How to Ensure a Smooth Project

In our continuing blog series, “Choosing the Right Home Remodeling Professional for your Renovation Project”, we tackle how to ensure a smooth project. Knowing these guidelines will help you navigate your renovation project and give you confidence in your contractor!

Good Communication

It is essential that you have an excellent flow of communication with your contractor. Do they return calls promptly? Do they listen intently to your likes and dislikes? Do they take notes? Can you reach them when needed? This will be even more important once your project begins.

Right Fit

You’ll most likely be spending a good bit of time with your contractor, so it is important that you feel comfortable with them. You should also have a good sense as to whether the same holds true regarding the members of their staff. Like any good relationship, a strong rapport and close communication with your contractor will help any job go more smoothly.

Scheduling

The scheduling of your project is something that should be discussed upfront. A responsible and reputable contractor will do their best to keep you informed both in the initial stages and as your project progresses.

A Clear, Well Written Proposal/Contract

Getting it in writing is essential! Nothing is worse than a disagreement because the terms weren’t written down. Frequently, one person remembers something differently. Every part of the job from the general conditions and demolition to the final trim and clean up should be clearly described. General terms like “install windows and doors” are too vague and should be clearly spelled out indicating exactly what window, what door, including make, model, size, features, location, color, style, etc. A detailed contract should include:

  • A visual representation such as a blueprint, floor plan, drawings, sketches, that clearly shows what work is being done and where.
  • The timetable in which the project is expected to be completed, including approximate start and end dates.
  • The price, along with payment terms and schedule.
  • Detailed specifications for all products and materials.
  • A list of work and/or things not included.
  • Insurance information.
  • Permit information (e.g., whether it’s required and who will get it)
  • Procedure for handling change orders.
  • Notice of your right under the FTC’s rule to cancel the contract within three business days if it was signed in a place other than the contractor’s place of business.

Details, Details, and More Details

There are several things that should be discussed prior to starting your project. What time will work start and end each day? Where will materials be stored? What special circumstances need to be taken into consideration? Discussing details like these upfront saves a lot of aggravation and eliminates misunderstandings.

Flexibility

Remodeling can be disruptive to your normal lifestyle. Remember to be as flexible as possible.

Change Orders

Changes are inevitable when it comes to home remodeling. There are often changes made to the design, the materials, and the scope of work once work begins.

It’s a good idea to set aside an additional 10% or more beyond the contract amount to cover these changes.

The bottom line is: Almost all changes will affect the budget and the schedule. Make sure all changes are in writing and are kept current to avoid any surprises in the end.

Written Lien Waivers

Often your remodeling professional will work with other tradesmen or subcontractors who specialize in certain aspects of your project. It is your contractor’s responsibility to make sure these people, as well as material suppliers, are paid for services and materials related to your project.

Make sure your contractor is willing to provide you with a written lien waiver at the end of your project in trade for the final payment. This is a document that proves that you have paid for the project in full, thereby eliminating the chances of the contractor’s subcontractors or suppliers placing a lien on your property due to not being paid by your contractor for the work performed on your home.

Establishing good communication and walking through each of these topics with your contractor will ensure a smooth project!

FREE CONSUMER AWARENESS GUIDE

Learn more about how to choose the right home remodeling professional with our consumer awareness guide.  Our guide, “10 Things You Must Know Before Hiring a Remodeling Contractor” will help you know what to look for when finding the right contractor so that you can be completely satisfied with your remodeling project.  This booklet was written so that you will be empowered to make the best decision for your home improvement and remodel. You can have the experience you desire for your home improvement project with the right contractor for you by requesting this free e-Book here.

Home Remodeling in the Greater Phoenix Area

Begin your project by calling us at (480) 895-3442 or emailing steve@trilitebuilders.com to discuss remodeling your home, kitchen, or bathroom.  We offer no-obligation in-home consultations. Our award-winning designers and craftsman are eager to work with you to help you love your home again!

9 Things to Look for in a Contractor

In this blog, we continue our series of how to choose the right home remodeling professional for your remodeling project, by tackling 9 things to look for in a contractor.  Knowing this information will help you feel more confident as you research the best remodeling contractor for your project.

  1. Accessibility

Your contractor must be easy to reach by phone and email and never make you feel like you are imposing on them by contacting him or her.

  1. Promptness

Does your contractor keep appointments? A contractor’s day can be busy; if they are running behind, they should have the courtesy to call to let you know. Little things count.

