How can you find a good contractor/remodeler and avoid misconceptions and mistakes made by others? When you remodel or build new, the experience should be of peace of mind that comes from being in complete control, working with a contractor who understands your needs and your goals. This person should carry general liability and workers’ compensation insurance, and be qualified to perform the work and take your project from concept to completion. Most importantly, this person should warranty and stand behind his/her work.
In order to accomplish a successful remodel or new construction, Deabenderfer Construction Design/Build, LLC provides you with 6 steps to a successful remodeling and/or new construction experience.
Step 1: Avoiding Common Misconceptions
- If the Better Business Bureau (BBB) doesn’t have any complaints against the contractor, he must be qualified: No, The BBB often does an incomplete job of reporting offending companies, if they are dues paying members. If a contractor doesn’t have any complaints with the BBB, it doesn’t mean he is a reputable professional.
- Going with the lowest price saves you money: No, not necessarily! We all tend to look for the lowest price. On a low estimate, you must ask yourself what is being left out or what shortcut is being taken.
- Doing it yourself saves money: No! The weekend warrior can undertake small projects like painting, hanging wallpaper, or routine repairs, but beware of undertaking larger, more complicated projects. An attempt to save money can actually turn into a costly folly. All too often the job is botched and it costs more to have a professional come in and fix what has been done.
- If a contractor claims to have many years of experience, they must do quality work: No! Investigate further to ensure you're dealing with a qualified professional.
Step 2: Avoid Common Scams
- Today Only Discounts: If a contractor ever tells you that the price is available for “today only”, show him the door. Don’t be fooled by this old trick. It is used to pressure homeowners into making a quick decision.
- High Pressure Salespeople: You should never feel pressured into making a decision about choosing your contractor. High pressure usually leads to a bad decision when remodeling. A qualified professional would never have to pressure anyone into a project.
- Beware of Door-to-Door Contractors: These people may not be contractors at all. Never allow them into your home. If you are interested in their services, politely ask them for their business card, and the names, addresses and telephone numbers of people they are doing work for in the neighborhood. Then make an appointment with that homeowner to take a look at the quality of their work.
Step 3: Choosing the Right Contractor (Questions to ask before inviting a contractor into your home)
- Do you carry general liability insurance? This type of insurance protects your property in case of damage caused by the contractor and/or his employees. The insurance company will pay for the cost of replacing and/or repairing any damage that occurs. Have the contractor prove this by having their insurance company provide you with a Certificate of Insurance with you named as the certificate holder. (We will provide all Certificates of Insurance after a contract is signed.)
- Do you carry workers’ compensation insurance? This insurance protects you from liability if a worker is injured while on your property. Be aware that if the contractor does not carry workers’ compensation coverage, you may be liable for any injuries suffered by the contractor or any of his employees on your property. If the contractor is a one man operation, he can be exempt from having to carry workers’ compensation insurance. He can provide you with a copy of his construction industry certificate of exemption from workers’ compensation. This is very risky for you though. If he shows up with a helper and the helper gets hurts, with no workers compensation insurance, you may have to pay the medical bills. In short, it is much safer to deal with a fully insured contractor.
- Will you provide me with a written lien waiver? Your contractor should provide you with a written lien waiver at the end of the job. This is a legal document which says you, the homeowner, have paid the contractor in full for the services rendered and the contractor waives his right to place a mechanics lien on your property.
- Will the contractor provide the required building permits? Make sure your contractor pulls all required permits. This is very important. When a contractor pulls the required building permits, you know things will be done to “code”. Also, many homeowners’ insurance policies require pulling a permit on any major remodeling to keep your home property covered. Not all contractors will do this. Some contractors may ask you to get the permits. This could be a warning sign. A reputable contractor will permit every job where a permit is required.
- Do you guarantee your work? Your contractor should guarantee his work for at least one year from the date of completion.
- Who will be in charge of the job? Make sure the contractor or his foreman is on the job daily whenever work is being performed – especially if subcontractors will be used. If you won’t be home during the construction and must leave the house unlocked, or leave a key with the contractor, you must feel comfortable. You can’t be worried about what is going on when you are not there.
- Will you provide me with written references? A good contractor will be happy to provide you with references from several of their customers, both past and present.
