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CO. Ph. (719)-636-2444
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Every now and then, homeowners are compelled to make certain home
improvements in order to give their house a much needed makeover and an
updated look. In some cases, home remodeling is also done for the purpose
of increasing a property's overall value. However, regardless of the
specific reasons for making renovations and the need for home repair, it's
always important to be prepared before tackling any type of home
Lack of preparation can lead to certain mistakes you'll want to avoid
at all costs. In the most extreme scenarios, it's possible for people to
lose their homes or wind up paying a significant amount of money to
correct incomplete renovations. So before jumping in with your eyes closed
and waking up to an absolute nightmare, try being prepared and consult
with a professional who knows about the undertakings involved with home
remodeling and home repair jobs.
Below are some helpful tips to follow before you decide who should be
hired for your remodeling or other home improvement project.
1. Get recommendations
Start with your friends and family and then check in with the National
Association of the Remodeling Industry for a list of members in your area.
You can also talk with a building inspector, who'll know which contractors
routinely meet code requirements, says This Old House general contractor
Tom Silva, or pay a visit to your local lumberyard, which sees contractors
regularly and knows which ones buy quality materials and pay their bills
2. Do phone interviews
Once you've assembled a list, Tom recommends that you make a quick call to
each of your prospects and ask them the following questions:
- Do they take on projects of your size?
- Are they willing to provide financial references, from suppliers or
- Can they give you a list of previous clients?
- How many other projects would they have going at the same time?
- How long have they worked with their subcontractors?
The answers to these questions will reveal the company's availability,
reliability, how much attention they'll be able to give your project and
how smoothly the work will go.
3. Meet face to face
Based on the phone interviews, pick three or four contractors to meet for
estimates and further discussion. A contractor should be able to answer
your questions satisfactorily and in a manner that puts you at ease. Tom
says that it's crucial that you two communicate well because this person
will be in your home for hours at a time. On the other hand, don't let
personality fool you. Check in with your state's consumer protection
agency and your local Better Business Bureau to make sure contractors
don't have a history of disputes with clients or subcontractors.
4. Investigate the facts
Now that you've narrowed your list, put your research to use. Call up
former clients to find how their project went and ask to see the finished
product. But Tom says you shouldn't rely on results alone. Even more
important, visit a current job site and see for yourself how the
contractor works. Is the job site neat and safe? Are workers courteous and
careful with the homeowner's property?
5. Make plans, get bids
You have your short list of contractors whose track records seem clean and
whose work ethic looks responsible. Now it's time to stop looking back at
past work and start looking forward to your project. A conscientious
contractor will want not only a complete set of blueprints but also a
sense of what homeowners want out of a project and what they plan to
spend. To compare bids, ask everyone to break down the cost of materials,
labor, profit margins and other expenses. Generally materials account for
40 percent of the total cost; the rest covers overhead and the typical
profit margin, which is 15 to 20 percent.
6. Set a payment schedule
Payment schedules can also speak to a contractor's financial status and
work ethic. If they want half the bid up front, they may have financial
problems or be worried that you won't pay the rest after you've seen the
work. For large projects, a schedule usually starts with 10 percent at
contract signing, three payments of 25 percent evenly spaced over the
duration of the project and a check for the final 15 percent when you feel
every item on the punch list has been completed.
7. Don't let price be your guide
"Throw out the lowball bid," says Tom. "This contractor is probably
cutting corners or, worse, desperate for work' - hardly an encouraging
sign in a healthy economy. Beyond technical competence, comfort should
play an equal or greater role in your decision. The single most important
factor in choosing a contractor is how well you and he communicate. All
things being equal, it's better to spend more and get someone you're
8. Put it in writing
Draw up a contract that details every step of the project: payment
schedule; proof of liability insurance and worker's compensation payments;
a start date and projected completion date; specific materials and
products to be used; and a requirement that the contractor obtain lien
releases (which protect you if he doesn't pay his bills) from all
subcontractors and suppliers. Insisting on a clear contract isn't about
mistrust, Tom assures us. It's about insuring a successful renovation.
Finally, remember that as soon as a change is made or a problem uncovered,
the price just increased and the project just got longer. The four most
expensive words in the English language? "While you're at it...."