  1. Trustworthiness

Honesty and trust are of the utmost importance in any situation, especially when the person has total access to your home. Make sure you feel a high level of trust with your contractor and trust your instinct if you don’t. Not only are you trusting them to be in your home and around your family, but you’re also trusting them with, in many cases, a sizable amount of your money!

  1. Membership in NARI or NAHB

NARI stands for the National Association of the Remodeling Industry; NAHB stands for the National Association of Home Builders. To become a member, the contractor’s background and references are investigated. It’s always a good idea to hire a NARI or NAHB contractor. Membership reflects a contractor’s commitment to professionalism.

  1. Certifications

Both organizations offer industry certification and designations such as Certified Graduate Remodeler™ (CGR), Certified Remodeler™ (CR), Certified Kitchen and Bath Remodeler™ (CKBR) and Green Certified Professional™ (GCP) and Universal Design Certified Professional (UDCP). If a contractor has one or more of these designations, chances are high that you’re dealing with a very reputable professional that is committed to their career as a professional remodeling contractor.

Furthermore, to earn one of these designations a contractor must demonstrate certain levels of skill and knowledge in addition to successfully completing numerous courses on various topics related to the industry.

  1. Ability to design your project

Unless your project is simple, you will want to work with a contractor that will start with a design phase complete with a feasibility study to develop both the remodel and a budget that will work for you. Design/Build contractors will work with you to develop space planning and floor plans. They will lead you through the multitude of choices that must be made. Most importantly they will work with you to balance the choices with the ultimate budget for your project. This planning stage prior to moving forward with your remodel will ensure that all the details have been addressed and that the possibility of unexpected extra expenses will be minimized.

  1. Knowledge of Green Remodeling Technology

In today’s world of high energy prices and limited resources, it is critical that your contractor is up to date regarding incorporating eco-friendly green techniques and features into every project. The common misconception is that green remodeling will cost more. The reality is that extremes in anything will cost more, and a well-balanced plan will respect your budget.

A contractor that is focused on the green aspects of remodeling will be more conscious of not wasting materials, recycling the used appliances, fixtures, and reusable building materials. This will save money and give you a tax deduction for donating used materials to charitable organizations. By viewing your home as a system rather than an accumulation of parts, your contractor will commonly incorporate many choices and techniques into every project that will improve your home’s performance and not necessarily cost more than uneducated choices.

  1. High Percentage of Referrals or Repeat Clients

When a significant amount of a contractor’s business is derived from repeat or referred business, it is an indication that their clients are pleased and that they have an outstanding reputation. If your contractor has a long list of happy clients and has an outstanding reputation for doing quality work, chances are high that you will be satisfied as well.

  1. Will Your Home Be Protected?

Simply put, remodeling can be very dusty and dirty. If not adequately controlled, dust will get everywhere, especially if there is a lot of sanding or demolition. Make sure your contractor has plans to take the appropriate measures to control dust and protect your floor finishes.

FREE CONSUMER AWARENESS GUIDE

Learn more about how to choose the right home remodeling professional with our consumer awareness guide.  Our guide, “10 Things You Must Know Before Hiring a Remodeling Contractor” will help you know what to look for when finding the right contractor so that you can be completely satisfied with your remodeling project.  This booklet was written so that you will be empowered to make the best decision for your home improvement and remodel. You can have the experience you desire for your home improvement project with the right contractor for you by requesting this free e-Book here.

Home Remodeling in the Greater Phoenix Area

Begin your project by calling us at (480) 895-3442 or emailing steve@trilitebuilders.com to discuss remodeling your home, kitchen, or bathroom.  We offer no-obligation in-home consultations. Our award-winning designers and craftsman are eager to work with you to help you love your home again!

12 Things to Watch Out For When Remodeling

Spotting Scams and the Inexperienced with Home Remodeling Contractors

Every industry has its share of scams and con artists. The remodeling industry is no exception. However, spotting scams and the inexperienced with home remodeling contractors is relatively easy provided you know what to look for.

One clue is that we tend to get a gut feeling if someone is trying to pull one over on us. But what about when someone isn’t intentionally trying to scam us? There are honest contractors that are either inexperienced, incompetent, or both. They may mean well, but their lack of skill or knowledge or inability to be able to complete or manage your project correctly can be just as devastating as the work of a truly unscrupulous contractor.

In other words, it’s not always the bad guys you need to look out for. There is a big difference between being willing and being able.

Let’s look at some of the things to look out for.

  1. “High-Pressure” Sales Tactics

With the remodeling business becoming more and more competitive each year, many contractors resort to high-pressure tactics to get you to sign on the spot without your best interest in mind. You should never feel pressured into deciding about choosing your contractor. Walk away.

