FAQ's and Frequently Asked Questions

Design-Build related questions

1. What Does a Design-Build Firm Like LEFF Do?

At LEFF, our design-build service streamlines your construction or renovation project by merging design and construction phases under one contract. This approach ensures cohesive and efficient project execution, with our team handling every aspect from initial concepts to final construction, providing a seamless experience for you.

2. Is Design-Build More Expensive?

While the initial estimate for a design-build project might be higher, this method often leads to greater cost accuracy. Our integrated process reduces the likelihood of unforeseen changes, aligning the initial quote closely with the final cost, which can make design-build a more economically sound choice in the long term.

3. What's the Difference Between a Design-Builder and a Contractor?

Unlike a general contractor who focuses primarily on construction, a design-builder at LEFF is involved in both the design and building phases. This dual role facilitates better planning, reduces errors, and ensures that the construction aligns precisely with your vision, offering a more integrated and streamlined project execution.

4. What Can You Expect from a LEFF Interior Design Package?

Our interior design package provides a comprehensive suite of services to transform your space. This includes detailed floor plans, furniture layouts, lighting designs, millwork, color selections, and 3D renderings to visualize the outcome. Our goal is to create a space that reflects your taste and meets your functional needs.

5. What Are the Phases of the Design-Build Process?

LEFF's design-build process encompasses five stages: selecting our team, pre-construction planning, architectural design and functionality planning, the construction phase, and post-construction evaluation. This thorough approach ensures that we deliver a final product that meets our high standards and your expectations.

6. What Post-Construction Services Should Every Homeowner Ask For?

After the completion of any construction project, homeowners should seek post-construction services that ensure their new or remodeled space not only meets but exceeds their expectations. At LEFF, we believe in providing comprehensive post-construction services, including a thorough cleanup, a detailed walkthrough to address any concerns, and a clear explanation of maintenance requirements and warranties. We also offer follow-up visits to ensure all elements of your project are functioning as intended and to address any adjustments or concerns that may arise. Our commitment is to your complete satisfaction, ensuring that your experience with LEFF extends beyond the construction phase, securing the longevity and enjoyment of your investment.

7. What Is a Design and Build Service?

Our design and build service at LEFF is a comprehensive approach where one team is responsible for both the design and construction of your project. This method facilitates a unified flow of work from the initial concept through to completion, offering a cohesive and efficient building experience.

8. What Are the Different Contracts in California for Construction?

California sets the bar high: residential construction contracts over $500 must have a fixed fee and detailed terms. No Time and Materials (T & M) or Cost Plus here. Why? To protect you! At LEFF, we embrace this clarity, offering contracts that are transparent and tailored, ensuring you're covered every step of the way.

9. What should I consider before choosing Design Build?

While design-build offers a streamlined process from design through construction, it requires a high level of trust and effective communication, as it doesn't involve competitive bidding. Additionally, the initial phase may progress more slowly compared to traditional methods, as time is dedicated to developing a detailed and well-thought-out design. This deliberate pace in the early stages with LEFF is essential for ensuring a more accurate and efficient construction phase, ultimately aligning with your vision and budget expectations, and reducing the likelihood of unexpected issues or delays during construction.

10. Does Design-Build Offer Financial Advantages?

Absolutely. Our design-build service at LEFF is tailored for the discerning buyer, providing a sophisticated yet efficient approach to project delivery. By commencing construction concurrently with the design process, we expedite the project timeline, enhancing efficiency and reducing overall costs. This approach allows us to dedicate the utmost attention to the refined details and exceptional quality that define your project, ensuring an investment that is both time and cost-efficient while delivering the unparalleled standard of elegance you desire.

11. How Do I Choose a Design-Build Contractor?

Choosing the right design-build contractor involves a series of informed steps. Begin by gathering recommendations and researching the contractor's reputation and level of expertise. It's crucial to verify their credentials, including accreditation and industry certifications, and speak with their past clients to gauge satisfaction levels. Understanding how well they align with your budget expectations is also key. We recommend conducting thorough interviews with potential contractors to ensure their vision aligns with yours. At LEFF, we pride ourselves on our transparent communication, proven track record, and alignment with our clients' expectations, aiming to make your selection process as straightforward and confident as possible.

