Category Archives: Professional Advice

Hire a PROfessional for National Remodeling Month

PROfessional Remodelers

Find a PRO-fessional to get your project started for Oregon and National Remodeling Month!

May is Oregon & National Remodeling Month

Home owners reap many benefits when hiring a professional remodeler for their home renovation. According to the Professional Remodelers Organization of the HBA of Metro Portland (PRO), experienced remodelers bring a multitude of skills and qualities to successfully execute a home remodeling project.

“Professionals just do home remodeling better,” said Steve Stolze, 2013 PRO Chairman. “They not only bring advanced construction skills, trained remodelers better manage customer service and business management to improve the remodeling experience for home owners.”

What qualities do professional remodelers provide to a home renovation?

Bring home the benefits of hiring a professional home remodeler for your renovation. Harness their skills and knowledge to create a more comfortable home.

1. Customer Service

Knowledgeable home remodelers understand that they are providing a service, not a one-size-fits-all product. Just as every home owner is an individual, each home is also unique. A professional remodeler knows how to create customized solutions for the residents and provide continuing customer support.

2. Business Management and Integrity

Running a business well is part of the responsibilities of a professional remodeler. This includes having systems for the business, writing clear contracts, having insurance, providing warranties, and more. Better business management means better service for home owners because they can rely on the remodeler to perform with integrity.

3. Experience

Do you know what to expect when you take that wall out? A professional remodeler understands the structure of a home and is prepared for surprises behind walls. They’ve developed expertise from performing home remodels, attending trainings, and are familiar with laws and regulation pertaining to home construction.

4. Longevity

Anyone may be able to purchase a truck and some tools, but only professional remodelers have the skills to remain in business for the long haul. By understanding the practice and business of home remodeling, these professionals can manage changes in the market and return to service your home for years to come. Use the remodelers you can trust to fix problems and keep a home in good health for the long term.

5. Creativity

Home remodeling frequently involves problem solving, such as maximizing existing space, strategically building additions, or navigating limited budgets. Professional remodelers can help home owners manage challenges and meet their needs while staying within the budget. Experience and skills help remodelers propose choices and solutions to satisfy their customers.

Professional Remodelers Organization

Work with a PRO!

For  a searchable directory of professional remodelers, builders, designers and other industry professionals visit http://hbapdx.org/member-directory/ and look for the PRO logo!  Please feel free to contact the Professional Remodelers Organization of Metro Portland at 503-684-1880.

Translating Contractor Speak

photo by Kenny Grono, Buckminster Green, LLC

 

A brief but informative glimpse into common phrases that your remodeler may use to try to communicate issues or finesse a difficult topic.

Houzz.com contributor Kenny Grono, owner of Buckminster Green, LLC, took a moment to provide a brief list of translated terms that may help homeowners to better understand and communicate with their remodeling contractor.

Contractors didn’t become contractors because they love to communicate. If they did they would have become speechwriters or newscasters (or get a gig writing ideabooks for Houzz). Sometimes what they say seems completely obvious to them, but makes no sense to you. And a contractor might speak euphemistically to dance around difficult topics. These tips should help you translate some of the euphemisms and somewhat curt statements you might hear, so that you get the most out of the client-contractor relationship.

For Example:

7. The design needed some tweaking. Often, this means the plans were unbuildable. Sometimes what’s drawn on paper just can’t be built. A staircase you’d need to crawl on your knees to use, “existing” spaces that don’t exist, a pocket door that would slide through a switch box and the shower valve, etc.

Read the full article from Houzz.com to see a top ten list of common phrases and what they probably mean to you.

Unlicensed Contractors Make It Challenging For Those Who Play By the Rules

This article ran in the newspaper of the Home Builders Association earlier this month, but I thought it was good information to pass along. Always remember the actions to take when hiring a contractor.

Over the past year, Mitch Stanley, president of Stanley Home Renovation & Design, has lost out on a few jobs because another contractor had a cheaper bid.

While that may simply be a sign of the tough economic times, there’s also a chance that something else has been at play: an unlicensed contractor.

“The unlicensed individual likely is bidding cheap, cheap, cheap so that’s why the uneducated consumer will pick them,” said Stanley, adding that he wasn’t sure he’d lost a job to an unlicensed contractor but that it was a possibility. “We cannot compete with that.”

Long a thorn in the side of licensed contractors, unlicensed contractors can cause a range of headaches not only for legitimate contractors but for consumers as well. Unlicensed contractors often don’t carry insurance or bonding, both of which cost money; without those overhead costs, they can afford to bid jobs at a cheaper rate, which creates an unfair advantage for them. Unlicensed contractors may not offer the same quality workmanship that a licensed contractor does, and they may also not perform work up to code.

