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The Inconvenient Truth about Remodeling

Major Remodels, New Homes and Home Additions  — Concerns, Costs, Cautions and Issues

Whether you are planning to do a major remodel, a major home addition or build a custom home, there are a multitude of things to keep in mind and certain steps you can take to help you avoid pitfalls and set-backs. Simply put, unless they have undertaken such a task previously, most people don’t have a firm grasp on what they are getting into when they start a home addition, major remodel or new home project.

There are many concerns you will (or should) have including: relationship (with contractor), cost, timing, scheduling, inconvenience, displacement, the perceived vs. the actual, selections, and much more.  Let’s look at the major issues.

The relationship holds the top spot on the list for a very good reason. Whatever your project is, the relationship with your contractor is without a doubt the most important factor in the success equation. Think about it … you are essentially inviting this person and his/her crew into your home to “live with you” for 8 hours a day for the next 2 … 3 … 4 or more months.  You need to be comfortable with this company and have common expectations, values and respect.  If you select a contractor based on the low price alone while ignoring this critical evaluation, chances are it will be at the cost of the relationship and a terrible remodeling experience is nearly certain. In addition to “living together”, you must also work together to a common end.  Select an intelligent, caring and reputable firm with project cost being a secondary concern.  It will be cheaper for you, the homeowner, in the end.

By every measure, cost is a huge factor and needs to be openly addressed, discussed and clearly understood by all parties.  Contractors must be fair, but not charitable. They need to make a living and need to make enough money to “be able to afford to give the client a good job”.  When you beat your contractor down in price to a level that is below the comfort (profit) level, the only outcome you should ever expect is to pay the price in quality.  Often times the homeowner thinks he is comparing apples to apples, when in fact he has taken the low price (which is the price he likes best) and tries to measure all the other offers against it.  The common reality is that the lowest cost is frequently representative of the most corners cut, cheaper materials, uninsured firms, two-man-firms or “Pick-up-Pete’s” as they are commonly referred to,  unrealistic allowances, unrealistic schedules, undesirable personal habits, or unqualified (potentially illegal) labor and questionable craftsmanship.  It’s very simple … we all buy products and materials from the same place at the same price.  The only difference can be the quality of the craftsmanship and labor.  Trained craftsmen cost more than illegal or unqualified workers.  The difference will be VERY evident in the finished product.

Guarantee #1 … It will take longer than you think it should and the time to complete will get longer if the homeowner makes numerous changes along the way.

Scheduling can make all the difference between what is deemed a successful job and a terrible experience.  Again, be realistic.  If one firm is telling you your new home will take 10 months to complete and another is telling you it will take five months to complete.  Assuming prices are competitive and you have done your homework and know that the contractors are both qualified and reputable … then one of them isn’t being completely honest!  Period!  You probably mentioned during negotiations that “time is an important factor.”  Accordingly, one contractor is playing that trump card … knowing full well that when the job is only 50% complete 5 months from now that you will not throw him off the job, but will grudgingly let him finish 5 months later than promised.  Do not allow yourself to be fooled. Equal offers can not have that kind of disparity.  Use common sense and everyone will be happier in the end.


Guarantee #2 … You will be tired of the whole process long before it is complete.

Historically, when the homeowner gets “tired” (e.g. impatient with the process) they tend to look for fault in the contractor … even though the job is right on-schedule.  I can not stress enough the fact that you must be prepared to be inconvenienced. It is going to happen from the beginning and you need to be prepared for it.  Three months to complete a major addition might not sound like a long time, however, 3 weeks into it, you will be counting days until it is complete and the relationship will start to erode unless you maintain a realistic expectation.  The fact that you are tired of the inconvenience in week 4 of 12 does not mean the contractor is not doing his job.

Guarantee #3 … It will cost more than you think it should and the cost will go up with numerous changes.

Communicate your vision with your Contractor early in the process. Think things through fully and try to avoid or minimize changes once the job starts. If the project has any size at all, there will probably be a few unavoidable changes along the way.  Contrary to popular belief, reputable contractors don’t like changes anymore than owners do. But they happen.  From the contractors perspective, a change order never offers compensation commensurate with the almost certain mayhem it causes to the overall project schedule.  It is important that everybody understands this before you start.  Try to decide what you want before you begin and stick to it.  We all hate changes!

To help mitigate overruns (time and cost), do your homework. There is much to think about … both before getting started and as the project progresses. Be proactive – Your contractor should give you some “homework” that you need to take seriously and complete on time. Diligence on your part will help keep things on track.

When it comes to a home addition or even a major remodel, you’ll find that there are a variety of different costs that, as the homeowner, you probably never considered.  You certainly want to know about them up front rather than during the project.

Some of the costs you need to be aware of are as follows:

Design (best done BEFORE you get bids so everyone is bidding the same thing, Permits, County/City impact fees, Well (when appropriate), Septic system (when appropriate), Utility tie-in and utility company service fees (always appropriate), Site preparation, Foundation, Structural Steel (columns & beams), Lumber package, Framing (labor), Doors & Windows (big number), Roofing (shingles &/or metal), Siding (vinyl, Hardi-plank), EIFS (Dryvit, Stucco), Stone / Masonry (real and/or cultured), Exterior trims, Plumbing, Plumbing Fixtures (toilets, sinks, showers, faucets and more), Electric, Electric fixtures (lighting, devices, recessed lights and more), HVAC – Heating & cooling (including geothermal when appropriate), Sprinkler system (required in most locales now), Drywall, Cabinets & countertops, Appliances, Interior trim & specialty items (saunas, steam baths and more), Painting, Flooring (hardwood, ceramic tile, carpet), Grading & landscaping, Driveway, Sidewalks & patios, Fixtures

Avoiding Pit-Falls

  • Invest in quality drawings & design (a quality contractor can help)
  • Know what you want before the job starts (avoid changes)
  • Have a realistic time-line for construction
  • Have a realistic budget, If you want the best that’s fine, just be prepared to pay for it
  • Understand that even the best contractor can’t do a good job if he isn’t compensated for same
  • Homeowners – Talk to each other (be a concerted voice when talking to your contractor)
  • Find the Right Contractor – The single most important item you will read here is that you must find the right contractor for your needs. You need to be sure to work with a quality remodeling contractor that can help you complete your project. Of course there are many things to consider when it comes to picking out a great contractor. Insurance, license, experience, references, reputation, awards, and LASTLY price, are all important things that you should be considering.
  • Expect to meet your contractor during business hours.  Professional firms keep professional hours.  Plan to invest a few (business) hours in your project to insure its success.  If a contractor can only meet you evenings and weekends … you should be suspicious of their professionalism.  Professional firms keep professional hours!

Remember, when comparing good contractors that do good work … all bidding the same thing … prices should be close enough that they are not the driving force in the decision-making process.

Contact us to schedule a free consultative appointment for your next project.

Talon Construction, Inc.

302 E 4th Street

Frederick, MD  21701

P – 301-620-8604

Toll Free 1-866-233-2297

F – 301-620-8612

Email: info@talon-construction.com



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One Response to “The Inconvenient Truth about Remodeling”

  1. I really enjoyed this post. You write about this topic very well. When hiring home contractors it is key to choose a trusted name in construction. Experienced and efficient staff should strive for excellence and pay close attention to every detail of your home.