I know you build really expensive high-end homes.  Does this mean your prices are higher than other contractors?

Not at all.  Our labor rate is based on overhead (cost of payroll, payroll taxes, worker’s compensation and liability insurance, etc.) and a reasonable profit.  You’ll find we are surprisingly affordable.  Construction costs are really quite logical.  They are based on the cost of labor and cost of materials.  Really high-end homes we’ve built ( in the 2 to 8 million dollar range) almost always have more labor-intensive details and more expensive materials, such as exotic woods or rare stone.  Because of their size, they also take longer to build.  The cost of your home will depend on several factors: the building site, amount of labor required to do the job, and materials you choose.  We love working with clients to help them make great choices at the same time respecting their budget.


How long have you been a Certified Green Builder?

Mike Butterfield got his certification in 2007.  Prior to that, he was instrumental in the advancement of innovative new designs and materials in building.  He created custom concrete countertops for a home in the 1980’s, for example, long before they became ‘fashionable’.  Sustainable materials and sound building practices to preserve natural resources have always been a part of his focus.  Of course, the place green building begins is with you and your architect.


Have you built on-grid as well as 0ff-grid solar homes?

Many.  It is important to note that the on-grid solar can actually be more eco-friendly and cost effective.  Off-grid solar requires expensive batteries, which have some toxicity issues in disposal, as well as requiring maintenance and replacement.  An example of on-grid solar that really works is a home we built which is over 11,000 square feet with an indoor pool and waterfall.  The home has radiant heat throughout, which also heats the pool, domestic hot water, and even tub surrounds.  Photovoltaic panels provide the electricity, and the cost of installation was easily recouped in just a few years.  Instead of an energy bill exceeding $1,500 per month, theirs has always been under $10.


How will I know exactly how much my home will cost to build?

Your choice of building site and your blueprints will dictate the cost of the building envelope.  The more detail you can provide in the early stages regarding your choices of finish materials (i.e. flooring, granite, tile, faucets, fixtures, lighting, trim, etc.) the better equipped we are to give you some real numbers.  It is most often the finish materials that drive up the cost and cause people to go over budget.  Each change you make in your choices may not seem like much, but they add up.  For example, changing a mud room bath from linoleum to tile can add $10,000.  Upgrading faucets in 3 bathrooms by just $200 each can add $2000 to your overall cost.  Changing your kitchen stove from a 4 burner G.E. to a 6 burner Wolf can add thousands.  Before you know it, you can easily spend a lot of extra money.  Keep in mind also that lumber prices fluctuate, as does concrete.  When we get a lumber bid on your job, the supplier generally only guarantees that price for 30 days.  If you tell us what your budget is and your taste, we can help you make great choices that won’t break the bank.


What if I live out of town?

Most of our clients have lived elsewhere while we built their home.  We will meet with you as often as you wish, even on weekends if that’s the only time you can visit.  We will communicate with you often, whenever there is a choice or a question.  Our goal is that you have the home of your dreams, and that you love it for many years to come.

Why do you refuse to cut corners in places they won’t really show?

Because the mot important part of your home is the structure.  Taking the time to measure and calculate to ensure your foundation is square, your framing is straight and true, and no detail is overlooked ensures that your home will last.  We always go the extra mile to be sure water won’t enter, seams are tight, and everything is back primed to avoid materials wearing prematurely.  If we make recommendations about materials, it is based on our experience, and done with the goal of creating longevity.  Part of green and sustainable building is reducing the need to replace items – by purchasing the best quality you can afford, and building/installing so that those materials won’t develop problems.  It’s no surprise to us that almost 90% of our clients have been engineers – they are very particular about how things are put together and really take a hard look at structural integrity.


What is the greatest compliment you’ve received from a client?

There are a few which stand out.  One client has two adjoining kitchens with a 60′ span of upper cabinets we installed.  He loved showing his friends how the cabinets were perfectly level and straight – every time they came over.  It was wonderful that he noticed that this was not typical of builders, and was so pleased by it. His friends may not have been quite as excited after watching him with a level numerous times.

Another is having one of our homes chosen to be the Napa Valley Designer Showcase Home of the Year.  The competition for this is fierce.  The client was so pleased with the quality of the work, he was willing to have hundreds of people walk through over the course of the weekend. Busloads of people would arrive, shuttled from a central location in Napa.  He was really proud of his home, and enjoyed sharing it with others.

A special client, who was really fun to work with, got tears in her eyes when she looked at her finished home.  She said she had been waiting all her life to have a home like that and would cherish it the rest of her life.  This was not a huge home, or fancy, but it was exactly what she had dreamed about.  That’s why we continue to build – the satisfaction of helping clients realize their dreams – whatever they may be.


If you are booked, and can’t fit my project in, do you have a list of referrals?

We have one contractor in Nevada County who we feel does the same quality work and has the same attention to detail and customer service as do we.  If, for some reason, we simply cannot fit your project in within a reasonable time frame, we will refer you to that builder.