Everybody will cut you some slack

Two simple steps can help you choose wisely instead of foolishly.

1. Identify a Problem or Something That Needs Improvement: The whole purpose of remodeling is to increase the comfort and convenience of your home.

First you need to figure out what you don’t like (the problem) and then identify how you want things to improve. You don’t have to figure out how to make it happen. You just have to identify what the problem is and what you want things to be like once the problem is solved.

Here are a couple of examples of what that might look like:

  • Problem: Master Bathroom is crowded and dark and it’s a pain to get ready for work in the morning when sharing a sink.
  • Solution: More space; a double sink, and more light (natural light if possible)
  • Problem: Kitchen feels crowded, dark, and cut off from dining area. It’s not ideal for entertaining guests.
  • Solution: Open up kitchen space; redesign configuration for more efficiency; open up view to dining area; bring in more light.

 2. Establish Priorities: You may have several things you’d like to do, but what are your priorities? What should you do first? It can be helpful to think in terms of “Must-Haves” (things that are really essential) and “Nice-to-Haves” (things you’d like to do if you have the time and money). Let’s use the kitchen project above as an example.

  • Must-Have: A more efficient kitchen with enough room for family to eat together.
  • Nice-to-Have: A larger, dramatic-looking kitchen with top-end appliances, and more space to entertain guests.

Again, you don’t have to come up with the solution. You need to communicate your priorities to us. But go ahead and share your “Nice-to-Haves” as well. Sometimes we may be able to satisfy your “must-have” needs, and some of your “nice-to-have” needs at the same time.

April 1st may be a fun time to enjoy foolish pranks, but wise homeowners identify their real needs and then prioritize which ones to work on.

A brilliant person came up with this concept

More Than Hearts, Flowers, and Chocolates
Chances are that when you think of February, Valentine’s Day is the first thing that comes to mind. It’s a nice image: hearts, flowers, chocolates, and romantic dinners.

It wasn’t always that way. The Old English term for February was Solmonath – or “mud month!” The folks at Hallmark are eternally grateful that this particular moniker didn’t catch on.

For a lot of homeowners, dealing with mud is a much bigger problem than picking out flowers or chocolates. And mud isn’t something that’s restricted to one day in February. It’s something many of us face throughout the year.

Of course that’s why some brilliant person came up with the concept of the mudroom – to keep mud (and other dirt) out of the home. But your mudroom doesn’t have to be dirty and dingy. Installing larger windows can really brighten it up and make it a more inviting entrance into your home. And it’s a logical place to add increased storage in what could be considered “wasted” space.

It’s also a great place to put your washer and dryer so that you don’t have to haul laundry down to the basement and back up again. And if you’re a dog owner, you might even want to install a sink for washing the dog (which you can also use for other clean-up projects as well).

Maybe the Old English were onto something after all. February may not be “mud month” where you live, but it’s a good time to think about adding a mudroom—or remodeling the one you have to get more out of it.

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Looking Back and Looking Forward
 
Even those of us who don’t write out a list of New Year’s resolutions tend to look at January as a time of new beginnings and fresh opportunities. In fact, January takes its name from Janus. In ancient Rome, it was Janus who guarded the gate to the New Year. He was often depicted as having two faces (as shown here on this Roman coin): One looking back at the old year and one looking forward to the new one. The beginning of a New Year is a great time to think about new beginnings for your home. But like Janus, you may want to take a quick look back at your home (and specifically how you’ve used it in the past) before you start making plans for the future.

Coming off the holiday season, you probably have some pretty clear impressions of what it was like to entertain larger groups of people. What did you like about hosting company in your existing home? What was frustrating? Would you do more entertaining if your home was better able to accommodate guests?

Perhaps the first home remodeling project that comes to homeowners’ minds is the kitchen—because so much social activity revolves around the kitchen today. Would having a bigger—or even just a more efficient—kitchen make it more enjoyable to host guests in your home? A redesigned kitchen can have a huge impact on your whole home. And while this involves more than just a “face-lift” that a fresh coat of paint provides, it also delivers a lot more in the way of enjoyment.

