What is the First Step in Changing the Layout of My Home?

Make a wish list.  Yes it’s that simple.  Before you meet with your contractor, designer or architect, know what you want the space to do for you.

When I meet with a client for the first time I like to ask, “what do you really want the improvement to do for you”. The client will normally say something like, I want the cooktop here, I want an island, I want the kitchen or bath to look like this or I want a 20’ x 20′ room off the rear. They don’t think about just stating how the improvement will benefit the entire family and improve their lives. During the first interview, if the design professional understands how the improvement will impact your family’s lifestyle and add to your quality of life, they will be better equipped to make suggestions improving the value of your home and making your life more enjoyable.

The first meeting should include all interested parties. Before meeting with your design professional for the first time, have a list of needs or wants, not a design, just your wishes. Let them [design professional] consider those needs, making suggestions on how they can include your needs into a design that meets all the local code requirements and enhances the architectural lines of home, improving your homes deficiencies based on your current needs. If the improvement is a kitchen or bathroom, add a column “What I don’t like about the current space”. It’s important [as a designer] not to only understand what a client wants, just as important, what they don’t like about the current layout. Extremely helpful, have pictures of design elements you like and a budget in mind. The first meeting should be a free flow of ideas so don’t count anything out at this point because you think it might not work or it may be too expensive. There will be plenty of time through the design process to make cuts as a result of your budget or elements that may not work.

Baccaro Construction is a “Design and Build” contractor with NKBA certified kitchen and bath designers, working with our clients from the initial “Wish List” to setting the final finishing nail. If you are ready for your first free consultation, call us.

If you have any specific questions or suggestions for future posts, please contact me at Peter@baccaroconstruction.com.

Contractor Licensing

I was in a meeting yesterday with a Contractors State Licensing investigator and assistant Attorney General.  They were talking in general about cases and one of the discussions revolved around contractors lending their license.  They shared with me stories of licensed contractors renting out their license number for non-license contractors to use, appearing as if they were licensed.

This is a serious offense in violation of Business and Professional Code section 119(a)(2)(b)(c) which in summary states,

119. Any person who does any of the following is guilty of a misdemeanor:

(a) Displays or causes or permits to be displayed or has in his or her possession either of the following:

2) A fictitious license or any document simulating a license or purporting to be or have been issued as a license.

(b) Lends his or her license to any other person or knowingly permits the use thereof by another.

(c) Displays or represents any license not issued to him or her as being his or her license.

It appears this is a more prevalent problem than I was aware.  As the buying public, how can you protect yourself.  Although the Contractors State Licensing Board doesn’t advertise on prime time, they do have many resources available to you.  Any questions you may have can be answered by going to www.cslb.ca.gov.

As to the issue of checking a contractors license,  go to: Check License.  Anywhere a contractor advertises his name, he must include his contractors license number.  Using the address above, just insert the license number as indicated.CSLB1

As soon as you insert a valid license number this screen will appear.  The most important data here is the name and status of the company.  The name, address and type of company printed on any advertising, including the business card must match the information listed on CSLB site.  If the information printed on the advertising does not match exactly, contact the CSLB and they can help sort out the difference.

Scrolling down the screen you will see more information, including bonding and workers compensation insurance information.  CSLB2All contractors are required to submit proof of workers’ compensation insurance coverage as a condition of licensure to maintain a license, activate an inactive license or renew a license, unless they are exempt from this requirement (See B&P Code 7124.1).  Contractors are exempt if they do not have employees working for them (except C-39 Roofing Licensees) from the requirement for workers’ compensation insurance, but they must file a certification of this exemption with the Registrar.  If your contractor tells you he has employees, you can check the CSLB site and it says he is exempt, contact the CSLB and they can help.  It’s important to know there is the protection you need to insure you are not responsible for any injury’s to employees even if the contractor claims they are not employees.  For further information contact the CSLB.

The next step is to see if the person representing himself as the license holder or a registered salesperson must be listed on CSLB web site.  It’s easy if his name is the same as the licensee such as Peter Baccaro, but what if it’s a partnership, corporation, or other type of entity.  At the bottom of the screen you will see a tab “personnel list”.   CSLB3Click on the tab and you will get a list of names on the license.  This is important in verifying the person representing the licensee is in fact the person the license was issued to.  If the person in your home claims to be a salesperson, he must be registered with the CSLB as a Home Improvement Salesperson (HIS).  This requirement only applies to salespersons selling goods or negotiating home improvements, not doing business in a fixed business establishment where goods or services are exhibited or offered for sale.

The focus in this blog post is, MAKE SURE WHO YOU ARE NEGOTIATING WITH.  Just because a contractor presents a license number is not enough, you need to verify he is entitled to use the license.  If you have any concerns or questions, go to  CSLB Consumers call you local office or (800) 321-CSLB (2752) .




