Category Archives: Professional Advice

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.

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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.

What Home Owners Need to Know About Lead Paint

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‘s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule governing the work of professional remodelers in homes built before 1978 took effect on April 22, 2010.

The rule addresses remodeling and renovation projects for all residential and multifamily structures built prior to 1978 that disturb more than six square feet of painted surfaces inside the home or 20 square feet on the exterior of the home, due to possible  lead paint contamination.

The EPA rule lists prohibited work practices, including open-torch burning and using high-heat guns and high-speed equipment such as grinders and sanders unless equipped with a HEPA filter. It also requires a cleaning inspection after the work is completed.

Additionally, the rule establishes required lead-safe work practices, including sharing a copy of Renovate Right with the home owner, posting warning signs for occupants and visitors; using disposable plastic drop cloths; cleaning the work area with HEPA vacuuming and wet washing; and individual certification through a training course.

The full rule and brochures for consumers can be downloaded from the EPA’s Web site.

A 2006 NAHB study on lead-safe work practices showed that a home was better off after a remodel than before, as long as the work was performed by trained remodelers who clean the work area with HEPA-equipped vacuums, wet washing and disposable drop cloths.

Tips for Home Owners

  1. Hire a Certified Renovator for your home remodeling project.
    Professional remodelers who have achieved EPA Lead-Safe Certification are trained and prepared to work in pre-1978 homes for minimizing dust and potential lead paint exposures. These workers also have certified their firms and will carry an EPA seal verifying their qualifications to follow lead-safe work practices. Certified Renovators have the knowledge and tools to contain dust and keep your family safe. Do not attempt remodeling work yourself or hire an uncertified remodeler as this puts you at risk of lead poisoning.
  2. Read Renovate Right.
    Your Certified Renovator will provide you a copy of the Renovate Right brochure produced by the EPA. This brochure describes the dangers of lead poisoning and how the practices of the remodeler will be employed to contain dust, clean, and minimize the dangers of lead paint exposure.
  3. Pay attention to warning signs and do not enter containment areas.
    The Certified Renovator will post warning signs and set up areas of containment using plastic to keep dust under control. Pay attention to these notices and stay away from these areas. The remodeler uses these techniques and lead-safe work practices to minimize lead dust exposure.
  4. Consider testing for lead.
    You may ask the Certified Renovator to use LeadCheck test kits for testing certain surfaces for lead. If the test comes back negative, the remodeler will not need to use lead safe work practices because the component has tested lead-free. A home owner may alternatively hire a certified risk assessor or lead inspector to conduct testing in the home for lead. Any pre-1978 home can be tested for lead and if the results are negative, the EPA lead rule does not apply.
  5. Maintain records about your home remodel.
    After the remodeling job is complete the EPA Certified Renovator will share records with you, such as a checklist describing the work practices used and any results from lead testing. Be sure to keep these records and share them with the next home owner if you should sell your home.

10 Tips for a Smooth Remodel

Follow these 10 tips when you embark on an exciting home remodeling project.

  1. Establish good two-way communication with the remodeler. It’s essential to have good communication for a smooth home remodeling project. Does the remodeler listen? Does he or she answer questions clearly and candidly? Can you reach him when you need to? Does he return phone calls promptly? Does he let you know when problems arise and work with you on solving them?   

  2. Make sure you have compatibility and “fit” with the contractor. You’ll spend a lot of time with your remodeler so it’s important to have a good rapport and trust in him.    

  3. Set a clear and mutual understanding about the schedule. You and your home remodeler should agree on the schedule up front to avoid conflict and problems later in the project.   

  4. Request a written proposal. Often times, two people remember the same conversation differently. Get the proposal in writing and work with the remodeler to ensure it reflects your wishes.   

  5. Determine a clear and mutual understanding on the miscellaneous details. There are a lot of little details that need to be settled before work starts. What times of day will they be working? How will he access the property? How will cleanup be handled? How will they protect your property?    