Or maybe you felt a little cramped in your family room over the holidays and you’re thinking it would be nice to open up the space between your kitchen and your family room. Creating an open, airy space like this is something else that can change the whole character of your house.  And while it may sound a bit intimidating (and you don’t want to start knocking out walls without having a professional check the structural integrity first), there are few renovations that have such a dramatic affect.

So as you enter the New Year, take a cue from Janus and give a quick look back at what you liked or didn’t like about your home and then look forward to what you’d like to change.

The problem with winter sports is that—follow me closely here—they generally take place in winter
– Dave Barry

Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of imagination

Hang With Care!

ChristmasStocking

We all know the line from The Night Before Christmas (actually entitled, A Visit From Saint Nicholas): “The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…” But where did the tradition of hanging stockings originate?

Nobody knows for sure, but the most popular legend describes a poor widowed man with three daughters who was afraid that (due to a lack of dowry) his daughters would never marry. When St. Nicholas heard about the man’s plight, he slid down the man’s chimney at night, and filled the girls’ stockings (hanging by the fire to dry) with gold coins.

Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of imagination 

In some households in the US, emptying the Christmas stockings is a bigger deal than opening the presents under the tree. Even though they’re smaller, stockings are often filled with lots of surprises—some of them quite valuable.

Remodeling a home—instead of moving to a new one—is a bit like that. It may not be as big a deal, but you may find that your existing home is full of surprises that you didn’t expect.

The kitchen you thought was too small and dark can actually be turned into a delightful room that’s fun for work and entertaining. That attic space that seemed unusable could actually end up being a spare bedroom or study. And that basement—you know, the one where the kids never liked going alone when they were little—can end up being a great family entertainment room for watching movies as a family.

Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of imagination—and expertise. If your existing home feels a little cramped or “tired” this holiday season, give us a call. Tell us what you’d like to see happen. We may have ideas you haven’t thought about and solutions you didn’t know were possible. Plus, we’ve got the tools, skills, and experience to turn those ideas into reality.
 
Oh, and we promise to use the door instead of coming through the chimney!

Wishing you a great holiday season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

As we enter the New Year, keep in mind…

Your home and property are always good places to invest your dollars. Give us a call (402-617-6240) with any project questions – we are here to help. Thanks again!

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Trust your instincts when hiring a contractor

Most importantly, you have to feel that the contractor is right for you. You have to determine if the contractor will meet your expectations. If you get a bad feeling, invest the time needed to make sure they are the contractor for you.

The dierence in price between dierent contractors equals the value you receive or the experience that you will have.

Why is there such a difference in price between the contractors you are interviewing? Contractors all pay about the same labor rates, get materials from basically the same handful of suppliers, and pay the same fees for specialty trades. So what is the difference in cost? We believe it is the value you are going to receive when you hire that company.

Example:

Company [A] is a one–man operation with little or no insurance, works for wages, never mentions a warranty, hand draws a kitchen design on a napkin, pays his helpers cash under–the–table, uses the cheapest trade con-tractors out there, and has a one page agreement. His price for Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s kitchen is 40% less than Company B.

Company [B] is heavily insured,charges the right amount to ensure that they are in business 10 years from now should warranty issues arise, offers a written 5 year warranty, uses 3-D computer design soft-ware, pays their employees better than most… with great benefits, uses top–rung trade contractors who also warranty their work, and has a clear and thorough contract.

Which company offers the best value?

As a buyer you have many needs, wants, and expectations.

In the same way, each contractor offers their own way of completing a project and meeting their clients needs. It is very important to find the perfect fit for you. We hope that this guide enables you to find that contractor and begin a lifelong relationship with that company as you transform your home. We wish you the best as you begin your journey!

