It is said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. It is actually worth thousands of pounds of cure when it comes to your home remodeling project. A project of this scale not only requires you to fund the budget, it requires you to set aside time for extensive planning, and be available if and when an urgent issue arises during the project.
When a home remodel goes as planned, the sense of joy, excitement and accomplishment is unparalleled. The feeling of living in a home that suits the needs of your family and makes you smile when you open the front door, makes the endeavor worth its weight in gold. When it does not, the feelings of despair, anger and frustration take over.
The planning and research phases of a home improvement project are the most critical steps in the remodeling process. The more knowledgeable and prepared a homeowner is, the more successful they will be in identifying the right contractor, and sourcing the right materials for their remodeling project. A home improvement project is a huge investment of time and money, so making sure it is done right the first time is extremely important.
The first step to a successful remodel is researching your project. Consider speaking with an architect or designer about your wants and needs for your home. They can work with you to provide options that fit your budget, as well as provide an understanding about what to expect during each phase of your remodeling project. They can also access resources that may or may not be available to the public. This will help make the selection process for products and materials a lot easier, as they can identify what is available within your price range.
The added benefit of hiring an architect is they will be familiar with what can and cannot be done according to local building code. They will identify if your project should be filed with the Department of Buildings, as the proper filing of your job will avoid any future issues when it is time to sell your home.
Creating a budget is the second most important part of a successful home remodeling project. When setting aside funds or applying for loan, it is a good idea to set aside an additional ten percent over the contract price. In some cases, unforeseen structural, electrical or mechanical issues may arise, or during the project you may want to add or upgrade some of the materials originally specified for your project. This additional money would then be available for use.
Deciding on a realistic budget and arranging finances to support your project are essential. When calculating the costs of your project, they should include; the proposed cost for architectural services; any permits, filing fees or fees for controlled inspections; the cost of the contract provided by your contractor, and any sub-contractors that have been hired for specialty work; and, all products and materials you are responsible to purchase independent of the contract. Don’t be afraid to share your concerns about your budget with your contractor. Professionals are respectful of a client’s budget and will create a plan around it, not over it.
Probably one of the most important aspects of your home remodeling project is making sure the architects, contractors and suppliers you are working with are the right fit. Make sure they are licensed and insured, and that they are capable of the services and products required for your project. Make sure they are full time, qualified professionals, and that they maintain a good reputation.
Contact both the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs by calling 311 or visiting their website at nyc.gov/dca, and the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org to see if there have been any recent consumer complaints made against the contractor. Verify their license numbers, insurance information and certifications are still active.
Request a visit to an active client’s jobsite. Make it known that you are checking on the company – a true professional considers that as a positive sign in working with a homeowner.
Check on line reviews and social media to see how they have interacted with past clients and peers. Ask friends, family and neighbors for referrals, then spend time researching your short list on line. Professional remodelers take their reputation seriously and hold credentials beyond licensing such as certifications, memberships in trade associations and additional training.
When interviewing contractors, ask about their educational background, experience and familiarity with the specialty materials included in your project. This will help identify if the contractor will provide quality workmanship for your project. Anyone can take a hammer and nails to a piece of wood and say they are a contractor. Make sure the one you choose can facilitate the scope of your project.
You may find that highly recommended contractors have a long lead time before they could start your project. That is not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that their services are in demand, and perhaps worth the wait.
Once you have identified the right contractor, review the contract word by word. You should also consider asking your architect to review it as well, as they are familiar with the terminology used in these types of agreements. A remodeling contract can protect you in the event the goods and services were not provided as written. But remember, this contracts protects the contractor as well, and limits their responsibility based on the content of the contract.
Homeowners are not as familiar with the remodeling process and should ask about terms that they don’t understand. Pay attention to details about change orders, payment schedules, additional fees, timelines and responsibilities. Verbal agreements or changes should be documented and signed off on. If it’s not in the contract, it doesn’t exist.
The selection of products and materials is one of the most difficult responsibilities of the homeowner. This is one of the primary reasons that project timelines are extended, as many times homeowners will make choices and then change them as the project progresses. This can be frustrating for both the homeowner and contractor. By making knowledgeable decisions during the planning stages of the project, this can be avoided.
Base decisions on quality, function, price, style and availability. Try to include your selections in the contract so that there are no surprises when it comes time to the final payment.
Create a clear communication plan with your contractor. A common downfall between contractors and homeowners is the lack of communication during the project. This plan should clarify the roles of everyone involved, communication methods, and the availability and frequency of communication that is expected.
Lastly, prior to signing the remodeling contract, ask for Certificates of Insurance for General Liability and Worker’s Compensation from all contractor and sub-contractor firms that will be on your job. Professional contractors are responsible to carry these policies to protect homeowners from being liable should a worker get hurt on the job.
If you have a question about your remodeling project or a contractor, visit hicofsi.org.