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Q&A With Ron Enge

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“I have been in this industry more than 40 years and I enjoy all phases of construction, from excavation to fine finish carpentry. Along the way, my projects have included retail store tenant finish, cabinetry, and commercial project management. I limit the number of homes I build each year to ensure high quality and close attention to detail. Today’s trend toward smaller, more cost-efficient homes still leaves a lot of room for personalized detail and craftsmanship.”

 

Ron Enge, Founder and President Summit Custom Homes of Durango, Inc.

About Ron Enge and Summit Custom Homes

Tell Us About You and Summit Custom Homes of Durango

I started Summit Custom Homes in 1978 in Durango.  Previous to this, for 3 years, the business name was Ron Enge Builders in West Bend, Wisconsin.  So I’ve been doing this 38 years, not counting growing up in my Dad’s Building business.  I have a BS degree in Industrial Education, and taught vocational industrial arts for 3 years.  I started out building large custom homes, and in 1981 started CF Cabinets & Equipment, building over 90 Rocky Mountain Chocolate stores throughout the entire US, until 1989 when we moved back to WI for 7 years where I was involved in Commercial Construction, building Banks, Libraries, offices, nursing homes, public works projects.  I returned to Durango in 1996 to return to my passion of custom home building.

How many homes have you built in the past year?

In the past year – one home completed, three presently under construction, four remodels/additions.

In the past three years – two homes completed, eight remodels/additions.

In the past five years –  seven homes completed, eight remodels/additions.

Are you licensed and registered as a home builder

I have a city of Durango Business License #230148.  There is no Colorado State Contractor Licensing. I am a long time member of the local builders association, the Colorado Assn of Home Builders, and the National Association of Home Builders.  I am an NAHB Certified Green Professional, (CGP) and a Graduate Master Builder, (GMB) and an Energy Star Builder Partner.

Are you a member of any home builder associations now or in the past

I am a long time member of the local builders association (NAHB), the Colorado Assn of Home Builders (CAHB), and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). I am an NAHB Certified Green Professional, (CGP) and a Graduate Master Builder, (GMB) and an Energy Star Builder Partner. I attend the NAHB International Builders Conference every year. (This year was in Las Vegas,  January 2013)

Why Choose Summit Custom Homes

How do you compare with other builders?

We are considered to be equal or better than the top 6 or 7 highest quality builders in Durango. We have won first place awards for all 6 of our parade of homes entries since our first one in 2005.  We will find out the judging results of our current 2012 home on October 25th.

Why are your prices higher/lower than your competitors?

We do the complete design “in-house” and at a substantial discounted rate, by packaging the design and the entire building project.   One major reason our building costs are lower because we have our own excavation equipment and “self-perform” this very important phase.  This allows us to control the costs and give you a bid amount for all of the earthwork, utilities, driveway, etc. so you will not have a huge cost overrun that is typical with having this as a Time&Materials allowance.  We also are a “small builder” with lower overhead than most.  We have a small (but professional) office for myself, Bonnie (our office manager) and Carl (our jobs supervisor)

Why should we choose you to design and construct our new home?

Because I promise that we will do a great job for you and you will love living in a home designed and build by Summit Custom Homes.

Why is your design better?

We do a complete design/build starting with your lot analysis/site planning.  We use a design team, consisting of myself (the Builder), Susanne, (the professional interior designer) and Don Ford (the Registered Architect) and yourself (the Owner).  We do it all in-house and at a substantial discounted rate as an “in” to the entire building project package.

Why is your construction better?

We keep up with and follow all of the latest green building practices, and the latest new “building science” practices.  I am still a “hands on” builder, not just a “paper” contractor.  I drive a pick-up with my hammer and level in the cab.  I make sure I have the final oversight of all of our trade’s performance and workmanship.  They don’t get paid until I personally inspect their work. I concern myself with the details of all aspects of the building process.  This is done through daily (almost hourly) communication with my jobs supervisor, and all email correspondence flowing through my desk. All of our subcontractors are experienced professionals with licenses, certifications and both Liability and Workers Comp insurance.

How might the overlap of your other projects affect our project?

We are set up for having 3 to 4 houses going simultaneously, as long as the schedules are phased by at least 1 month. There will be no adverse effect on your project due to other work that we have going at the same time.

Summit Custom Homes Design Process

What is your process to arrive at final design?

