Frequently Asked Questions

Dust

Can’t live without it, but we try really hard. What to expect, what we do, and how you can help.

Dust is inherent in construction.  There will always be dust when building. Dust containment can be particularly challenging when building within the confines of your home. But we’re proud of the measures we’ve developed to minimize this condition. Our dust reduction measures goes a long way in reducing dust but you’ll still always have some residual dust appear.  Depending on your level of sensitivity you may not even notice an impact. With most of our customers it’s not an issue but there are some whom it really bothers. The dust issue can become serious if you or one of your family members has allergies.  Please discuss any special needs with your estimator and/or project manager.  They can also determine if there are additional measures we can take to ensure the least amount of dust will enter your home.  Your participation is needed to help in this area as well.  There are some things you can do to help: One, keep the zipper door in the dust containment barrier closed at all times.  There is often times an air pressure difference due to an open window or a running furnace that can create a draft from the basement to the upstairs that will in less than one minute can fill your upstairs with dust.  You’ll even be able to feel a breeze as you operate the zipper door so zip it closed as soon as you step through the opening. Two, you can also turn off the furnace or air conditioning during the real dusty times which are drywall sanding, trim, paint, and rough clean-up.

Noise

No noise means no construction. For a quite environment you shouldn’t count on staying home.

This is another issue inherent to construction. It happens on all jobs without exception and cannot be minimized.  It has potential to affect sleeping children and people who work from home.  Sometimes it’ll sound like we’re coming through the floor but then other days you won’t even know we’re there. It’s impossible for us to accommodate noise control without stopping work.  If you have need for a quiet environment please make arrangements accordingly.

Project Manager

These guys are good. But they don’t do it all. We explain that here.

You’ll have a dedicated project manager who will visit your project every day with only a few exceptions. He’ll be your primary point of contact through the whole construction process and will keep you informed on progress. If you have any questions, the PM will be the one to ask. Even though our managers know all the necessary details of your project they are not supervisors, they are managers.  And although they are at your job frequently, they are not there all the time.  This can sometimes cause concern for a customer who is home all the time and notices something that they’re not expecting but is a normal issues in construction.  Something that can be normal to a PM can be alarming to a customer who is unfamiliar with standard construction practices.  All of our managers are experts at what they do and are very skilled in their trade.  Your trust in them is essential to a smooth process and a good experience.  They may not handle an issue immediately but will address it in due time.  They know when it needs to happen and often the best time is at the end of the project when our subcontractors return to do their trims.  From time to time our mangers will call on help from our assistant manager. It’s not unheard of for an inspection to happen at the same time on two projects so they’ll recruit some help. If there’s an unusual circumstance that they need a second opinion they’ll call our operations manager.

Project Manager Availability

Although they’re almost super-human, they need their rest too. Contact guidelines.

Working hours are weekdays 8 AM to 6 PM.  Our project managers are very dedicated and will work all hours of the week to care for our customers.  But like anyone else, they need to unplug from work and charge their batteries too.  Please only contact them within these hours unless it’s a construction emergency such as a water leak.

Customer Availability

The first week is key. After that it settles down.

Your basement will take shape the first week of construction.  The ‘walls will be set’, so to speak, and the rest of project is built upon on what is completed that first week.  So it’s important that you’re available for questions and a daily review of progress.  This will ensure everything is how you want it so we can get it right the first time. There may be lots of questions and decisions that need to be made by you so it’s good to have this expectation in mind because it may seem overwhelming at times.  Don’t worry though, because you’ll be among the industry’s best professionals and we can give you sound counsel.  We just want to know exactly what you need.  Because after all, you’ll be the one living in it and looking at it each day. We want to make it just right for you.  The pace of the second week and third week will pale in comparison to the first week.  Everything will seem to slow way down during the drywall phase but this is totally normal and should be expected too.

Customer Participation

We need your input and we want to do all the work to implement it.