  1. Unusual Payment Terms

Beware of the contractor who asks that you pay for the entire job upfront or asks you to pay in cash. A professional contractor will present an equitable, mutually acceptable payment plan, usually based on the progress of your project.

  1. Unverifiable Credentials

If you can’t verify a contractor’s company, name, address, and phone number, it’s a sure bet that trouble lies ahead. Many of these fly-by-night contractors are called “pick-up truck” builders. These guys don’t have verifiable businesses and are mobile enough to pack up and leave your job without a trace. A verifiable address is a must.

  1. Hard to Reach

Anyone can miss a call, but if you find that your prospective contractor doesn’t consistently return your calls, beware. Any remodeling project will have things come up that require prompt communication between you and your contractor. You want your contractor to be available to you when you have concerns. It is critical that you feel that your contractor is easy to reach and open to communication.

  1. The “Price Reduction”

This scam occurs when you say no to or show a bit of reluctance to the initial offer and in response the salesperson offers a lower price for the exact same work. Substantial reductions in price without changes in the scope of work or specifications could signify that the contractor is trying to get a higher price for something that is worthless, to begin with, and is just trying to save the sale.  If you and the contractor negotiate different materials, methods, or circumstances that clearly have an impact on the cost, this would be fine. Otherwise, the price should be the price.

  1. No Contract or Proposal 

Insist on a thorough contract or proposal with a defined scope of work, clear specifications, and detailed terms. By doing this, you will substantially increase your chances of being satisfied. It is best not to take anything for granted.

In addition to the benefits that come from knowing what to expect, if a contractor takes the time necessary to compile a detailed document, there will be far fewer unforeseen issues and misunderstandings, which will result in less stress for you, and your project will move along much more smoothly. If there is ever a misunderstanding, chances are it can be easily cleared up by referencing this critical document.

  1. Incomplete Specifications or Unclear Terms

Pay attention to the “Scope of Work” and “Specifications” sections of the contract or proposal. This is the part of the proposal that defines exactly what work will be completed (the scope of work) and exactly what products or materials and which methods are going to be used (the specifications). Every project should have clearly written specifications. Not just vague generalities.

  1. Shoddy or Incomplete Workmanship

By far, this is the most widespread scam of all. To address the potential for shoddy workmanship, I recommend following up with references until you are 100% satisfied that your contractor will provide the level of workmanship you expect. Awards are another area that can validate a contractor’s commitment to quality workmanship. Simply do not take someone’s word for it.

In our company, we recommend (and sometimes require) that prospective clients contact our references, and if available visit one or more of our past projects so they can see firsthand examples of our work. You’ll have a much better sense of the quality of work you can expect.

  1. The Contractor Asks That You Get the Required Permits

Some contractors may ask that you get the required building permits. If well explained, this could be to your advantage in certain cities, due to the way they have set fees for construction permits.  Or, this could be a signal that he is either unlicensed, the work is outside the area in which he is licensed, or he is not able to get a permit due to improper or inadequate insurance coverage. The contractor may also not be in good standing with the building department.
In any case, a reputable contractor will discuss the permit process with you and typically obtain a permit, if your project requires one.  When a contractor obtains the required building permits, you are more likely to have things done according to the applicable building codes. Also, check your homeowner insurance policy to see if it requires that a permit be issued on any major remodeling project to be properly insured.
  1. The Schedule or Time Frame Seems Too Good to Be True

If the schedule you’re quoted seems too good to be true, it just might be! A contractor who knows his business will give you a realistic work schedule/timeline. Don’t be lured by the contractor who promises an overly optimistic completion date.

  1. The Contractor Doesn’t Warranty His Work

Believe it or not, in some states, there is no law that requires a remodeling contractor to warranty his work. However, warranties are essential to any remodeling project. A good contractor will comply with the standards set forth by the Arizona Registrar of Contractors.

The National Association of Home Builders performance guidelines helps determine whether a contractor’s work requires corrective action in cases of dispute. Most professional contractors know about these guidelines and may refer to it in their warranty. They can provide you with a copy.  Remember this: Contractors committed to quality workmanship and client satisfaction warranty their work at least one year and many offer two years or more.

  1. The Contractor Appears Unkempt and Disorganized

A disorganized contractor means a disorganized project. Pay close attention to the details. Look for clues that the contractor has it together. You want your project to be organized – that starts and ends with your contractor.

