By Laura Foster-Bobroff, Hometalk
1. Research pays off, but remember who the expert is.
DO research your project before you get quotes. It doesn’t hurt to find out, at least generally, the correct way your project should be completed. Look at trade magazines and visit home improvement websites to explore different approaches to remodeling. Sometimes there is more than one way to complete a project. For example, one painting contractor may prefer to paint your room with a tinted primer followed by two coats of latex paint, another may use a one-coat self-priming paint. Find out what industry standards are, what is a no-no under any circumstances or what might work best for your project. A little knowledge gives you power to negotiate the best price for the best work.
DON’T think a little knowledge makes you an expert. Above all, don’t think your project will be completed like projects you see portrayed on television. Home improvement television shows are deceiving. There are whole crews bringing the project to a finish in-between the time the camera is rolling. Mistakes are edited out. Remember that every remodeling project is different, and there can be hidden complications. For example, replacing the slider door that’s been sticking for the last two years seems like a simple one-day project, but when your contractor takes out the existing door he might find it was not properly flashed by the original installer. Decay, dry rot or mold effecting the underlying framing may require him to do unexpected work. He may not be a shady contractor; he might be concerned that if he replaces the slider without fixing the underlying problem, in a few years you’ll be unhappy with his finished product.
Most reputable contractors will keep you informed of any unexpected developments and will discuss solutions with you, including estimated extra costs. They will show you problem areas and explain the process for fixing them in detail. In some cases, they can tell you in advance what kinds of hidden problems they’ve seen before and whether they think they’ll experience the same issues with your remodeling project.
2. Get competitive bids, but don’t take the lowest bid offered.
DO get competitive bids. For small projects, calling two or three contractors is usually sufficient. For larger, more extensive projects, it’s wise to have a minimum of four to five contractors bidding against each other. People will spend weeks researching the best cars and haggling over a car sale when it’s time to buy a new vehicle, but don’t hesitate to spend thousands of dollars on a remodeling project after mere hours or a few short meetings with contractors.
DON’T take the lowest bid offered, thinking you will be getting the best deal, even if your contractor shows up in a designer polo in a big, shiny truck with custom lettering looking like the perfect professional. Be leery of any contractor eager to bid lower than everyone else. It’s common practice for less-reputable remodelers to have “hidden costs” they spring on you later in the project, when everything is torn apart and you feel like you can’t back out without extreme inconvenience or loss of what you’ve already invested.