Your input is needed in a lot of aspects such as all the design elements.  Your investment into your home with us is a big deal.  So we closely monitor the resources we assign to your project and ensure you receive appropriate management services.  We prefer that our project manager is the one who updates and coordinates everything with our subcontractors.  We’ve had some customers who spend three hours a day meeting with each of our subs.  They get really wrapped up in the process and begin to assume the role of the project manager.  That does not bode well with a good customer experience so we encourage you to let the project manager do his job. Our managers and subs have been performed basement finishes hundreds of time before so they know the drill.  On the other extreme, we’ve had some customers that were living out of state while we finished their basement.  They were never present except for a number of FaceTime calls.  It was a pleasant experience for our manager and for our customer who was were thrilled with their new basement when moved in.  There is a healthy balance of participation from you but we want the burden of management to lie solely on us.

Access to Your Home

We’re no Houdini but you’ll be amazed at how much we get through your basement window.

You’ll be amazed at how much we can get through your basement windows.  Approximately 90-95% of all materials and trades go through the basement window. The exception would be items like a bathtub, doors, and cabinets.  Building inspectors are also an exception, they’ll need to come through the front door too.  We’ll never come upstairs unannounced, we’ll always knock first.  So for the most part, you may go about your private affairs in the main level.  Whatever your day typically looks like you should expect it to stay the same. So if you work from home in your lounge clothes then you should feel free to maintain that lifestyle.  Please have the basement window unlocked for us by 7 AM and ensure your home is secure for the evening.

Construction Schedule

We’re the best in the business but it’s still not an absolute guarantee.

This is the one the aspects of ElkStone’s business model that makes us stand out from among our competitors.  We started doing short construction schedules in January 2008 and we’ve gotten pretty good at it.  Since then we’ve completed hundreds of basements in less than four weeks.  In 2014 however, we had to move to a five week schedule due to some industry wide shortages in available labor.  We have comprehensive systems and processes in place to ensure your basement is completed on time.  What we don’t have is an absolute guarantee.  Construction is a very dynamic process by nature.  You shouldn’t necessarily expect a trade partner to show up at 8AM the morning of their scheduled day.  At any given point we can be a few days ahead or behind schedule.  And sometimes you may decide to change something, sometimes we notice something that we didn’t see during the proposal process, sometimes we mess up, and sometimes there’s something totally out of our control that happens that may cause a delay. We do everything in our power to complete your basement in the few weeks that we have scheduled.  And although we’re the best in the business it’s not a perfect system so it can’t be relied on 100% of the time.  We plan and execute with every intention of completing your project on schedule but unfortunately we can’t guarantee it.

Business Model

We really like to stay on schedule. We really hate to get off schedule.

ElkStone’s business model is making our customers happy by finishing basements with craftsmanship and speed.  And although some customers are not in any hurry, completing your job on time is very important to ElkStone.  It’s a lot more work on our project managers and subs to delay a job than it is to keep it on schedule.  We have no interest in taking longer than your planned schedule.  It is actually counterproductive for us to get off schedule, so we go out of our way to stick to the plan.  There are two essential things you can do to help: One, select and purchase all your items (VCC’s) with plenty of time before we need them. Two, finalize your design with the estimator before we start. Major changes should be decided and updated before we start while we can deal with minor changes anytime.

Quality Control

Is the project manager’s responsibility but it involves everyone on the ElkStone team.

This responsibility primarily lies with our project managers but our subcontractors are key too.  Vetting a trade partner may take years and so when we find someone who shares our values in terms of service, reliability, quality, and pricing, we’ll maintain that relationship indefinitely.  Both our subs and our managers maintain higher standards than the industry norm.  You can expect at a minimum the same level of craftsmanship as your upstair’s but most of the time we’ll exceed that. From time to time we’ll have customers who have extremely high standards and we get that.  You’ve worked hard and saved up for years to afford your dream basement so you want the best. We’re up to the challenge and most of the time we’re on the same page.  But every once in a while there’ll be a customer who will literally crawl around on their hands and knees inspecting and blue-taping everything (the accepted inspection method is to walk around at a distance of four feet from the wall).  For this purpose we use the NASCLA National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies Residential Construction Standards v. adopted 2009 as a reference point.   It’s a nationally recognized third party unbiased guide for determining construction standards.

Inspections

The first inspection is the most important. Building officials do not use the basement windows.

