Everything You Need to Know Before Building a Cabana or Pergola

Cabanas and Pergolas are great spaces for entertainment. They enhance your patio and can extends the amount of space in your backyard. Cabanas and pergolas create an inviting area for your guests to relax and lounge and make your landscape more attractive. All of these elements adds value to your house! So you’ve made a great decision to build one, but first, know what you’re getting yourself into:

First: What’s the Difference Between a Cabana and a Pergola?

The definitive difference is that pergolas don’t have walls. Thus, a less enclosed space means less materials, making it a more affordable alternative to a cabana. Pergolas help define the lounge space in an open patio, as opposed to a cabana which sometimes feels more like an add-on to your home, with a full-coverage roof, and its walls may or may not be connected to the home.

Pergola Sale on Wayfair
Click Image to Shop this Pergola!

Customize your Pergola 

Decorate your pergolas with growing vines or plants or add curtains for privacy, shade, or to create an enclosed area that a cabana might otherwise create with walls.

Types of Pergolas

  1. Traditional/ Open Top – These are pergolas in the most traditional sense: They’re cost-effective and are predominantly used to define an entertaining space while enhancing a surrounding garden or landscape. These generally take the least amount of time to construct as well. 
  2. Gabled – A pergola with a gabled roof often mirrors the architecture of the home, making for a more seamless inclusion of the pergola. 
  3. Arched – Exactly what it sounds like, the soft arch of an Arched pergola provides an open, airy, elegant feel.
  4. Promenade – These are most frequently used to highlight walkways, open on all sides, they’re the perfect vehicle on which to add some greenery, grow wisteria or other climbing plants.
  5. Pitched – The roof slants on a downward slope towards the end of a pergola. An advantageous roof because it allows rain or snow to run off.

Click to Shop this Pergola!
Click to Shop this Pergola!
Click to Shop this Pergola!
Click to Shop this Pergola!

Customize your Cabana

Because of it’s structure and better protection from outside elements, there’s more you can do with a cabana beyond creating an outdoor lounge: Add a TV area, BBQ/ Eating area complete with an outdoor kitchen and dining room and/or custom fireplace.

Know Your Materials

As with any design/build project, when building your cabana or pergola, you should know the in’s and out’s of the materials you’re working with:

Pressure-treated wood:

This is the least expensive option with a reasonable lifespan. This type of wood looks best if painted or stained.

Cedar Wood:

In our experience, this is one of the most popular choices. It’s insect resistant and has a lengthy lifespan. It’s more expensive than pressure-treated wood, but well worth it, if you ask us!

Vinyl:

Vinyl is very low maintenance, but the downside is that there are limited color options. 

Fiberglass:

Fiberglass might be the most expensive option, but it can be painted & will hold the color better than wood resulting in a much cleaner look. 

 

What Does a General Contractor Do, Exactly? The 8 Steps in the Contractor’s Build Process

What does a contractor do, exactly? From designing to securing permits, ordering building materials, and demolishing to the earliest construction stages and installation of finish materials, we’re always educating our clients on what the design/build process is actually like. We’re demystifying the design/build process so you know what to expect before you start working with a contractor on your home renovation. Once the design plans are in place, these are the steps that need to be taken before the contractor can begin building your new home:

What does a contractor do, exactly? From designing to securing permits, ordering building materials, and demolishing to the earliest construction stages and installation of finish materials, we’re always educating our clients on what the design/build process is actually like. We’re demystifying the design/build process so you know what to expect before you start working with a contractor on your home renovation. Once the design plans are in place, these are the steps that need to be taken before the contractor can begin building your new home

1. Securing Permits

The contractor is responsible for pulling the permits and obtaining the Certificate of Occupancy. There has to be a clear plan already in tact before the contractor can even ask for a permit. They have to submit any existing plans and the construction documents where the new plan is designed to obtain a permit. So there is a lot that goes in before this step to make sure the plan is what the buyer wants and then permits are given once a plan review is completed. The contractor will have to submit a permit application, a permit fee, and construction documents. Obtaining a permit can take a day or up to several weeks. Scenarios that you would need a permit: new construction or additions, alterations made to a building, certain types of repairs, etc. Obtaining the Certificate of Occupancy means that all the codes are met and the space is move-in ready.

