Remodel Overspending: “While You’re At It”
The end of yet another summer is in sight. It’s a time when vacations become mere memories, kids head back to school and home once again becomes the object of much attention. In fact, after spring, fall is the second most popular season to remodel as folks scurry to complete a much-needed kitchen or bath remodel in time for holiday entertaining.
Every homeowner who ventures into the world of home remodeling and/or repair must come to respect — and, when possible, avoid — four little words: While you’re at it.”
Sounds pretty innocent, you say? Uttering these potentially explosive words can wreak havoc, bust budgets, and turn once straightforward remodeling projects into monstrous catastrophes.
The context in which these words are spoken is what makes them dangerous. Typically, homeowners say these words to their contractor when requesting more work –“While you’re at it, why don’t you add a skylight?” In the construction industry, this request is known as a change order — two more words you must come to respect — a written addendum to the contract that specifies a change or group of changes that the owner and the contractor mutually agree upon.
A change here or there is certainly to be expected with most any remodel, no matter how well planned. Unfortunately, one while-you’re-at-it too many can trigger big delays and major overspending. You may end up scrambling for cash to pay for your job and wondering if your home will ever be back to normal. Worse yet, you may spend too much money, making your investment nearly impossible to recoup.
Look at change orders — and the “While you’re at it…” phrase — as remodeling credit cards. In fact, you can best understand the potential danger for any project-in-progress if you simply exchange the word change (in change order) to charge order.
Change orders cause delays, overspending, communication difficulties, and a host of other problems that can make an already difficult experience virtually unbearable. If you’re frightened, then we’ve done our job. We want to instill just enough healthy fear to cause you to go the extra mile when planning your project.
Life would be a whole lot simpler for all parties if change orders didn’t enter the scheme of things; most reputable contractors that we know would be very happy if they never had to do a change order. They are the contractors who suggest the three Ps of remodeling: planning, planning, and planning.
Many people mistakenly believe that planning begins with a floor plan and ends when the ink is dry on the contract. Actually, it is the period from the creation of the floor plan to the final preparation of the contract that is the most crucial time in the planning process. It is during this time that any questions, generalizations or confusion must be honed and resolved to ensure a successful remodeling adventure.
For instance, the contract for your new kitchen remodel may include labor to install a new ceramic tile floor along with an allowance for tile. Budget allowances are frequently used for items that have yet to be chosen such as appliances, tile, plumbing fixtures, and flooring. Remember that an allowance should never be arbitrary and should always be accompanied by a sample of what can be purchased within the value being allowed.
Unprofessional contractors often include unrealistically low allowances. Their philosophy is that their pricing is then lower, which gives them an edge in getting the job. Sadly, after they have the job, they typically bury the consumer with change orders for upgrades.
Allowance items can count for a good chunk of a project, so make absolutely sure that you are satisfied with the appearance and quality of the products being used to establish the allowance. If you don’t, you have broken one of the fundamental rules of good planning and are headed down a dangerous path.
The contractor who suggests making decisions after the job has begun is committing one of remodeling’s greatest crimes. Often, in order to generate quick cash, he suggests that the job be started right away. When queried about finish selections, he invariably responds by suggesting that they can be “made along the way.” Avoid this contractor like the plague.
Whenever possible, make all selections before your remodeling project begins. This way, the contractor has a head start on ordering material and supplies, which contributes to an orderly, on time, and in budget project. Finding out — before your job begins — that the kitchen tile you want takes eight weeks to get is far easier than scrambling around looking for an alternate or, worse yet, stopping the project for eight weeks.
Having the information in advance gives you ample time to make choices without being under tremendous pressure. And, if necessary, you can wait to begin the project until all of the finishes that you want are available for prompt installation. After all, you don’t often remodel a bathroom or your kitchen, so you may as well have what you want.
We know from our experience as remodeling contractors that choosing ALL finishes before the job begins is sometimes unrealistic. However, the fewer decisions to make after the job begins, the smoother the job goes.
For more home improvement tips and information search website at www.onthehouse.com or call our listener line any time at 1-800-737-2474! All you need to do is leave your name, telephone number and your question.
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