Renovating do’s and don’ts

Ask anyone who has lived through a renovation and they will tell you that it is costly and inconvenient. If you’re thinking of starting work on your home, then save yourself a few headaches with these pointers from seasoned contractors and homeowners.

Don’t dive in without a plan. “Having a well-thought-out plan is crucial in a remodel,” says Kevin Roy of The Kevin Roy Building Company in Stratham. “That will affect the time and money you will spend.” Greg Rehm of Liberty Hill Construction in Manchester agrees: “Don’t jump right into a project. Spend time planning, budgeting, designing, saving, making sure you know where you are going before you start.”

Do your homework. Find a contractor that you trust by calling references or talking to friends. “We qualify our customers before we work with them,” says Rehm. “Customers should do the same with their contractor by asking questions.” Adds homeowner Jess Deans in Greenland, “Get as many bids as you can. Do the research and get referrals. If possible, see the builders’ work.”

Don’t use price to choose a contractor. “Don’t hire on price alone,” says Rehm. “You’re using one thing that can easily be altered and is not necessarily guaranteed. You get what you pay for. If you are going to shop numbers, then chances are you will get a number you want, but it might not be what you thought it would be at the end.” Deans agrees: “We went with the more feasible bid, but the costs definitely increased over the course of the project.”

Do put everything in writing. “We usually don’t start a project until everything has been specified. Least amount of open-ended questions will make a project run smoother,” says Roy.

“You really have to make sure that every little thing is written down,” says homeowner Josie Rosenbleeth of Stratham. “Our kitchen remodel really went out of control because we didn’t. We verbally talked about it, but we had a lot of add-ons, and the price just kept going up.” Adds Rehm, “Most problems come up when someone says, ‘Hey, can you do this?’ Most professionals will fully plan out a project before they start so the customer knows exactly what it is going to cost.” 

Do set expectations. “A remodel is not a construction site; it’s someone’s home,” says Roy. “Even the best-prepared, best-laid renovation is going to be an inconvenience. So setting the expectation is a big part of the renovation to me.” Adds Rehm, “Be sure to ask a lot of questions to get an idea of how the company handles the things such as change orders and allowances, what to expect with regard to updates or scheduling, what happens if you find something that they didn’t expect. The answers to those questions are going to tell you much more than the number they put down on papers.”

Do have a relationship built on trust. Whether you develop your plan with a designer or a contractor, trusting their recommendations and advice is crucial. “The relationship with the con-tractor is the most important thing, way more important than the price,” says Deans. Rosenbleeth agrees: “We went with everything our designer chose and it worked really well for us. We just really trusted her.”

Do pick tested companies and products. “Don’t just follow the new thing that’s bright and shiny; find a similar product from a company that’s been around a long time,” says Rehm. He learned the hard way, when composite decking started to become popular. “We purchased and installed them, and some succeeded and some failed. When they failed, the companies were already gone so we had no one to support the warranty.”

Don’t be tempted by big-box stores for your materials. Sure, that faucet is $200 less online, but ask any contractor and he or she will tell you that you truly get what you pay for, and cheaper materials are definitely going to break more easily. “Our big battle is between online shopping and using our local vendors,” says Roy. “I’ve reached a point where it all has to be through our local vendors, mainly for service and control — to have that person on hand if something goes wrong or if there are missing parts. Electrical or plumbing fixtures are always missing one part that we end up hunting down.” Rehm agrees: “We send our customers to product vendors because they’re experts on those products. People want to buy their own stuff so they don’t pay the markup. But they don’t realize that now they own the risk and liability if something goes wrong.”

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