ElkStone will always pull a permit for a job without exception.  For most building department inspections, the project managers will be on site to supervise.  The building officials are not permitted to go through the window so they’ll use the front door and go down the stairs.  This is one of the few times we’ll need access to the main floor.  Inspections happen throughout the project but primarily at the end of the first week and at the very end of the job.  The rough inspections cover framing, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical.  Next there’s drywall screw. And at the end there’s the final inspections which cover the same items as the rough inspections. The most important inspections occur at rough because of the amount of items inspectors are observing.  If this inspection doesn’t go well then it can adversely affect the schedule so we ensure the project manager is present to make sure it goes smoothly.

Customer Supplied Materials or VCC’s (Variable Customer Costs)

We’ll tell you everything you need to know about what you need to buy.

We provide a Project List which is a document intended to help our customers answer the questions of: what, who, where, when, and how much.  This is specifically designed for your project and includes most everything you need to know as it relates to the items you need to select and purchase.  The quantities and pricing we list are estimates and so may not exactly match what you decide to purchase.  Depending on your style and taste, the costs could be higher or lower.  You can think of it as a general guideline but the idea is you should be able to choose what most customers typically purchase; the popular and common items.  However, you should know that if your project design changes then the quantities and cost will change too.  For example, if the wet bar grows in length then there’ll need to be more granite countertop.  Likewise, if the bathroom enlarges in shape then that’ll mean more floor tile, etc.

When Problems Arise

Every project has them. And we deal with them pretty well.

Notice I said when a problem arises, not if?  There are literally thousands of components and hundreds of man hours that go into building a basement. There is no company that won’t have problems.  The nature of the construction industry is too dynamic; working with people and building things, issues will come up. What we say around ElkStone is it’s how you handle the problem that matters, not that there is a problem. Your satisfaction and our reputation is way more important to us than trying to avoid an issue.  So what to do? Contact your project manager.  Likely he already knows about it and is working on a solution.  Our project managers are pros at what they do and have on average 17 years of experience each. That means they’ve built hundreds and hundreds of construction projects over their collective 84 years of experience.  What it doesn’t mean is that they know everything and never make a mistake.  When they need help they turn to their ElkStone colleagues including fellow project managers and the general manager of operations.  In the unusual circumstance that you feel you need to talk to someone else besides your project manager the first person to contact is the general manager.  We will seek to fairly and equitably come to a resolution.

Construction Agreements, Proposals, Plans, and Promises

If it’s not written, it’s not included. We don’t build based on verbal promises.

The most important thing to know is that we don’t make verbal promises.  This is company policy.  If we have an item on one of these three documents then it’s included.  If we don’t have an item listed anywhere then it’s not included. So we eliminate the guesswork and only deliver what is in the written paperwork.  That way, everyone is on the same page and there’s no confusion. It’s your responsibility to make sure you read and understand everything that’s included.  Our desire is for you to receive everything you want and need for your project.  There are many conversations that take place between you and our estimator/designer.  Not to mention all the conversations you’ve had with other companies, friends, and loved ones.   On top of that, our estimators are basement specialists who talk about options, ideas, and concepts all week, every week. It can become be very confusing about who talked to whom about what. Just because you were thinking about it and discussed it, doesn’t mean it’s included in our proposal.  We want to make sure we don’t leave anything out of the proposal but we need your help. So please don’t hesitate to clarify all the items that are important to you with our estimator/designer.  And of course, if you see something that’s missing, don’t hesitate to bring it the attention of your estimator.

Customer Supplied Materials or VCC’s (Variable Customer Costs)

We’ll tell you everything you need to know about what you need to buy.

We provide a Project List which is a document intended to help our customers answer the questions of: what, who, where, when, and how much.  This is specifically designed for your project and includes most everything you need to know as it relates to the items you need to select and purchase.  The quantities and pricing we list are estimates and so may not exactly match what you decide to purchase.  Depending on your style and taste, the costs could be higher or lower.  You can think of it as a general guideline but the idea is you should be able to choose what most customers typically purchase; the popular and common items.  However, you should know that if your project design changes then the quantities and cost will change too.  For example, if the wet bar grows in length then there’ll need to be more granite countertop.  Likewise, if the bathroom enlarges in shape then that’ll mean more floor tile, etc.

Personal Belongings in the Basement

They will get dusty and they may get damaged. A lot goes on down there.

