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Selecting A Contractor

Posted On: April 12, 2018

Finding the Best Contractor For You: 

There is plenty of information on how to select a contractor and it all says the same basic things. Get 3 estimates, get references, get a written contract, etc. While these are all good suggestions it is still very common to hear about people who are unhappy with the work or the people who did the work. I'm going to add a few items that may help :

Response time: When you make the first call how long does it take for the contractor to get back to you? Do they show up on time for the appointment or call you if they are running late?

Communication: Do they take notes? Do they ask follow up questions? Do they answer your questions with good information. Do they present a thorough estimate with all items included?

Credentials: Do they show you a current copy of insurance including workers comp? All contractors in PA must be registered with the PA Attorney General and should be able to provide proof of current registration when asked. Are they certified or trained in the skills you are looking for? Are they members of any trade groups such as Homebuilders or Remodeling  Association. 

Reputation: Any contractor can give you the phone number of his brother in-law or uncle  for a reference. What you want to do is get an unbiased opinion. If you are looking for a cement contractor make a visit to the local concrete company and ask them for a couple of good people who do cement work. I have found that the suppliers have a pretty good idea of who is good and who isn't.  

Do a Google search and see what pops up. There are also many on line sites where people post reviews on contractors. You can also search for them on the Better Business Bureau website.

Use Your Good Sense: What I mean by this is all the things you can't measure. Does this person/ company feel like a good fit? Do we seem to get along and communicate well? Do they listen to what I'm saying and answer my questions with concern?

I often advise people that Remodeling is like a big long blind date. So based  what you know now would you be wanting a 2nd date? In other words if it doesn't feel right or sounds  too good to be true there is probably a good reason for that and the time to figure that out is now not after its too late.

The problem with buying home improvements is that you really don't know what you are buying until after you take delivery. Many people make the mistake of thinking that buying Home Improvements is like buying bread or gasoline. They just look for the lowest price based on what they want. The problem is that unlike gas and bread which is the about the same regardless of where you buy it the quality and experience of getting work done on your home can be quite a bit different from the description. 

Let me give you an example:

You want to get a new front door. A steel door with glass at the top and new trim.You also want it painted to match the siding outside and the wall inside.

Contractor A quotes you $500.00

Contractor B quotes you $1200.00

Well the choice is simple: Just go with contractor A because " He's giving me the best deal"

But here are just a few of the things you wont know until after your job is done.

Contractor A : He buys a bargain promo door that pretty much but not quite fits your house. He shows up 3 hours later than he told you . He paints the door in  your driveway with a brush and  paint he bought at the Dollar Store. He installs it with-out flashing or insulation and uses caulking that's costs him $2.00 a tube. He is  about 75% done  when he asks you to pay him and tells you he will be back tomorrow to finish. After several phone calls and unanswered messages you figure out he is never coming back.

Contractor B: He buys a quality brand name door made in the correct size to fit your home without disturbing the framing or the wall finish. He has it painted at the factory so the finish looks great. He shows up on time and takes the extra time and effort to install your new door correctly and uses high quality flashing and caulking that costs him $8.00 a tube  so as not to have trouble later. He doesn't ask for the final payment until everything is done. He gives you a written labor warranty and a copy of the door warranty. A few days later you notice that the new door lock doesn't seem quite right so you call him up. He sets an appointment to back and fixes it right up. You are a happy customer 

Although both jobs start out the same on paper they are vastly different in the end.

There is no way to list and control every little detail. You have to decide for your self if this person /company is going to do a good job and treat you fairly. If it doesn't feel good now it probably won't feel good later.

Remodeling is much more than just the materials. It is and experience that includes how you are treated and how you feel during and after the job.

And although we've all heard it a million times: You only get what you pay for.





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Developing a Budget

Posted On: April 03, 2018

Developing a Budget:

So you have what you want written down and the next step is to figure out what it will cost and if you can afford it. Prices vary between materials and contractors so you should spend a little time and  research on this part of your plan. The internet  can be a good source  for ballpark pricing and material ideas.

One very good source is to Google  the   Cost vs. Value Report. This is a report that comes out every year and lists the most common remodeling projects and the cost to have them done. I have found that most of the project costs  listed are higher than our area. More often than not you can figure on paying less than the report prices.

The best way to get an accurate idea on costs is to get estimates from contractors. (More on that later)

Once you have a rough idea  of costs you can decide how you will handle funding. If you are going to finance  now is a good time to check with and visit a bank to pre qualify for a home improvement  loan. You can find out how much you qualify for and what the terms are. Then you can decide if and how much you want to do. and fine tune your plan as needed.   This way you can get quotes based on what you want to spend.  A little time spent now will really speed things up later. 



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The Remodeling Process

Posted On: March 29, 2018


So before we start showing featured projects I think it is a good idea to share with you how the home improvement process works ( and also how it sometimes does not work)

First up:How to have a Good Remodeling Experience

So you want to do some remodeling but either you or someone you know has had a bad experience and you don't want that to happen this time. Maybe you are not sure how to go about picking materials, getting a contractor, financing etc.

There are some simple things you can do to to help ensure a good outcome.

First think about what you want and don't want. Then make notes so nothing gets missed when you meet with contractors or go to make material selections. One good way to figure out what you want is by asking yourself what you don't like now.

For instance if you hate that your current kitchen doesn't have enough room for friends and family then maybe  opening up a wall or installing a bar top for additional seating might be possible. Maybe its too dark  so you might think about additional lighting or a skylight. You can get lots of ideas on the internet and from your friends, neighbors and relatives but remember in the end it's your house and you are paying so it's your ideas that matter most. It's also a good idea to have all the decision makers involved  so everyone who matters has input in the process.

I once sold a whole house full of windows to a husband who insisted " We don't need my wife here  we already discussed it I know exactly  what we want"   Followed with "Do you want to sell me the windows or not?" So we installed 19 windows that his wife hates because they are not the style she wanted and they are too expensive to tear out and throw away. (Now when they call me for more work I don't have to ask if they can both be there when I stop by.) For most of us our home is a major investment so it only makes sense to put a little effort in up front to help things go smoothly down the road. So figure out what you want to do and get those notes on paper. 

More to follow




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