Asking The Right Questions Upfront

It is crucial that the contractor is reputable and can prove to you that he will honor the promises he is making to you up front.

Client’s Three Biggest Fears

Michael C. Stone (2007)
  1. Will they do the job I want them to do?
  1. Will they do the job at a fair price?
  1. Will they do the job in a timely manner? 

 

When interviewing a contractor, ask: Does the contractor…

  • Offer at least a 1 year written warranty?
  • Respond to warranty calls immediately? What is the process for doing so?
  • Have a guaranteed price using a fi xed–amount contract. Is this a 1-2 page agreement or a thorough detailed contract covering what is included, and more impor-tantly, what is NOT included in the project?
  • Provide an upfront production schedule at contract signing so that you know what will happen each day throughout the duration of your project?
  • Have written agreements with employees and trade contractors to ensure performance?
  • Institute a Pre–Contract Meeting for each project to ensure that everyone that is involved in the production phase of the project is familiar with the details, consequently eliminating “surprises” and possible change orders?
  • Have a list of outstanding references that you may contact on your own?
  • Acquire permits and use licensed trade and mechanical contractors (e.g. Plumber, electrician)
  • Have a license and certified staff for performing RRP Lead renovation required by the EPA on all homes 1978 and older?
  • Practice clear communication in a timely manner consistent with today’s technology?
  • Have a license and bond as required in your city?
  • Have written testimonials from past clients?
  • Show clear and well–done photos of past projects?
  • Possess at least 1 million dollars in liability insurance coverage and require that all trade contractors possess the same, in addition to their own workman’s compensation?
  • Have a clean reputation on the internet? (i.e. Google the company name)
  • Offer unique and attractive designs?
  • Have a detailed systems/processes to carry you through the sales–to–design–to–production phases of a project?
  • Have an idea of how long the project will take to complete, and also how long the design and planning phases will take?
  • Have a bid that is extremely low? Why?
  • Seem trustworthy and reliable? Does he or she put you at ease?
  • Communicate well with you, including listening?
  • Have a plan for how he or she will respect your home and your family?
  • Have their office located near you? The further away a contractor is the harder it is to properly service you and give you the attention you deserve.

COLLECTING BIDS OR “FREE” ESTIMATES

There is a long-standing expectation in this industry that all contractors should give free estimates. As a result, little work actually goes into the initial estimate. Herein lies the problem. Some con-tractors guess an estimate or make a low bid to get their foot in the door. As a result the consumer chooses the low estimate because he or she trusts that the contractor actually put a lot of time and energy into quoting their project.

But is the estimate really free? Seriously, who works for free? I don’t know too many people who are willing to produce quality products for no cost. The fact is people don’t work for free, especially business owners. If they do, they typically aren’t in business for long. Someone will eventually pay for that free estimate in one way or another. Whether it is the one out of ten homeowners that accept an estimate and start a project or the contractor who goes out of business because he didn’t charge for his time. Someone ends up paying for the free cost. In most cases it is built into the selling price of the project.

So “free” for many is paid for by a few. Worst–case, and the most common scenario, is that the price we pay for a “free” estimate is a poorly planned, inaccurately priced, mess of a project which results in disappointment and sometimes the homeowner having to hire a second contractor to correct what should have been done right the first time.

So when examined more closely, collecting the “free” estimate is not the best approach to hiring your contractor.

We feel that most contractors have good hearts and actually care about people and their product. But again, it is very easy to start a remodeling business and there are not many standards set in our industry on how to run a remodeling business. So each contractor does it his or her own way.

We know this from experience. Many skilled craftsmen enjoy working with their hands and get to the point where they decide to start their own practice out of their love for the trade. After ten years their practice has evolved into a business and they fi nd themselves stuck in a business position without business knowledge or experience. As a result, business errors are made, corners are cut, and they have few or no systems and processes. Sadly, there are many home remodeling companies that fit this profile.

