Questions (FAQs) ...
long have you been in business?
Limited was founded in 1986. We have been at our current location for the
past ten years. Cornerstone Limited has several hundred “built” projects in
the Santa Clara Valley.
kind of work do you do?
The only work we do is single family residential. We do not pursue or design any
commercial projects. Existing homes make up the vast majority of the projects we design; although in a typical year we do design several “ground up” new
of the remodeled homes we have designed really are “new” homes in terms of
their function and appearance; they just retain a few rooms that existed before.
There are many examples of these projects you may see in the photo album portion of
my project be too big or too small for your company?
work that we have done over the years runs from one end of the spectrum to the
other. We have designed interior-only bath and kitchen remodels at the small
end. On the larger end of the scale we have designed remodels and new homes that
were over 5000 square feet when completed. The vast majority of the work that we do falls between these two extremes.
typical remodel we are asked to design might include an upgraded and expanded
kitchen, often with an island. Additional space may be added to the family room/
eating area. The project often includes an expansion of the master bedroom to
create a more spacious suite with an updated bath and walk-in closet.
have designed dozens of remodels of this scope many of which may include second floor additions.
you have a specific “style” that you do?
No. The style of a home should be a reflection of the personality of the
people that will build and inhabit it. The design must respond to the needs and wants of the people who will
exterior design of a remodeled home should demonstrate an awareness of the
surrounding neighborhood. This is not to say that a design must be in lock step
with the status quo, but rather should employ enough context-sensitive elements
so as not to be a jarring departure from its surroundings. In general a well-conceived design should be a good neighbor, not so
far removed as to “snub” others, while still having the confidence to
tastefully depart from what otherwise may be pedestrian.
much will my design cost?
is always a difficult question. Each project we design is unique. Each design is a response to the needs
and wants of the client. In addition, the design must comply with the constraints presented by the
existing house, property, budget, and the city or municipality where your home
some respects, creating a design is a bit like going to the grocery store. You
go up and down the aisles and select which items will go into your cart. When
you are done at the check-out stand, the total is a direct result of the
decisions that were made as you made your individual selections. At the risk of
oversimplification, similar logic applies to remodeling. The more complicated your design, the
greater the design fee and the greater the construction cost. Our fees are
structured on an hourly basis, so that the final price of the design is a direct
reflection of the amount of effort required to create it.
your fees a percentage of the construction cost?
No. Although there is a relationship between the cost of construction and the
cost of the design effort, the relationship between the two is not fixed. If the design fee is based on the cost of construction, then there is an
incentive to specify more expensive items. In short there is the potential for a
conflict of interest.
you wanted floor tiles that were solid gold, this would make for a very
expensive home. If you wanted floor tiles that were clay, the cost would be
considerably more modest. It takes no more effort to specify gold tiles than the
clay, so why would the fee to specify the tiles differ? Again an
oversimplification, but it serves to illustrate.
on typically-sized projects the cost of the design falls within the 4% to 6% range
with respect to the cost of construction.
minimum design charge for any completed design, no matter how simple, is
$1500.00. This is the lowest amount that will allow us to stay in business. The
design fees for most projects we do are typically double this or more.
if I want to make changes?
we employ CAD for the production of the drawings, making changes is much simpler
and costs less than if we were to draw our plans by hand. In general the earlier
in the design process changes are made, the simpler and cheaper they are to
make. Our design process is organized to minimize the need to make modifications
later in the development of the design; however the ability for the client to
make changes is always available at any time.
if I ask for something that is really difficult, or expensive.
general the client is in control of what goes into the design. If there is a
suggestion made by a client that will really drive up the cost, be difficult to
build, or seems inappropriate in the context of the overall concept, these
things will be pointed out. A discussion will ensue and potential alternatives will be suggested.
Ultimately the client has the final say about what he or she wants, and is willing to
second floor additions more expensive?
general second floor additions are more expensive than ground level additions.
