The Big Remodel: You Can Do It. But Should You?

The Big Remodel: You Can Do It. But Should You?


Thinking of remodeling or building a home? If you are handy with home improvement projects, you might wonder if you should handle the details yourself. Think again.

Even a skilled DIY-er can misjudge the complexity of a project, so it’s always wise to consider hiring a general contractor.

If the project involves only one or two tradespeople or subcontractors – a painter and a carpet installer, for example, “I encourage the homeowner to work with local, reputable firms and oversee the work themselves,” says Dave Spetrino, president and CEO, Plantation Building Corp., Wilmington, N.C.

But if the requires several tradespeople and a building permit, “it’s more logical to identify a contractor who can oversee and take responsibility for the whole project,” says Spetrino. “This is especially true when you are coordinating with plumbing, HVAC, electrical and structural framing subs.”

Finding and hiring a reputable, professional contractor takes time and homework. A good place to start is with referrals from friends, family and neighbors.

“A lot of it comes down to word of mouth. Talk with people. It’s important to find a residential contractor that is best tailored to your particular job,” says Ren Chandler, president and founder, Dyna Contracting, Seattle.

Industry vendors and architects also are good sources of information, and a contractor’s company website is an indicator of his scope of work and level of professionalism.

“You can certainly search online. Keep a close eye on the contractor’s website. If they put time and detail into it, then they’ll probably do the same for your project,” says Chandler.

When a contractor has been found, it’s critical to set a meeting to communicate goals and assess his ability to do the job.

“Have a general conversation with the person you’re considering hiring. Come a little prepared. Know what’s not working in your current situation. Know your desired outcomes. Have a single sheet of paper that outlines your basic goals,” says Spetrino.

Learning about the contactor’s business and range of work will help to determine if a company is the right fit.

“What is the scale of projects they’ve done? Are they comfortable doing the type of work you need? It’s important to find out how busy they are. Are they just filling a hole, or are they passionate about doing the job?” says Chandler.

Doing research and asking questions will minimize surprises down the road for homeowners.

“They can never do enough research. Ask questions. Who’s in charge? Who’s on the team? What do the different people do? Walk me through the process. What should we watch out for? What should I be doing to ensure the best outcome?” says Spetrino.

A check of licensing, insurance and references is also critical.

“I would definitely check references. That would be the most important thing as far as I’m concerned,” says Chandler.

Once selected, a contractor will provide a contract for the project. This document details the scope of the work, outlining each phase of the project and listing what the contractor will and will not do.

Also included in the contract are a construction schedule, payment schedule, change order details, conflict resolution procedures, warranty, insurance, indemnification and license information.

“It’s important to understand the contract, budgeting and scheduling and how the contractor deals with those things. As far as budgeting, attention to detail is really important. The budgeting needs to be broken out,” says Chandler.

A lack of those details is a red flag to homeowners who should take caution before signing on the dotted line. Discrepancies will most often appear in budgeting and scheduling.

“The common thread has been paying way more up front than they ought to. Contractors should itemize where money will be spent. It should be spelled out. Homeowners should expect a schedule. There should be a clear understanding of when a project will finish,” says Spetrino.

Both before and during construction, regular communication between contractor and homeowner will ensure smooth completion of the project.

“The bottom line, when a client will take time to communicate their goals and identify a professional who can meet those goals, those are the clients who will do really well,” says Spetrino.

Copyright © CTW Features