1. You will be asked to fill out a design questionnaire.

2. An initial meeting with our design team.

3. Conceptual floor plans will be developed at the same time as a conceptual site plan.

4. Preliminary stake-out of the home within the building envelope.

5. Cost/budget analysis of the preliminary design including site work.

6. Developing floor plans, elevations, 3-d modeling, foundation plan. Exterior finish selections.

7. Update cost/budget – Owner’s approval.

8. Submission to relavent subdivision design review committee.

9. Development of final permit set plans.

10. Development of door and window schedules, cabinet details, engineering details.

Typically this takes a minimum of 6 weeks and as long as 3 months, depending on the construction commencement schedule.

Who will you use for the exterior and interior design of our home?

Our Design Team, as described above. If a third party can you provide some information on these people? How will we meet them and work with them? You will meet them at our initial meeting (hopefully face-to-face) After that, all of our communication can be done via email, including links to web sites, and sending plans back and forth.

What is your process for choosing the design selections and how is this done when we live 500 miles from Durango?

That is where Susanne, our professional interior designer comes in. Most of our building clients live away, so we are used to transmitting selection info back and forth via, web site links, scanned documents, email, text, and transmitting photos. Fed Ex or Snail mail is the last option. If you can plan a visit, we can personally take you to our supplier’s showrooms, so you can also select things in person.

Please tell us about the drainage aspects of the building site and how will you account for this in your design?

This is handled in the development of the site plan. In the mountains, and on sloped lots, usually the surface runoff is easily diverted away from the house by the use of swales and berms. Often the swales are lined with river rocks to create a “dry creek” landscape element that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional. Roof runoff that would normally fall on a deck, sidewalk, or driveway, will be conveyed using gutters and downspouts that are freeze protected with heat-tape.

What do you feel is the best foundation type for this project?

We recommend a poured concrete stem wall/crawlspace (insulated/unvented/conditioned air) with an engineered wood floor system. For a second home that is left unattended for periods of time, we do not recommend radiant in floor heat in a concrete slab. A conditioned air crawl space allows us to control moisture and indoor air quality with the use of a forced air heating system.

What are the key energy saving features we should consider?

We will build the home to the NAHB National Green Building Standard, and energy star rated standards. The main energy saving component of these standards include 2 lb.,, closed cell Polyurethane spray foam insulation, conditioned attic (unventilated, and conditioned Crawl (as described above) Low “U-factor” Low E, energy star rated windows, High efficient HVAC, energy star rated appliances, and low energy lighting.

Tell us about any new trends in home design that your designers feel we should consider?

The trends in design are leaning more and more to contemporary / modern. For years we have been able to mix contemporary features with the rustic look typical to the mountains. (rustic contemporary). Lately, were seeing less rustic and more modern – often spilling over to the exterior design with cantilevered, angled components, larger expanses of glass, steel railings, exposed structural concrete & exposed structural steel. Modern light fixtures. However, this is all a matter of the owner’s taste, and in fact “eclectic” more describes the current design trends. I define eclectic as a mix & match (anything goes) using extreme and different design styles of components placed right next to each other. In our parade of homes model this year, we had crystal chandeliers in the adjacent room of our wood beamed great room, with natural stone and poured concrete mantled wood burning fireplace. The use of rusted metal corrugated siding is a popular rustic/ contemporary feature that is extremely popular in our area. Some people love it, some hate it. I personally think, if it is placed properly and used more as an accent, can be quite appealing. It is very functional when used on the lower perimeter (wainscoting) of the sides of the house that snow piles up against the walls, as an alternative to the more expensive stonework that gives a similar protection.

Can you provide rough sketches, both exterior and interior, a floor plan, a suggested specific building site on our property and the home orientation before we choose a builder?

I am going to be walking the lot/ and taking pictures again, this week, and would be able to share my ideas with you after that. I also will be discussing with you my thoughts on designing the home with universal design techniques that allow for “aging-in-place”. Future elevator space is a good idea, but we also highly recommend not having the garage on a lower level to the main living area. You can still get some efficiency in construction costs by having a “bonus room” above the garage.

Summit Custom Homes Construction Process

Who will do the actual construction and who will oversee it?

I, personally, am the project manager, managing all aspects of the building process. Carl Heide is the job’s supervisor, managing on-site supervision, schedules, coordination of material deliveries, and coordination of the subs and tradesmen on site. Bonnie Hood is my administrative assistant and office manager. She handles reception duties, inter office communications, accounts payable, subcontractor agreements, and accounts receivables (bank draws). We self-perform, with myself and our own staff, some aspects of the actual construction on site. The main phase that we do in-house, is the site-work, earthwork (excavation/backfill/grading), utilities, and driveway. Most of the other phases are performed by our experienced and professional sub-contractors. We require all tradesmen to have full insurance certificates on file with us, before setting foot on the job.

Tell us about the quality control measures you use during the construction process. Do you use 3rd party inspectors? How many times and at what points?

