Are we there yet? Just about everyone asks this at some point during a renovation. However, for some families, renovations can be longer and more painful than for others. This is often because they’ve chosen the wrong company for the job. How can you avoid home renovation disasters and what difference can choosing the right company for your home improvement project make?
First, let’s address one of the hardest contractors to work with: yourself. DIY projects build your capacity to work within your home, and they can be a source of great pride once they’re done. However, they can also go horribly wrong, leaving you with a costly mess that’s half completed or unsafe.
When you’re thinking about how to approach your next home project, consider the following factors that will help you decide whether to do it yourself:
- Is this a simple, routine task that requires more muscle than skill? If you have the ability to shovel snow or clean your gutters, doing these jobs yourself are not likely to cause damage to your home. Then again, if you don’t have the physical capacity, you may want to reconsider and either outsource these routine maintenance tasks to a professional or invest in home improvements like gutter guards that reduce the need for maintenance.
- Does the DIY project prepare for a larger job? For example, you could choose to tear out your kitchen cabinets before a contractor comes to install a new one.
- Does it involve fire, water, or engineering? If so, it’s better to have credentials. Working with plumbing and electricity can be a higher-risk activity. Removing load-bearing walls is a real danger during home renovations. Learn how to complete smaller repairs in this category, but leave the larger-scale renovations to those with credentials.
- Can you finish it off? You might hire someone to complete a big job but choose to add the finishing touches yourself. According to House Logic, “the downside to attempting your own finish work is that the results are very visible.” If you’re not very good at painting, you will be able to see your messy corners every day.
Look For Experience
When a company has been in business for a long time in a community, it can’t hide bad work. If the company does a few jobs poorly, it could lose its reputation. That’s why going with a company with a longstanding reputation in a community is such a good idea. While times may have changed and it’s important to get current reviews, looking for a company with a long-term business history will give you security in your renovation choices. The company will be able to complete the job well and can give you insider knowledge about product sourcing and building choices in your area.
When a company is new to the area, look at the experience that company or its employees have had elsewhere. Gather as much information as you can about the competency of the company before you sign a contract.
Seek Out Referrals
When you’re looking for a contractor, what is the first thing that you do? You ask your friends and neighbors, of course. Make sure that you do this in a systematic way by asking them the same questions, such as:
- Were the employees professional and respectful of your property?
- How promptly does the company respond to contact requests or concerns?
- If there was a problem, how well was it resolved?
- How well has the work lasted over time?
After you have recommendations for a home renovation professional, look to reviews to get additional opinions about the companies you’re considering. Where can you look?
- Ask online: Your friends and relatives may have had experiences with this company.
- Look at online review sites such as Yelp. However, keep in mind that “95% of respondents who have had a bad experience said they told someone about it, compared to 87% who shared a good experience,” according to Marketing Charts. People are somewhat more likely to share their negative reviews.
- Contact local business associations such as the Better Business Bureau to see what they have to say about the business. They receive calls and emails reporting businesses, but they also know which businesses get only a few complaints and which have many positive reviews.
Look at the Business’s Credentials
You need to protect yourself and your home by ensuring that your home renovation professionals have the right credentials for the job. For instance, you should find the following information about the companies you are considering:
- Are the workers insured? If they aren’t and one gets hurt on the job, you might be responsible.
- What credentials or training do employees have?
- Are those who will be in your home bonded, to ensure your security?
- Has the business won any awards for its products or services?
Interview the Contractors
Once you’ve chosen a few potential candidates for your renovation, you need to schedule estimates. However, your home estimate isn’t just an estimate, it’s an interview. Talk with contractors during the estimate process, and you’ll leave with not just a sense of how much things cost but a sense of how well you would work with a particular contractor.
- Who are your employees, and how can you provide assurance that they are going to do a good job?
- How will you protect the rest of the property, and what will I need to do to get ready?
- How will you contact me about decisions?
- If the project is long, can we schedule consistent meetings about the work?
- What kind of documents will you give me on completion of the project?
- Do you have any questions or concerns about the project? According to Houzz, “there’s always something unknown about a project, or an area that is most likely to trigger an immediate change order. Odds are, your contractor already knows what that is.”
Do Your Own Due Diligence
You think that you’ve chosen the best company for the job, but have you? If not, you need to be prepared.
- Examine the contract closely and know what you’re signing
- Understand the financial commitments you’re making and when they occur
- Know and agree to the process for raising concerns or questions about the project
- Have a general schedule and completion date so that you can plan for your presence and for other events, with the knowledge that unforeseen problems do arise
- Avoid problems a year or two down the road. Examine the warranty for the work. Does the business provide workmanship warranty in addition to the product itself? How long does that warranty last, and is it transferable to a new homeowner?
At Harry Helmet, we’re proud to have been in business since 1981. Ninety-two percent of the more than 100,000 customers in our customer base are likely to recommend us to a friend. If you want seamless gutters, gutter covers, awnings, and roofing products that are installed well, turn to Harry Helmet. With our triple lifetime warranty, you’ll never be disappointed. Schedule a free estimate today.