At Bicycle Bungalows we cut our teeth on remodeling existing early 1900’s bungalows while adding a lot of square footage at the back of the house. Our sweet spot is to take a neglected house that is in such condition that a normal person would deem it unrepairable and bring it back to better than original condition as much as budgets allow. We take a lot of pride in improving the neighborhood one house at a time. In fact, we have won the Houston Heights Association Community Improvement Award for Residential Remodels in two of the past three years. Four years ago we had a house that was one of three finalists.
Our remodeling focus is on whole house remodels with additions. We do need to have plans to be able to give an accurate estimate. If potential clients don’t have plans, we can recommend several designers and architects that are familiar with the neighborhood and the old houses as well as the historic commission requirements. Alternatively we can contract with a designer directly and assist with the design work and try to keep the project within the desired budget.
If the house is located within one of the historic districts, our founder, Bill Riley has had extensive experience working with the historic staff within the City of Houston’s planning department. Bill was the builder representative on the advisory committee for the proposed Historic Design Guidelines.
Once we have a good set of plans including the structural plans, we will work on the bid. There is a lot of work involved in coming up with an accurate estimate of the job costs. We require a full set of ¼”=1’scale drawings on paper as well as a set on pdf. We send the plans out to our trade partners for their cost estimates as well as being able to do takeoffs ourselves. Right now it is taking several weeks to get prices back from our partners due to the current workload. We provide an estimate showing each line item. This allows our customers to get a better feel for where the money is allocated.
With a remodel job, there are a lot of unknowns hidden under the house, within the walls or under the insulation. We feel that our experience with old Heights houses allows us to estimate our jobs closely and not have to approach the owners with large change orders for surprises. We don’t pad our estimates with a lot of contingencies as this would make us uncompetitive. We have not conducted a detailed analysis but would guess that we’ve rarely gone over 2% of budget with these surprises.
For items that the homeowner will be selecting, we set up allowances. These include Tile, Countertop materials, Flooring materials, Doors, Hardware, Glass and mirrors, landscaping. We try to accurately estimate how much the owner will need for these items based on earlier discussions or our experience. At the end of the job, we calculate how much was actually spent on allowance items against the budget and we either credit the final payment amount or issue a change order for the overage.
We use the Texas Association of Builders Fixed Price Remodeling Contract for the majority of our remodeling work. This contract is frequently updated to reflect the current state laws.
After the contract is signed and the budget is locked in, any changes in the work scope is handled with Change Orders. These are paid by the owners upon commencement of the extra work. This keeps the accounting with the lender much simpler. The majority of change orders are initiated by the owners.
We can assist owners that are getting bank financing with referrals of lenders that we’ve worked with and appeared to be good for the owners.
Draws are sent to the bank and owners no more frequently than twice a month, depending on the cash flow of the project. Draws are based on the work that has been completed at the time of the draw payment. We allow the owners to hold back 10% of the contract amount until substantial completion of the project.
We prefer to be able to remove everything down to the shiplap. If we do a project at a house that has a recently remodeled bath or kitchen and those spaces and supporting systems can be isolated, we will work around them.
We start by leveling the existing structure, replacing rotted or damaged beams and floor joists. If the exterior has a non-original covering such as asbestos tiles, aluminum or vinyl siding, we’ll remove that as well. Once the original house is leveled, we’ll build the new foundation for the addition to match the existing floor height. We frequently find that there is no subfloor below the hardwoods. We find it more cost effective to simply utilize the existing hardwoods as the new subfloor and lay new flooring on top. We don’t have to worry about trying to lace in wood where walls are moved.
The new addition is built similar to a new house. It is tied into the existing house as seamlessly as possible where it is usually not possible to see where the old house ends and the addition begins. After sheetrock, the hardwood floors are installed but not sanded. The trim carpenter installs cabinets, doors, trim. The tile setter tiles the wet location floors, tub and shower surrounds. Countertops are installed, backsplashes are tiled. The painters work off and on throughout the finishing stages and coordinates with the flooring contractor on timing for each to finish. There are a lot of moving parts to track and schedule.
Most of the large project take from six to eight months from when we have the permit until substantial completion when the owners can move in.
One of our core values at Bicycle Bungalows is to treat others as we wish we were treated. We are fair with our trade partners and do not squeeze them because we realize we need to maintain good relationships so they will be around the next time we need them. We do not gouge our homeowners on pricing and attempt to give them the best product for the money they are spending. We view our relationship as a partnership with each party striving for the same goal.