2. Ordering Building Materials

Choosing materials that are suitable for the use and safe are the top priority, ie flooring used in a bathroom should be the right type for the application- waterproof, slip resistant, and not just “pretty”. The next critical concern is affordability. Does the material selected reflect your budget? For example, you don’t want to run out of money before completing your purchase because you went overboard on the most expensive tile. In our most successful projects there is communication early between the homeowner, the design team, and the contractor to ensure that the materials being selected fit into the budget and the application of the materials is in line with the budget. Don’t be fooled by an inexpensive price per square foot for material if the installation cost per square foot is outside of your budget.

What does a contractor do, exactly? From designing to securing permits, ordering building materials, and demolishing to the earliest construction stages and installation of finish materials, we’re always educating our clients on what the design/build process is actually like. We’re demystifying the design/build process so you know what to expect before you start working with a contractor on your home renovation. Once the design plans are in place, these are the steps that need to be taken before the contractor can begin building your new home

3. Demo

This stage is quick, but messy! It’s exciting because this is the first thing you can actually see happening. Up to this point, everything else has been happening behind the scenes. The demolition process is noisy, so make sure any surrounding neighbors are made aware ahead of time! This part of the process, however crazy, is not mindless: there are extensive plans that have to be drawn up for this part of the process too. You won’t want to try to go at it alone and DIY. Though it seems straightforward and cost-effective, it’s more complex than you may think. It takes an experienced team to know what to keep and what to throw out.

In a remodel, you want to be extra cautious about what needs to be demolished. Communicate this clearly to the designer and builder, and have a clear system set up with duct tape or spray paint that directs the builders.

Let’s break this section down even further in steps: 1) Building and structural surveying (so the team knows what they’re dealing with); 2) Removal of hazardous materials (such as asbestos). This has to be done by a specialized team prior to completing demolition. 3) Make demolition plans which include: structural support systems, methods to be used, sequence, location,etc. 4) Finally, demolition!

If you are still going to utilize an existing space rather than building from scratch: be aware that you may discover skeletons hiding in the closet that you’ll find during this phase which could lead to cost increases. It is also a good time to sort out all of the problems your property may have accumulated over the years and do it right this time. Listen to the contractor who is tell you to “consider this…” because s/he probably knows what they are talking about.

What does a contractor do, exactly? From designing to securing permits, ordering building materials, and demolishing to the earliest construction stages and installation of finish materials, we’re always educating our clients on what the design/build process is actually like. We’re demystifying the design/build process so you know what to expect before you start working with a contractor on your home renovation. Once the design plans are in place, these are the steps that need to be taken before the contractor can begin building your new home

4. Rough Construction

This is the phase where frames of walls, the electrical conduit, plumbing pipes, and ductwork are put into the house. Nothing is necessarily hooked up yet. During rough construction, you’ll begin to see rooms start to form and how they relate to each other. The frames of doors, windows, and floors are done usually with exterior siding in place. Frame inspections are necessary to check out the frame from inside the structure and the building materials. Separate inspections are made for electrical, plumbing, and mechanical; however, they can happen at the same time (preferable). There’s typically a rough-in inspection during this phase and then a final inspection once they’re all hooked up. The designer will probably be present here and there throughout this phase to make sure everything is lining up as planned and to approve. This is also a good time for and red flags to be raised from the client or designer. Fix whatever it is now before you get further in the process where it will cost more time and money. What does a contractor do, exactly? From designing to securing permits, ordering building materials, and demolishing to the earliest construction stages and installation of finish materials, we’re always educating our clients on what the design/build process is actually like. We’re demystifying the design/build process so you know what to expect before you start working with a contractor on your home renovation. Once the design plans are in place, these are the steps that need to be taken before the contractor can begin building your new home

5. Installing Finish Materials

Getting closer! Finish materials will be picked out by the designer and approved by you. This phase is not just about aesthetics, there are codes that have to be complied with as well. Most codes are concerned with commercial spaces when it comes to this phase, but there are still some that are relevant for residential. This designer will worry about all of that though. During this phase, there should be someone checking in to make sure there were not any miscommunications/mistakes in the ordering process, and that everything is being installed properly. Things that were considered in the design process (like the installation patterns of things like tile) are being implemented. During this process, you’ll begin to see the layout coming together.

