Remodeler’s Q&A, You do the shell and let me finish it myself

Q:  I would like to have a 20’x60′ workshop-storage building built.  I  just want someone to build a concrete slab with walls and a roof and let me finish the rest myself.  How do I select a builder?  Do I need a set of plans before I contact a builder?  Whose responsibility is it to make sure the building is in compliance with local building codes?

A:  There are so many things involved in this question that can’t be addressed within this space so we’ll just try to speak to a few of the larger issues.
When a builder obtains a permit for any structure, whether a home, office building or a storage building the builder is responsible for ALL of the work, the workers themselves and the workmanship of that project, until the governmental authority issues a certificate of completion or certificate of occupancy.  Therefore, the answer to one of your questions is that the contractor is responsible for adherence to the building codes.  However, one’s license, as a builder, is on the line every time a permit is issued with one’s license number on it.  We count on making a living for our family and the list of others that are depending on us includes our employees and their families and to some extent our subcontractors and suppliers.  When we, as contractor’s, obtain a permit we are required to hire licensed subcontractors for most work.  This includes, but may not be limited to: electrical, plumbing, heat and air conditioning, roofing, septic system, and gas.  To allow an unlicensed person, whether the Owner or any other worker, to work unsupervised, doing what they happen to want to do, while the entire time one’s contractor’s license may hang in the balance, would be foolhardy, not to mention a violation of the license holder’s responsibilities.  Pulling a permit and allowing others to work under that permit without participating in the supervision and construction of that project is called “selling ones license” and is a gross violation of license law.  Recently a prospective client told me he had almost hired another person but the guy told the owner that he should obtain the permits.  If anyone that is supposed to be licensed asks you to “pull the permit” it means they do NOT have a valid license, they do NOT have current insurance to meet the minimum insurance requirements or both.  In short they are not a contractor, they are a fraud.

We always inform prospective clients that without a completed set of plans any discussion of their project is mostly conjecture.  To give just one example, it’s very difficult for me to ask a roof truss designer to commit to a cost for the roof until he can ascertain what he being asked to build.  A completed set of plans includes, at a minimum, a floor plan, elevations, roof plan, foundation plan, electrical plan, site plan and a wall section all drawn to a common scale.  One quarter inch equals one foot is the most commonly used residential scale. (1/4″=1′)  No one knows what you want to build until a set of plans are finished.

At this point you know that you must have a set of plans and that it should be very difficult for you to find a licensed builder that would obtain a permit and let you do a lot of illegal work.  So, what can you do?  State law allows the homeowner to obtain their own permit and act as their own contractor on their own home.  There are a monumental number of pitfalls to being you own contractor that you may wish to consider prior to taking this leap into the unknown, but it is do-able and not as complicated rocket science.  Mostly it involves those guidelines you would use when you hire a professional or make major purchases, meaning for you to be a good consumer.  That means you should be a cautious and well informed consumer that thoroughly checks out anyone before they perform any work.  As contractors we hear that someone is licensed and insured only to find that instead of state licensed, for the trade we are discussing, it turns out they have a driver’s license and car insurance.  Go on line to and check out licenses.  And when someone hands you a copy of their insurance certificate, thank them and then immediately, and before that do any work, call that insurance company and ask for an official copy of that insurance.  An invalid, forged, cancelled or out of date policy is difficult to detect just by looking at a copy, so be judicious and protect yourself.  And remember, just because someone is properly license and reasonably insured doesn’t mean they do even minimally acceptable work.  You wouldn’t buy a $5,000.00 used car without seeing it, driving it and having a mechanic check it out so don’t hire a building contractor, concrete man, painter, carpenter, electrician, etc. without checking out their work.  Check their work, check their references, check their licenses, check their credit and check anything else if you can before you sign a contract.  Always get a written contract so everyone knows exactly what will be done for exactly what price.  No one wants to hear any more stories of someone giving out 50% of the cost of a job to a stranger and getting almost nothing in return before the stranger vanishes, so think long and hard about handing out your money.  At this point it has happened so many times everyone should be aware.



Kip Carpenter, 2016 Chairman TBA Remodelers Council

Carpenters Construction Co., Inc., 29th Year

Aurora Award Winner 2013 and

2 Remodeler Showcase Awards 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016

Since 2004 Leon’s 1st Certified-Aging-in-Place-Specialist



President’s Jefferson and Madison

Q: I was observing a house remodeling project.  It’s a major overhaul of an older home, and it seems they’re recreating it or creating a new house from it.  My friend said that this was a new American trend, unlike simple additions of the past.  Is that accurate?

A:  On a trip to Charlottesville Virginia, years ago, while following our Seminoles, we discovered your answer.   We had the opportunity to tour both Montpelier, the home of 4th President James Madison and Monticello, the home of 3rd President Thomas Jefferson.  Montpelier and Monticello are the names of these homesteads in Virginia.

During Mr. Madison’s second term of office he undertook to greatly expand the simple two story box he inherited from his family.  Building two wings on either side and moving the entrance to the new center, his remodeled home pleased him with its size, interior appointments and utility of use, but he found its appearance distressing.  In one of the many communications he had with his close friend Mr. Jefferson, he confided that although the home was solid, the inability to match the bricks of a different era left a most unappealing, mismatched exterior.  This may have been during one of the many trips he and his wife Dolley took to visit at the Jefferson’s home.  They visited so often, in fact, that one of the rooms at Monticello is known as the “Madison” bedroom.

Former President Jefferson had the answer, because it wasn’t only art, artifacts and furniture that Mr. Jefferson had returned with from Europe, he also had the formula for ice cream (thank you Mr. Jefferson) and stucco.  The mixing of chalky limestone material along with the Davidson red clay of the Piedmont area, resulted in a peachy pink stucco that covered all the mismatched brick of the exterior.  Apparently, before the stucco was hard, they took a joining tool, used to scrap the mortar joints between bricks, and drew lines in the drying material.  These lines form rectangles, 3-4 ft. wide and about a foot tall.  So from the exterior, it would appear that Montpelier was built of large slabs of stone, when in fact it’s stucco over brick to turn the mismatched brick into a beautifully remodeled exterior.  We call this, turning lemons into lemonade today.

Mr. Jefferson had started his home, prior to his five year tour of duty in France, as trade commissioner.  Upon his return, Mr. Jefferson undertook as you put it, to recreate a home from the original.  The new home, was massively larger, architecturally distant and totally different from the humble beginnings of years earlier.

Today, as we look at a photograph of “Monticello” and view the interior beset with chair rail, crown moldings, interior port hole windows, pocket doors, triple hung windows, dumb waiters, a cupola, labyrinths of passages under and through the main house, we must concede, as Remodelers, we aren’t blazing any new trails today.

However, it does confirm that those of us committed to Professional Remodeling are following in the footsteps of, and in the finest traditions of, our forefathers.

Just one man’s opinion.



Kip Carpenter, Leon’s 1st Certified-Aging-in-Place-Specialist
Carpenters Construction Co., Inc., 27th Year
Aurora Award Winner 2013 and
2 Remodeler Showcase Awards 2013 & 2014