This depends on several factors. Often second floor additions are larger
that first floor additions. This is necessary to create the additional space on both floors and to locate the
stairs. Another factor is the need for second floors to be large enough
to look good on the house. No one wants some box that was plunked on.
the city where you live will have regulations that govern where a second floor may be placed on your home, and how large it can be. Probably the most
important factor that causes a second floor addition to be more expensive is the
need to provide earthquake bracing (shear walls). These shear walls will be required at several locations under the
proposed addition and may require new foundations. Some may occur in rooms that
otherwise would not be affected by the remodel. The Bay Area is in seismic zone
4 , where virtually all additions, except for the most modest one-story structures,
require structural engineering that include the implementation of shear wall systems.
often cost the same, or even more, than above-ground square footage. Access to
the site is a much bigger factor, as heavy equipment is needed for excavation.
One significant benefit of a basement is the fact that this floor area is often
not counted as “living space” or “floor area” in some municipalities. In
addition, a basement preserves yard area which may otherwise be covered. Similar
to a second floor, a space for stairs is needed at both floors.
basement under a new addition can make sense. A new basement under an existing
house, although possible, is much more complex.
much will the construction cost?
are as many different answers to this question as there are contractors. We have
all heard that construction costs$150 or $250 or $300 per square foot, or some other number. These numbers are all
generalizations. They can be helpful in creating a basic understanding of
typical costs for a given period of time in a specific area. Square footage
prices should never be relied upon for final decision making. The only accurate per square foot price for a project is known at the
time the final check for that project is written. This per “square foot
price” is only valid for that project at that time.
honest, competent contractors have minimum costs which must be met in order to
remain profitable, and stay in business. The only way to get an accurate price
from a contractor is to provide accurate information to them. This is why a good
set of documents is so critical.
can I know I am staying on budget?
process we recommend is very straight forward. Create enough information for the
contractor in the form of a preliminary plan, so that they can develop a cursory
price information you get will not be perfect, but it is a starting point. The
degree of accuracy can be enhanced by getting your own prices on things such as
cabinets, and appliances, plumbing fixtures and the like. The objective of this
method is not to get a final price. That can only be accomplished with a final
plan. The reason to go through this exercise is to get enough information to be
able to decide if the project is within the budget range that is acceptable to
you. This will give you the confidence to move forward with final drawings, or
enough knowledge to modify the design to better fit your budgetary constraints. Although preliminary plans will cost some money, they are the best
vehicle available to convey the nature and scope of your remodeling objectives. A preliminary plan provides a tool that a contractor can utilize to
quantify the work, and develop a price.
beauty of preliminary plans is that they are easy and inexpensive to modify to
an alternate design. The information gathered about the existing house
is still very valuable, should you decide to move forward at a later date. There
is no minimum fee for the preliminary design process.
do we get started?
best way to start is for us to set an appointment to meet together at your home.
This will allow me to understand many aspects of the pending project that are
impossible to get over the phone.
example: what is the style of the existing home, both interior and exterior. The
neighborhood context. How will the addition and remodeling we discuss fit within
the current surroundings. How old is your home, and how is it constructed? How big is your home , how does it fit on you property?
you can see there are many questions that can be answered by a visit.
should be at the meeting?
general all the decision makers should be at the meeting. This allows our
dialogue to be productive. It insures that everyone that will be involved in the
decision making process has input from the beginning and that no important
considerations are forgotten.
you charge for the first consultation?
general there is no charge for the initial consultation. The exception to this
rule is a situation where the client does not own the property, and is
considering making a purchase based on feasibility. In that circumstance a
consultation fee would apply.
happens at the initial consultation?
is primarily an opportunity to meet and have a discussion about the objectives
you have for your project, the anticipated budget, time frame, etc.
most important reason for our meeting is for me to listen, and try to understand
what you are trying to accomplish.
can then respond with a general impression regarding feasibility, and perhaps
make suggestions about your ideas, and alternatives I may see. This process usually take 1½ to 2 hours.
you have additional questions, or if you are prepared to set an appointment at
this time please call or email the office and we will arrange a time to get
together. If needed I can usually arrange an evening appointment time. I do not make weekend appointments, so I can spend time with my family.