What does a contractor do, exactly? From designing to securing permits, ordering building materials, and demolishing to the earliest construction stages and installation of finish materials, we’re always educating our clients on what the design/build process is actually like. We’re demystifying the design/build process so you know what to expect before you start working with a contractor on your home renovation. Once the design plans are in place, these are the steps that need to be taken before the contractor can begin building your new home

During this phase, you want to think about practicality: Think about grout, for example: White grout gets superrrrrr dirty, or do you need to choose a trim? (solid slab is the only time where you wouldn’t need a trim)

During this phase, designers and contractors monitor installation techniques, tile especially. You want an experienced team to lay down tile or else it will be bumpy and uneven. Make sure that no one get’s lazy on things like starting in the middle of the room so the flooring is centered.

What does a contractor do, exactly? From designing to securing permits, ordering building materials, and demolishing to the earliest construction stages and installation of finish materials, we’re always educating our clients on what the design/build process is actually like. We’re demystifying the design/build process so you know what to expect before you start working with a contractor on your home renovation. Once the design plans are in place, these are the steps that need to be taken before the contractor can begin building your new home

6. Punch List

You don’t have to worry much about the punch list — this is for the designer to make and worry about, but it’s good to know about as the punch list is an imperative part of the process. A punch list is important because it is a compilation of smaller details that may be overlooked without the help of a seasoned professional. As is life, nothing will ever be 100% perfect on install day, so the punch list is made to ensure anything that needs to be refined will be. It’s a great system for managing expectations. It defines all items that need to be addressed before final occupancy. An actual punch list will need to be created so that all of the different people working on your home with you have a clear vision of what is left to do. It is exciting that everything is coming to a completion, but still take special note during this phase on things like trims that don’t match up, a door that might not close properly, or missing hardware. Then, it is the subcontractors job to actually get the things on the list done. This is the meticulous final task to delivering a successful project.

What does a contractor do, exactly? From designing to securing permits, ordering building materials, and demolishing to the earliest construction stages and installation of finish materials, we’re always educating our clients on what the design/build process is actually like. We’re demystifying the design/build process so you know what to expect before you start working with a contractor on your home renovation. Once the design plans are in place, these are the steps that need to be taken before the contractor can begin building your new home

7. Payment

It’s likely that your contractor will document a payment schedule in the contract. Review it and make sure that you are comfortable with the terms and are able to secure financing or have funds available. Not paying on time can and usually does result in slowing down your project. If trades and sub-contractors are not paid, they will leave your job and work on other projects.

What does a contractor do, exactly? From designing to securing permits, ordering building materials, and demolishing to the earliest construction stages and installation of finish materials, we’re always educating our clients on what the design/build process is actually like. We’re demystifying the design/build process so you know what to expect before you start working with a contractor on your home renovation. Once the design plans are in place, these are the steps that need to be taken before the contractor can begin building your new home

8. Lien

Liens are issued if you don’t pay the people who did the work in a timely manner. This is their way of getting you to pay what you owe. If a subcontractor isn’t paid, they file a claim. Think of the lien as a kind of the warning phase before a lawsuit. With a lien, you also cannot sell your property without a clear title (this would be a reason your title wouldn’t be clear).

What will happen if there is a change in the scope of work?

When the scope changes the process starts with what is called a “change order.” Change orders are a reality throughout projects because it’s likely you’ll change your mind about

what you want, add things or the project or financing takes a turn. Have a very clear clause in your contract about how the contractor will record, handle and bill for the change orders.

What happens if the construction goes past the stated finish date?

Construction is a business with many moving factors and unfortunately, this happens more often than not. There should be very specific parameters in the contract about a completion date and the rewards for hitting that target. It’s important to keep in mind that there are factors that are totally outside of the contractor’s control. It’s important that your contractor stays in communication with you about any unexpected delays or issues so you can work together on a realistic adjusted completion date. It is frustrating to wait, but much better to do it right the first time, as opposed to rushing and receiving an inferior project.