12. What Is the Difference Between a Design-Build Firm and an Architect?

At LEFF, a design-build firm differs from an architect in that we provide a comprehensive solution for your building or renovation needs. While an architect focuses on design, our design-build service includes not only design but also construction, offering you a cohesive team of designers, architects, project managers, and field crews. This integrated approach ensures a streamlined and unified process from the initial design phase to the final construction, simplifying communication and project management for you.

Time Related Questions

13. How Long Does It Take to Get a Building Permit Approved in Sonoma County, California?

The timeline for building permit approval in Sonoma County varies: Administrative reviews typically require 6 to 8 weeks from a complete submittal. However, if your project necessitates a public hearing and environmental review, the process extends to approximately 6 months. For projects requiring an Environmental Impact Report, the timeline can extend to a year or more. At LEFF, we're adept at navigating these processes, ensuring your project progresses efficiently and is well-prepared to meet all local regulatory requirements.

14. How Long Is a Sonoma County Building Permit Good For?

In Sonoma County, any building permit issued after July 1, 1999, remains valid for three years from the date it's issued. It's important to note that these permits cannot be extended, prompting the need for strategic planning and timely execution of your construction or remodeling project. With LEFF, you can trust that your project will be managed efficiently and completed within this timeframe, ensuring you make the most of your permit's validity without the need for extensions.

15. How Long Does It Take to Build a Custom House in Napa or Sonoma County?

Building a custom house in California typically ranges from 12 to 15 months for homes between 2,800 to 5,000 square feet without a basement. If your dream home includes a basement or exceeds this size, the construction timeline can extend to 14 months or more. The initial stages, including demolition and excavation, usually span 2 to 5 months. At LEFF, we value precision and meticulousness in every phase, ensuring that your custom home not only meets but surpasses your expectations, making the wait truly worthwhile.

16. How Long Should a Bathroom Remodel Take?

A bathroom remodel typically takes about 8 1/2 weeks, assuming work is conducted on weekdays without interruption. This timeline allows for a thorough and detailed renovation process, ensuring that every aspect of your bathroom is transformed to meet your vision. With LEFF, we prioritize efficiency and quality, making sure that even the smallest spaces receive our full attention and expertise, resulting in a beautifully renovated bathroom in just over two months.

17. How Long Should a Kitchen Remodel Take?

The duration of a kitchen remodel can vary based on the project's scale and complexity, but typically, a comprehensive kitchen renovation should take anywhere from several weeks to a three months. At LEFF, we ensure that this time frame is meticulously planned and executed, balancing efficiency with our commitment to quality and attention to detail. We work closely with you to establish a realistic timeline that accommodates all aspects of the remodel, from initial design to final touches, ensuring a smooth process that minimizes disruption while achieving the kitchen of your dreams.

Renovation & Remodeling Questions

18. What Is the Difference Between Remodeling and Renovating a House?

The key difference between remodeling and renovating lies in the scope of change. Renovation involves updating and enhancing your home with cosmetic changes, maintaining the existing structure and layout. In contrast, remodeling goes deeper, involving significant structural changes through demolition and construction to alter the space's function or layout. At LEFF, we specialize in both, offering expertise to beautifully update your space or comprehensively transform it, ensuring the result aligns perfectly with your vision and lifestyle.

19. What Is Considered a Major Renovation?

A major renovation refers to significant structural modifications to a building, such as changes to the foundation, roof, floor, exterior, or load-bearing walls, or an extension that increases the floor area. These are not just cosmetic updates but substantial changes that transform the space fundamentally. At LEFF, our expertise in major renovations ensures that such transformative projects are executed flawlessly, aligning with your vision and enhancing your space's functionality and aesthetic appeal.

