The following information is courtesy of the Washing Post from Oct. 30, 2014. The article was written by, Wendy A. Jordan. Even though the article is a few years old. A lot of the information is just as relevant today. To read the full article – click here
Nationally, renovations are on the upswing. The National Association of Home Builders’ “Remodeling Market Index” — based on a survey of remodelers — has risen steadily over the past six quarters to an all-time high of 57 [as of oct. 2014]. Anything over 50 shows that remodelers are reporting activity — including requests for bids, work assignments for the next three months and backlogs — that is higher than in the previous quarter.
While watching any home renovation show you will quickly see what can go wrong with a remodeling job: conflicts with contractors, disagreements between spouses on preferences, and termites, mold, faulty wiring or other hidden problems that can send costs spiraling well beyond the budget.
As we all know, renovations can be daunting, traumatic and heartbreaking. The right research, planning and preparation on the front end are essential. Here are a few ways that can help your next remodeling project.
Design-build or Construction Firm?
The first step in the decision-making process: researching the types of companies that remodel homes. They are almost as varied as the projects themselves and the homeowners who want work done. Variations are based on project size and scope, the complexity of design and construction, and the homeowners’ budget.
Some remodelers do only construction, following plans developed by an architect or designer. Architects often recommend remodeling contractors whose work quality they admire and with whom they have worked well. Most design-build companies use their own construction crews along with carefully selected trade contractors.
“It just makes sense to package the design and construction,” says David Merrick, president of Merrick Design and Build in Kensington, Md.
“We say no to construction-only jobs, because we don’t understand the project as well as when we are the designer, and it’s hard to provide value engineering” — that is, cost-effective design and construction choices — “when we don’t know what went into the design decisions.” Merrick adds.
Another common belief is that homeowners should get three price estimates before choosing a contractor for their remodeling project. Unless the proposed design, scope of work, products, materials and all other factors are identical in the three proposals, however, this can lead to a comparison of apples and oranges.
Working with Architects and Designers
Design-build firms generally try to draft a variety of designs that meet clients’ budgets, or alert the clients if their design wishes exceed their budget parameters. Architectural firms may prefer to provide a wider array of design possibilities at a range of prices, giving the clients the opportunity to see more approaches that achieve their remodeling needs.
For larger or more complex projects, an architect can act as an agent representing the clients, assuring that they get the product quality and design execution they expect.
Homeowners should first check licensing and insurance for any remodeler and design/build firm. Does the remodeling company have a license to operate in the state? Does the company have certificates of liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance? Does it provide written warranties for workmanship? These are musts!
References and testimonials are essential! A lot of people are relying on — online survey responses with the same weight they would give an in-person recommendation. Ultimately, there’s nothing like a real referral to get your questions about a remodeler answered. Try to meet at previous project locations. This way, you can see the quality of work and talk face to face with the homeowners.
And finally, good chemistry is important. Remodeling company crews may be working in your house for many months, choosing a company you can “live with” is key.
Tips For Finding The Right Remodeler
What experts say you should ask contractors during the interview process:
- Are you licensed to work in my state?
- Do you and your subcontractors carry liability and worker’s compensation insurance?
- Can you provide insurance certificates?
- Are you lead-certified (certified in lead-safe work practices)?
- What is the warranty on your work?
- What services are covered under your contract? May I see a sample contract?
- How long have you been in business?
- Who will be assigned as the project manager? Will the project manager be on site all day?
- Do you have an architect/engineer on staff? If not, whom do you use?
- How many design drafts are included in the contract?
- Do you use your own construction crews?
- Who are your subcontractors, and how long have they worked with you?
- What is the time frame for the project? When could we start? What is your estimated completion date?
- When do you need my product selections?
- Who will walk us through design and selections?
- How do you handle allowances for products?
- Which suppliers do you use?
- Would the contract be fixed price or cost of materials and labor plus contractor fee?
- What payment schedule will you use (deposit, regular payments, percent of completion payments, other)
- May I have a list of references for comparable projects you have recently completed?