Hiring a Contractor

The Contractors State License Board has many free publications focusing on consumer protection.  Below is one such document, titled 10 Tips, Make Sure Your Contractor Measures Up.

  1. Hire only state-licensed contractors.
  2. Check a contractor’s license number online at http://www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling 800.321.CSLB (2752).
  3. Get at least three bids.
  4. Get three references from each bidder and review past work in person.
  5. Make sure all project expectations are in writing and only sign the contract if you completely understand the terms.
  6. Confirm that the contractor has worker’s compensation insurance for employees.
  7. Avoid paying more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less.* Avoid paying in cash.
  8. Avoid letting payments get ahead of the work.
  9. Keep a job file of all papers relating to your project, including all payments.
  10. Avoid making the final payment until you’re satisfied with the job.

* There is an exception to this rule for about a dozen contractors who have filed a  blanket performance and payment bond with the Registrar. This information is noted on the contractor’s license detail page on CSLB’s website.

The document is not an exhaustive list of precautions you should take prior to selecting a contractor, but a list of very important points.  All are important points, but I believe the most important item on this list is #5.

It sounds like a logical step, but you would be surprised.  Clients believe the contractor is the professional and he knows what he is doing, unfortunately that is not always the case.  Not only is it important the contractor supply you with a complete and detailed list of material, including brands, models, finishes, and quantities.  The details should include a complete set of drawings showing what your finished project is going to look like.  What good does a statement do if it only states, “custom cabinets”, if you don’t know what the layout looks like, how many drawers, roll out shelves, corner cabinets, and many other details.

Only sign a contract after you understand exactly what you are getting for your money, including exact specifications and drawings.  If a contractor is unable to provide that level of detail, you only have yourself to blame if what he provides is not what you expected.  Here at Baccaro Construction, we do all of our designs in house.  That means the person that completed your original interview is the one completing your drawings, including the execution and completion of your project.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call.


Required Permits

Clients will often ask if their project requires a permit, they will tell me other contractors they have spoken with tell them no.  There are many reasons these contractors don’t want to obtain a permit, but it never benefits the client not to get one.  Some contractors ask the client to obtain the permit, again not a good idea.  The permits are issued to an individual (entity) and that person is responsible for the permit and any work done under that permit.  As a homeowner, you don’t want to be responsible, you are paying your contractor to complete your project, he knows the codes, and he should be held responsible to insure all work is completed according to local codes.

As a Realtor, I can tell you one of the questions you have to answer in writing when selling your home is whether any work was done on the home that requires a permit.  You don’t want to sell your home only to find out after the sale a project you had completed did not meet the local code requirements and possibly be held responsible to your buyer.

Below, please find a list of projects that require a permit.  This may not be a complete list, you should always check with your local building department prior to starting any project.

  • Accessory structures – Gazebos, pool houses, carports, detached garages, greenhouses and storage sheds are examples (Storage sheds less than 120 Sq. Ft. of floor area are normally exempt)
  • Additions to existing buildings
  • Air Conditioners (New or Replacement)
  • Arbors
  • Awnings
  • Bathroom remodels
  • Demolition of structures or pools
  • Driveways encroaching on public right-of-way (Check With Your Local Engineering Department)
  • Drywall/Sheet Rock
  • Interior remodel and installation of partition walls
  • Electrical Work – new, repair or replacement
  • Replacement of exterior doors
  • Fences & gates (Check With Your Local Planning Division)
  • Fireplace/Chimney Repair
  • Furnaces (New or Replacement)
  • Gas Lines
  • Generators
  • Kitchen remodels 
  • New Buildings of any kind or size
  • Patio Covers
  • Photo-voltaic Systems
  • Plumbing Work (New, Repair or Replacement)
  • Relocating Buildings/Structures
  • Repairs, additions or remodeling of existing structures
  • Re-Roofing of existing structures
  • Retaining walls
  • Satellite dishes and ham radio antennas
  • Siding (Replacement or New)
  • Sidewalks encroaching on public right-of-way (Check With Your Local Engineering Department)
  • Stucco or Plastering
  • Swimming pools, hot tubs and spas
  • Tile (Tubs and showers)
  • Temporary Power Poles
  • Trellises
  • Water heaters (New or Replacement)
  • Wells
  • Window Replacement

Projects that may not require a permit

  • Cabinet replacement
  • Painting
  • Wallpaper
  • Flooring replacement
  • Counter replacement

Keep in mind, if you are doing a kitchen remodel for instance, yes you are replacing cabinets and counters, no permit required, but you normally change out the sink, garbage disposal, faucet, new outlets, new appliances, drywall repair, etc., all require permits.  If you have any questions, please call and let us guide you through the proper channels in completion of your project.