20. What I Wish I Knew Before Remodeling My Kitchen?

Remodeling your kitchen is an exciting journey, but there are key insights to keep in mind: ensuring functional design takes precedence, prioritizing high-quality cabinetry, understanding the importance of space planning, and accepting that your kitchen will evolve with use. It's crucial to order materials ahead of time, consider the space needed for appliance and cabinet doors to function correctly, and prepare for the interim living conditions during the remodel. Additionally, engaging a professional like LEFF can offer not only expertise and efficiency but potentially significant cost savings, making your investment even more valuable.

21. How Do You Cook During a Remodel?

During a kitchen remodel, maintaining a functional cooking space is key. Utilize versatile appliances like Instant Pots, Crock Pots, Air Fryers, Blenders, and Microwaves to prepare a variety of meals. Designate a specific area for meal prep and cooking, stock up on freezer-friendly dishes, and opt for simple recipes to minimize kitchen chaos. With these strategies, you can continue to enjoy homemade meals, ensuring your daily routine is disrupted as little as possible while LEFF transforms your kitchen.

22. When Should You Remodel Your Bathroom?

While spring and summer are traditionally favored for remodeling, considering a bathroom renovation during winter offers distinct advantages. Opting for the off-season means navigating around the peak times, which can lead to a more focused project execution and potentially quicker completion. At LEFF, we're equipped to handle your bathroom transformation in any season, ensuring meticulous attention to detail and streamlined project management to create your ideal space, regardless of the time of year.

Cost Related Questions

23. Is it normal to pay a contractor half up front?

Paying half up front? Hold that thought! In California, the law caps
deposits at 10% or $1,000, whichever's less. At LEFF, we align with the rules, ensuring your investment is protected and your peace of mind is paramount.

24. How do you tell a contractor they are too expensive?

Finding your dream contractor's quote a bit steep? Communicate with clarity and respect: 'I value your expertise, but the quote exceeds my budget. Can we explore options to align costs with my financial boundaries?' With LEFF, it's about collaboration and tailored solutions.

25. Are Time and Material Contracts or Cost Plus Contracts legal in California?

In California, thinking about Time and Material or Cost Plus contracts?
Hold that thought! CA law requires a fixed-price approach for residential projects over $500, detailing everything from start dates to payment schedules. At LEFF, we ensure every contract is up to code, clear, and compliant, so your project is built on solid ground.

26. How much over an estimate is acceptable?

Wondering how much wiggle room your project estimate should have?
A 15% to 20% buffer is typical, but surprises aren't our style at LEFF. We prioritize clear communication and detailed contracts, so you're informed and in control from start to finish.

27. What should I budget for design & permit fees?

Typically, it's about 10%-15% of your project's cost, ensuring every penny adds value and style. For grander estates, think 15%-30% for that luxurious touch. You are investing in design that defines your space.

28. Is design-build more expensive?

While the initial cost for a design-build project with LEFF may appear higher, this approach often results in better cost predictability. Our integrated design and construction process minimizes the likelihood of unforeseen changes and additional expenses, making the initial quote a more accurate reflection of your project's final cost. This means that, in the long run, design-build can be a more cost-effective and efficient choice, providing you with value through streamlined coordination and clear communication from start to finish.

29. Why Might LEFF Design Build Be More Expensive Than Another Contractor I have spoken to?

At LEFF Design Build, our pricing reflects our unwavering commitment to quality at every level, ethical business practices, and exceptional service. We are fully licensed and insured, ensuring that every aspect of our work meets the highest standards of safety and professionalism. For your protection our team is provided with comprehensive workers' compensation insurance, and we are committed to offering fair wages and benefits, enabling our skilled professionals to live in the communities they serve. Our expertise spans both innovative design and meticulous construction, guaranteeing that our projects not only look extraordinary but are built to last. When you choose LEFF, you're investing in a partnership that values integrity, craftsmanship, and customer satisfaction above all else.

30. Does Design-Build Offer Financial Advantages for Luxury Projects?

Absolutely. Our design-build service at LEFF is tailored for the discerning luxury buyer, providing a sophisticated yet efficient approach to project delivery. By commencing construction concurrently with the design process, we expedite the project timeline, enhancing efficiency and reducing overall costs. This approach allows us to dedicate the utmost attention to the refined details and exceptional quality that define your luxury project, ensuring an investment that is both time and cost-efficient while delivering the unparalleled standard of elegance you desire.

