I began my whole house remodel knowing that there would be a lot of work on my little fixer upper. What started out as a simple 2 month project in October of 2016; is now almost, I mean come on, almost done and now on 4 months! This will be a series of posts as I progressed through each phase. I am still alive and am surviving and that is why I have been MIA for some time now.
I am writing this in hopes that anyone else out there starting a remodel does not have to experience what I have and I am able to give insight on the things to change to be successful in your ventures.
- CONTRACT. Look at the fine print of your contract. Then look at it again and again and again. I made the mistake of going with a contractor that my family had used and who came highly recommended. Details, details, details. The general contractor will tap on a percentage over what the subs charge him; usually 20%,. So ask yourself, Do I want to purchase my own appliances, tile, floor etc. all the major items and save yourself the extra 20% or have the general contractor give you an allowance to purchase from. Your still going to pick out what you want but you will probably save money getting them yourself. Just make sure to factor those items in as “extra cost” above the contracted amount you will add to your budget.
I was so excited purchasing my “fixer upper” and getting started that I missed out on important details to protect myself from what inevitably is now happening to me. Live and learn I say!
2. ELECTRICAL: Most contractors leave what I call “wiggle” room and vague descriptions so they are able to make “change orders” and charge you extra for unexpected items needed to be completed. One of the biggest one I found was with electrical outlets and plugs. So before you sign the contract; go through the house, get a gridded sketch pad and measure each room. Once measured then draw up your room (note each square grid can be an inch) to outline where lamps will go etc. This will allow you to change the room around and see if you need plugs in certain spots that may not already be there. A few examples are:
There was a washer/dryer combo in a closet that was old and I decided to purchase a new one. The unit was set on one plug; 110 volt. I purchased a stackable and when it arrived I realized from the installers that I needed not only another outlet but 240 volt for the dryer. I assumed (never do this) that the general contractor would see and know these things ahead of time to advise me; but trust me that never happened. I also purchased a built in single oven and separate gas cooktop. The company came out once the kitchen was set and did a pre-install to make sure everything was set. I had given the specs to my general contractor and also went over the diagram with the electrician but right before we were set to install it was discovered that the opening because of the countertops was 1/2″ short. Yikes! So here I am scrambling to try to figure out a solution without cutting into my new counter tops etc. My general contractor says to me “get another oven”. WTF!!! I called the appliance company and luckily my gal was able to give me options and the best one was to cut the deck down on the bottom a 1/2″. Now you would think that my general contractor would come up with this idea but NO. What I was finding is that he does things to help himself and that is all. I am getting ahead of myself on my story so bear with me as I rant a bit. The kitchen will come later. Deep breath J its all good. 🙂
3. PLUMBER. Again look at what you are getting on the contract. Do you need to change out faucets, drains, a new hot mop in your shower? Do you wish to add a gas line to your new deck for an outdoor fire pit? Will the sink you choose leave you room under the sink for a garbage can or do you have another spot for it? How is everything going to be pre-plumbed? My plumbing contractor installed Moen valve kits which need moen valves and fixtures. Make sure they install a universal kit so you can either choose the faucets and shower heads you want or if you already have picked out your faucets and fixtures ahead of time; your plumber will be able to plumb accordingly.
4. STRUCTURAL. Prior to signing your contract, look over your house inspection and make sure all items listed needed to be fixed that were not done prior to your purchase are addressed. You can uncover dry rot issues, leaks, mold, termites, and a number of other things that you may not see on the surface. Again details, going over with a fine tooth comb. Envision if you later want to add a fireplace or a wine refrigerator; anything that may not be done now but for the future because while all the pre- plumbing is being done is the time to add those extras plugs and outlets before you finish and install your floors and final work.
5. PROTECT YOURSELF. Put a timeline on the completion of the project. This will protect you from the contract running over the allotted time frame and save from extra out of pocket money. I did not do this and had to spend an extra months rent and was promised that enough of the remodel would be complete that I could move in upstairs while they finished the downstairs. I have lived through so much dust and contractors that I could pull my hair out. If you add a clause that if the contract is not completed by the date stated that you will be compensated for expenses related to rent, a hotel stay. This also motivates the contractor to get the job done.
6. LIEN RELEASES. Make sure as each sub contractor is done; you get a release from them to protect yourself from unforeseen charges if your general contractor should skip town. This also ensures that the contractor is paying his subs on time. Also get a final unconditional lien release from your general contractor. This provides you the safety of any subs trying to come back at a later date to lien your property. These subs can even be suppliers so make sure everything is in writing.
7. PROGRESS PAYMENTS. Make sure it is crystal clear what and when the payments will be scheduled. Is it a weekly draw? Or when each phase is completed? Having a timeline clearly states what you expect from your contractor and also keeps the contractor accountable to finish the work on time.
8. FINAL PAYMENT. Always hold out a certain percentage to make sure all the items on your final punch list are completed. Go through the house as all the subs finish to make sure it is done to your expectations and catch the small things that they miss. I will address all those later but there are always things that go unnoticed or they are sloppy with so make sure to look and have someone else come in and look as well.
Best of luck in your remodeling adventures. Until my next post;
Love and light,
Jeanine on the Scene