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contracting a studio

updated wed 24 may 06


Dukkie on tue 23 may 06

I received some e-mails asking about the studio I'm having built:
> May I ask where you are building and how you got the design?
> We would love to build into the hill of the property we have
> but we don't know where to start on finding how, who, where, etc...
> I understand if you don't want to share. Good luck with the move!

Thank you for the questions, it helped me realize I'm having some
experiences that might help someone who is thinking of building a studio.
For years I have used the archives of clayart to learn so many things. It
has been a priceless resource for me. Maybe I can help, as I have been

We are building into the side of a hill. 24=92 x 30=92 with 8=92 walls. It w=
be similar to the diagram on pg. 29 of "Building a Multi-Use Barn" by John
D. Wagner. Some modifications have been made for the studio being dug into
the ground. It=92s kind of like a walkout basement without the main floor on=

top. The back wall is all-concrete and the front wall will be all lumber.
On the sidewalls the lower part that has ground contact is concrete and the
rest of the height will be built in lumber. At the top on the hill all that
will be visible is a door entrance (to the loft) in the gable roof. The
actual entrance is at the bottom of the walkout. It will have a regular
shingle roof. Drawing a picture is so much easier. I hope my description is

I am using the book "Building a Multi-Use Barn" by John D. Wagner and I
hired a contractor. It will be some $30-35,000. My husband and I built my
last studio, so this time we decided to hire someone else to build the
shell and we would finish the interior when we had time and money. I'm so
glad we decided to contract because now I'm pregnant and wouldn't have been
able to help him very much. (Unexpected but we have been try for 7 years,
so God bless.)

I called a few local businesses, paint stores and lumber stores. Not Lowe=92=
or Home Depot, local stores where local contractors buy their supplies. I
had them recommend 3 general contractors each. That way they don't feel so
uncomfortable or responsible/liable if something goes wrong. I called each
of the recommendations and set individual appointments to get free estimate
for the project.

During the appointment I showed them what I needed, wanted and didn't want
and listened to and learned from their suggestions. I paid attention to the
type of people they were and if they listened to me. Some of them I just
personal preferred not to work with based on the meeting. Maybe it's my
loss but we have instincts for a reason. When I received their estimates,
some had included things I had told them specifically that I would do. I
will be doing the interior work so why was =93drywall=94 and =93ceiling fans=
lights=94 included in the estimate? Maybe they forgot, or maybe they didn't
listen. Both are things that are important.

Some of them came and learned about the project and declined to do the job,
too big, too small, not my field of experience. That saved us both a lot of
time and I respected them for saying so. If they had time I would talk to
them about their suggestion for the project and learn from them. Also I
would pay attention to which they said did good work or suggested I might
want to steer shy of or those they knew made good/honorable bids.

Then I looked at the prices. Contractors told me to knock off the most
expensive and the cheapest. The most expensive because you don't always get
what you pay for. The cheapest because they might be under bidding just to
get the job and will get you later. Remember this is an estimate not a bid.
An estimate price can go up or down. There is a BIG difference. For a
project like this I don't think you can get a bid.

Get it in writing!!! What the contractor will do and not do and for what
price. Personally I really appreciated it when the estimate was broken down
into parts, concrete lumber, building lumber, concrete, excavation work,
labor, windows, siding, shingles, etc. Then I could see where the money was
going and compare to other bids.

Of the 12 names I started with, 9 made appointments. The other 3 never
returned my call. 3 said "no thank you" at or after the appointment. Of the
6 left only 3 gave me bids. The other three never bothered to write, call,
e-mail, nothing. They just never bothered. Most contractors said that a 50%
return was better than I should have expected. I think it was kind of rude,
but every field has it's "expected" rude. (When was the last time you when
to a music gig and the band started on time or with in 10 mins of on time.
But that is another story.) Oh, don't be surprised to pay 10% or something
at the start of the project.

I have hired my contractor. He and I are working together very well. Yes
there are problems but we work them out, and most times he brings things to
my attention before they become problems.