31. What Is the Profit Margin for Design-Build?

At LEFF Design Build, we aim for a net profit of around 10% which is the industry standard and is crucial for us to continue providing top-tier post-construction services and support. This financial approach guarantees that we can maintain our commitment to excellence and be here for you, offering ongoing support and services, long after your project is completed. Our price structure ensures that we can invest in the best materials, skilled labor, and innovative processes, all while being transparent and fair in our pricing, ensuring that we continue to be your trusted partner in design-build for years to come.

32. Why Do Some Contractors have low bids?

Low bids from contractors can often be misleading and may result from several factors. Firstly, a low bid might indicate an incomplete scope of work or a misunderstanding of the project's details and plans, which can lead to unexpected costs later on. Secondly, the contractor might not carry the necessary insurance, which protects both the homeowner and the workers. Thirdly, the contractor may not be properly licensed, impacting the quality and legality of the work. Additionally, low bids might reflect the use of unskilled labor or the intention to use substandard materials. They could also indicate a lack of proper project management or an intention to make up costs through change orders once the project is underway. At LEFF, we ensure comprehensive planning, skilled labor, high-quality materials, and transparent pricing to provide true value and peace of mind for our clients.

33. How Much Does It Cost to Remodel Per Square Foot in Sonoma County?

Remodeling in Sonoma County reflects a commitment to quality and customization, with costs typically ranging from $600 to $800 per square foot. Luxury Estate Homes can easily see pricing reach between $1000-$2000 per square foot. This investment encompasses custom features, premium materials, expert subcontractor work, and advanced lighting and technology integrations. At LEFF, we ensure that your investment translates into a space that surpasses expectations, combining luxury, functionality, and the latest trends to create a living environment that truly feels like home.

34. How Much Does a 2500 Square Foot House Cost in California?

In California, the cost of a 2500 square foot house typically falls between $1.5 million and $2 million. This price range is influenced by various factors including the house's location, the quality of materials used, and the complexity of the design. At LEFF, we ensure that your investment not only aligns with these factors but also reflects the highest standards of craftsmanship and design excellence, making your home a true embodiment of value and luxury.

35. Is It Cheaper to Build, Buy, or Renovate a House?

On average, building a new home costs about twenty percent more than remodeling an existing structure. While renovation can be more cost-effective and maintain the character of your home, building a new one provides the ultimate freedom in customization, allowing you to choose the structure, layout, ceiling height, and square footage as your lot permits. At LEFF, we're committed to guiding you through whichever path you choose, ensuring the outcome is not just a house, but a home that reflects your vision and values.

36. What Is the Most Expensive Part of Building a House?

The framing stands out as the most expensive component of house construction. This critical stage involves assembling wooden beams to create the home's structure, essentially forming the skeleton of your dwelling. While it requires a significant investment, it's vital for the overall integrity and longevity of your home. At LEFF, we ensure that this investment is maximized, providing you with a solid, well-crafted structure that serves as the foundation for your dream home's beauty and durability.

37. How Can I Save Money when Building or Remodeling?

To save money while building your house, consider various value engineering strategies such as reducing the home's square footage, opting for stock design plans, minimizing the complexity of your roof system, and selecting more economical materials like drywall for interiors. Additionally, consider a modest kitchen and bathroom to cut costs without compromising quality. It's also crucial to finalize your design before construction begins to avoid costly change orders. At LEFF, we guide you through these decisions, ensuring that your home-building journey is both cost-effective and aligned with your vision.

38. What Is a Realistic Budget for a Kitchen Remodel?

A realistic budget for a kitchen remodel typically ranges from 15% to 25% of your home's overall value. So, for a home valued at $1,000,000, you should consider a budget between $150,000 and $250,000 for a comprehensive kitchen renovation. This investment range allows for a detailed and high-quality remodel that enhances both the functionality and aesthetics of your kitchen, ensuring it aligns with the value and style of your home. At LEFF, we're committed to creating stunning, efficient kitchen spaces within this realistic budget framework, ensuring your remodel is an investment in both your home's value and your daily living experience.

