Working with Contractors, the In's and Outs

When deciding to remodel your home, it is wise to consider who will actually be doing the work. To save money, it is very tempting to tackle the work yourself. Always examine all your options when deciding upon this avenue. Be sure you are prepared to handle the workload. It is never any fun to realize that several years have gone by, and the new family room you have been working on in your "spare time" is still in the "rough" stages.

That being said, if you have the time, experience, patience and money to do it yourself, then more power to you! For the rest of us, don't be afraid to consider hired help.

Even a seemingly simple task, such as remodeling the kitchen, can be quite extensive. Okay, anyone who has ever tried to remodel a kitchen is laughing right now, since there is nothing simple about it. Are you prepared to handle all of the plumbing, electrical and carpentry work? Are you confident enough in your abilities to handle things that could go wrong? Can you afford to eat out until you have your kitchen back? Taking into account the added responsibilities of obtaining all the necessary permits and inspections, perhaps this would be a good time to ask yourself if a helping hand might actually wind up saving you money and time.

If you have made the decision to hire some assistance, now is the time to find quality help. As with finding a real estate professional, the best referrals come from word of mouth. Ask your friends and family for recommendations. Then do a little research to ensure these are the best people to suit your needs. You may want to check with the Registrar of Contractors for a list of member contractors and with the Better Business Bureau to ensure that no complaints have been filed against the business or individual.

Once this is done, make sure the people you hire are in agreement about your design, schedule and budget. Make sure to get all the details in writing. A signed contract can be your best friend. You will also want to ensure that your contractors have professional certifications and state licenses, whenever necessary. Make sure they are fully insured and bonded (your local Building Department will be able to help you track down this information). One more important step to consider, which is often overlooked, is that these professionals carry worker's compensation insurance. If they don't and someone is injured on the job, then you, the homeowner, can be held liable. Then, once either you, or your contractors, obtain the necessary permits (your Planning and Zoning Commission will help here), you are ready to go!

Some of the professionals you may wish to enlist the services of include, but are not limited to, the following:

Architects design homes and additions from top to bottom. This can be very important if you're planning any structural changes. It is always better to know beforehand if you are about to knock out a load-bearing wall. As always, make sure you get an estimate before agreeing to take them on. Architects may be reimbursed hourly or by a flat fee. Make sure you know how they expect to be paid, since it's better to know what to expect before they expect you to take out your wallet.

Your new best friend may well be your General Contractor. They oversee the intricate aspects of a home improvement project. They hire and supervise workers, take care of getting permits, ensure the timely completion of inspections when necessary, and provide insurance for work crews.

You will want to get bids from several different contractors. Make sure they bid on exactly the same plans. Ensure that your contract with your contractor specifies that you pay in several stages. You usually pay one third when the contract is signed so they can get the supplies. There are horror stories out there where people pay the whole amount up front, just to find out the contractor has relocated to the Caymans with a check in hand. While this is extremely rare, don't forget about the Better Business Bureau.  Initial research can prevent eventual heartbreak. Don't make the final payment until the work is completed, inspected and approved.

You may also wish to enlist the services of an Interior Designer. While many people already know what furniture goes with which wall covering, some of us need a little more help. An experienced interior designer can help steer you in the right direction and narrow down your selections. They also have the advantage of professional discounts, and pass the savings on to you. Make sure their tastes are compatible with your own personal style. They generally charge between $50 and $150 per hour, but you may also negotiate a flat fee (25% of the total project cost is a good baseline).

With the aid of experienced professionals, remodeling your home can be easy and fun.