How many customer references should I ask for when hiring a company?
If you really want to find out how consistent a contractor’s work is, ask for at least 10 references.
I also recommend that you ask for bank and supplier references. These references will let you know that the company you are considering is legitimate.
Can you provide a “ballpark” estimate over the phone or by email?
There are just too many choices to come up with a number that is realistic.
For example, there are dozens of countertops to choose from. You can spend $1,500 or $5,000 to cover the same area. The same can be said for virtually every component in a remodeling project. That is why some kitchen remodeling projects are $15,000 and some are $80,000.
The good news is that all those choices give you great flexibility to meet your budget. If you’re worried about the cost of your project and getting the most for your money, our design and build services thorough upfront planning practically eliminates the most common reasons many projects wind up costing a lot more than the initial quote.
Home remodeling or home improvement contractors that will give you an estimate over the phone or via email without meeting you and listening to all of your needs and desires should be avoided. This is totally unprofessional.
One more point-estimates that are written on the back of a business card are worthless, because all you will know is the price. That is like buying a car without knowing what features or options are included.
Is membership in a professional association of home remodeling companies important?
Absolutely. Trade associations are designed to establish standards for the industry. Specific standards established for the home remodeling industry include:
- Guidelines for references
- Compliance with insurance & regulatory issues
- Safety program requirements
- Increasing trade knowledge
- Administration of certification examinations
Some associations include:
How do I determine a realistic budget for my remodel?
There are many ways to figure a budget and you may gain ideas from friends or family who have remodeled. However, there’s a third-party source called www.costvsvalue.com that is updated yearly with the most current realistic costs for popular remodels. This may assist you is figuring an amount to invest in your remodel.
How many “bids” should I request?
It is common for homeowners to ask for three or five “bids” and base their decision on price, unless they don’t like one or more of the contractors. However, most contractors provide a “guesstimate” and prices can vary by thousands of dollars. This can be confusing to the homeowner and cause the project to stall. A better approach is to interview contractors and ask similar questions to all of them. Base your decision on the best fit for you and then ask them to submit a proposal for your project based on your realistic budget.
How do I determine the difference between contractors and their bids?
The answer to this is found in #2.
How do I feel secure with all the workers and strangers in and out of my home?
When you interview the contractors, ask questions about their workers and subs, how they work in your home, and how they handle any concerns you may have.
Do all contractors carry insurance?
Ask for a current copy of their insurance. It is best for the insurance agency to send the insurance copy directly to you, as a policy could have a current date, but be discontinued.
How much should I invest in my home and not out-price it for the neighborhood?
You could ask a realtor to provide you with the value of your home or have it appraised. Then compare similar projects of friends and review www.costvsvalue.com for realistic costs of projects in your area of the country.
What if I want to do some of the work myself?
Make sure to discuss this with your chosen contractor. Many contractors will not want to work with homeowners’ DIY projects. Some may agree with your DIY, but have certain stipulations. Don’t be surprised if your “savings” are limited for doing the demo work.
Do I need an architect?
Some projects require an architectural design, while many do not. This can be discussed with your contractor.
Do I really need a designer?
Often, homeowners think that designers are for the high-end clients and they may not be able to afford the cost. This is really not the case, as many designers will work by the hour or help find products that fit within the budget.
How do I get started when it all seems so overwhelming?
Often, starting is the hardest part of a remodel. You may have thought about your project for a long time and feel overwhelmed with all the decisions. You are not alone. Look at pictures online and visit model homes or friends’ remodels for ideas.
What is Design/Build and is it a better option?
Design/Build is a process of hiring one company for the entire remodel. They are accountable for creating the overall design, working within your realistic budget, helping you choose the products, and completing the remodel.
What happens when the contractor says I don’t need permits for my project?
Contractors who skip the permit process are usually trying to move things alone quickly and may skip corners. All could go well; however, permits help protect the homeowner, making sure that the most updated procedures are followed.
How do I determine how long a project should take?
Ask your contractor how long the project should take. Keep in mind that there will probably be delays due to weather, product changes or sub-contractor delays.
How should I handle a problem on the job?
During the interview process, ask the contractor how he/she handles problems. Also consider how he or she handles your questions. You want an open line of communication throughout the entire process.
Should I expect workers on the job every day?
It is usual for “stops and starts” on every job. As much as you want the project to continue daily, there are many contractors to schedule and they may have delays on other jobs. It is best to plan for days with just a few hours of work and some days without any workers.
