Construction can be a daunting task for even experienced contractors. From starter home to design/build consultations, we have the background, the assembled team and the expertise to keep your project moving smoothly.


Are you considering designing & building your dream home?

Generally speaking, it should cost the same as if you found a home on the open market, however you’ll be getting the exact floor plan, colors, porcelain tile, etc that you wanted….within reason (commonly found on homes in that price-point).

As builders, we are approached regularly with the question: “How much do you charge per square foot?” I would ask you, “Are you wanting to drive a Kia or a Cadillac?” The cost per foot quotes will vary from builder to builder, especially if you do not have a floor plan and engineering to put out for bid.

When you commit to a building site, design a home (or purchase a plan and engineering) and choose your finishes (specifications), you can start to have a very meaningful conversations with builders in your area. How much will it cost to get to this meaningful conversation? Realistically, a minimum of $5000…and many months.
Is $5000 and many months too much commitment at this stage in the game? Are you still looking for an answer to the cost per square foot question? You can see now that asking this is asking me to look at the way you are dressed and your car to guess at costs?

There are some builders who will throw any price at you, some will guess low to keep the conversation going; some will have a more accurate quote knowing what caliber of construction is expected in a certain area and by asking a few more questions. Some contractors are more honest than others. Even the best-intentioned individual can not anticipate just how many semi-custom touches you will want to include when it’s all said and done. So the Kia/Cadillac question pops up again.

Even after you get plans, engineering and specs together, why do builders’ prices vary so much?

Even among the reasonably-priced builders you will find quite a range of pricing. Why is that? The lower priced proposals may not have involved thoroughly reviewing the plan and specs and might not have factored in contingencies. They may have missed something. A lower figure might also indicate that they excluded something intentionally from their costs to make the costs seem more favorable: permits, service development charges, taxes, construction debris removal, well or water, septic or sewer, exterior flatwork, driveways, utilities, landscaping, etc. There is a larger builder in our area whose business plan and advertising excludes many things intentionally to attract customers to their “ultra low” cost per square foot. However when you add back in the permits, water, sewer, utilities, etc. back in, their prices are very comparable to our honest, upfront pricing.

How is your approach to your design/build decision impacting your costs?

  • Have you found the exact plan that you want? Do you have your heart set on one particular lot or piece of land? If that’s the case this will be more expensive.
  • Does the the plan/square footage you want match your needs or fit the building site topography well? Will the plan have street appeal?
  • Are you determining your decisions on a total monthly payment that you can afford or total cost you don’t want to exceed?

Choosing one of these approaches likely means that you will be paying a little (or a lot) more.

The best road to affordability is:

  1. Get a great deal on the land.
  2. Make the overall building smaller through efficient design and judicious choices. 
  3. Don’t overbuild the neighborhood.

If you let me know what your budget is, I can usually get you there by targeting your total costs/budget. The road to affordability requires patience in finding the right piece of land at the right price and flexibility on location.  Often, I will have clients create two lists:

  1. A list of needs – we won’t move forward with this unless we have these things.
  2. A list of wants – we will add these things if the price is reasonable.

» Contact Capital Builders and let us help get you on the path to your dream home! 


Bathroom Remodel

This is our second master bathroom remodel so far this summer and our fourth for 2019.

The average bathroom remodel costs between $8,000 and $15,000 depending on the scope. Our most expensive bathroom to date featured a floating walnut double vanity, heated floors, glass tile full-wall backsplash, a trench drain shower room surrounding a tub filled by a spout from the ceiling with teak accents.

The owners in this home were contemplating moving a wall to create space for a HUGE mud-set shower next to a Japanese ofuro.  An ofuro (or furo) is a Japanese style tub that is more vertical than horizontal, usually (but not always) made of wood. They are definitely a treat for the bather, tending to retain heat for longer and allowing the bather to immerse up to chin level. The ofuro tub itself tends to be a bit more expensive but the cost of the most expensive part (the tub filler) tends to skyrocket if floor-mounted.

When the cost for her ofuro and mud-set shower dream exceeded her budget, she opted for a major freshening instead, leaving her tub and shower in place. The major driving factors were the bathroom cabinet starting to fail and the desire to change from a unique texture and paint throughout her master bedroom and bathroom to something more modern. We removed and installed new casing and trim after skim-coating the previous texture. We installed new Coretec LVP flooring, then a new double vanity, replaced a broken door jamb.  

We have used Coretec and Coretec Plus a few times now.  Coretec is even easier to install and more luxurious than our previous favorite, LifeProof.  Coretec has a backing of cork which makes the feel a bit warmer. It is rated, like LifeProof, to go over other flooring.  Since the overall thickness of Coretec is greater, I recommend LifeProof for overlaying other flooring and Coretec for original installs or where the original flooring has been removed. LifeProof is readily available at Home Depot, comes mostly in the popular luxury vinyl planks (LVP). Coretec has a wide choice in planks, but also has some very handsome choices in LVT, luxury vinyl tile.