39. What Is the Biggest Expense in a Kitchen Remodel?

The most significant expense in a kitchen remodel typically involves the cabinets, which can account for up to 35% of the total project cost. This highlights the importance of cabinetry not just for functionality but also as a central design element of your kitchen. At LEFF, we focus on providing cabinetry solutions that offer the best in both utility and aesthetic appeal, ensuring that this major investment enhances every aspect of your kitchen's look and feel.

40. Do Kitchen Renovations Pay Off?

Kitchen renovations are not only a means to refresh your home's look but also a smart financial investment. According to the National Association of Realtors, you can expect to recover about 70% to 75% of your kitchen renovation costs. However, the true value of a renovation extends beyond just the potential increase in resale price—it enhances your daily living experience and personal enjoyment of your home. At LEFF, we believe in creating spaces that offer both immediate satisfaction and long-term value, ensuring your kitchen renovation is a worthwhile investment in every aspect.

41. Why Are Bathroom Remodels So Expensive?

The cost of remodeling a bathroom reflects the complexity and intensity of the work involved. This includes skilled labor for plumbing and electrical work, the use of high-end materials and fixtures, and potentially reconfiguring the room's layout to suit your vision. These elements combine to make bathroom renovations one of the more costly home improvement projects. At LEFF, we ensure that this investment enhances both the functionality and elegance of your bathroom, providing lasting value and enjoyment.

42. Are Custom Builds More Expensive than Stock Plans? 

While purchasing pre-designed home plans can be quite economical, often around $1,000 they often do not include the civil and structural details needed to complete the build. Opting for a custom build typically incurs higher costs, usually between 10% and 15% of the total construction cost. This premium reflects the bespoke nature of the design and construction process, ensuring that every aspect of your home is tailored to your preferences and lifestyle. With LEFF, investing in a custom build means investing in a home that is uniquely yours, designed and constructed to meet your specific needs and aspirations.

43. If I go with Design-Build do I still need to pay for an Interior Designer?

In LEFF's design-build world, interior design isn't an afterthought— it's a cornerstone! We weave your style and functionality needs seamlessly into the building process, ensuring every space not only stands out architecturally but also resonates with you personally. Our interior designers do more than just beautify; they analyze your lifestyle and needs to strategically plan and structure your space. Meanwhile, our interior decorators focus on the aesthetics, selecting furniture, colors, and accessories that enhance the room's appeal. Designers sculpt your space's core; decorators embellish it with style.

Contract & Permit Related Questions

44. How Do Design-Build Contracts Work at LEFF?

Design-build contracts at LEFF are structured for simplicity and efficiency. As the owner, you'll have a single contract with us, establishing a singular point of responsibility. This approach means our designers and contractors collaborate closely from the start, working as a unified team to provide recommendations that align with your schedule and budget. This synergy ensures a coherent and cohesive process, with every team member focused on delivering a project that meets your expectations in terms of quality, time, and cost. 

45. What Is Included in a Design-Build Contract?

A design-build contract with LEFF encompasses several critical components to ensure a transparent and well-structured project process. This includes detailed insurance requirements to protect all parties involved, clear payment terms to outline financial aspects, explicit expectations of the contractor's responsibilities, and comprehensive project requirements to guide the project's scope and execution. Each element is meticulously detailed to provide clarity and confidence throughout the journey of creating your space.

46. What Do You Need a Permit for in Sonoma County?"

In Sonoma County, a building permit is essential for various construction activities, including building, enlarging, altering, removing, demolishing, or repairing a structure, which covers everything from residential homes and garages to commercial constructions and even installing signs. At LEFF, we understand the intricacies of local regulations and manage the permit process for you, ensuring that your project complies with all necessary legal requirements and allowing you to focus on the exciting aspects of your project's development.

47. How much work can you do without a contractor license in California?

In California, tackle small projects under $500 without a license, but for anything grander, call on LEFF's licensed pros! It's not just risky to work with an unlicensed contractor—it's against the law. It's a fast track to facing a judge with potential fines and jail time. Why risk it. With LEFF, rest assured you're getting top-notch, legal expertise every step of the way. We ensure your project not only meets but exceeds expectations. Big dreams require Big expertise.