Why do contractors offer “allowances”?
Many contractors try to win the business with low prices. They offer “allowances” in order to include the products. However, when you look at the items on the “allowance” list, you may want to choose higher-end products which will increase your bottom line investment.
What is the difference between an estimate and a fixed-price quotation?
An estimate is really a “guestimate” where a contractor provides an idea of what the project will cost without figuring the actual cost for the homeowner. A fixed-price quotation is an actual cost based on scope of the work, specific products and trades’ input for the job. It should be written in detail so the homeowner knows exactly what is included in the project.
How should I react when the project takes longer than expected?
Try to stay calm and ask when the project will be finished.
How do I know what the end result will look like?
It may help to review pictures of remodels similar to yours. Ask your designer or contractor to lay out the chosen items and paint samples of the colors on your walls. If you have a trusted designer, he/she will guide you through the process and help you envision it.
Should I expect the workers to clean up every day?
They should clean up their debris and sweep up daily so you are not tripping over supplies. You should not have to wait for days for items to be removed or cleaned up. If the painters have plastic up and plan to return the next day, they will leave the plastic. This saves time and money from removing it daily and is standard practice. Installers will stack their supplies in neat piles so they can continue working from day to day.
What are my responsibilities during the remodel?
It is best for you and your contractor to review the progress daily so they are meeting your expectations. If you find something unsuitable or need to make a change, it can be handled quickly and the job can continue. If you change your mind on something, such as a paint color or placement of a light fixture, it will cost you for the change order, but is minimal to changing after the job is completed. Make sure you leave the workers alone so they can work without disturbance, but review at intervals.
What should be in a contract and is it really that important?
There are legalities that protect both parties and make a binding agreement from the beginning of the project. It places an importance on the project, helping all involved to honor and respect each other. There are several stipulations that are too lengthy to review in a FAQ and you can find them inside the book.
What kind of warranty should I expect from the contractors?
Each contractor has their warranty and some do not provide one. Most will include the manufacturer warranty as a separate item and then have a one to two year warranty on labor and materials.
Don’t all contractors help with choosing products?
Most contractors do not help with choosing products and offer an “allowance” or send you to the various stores to pick out items.
How do I know who to trust in my home?
When you interview contractors and get to know them, you may have a “sense” about them as individuals. This can help; however, ask how they handle the workers and what happens if something is missing or you are concerned about safety issues. In the end, you should feel safe and comfortable with workers in your home.
Will I need to remodel again?
The answer is: it depends. You could have a problem causing you to remodel an area of your home or you may need a change due to safety or illness. In most cases, remodels will last for design and appearance around 15 years. However, you may like the newer trends and want to make changes sooner.
Universal Design FAQs
What Is Universal Design?
The concept of Universal Design is to make products and places accessible and safe for anyone and everyone. It is “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” (Universal Design for the Home by Wendy A. Jordan). With Universal Design, a child, the elderly, a physically-challenged individual, or a short or tall person could use the product and room and be comfortable and safe within the environment.
Universal Design creates a livable space, including:
- Equitable Use – the design works for everyone equally, providing a safe and secure space for all ages and abilities
- Flexibility in Use – the design suits a wide range of abilities and preferences, such as right or left-handed and slow or fast workers
- Simple and Intuitive Use – the design is easy for all to understand, including those without the ability to understand the language
- Perceptible Information – the design is clear to all who use it, including color contrast and varying textures and designs
- Tolerance for Error – the design provides foolproof features, minimizing errors and accidents
- Low Physical Effort – the design can be used efficiently, comfortably, and with minimal effort
- Size and Space for Approach and Use – the design incorporates the size and space needed for all to function well, regardless of size, ability to reach, see, sit, or stand
What is a Universal Design Certified Professional (UDCP) and is it really that important?
UDCP’s are certified in providing the best combination of style, functionality, and accessibility to your home.
The goal of Universal Design is to make your home “user friendly” for everyone, including children, the elderly, and the physically challenged—all while creating a style that looks better than your wildest dreams
What are the benefits of incorporating universal design in my remodel?
As we age, our needs for increased care minimizes our independence. Most senior adults want to continue living on their own and remain in their homes, with minimal care from others. By incorporating Universal Design into your remodel, you increase your ability to live independently and function in a safe and secure environment.