The cost for this was about half her desired budget limit so we are hoping to hear from her soon about her kitchen!

  • Bedroom Remodel - Before & After
  • Bedroom Remodel - Before & After
  • Bedroom Remodel - Before & After
  • Bathroom Remodel - Before & After
  • Bathroom Remodel - Before & After
  • Bathroom Remodel - Before & After
Bathroom Remodel2019-08-21T11:08:17+00:00

Specializing in Houseboat Remodel and Repairs

Houseboat remodels have some unique requirements and Capital Builders is well versed in addressing these. We have established a dedicated following among the owners at a few moorages who call us for all their needs: water-heaters, decks, window replacement, bathroom and kitchen remodeling, roof replacement, siding replacement, handyman services, and dry-rot repair. We have even completely dismantled a houseboat by hand right down to the old-growth logs to dispose into a dropbox at the top of the moorage ramp.

Houseboat WalkwayIn addition to different requirements are different challenges including: working in close quarters, transporting materials long distances, gates, codes, and shuffling vehicles to keep the peace with neighbors.

A recent client called on us to redo a two-story deck that was abandoned by another contractor. Despite a few months of work, what was complete wasn’t looking so good. We were able to start right away and get the project back on track to our clients satisfaction.

A common mistake of some contractors is bringing a level to work on a houseboat. The primary tools are a string, a measuring tape and a square.  We have even been known to use sheets of plywood as very large squares when other tools fail us or have us a little confused. Everything must be measured and remeasured throughout the project.

Beyond the work itself, extra care with tools and materials is paramount. Most houseboat owners know that placing your tools flat, not perching them on the tops of ladders as you might on dry land is par for the course. Anything dropped will bounce once or twice before the splash.  The second common mistake is placing tools upright (longer distance to fall, bounce or slide) or close to an roof, deck or float edge. We take extra care here not only to keep our workers and clients safe, but to lower our overhead to keep our prices reasonable.

There is absolutely nothing better than the sound of the water lapping on the boats, working in the sun and the fresh air.

Specializing in Houseboat Remodel and Repairs2019-04-17T18:43:31+00:00

Skinny houses – Portland’s houses on a diet

Portland style skinny houses

When Portland was a young city, it embraced increased density by having the smaller than normal 25×100 lots.  Some original buyers even purchased an extra lot to have a little extra distance between their neighbors as a side yard.  In the years since, some of those were built on.

In 1979, Oregon became the very first state to begin urban and rural planning.  We Oregonians drew lines around our cities, called urban growth boundaries, to discourage California-like sprawl. We assigned each piece of land a zoning code for what it was being used for and what we wanted it to eventually become.

Lots before that time were easy to create.  If you had a lot and you wanted to divide it, it only took a signature on a deed and to pay a recording fee with a new legal description.  In one day, without a surveyor, an attorney or any other professional help, you could divide one lot into two.

Portland had enough land at that time to grow toward the East.  Portland also grew larger, by by annexing other smaller cities like Albina, St. Johns, and Linnton.  There were savings for citizens in having one water department, one sewer agency, and one fire department and police department.

As land became more scarce in the early 90’s, Portland-style shotgun homes or “skinny houses” were born to add density, take advantage of existing lots and to limit sprawl.  These skinny homes are part of the reason that we see Portland maintaining its svelte figure. They live large on the inside with minimal care on the outside, and are ideal for a busy modern lifestyle. Once inside, home owners see no difference between their homes and other homes on the block because all room sizes are standard. There are other advantages, too!  With smaller lots, the monthly payment is lower. The tax payment is lower. Being a new home, there is less time spent on home maintenance. And with a smaller yard, there is also less time spent on yard maintenance. This all translates to more time for the owner to enjoy the weekends!

The first skinny houses were not very pretty.  Because they looked a little odd, they only appealed to entry-level buyers.  As more and more of these houses have been built, there has been more and more controversy surrounding these homes.   After nearly 20 years of skinny home construction and a broader acceptance, there have been some sales in desirable neighborhoods of nearly $700,000.00!  There has even been a design competition to design aesthetically pleasing skinny houses. Amusing for the builders of these homes was the fact that the winning designs chosen by Portland City Council violated a great number of the planning codes currently in place. That didn’t stop the City Council from being approving them for immediate construction.  There are those that despise them; they are not for everyone. On the other hand, the market has spoken. There seems to be no end to those willing to buy them and for all these reasons, they are here to stay.