We really need everything removed from the basement.  The exception would be that some items can remain in the unfinished areas of the basement.  But the team definitely needs everything removed from the work space or the areas we’ll be finishing.  This includes the area underneath the stairs.  This spot seems to always get missed.  You’ll need to protect the items that remain in the basement from dust.  The dust will be fine particles similar to the consistency of baby powder. This makes it difficult to clean.  Items with a textured surface such as a TV or treadmill will be more challenging to clean than a mirror or polished surfaces. Please do not leave any electronic components or anything you value in the basement.  Even after you cover it you can still expect it to get dusty.  If you’re okay with this then I recommend draping bed sheets or plastic drop cloth over your belongings to mitigate as much dust as you can.  I do not recommend creating a wall of plastic.  They always get compromised and end up falling down.  To be fair to the workers we ask that you allow plenty of space for them to work so placing items well away from the work area is greatly appreciated.  Although our project managers can assist you in covering your belongings our preference is that you take ownership of this task.  We appropriately cannot accept responsibility for your items left in the basement.

Liability for Damage

Remove everything from the basement and this won’t become an issue.

Imagine for a moment our trade partners moving 16 foot long lumber, 4 x 8 sheets of plywood, 4 x 12 sheets of drywall, 6 foot long metal duct pipe, and literally hundreds of other building components. You might get a glimpse of what it takes to build your basement. If we break something we will certainly repair it.  But to be fair to the subs working we ask that you remove any item of value from the basement and leave plenty of space from the work area for items that remain.

Landscaping

Got to get there somehow. We’ll tread lightly but there will be lots of treading.

All the workers will come around the side of your home to enter through a window or walkout door. They’ll use the window that makes the most sense in terms of proximity to the front of the house and the size of the window well.  Best case scenario there’s a sidewalk but often times the workers will need to transport tools and materials over the lawn.  There will be some trampling that will result in temporary distress on the lawn.  At the end of the project we’ll straighten up by raking the rocks or mulch back into their respective places.  Please advise the project manager of any landscaping features that you are particularly fond of that might be sensitive to foot traffic.

Day to day clean up

The work of construction is messy. We let the guys work.

There’s essentially two things to know about this: 1) construction is a messy and dirty process, and 2) when we’re all done your basement it will be showroom clean and even have that new home smell.  During each phase it can get messy while the subs work but you’ll notice a tidy workplace as transitions for each phase are completed.  There are two formal cleanups that take place; the first is what we call rough clean.  That happens right before carpet. The second is a comprehensive and thorough final clean which happens on the final day of construction.  If you wish to have our cleaning crew include the upstairs at the same time as the basement then let the project manager know and he can provide pricing.

Security

Lock up the house like you normally do in the evening. Unlock the basement first thing in the morning.

You’ll need to maintain the security of your home as you have been by locking up each evening. Sometime subs will drop off materials for the next day’s work or stop by to check the jobsite at the end of the day.  So locking up a little later in the evening would be best.  Please ensure your basement window or door is unlocked by 7AM each morning.  Depending on what you’re comfortable with, you may ask your project manager to install a keyed lock for your basement door.  If you go on vacation you may turn on your alarm system but bypass the basement. Work with your project manager on this one.  The project manager will need access to the garage so programming a temporary code will be needed.

Material shortages and overages

We never charge if we’re short and don’t credit if we’re over.

We provide a fixed base price that won’t change. We’ll only process a change order if you change or add something. This means that if we underestimate materials we won’t come to you with a change order.  It also means that if we order too many items that we’ll return it to our vendor.  We do not provide credits for over-ordered materials in the same we don’t charge for materials we under-ordered.  ElkStone assumes the risk and liability if we miss something or underestimate. So you can sign the construction agreement worry-free about a changing base price.

Sound control

From a little to a lot, but there’ll always be some.

Is a science.  We start with the simple and economic methods first and then work through the options depending on your budget and needs. Each level of noise control will help to varying degrees but will not eliminate all noise between levels of your home. The biggest variable is the ducting system of your home. That is the one common thread that connects all spaces throughout your home so it’s a particularly challenging element to dampen.  Speak with your estimator/designer to discuss all the options we offer.

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Still have questions? We have answers!

For any other questions, please write us at info@elkstone.com or call us at 303-656-9006.