FREE CONSUMER AWARENESS GUIDE

Learn about spotting scams and the inexperienced with home remodeling contractors with our consumer awareness guide.      Our guide, “10 Things You Must Know Before Hiring a Remodeling Contractor” will help you know what to look for when finding the right contractor so that you can be completely satisfied with your remodeling project.  This booklet was written so that you will be empowered to make the best decision for your home improvement and remodel. You can have the experience you desire for your home improvement project with the right contractor for you by requesting this free e-Book here.

Avoid Three Common Misconceptions When Hiring a Remodeling Contractor

Your home is one of your most valuable assets. Selecting the right contractor will be the single most important factor in determining whether you will be completely satisfied with the outcome of your remodeling project. Every contractor brings a different level of knowledge, commitment, and dedication to the table.  In this blog, we share how to avoid three common misconceptions when hiring a remodeling contractor. The more you can become intimately aware of the “ins and outs” of how the remodeling business works, acquire the necessary knowledge and tools, you will be empowered to find the right contractor for your project.

Avoid These Three Common Misconceptions

Misconception #1 – You should always get three bids

Not necessarily. This tactic is probably responsible for more dissatisfaction within the remodeling industry than any other single factor.

Why?

If your objective is to get a quality job at a fair price, simply comparing it to another estimate is often very misleading. There aren’t any standard prices or standard specifications for remodeling projects. Each quote or estimate you receive reflects what’s included in the actual job that a contractor is planning on completing for you. Asking contractors to price involved projects with preliminary information and then trying to scrutinize the details of the resulting bid will only lead to misjudgments. Every contractor will get better pricing on some things than others. Seeing an item on a proposal that looks high does not mean that everything on the form is overpriced. Seeing lower prices may mean that the contractor will run out of money prior to finishing your project or that the quality of your project will suffer.

Misconception #2 – Going with a low price saves you money!

Think about this for a minute. If you have solicited several bids and go with the contractor that has the lowest bid, you’ve just awarded your job to the guy that just figured out the CHEAPEST way to get your project done!

Is this what you really want?

One of the most common signs of trouble ahead is someone offering to do work for a low price. Like the age-old sayings go: “You get what you pay for!” and “You can’t get something for nothing!” Be extremely careful in choosing your contractor based upon the lowest price. But you may be thinking: “Well, if all things are equal, going with the lowest price is smart buying! Isn’t it?”

Absolutely, 100% yes! But things are almost NEVER, EVER equal in the remodeling business!

Even if you have the most complete set of professional drawings and a twenty-five-page written set of specifications describing every little detail, things can still be vastly different from one contractor to the next.

What is true, though, is the more detail the better. They are critical to helping establish expectations.

The bottom line: NEVER use price alone as the determining factor. Low-priced bids should be cautiously reviewed as it could indicate that the contractor may have left something out in his bid which could lead him to cut corners or have to divide his time working two remodeling projects at the same time so that he can remain afloat while finishing your project.

Many other things should be taken into consideration as well. Whenever you encounter a low-price offer, some questions should immediately come to mind. Questions like:

“Why is the price so low?” “What’s missing here?” and “Has the contractor figured enough into the cost to provide me with the level of service I expect?”

On the other hand, if you have found a contractor that you really feel good about, but their price is more than you can afford or you simply do not want to invest as much as has been quoted, just explain this to the contractor. A professional contractor will welcome the opportunity to help you redesign your project or make whatever changes are necessary in order to better fit your budget. If you are open to scaling back the project, re-examining your priorities, or making other changes, this approach can be very helpful.

Misconception #3 – If the Better Business Bureau doesn’t have any complaints against the contractor, they are probably a safe bet.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is always a good place to start when investigating, but it should not be the stopping point. Even if a contractor doesn’t have any BBB complaints, it does not necessarily mean that you’re working with a reputable professional. We encourage you to investigate the company further.

The BBB is not a governing agency and it does not keep a record of every contractor in town. Many contractors can operate for years doing poor work without ever being reported. Likewise, there may be several very reputable contractors that the BBB has no record of at all.

The best way to utilize the BBB is to check with them to see if the contractor you may be considering has had any complaints against them. If they do, you should consider it an indication that this contractor may not be a good choice. If there are no complaints against the contractor you are investigating, this may indicate a good reputation, however, we strongly encourage you to do research beyond the BBB.

FREE CONSUMER AWARENESS GUIDE

We’ve created a consumer awareness guide, “10 Things You Must Know Before Hiring a Remodeling Contractor” to help you know what to look for when finding the right contractor so that you can be completely satisfied with your remodeling project.  This booklet was written so that you will be empowered to make the best decision for your home improvement and remodel. You can have the experience you desire for your home improvement project with the right contractor for you by requesting this free e-Book here.

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