Skinny houses – Portland’s houses on a diet2019-04-17T18:18:54+00:00

Slopes and Cross Slopes

Slope in one direction is relatively easy to address, but a lot with cross-slope presents additional challenges. There are some pretty sizable extra expenses that come from extra excavation, extra framing to fur walls inside tall foundation, walls which act to retain dirt on the outside, wider window and door trim material, extra retaining walls to create some flat outdoor living space. Our biggest cross-slope project was a 22′ difference from right rear corner to left front corner. Most of this difference was dealt within the footprint/design of the house, but still required 12′ retaining walls. This lot’s cross-slope is not that severe at a mere 6′.

Slopes and Cross Slopes2018-04-30T17:16:30+00:00

Scappoose, Custom Prairie Shell

This custom shell we designed Prairie-style to fit the owners’ particular lot and needs.

The lot was one of the more difficult lots in the area with slope and cross slope, but the owners had gotten a great deal to offset the cost of the design. We started construction in late October, alternating our work with the owners’ work or sometimes working concurrently. We did foundation, framing, insulation, siding, windows, flatwork, drywall, decks, exterior doors, gutters and garage doors. The owners did their own excavation, plumbing, rain drains, damp proofing, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, deck handrails and interior finishes.
Scappoose Custom Shell HomeCould this particular project have gone better? Undoubtedly! The owner was three days late in finishing his initial excavation. Unfortunately, that was the three day window foundation for the subcontractor…and he was booked out another 3 weeks out. This put us both behind and squarely into three weeks of snow followed by the wettest winter on recent record.

Did the owner take on a little too much? Well, yes and no. He got it done, but there were a few smaller problems and it definitely took longer to do than if we had one of our Angie’s List A-rated subs there. Where electrical rough-in and plumbing rough-in should have taken 4 days maximum for us, our client was there plugging away for a while after work and on weekends for weeks. Did he save money, without a doubt! Would he do it again? I will ask him!

Will I do it again? Yes, but I think that next time, I would try to consolidate all of the owner activities into one solid block of time to prevent alternating schedules. Don’t get me wrong! We managed, but there were a few items where he took far too long, throwing a wrench into my schedule and then I unintentionally did the same thing to him. Even though he was a very accomplished heavy-equipment operator on a tractor, there are many excavation items which are very important to the overall well-being of the home: the ground that the footings are sitting on need to be firm ( there were a few soft spots that needed to be addressed), the pad needs to be level (it needed a little help there, too), there is damp-proofing the basement foundation (a thick coating of asphalt emulsion is the code requirement, but it is always better to do more), installation of rain drains and drywells, proper back-filling, etc. Also, our framer took far too long in finishing due to weather and employee setbacks

The good news is that we finished our final items (siding and gutters) before he had the interior items complete, but the best news is that we have a new homeowner who is as happy with us as he is happy to be moved in.

Scappoose, Custom Prairie Shell2017-09-03T22:17:46+00:00

Houseboat Repairs – Bathrooms and More

My first experience with houseboats was 25 years ago when my parents bought a framed shell of a house with windows and a metal roof on a concrete float.  Since helping them with their build-out, we have done numerous houseboat renovations and repairs from window replacement to standing seam roof installation to renovations of kitchens and bathroom to swim float resurfacing.  Last year, we even demolished a houseboat by hand (right down to the stringers) transporting it one board at a time to a drop box in the parking lot.  Yours probably isn’t that bad!

Are you being penny-wise and pound foolish? Houseboat owners are a frugal bunch and ver, but have you thought of everything to to spend your pennies wisely.

These are a few tricks to reducing remodeling costs on floating homes:

  1. Do you have a safe area to store tools and materials?
  2. Do you have access to a work platform or will your neighbors accommodate ladders?
  3. Do you require daily clean-up?
  4. Is your moorage open to construction work on Saturdays?
  5. Do you or your moorage have a cart to move tools and materials from the parking lot to your floating home?
  6. Is there a way to reduce the weight to avoid the need for extra buoyancy?

We are excited! Our next houseboat job (already scheduled) is to replace some vertical cedar siding on the South side of a two-story houseboat and frame and install three glass/aluminum garage doors in what once was a floating plane hanger!
One of the products that I think are most useful for houseboat owners is LockDry.  It is an extruded aluminum deck board with a built-in gutter.  It is the only product of its kind and results in a walkable, waterproof deck.  Our first installation was roughly 9 years ago with a few more since then.  No leaks with minimal maintenance is a match made in heaven!  The company literature says that their product is very forgiving during the installation process.  It is not unfortunately.  It is a great product that requires attention to detail and the supporting framing to be built or adjusted to tight tolerances.  What you have after that is many years of peace of mind!

Houseboat Repairs – Bathrooms and More2019-04-17T18:43:13+00:00