What does a contractor do, exactly? From designing to securing permits, ordering building materials, and demolishing to the earliest construction stages and installation of finish materials, we’re always educating our clients on what the design/build process is actually like. We’re demystifying the design/build process so you know what to expect before you start working with a contractor on your home renovation. Once the design plans are in place, these are the steps that need to be taken before the contractor can begin building your new home

When It’s All Over

Much like a traditional fairy tale, you never see after happily ever after on design shows– they always end with the room reveal and neglect to show you the clean up and process for once a job is complete. So you’ll want to ask…

What is the procedure for waste? Does your contractor take the waste to a dump?

Agree before you begin on what the disposal process will be and who is responsible for the costs.

Are you interested in recycling or donating some items?

While we always advocate for recycling materials, it is generally a more expensive process that just throwing away old materials and appliances.

What kind of documentation will I receive when the project is done?

When a project is completed, a certificate of occupation will generally be granted. When payment in full is made, you receive a lien release. A lien release is issued when a customer has paid a contractor (and his sub contractors) in full. The contractor can no longer place a lien on the property for work performed and not paid for. You may want an operation manual for the home’s systems and technology and a well marked electrical panel. You should agree with your contractor on what will be provided and add it to the contract prior to beginning the job.

Stop! Ask these Questions Before Hiring a Contractor

You’re about to undertake a HUGE home improvement project and you know you need to hire the right contractor to make it happen. Choosing the right contractor can be a daunting task. It can make or break your design and mistakes can cost lots of time and money. So we’ve broken it down for you: Here are the questions we hear all the time and the questions you SHOULD be asking when it comes to hiring the right contractor for the job.

Scheduling Questions

Q. When can the contractor start and do they have enough resources/bandwidth to commit to your job?

There’s nothing worse than working with a contractor who is too busy to properly handle your job and manage the resources. Make sure that the contractor you are considering hiring has the bandwidth to dedicate teams and time to your project. Being in demand is a wonderful thing, but being too busy can delay your project and frustrate you. And trust us when we say, there are almost always delays. Although there should be a written schedule, be prepared to be flexible, in construction- anything can and usually does take longer than you think it will. Some typical delays include: Items getting stuck in customs, sub-contractors falling ill or going out of business; You could open a wall only to discover none of it was built to code and you have to rebuild the entire thing. Permits and the city inspectors add another layer of uncertainty.

Q. What hours will you work?

Hours will depend on the what the city allows by law. If you work outside of those hours and you get caught, the city can fine you and shut down your job.

Q. Who will be at the job site? Who do I call with questions?

Different days bring different demands. Some days the site will be full and bustling. On other days the site will be in a holding pattern and no one will be there. You contractor wants to complete your job as much as you do, so don’t worry if you don’t see people on the job, it’s normal. The key here is to have a schedule of what will be happening, our firm gives them to clients on Fridays for the following week. If the schedule and the activity start to deviate a lot, it’s time to ask questions.

Key Advice: Be patient and trust your team. They’ve been through this and can communicate what is happening and why and when.

Q. What are the stages of the job?

  1. Design 2. Permits 3. Order Materials 4.Demo 5. Rough Construction 6 Installation of Finish materials 6 Punch list 7 Payment in full 8. Lien (This topic deserves it’s own dedicated guide — so stay tuned we’ll publish one next week!)

Q. Does the contractor see any potential problem areas in your project?

If someone tells you nothing will go wrong, run! Hire someone else immediately. Something always goes wrong in construction and the best defensive is a good offense. If your contractor can think on their feet and feels confident problem solving, they will work it out. Ask them what the most challenging aspect of a past project has been, and how they worked through the challenge. Have they ever worked on the problems they see occurring at your project?

The Contractor, The Person

Q. Do you like this person?

You’re going to be spending a lot of money and time with the contractor. It’s important to feel comfortable with them. They should be someone who “speaks your language.” When they explain things, it should be easy for you to understand. Always start by asking yourself a simple question, “do I like this person?”

