We understand that remodeling a home is not something most homeowners have a ton of experience with. This page is a resource for homeowners going through a project for the first time, or if it has been a while since your last remodel, a refresher on what to expect with the entire process! We also have some guidelines of things to look for when planning for your project!
When getting ready to start a home remodeling project, it is important to have a focused idea of what you want to accomplish with your project. Project costs can get out of control with a long list of "wants" so it is best to understand what is most important to you to accomplish so there aren't any surprises when it comes to getting proposals! The best thing to do is to write out everything in a list, then rank that list from most important "must haves" down to the "like to have" This allows the contractor to focus in on your wants and can ensure your main items are addressed.
It is always good to get a few bids when doing a larger project. This allows you to get a good idea of the actual costs of the project.
Some things to watch out for in the bid process:
"Too good to be true" low bids. - If you get 3 bids and two of them are a few thousand apart, and one is very low, that is a huge red flag! More times than not, these very low bids are a way for contractors to get in the door, then once your project is going, the change orders and add ons will start to show up. You will end up paying more money out of pocket, and the quality of the work will be questionable. Contractors should always have a realistic bid and have a clear scope of work listed. Having a clear scope of work listed out gives the homeowner a checklist on the project to ensure everything that is stated is being completed. Change orders should be avoided by a contractor unless it is a major change to the project, agreed upon by both parties.
"Handshake Deals" - NEVER let a contractor tell you a contract isn't needed. You should never give money to any contractor without a contract in place that clearly outlines the scope of work for the project, and a payment schedule. Most contractors will have a payment schedule based on the size of the project. A down payment upon signing the contract/proposal, a payment at about 50% Completion (usually after rough work is done), and a final payment upon completion. of the project.
"We don't need permits" - Avoid any contractor that does not pull permits especially on larger projects. Any major renovation of a home, requires a permit. This ensures that the project is meeting code, and will be done correctly. Having work performed without a permit can result in issues when you look to sell your home in the future, in addition to work being performed in substandard practices.
"Labor Only Bids" - These bids have an appeal because of the low price provided. These bids are counting on the homeowner to get all of the materials for the project. Yes, it is a way to save money but some issues can arise on projects like these. When it comes time to warranty the work, these contractors have no obligation to warranty the work because they didn't get the materials. Average homeowners don't know what to look for when selecting materials for projects, so the quality of the materials can be of lower quality, which in turn results in an undesirable end result. Contractors that provide materials will do a small mark up on the materials, which covers the handling of the materials, as well as the warranty period of the project.
When you have multiple bids, it is important to cross reference the bids to ensure they are apples to apples. The bids should have a detailed scope of work to help you compare. If you ask a contractor if something is included and the answer is "yes", then the proposal should be updated to spell it out. At the end of the day - if its not listed in the proposal, the contractor has no commitment to complete it. If one contractor is proposing something completely different than another contractor, that is going to change the pricing of the project and the bid can then be updated so you are reviewing bids that have similar scope of work. Sometimes in the process of getting bids, you may decide that a portion of the project isn't as important to the project and take it out of the scope you are getting bids on. If a contractor already gave you a bid, you should reach out to them with the change to have them update the proposal.
Other items you should look at when comparing bids:
- Insurance - Make sure your contractor is ensured. Ask to see a copy of the policy to ensure the insurance is adequate to cover any issues in your home
- Licensing - Contractors are required to have DC (Dwelling Contractor) Licensing, as well as a DCQ (Dwelling Contractor Qualifier) number. There are other qualifications needed in certain jurisdictions and the contractor should be able to produce any of these items upon request.
-Permits - Ensure your contractor is pulling all necessary permits!
-References - Ask your contractor for references, or copies of reviews or customer feedback. Better Business Bureau Accreditation is also a plus! A contractor having the backing of outside organizations offers the homeowner some course of action and holds the contractor to a level of accountability.
A project in the home can take weeks or even months, depending on the scope of the project. A quality contractor will do their best to protect the areas of the home outside of the work areas, set up temporary areas when key areas of the home are being remodeled (i.e. Kitchens, bathrooms, etc.), and have a predetermined schedule for the project. At the start of the project, a general outline of when portions of the project are being completed, help to keep things on track and moving forward. Most schedules will be a time "window" as there are many outside forces that can delay a portion of a project (Weather, emergency calls, etc) Most contractors will build some time in the schedule to allow for delays as they are a normal part of the process.
Some things that can be done to reduce delays are:
- Ensuring all necessary materials for each stage of the project are onsite and inspected to ensure there is no damage, etc
- Hitting the scheduled ordering windows for finish items (Light fixtures, tile, vanities, cabinetry, etc)
- Communicating to the contractor any restrictions to accessibility of the home ahead of time (Vacations, work travel, etc)
Upon completing the project, the contractor should do a punch walk to look at all the details of the work, and ensure it is completed properly. Your contractor should also have a workmanship warranty outlined in the contract. A typical workmanship warranty is 1 year from completion of the project. Other materials used on the project will have their own manufacturer warranty. These documents should be given to the homeowner upon completion of the project for their records.
These are just a few of the things involved in a project. There are a lot of details to manage to ensure a high quality result. Bluejacket Builders has built a system to help smoothly manage your project to make it a easy process! We believe in a high level of communication to work in a partnership with the homeowner to deliver the vision you have for your home!