From Margaret Everton on September 07, 2011 in Tools and Tips
We’ve all heard horror stories about a remodel gone bad. The pitfalls of home renovation have been popular subjects for books, television and film comedies. For the homeowner caught in the middle of a remodeling disaster, however, it’s no laughing matter. Skyrocketing costs and ongoing delays from shady contractors can drive a homeowner to distraction, and can even end in financial hardship or divorce. How do unscrupulous contractors get away with it?
Unfortunately, homeowners sometimes invite it. When you aim for a home improvement project to be “fast and cheap,” you’re simply asking for trouble. Think about it this way: the best contractors are successful, and being successful means – you guessed it – they’re busy. In fact, it’s normal for an above-average contractor to schedule renovations two to four months in advance.
Even just speaking with a good contractor over the phone can be tricky. The dangers of construction sites – ladders, roofs, crawl spaces, cellars – as well as the noise of construction equipment – does not lend itself well to phone conversations. Expect a good contractor to take days (even a week or more) to return your phone calls.
Plan wisely from start to finish.
Once you’ve got a few potential contractors on the list, start making those phone calls – but give them a few days to get back to you.
A few key questions will help you narrow the list:
- Have they done home improvements such as yours?
- Will they provide references?
- How many projects do they typically undertake at the same time?
Face-to-face interviews not only enable you to quiz the contractor about expectations for the project, they give you a chance to measure how well you will be able to communicate with the potential contractor. While it’s not a personality contest, you want to ensure that you understand what the contractor is telling you, and that he understands you as well. Definitely follow-up with references, and if possible, visit a current job site. Seeing a job in action will give you the best idea of what to expect during your own home remodeling project.
A credible contractor will want to see plans and blueprints before making a bid on your project. In order to compare one bid against another, ask for a breakdown of materials and labor. Be very wary if one bid is much lower than several others. This may indicate that the contractor is so inexperienced that he doesn’t know how to properly quote the project, or that he plans to take shortcuts that may cost you money later.
In the long run, “fast and cheap” often equals a long, drawn-out and expensive nightmare. When it’s your home on the line, find a quality contractor that will go above and beyond for you. And then some.