“The client is taking a huge risk that could result in not just poor workmanship, but unsafe and dangerous practices leading to lawsuits, fire or other damage,” Stanley said.

Tony Marnella, president of Marnella Homes, said unlicensed contractors aren’t likely to be as knowledgeable on codes and other important practices because they’re not required to be. Licensed contractors must at least undergo prerequisite training and pass the Construction Contractors Board’s statewide test to become licensed.

Marnella also noted that housing and remodeling scams are often perpetrated by unlicensed contractors.

“We see the stories on the news every year,” he said, “and I would venture that few if any of these guys are licensed.”

In addition, consumers have recourse through the CCB should a project go south with a licensed contractor. The state board has a dispute process, whereby consumers can file complaints against contractors in the event of poor workmanship or other problems. The CCB investigates the complaint and can order payment to the consumer from the contractor’s bond if the contractor is indeed at fault.

But the complaint process does not apply to unlicensed contractors.

“If they’re not a licensed contractor and they do something wrong, the homeowner cannot file with the CCB,” said Bill Joseph, an attorney with Dunn Carney Allen Higgins & Tongue who often represents contractors. “The only remedy then would be to file a lawsuit or possibly third-party arbitration.”

Joseph also notes that a new law that goes into effect Jan. 1 is aimed directly at unlicensed contractors. Under the law, if a supplier or subcontractor supplies an unlicensed contractor, the supplier will not have lien rights in the event the contractor doesn’t pay up.

Another benefit to being a licensed contractor is that it gives a contractor the right to file a lien. Under Oregon law, unlicensed contractors have no lien rights.

Though the CCB dispute process does not apply to unlicensed contractors, the board does investigate reports of unlicensed work and impose fines and sanctions where appropriate. Earlier this year, the board announced that it was hiring more inspectors and increasing its surveillance of online listing sites like Craigslist in order to clamp down on unlicensed contractors.

Between April 1 and June 30, the CCB levied 256 penalties on unlicensed contractors and contractors who hired unlicensed subcontractors. Penalties can range from warnings to fines of up to $5,000. A standard contractor’s license cost $260 every other year.

Consumers are often warned not to use unlicensed contractors and even to report such contractors to the CCB. The board offers an online, anonymous form that anyone can file to report an unlicensed contractor. It also maintains an online database of all the licensed contractors in the state, which includes information about each company, any disputes it’s been involved in and how those disputes were resolved.

But licensed contractors can also help address the issue themselves, and not only by reporting to the CCB.

“Report them to the client they are working for if you know where they are working,” Stanley said. “Believe it or not, the client may not be aware they’ve hired an unlicensed contractor.”

He also said that contractors need to do a better job of getting the word out to the public about the risks involved with unlicensed contractors — and the benefits of working with licensed ones.

One way to do that is for licensed contractors to share as much information with prospective clients as possible. Jeff DeHaan, managing partner of the property and casualty division of Montgomery & Graham — the HBA’s endorsed insurance provider — said he hears about unlicensed contractors a lot these days.

“In the current construction economy, a lot of contractors are under pressure for better pricing,” he said.

He has a couple contractor clients who actually include their certificate of insurance along with project bids. That way, prospective clients can see what kind of coverage the contractor has — usually liability, auto and workers’ compensation — and compare it to what other, potentially unlicensed contractors are carrying.

“In my opinion, contractors should use that kind of information not only to educate clients but also as part of their marketing,” DeHaan said.

Contractors bidding on jobs would also be wise to tell clients to check other contractors’ information out on the CCB web site to make sure they’re licensed.

“We all need to do a better job at getting the word out to the public that it’s very simple to check to see if the person you’re hiring is licensed,” Stanley said.

For more information and resources, visit the CCB’s web site at www.oregon.gov/ccb.

Question and Answer with Lane Cooper, COOPER Designbuilders

Lane Cooper
Cooper Designbuilders
www.cooperdesignbuilders.com

What three remodels add the most value to a home?
Kitchen’s number one, master suite is number two, and then it depends. Traditionally it’s been kitchens, baths and basements; basements because you’re adding a tremendous amount of square footage and function. But there’s also energy upgrades as something that gives a lot of value and savings, especially with all the incentives available.

What’s the best way to improve the curb appeal of a home?
I would say repair bad design. We do a lot of integrated additions and remodels to bring back the character of the homes in some of the older districts of the city. We see a lot of bad remodeling that’s been done that doesn’t really fit the home. I’d also say if you don’t have a front porch, add one. Not only does a front porch add a lot of curb appeal to a home, but it also adds a sense of community because people are always out on their front porches, talking to people going by and connecting with their neighborhoods.

