A Lesson on Product Selection

By Kent Eberle, CR, CKBR, Eberle Remodeling

In the design/build residential remodeling process, we act as the guide for our clients. As guides, we need to educate our clients about the merits and potential pitfalls of products, the cost of products, and the caveats of certain types of installations. It is our job to communicate our knowledge of specific products, thereby guiding our clients to feasible and proper installations, as well as those that are cost-effective. If we do our jobs in this regard, our guidance helps to create smooth-running projects with fewer changes during construction, timely project completions, and ultimately, satisfied clients.

Setting a budget

To help create client satisfaction, budget discussions should be a major focus at the beginning of the design/build process. If a client doesn’t have a budget that is compatible with their remodeling goals, then the project may not be feasible. It only follows, then, that it’s our job to educate the client as to what a reasonable cost is, based on the scope of the work. As we all know, the products chosen can easily double the cost of a project. In most cases, guiding our clients to an appropriate budget figure points back to product selection. We want to present our client with products that will make their project a reality, based on the money they ideally want to spend.

One of the most important and time-consuming components of a remodel process is identifying the products that will be utilized. Selecting all of the products before construction begins is absolutely the best way to ensure a smooth-running project for our clients. Educating clients about how the products perform is an integral part of the selection process. If clients are in the dark about the products they will use, we’re likely to hear about it later when the product doesn’t perform well or mesh well with adjacent products. Education also allows clients the opportunity to purchase products that will best serve them for many years to come. This process allows clients to learn the advantages and disadvantages of a given product, as well as any installation hurdles that might be involved as a result of their selections.

By providing product information to our clients, our company reaps the benefits in many ways, Our clients are knowledgeable about their selections, and not only about what the products are, but also how they perform. This reduces the time we have to explain about the features and installation of the products. There is really too much information out there today for clients to wade through it alone. Helping them interpret it expedites their decisions, leaves them with fewer questions, and keeps them more involved. This all saves time.

Product selection, in advance of construction, reduces “design-on-the-fly” too, which can cause scheduling nightmares, cost overruns, and stress for everyone involved. Remodel projects are ripe with the opportunity for aspects of the projects to change based on jobsite conditions. At the very least, knowing what products will be used from the outset of a project narrows the range of possible changes and allows for more detailed planning.

Our production staff has a much easier time when all products have been identified and ordered in advance. They can focus more on production and less on assisting with time-consuming product selections and figuring out how all of the products are going to blend together.

Product Selection Guide

At our company, we use a “Product Selection Information Guide.” We created this guide in-house and packed it with product information on the most frequently utilized products — from appliances to baseboards. It not only describes the products, but also includes our real life experiences with how these products perform based on years and years of working with them. This was a time-consuming endeavor, but once completed, the resulting guide was immediately useful and has continued to be essential to our process for many years with only occasional editing required.

The “Product Selection Information Guide” has several important components. First, the guide has a description about the purpose of the guide and a brief discussion about the relationship of product selection and design to their budget. Second, it has information sheets that allow for the client to fill out their desired selections on the various products. Third, it has information on some of the more commonly utilized products, and not on just what the products are, but also the properties of the product, uses, advantages and disadvantages, maintenance tips, and in many cases, cost information. Lastly, it has a shopping list of recommended suppliers with maps to those suppliers and hours of operation.

A project that proceeds smoothly on to the construction phase is the ultimate goal of the design and product selection process. The process starts with a realistic budget, and then our job as a design/build professional is to guide our clients toward the realistic budget figure by educating and assisting them with his or her product decisions. If we’ve done our job as a design/build professional, an unencumbered construction phase and a satisfied, educated client are the end results.

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