ADU Construction: Homeowner Purchase & Install Decisions
By Lorianna Kastrop, VP/CFO, The Kastrop Group, Inc. Architects
You’ve been working with a qualified licensed Architect and hired a recommended licensed General Contractor. So, you can now just sit back and wait for your ADU to be completed, right? Wrong! There are likely to be many decisions that you will be making in collaboration with your architect and contractor to customize the space to fit your needs. Typically, the contract will call for several items to be Purchased by Owner/Installed by Contractor. We call these P&I. P&I can include appliances, light fixtures, countertops, sinks, paint, tile, and other installed décor items like door & cabinet hardware.
For our ADU we also selected flooring, doors & windows, skylights, accessible elements such as the shower stall and toilet, and more. The decisions must be made quickly, and orders placed, so that construction is not slowed down.
What is the best process to make these decisions for customizing the space without going down a rabbit hole and taking too much time?
Check with your General Contractor about which P&I items are needed and when they will be installed.
Start with your budget. If you want very high-end finishes and custom items, you may want to work with an Interior Designer who can help you decide and order quickly since these items typically are not available to ship overnight. If you are on a tight budget and have time to scour the internet for deals, start with your favorite retailers and see what is available in stock and can ship within the needed window of time. Once you have an idea of prices, don’t forget to check with your local brick-and-mortar retailers, who will give you more personalized service (and support the local economy).
Major items like cabinetry, appliances, tile, countertops, paint, and flooring are items that you should see in person at a showroom and purchase locally. Keep in mind that the built-in items are more expensive and difficult to change later. Pick those with care.
Once you have selected a few of your built-in finishes, you will have a palette to work with for the rest of your décor—the wood color for your cabinets, the wall paint, the flooring, the countertops, and the tile should all be selected to complement and enhance each other. Take samples with you when you are shopping so that you can see how the colors and finishes work together. (Cell phone photos are not good for this—the colors are not accurate enough.)
If looking online for purchases, use as many clarifying words or search features as you can for your search to narrow the number of results. Typical features are price, customer ratings, in-stock, color, and size. Once you have an idea of what you like (and have discussed it with your significant other), don’t forget to check discount sites like Groupon, Amazon, or eBay to see if you can get a bargain. Put the items that you like best in your online “cart” or on a saved list of favorites so that you can find them again later to make a final decision.
Color variations matter. For example, if you are working with the color gray, you need to decide on a brown-tinged gray, or something that is bluer. Whites can be warm or cool. Knowing your accent colors and the complementary colors will help you. There is a lot of information available about color selection online or in home decorating magazines. Paint companies are very helpful in providing color palettes and matching neutrals with accent colors.
For a small space, like an ADU, it will look bigger if you decorate it as one space instead of as separate rooms. In other words, you do not have to pick out different flooring or paint for each room.
Stay consistent on finish items. For example, will your hardware be a brushed finish or shiny? Will you be using a finish that stands out, like copper or brass? Try not to use different colors of hardware. This also applies to lighting fixtures.
Choosing our countertop. Remember to have your other selected finishes handy as you refine your palette.
Costs are the big question. Everyone asks about costs. With our ADU we knew that we would be using it ourselves sometime in the future, and we decided to make it accessible, which adds to the cost. We did not always go with the lowest cost alternative. My next blog article will get into some more specifics about our construction expenses. So please check back to www.kastropgroup.com/blog
On a personal level, as the “client” in this scenario, the decisions were sometimes difficult, often rushed, many were costly, and most at least a little bit stressful. I am very sympathetic with clients going through this process. Don’t second-guess yourself. Do your research, make the best decision you can and move on.
Some examples of difficulties that we encountered include the following:
We decided on a backsplash tile that I really liked and then the installer said the mosaic fell apart when he tried to cut it. Not only did we have to buy replacement tile, but we lost money on the “custom” tile that we could not use.
We ordered an appliance that was installed incorrectly and spent a lot of time and energy correcting the problem.
Some of the products and installers did not arrive on schedule or finish in the agreed-upon time window.
The solar company was unreliable and pushed off the installation date twice. I will write a separate blog article about solar installation—both providers and sales reps. There is a big push for solar installation in California, but the companies are lagging in both sales analysis of client needs and installation. In fact, they are just getting started on understanding how to handle new construction, not just retrofitting existing homes.
On the other hand, we congratulate our General Contractor on pushing to get everything completed by our absolute deadline, which is my surgery date for knee replacement. (I wouldn’t recommend scheduling surgery as an incentive for making sure your construction is done in time. I know that several of our pregnant clients did not have the construction done in time for the baby’s arrival.) But in our case, it helped everyone stay focused on a completion date.
Thanks for reading, and as always, we are “Designing for Your Reality”.