Nothing is more exciting than finally making the decision that you will tackle that old outdated kitchen, tiny bathroom, or funky basement. Your wish list grows by the day as you think of seamless countertops, stainless appliances, soaker tubs and walk-in showers, and the new lower level family room and entertainment center. While you have already jumped to the part of the project where you are living in your dream space, you need to jump back into reality and do a little planning – before that first sledgehammer is slung.
Just in time for May’s official designation as National Home Improvement Month, the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc., celebrating 50 years as the area's leading home improvement and remodeling industry resource, offers the following tips to ensure your remodel is a smooth and successful one.
• Plan for the project. Before calling the contractor, know what you want the project to include. Keep a folder with photos and ideas of what you would like to see in the space. List your likes and dislikes and make a list of what is really needed in the space and what you wish for.
• Determine the budget. Perhaps the most important part of the process. Know how much you want to spend and then figure a bit more for unforeseen expenses. When you know your budget, contractors know what they can work with and make the proper recommendations. Even with a very small budget, a professional contractor can help prioritize your decisions so you get the most bang for your buck.
• Find the contractor. This is by far the most important step in a successful remodeling project. Choose a contractor who has an established business in your area. Verify name, address, telephone number, and credential. Check the contractor with the Better Business Bureau and ask what trade associations he is a member of, such as Milwaukee/NARI. Ask for references and then follow-up on them. Ask your contractor to provide certification of insurance covering workers’ compensation, property damage, and personal liability.
• Soliciting bids. Get two or three bids. The lowest bid is not always the best. Some contractors will bid low, and then hit the homeowner with costly add-ons as the project goes on.
• Review the contract – carefully. The contract serves as a written understanding that the contractor and the homeowner are clear on the services and materials provided. It should detail the project scope, start and completion dates, detail costs and payment schedule, and outline the responsibilities of the contractor and any subcontractors. It should also include a detailed list of the materials to be used including the quantity. Individual products should be specified by name, brand, size, model, and performance capacity.
• Communicate frequently. Ask your contractor how communication will be handled throughout the project. Your project manager should be keeping you updated on a weekly basis to discuss how the project is moving forward or if something unforeseen is causing a delay. The project manager needs to know if you are dissatisfied with something so the situation can be resolved. Knowing that communications are regularly scheduled lessens anxiety and makes it easier to get through the process.
• Expect the unexpected. Many things can go askew during a remodel, particularly with older homes. Once a wall is opened up, a contractor may find a tangled nest of wires, mold or mildew, or rotting wood. Stay calm and flexible. A professional contractor will try to remedy the situation as efficiently as possible to keep within the project timeline.
• Have a resource. Visit www.milwaukeenari.org or call Milwaukee/NARI at 414-771-4071 to find a NARI contractor in your area. This site allows you to locate local contractors by more than 200 categories, such as basements, attics, mechanicals, painting, landscaping, windows, electrical, siding, and many more.
The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI – the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. The Council’s goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry’s growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 800 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.
For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI’s Remodeling Guide,” call 414-771-4071 or visit the Council’s website at www.milwaukeenari.org.
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