Instead of moving to a new home, many homeowners today are choosing to remodel or repurpose their existing space. Changes in what a family needs will prompt a remodel or repurposing of square footage. Kids going off to college, a new job, aging household family members, or adding family members to the household can affect the needs and uses of your home.
The reasons for remodeling can vary, but some of the more common projects include:
- Adding more space (e.g., sunrooms, basement remodel, outdoor living space-deck/patio, etc.).
- Upgrading cabinets, counters, appliances and fixtures.
- Creating a floor plan that’s customized for the family’s new lifestyle.
- Improving energy efficiency with new windows, doors, insulation and climate control systems.
- Upgrading kitchens and bathrooms.
For some people, these projects can be done by themselves or with family and friends. Other projects may require you to hire a contractor(s) to complete your project. Before you hire your first contractor, know that there are different kinds of contractors.
Home Improvement Professionals Are Not All the Same
There are essentially four types of contractors: general, specialty, trade, and service/product professionals.
General Contractors: General contractors generally take on larger projects. Although they are capable of working on any size project, the smaller the project, the greater the likelihood of working with a more junior member of their staff. General contractors usually have the expertise and staff to oversee nearly any home improvement project.
Specialty Contractors: Specialty contractors offer a unique blend of experience, skill and project management. They are limited in size and are usually staffed with a small, experienced group of professionals. Specialty contractors can specialize in bathrooms, landscaping, sunrooms, basements, custom garages, etc.
Trade Professional: Trade professionals (e.g., plumbers, electricians, tile experts, etc.) are specialists in their area; however, they may not know other areas as well or at all. Remodeling projects require project management; a skilled trade professional may or may not be a capable project manager. (For example: Plumbers may be great at plumbing, and are strong in technical aspects of a project, but providing the insight and guidance needed when it comes to finishing the project ergonomically and aesthetically may be a challenge.)
Service & Product Professionals: Service and product professionals are specialists in their service area such as flooring, painting, skylights, gutters, roofs, heating and cooling, wet basement repair and more. Their home improvement activities are very specific, so hiring a service and product professional may be advantageous depending upon your project.
Beginning the Process
Before you head too far down the remodeling path, it is a good idea to think through your wants and needs. One way to do this is to create a prioritized list. As you are creating your list you should always keep in mind what you want the end result to be and the budget needed to complete what you want, as well as the return on the investment if you should ever decide to sell your home.
In addition, selecting the right remodeling contractor will help make your remodeling or repurposing project be more enjoyable and more successful.
When hiring a contract remodeler:
- Make sure that the business of the contractor is a legitimate establishment by checking the phone number, address, and business licenses.
- Be sure that the contractor is fully insured including liability and property insurance as well as worker compensation. Without these types of insurances, if something were to happen on your property, you could be held liable.
- Check with your local Better Business Bureau, building associations, and other consumer protection agencies to ensure there are no outstanding complaints, penalties or fines issued against the contractor.
- Ask the contractor to provide references and then follow-up with the references
- Find out if the contractor or any of their employees has had specific training and certifications in specific areas.
- Ask the contractor if they are a member in any trade associations. Associations such as NARI, require all members to follow a strict code of ethics.
- Obtain a signed written estimate of services being provided. Be sure that the estimate lists what is actually included, such as labor, materials, etc. Also be sure to know how the process will proceed and potential costs involved for any unforeseen issues.
Once you have selected your contractor(s), obtain all the information to complete the project successfully in writing. How and when payment for services are to be made is a critical part of the remodeling contract. For example, will you pay the contractor 10% of the cost of the project upfront, then 1/2 of the cost of the project when it reaches the half-way point, and then the final payment once you are satisfied that the work has been completed to your satisfaction.
Remodeling or repurposing your home is a big process with many decisions to be made along the way. Finding the right contract remodeler will help you make the best choices for your needs and provide expert advice and guidance throughout the entire process. Making the right choices up front will allow you to be able to achieve the remodeling success you desire and enjoy the end results for years to come.