Why is it important to be cautious and informed when approaching your home remodel? For one, it’s likely one of the most expensive investments you’ll ever make (after buying your home, that is). It’s also your home for the foreseeable future. Plus, when remodeling projects go wrong (which they so often do) it can cause enormous stress, both financial and emotional.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure that you and your contractor are on the same page about your project, and in a strong position to deal with bumps in the road when they show up.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure that you and your contractor are on the same page about your project, and in a strong position to deal with bumps in the road when they show up. Here are the 6 steps to ensuring that your home remodel comes out a success.
1. Look for the contractor who tells the truth about cost. In nearly every other situation where you’re spending a huge pile of money for a high-risk service, you have some sort of insurance. And yet when you’re remodeling your home, you’re at the mercy of many unknowns. You could be doing a $100,000 project, and six months down the line find out that, in order to have it finished the way you want it, the actual cost is $150,000. Or more. With this in mind, you’ll gain tremendous mental and financial freedom now by choosing a contractor who accurately estimates the cost of your project from the outset (and then tells it to you). Plenty of contractors will shave as much as possible off their bids to get the job, and then bill you for the shaved costs down the line.
The only guarantee on a remodeling project is that it won’t go according to plan.
Of course, it would be great to have some help in determining which bids are realistic, which are unrealistically low, and which are too high. That’s where Bolster comes in, serving as a truth serum for contractors bidding on your remodel. If they fail to estimate correctly, or deliberately sell you an unrealistically low bid, they’ll be held accountable for the cost difference. Your contractor will have signed a personal guarantee, protecting you from the consequences of cost increases, shoddy workmanship, and even your contractor going bust (which happens in over 90,000 projects every year).
2. Know what your project entails, down to the last detail. Doing your homework at the beginning will give you great power – and the ability to narrow down the contractor that matches your needs. If you know precisely what is (and isn’t) involved in your project, you can tell if a bid contains an accurate description of the scope of work. Before settling on a contractor, be open with him/her about the quality of work you expect, show examples of the kind of work you want done (we recommend creating a Pinterest page with examples), and establish clear communication (how is he going to manage the project, how often are you and the contractor going to meet, what’s the payment plan, how will disputes be handled, etc.) The key, of course, is eliminating the knowledge gap BEFORE you sign the contract.
3. Be as specific as possible during the planning phase. Choose your countertops, your lighting, your paint colors, your flooring, your tiles, doorknobs, appliances, moldings and trim, you get the gist – if you don’t, you’re guaranteed to be doing it in a haphazard way down the line, and you may not get what you want as a result. Some materials might not be available (those gorgeous bathroom tiles have to be manufactured from some new factory in Southern Germany, so they’re on a 4-month backorder) or prices may have changed. The key here is to make a project of choosing your project — go choose tiles on the weekends, research online, find specific examples of what you want, all before you speak to a single contractor. This is your home – what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?
4. Expect something to go wrong (and be prepared when it does).The only guarantee on a remodeling project is that it won’t go according to plan. With this in mind, think about what will make you the most comfortable when things veer off course. At the top of the list is knowing that you and your contractor are on the same page and can talk to each other — that you’re both aligned on what the project is, and how much it costs (see #2). The LAST thing you want when something goes wrong is to have to go into negotiations. You want a recovery plan laying out how to make up for lost time/money. Crucial here is including an arbitration clause in your contract, so that you know that, if worse comes to worst, you have a way to resolve disputes that can’t be handled on your own.
So who’s gonna be the person managing the manager? Why you, of course!
5. When it comes to project changes, know who’s making them, and why. There’s a big difference between a change order that comes from you (a.k.a. you change your mind about the flooring right before installation), a change order that comes from the contractor (a.k.a. he can’t get the flooring you want so he tries to substitute different materials), and a change order that comes from the building itself (a.k.a. you open a wall and realize you can’t put that staircase here). The first type, you should avoid at all costs (see #3). The second, you should be aware of enough to stop it if it occurs (see #6). And the third, well, often that one can’t be helped – just be sure to stick to your recovery plan if/when it happens.
6. Do not allow your contractor to manage your project alone. So who’s gonna be the person managing the manager? Why you, of course! A successful remodel will require a project management plan to keep your contractor, and everyone else involved, in check. The essential element in your plan is taking your contract, dividing it up over time, and making sure the terms are implemented. Define the quality you expect, define the schedule (and agree on it), define by when payments will be released, and for what results. Think: “I want these door handles, from this website, that cost $20 each, and I want them fitted on these doors by this date, and for that I will pay you $X.” Also be sure to create a punch list of items, like the one above, that are specified in your contract. That way, towards the end of the project, you can walk through the house and check things off the list – and know right away if something is missing. Granted, this requires having a full contract that lists all the necessary requirements in the first place. NOTE: We realize this is a lot, and you don’t have to absorb all of it in one sitting. We’re here to be your go-to resource – we’ll offer plenty more information on each of these topics, as well as an opportunity to ask specific questions.