48. Can you use someone else's contractor license in California?

Thinking of borrowing a contractor's license in California?
Think again! It's not just frowned upon—it's illegal. At LEFF, we stand by integrity, ensuring every project is backed by our legitimate, licensed experts.

49. How long is a contractor liable for remodel work in California?

Curious about contractor liability for remodels in California?
Here's the scoop: there's a 10-year overall limit, but specifics like plumbing, electrical, and pathways have a 4-year term. With LEFF, rest assured, we build with longevity in mind, ensuring your peace long beyond these limits through our post construction services programs. 

50. Who regulates contractors in California?

In California, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is the guardian of construction standards, licensing 285,000 pros across 45 classifications. At LEFF, we're proud to meet CSLB's rigorous standards, bringing you top-tier, trusted construction services.

51. What happens when a contractor fails to perform?

When a contractor drops the ball and leaves your project in limbo, it's more than frustrating—it's a breach of contract. They could be liable for any extra costs you face to finish the job. With LEFF, we promise steadfast commitment and performance from start to stunning finish.

Building Science Related Questions

52. What Is Sustainable Building Design?

Sustainable building design at LEFF is an integrated and holistic approach that aims to positively impact every phase of a building's life-cycle. This method involves making informed compromises and trade-offs to ensure that the structure is environmentally friendly, efficient, and sustainable over time. By focusing on sustainable design, we commit to reducing our ecological footprint while providing you with a home that is both innovative and in harmony with the environment. 

53. What Is the Difference Between Green Building and Sustainable Building?

The distinction between green and sustainable building lies in their scope and focus. Green building primarily concentrates on environmental aspects, aiming to minimize ecological impact. In contrast, sustainable building, as embraced by LEFF, adopts a more comprehensive approach, considering the triple pillars of sustainability: environmental integrity, social equity, and economic viability. This holistic focus ensures that our projects not only benefit the environment but also support the well-being of individuals and communities while being economically sound.

54. What Elements Are Required for Sustainable Building Design?

Sustainable building design at LEFF incorporates seven critical components: the use of environmentally friendly building materials, commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy, ensuring optimal indoor air quality, focusing on water efficiency, implementing waste reduction strategies, adhering to smart growth principles, and reducing toxic substances. These elements work together to create a building that not only serves its occupants but also respects and preserves the environment, aligning with our commitment to sustainable development and thoughtful living.

55. What Are the Pros and Cons of Building a Custom Home?

Building a custom home offers the significant advantage of creating a space that's uniquely yours in your chosen location, equipped with modern amenities and designed for lower maintenance costs. However, challenges can include finding suitable land and ensuring that you partner with a builder who provides high-quality workmanship to avoid future expenses. At LEFF, we're committed to delivering exceptional quality and personalized service, ensuring that your custom home journey is as rewarding and seamless as possible, from the ground up.

56. What Is Universal Design?

Universal design is an approach to creating environments and products that are inherently accessible to all people, regardless of age, ability, or status in life. At LEFF, universal design means crafting spaces that are not only beautiful and functional but also inclusive, ensuring ease of use and accessibility for everyone. This approach involves thoughtful consideration of various elements, such as wider doorways, no-step entries, and user-friendly controls and fixtures, to create a living environment that accommodates everyone's needs and promotes independence and comfort for all users.

57.Why Would LEFF Design Build Be the Right Choice for Me for a Remodel or a New Build? 

Choosing LEFF Design Build for your remodel or new build means selecting a partner committed to excellence, quality, and client satisfaction. Our full-service approach ensures that every aspect of your project, from initial design to final construction, is handled with meticulous attention to detail, innovative solutions, and a deep commitment to creating spaces that reflect your unique vision and lifestyle. With LEFF, you gain a dedicated team that combines expertise in both design and construction, ensuring a seamless, efficient, and enjoyable process whether you're transforming an existing space or creating a new one from scratch. No project is too large or too small for our team. We will find the Love in the Details no matter what size the project.