12 Things every Remodeling Contractor and Homeowner should know

16 Mar
Published by Millennial1

Sometimes I dream about being at a Remodeling Convention and speaking my mind to a room filled with contractors. Sure we all know thta the National Association of The Remodeling Industry suggests ways of finding a contractor. However, I think its high time that we focus on underlying issues that make remodeling one of the most stressful activities for both contractors and home onwers alke.

We all know that many remodeling and home improvement contractors are hurting in this economy. Yet there are many people who need and are searching for reputable contractors. I sincerely believe that many contractors could be doing a record business if they took the time to think about what their potential clients are really after. Here's some insight into what every client fears and how contractors might overcome that fear.

Carpenter measuring wood before making a cut

Fear is a four letter word
Most people are scared to death and very apprehensive about home remodeling. They have read the papers, talked to friends and now can watch Mike Holmes in Canada on HGTV come to rescue of people whose lives have been turned upside down by unscrupulous contractors.

Quite simply, peope are afraid that they will be ripped off, the job will not be done right or God forbid, the house will fall on their heads, leak, electrocute them or the plumbing won't work. Folks are also cognizant that contractors are having a very hard time economically. They also fear that a contractor may not pay his subcontractors, go bankrupt and walk off their job right in the middle of things. Contractors need to recognize these fears and address them.

What the homeowner is looking for in a contractor?
Here's what I am looking for and what I think most home owners are thinking about when they interview and actually go ahead and hire a contractor. Focus on these and the hiring process and actual construction will go much better.  

  1. Organization and Punctuality- how you present yourself to me indicates how you will approach my project. I am not talking about looks or a slick sales presentation. If you can't return phone calls or keep appointments, how in the world do you expect me to believe that are you going to manage my remodeling project with lots of subcontractors and complexity.
  2. Save the Bull Shit- don't claim to be something you are not. If the largest job you have done is a deck or finished basement, then say so. You may not get my job, but at least I know what you are good at and may recommend you to someone else.
  3. Demonstrate your knowledge- I don't know you from Adam so I want to see if you really understand construction.
  4. Show me your work- if you are proud of your prior work, then show it off. Provide me references and addresses of recent job sites. Photos would be good too.
  5. Be realistic and don't underbid- you have to make a reasonable profit and I need the work done by licensed craftsman and the materials I specified. Tell me what you can reasonably do.
  6. Deliver what you promised- if you sign a contract, then deliver the project according to the plan. You expect to be paid the amount we agreed on, don't you?
  7. Don't be argumentative- if you are constantly taking issue with the contract or construction drawings it indicates that you can't really deliver and you are looking for ways to cut costs.
  8. Don't cheat- use the materials specified in the construction plans and licensed plumbers, electricians, HVAC and experienced carpenters and other craftsman. To do otherwise is fraud.
  9. Supervise the subcontractors- make sure that the subcontractors have looked at the plans before they start work and understand what needs to be done. Answer their questions and watch what they are doing. The time to tell them that something is not right is at th beginning not the end of their part of the job.
  10. Be straight as an arrow- don't tell me that we don't have to follow the building code or have the work inspected. My family's safety is paramount. In fact, tell me when an inspection will take place and give me the option of being there.
  11. Add value- if you see something in the construction drawings that doesn't make sense, please call that to my attention. I will appreciate it.
  12. Be civil and respectful- good manners have nothing to do with social status. Nor does working in construction give one a right to use profane language or be disrespectful. Make sure that your company and workers answer questions and respect the client. Of course this works both ways.  

Please share this with contractors and remodeling folks. Thanks.

Comments

I am not a contractor, but I am a homeowner with a fair amount of knowledge regarding construction and contracts.
I found your article helpful as I am in the process of choosing a contractor for an addition on my home. One aspect of construction that I was very surprised to find missing was information on contracts and terms. Sometimes this can be a VERY daunting subject for homeowners. There are ways to protect yourself. Lien laws vary from state to state, but there are certain things everyone should look for AFTER you have chosen a contracter and BEFORE you've 'signed on the dotted line'.
How much is he asking for up front?
How much is he allowed to ask for?
What type of payment schedule is he looking for?
Does he expect to get paid for work that hasn't been completed/approved?
Is he providing you with partial unconditional waivers? Final unconditional waivers? A Notice of furnishing?
I may not do residential construction, but my company is an industrial distributor that deals quite a bit in contract sales and it seems to me that if a contractor is any kind of professional, they will not only to be able to answer these questions, they'll explain them to you before you have a chance to ask.

Thanks for pointing these areas out.

We actually use AIA contracts as a basis and then modify them to suit our needs. See http://www.millennialliving.com/content/search-good-home-remodeling-contract

In the Washington DC area we use performance or work completed as criteria to determine when to pay a contractor. This is usually a tug of war between the homeowner and the contractor with an architect playing the mediator. Our experience is that the Architect is too willing to give the green light and sign off on the payment when that portion of the job is not complete.

Our advice is to tell your architect not to sign off until you both review the work and it is completed.

1) It sends a message to the contractor that full payment only comes when the work is totally completed. We actually hold a portion of the payments back. This is entirely fair and within your right.

2) It keeps the focus on completing the stages of the job in the order agreed upon. You don't want to make a 3rd payment when the second is not even completed.

3) It ensures that u have not spent all of your money. The worst thing is to have given the contractor all of your money and still have major stages of the job incomplete. What's stopping them from saying we need more money to fix these items or we will walk.

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