Getting the Most Out of Professional Remodeling
You may be thinking of fixing up the house before you sell, and thinking about how nice it will be to live in a remodeled home in the months or so that precede the final sale.
If you are considering DIY, you may be on the right track for the smaller touch-ups like a quick coat of paint or a few new light switch covers.
Hire a Professional
But the big jobs are often best left to a professional contractor. The reasoning is not surprising: a professional contractor is going to get better results in less time. You have to get practical when you consider doing things like reinstalling bathroom faucets, vanities, kitchen cabinets and counters on your own.
Sure your husband (or wife) may be good with carpentry here and there—but remember that one leaky faucet you’ve been “gonna fix” for over a year? Procrastination is the enemy! But you’re not procrastinating for no reason. You have work to do at home, kids to raise, and jobs to report to. Everyone is busy.
Contractor Tips and Precautions
So now that you’ve decided it’s time to hire a contractor, here are some things to keep in mind.
It is best to go with a reputable company that has been in the business and is listed. John Doe might be “able” to do the work—but if no one has heard of him yet, how can you be sure he is licensed, that he will get the work done to spec, and that he will get the work done in the time period he has promised. These are some seemingly minor issues that become major when any of them is not met.
If your contractor is advertising on TV, radio, or in print, there is a better chance that he has successfully completed many projects which provided the financing to advertise. So go with the names you know, or word of mouth. A friend or neighbor could tell you their happy stories and horror stories about experiences dealing with contractors. You may even have your own. Trust your own judgment and the advice of those who care about you as well.
Any good contractor is going to be willing to sit down with you and your spouse to discuss what you’d like to have done—and that means details! And that includes not only whether or not you want, for example, a new countertop—but what material of countertop, what size, and what color. If the contractor sits with you to sketch out the finest of details, two things happen. One, you get what you want with less re-do’s. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the contractor’s quote will more accurately reflect what you’ll be paying at the end.
More Specific Tips
Never pay for a consultation. Free consultation and price quote are part of standard business practices in the contract business. Do not pay anything upfront. They know where you live and will get their money if you choose their services. Offer to pay half upon completion of half of the work, and the second half when the job is complete. Never pay the final and full amount until the job is done and to your complete satisfaction. This will keep the contractor coming back until the very end. (No one wants to be playing “The Case of the Missing Contractor” game three months after the project deadline!)
Some states require the down payment not to exceed ten or 25 percent of the contract price. Contact your state authorities before paying anything up front, if you plan to do so.
One situation where you may make an exception (at your discretion) about paying a small amount upfront is when the contractor is a close friend or family member (again, only in accordance with local laws). Be sure that you know this friend or family member well enough to know what their integrity is like, however, before you do so.
The final job should be to your specifications, and nothing less. If it is beyond your expectations, you may consider paying more. But don’t let a contractor tell you he did “extra” work (voluntarily without prior discussion with you) and now wants more than the contract originally stated. It may even be a good idea to mention at the beginning before entering into the agreement that the price is not to exceed the contract amount without your prior written consent. This kind of proactive discussion can save a lot in headaches and confusion in the long run.
Finally, be firm but not cold. You do need to show backbone as a customer no matter what the product or service, but that doesn’t mean treating the one providing that product or service like a non-human. Remember that they are people just like you trying to provide for their families, and they will respect you for it. It’s also the same wisdom as not biting the hand that feeds you. You do the math!