An Interview with our General Contractor

You're sitting in your kitchen and the dated cabinets that are staring back at you are due for a little makeover. Maybe even new hardware and a new countertop. All of a sudden inspiration hits and visions of a beautiful new kitchen floods your mind! But where to start… well we've got all the answers right here!

We get asked questions all the time about where to start with new construction. Questions like, who should I talk to, what should I do first, can I afford a remodel? Well we've gone straight to the source, this week we sat down with our long time friend and partner Brian, a professional General Contractor and owner of Fassino Construction. He's helped us with a lot of our projects and most recently our project Modern Farmhouse. If you're starting construction and don't know where to start or maybe just have some questions, KEEP READING!


How did you get into construction?

My love for architecture and building started when I was 5 years old, building “homes” in the sand box for my younger brothers. Then, around the age of 9 I discover Frank Lloyd Wright and was immediately hooked on his incredible designs, I ordered books on this work while still in grade school. After college, I went to work for several large international architectural engineering companies, but after 20 plus years working for corporate America I decided if I was going to work 7 days a week, I would prefer being my own boss. I figured there is nobody better I would rather work for than myself! 

I started Fassino Construction 16 years ago with the idea that I would build my own designs. Having my own company allowed me to fulfill my craving for touching every piece of the project from conception through turning the keys over to the owners.


What's your specialty?

At Fassino Construction we like to say, we specialize in doing it right with extreme attention to detail and precision. As for our construction specialty, we specialize in design-builds (new home construction), full home remodels, additions, kitchen and bathroom remodels, tenant improvements/light commercial and every now and then a doggie door. Because we love what we do we don’t put boundaries on the type of work we will do, we love a good challenge!

What do you recommend the client do before starting a construction job? Any specific steps to take?

Have a clear understanding of goals.

Prioritize a list of must haves and a wish list if budget permits. 

Set a budget.

Research design ideas. Sites like Houzz, Pinterest and home improvement programs are great for ideas. 

When it comes to do doing a remodel or building a new house, check with your local planning department first or hire a specialist to do the research for you, they understand all the different departments and agencies that will have jurisdiction over your project. Even with a kitchen or bathroom remodel there are very specific code requirements, it is important to design to those requirements from the start. Working with an interior designer, architect, engineer, and general contractor from the start will not only help with understanding construction requirements but also help with related construction costs. 

Keep in mind, detail is your friend, the more you provide the contractor the better chance you will have of achieving or exceeding expectations and staying on budget. It also helps everybody involved to have the same goals. 


Any advice on developing a budget for construction cost? How do you know if you can afford a remodel or not?

A general contractor is one of your best sources for helping you develop a budget and in helping you understand what you can afford to do and how to place value on the important aspects of the project.

Too often, the general contractor is placed at the end of the cycle after the project has been designed and permitted, with the idea the owner can find a contractor that will meet their budget price. This is where the problem lies. You start looking for a contractor that tells you what you want to hear and not necessarily reality. Eventually, you will find THE contractor, however that doesn’t mean it is a good thing, it could be the start of a horror story. By focusing on cost, you start placing less weight on quality and ability to perform.   

A better approach would be to start working with a general contractor from the beginning, one that has a strong understanding for the meaning of “Value Engineering”, a solutions provider. This is critical for developing a budget for success. It also allows for complete transparency, setting goals and establishing an agreement with the contractor on a fair value for his or her Project Management services. Not only that but developing a good relationship with your contractor early on also creates a sense of ownership and pride for the contractor. They are far more likely to go above and beyond knowing they were part of the process from the beginning. It also creates mutual trust, a win-win for everyone.  

What to avoid doing or suggestions to help make living through a remodel easier?

Develop a construction plan with your contractor for phasing of work and house rule, such as, hours of work, a list of workers and their roles, where workers can park, and where materials can be stored. These simple steps will greatly help in reducing disruption in your home and life. 


When a client gets two bids and they are comparable in price? What should they then base their decision on?

Before selecting a contractor, make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured. All General Contractors are required by California law to be licensed, bonded and insured.  

Getting multiple bids is a good idea as long as you provide the contractors with a very detailed scope of work. Without that, trying to compare apples to apples will be impossible. Plus, a bid doesn’t tell you equally important details such as reliability, abilities, and quality of work. Ask your contractor for references. Even better ask to see some of their past project work.

