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The Process

1st step: Plan on having a good time

Plan on enjoying the process. Though many, if not most, people find that remodeling their home can be a challenge, many also find that it can be a fun process. A process that can bring personal satisfaction.

Yes, your contractor will take on the dirty, technical, grimy, day to day efforts to bring your dreams and ideas to fruition. But you, as the homeowner should plan on being involved in the process.

Example of a large transitional home design design in San Francisco
Large transitional home design photo in San Francisco

2nd step: Do some homework


The State of California offers helpful information to homeowners looking to remodel or build new. You can contact the state at the Contractor’s State Licensing Board for more information by calling 800-321-CSLB.

The process will include design, drawings, permits, and inspections.

Depending on the type and size of the project it may also involve the services of an engineer and testing laboratories.

When asked about the cost of a project, many contractors will quote the current, general, square footage cost for construction. Because the general concept is that’s what a General Contractor does. Then when the homeowner gets into the process they find that there are other costs that they had not planned on. Typically architectural, design, engineering, testing services, and others, are not included in an off the cuff estimate of a project.


Costs are costs. There is no magic wand that can work miracles. It is true that one company will be able to do a project for a little more or less than another. But, generally, a project will cost what it will cost. If you are finding that the estimates are generally around a particular range do not go with a company that is incredibly lower than what you are finding is the “norm”.

If you are finding that the general cost is beyond your budget then it would be best to postpone the project until you have secured more funding.


Have some ideas of what you would like your project to look like when complete. Traditional? Contemporary? These are often used terms but they can both be defined by a vast array of products.

Many people stroll through the isles of hardware stores. Some people do their research online. Either way, make some notes. If you see a home improvement magazine rack with magazines by companies such as Sunset or Ortho thumb through the books that relate to the various aspects of your project. If you see an idea, or product, you like then buy the book so you can be specific when you are explaining what you are looking for in a product. If you see something online then print out the page and picture for future reference. Keeping in mind copyright laws and how they apply to what you are doing. Many companies like you to download pictures and information about their product with the hope that you will specify it in your project.

3rd step: Interview some prospective contractors

Make sure they have the ability and experience to meet your needs.

Do you have drawings? A design? A general concept?

Some contractors do construction only. Many of these contractors will not even pick up the permit or be present when the inspector arrives. Expecting the homeowner to deal with this part of the process. Some leave purchase and delivery of appliances, plumbing and electrical fixtures, windows and doors, among other supplies, up to the homeowner.

Then, there are others who assist in design, drawings, permits, inspections, choice of materials and the scheduling of their delivery. Up to and including carpet and drapes if you like.

Matthew W. Johnson, General Contractor is this type of contractor. Matthew W. Johnson, General Contractor takes an active part of the entire process. From the initial visit, to measuring, design, engineering, permits, inspections, all the way through completion.

4th step: Choose your contractor

Do not choose your contractor based on price only.

Consider how your personalities worked in the initial interviews. Realize that this relationship may last several months. You may have contact with this person on a daily basis. You do not want to have to deal with someone with whom your personality clashes.

Huge transitional home design photo in San Francisco

Contractors who choose not to deal with the building departments probably have a reason for it. Typically building departments require the name and policy number of a contractor’s workman’s compensation insurance. They also typically require a statement of license. If he does not want to deal with the building department he may not be properly insured. That means that if someone is injured on your project you are responsible for the medical fees and other aspects of a worker’s safety. He may not be properly licensed. His license may have been revoked. Or his license may be in suspension.

If the deposit required by the contractor is beyond that prescribed by law, $1000.00 maximum regardless of project size, then he probably has a reason. Perhaps it is because he can’t get credit as a result of a bankruptcy. Or, because he does not pay his bills on time. If he does not pay his bills, the suppliers, workers, sub-contractors, and others, can take your house for payment.

Note that Diamond Certified maintains current records of a contractor’s license, worker’s compensation insurance, and liability insurance status. They also maintain customer feedback and require a high percentage of customer approval for a company to remain Diamond Certified.

You can see how Matthew W. Johnson, General Contractor, who is in their 19th year of certification, qualifies and other customer feedback at;

Inspiration for a large transitional home design remodel in San Francisco

5th step: Remain involved

Ask to see the permit card and the approved drawings. Ask when the inspections typically happen. Though similar, required inspections differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The inspections required by the jurisdiction you live in will be listed on the back of the card. At the end of the project obtain the permitted set of drawings and the “finalized” permit card. Sometimes an inspector will forget to enter the inspection in his copy at the office and you may be required to have that inspection completed, at additional charge, years after the project is over if you can not show that it was performed.

If you are to supply products or services make sure they are enumerated clearly in the contract. Including when they are to happen. And then make sure it happens when it needs to. Whether it is the delivery of a refrigerator or the services of a testing laboratory.

Stay on top of your part of the project. Order faucets or appliances early so they will have arrived by the time they are needed. If they are delayed where they interrupt “the flow” of a project unexpected delays can be the result. Along with disappointment and, in some instances, increased cost to you, the homeowner.

Awards & Affiliations

Best of Houzz 2024 - Client Satisfaction
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Best of Houzz 2021 - Client Satisfaction
Best of Houzz 2020 - Client Satisfaction
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Best of Houzz 2017 - Client Satisfaction
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