more useful than others. In general, you must consider the type of remodeling project, the functional utility of the planned project and the potential, future buyer’s acceptance and valuation of your improvement. An appraiser’s point of view is relevant here. An appraiser can give value for “counts” such as adding baths, adding square footage of living space and adding bedrooms. They can also give value for increasing functional utility such as updating baths and kitchens, correcting floor plan deficiencies and “normalizing” the design marketability.

For example, if your house had six bedrooms and only one bath, that’s a problem. Adding a seventh bedroom would not increase the value however adding a bath would significantly increase the value.

To summarize, most remodeling projects probably return 85%-120% of the remodeling cost in increased value.

Q: Should I bulldoze my house and start from scratch?

Sometimes this “seems” like the way to go when considering an extensive remodeling job, perhaps in the $300,000 to $500,000 cost ranges. Sometimes it may be the best approach, but usually not. To begin with, to build new, you must demolish and dispose of the existing house and perform all of the county-required engineering services. This will typically cost you around $30,000 to $35,000 just to get the lot ready to build on. Next, you will have to move out, live elsewhere for a year and then move back in, all the time carrying the cost of the existing home and construction in addition to your temporary living expenses. This can cost you anywhere from $35,000 to $55,000 out of pocket. Finally, you will be destroying a valuable asset in the existing home.

If the present market value of your house is $450,000 and your lot will be worth $275,000 max, then you are throwing away the difference of $175,000 when you bulldoze! Plus the $30,000 to $35,000 demo and engineering, the $35,000 to $55,000 cost for moving and temporary housing. That adds up to $240,000 to $265,000 additional cost, plus the new home construction cost of $350,000 to $550,000 average. Does this make the decision to just remodel, easier?

Q: Should I hire an Architect?

Probably unnecessary. We assume you are speaking about an independent/designer, not an “architectural design” by a builder, known as a Design/Build firm like Cook Bros. This distinction bears on the answer to your question. The only potential advantages to hiring independent designers are: 1) If you find it to be the only way to obtain competent remodeling design services; 2) if you buy into the myth of getting drawings to “put out to bid” in a mistaken attempt to protect yourself from unfair pricing from contractors. In our market you can usually dispose of #1 because there is an ample supply of Design/Build remodeling firms that provide design services as part of their package. You should re-think your position if you believe #2 will work for you, because in our 25+ years experience, taking that route has overwhelmingly resulted in more confusion and problems for the homeowner. These unfortunate homeowners are disappointed to find after investing in the independently produced plans that their “collection” of bids are all over the board, defying the whole intended purpose of obtaining apple to apple comparisons based on the exact same bid plans. Bid plans in hand, these homeowners find themselves actually at odds with the very contractors they really need and who want to help the homeowner, due to a false sense of external controls as “promised” by the myth of having independently produced plans put out to bid. Lastly, it is a rare circumstance where the independent designer has not set the homeowner up for failure by irresponsibly mis-advising the homeowner regarding the expected cost of construction. Armed with the designer’s “pricing” input, the homeowner is often as much as 100% low in their pricing expectations, i.e. they expect bids to come in at $100,000 and they really come in at $200,000 and higher, and with a stunned look on their face, wonder why all those contractors are trying to take advantage of them. The simple answer is to hire a design/build contractor for all of the advantages it offers and to avoid the disadvantages and delays discussed.

Q: Who obtains the building permits for my projects?

If your project requires an Arlington County building permit, someone will have to obtain it. It should be your contractor, not yourself as homeowner, which pulls the permit. That is why licensure is required, to protect the homeowner and assure competent representation throughout the construction process. If your contractor cannot pull the permit because he does not have the necessary licensure, then why in the world would you hire them to perform your construction! That is nuts! You deserve to be represented by a legitimate professional contractor. Who will schedule and meet the inspectors? It had better be the contractor. And if the contractor did not pull the permit, how will they make out with the inspectors? And we will not even get into all of the potential liability and legal issues that could arise regarding permits and licensure missteps. At Cook Bros. we actually have built additions for Arlington County inspector’s own homes.

Don’t make the mistake of getting involved with a contractor that encourages you to pull the permits yourself.

Q: Have you done projects like mine?

Cook Bros. has completed remodeling projects of all types for homeowners in the Arlington area. Examples of these projects are shown in the Project Gallery, and range from Basement, Bath and Kitchen remodels to full-blown 2-story wrap around additions and Pop-Tops with family rooms and Master Suites. It is important to have a good fit between you and your contractor. If his average job size is $300K, how interested will they be in your $45K kitchen? Or if their average job size is $15K, do you really want them doing your $250K addition? Use your common sense and check them out before hiring them. Make sure they are a “good fit” for you and your project or keep on looking.

Q: Who will be in charge of my project?

This is one of the most important determinants of the success or failure of your project – Skilled communications and competent management.

Cook Bros. ‘ construction management staff is on top of your project from start until finish. The onsite project carpenter (Lead carpenter) is the most evident presence of the management followed by the construction superintendent and then by frequent visits by the General Manager and owners. Your project is tracked daily by the office staff. You will receive email reports and have regular weekly meetings if necessary or desired. You have several layers of potential listeners available to you at all times, all the way to the owners, anytime. Getting management’s attention and responsiveness is not usually a problem for Cook Bros. customers.

With traffic being as bad as it can be in our metro area, it is a significant value having local management near your property and project! Cook Bros. intentionally limits our market service area to Arlington and its neighboring communities of Falls Church and McLean, so that we can properly supervise yor project, daily.

Also, with 4 levels of management available at Cook Bros., no individual manager is indispensable. What happens at most remodeling companies if the owner gets sick and cannot work? Who will carry the ball on your project?

Q: What is “green” remodeling?

“Green building” or “Green remodeling” refers to making environmentally conscious decisions during a construction or remodeling project. A project may be considered “green” because you use:
Efficient building practices, like framing methods that require less lumber, deconstructing and salvaging products for reuse elsewhere instead of demolishing products that are salvageable and shipping waste to landfill, and even the sorting of waste materials during construction for recycling.
Products that promote resource and energy efficiency, as well as better air quality in the finished space, such as using higher grades of insulation, water-saving showerheads and low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints and formaldehyde free insulations.
Products whose manufacturing processes are more ecologically friendly – from controlling pollution to utilizing locally manufactured products to cut down on environmental impact from shipping and transport.
Design considerations that have minimal impact on the building site and take advantage of energy efficient principles such as passive solar design to maximize the benefits of seasonal sun/shade to help with heating and cooling costs, as well as letting in and utilizing natural light to save on electricity consumption for artificial illumination.
Products that conserve natural resources by reusing salvaged materials, like recycled-glass countertops, reclaimed hardwood flooring or roofing made from recycled tires.
Products that conserve natural resources by using renewable materials like bamboo and cork flooring, which come from fast-growing plants instead of slow-growing hardwood trees.