  6. Remember to be flexible. Remodeling is an interruption of your normal life. Remember to be flexible during the project so that you can handle the unexpected and go with the flow.   

  7. Create a clear and mutual understanding of how Change Orders will be handled. With home remodeling there is always the chance you may want to change materials or other project details during the job. Agree with your home remodeler on how these changes will be handled before the start of work. Also understand that changes could affect the schedule and the budget, so it’s important you have all changes in writing.   

  8. Agree on a well-written contract that covers all the bases. The contract should include these elements: a timetable for the project, price and payment schedule, detailed specifications for all products and materials, insurance information, permit information, procedures for handling change orders, lien releases, provisions for conflict resolution, notice of your right under the Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling Off Rule (your right to cancel the contract within three days if it was signed someplace other than the remodeler’s place of business), and details on the important issues (such as access to your home, care of the home, cleanup and trash removal).   

  9. Ask for a written Lien Waiver from the home remodeler upon completion of the work. If the rhome emodeler hires subcontractors for portions of the work it is their responsibility to see them compensated. In order to ensure this has been done and to protect yourself, ask for a written lien waiver when the work is finished. This document will verify everyone has been paid.    

  10. Establish a project plan, covering all phases and dependencies in the work. Plan your big picture goals with the home remodeler and talk out your needs. Hire a home remodeler who will plan it out with you, listen to concerns, and answer questions.  

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

Home Remodeling Etiquette

While home remodeling can be an exciting adventure, it’s important to remember that neighbors may not be quite as thrilled with the project as you are. While a professional remodeler will help lessen the impact on those living by you, here are some additional tips to help keep the peace in the neighborhood.

  • Let neighbors know well in advance about your home remodeling plans and keep them apprised of progress, detail by detail. Tell them when work will begin, the approximate completion date, what work will be done and whether workers might have to come onto their property. If delays arise, promptly contact your neighbors to inform them of the revised schedule.
  • Make sure noisy power tools are only used during standard business hours. Reasonable hours are 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
  • Inform your neighbors of any large trucks entering the neighborhood and ask subcontractors to park on one side of the street only.  Try your best to have materials dropped off in your driveway or yard rather than the street, and keep your yard as tidy as possible. Watch for debris that might find its way onto your neighbors’ yards, especially if a roofing project is involved.
  • Remove dumpsters as quickly as possible. If you have room left in your last dumpster, invite neighbors to dump anything they might have lurking in their garage that needs tossing.
  • If the neighbors are unhappy with an aspect of your project, promptly visit them to apologize.  Consider bringing a peace offering such as brownies or muffins.  When your project is complete, show your neighbors your appreciation by throwing them a party. You can thank them for their patience and proudly show off your remodeled home.

Final Guidelines Before Hiring a Remodeler

You’re almost there, but there are a few final steps before taking the plunge.

 Ask yourself if you feel comfortable with the home remodeler and confident that this company will do the work according to your plans, budget, and specifications.

If you are satisfied with the answers to your questions, ask for a written estimate of the work to be done based on a set of plans and specifications. Be prepared to pay for this package. If the estimated cost of the project is more than you can afford, see if you can trim something from the project or postpone part of it so you can still work with a professional home remodeler.

Ask the home remodeler to explain the plans and specifications and company procedures to you. For instance, once construction begins, how does the company handle changes to the initial design, choice of materials, or schedule. If you compare your estimate with another, be sure each one is based upon the same set of plans, specifications, and scope of work. If your home remodeler suggests any deviations, ask the home remodeler to present them as options separate from the main proposal.

Find out whether the home remodeler uses a detailed, written contract that protects both of you and that complies with local, state, and federal laws. The contract must spell out the work that will and will not be performed and provide a fair payment schedule.

Select the home remodeler with a track record of a variety of excellent projects and plenty of experience with your type of project. Beware of an exceptionally low price.

If you have completed all the steps on how to evaluate a home remodeler, congratulations! You can now choose with confidence the best professional home remodeler for your home.