Carl or I will visit (supervise and inspect) the job every day. We insist on compliance to all codes, plans, specifications, and our sub-contractor agreement. LaPlata County Building Inspectors will be performing all of the required inspections, culminating in the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy. The home will be enrolled in the Energy Star Program which requires periodic inspections from the 3rd party Energy Star Rater. He will also do the 3rd party “blower door” leakage testing and certification of the HERS rating for the home.

How can we be sure the home is completely code compliant? HOA compliant?

HOA compliant will be assured through the approval of the design by the subdivision’s Design Review Committee.

In what areas do you exceed code to ensure better livability, longer home life, lower maintenance or lower energy costs?

We follow the strict compliance of the Energy Star Program, which exceeds code in all aspects. We also follow the NAHB Green Building Guidelines and building science techniques that exceed the building codes.

About Costs, Estimates and Payments

Tell us about your cost estimating procedure, how it is done, what it means, what is included and what is not? Tell us about your change procedure, how is it done?

I use a Microsoft Excel based estimating program, developed by the NAHB, Estimator Pro. I have used if for at least 12 years. It is customized to my process. It develops a line item cost breakdown that becomes an exhibit to the building contract and is used by the bank as the guideline for the progress draws. This program allows me to do line item preliminary estimates for budget/design consulting during the design process, so that we can accurately estimate any design options that your architect is having you consider, that will help in your design decisions.

We plan to finance this home and need to understand what kind of payment schedules you need.

Our payment schedules are variable as needed, usually coinciding with completion of major phases. Ex: Draw #2 -after excavation. Draw #3 after foundation. Draw #4 After backfill and Lumber delivery. Draw #5 -after framing, etc. Usually about every 3 to 4 weeks.

Tell us about the kind of contract we will have with you. How and when are payments made?

We only do “lump sum” contracts. The variable portions within the contract are treated as Allowances. The allowances are usually for items that vary, based on the owner’s selections during the building construction after the contract is executed: Ex: Flooring selections, Lighting, appliances, Cabinets, Tile, Countertops, etc. The contract will be a “bottom Line” total bid cost. We are saying that we will build your house as per the plans, specifications, cost breakdown, and contract for a fixed dollar amount. Ex: $750,000.00.

What documentation will you provide for each payment?

The Bank Draw Request Form, The Cost Breakdown showing which line items are to be drawn with this draw request. Back up (copies to owner and bank)of all invoices from subs or suppliers that will be paid by this draw. Waiver of lien for the work to date of what is included in this draw.

Is an initial deposit required? If so how much?

A deposit of 5% of the building contract is made with the signing of the contract and in Draw #1 as soon as the construction loan is funded. Usually in the 1st draw is also the payment for the building permit, which precedes “breaking ground”.

Do you monitor costs and continuously update the final cost estimate as things change?

This is done within the format of each bank draw request, which always shows the adjusted balance on contract after each draw.

How do we avoid overruns?

You are not responsible for any overruns or price increases that are covered in the bid amount of the contract. If you have requested changes to the plans or specs that will add extra cost to the contract, a change order will be executed, delineating the cost of the change, plus the associated contracting fee (15%) and will be added to the contract amount. With regard to the Allowance items; as long as you select items that do not exceed the budgeted amount of the Allowance Cost Breakdown line item, you will not have an overrun. If the selections result in a lower cost than the Allowance amount, the difference, including the associated reduction of the contracting fee (15%), will be credited to you and the contract will be reduced by that amount.

Tell us about any warranties you provide. Are they in house or third party?

The “bumper-to-bumper” warranty is for a period of 1 year from occupancy. This is a combination of supplier, products, subcontractor’s warranties, along with our in-house warranty. Along with the contract, you will receive a copy of our “limited warranty” that is endorsed by the NAHB. You will also receive the consumer reference edition of the NAHB “Residential Construction Performance Guidelines”

When does construction begin and when will it be completed?

Breaking Ground can usually take place within 3 weeks of the completed “permit set” of the plans.  This allows for signing contracts, and building permit application.  Our construction duration times vary greatly depending on timing of the phases and the season.  If we start your home on March 15th (the earliest date to avoid extra winter-protection costs),we can have it completed for occupancy in 9 months.  Because of a winter completion, some of the exterior work (mainly landscaping, patios, asphalt driveway), may have to be done in the spring after you move in.

After we decide to build with Summit Custom Homes of Durango, what happens next?

We will make our design and building/estimating consulting services available to assist with the design process. At some point we may need to enter into a Pre-Construction/Design Consulting Contract, to cover our services that we will be performing, prior to the Building Contract. Some of these costs will be reimbursed to you at the time of the Building Contract.