A User’s Guide by George Waldhauser
It’s Time to Remodel
You are serious this time – out with the old, in with the new – kitchen, bath or addition. Or, OH NO – a new home! Guess who you are going to get to know on a first name calling basis? Contractors, sub-contractors, suppliers, inspectors, and mortgage bankers, to name a few. We are talking about a lot of name calling! Are you sure you want to do this? OK! Let’s get started with…
STEP 1: DECISIONS
For discussion purposes, we will use a kitchen as our project. However, the same methods apply to any home improvement or new construction.
Measure your existing kitchen, wall to wall. Do not include cabinets or builtin furniture. Now locate windows and doors on your drawings. STOP. Don’t get fancy. Is there enough room for what you want to do? If not, can you expand outward or do you have to encroach on interior space? List the activities that happen in your kitchen and rate each from 1 to 5 in order of importance. Enlist all family members in these decisions. Start looking at magazines, model homes, websites and any place you see a component you might wish to include in your project. You may use magazines and websites to request information and pricing from manufacturers and distributors. Consider selections of finishes, counter tops, cabinet styles, and amenities (intercom, message center, workstations, homework corner and/or computer area).
NOW it’s time to reach out and touch someone! Call at least three contractors that do kitchen remodeling. These may be general contractors or kitchen dealers. Invite them to your project. (That is what it is called now. It will not be called a kitchen until completion). Give each the list of components compiled by your family and let each contractor do a measure and layout. Check to see how close your measurements were to the pro’s. After you receive your proposals, compare for detail and completeness, then grade each submission. Neatness counts!
STEP 2: SHOW ME YOURS AND I’LL SHOW YOU MINE
Compare plans and pricing. If one contractor stands out with a unique plan that includes every item you requested and pricing is in line with the others, it’s time to make a decision. Notice I said the price is in line with the others – not the lowest. A fluctuation of about 20% can be in the ballpark. On the other hand, if one contractor offers an estimate on the bottom of a 6-pack carton and he is 50% lower, be careful; his crew may be happy, but I predict trouble down the road.
STEP 3: I HATE TO BE PICKY, BUT…
Carefully go over every item of each bid. Are they using the same quality, same number of cabinets, counter tops of the same material? Are all the amenities you requested addressed and included? Are the floor surfaces the same? Is painting included?
STEP 3A: WHOA, DUDE!
If one contractor made a configuration change (moved a wall or relocated a window) and that appeals to you, offer the other bidders the opportunity to re-bid that option.
STEP 4: THE ENVELOPE PLEASE!
Ask the contractor you selected to prepare a contract based on the bid. Be a good scout and reply to the other bidders thanking them for the time and effort required to bid your project. Before signing any contract, go over it in detail and compare every item on the bid list to be sure it is included in the contract. Double check specification of materials, appliance models, and finish schedule (this is where paint, wallpaper, mirror, paneling, and texture locations are identified). The contract serves as a reference in case of a misunderstanding. An honest mistake can easily be resolved by reviewing what was written and agreed upon three months earlier. Ask questions to get a clear understanding of where everything goes (if one wall gets mirrored to give the effect of a larger room, we certainly would not want the mirror to go on the ceiling.)
STEP 5: SHOW ME DA MONEY!
You are now expected to advance to your contractor a mutually agreed upon draw (payment). Some states limit the amount. (In Maryland, the initial draw is 1/3). Never give the entire amount in advance! Before you issue that check, have in your hand a certificate of insurance naming you as the insured and a signed copy of the contract listing the contractor’s name, place of business and license number with a job completion date.
STEP 6: ARE YOU READY FOR SOME DEMO?
You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs. It’s going to get dusty and ugly, so be prepared. Be sure to remove or store any small items (knick-knacks) before work begins. Larger pieces (stove, refrigerator, etc.) can be handled by the crew. Ask the contractor to tape off access doors to other rooms during demolition and construction.
Be prepared to make arrangements to have meals elsewhere, or set up a canteen in the basement or other room (the kids love this part). Insist on normal working hours for the crew, and don’t bother them. The more you interrupt the crew, the longer you will be eating in the basement. If you request any changes, be sure to negotiate with the prime contractor, not his help, and get the changes with additional pricing in writing, dated and signed by both parties.
STEP 7: ARE WE THERE YET?
Progress payments and inspections will be made as the project moves along. Be timely with the draws if everything is on schedule and inspections pass. On the other hand, do not give the contractor any payment that is not due or if an inspection fails. Make sure any problem has been corrected and signed off by the inspector before a progress payment is made. The contractor may have the hammer to drive the nails, but you hold the pen to drive the project – your checkbook!
STEP 8: IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE A KITCHEN!
As your project takes on a finished look, don’t be tempted to take it for a test drive and try to use the kitchen before the job is complete. It’s still a project, warranties will be affected, and it’s not safe until the job is done.
STEP 9: SAFE AT HOME!
Completion day – you and the contractor will now go over items in the contract. Final inspection has been completed and passed. Everything that doesn’t belong has been removed from the premises, including tools, debris, trash and all Big Mac wrappers. You are ready to write the check for final payment for completion of the job. Wait! What is this, a small unpainted patch behind the pantry? There is a crack in the molding, and one cabinet door seems to be a little crooked. It’s time to make out a “Punch List,” a list of small but annoying discrepancies that were overlooked and need to be corrected. Write all items you find on this list and be sure you and the contactor both agree and sign off when each item is completed to your satisfaction. Final payment can now be made. Your contractor will now give you any warranty paperwork for new appliances and you should request a list of paint, wallpaper, or floor samples in case of future damage. In most cases, it is wise to order extra floor tiles or another roll of paper or can of paint just in case these items are discontinued by the manufacturer in the future.
STEP 10: WHAT’S THAT SMELL? MUST BE MEATLOAF!
Now it’s a kitchen, complete with warmth, conversations, laughter and great food. The decisions made there will provide lasting memories and enjoyment for years to come. Enjoy!
• Permit (if required)
• Payment schedule
• Change orders
• Secure work area
• Clean up
• Inspections (if required)
• Work hours
• Punch list