Planning A Home Remodel?

Be sure to consider the complexities as well as the cosmetics

by Patrick Minniear, President, Milo Construction Company

With travel restrictions in place, entertainment options at a minimum and people cooped-up in their homes for hours-on-end, many are deciding to dedicate their “spending money” to home renovations and remodels. The more they see of their house, the more they become aware of the changes they’ve always wanted to make and improvements that will truly turn their house into the home of their dreams.

Perhaps you’re one of these people. And whether you’re considering a new kitchen or bathroom, a dedicated office or study space, an in-home theater, new backyard patio, a sizable addition or complete overhaul, there are baby steps that need to be taken and relevant questions to ask before you start tearing down walls.

One of the biggest mistakes a person can make when starting the process of remodeling a home is calling ten different contractors and asking for bids. It seems like a logical step, to compare prices, but it could lead to much bigger problems down the road. Obviously, finding a good price is important, but finding the right person and team for the job is critical in order to avoid scheduling issues, time delays, cost overruns and overall confusion. Some of the more important aspects to consider at the outset include:

Don’t try to be your own general contractor

There’s a lot of work involved, and underlying issues to consider, during a home remodel/renovation and many of these challenges require the experience and knowledge of a professional. For example, obtaining city approvals and permits, taking into account structural issues, as well as electrical, mechanical and plumbing barriers and making sure the desired improvements can be designed according to a set budget are critical factors to a successful outcome. Too often times a person will lock-in on the type of design they want, without considering all the things that might impact the cost, and before they know it their remodeling project has become a costly catastrophe.

Review qualifications, not just cost

If you decide to go with the lowest priced bidder, be prepared to face some serious consequences. As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”. This is especially true in the current market, when a lot of remodeling work is happening and the design and construction workforce has been stretched thin. Some of the less-than-ethical in the field will take your money and leave the job, not show up when they’re supposed to, aren’t experienced for the work you want done, don’t have a loyal and dedicated team working with them or simple are too busy to get around to what you want done. Be sure that you take the necessary steps and ask the right questions to get the references and qualifications of the “professionals” you’re considering, not just the price for your project.

Important questions to ask

The questions to ask the person or team you’re considering for your home renovation don’t have to be overly technical, but they can be pointed and get you the information you need. They will also help you to get beyond the surface of the work you want done, and provide you with a better understanding of how your candidates do-business:

Have you worked with the architect/designer before?

What is your current workload?

Will you self-perform the work, or hire subcontractors?

What is your process to protect my home from a lien?

What is your bookkeeping process for paying subcontractors?

How long have you been in business?

How will you communicate with me?

How often should I expect to hear from you with updates?

Can you present a certificate of insurance?

What is your liability track record?

Questions such as these will help you to get a better understanding of the person(s) you’ll have working in your home for days/weeks/months depending on the scope of work. Some of the questions might put a candidate on-the-spot, but it will help you in the decision making process.

Regardless of answers to questions and the written contract you receive, it’s never a bad idea to ask an attorney or your bank/lender to review it quickly and make sure everything is valid and doesn’t put any liability back on you.

A home remodel should be a fun experience, as you watch your vision become a reality. There will always be some hiccups along the way, but don’t let those hiccups become gags if you find out that you made bad decisions early in the process.