After The Agreement

When the Design Retainer Agreement (DRA) is signed, it’s time to get to work. Hopefully you’ll do this as soon as possible. Here’s an outline of the After the DRA Process:

  1. Get the DRA signed
  2. Get partial or full payment
  3. Make an appointment for the beginning of the design process
  4. Begin the preliminary design work
  5. Draw the as-built design
  6. Draw the conceptual design
  7. Get conceptual design approved
  8. Select materials and products
  9. Draw the working drawings
  10. Estimate the project cost
  11. Submit the Summary Quote or Proposal
  12. Sign the Proposal
  13. Get the Initial Investment

 

The design-build processThe Details

1. Get the DRA signed

The description of the project in the DRA does not have to be very detailed. Just write out the basics of the design. Be sure they initial each page and sign the last page. 

2. Get partial or full payment

For most designs you should get the full design fee before starting. If it is really a large project you may want to get a percentage of the job. The important point here is to get them to invest. 

3. Make an appointment for the beginning of the design process

Because the preliminary design work takes several hours, it is unlikely that you’ll start on the same day you sign. Make an appointment to begin and carefully lay out what they should expect to happen during this visit. Tell them how long it will take, and the areas of the home where you will be measuring and photographing. For example, if I design a bathroom on the first floor of a two story home, they probably won’t understand why I am measuring rooms on the second floor. Explain this to them. This is the type of detail that makes you worth your money. 

4. Begin the preliminary design work

There are many ways to carry out the measuring and photographing. Make sure that you have a consistent process to do this. Missing pieces, lack of a view in a photo, or wrong measurements are an inconvenience to you and to the homeowner. 

My method was to set an appointment for about 2-4 hours to measure and photograph the project. As I have described in other articles, even measuring and photographing a room should have a process. For instance I enter a room, turn to the left and measure the room in a clockwise motion. First I measure the basic dimensions, such as width and length and offsets. Then I note the wall thickness, height of the ceiling and thickness of the floor if I can figure it out in a floor vent or other opening. After that, measure details such as moldings, doors, casing widths, distance between opening, including casing to casing measurements. I do the same with photographing. I go to each corner of the room and shoot the opposite corner. Then I shoot details such as floor or ceiling vents, thermostats and security pads, opening details, molding details, light fixtures, and any other item in the room that could come into play. You should take a picture of anything that might remind you to pay attention to it during the estimating process. 

Another very good residential designer I know actually draws the as-built drawings on site. Needless to say, he is an expert designer with lots of experience designing and using his software. He makes an appointment for an entire day, brings a portable laptop desk, and draws one room at a time. Then he moves on to the next. By doing this he can find the answer to many questions that might have arisen had he measured and drawn the as-built back at the office. 

Those two methods are probably the most common procedures. Make sure that you have a process for this. It will save you countless hours and many lost dollars as you design and estimate your next project. 

5. Draw the as-built drawing

The as-built drawing cannot be over-emphasized. The accuracy of your as-built drawing will determine the accuracy of your final design and estimate. Make this a hard and fast rule – always draw an as-built. Once it is done, making modifications to a copy of the drawing is very easy. Don’t move on to your conceptual design until this drawing is just right, otherwise you’ll be modifying two different versions. The as-built is the most time-consuming part of the design process.

6. Draw the conceptual design

After you finish your very accurate and detailed as-built drawing, create the conceptual drawings. These allow you to quickly show your client that you are making progress. 

7. Get conceptual design approved

When they approve the conceptual drawings, you are almost done. If you are building the project, you won’t need as many working drawings as when you are handing the drawings off to your client to get bids. 

8. Draw the working drawings

These drawings will details the foundation, footings, trim, architectural details, etc. Make sectional and detail drawings. Annotate them. Don’t spare the notes. 

9. Select materials and products

If this is part of your design agreement, get with your client and start selecting the materials and products for the project. Without these selections, you won’t be able to put together an accurate quote. 

10. Estimate the project cost

Gather all your notes, drawings, photos, and material selections and create the estimate. Send out RFQ’s and plug them into the estimate. Be very specific in your RFQ’s. If you don’t add enough detail, you’ll end up paying for that omission. 

11. Submit the Summary Quote or Proposal

This can be done at your office or their home. If you’ve had plenty of meetings at their home and all parties know what is expected of the project, then meet at your office. When they make this commitment, they are more likely to sign, especially if your DRA states that they are not going to receive the drawings unless they sign. 

12. Sign the Proposal

Make sure that each page of the proposal is initialed. Have them initial each page of the drawings too. Include all the required legal documents. Have them sign and date them. Leave nothing to chance. 

13. Get the Initial Investment

With the initial investment in hand, you are almost ready to start. If you had them sign in their home then you surely had them sign a Right of Rescission which allows them 3 days to back out of the contract. 

 

Write It Down

Now you have a good picture of what you do during a design process. Write it down. Let your staff know about the process. The more they understand about the big picture, the better off your company will be. 

 

Questions

If you’d like to hear more about the design process, send me an email and I’ll extend this design-then-build series. You can reach me at Randall@scientificremodelingsystem.com.

Have a great week. 

Wishing you the best of fortune, Randall

Randall S Soules
Remodeling coach, adviser, and educator
Randall@scientificremodelingsystem.com

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