Are we the right builder for your project?
We get a lot of inquiries every year – everything from, “Can you replace my countertops?” to, “Can you build me a new home?” We created this guide to help folks answer those questions, and to determine if Chuckanut Builders would be a good fit for their project.
Every year we take on 8-12 projects. That’s it. Because of this, finding the right clients is as important to us as finding the right builder is to you. And if it turns out that we’re not the right fit for your project, no hard feelings! We’ll still do our best to point you in the right direction.
This guide has two parts. In the first section we’ll describe the kinds of projects we take on and those we don’t. In the second part we’ll go over scheduling, planning and costs. OK, let’s dig in!
Our Favorite Projects
We’re a full-service general contractor. Our favorite projects are major home remodels, ADUs and high-performance new homes. A good way to gauge if we’re the right builder for your project is to consider if it:
- Requires a building designer/architect and/or an interior designer.
- Is large enough to employ one of our Site Leads full-time.
- Incorporates high-performance building techniques and sustainable materials.
- Full Home Remodels – the kind where the clients move out during construction
- ADUs and Accessory Buildings (like garages)
- Kitchen Remodels
- Home Additions
- New High-Performance Homes
- Commercial Tenant Improvement Projects
- Skilled Carpentry Projects (like decks, siding & window replacement)
Projects We're Not Likely To Take On
We don’t provide standalone trade services that aren’t part of a larger remodel. For example, we don’t repair tile, flooring or countertops unless that work is part of a larger remodel. For projects like these, the best place to start is to find a business that sells those materials and ask them to recommend an installer. For services like plumbing or HVAC, a good starting point is to leverage the power of your social network (either on social media or by asking around the old-fashioned way!) to start your search.
Additionally, you might be wondering if you should consider completing some of the work yourself. And then wondering, if you do, would you need a permit? We’re in full support of homeowners taking on DIY projects, but some projects should really be left to the professionals. We have some thoughts about which projects fall into each category. If you decide to undertake the project yourself, have a look at the City of Bellingham Building Permit website to determine whether you’ll need a permit.
Where We Work
Historically we’ve worked almost exclusively within Bellingham city limits. This is still largely the case – it helps us keep our crews working more and driving less. However, we like building high-performance new homes! So, we’ve recently made the decision to stretch our geographic boundaries into the broader Whatcom and Skagit counties, but ONLY for high-performance new construction projects.
At this point, we’re hoping you’ve gained a little more insight into the kind of projects we take on.
If you’re wondering if there’s another local builder that’s a better fit for your project, no worries! Bellingham has a wealth of talented builders, tradespeople, and handyman services, so we’re happy to share a list of local building resources to reach out to.
If you’ve leaned forward in your chair, ready to learn more about Chuckanut Builders, then let’s get down to the nitty gritty details of cost, quality, scheduling, planning and next steps!
Cost + Speed + Quality
You’ve probably heard that old adage about ‘faster, cheaper, better’ – the common wisdom is that at best you’ll be able to get two out of three. Put another way, you’re probably not going to find a reputable contractor in Bellingham (or anywhere!) who delivers high-quality work quickly AND cheaply.
We are confident that our prices are in line with the other general contractors in town who deliver similar quality work and service.
We also realize that for a lot of folks, regardless of which contractor they choose to work with, the cost of remodeling or building a new home can come as a bit of a shock. The Cost vs. Value report is a great third-party resource for understanding construction costs in our region, as well as how making an upgrade to your home can add to its value.
Planning & Scheduling
As we enter our second decade as a general contractor, we’ve learned that process is key. We pride ourselves on a transparent, efficient process that helps our team and our clients meet our shared goals together. Our general rule of thumb is that it takes a minimum of 6 months to complete design work and obtain a permit for a project. That’s the minimum. When you factor in the complexity of the project and/or the availability of designers, it can sometimes take 12 months or more!
In addition to the duration of the planning phase, there’s also the time commitment that clients can expect to make. Planning a project is like taking on a part-time job. You won’t have to do it alone (see below!), but you will need to figure out how to fit it into your schedule around work, family, travel and hobbies.
- Design: Your design team (often consisting of a building designer/architect and an interior designer) will help you with everything from creating your new kitchen layout to selecting flooring, doors, windows, tile and more. But ultimately, you’ll be the one who has the final say on each of those decisions. It’s important to be prepared to do this work by setting aside time in your schedule for project planning. This can help you to minimize stress and avoid decision fatigue.
- Permits: Some projects may simply need an over-the-counter permit while others require a full design review including a public comment period. Projects involving complicated engineering may take longer since there are often several rounds of revisions before a permit will be issued. Additionally, sometimes the city has a large backlog of permits to review, which can result in delays that are out of everyone’s control
- One Important Note: If you are planning a project in the watershed, certain work can only take place in July, August, and September.
- Getting On Our Calendar: We often have openings on our construction calendar about 6-9 months out, which coincides pretty well with how long it takes to design and permit a project. We like to start building a relationship with our clients once they have begun the very first phase of design so we can help to align the timing of the planning process and our availability.
We build to last. That requires selecting the right materials for the job, working with skilled tradespeople, and implementing building performance upgrades when possible.
Building Performance: The homes we build and remodel are durable and healthy. They require fewer repairs, have healthier indoor air quality, and are quieter than the average home. We prioritize the health of you and your family by safeguarding indoor air quality; making your home so comfortable; and selecting durable materials that will last.
Craftsmanship: Collectively, the crew at Chuckanut Builders has spent nearly two centuries in the trades. That’s a lot of time to learn from our mistakes and hone our craft! We are proud to put these hard-won skills to work on each and every one of our building projects, no matter the size or scale.
Our Crew: Labor is almost always the single biggest expense in a construction project, as it should be – our crew is the heart and soul of our business. We are strongly committed to treating them pretty darn well by offering fair-wage, year-round employment, healthcare, retirement savings, and profit sharing. We assign a Site Lead to every project. They oversee the project from the beginning to end. They are onsite every workday, keeping everything running smoothly and ensuring that it is built according to the plans.
Skilled Tradespeople: Construction is an industry of specialists – plumbers, electricians, roofers, painters, tile setters, excavators, drywall installers, and more. We have built close working relationships with these subcontractors, many of whom have worked with us since we opened our doors, this means we can count on them to show up and deliver quality work, every time.
In building (and in life!) we value innovation, collaboration, and authenticity. The result is projects that are well planned, with a clearly defined budget and scope of work, that are focused on new-school building performance carried out using old-school building techniques that have stood the test of time.
If you’re ready to take the next step and inquire about your project, please complete the contact us form so we can get the ball rolling!