What trends are you seeing in the remodeling world these days?
People are still worried about money, so it becomes a lot about how do you spend the money you do have. We’ve seen trends in materials, where people are going with better quality materials that are going to last. I think energy efficiency is a big trend too. We’re doing a lot of solar and whole-house or attic fans.

What’s in the future for the remodeling industry?
The economy’s not going to change anytime soon. It’s slowly creeping up. People are looking for a lot of long-term value in any remodeling they do. They’ll be thinking about the quality of the products in their homes, will they last a long time and what kind of intrinsic value will they get from the materials. And I think there’s a real mindset of caring about what you have and making it last longer.

Meet Lane here…

Read about projects by COOPER Designbuilders here and here.

Question and Answer with Mark Hylland, Oregon Home Renovations

Mark Hylland
Oregon Home Renovations
www.oregonhomerenovations.com

What three remodels add the most value to a home?
It all really depends on what you’re starting with. We do a lot of inner east side older homes where there’s often no master suite. I think even beyond a kitchen, getting a dedicated master bath can make a big difference. Number two for me would be a nice basement. The return on investment is better, there’s often little structural work, and sometimes we’re talking about a thousands square feet, which could literally double the square footage of the house. And then, of course, there is the kitchen.

What’s the best way to improve the curb appeal of a home?
Aside from the quick cosmetic stuff like paint and siding, the big thing is purely a design question. I drive around Portland and see a lot of crummy exteriors, dormers that are too big or too small. A lot of times with remodeling, it’s more about the design than the execution.

What trends are you seeing?
We are seeing a lot of people who are phasing work. People who have been sitting on their hands for two years, scared to do a whole lot, are at least now looking at projects to hit on their list. We’ve been spending a lot of hours to structure proposals in bite-sized chunks for people.

Meet mark in this video…

Not So Big Remodeling

Sarah Susanka’s most recent book Not So Big Remodeling: Tailoring your home for the way you really live has rave reviews including this one from the Chicago Tribune…

The latest book from ‘Not So Big’ priestess lays out steps to take the expense, disruption out of remodeling. Soft-spoken Sarah Susanka wouldn’t seem to be the “I told you so” type, but … well, she told you so. For more than a decade, the architect has campaigned for houses to be built smaller but better. Her basic message: Figure out how big a house you need, and then subtract about a third of the square footage. Good design will make up the difference. Her eighth book, “Not So Big Remodeling: Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live” (Taunton Press, 330 pages, $32), co-written with architect Marc Vassallo. It aims, she says, to help homeowners make smaller remodeling gestures, or, in her parlance, “Not So Big moves.” Susanka’s buffet of remodeling solutions leans toward less expense and less disruption of daily life. She places them in three Not So Big categories: working within the existing footprint; creating room “bumpouts” that extend the space by a couple of feet; and smallish, cost-effective room additions.

If you are serious about remodeling and want to do it better not bigger, I highly recommend checking out her book right away.  You can also read Green Tips from Sarah Susanka here.

How Do You Find a Professional Remodeler?

If you own a home, no matter what’s its age, sooner or later you may join the millions of people who remodel their homes each year. The reasons for remodeling are as varied as the projects themselves, but generally we choose to remodel to add comfort, convenience, space and, ultimately, value to our homes.

If you are like many other home owners across the country who have undertaken a remodeling project, you had to make many decisions related to the project. Details like what kind of project you want to do, how you will use this space and how much money you are willing to spend must be thought-out and communicated to your contractor to avoid any confusion down the road. So how did you go about finding a remodeler to do your project?

Finding a remodeler who is right for you will take some time and planning, but it is worth the effort when you are satisfied with the completed project.

To begin your search:

  • Seek referrals from friends, family, neighbors and coworkers who have had remodeling work done and ask them if they would hire the remodeler again.
  • Contact local trade associations such as the Professional Remodelers Organization for a list of their members. Click here to search for a list of remodelers in the Portland Metro Area.
  • Check with the Oregon Construction Contractors Board and local building inspectors to verify the remodeler has the appropriate license(s).
  • When you begin to interview a remodeler, keep in mind that you are buying a service rather than a product. The quality of service the remodeler provides will determine the quality of the finished project and your satisfaction with it. Take a look at the remodeler’s business and management experience.
  • Does the remodeler have a trustworthy reputation in the community, with previous customers and with local building supply companies?
  • Does the remodeler carry insurance that protects you from claims arising from property damage or jobsite injuries?
  • Is the remodeler an active participant in a trade organization such as the Professional Remodelers Organization. Membership in the Professional Remodelers Organization indicates a remodeler’s commitment to professional-quality construction that meets or exceeds industry standards and practices.
  • Is the remodeler accredited in a certification program such as the Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR) program. Remodelers bearing the CGR credentials indicate that they have met a prescribed set of educational requirements and follow a strict code of business and professional ethics.
  • In addition to business and management experience, look at the remodeler’s construction and technical expertise, customer service and communication skills.
  • Does the remodeler have a working knowledge of the many types of homes in your area?
  • Does the remodeler offer an array of options for your project thus demonstrating a knowledge of and experience with a variety of products, materials and techniques?
  • Does the remodeler listen to you and understand your needs and wants with the project?
  • Will the remodeler provide you with scheduled updates so that you can make appropriate decisions and prepare for any inconveniences?

