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Top 10 Questions to ask a Remodeling Contractor – Pt 4

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Our series continues on the Top 10 Questions to ask a Remodeling Contractor; it’s all about communication between the client and the contractor. One Man and a Hammer uses an online tool called Co-Construct (http://www.co-construct.com/) to manage all aspects of the project including communication with each client and it’s proven time and time again to be instrumental in the success of each project.

Translation:

Last time we talked about number five and number six of the top ten questions you should ask your remodeling contractor. Number five was: Will the remodeler provide design/build services or build from your architect’s plans? Or will they work either way? And number six was: How can I be sure that the remodeler will build what was agreed upon and within budget? You can check for those answers on my video blog at OneManAndAHammer.com and actually see all of our video blogs for the last several weeks in this series of top ten questions you should ask your remodeling contractor.

This week, we’re going to move on to number seven and number eight. Number seven is: How will the homeowner and contractor communicate during the project? Is that important? Yes, very.

When you’re doing a kitchen or a major remodel, we’re not talking about handyman work here for a day or two, but when you hire a contractor to work in your home for the next four, five, six weeks, maybe a couple of months if it’s an addition, there’s got to be a way for everybody to communicate. Here at One Man and A Hammer, we use a program called Co-Construct. It’s our online web-based portal that captures all communications, whether it’s selections, it’s comments, it’s questions, it’s a change order. Many, many things go on to Co-Construct. Again, there’s a couple of programs like it out there.

But if your contractor does not have some type of program, you want to make sure that you do have a way to communicate. Maybe it’s a simple legal pad that you can date and write a question on, and he or she can answer. Maybe you guys are going to use text. Maybe it’s going to be strictly email. Whatever it may be, you want to make sure it’s something that captures all of the questions and answers, because what you’re talking about today is going to be long forgotten in four or five weeks after everything else that goes on. So communication, very, very important.

Then again, as the job progresses, chances are you’ll probably get into a change order. So that’s number eight today is: How are change orders and/or extras handled?

Change orders, it’s a slippery slope. When it comes to remodeling, change orders are going to happen. When you start tearing out walls and tearing up plumbing, you never know what’s back there, so a change order is going to come along.

Bottom line is you want to make sure you both agree to how that’s going to be handled. Is it going to be written and everyone’s going to sign off on it before they do the work? Or is it going to be call and say, “Hi, Mrs. Home Owner, we’re going to go ahead. We found some bad plumbing back here. We’re going to fix and we’ll bill you at the end of the job.” Not many people are real comfortable with that, although many contractors like to do business that way. All of a sudden at the end of the job, you get a bill and you say, “Well, what’s the extra $3,000 for?” That creates a lot of resentment and a bad, just a sour taste in everybody’s mouth.

So make sure that change orders are written, they’re signed before any work can proceed. At One Man and A Hammer, we do ask that all change orders be paid for 100% upfront. That is not unusual for professional contractors. So understand how they’re going to be done, what they’re going to be written on, how they’re going to be communicated, and how they’re going to be paid for, and everybody’s signed off on everything. Make sure you get yourself a copy.

That’s it for today everybody. We’ll see you next time with numbers nine and ten to end up our series on the top ten questions you should ask a remodeling contractor. See you then.

Top 10 Questions to ask a Remodeling Contractor – Pt 3

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Our series continues this week with questions 5 and 6. Bob talks about using your home remodeling contractors build services or your own architect’s plans, plus the remodeling plan and budgeting.

Translation:

Hi everybody. Bob Gallese with One Man and a Hammer and OneManAndAHammer.com. Last week we covered number three and four of the top ten questions you should ask a home remodeling contractor.

Number three was: Do you use subcontractors, or do you employ tradesmen? And number four was: Do I have to put down structure of payments and permits? If you’ve kind of forgotten some of that information, you can always go back and review that if you would like.

This week I want to talk about a two more things, two more items, number five and number six. Number five being: Will the remodeler provide design/build services, or build from your architect’s plans or will they work?