- How do you handle dirty work? Construction is dusty and dirty! Make sure the contractor will make an honest effort to keep the dust contained, or notify you when the heavy dust generating operations will be taking place.
Step 4: Mistakes Made by Homeowners and How to Avoid Them
- Listening to the wrong people: Don’t listen to people who are not qualified to give this type of advise. Everyone’s got an opinion on what you should do with your remodeling dollars. Just because someone is your relative, friend, or thinks they know construction, doesn’t mean they know the answers to your remodeling questions or problems. Call someone qualified to answer your questions.
- Not asking for or calling references: Call at least three of the references you’re given. You can never learn too much about the company you are considering using. Take a few minutes to talk to these people. Ask if the job was done on time and at the agreed price. Ask if the contractor was easy to reach and easy to deal with. It will be worth it!
- Not visiting the references or seeing examples of work: Visit their previous clients to see examples of work. You can learn a lot by seeing the finished project. If the contractor is good, many previous clients are extremely proud of their “new” home and will be glad to let you take a look. See a job in progress. Is the job site clean? Are tools and materials strewn about? Is everything dusty and dirty, or is it covered or sealed off? Chances are if a contractor keeps his work sites clean and neat, especially at the end of the day when it’s time to go home, you’ve got a conscientious contractor.
Step 5: Before You Sign the Contract, How Can You the Homeowner Tell if the Project Will Run Smoothly?
- Good Communication: If you can talk with each other, you can work out any details that come up. Nothing is more important than feeling like your contractor understands your needs and concerns. If your contractor is so busy that he can’t return calls or pages promptly, maybe it’s time to look for a new contractor. When you’re in a discussion, does the contractor really listen to you? I mean really listen? This is vital! You should always feel like both of you are on the same page. This can avoid miscommunication and costly errors. Choose someone who will listen to you and that you will listen to and trust.
- Comfort: If you feel comfortable with your contractor, the chances are good your project will run smoothly. Think about it. You’ve just invited a stranger into your home. Do you find this person nice? Considerate? Personable? A listener? Was he polite and courteous? Or did he make you feel that he wasn’t interested? You will be working with this person for a period of days, weeks, or months depending upon the project you need completed. Can you stand to have this person around?
- Trustworthy: Check the contractor’s references. Keep in mind that if your project will entail entrance into your home and you won’t be home during the day, the keys to your castle will be given to your contractor. Can you trust him? Listen to your conscience.
- Completion: Will your contractor give you a reasonable estimate for how long the project will take to complete? A good contractor will do this. Nothing is more frustrating and irritating than a remodel or new construction job that drags on and on.
- Written Proposal: You want a detailed written proposal that shows what is included: exact materials, brand names, applicable costs and the payment schedule.
- Details: Work out the little details before work begins. Discuss things like: Where will the dumpster go or the port-a-john will be located? What time will construction begin in the morning? What time will construction end? Will work take place on weekends? Will workmen refrain from smoking inside the house? Will the workmen use your restroom or will the contractor have a port-a-john on site?
- Flexibility: Remodeling is an interruption to your normal lifestyle. If your project involves the kitchen, plan on eating a few extra meals out.
- Appearance: If your contractor has a neat appearance, this is a very good sign of things to come. This may sound silly, but it’s not. Is his truck presentable or falling apart? Is his truck permanently lettered? If the contractor's appearance is neat, chances are he will keep your job neat.
- Down Payment: A fair down payment should not exceed 10%, unless custom ordered items are needed in the beginning stage of construction. As the work progresses, you should expect to pay out additional funds to match the construction schedule. If the contractor asks for a big chunk of money up front, this is a tip-off that they are not in good financial shape.
- Change Orders: With remodeling, there is always the chance that you may want or need to change material or contract item. They should be written on a separate document showing in detail what is being changed and how much it will cost. This should be done before the change is affected and signed by both the contractor and homeowner.
Step 6: Planning Your Project
Plan your project with a qualified remodeling expert.
Most people spend more time planning a one-week vacation than they do a major remodel of their home. If you’re considering a remodel or new construction in the near future, sitting down and talking with a professional contractor who can answer all of your questions is the best advice given.