Your Kitchen This Thanksgiving

Bringing friends and family together for a big Thanksgiving dinner is a well-established American tradition. We look forward to it with great anticipation (and sometimes unrealistically high expectations!). There are times, however, when our homes just aren’t ideally situated to handle the extra people.

It’s no wonder that so many homeowners have opted for open floor plans that allow them to expand their kitchens and incorporate a great room into the design. Not only does that mean that whoever is cooking the turkey is no  longer isolated in the kitchen, but it’s much easier to accommodate everyone in the same space. It’s much more festive—and the open nature of the design can make the space feel even larger than it is.

But what if you’re in an older home that doesn’t have that kind of floor plan? Can you remodel to get the kind of space you want? You’d be amazed at what can be done! Undertaking this kind of remodeling project can be a little overwhelming—particularly if you have a hard time envisioning open space where there are now walls and doors! But that’s where a good designer and remodeler can help. They’re used to seeing—not just what’s currently there, but what can be there—and how to make it happen!

That’s why it’s good to sit down with your remodeler first and tell him or her what it is you want to accomplish.  Then he or she can come up with a plan that meets your needs—and matches your budget. It doesn’t happen over night, but a significant remodeling project like this isn’t something you want to rush.

So if things feel a little cramped when family and friends come over for Thanksgiving dinner, give your builder a call afterwards and start working together on a plan to make your home the perfect place to celebrate next year!

The Typical Method of Selecting a Contractor

Mr. and Mrs. Smith decide to find a contractor to remodel their home with the hope of getting the kitchen of their dreams. This is a project that has been years in the making and is long overdue. The kitchen is dark and outdated, drawers are broken, there is a lot of wasted space, and it is way too small for entertaining their large family and many friends. Mr. and Mrs. Smith are fed up with their drab non–functional kitchen—it is definitely TIME to remodel!

Like most people, Mr. and Mrs. Smith contact 2–3 contractors and collect estimates to remodel their kitchen. During each appointment they may look at some photos of the contractor’s past projects and ask questions like, “How long have you been in business?” or “How soon can you start?” Then they compare the estimates and make their decision. They might feel like they have done their homework. After all, the typical homeowner has been advised to, “Collect two to three free estimates, compare prices, and hire the contractor who isn’t the cheapest or the most expensive.” Seems logical. Or does it?

What are the risks of an insufficient selection process?

If a homeowner does not ask the right questions when interviewing a contractor, the potential for having a bad experience is very likely. The fact is the remodeling industry is any easy–entry industry. A person can have little to no experience to jump right in. All it takes is a truck and a handful of tools and presto, you’re a remodeler.

Where do homeowners go wrong?

Most people believe the advice that you should collect three free estimates, or bids. This is an anti-quated method for selecting a contractor. We live in a diff erent culture today. People do not have the time to be inconvenienced longer than they should or have to correct work that should have been done right the fi rst time. By using the “three bid” selection process, one typically bases their decision on cost. The results of this can lead to a catastrophe in your home!

Apples–to–apples comparison: Why is this wrong?

Most homeowners make their decision based on comparing estimates. It’s not that this is wrong, it’s just extremely hard (if not impossible) to do. The problem with this is that there is no industry standard for estimating a project and all contractors off er diff erent levels of service. Plus there is not one company alike. In addition to this, the typical free estimate is based on a one to two hour visit to the home and a ton of incomplete information causing a horribly inaccurate bid. Overall, it is impossible to do a true apples– to–apples comparison. So why compare estimates at all?

How should contractors be compared?

We recommend getting ballpark price ranges or average project costs from a contractor to make sure they fit your desired investment criteria. Then interview the contractor based on their level of service.

Your project cost will be different from any other project total because your project is different than any other project. So as long as the contractor is somewhere in your price range, spend time interviewing the contractor himself. After all, you will be spending the next several weeks and months working with this individual or company. It would be best to make sure that they meet your expectations and that the two of you are able to clearly communicate.