Another thing as a licensed General Contractor the State of California requires is very specific verbiage in our contracts, even specific font types and text sizes. If a bid doesn’t have that, buyer beware. A contract should spell out in detail exactly what is included in the scope of work and what is not. It should match at minimum in detail the scope of work provided.

Do you folks develop the schedule or the client? Can you give any tips or thoughts on this?

As the general contractor, we will develop the schedule with input from our clients. As for tips or thoughts…good communication is critical for setting a realistic and achievable schedule.

Any tips on staying on schedule?

Staying on schedule starts long before the project work starts. Spending time on the details during the planning stages of the project by identifying products and materials will dramatically help stay on schedule. It allows for products and materials with long order lead times to be ordered in advance and made available for installation when needed versus having to wait for them to arrive.  

Spending the time on details will also help reduce the chances for costly Change Orders. 

Tips on staying on budget?

Again, planning, details, and having all the right people on board from the start greatly helps with staying on budget. It is common for clients to hold back on the amount they can spend with hopes it will control the project bid cost, which it may, but usually it just reduces the scope of the project or eliminates options or opportunities. If you want to get the best bang for your buck it is best if the people helping design and plan your project have a clear understanding of the true budget available to work with. 

Tips on how the client can relay their ideas to you?

Put everything on the table from the very beginning. Knowing what your goals are will help us in developing a strategy throughout the project and don’t be afraid to talk about new ideas and changes you want as you see the project progress forward. It is very common to have new ideas during construction. I always say, a great project evolves during the building process. People just see things differently once work has begun versus how they imagined it or compared to the project on paper. The important part is addressing these changes as early in the process as possible. This helps with controlling cost and staying on schedule. 

Who typically buys the materials when building?

The Contractor and here is why. Gone are the days of building whatever you want as construction has become very sophisticated from just 10 - 15 years ago, especially with all the fires in recent years, along with very strict energy building codes. Construction today, requires very specific building products, products that meet these new code requirements. It is also not one size fits all anymore. For example, a different fire code requirement can apply on the same street depending if a house backs up to open space or another house or street. Contractors today, are in a lot of ways like doctors and teachers. They require continual education to keep up with all the new regulation and certification requirements.  Contractors also have suppliers that carry these specialty items, items that are not found in the big box stores, many of which only sell to licensed contractors.

As far as materials like tile, lighting, and plumbing fixtures, these items are either purchased by the contractor, designer, or customer. With today’s strict building codes, it is important that the customer consult with an expert who has knowledge of these code requirements. For example, today’s electrical codes require a certain type of motion switch, lighting fixture, and venting in bathrooms while plumbing codes requires lower water usage toilets and shower heads. Consulting with an expert can save the customer money and avoid getting stuck with materials and fixtures that cannot be installed due to these code requirements. 

Describe the value of having an interior designer on board as part of the team?

Not only is it a great idea, it is a smart idea, to have an interior designer as part of the team. They bring a wealth of knowledge, a walking product encyclopedia so to speak, with an understanding of what the current trends are and products available. Interior designers also help keep the client focused on the important issues, things that can cause construction delays. 

Now, you want to drive yourself crazy let’s talk about paint colors. You think white is white and black is black, think again. There are thousands of whites and blacks to choose from, each having just of enough in color similarities as the other and just enough differences to drive you crazy trying to pick the perfect color. This is where your interior designer is invaluable, if for your own sanity alone. They have an incredible sense for which color(s) pulls all the other pieces in the room together to create a seamless bond.

People tend to get bogged down and struggle over a single item not seeing the whole picture. An interior designer is skilled at seeing the whole picture and how each piece compliments the others creating a cohesive look that is timeless. Simply put, they just know how to make a space make you feel good.

Having an interior designer and contractor part of your project from the start just makes sense, they are the perfect flavor combination that makes a project spectacular and successful!

Now, how do you feel about that new kitchen remodel? A little more comfortable, a little more excited? When you're ready to get the ball rolling, we're here to help! Not only will we help you pick the perfect white paint color, but we'll create a beautiful new space for you and your family to enjoy every day! No more dated cabinets, hardware or countertops…

Love, The Sisters