Q. Has the contractor attended any type of formal training or continuing education?

Although an academic program is not required and someone with years of field experience can do a phenomenal job, it’s an added bonus if a contractor has more formal education. Our principal contractor, for example, has completed a program in Construction Management from the University of Houston College of Technology and an ASID ReGreen certification. He regularly attends design build seminars, trade shows, and events to stay up to date on codes, trends, technology, building materials, and management techniques. Being deeply immersed in the field gives you a more well rounded and experienced partner in your construction project and can help you rest-assured that you’re in good hands.

Q. How will you communicate with me?

It’s important to decide on the way you will communicate before you begin working. You want to stay informed, but you don’t want to drive your contractor crazy. After each weekly meeting, our firm follows up with an email record of the notes from the meeting. We also like to correspond through text or email so there is a record of what was asked and promised. Quick telephone calls have a way of falling through the cracks or one of the parties not remembering correctly.

Q. Has the contractor been involved with any legal disputes following a previous job?

The answer to this question is probably yes and that’s ok. In a construction dispute, EVERYONE who worked on the job gets called into a lawsuit, whether or not they were responsible. The most important thing here is that your contractor has a valid insurance policy to cover any claims that might arise. Referring back to the contract throughout the process and having a clear understanding of expectations helps to make sure the project stays out of litigation.

Q. Has the contractor previously operated as a contractor under a different name?

If so, ask the contractor to explain why.

Q. Does the contractor plan to work on the project personally or assign a supervisor?

Either a contractor or a dedicated supervisor should be assigned to your project and you should have contact information for both. Before the project begins have a clear understanding of the process and who does what.

Q. How will you protect my property?

Remember that many trades with many different people will be on your site. A sub-contractor could bring someone onto your site that no one has ever met, that’s the nature of the business. When a contractor tells you a locked storage on site or warehouse off-site is necessary, take their advice. If you have something valuable treat it that way and make sure you protect it. Once an area has been completed or finish materials have been installed, your contractor must provide heavy cover to protect from other construction that is still happening on the site. The site should be cleaned, broom swept, at the end of each day and there should never be trash outside of a designated

Q. What is the guarantee or warranty?

Most contractors will guarantee against defective materials and workmanship problems. Most municipalities and states require a minimum period to warranty and address the work a contractor or their subs have performed. If something goes wrong, call your contractor first. Allow them the opportunity to address the issue. If you bring in other subs or workers to address the issue, you risk voiding your warranty.

Q. How do I reach you after hours?

Unless there is an emergency on site, like a broken pipe or a gas leak, you should contact your contractor during business hours that were agreed upon in your contract. However if there is an emergency that must be handled immediately your contractor should provide a contact number to call. If you’re wondering if it’s actually an emergency or not, a good rule of thumb is that it should look something like the aftermath of the plane crash from War of the Worlds:

Q. How often should I be updated on progress?

It’s a good idea to touch base at least once a week with your design and contract team. Throughout the process you may need to be involved more or less depending on what is happening. Communication is key and a weekly schedule helps you understand what and when things are happening.

Q. Who meets with the inspectors?

The general contractor meets with the inspectors and is responsible for setting up the appointments and making sure they or someone from their team is on site to walk the job with the inspector.

Q. Do I need a contract and what should I include in it?

A contract is a good communication tool to make your project run as smoothly as possible, as it is a written understanding of what is expected from each side. It should be referred to throughout the process. Common contracts include elements like: a detailed work scope, line items for materials, the cost, and a termination clause. Any special requests, concerns or agreements should be written in the contract.

Q. How much do contractor’s require as a down payment?

Sometimes contractors charge as little as $1,000, the maximum by their state law, and up to 10% of the estimated contract to be retained. (We’ll write a separate post that goes into more detail, stay tuned!)

Q. Does the contractor need a design or plans? And if I don’t have them, can the contractor do it for me?

It is always best to have a set of plans before you begin working on a project. A set of plans is a road map to success. A contractor can help you put together a set of plans with the help of a draftsperson, a designer, an architect, or a structural engineer. If a contractor says they don’t need plans, hire someone else!

