How to prepare for a consultation with a remodeling contractor.

In anticipation of your upcoming home remodeling project, you likely have been watching home improvement shows on TV, visiting home centers, and reading many magazines to get ideas. Now you are ready to start that long awaited project, but are finding that getting ideas was the easy part.

Some questions that may be running through your mind: Who do I call? What will the contractor need from me? What is the real cost of this project? How will this all come together?

As a contractor, I work with homeowners everyday who are unsure of where to begin the home renovation process. One of the best parts of my job is helping folks make the most of their projects, turning home remodeling dreams into reality. I’ve put together the following tips to help fellow homeowners navigate the home remodeling process.

Find a contractor.

The first step is finding a trusted contractor. Sources for contractors are many. Yes, there is the internet, and paid services to locate contractors, but I personally would stay away from those options. Local Building Associations are a great place to start. But don’t just go to their website, call the office, describe the project and I am sure the office staff will give you several great people to call. Local building officials can also likely connect you with someone. Other options include calling your local Chamber of Commerce or asking neighbors, co-workers and friends for referrals. Personally, I belong to a local business networking group that has a structured referral system, so ask around, people like to help.

Understand building permits.

Will you be obtaining the building permits or is the contractor? We have to charge for these services, so if you’re able to do the running around, that will save you some money and us a lot of time. Will you need blueprints for the project? If so, having the design and blueprints done ahead of time will speed things up and make getting the estimates more accurate.

Dream, and research your options.

When I meet with prospective clients, I love it when they are prepared. Having a good idea of what you want to have done, styles and finishes, and an approximate budget in place is ideal. However, that is rarely the case and we understand that. Knowing what you will be using the space for and at least having some options in mind for finishing touches helps greatly. For example, with an exterior renovation, are you leaning toward vinyl shake or traditional lap siding? Vinyl or wood windows? What colors? When I meet with people and the “details” are open ended, I have no choice but to use allowances (basically a “best guess” price) in my estimates. It’s these allowances that can make or break a budget. Some contractors may use too low of an allowance, which makes the estimate look great, but when those finish items are chosen, sticker shock may be frustrating.

I always ask what budget the homeowner has in mind for a few reasons:

  • To see if they are realistic in actually wanting to move forward.
  • To help define what some of the finish materials might be. Maybe the wood clad windows are not in the budget, but a high end vinyl unit will be ok.
  • To understand if there is any reserve available. In the remodeling world, there are so many uncertainties that changes are sure to happen.

Know your timeline and be realistic.

Another important factor before you being a remodeling project is knowing your timeline. Never give us an open timeline to complete a project; trust me, we always have some quick job to squeeze in that takes focus away from you. Be realistic about the disruption this will cause in your life. If it’s a kitchen and bath remodel, do you have alternative places to cook and bathe? I currently have a family “camping” out in the man cave while we add a full dormer where the bedrooms were. Lastly, don’t be too nervous; just make sure to do your homework ahead of time and you’ll be on track to begin remodeling.

Now that you’re ready to get started, stay tuned for the following posts where I will walk you through the steps to keep your project running smoothly. Let’s build some pride in your home together.