e all understand that when we purchase expensive items (car, furniture, or
jewelry), the assumption is that the price matters. Value and quality should be
uniform in identical products.
That same assumption is often used in remodeling our homes, the largest purchase
and investment most of us make. We transfer these same attitudes and
assumptions to selecting a remodeler. There is no correlation in remodeling
between low cost and value and service.
Remodelers are often asked to review detailed plans and provide free estimates
in the hope of being selected on a basis of cost. This creates a recipe for a
doomed project. Factors such as increased construction time, misunderstood
assumptions, poor quality materials, weak performing subcontractors and a
spiraling downward relationship are typical results of this selection system.
Other outcomes of selecting a remodeler based mainly on costs are as follows:
•Poor subcontractor selection based primarily on low bids for work.
•Subcontractors selected whose workers change constantly and are often illegals.
•Subcontractors who are uninsured or underinsured.
•Subcontractors who have difficulty with schedules and starting dates.
•Plan reviewing is held to a minimum. A thorough plan review to uncover problems,
missing details and engineering cost alternatives require smany hours of staff
work. Most remodelers cannot dedicate this time away from project supervision
•There is a much higher incentive to use lower quality materials, non-standard
methods and to cut corners improving a profit set too low.
•The Remodeler will typically miss or underestimate work to be performed.
Furthermore, there is always the temptation to lower his profit in order to be
selected. This is a major catalyst for financial problems during the project.
It also encourages questionable and unethical business practices regarding the
use of client funds.
Then how should you select a remodeler for a successful project? Like most
things in our lives that produce happiness and success, the relationship is the
key. Selecting a remodeler through relationship
building creates trust, confidence and peace of mind. By interviewing
prospective remodelers thoroughly, the best
“fit and match” should become evident quickly. In order to evaluate each remodeler fairly,
preparation is prudent. Prepare a set of questions in advance. This should
•Years in business
•Registration of remodeler and projects completed
•Office and staff make-up and duties
•Project management (systems & schedules)
•Processes and communication
•Billing and change order rocedures
•Current work load
Also, a visit to the contractor’s office to meet his/her staff and project manager(s) helps solidify the
relationship. Ask to see some projects that are under way which will enable you
to see how the workers actually build and keep the work site.
The cost of the project is important, but it should be only one of many factors
in the selection process. Over-design and the cost of products typically are
the reasons a project is not built. The investment no longer makes sense.
However, when this occurs, the temptation to hire the low bid remodeler becomes
strong because of the investment in time and money spent on the design and
Invest your time and energy in the early stage of the project. Interview and
select a remodeler and build a solid relationship throughout the design and
construction phases. Your project
’s success depends on it.
William Shaw, CGR, GMB, CAPS
William Shaw & Associates