In our latest Backstory series, Seattleite Lou Maxon recounts the thrills and trials of ditching the suburbs, buying property, and designing and building a modern house with Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig Architects. Week 18: Meet the Contractor.
Having completed the schematic phase of our future residence, our next step was to price out the schematic set and select one of the three contractors Tom Kundig proposed (he'd worked with all three before). During our review process, we used the following determining factors:
1) Price. Obviously this is a huge consideration. Tom Kundig was deliberate in advising us that the lowest or highest prices also come with their own pluses and minuses. It’s important to ask things including: Does this price include applicable sales tax? What is included and not included? Is this a capped price or are there percentage variations on cost overruns?
2) Fit. Just as we interviewed architects and design/builders at the beginning of this process, it's essential that you find a contractor you can get along with, collaborate with, and feel comfortable pushing back on.
3) References. We not only talked to owners who worked with our selected contractor, but we visited their spaces, both completed and in-progress.
Tanner Construction got rave reviews from all their references. We were impressed by their budget discussions and their commitment to keeping numbers in view during the entire process. My wife liked that were direct and talked to us without 'contractor speak.' They were a small and dedicated team that lacked the expensive overhead (offices, matching trucks) of large, more corporate contractor companies. Ultimately, we liked working with Tim Tanner and Brad Burgess, our two contacts. There were no middle men, nobody we had to talk to to get to Tim and Brad. We loved the fact that they were extremely hard workers, flew somewhat under the radar, and let their work speak for itself. Our project was a priority for Tanner and they treated it accordingly. Photo by Tim Bies.
Our family trekked out to Mazama, Washington, to stay nights at the Rolling Huts and meet and talk to the owner of the huts and Delta Shelter ahead of our decision. Here's a view of the Rolling Huts, built by Tanner Construction and one of Tom Kundig's most celebrated projects. Photo by Tim Bies.
"The Herd" as they are often referred to, sit out in the open in breathtaking scenery. Tanner Construction collaborated with Tom Kundig on the project for the same client who commissioned Delta Shelter. As the story goes, the rolling huts were zoned for an RV park so Kundig put them on steel wheels to swerve around the local building code. Photo by Tim Bies.
Delta Shelter, a cabin getaway on the same property as the Rolling Huts. We visited the owner and his wife during one of our visits to get an in-person reference for Tanner Construction. It was wonderful to see the house in person after drooling over it in the pages of Tom Kundig: Houses. Photo by Tim Bies.
A digital photo we snapped on a recent trek out to the rolling huts. We've visited multiple times and it has become a treat for the kids to visit "the huts".
A peek inside a Rolling Hut. Photo by Tim Bies.
A fireplace keeps the compact interior cozy. Photo by Tim Bies.
Delta Shelter by Tom Kundig, in collaboration with Phil Turner of Turner Exhibits. The shutters move on a track to open and close depending on whether the owner wants a view or privacy. Photo by Tim Bies.
A peek inside Riley's cove, a mid-century remodel by Olson Kundig and Tanner Construction. We visited this project while it was under construction to check out the materials and to compare and contrast the options we'd selected for Maxon House. To be able to tour a live project and talk to actual homeowners about how they collaborated with Tanner Construction helped us make our final selection. Photo by Tim Bies.
The kitchen inside the Riley's Cove project. We liked the stainless steel countertops and it was extremely helpful to talk to the owner about how they were holding up to the everyday wear and tear of family life. Photo by Tim Bies.
We had the opportunity to meet with two of three contractors in person and after reviewing each of the three bids we selected Tanner Construction out of Seattle. A good contractor (in our humble opinion) provides support without being a cheerleader, provides reality in the midst of clients' crazy ideas, and keeps the project team grounded and things moving in the right direction. Tanner was all these things and more. Here, a glimpse into our research and decision-making process.
For previous installments of "Building the Maxon House," click here