If you’re planning a home project or remodel, hire a professional with excellent credentials. The best results are achieved when professionals do the work. You can find these professionals at the Builders Association of Northwest Pa. at 814-833-3999
Doing your research upfront is the single biggest step to making sure that the job gets done right. Contractors are only as good as their reputation. Most companies are in business to stay and they can only do so to the extent that they have satisfied customers.
Use this checklist to help you select the right contractor for the job:
• Do they belong to the builders association? PBA members are respected professionals in their communities and have access to the latest industry information and training. They are invested in their profession and are committed to service, integrity and stability.
• How long have they been in business? It typically takes 3 – 5 years to establish a financially sound business. Will they be around after the construction is complete to service any warranties? Do they have a permanent address?
• Will they provide you with references? Great references should not be hard to find for a reputable remodeler who is established. Ask those references if they would hire the contractor again.
• Have you seen their work? Both completed and in progress?
• Are they accessible? Remember, you will need to be in contact with them throughout your project and possibly afterward.
• Will they provide a clearly written contract?
• Be cautious of unusually low priced bids and always get more than one bid.
• Ask if your contractor builds to Pennsylvania’s statewide building code. If they use sub-contractors, do they also build to code?
• Home improvement contractors in Pennsylvania MUST be registered with the Attorney General’s office. Although this registration is not an endorsement of the quality of their work, it is the law. Verify the registration of a contractor.
• Ask for an insurance certificate to verify current workers’ compensation and general liability insurance.
Have a Plan
With any remodeling project, the secret of success lies in careful planning. This means having a solid objective on what you want to achieve, what must-haves should be included, as well as any other nice-to-haves if your budget allows.
In many cases, the final design and specs will be worked out with the help of your contractor, designer or architect. However, the more information you can give them, the better they are able to provide you with good advice and cost estimates.
Here’s the info you should include in your plan:
• A clear description of what you want to change and why. What is the purpose?
• Your specific goals for the project.
• A list of future changes you anticipate that may not be a part of the current project or estimate.
• Prioritization of goals. Which are the must-haves and which ones would be nice but are not essential?
The focus you put on your planning can make a difference in terms of the success of your project, your ability to clearly communicate it to contractors and your ability to stay within budget.
Living With Your Project
Doing a home remodel or major renovation is much different than building a new home. Your HOME becomes the worksite. You live side-by-side with the project from start to finish. Once construction begins, you’ll probably long for the simple pleasures of a dust-free home or a fully functioning kitchen or bath. But it will all be worth it in the end!
Here are a few things to keep in mind and ensure the success of your project:
Communication – Consistent and open communication with your contractor will enhance your understanding of things, provide an opportunity to exchange idea and make the experience more positive all around.
Make sure you know who to contact for daily decisions or after-hours emergencies. Is there a project manager, is it the lead carpenter or the contractor’s spouse? Ask questions. If you are uncertain about any aspect of your project, be sure to let your contact know. It’s also a good idea to designate a certain area for messages – maybe a certain countertop in your home where you and the contact person can leave notes for each other.
A Pre-Construction Meeting – One way to make sure that everyone is on the same page is to schedule a pre-construction meeting. This will allow your contractor to clarify procedures and explain how the job will progress. It also offers both of you an opportunity to prepare for those issues that may pop up. Things to consider during the meeting:
• Will there be a sign on your property? When deciding whether or not you will allow – consider that in addition to being a great marketing tool, signs help contractors and suppliers locate your home.
• Are there areas of your home that will be off-limits to workers?
• Does your home have an alarm system? Will workers need a key or will someone always be there to let them in?
• How will you ensure that children and pets stay out of the work space?
• How will trash removal be handled? Where will the dumpster be on your property?
• Does the contractor anticipate any utility interruptions? Will you need to vacate the house at any time?
• What are you expectations during clean up?
• What time will work begin and end each day? Be sure to consider your neighbors as well as members of your household.
• Where can workers park?
• Willl you allow workers to use your bathroom, phone, etc?
• Is there a policy regarding smoking on the job site?
Prevent frustration and prepare for some inconvenience – If you are doing a major project, you can expect disrupted routines and loss of personal space. Try to focus on the progress being made.
Some other suggestions that may help:
• A kitchen remodel will affect meal planning. Set up a temporary cooking space by moving the refrigerator, toaster oven, microwave, etc to another room. Arrange a dishwashing station in your laundry room. If the weather is warm, plan your meals around grill-able items.
• Designate a safe haven where you can escape from commotion.
• Guard against dust. Seal off doorways and stairs. Turn off central air or heat when workers are sanding and stock up on extra filters so you can change them often. Have deliveries made through a designated entrance. Use doormats and temporary floor coverings where appropriate. Remove anything that might get damaged by the dust or at least cover it with plastic drop cloths that are taped shut.
• Maintain a sense of humor. Remember that certain things are out of your control and it’s best to laugh rather than stress yourself out over things like weather set-backs or delayed delivery of materials.
• See the process as an adventure!