Finding a remodeler who is right for you is not as simple as picking up the yellow pages of your phone book.  It takes time to interview and select a contractor who will best suit your needs and the needs of your project. You might consider attending seminars such as Remodeling 101 provided free of charge to consumers by the Professional Remodelers Organization of the Home Builders Association of Metro Portland. For more information, contact your local PROs at 503-684-1880 or info@hbapro.org.
The Professional Remodelers Organization of the Home Builders Association of Metro Portland reminds you to only trust your dreams for your home to a qualified professional remodeler!

Questions for Interviewing Remodelers…

How do you weed out shady contractors and find the best professional remodelers? Be sure to ask these questions when interviewing candidates for your remodeling job:

  • Do you have General Liability Insurance?
  • Do you carry worker’s compensation insurance?
  • Will you provide me with a written lien waiver?
  • Are you a member of the Professional Remodelers Organization?
  • Will you obtain all the required building permits?
  • Do you guarantee your work?
  • Who will be in charge of the job?
  • Have you or your company been a party to any construction-related litigation within the past five years?
  • Will you provide me with written references or contact information of previous customers?
  • What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business?
  • How many projects like mine have you completed in the last year?
  • How will you protect my home? What about protecting my children and pets?
  • How is cleanup handled?

–From How to Hire Your Dream Remodeler by Tom Higgins, Superior Products Home Improvement, Littleton, Colo.

Why Hire a Professional Remodeler

If you are considering a home remodeling project, the most important decision you can make is selecting a professional home remodeler to do the job. Your home is too important to entrust to anyone but a professional home remodeler who can:

  • Save you money by doing your job right the first time.
  • Ensure that your dreams are accurately translated into reality by offering design services in-house or through an arrangement with a professional architect or designer.
  • Understand that your comfort during the project and its successful completion depend on effective communication and follow-through.
  • Maintain a safe and neat jobsite to prevent damage to your home or injury to household members and pets.
  • Provide the best possible materials within your budget and assist you in making selections through the vendors they work with.
  • Ensure that your job meets or exceeds applicable building codes and regulations.
  • Guarantee the quality of their work with a warranty.
  • Respond promptly to service calls and inquiries.

You can search a directory of professional home remodelers (search business activity – remodeler) now.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Hiring a Professional Remodeler

The decision to hire a home remodeler can be intimidating. This section will give you the tools and inside information on finding, evaluating, hiring and working with a remodeler. Your home is your biggest investment, and the best way to protect it is by hiring an ethical, professional remodeler. Let’s get started!

Find a Professional

When you hire a remodeler, you are buying a service rather than a product. The quality of the service the remodeler provides will determine the quality of the finished product and your satisfaction.

Get a List:  The first step to hiring a professional is to build a list of candidates, and flipping through the Yellow Pages is not the ideal method. Learn the best way to begin your search.

The Inside Scoop: Once you have your list of remodelers, how do you properly evaluate their credentials? Get the inside information on what to ask and look for in home contractors.

Evaluate References: You don’t want to just question the remodeler, but also learn first hand from the remodeler’s current and former customers. Learn what to ask references.

Make the Decision: Now you’ve done your homework and it’s time to choose. Get some final guidelines to evaluate your remodeler.

Work With a Professional

Since you’ve done the hard work of evaluating and hiring a professional, the next step is ensuring your home remodel goes smoothly.

Live with Your Remodel: The only thing left is the remodeling itself. Learn how to adapt to your home as a work site, communicate with your remodeler, and schedule your project for a smooth remodeling experience.

Be a Good Neighbor: A professional remodeler goes out of their way to minimize any inconvenience to your neighbors, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to be neighborly yourself. Learn more.

Home Maintenance: Finally, now that you’ve gone though the time, energy, and expense of upgrading your home you want to keep it in top shape. View some tips on keeping your home well maintained.