Exploring the Pitfalls of Home Remodeling

Pros and Cons of Do-It-Yourself Strategies and Choosing the Correct Contractor

Published article can be found here.

As a homeowner, making the decision to remodel a home is a loaded endeavor in and of itself. And after spending the time developing the project, outlining the budget and meeting with contractors, some may feel eager to rush straight for demo day. They cut costs by taking on a partially to fully DIY renovation, or they make the mistake of hiring the first contractor they meet with. One of the most vital starting points for a home remodel is to find a contractor or subcontractor who’s going to work with the homeowner, for the homeowner. It’s important for them to be able to have open communication about their ideas for the home, as well as maintain a schedule for the project. And while many professionals in the building industry may discourage do-it-yourselfers, it’s important to note that it’s not impossible. Here the pros share their reservations and advice for tackling a project of this magnitude. “There’s such a shortage of good, quality subcontractors that the ones that are really good are taking care of their contractors,” said Ron Colyer, Colyer Construction. “And if they do take a job with
a homeowner, they’re going to put it on the back burner.

Vince Kimbel, of Kimbel Construction, has been in the building industry for more than 21 years and said, “the single most important decision anyone remodeling their home will make will be who they choose to hire and work alongside them. Homeowners should be looking to hire someone who is professional in everything they do, has integrity and will do the right thing when no one is looking, who is genuine in personality and how they interact with others! It’s important for every homeowner who is hiring a contractor to interview them, look at current and past work and check references, including reaching out to the contractor’s past clients and asking them about their experiences and if they were satisfied,” Kimbel explained. “When a homeowner does all these things and they feel a sense of comfort, then and only then will they know they’ve found the right contractor.”

Steve Hartung’s company, Java Construction, takes on 40 to 50 remodels a year, and Hartung said one of the biggest pitfalls for anyone looking to remodel is finding a contractor who is responsive. “People have to be able to trust you, have a good feeling that you’re qualified to do your job and are someone they can depend on, but also if they call you, that you’ll answer your phone and respond to them in a short period of time,” he said. “That’s just good business.”

Once the right contractor-homeowner relationship is established, many homeowners will attempt some of the tasks themselves, and that’s where many people will run into problems. Regardless of how many hours of HGTV are consumed and internet research is conducted, there will always be the probability of an unforeseen issue that’s better navigated with the help from a professional.

Electric, plumbing and HVAC are all projects Colyer definitely recommends handing off to a professional. He also said that if a homeowner is removing a wall, to make sure they have someone inspect it to ensure they’re not taking out a load-bearing wall, and to replace it with the right-sized beam, if they do.

“If a husband and wife are handy, I think they could build their own deck, as long as they pull a permit and go by the codes,” Colyer shared. “If you’re going to remodel your bathroom and all you’re going to do is replace your toilet and put a new vanity in and maybe you want to put tile in and you’re putting everything back exactly where it was, a guy that’s handy, he can probably do that. If he’s moving anything, if he’s moving a toilet 12 inches, he needs to get a professional.”

Kimbel echoed with similar advice, explaining that he’s had countless experiences of homeowners thinking they were saving money in trying to do a project themselves, only to tell him later “they made a mistake in not hiring us.”

“If someone has the skill sets and is comfortable taking on any project then no help needed,” Kimbel said. “But if you aren’t exactly sure how to do something or if you don’t know who to call to get something done, then better call a Registered Remodeler.”

While a handful of builders may discourage homeowners from even considering a remodel, the fact remains that many first-time homebuyers are finding homes in desirable neighborhoods, but still long for a modern touch. “I continue to hear more and more that homeowners are happy with their location, but are unhappy with their house. Home remodeling obviously allows for a home to be updated without leaving the conveniences of the existing neighborhood,” Kimbel said. “As land becomes more and more scarce and less new developments are built, remodeling an older home will continue to be a popular option for new families and aging families.”

That’s not to make the claim that the process comes easily, and it’s certainly a task that unveils many hidden financial setbacks. With large projects, much of the home becomes uninhabitable, adding finding extended-stay accommodations to the list of expenses. “On larger, whole-house renovations, the homeowner must usually find alternative housing while the project is under construction.” Kimbel explained.

In regard to smaller home projects, the handy homeowners can, with adequate knowledge and confidence, tackle small projects and renovations. But larger jobs are ultimately more cost-efficient, have cleaner handiwork and are completed in a timelier manner with professional help.

“When you hire a professional like Kimbel Construction, you are hiring someone who is looking out for your best interests and is willing to go the extra mile to insure your satisfaction,” Kimbel said. “With a Registered Remodeler, you are assured that we: provide each client with a fair contract and warranty; have demonstrated financial and on-site responsibilities; have experience in remodeling construction for a period of time; are full-time professionals deriving our income from construction remodeling activities; have submitted names of past clients as references to the Building Industry Association; have an acceptable credit history; agree to continuing education; agree to abide by Building Industry Association Code of Ethics; and agree to a conciliation process in the event of an unresolved complaint from a client.”

If homeowners are going to dedicate the time and money to research plans, set a budget and interview contractors, they’re sure to be satisfied with the return on investment.

“I think if they hire a professional, someone who’s done these remodels over and over, they’re going to get it done faster for them,” Colyer said.

And after all, time is money.

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