4 Tips From Contractors To Keep Your Home Remodel From Spiraling Out Of Control

Image courtesy of David H

When preparing to give your home a little facelift — inside, outside, or otherwise — most of us will probably seek out the assistance of a professional. But finding someone to complete your renovation on time, on budget, and to your liking can be more difficult than it seems, especially when you consider that the construction industry is currently dealing with a labor shortage. 

As with other industries, when demand outpaces available resources, the home remodeling business has become an attractive avenue for ne’er-do-wells looking to get their hands on your cash, sometimes without ever putting hammer to nail in your soon-to-be remodeled kitchen.

A new report from our colleagues down the hall at Consumer Reports examined the dangers of the home remodeling industry and how consumers — who are expected to spend $155 billion on projects this year — can ensure they get the best for their time and money when it comes to hiring contractors for their home projects.

A survey of 300 general contractors from around the country conducted by CR found that the home construction industry — which has lost more than two million jobs in the last nine years — is now populated with many inexperienced and unskilled workers who may employ a variety of unscrupulous and shady practices.

For example, 35% of contractors surveyed said they had seen peers winning jobs with lowball bids and then jacking up the cost later with “unforeseen problems.”

Another 31% of contractors say their rivals use unskilled or inexperienced laborers during projects, or take on more jobs than they could handle at once, often leaving customers high and dry.

Some contractors are able to increase their bottom line by overcharging for materials: it’s a practice 24% of survey respondents said they’ve witnessed.

To avoid some of these remodeling pitfalls, CR created a list of tips for consumers to follow:

• Check credentials: While proper credentials aren’t a guarantee of quality, they’re a good sign that the general contractor runs a reputable business, Consumer Reports advises.

According to CR’s survey 69% of contractors reported they were licensed, registered, and insured, while the remaining 31% said they were not.

• Remember budgets can change: While setting a budget is important, it’s also imperative that homeowners understand costs can change. For example, the planning phase may show one cost, while the actual purchase of a materials may fluctuate depending on demand.

• Always negotiate: Although homeowners might not consider bargaining a standard practice when it comes to remodeling, an overwhelming majority of contractors tell CR they would be at least somewhat willing to negotiate on prices.

Keeping the business of a repeat customer was the biggest reason to haggle, with 75% of general contractors telling CR they have offered a median discount of 10% for some customers. Additionally, when projects involved more than one area, two-thirds of the general contractors said they would offer deals to customers.

• Get everything in writing: A written contract is an essential protection for both homeowners and contractors. The plans should specify the full scope of the work, including a detailed breakdown of labor and material costs for each part of the project.

CR also suggests that contract also spells out “exclusions,” or what’s not included. For example, if you want to save money by handling the debris removal or finish painting on your own, that should be clearly stipulated.

For additional tips on how to ensure your home remodeling project is everything you dreamed of and more, check out Consumer Reports’ full “Home Renovation Without Aggravation” report.

Home Renovation Without Aggravation [Consumer Reports]