How To Enjoy Your Remodeling Project From Start to Finish!
By Mark A. Brick, CR, CGR
President, B&E General Contractors, Inc.
“Enjoyable remodeling project”: is this an oxymoron? Can this be feasible? It certainly is very realistic for the homeowner and the contractor alike to embark on an enjoyable, educational and memorable renovation. In order to live with and live through your home’s remodeling, the consumer must apply principles of homework, communication, cooperation, and flexibility.
Home remodeling can take on a life of its own if the consumer does not prepare in advance. Before approaching a contractor, the consumer must become educated; do your homework!
- Develop the overall scope of the project. Prioritize needs and wants; determine what is a necessity and what is a luxury that may be deleted due to space or budget. Sketch your vision of the project. Artistry is not a pre-requisite here, however, your ideas on paper will allow the contractor to envision and interpret your ideas.
- Determine your budget: what is a comfortable amount that you can spend, realizing that there may be additional charges for unforeseen expenses (i.e.: asbestos discovered during demolition will have to be removed by a licensed abatement team, at an additional cost to the homeowner)? If you are financing your improvements through home equity loans or refinancing, complete these procedures prior to meeting with the contractor.
- Create a scrapbook of the items you wish to include in your project: Samples or magazine clippings of tile, fixtures, flooring, roofing and siding materials, floor plans or design amenities will establish wonderful groundwork for your contractor and will create a rapport from which to work.
- Never underestimate the importance of clear communication. Remodeling is a very exciting experience. The homeowner is creating a very unique, personal extension of his/her lifestyle through the renovations. If the homeowner and contractor do not communicate well, then both parties will be extremely unhappy with the progress of the project, and the homeowner may be resigned to live with mistakes, instead of enjoying a new lifestyle.
- When interviewing remodeling specialists, the consumer must ask the following questions:
- Does the contractor have a permanent mailing address or showroom to which all communication is directed?
- Does the contractor have an immediate paging or answering system and after-hours answering service (extremely important during times of emergency)?
- Does the contractor assign a designer/foreman to your project to act as a go-to person throughout the project’s duration?
- Does the contractor maintain a communications reference log at your home as a standard for written communication, change orders, subcontractors reference, and progress updates?
- Does the contractor schedule daily/weekly meetings with the homeowner to assess the progress of the renovation (make sure to confirm this before you sign on the dotted line)?
- It is the responsibility of the homeowner to ascertain the business and ethical reliability of the contractor prior to signing any contracts. Review the following pertinent points and be certain that they apply to the contractor you choose:
- Does the contractor have an established presence in the business community? Is there a showroom or office where you can observe the smoothness of day-to-day operations of the firm?
- Ask to see a copy of the contractor’s contract and specifications, and review for clauses regarding mediation and resolution in the event of a dispute, change order charges and payment schedule, and client responsibilities.
- Has the contractor shown you proof of liability and workers’ compensation insurance? Make sure that you retain a copy of these documents during the renovation.
- Request a list of customer references, scattered over a period of time, so that you may assess past and present workmanship, as well as the contractor’s call-back response when completed work may need repair or adjustment.
- Ask for a list of supplier references so that you may determine if the contractor maintains a fiscally prudent record of paying bills and has sound credit.
- Is the contractor a member in good standing of the local and national trade organizations (i.e. NARI, NAHB, NKBA)? Does the contractor hold any advanced certification degrees (Certified Remodeler, Certified Graduate Remodel or, Certified Kitchen/Bath Designer)? Are graduate/licensed architects employed by the firm?
- Is the contractor and his/her staff educated in lead identification, asbestos identification, life-saving procedures and OSHA requirements?
- When touring current jobsites, make note of the cleanliness of the site, plus the use of safety equipment by the carpentry team.
When remodeling, the homeowner and the contractor enter into a “temporary marriage”. The normal lifestyle of the homeowner is suspended. You now have many people “living with you”, coming and going at all times of the day. Create a plan with your contractor that allows for a privacy cushion when necessary, as well as a clean zone for family dining and tending to daily matters. No project will be perfect; as old and undetected mechanical or insulation violations may be lurking behind your drywall, so homeowner and contractor alike must be flexible to adapt to unforeseen predicaments. It isn’t the contractor’s fault that your cabinet delivery is delayed by a snowstorm eight states away, nor is it your fault that your child’s starring role in the school play won’t allow you to be home to inspect the tile delivery. Be patient, and remember that the end result certainly supersedes any temporary setbacks.
Maintain an elevated sense of humor during the remodeling, and certainly enjoy the spectacle with a bit of gusto! Celebrate the completion of certain phases ( “Hooray! The sink is in and we don’t have to wash our dishes in the bathtub anymore!) and look forward to the next stage. You will evolve along with your project.
When your project is complete, and you and your contractor have wrapped up the final inspection and signed-off on the punch list, celebrate this wonderful moment with your family and contractor alike. You’ve just opened a new chapter in your home life!