 Q. What is the management style for your team?

You’ll want to know how the contractor works with their team. Is there a weekly meeting for each job. Are the subs given an up to date schedule each week so they know when they are expected to perform. More successful and sophisticated firms have scheduling programs that allow everyone to see where things are at any given time. Our firm uses UDA construction.

After the Build is Completed

Q. Does the contractor stay up to date on trends?

A great contractor will know a lot about current trends and timeless design styles. You can tell a lot about the contractor’s knowledge when you look through the portfolio. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they stay on top of the latest design trends and materials, oftentimes this is through regularly attending design trade shows and events and keeping up on continuing education.

Q. Do I need to let the contractor take pictures at the end of the job?

It’s a nice thing to do. Your contractor is proud of what they’ve done and will use your project to market to other clients. You also get professionally shot images of your home that you can share with friends and family on social media and use if you ever want to sell the house. If you ever wanted to rent your home out for a vacation rental or a commercial or movie set, you’ll have great photos!

Q. Should I give my contractor a review when the job is complete?

Chances are, part of the reason you selected the contractor is because you read great reviews about other client’s experiences. If you liked your contractor, it’s a generous thing to do. Reviews also help you because they eliminate the contractor’s potential clients from needing to call you as a referral.

 

5 Simple Ways to Avoid Construction Nightmares

The emergence of networks like HGTV and DIY have been both a blessing and a curse for the design industry. The regularity of design-centric programming has made design a more prolific and intrinsic part of the everyday lives of people outside the profession, it has made design more accessible, and that’s been wonderful! On the other hand, the TV magic it takes to tell a room, or even an entire home’s story in a half hour (with ad breaks), has audiences fooled into believing beautiful rooms can be produced overnight– that it’s possible to do it all yourself on a shoestring budget.

These shows make this look EASY and that can result in some construction nightmares! Thus managing clients’ expectations in a post-HGTV world can be exhausting (take it from us!). These shows have piqued public interest in design, but they haven’t done a great job educating the masses on what it really takes to produce the gorgeous spaces gracing the covers of your favorite glossy design magazines, and preparation is key; Know what to expect. So here is what those shows don’t tell you: Read on for our 5 quick tips about how to avoid a botched design or construction job. Know the questions to ask and know what you can do yourself vs. what you should leave to the experts if you want your home to look something like this:

Avoid a Construction Nightmare By…

  1. Communicating With Your Contractor

Clear communication all the way through the process is the best way to avoid dissatisfaction. If you are unhappy or uncertain about any aspect of the process, talk to your contractor and see how they can help you resolve the issue. A successful contractor wants to do good work and wants to make their clients happy. Be realistic and fair and expect the same from your contractor. You trusted them to do the job, trust them to complete the job. 

Q. How involved should I be in the design build process? SoCal Contractor principal Roy Yerushlami answers:

  1. Vetting Your Contractor

In order for you to establish trust and relinquish some control over your renovation, you have to do your research ahead of time. 

  1. Protecting Your Property

If you have anything you value, it must either be moved to storage, locked up or covered like a surgical unit ahead of time. Unfortunately, items often do go missing on a job site, and lots of different people from lots of different trades will be on your property. It’s important to keep that in mind so you don’t end up with more broken than fixed when the work is all done.

  1. Scheduling, But Being Flexible

You will decide your level of participation at the beginning of your project and should agree with your contractor as to when you will be required to be onsite. There are key days in the installation process that will require your presence, if a designer or architect is not handling this for you. Find out when these dates are ahead of time, but be flexible– more often than not, jobs take longer than expected due to a number of external factors or issues which can arise..

  1. Trusting Your Contractor

Often times homeowners want to work on aspects of the project themselves or bring on their own sub-contractors. This is a recipe for disaster. You should only have one general contractor in charge of a project and the trades working on the job should report directly to the general contractor. This ensures that there is one company who is responsible for the work and delivering results, and, ultimately, this leaves way less for you to worry about.

Curious about how to hire a designer for your project or how much an interior designer costs? Our partners at Lori Dennis Inc. wrote all about that!