When you are getting to the point where you’re getting serious about getting a remodeling project done, you have to do one or two things for yourself. The biggest thing that you want to do for yourself is make sure that you have a plan that every contractor is working from. If you go out there and you hire, well you bring in three or four contractors to give you a price, you want to make sure they’re basing their price on the same basis. You don’t want one contractor putting together or composing an estimate based on what he thinks should be done and then contractor number two putting together a proposal based on what he thinks should be done and on and on and on. That’s just not going to work.

If you think about it, a home or any building is never built without some type of blueprint, without some type of sketch, or something, and that’s the same way especially in the home remodeling industry. You want to make sure that everybody is starting from the same playing field, because trying to compare estimates apples to apples is very difficult to do when you do it without some type of drawing or sketch.

Now, when you go to a remodeler, they do not have a design or building service, or design/build is what they’re called — One Man and a Hammer is a design/build service — but if your contractor that you invited in does not have a design service, make sure that you have some kind of sketch on what you’re looking for and have some basis of what you want to do with the job and what type of materials you want to use.

Then, number six is: How can I be sure that the remodeler will build what was agreed upon and within budget? Well, that’s some of the problem in this industry is that, in many cases, you can’t be sure that they’re going to build what was agreed upon and within budget.

Why is that? Well, some contractors don’t do things, don’t follow a process, or don’t have a system, quite frankly, in order, and that’s what you want to make sure is going to happen. That starts with the proposal. Everything is itemized. But you want to make sure that the remodeler is going to build what was agreed upon and within the budget.

You’ve got to make sure that, number one, as far as the budget goes, that all of the allowances are reasonable. You really can’t buy a lavatory faucet for $40. Well, I guess you can, but it’s not something I would want in my home, and I’m assuming it’s not something you want in your home. You really can’t buy a shower valve or a tub valve for $70. You want to make sure the allowances are real. That’s going to help control the budget.

There’s always those instances when you tear down walls in a bathroom or you remove kitchen cabinets and have to remove a wall, there’s always those instances that you’re going to find mold or some wiring back there, or when you tear down a soffit in a kitchen, there’s some plumbing that has to be moved. That’s always going to happen, which is why you should always make sure that you budget about 15% to 20% more than what’s on that proposal. If you don’t spend it, everybody’s happy, especially you the homeowner. But if you need it, you’ve already kind of counted on it.

So making sure that all the t’s are crossed, all of the i’s are dotted in the proposal is important. Just make sure you work with a professional contractor, and I think that the job is going to go a lot smoother. Don’t accept a vague proposal with just bullet items, an itemized list of, okay, we’re going to remove this, remove that, put this in, put that in. You don’t want that. You want allowances.

All right folks, next week we’re going to get to number seven and number eight of the top ten questions you should ask a home remodeling contractor, and I think this is all going to start coming together for you. See you then.

Top 10 Questions to ask a Remodeling Contractor – Pt.2

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Part 2 of 5 and this week, questions #3 and #4. Bob talks about using tradesmen or contractors, also how much $$ should you put down on your remodeling project?

Translation:

Last week, we covered number one and number two of the top 10 questions you should ask a remodeling contractor. Hi everybody, Bob Gallese with One Man and A Hammer, and Onemanandahammer.com. 

Last week, we talked about number one, who will be in charge of the job once it starts, and number two, can I get that in writing? And we talked about everything being on Co-Constructor, some type of web-based portal, when it comes to putting everything in writing. And of course, having somebody in charge of the job as the job progresses – who’s going to be in charge, who’s going to be your main contact. 

This week, we’re going to talk about number three and number four. Number three, do you use subcontractors, or do you employ tradesmen? Why would that matter? Well, it matters for a few reasons. Number one, when a contractor shows you his insurances – workman’s comp and liability – that covers him and his employees. It does not cover subcontractors. And this has gotten some people into a lot of hot water over the years. So, make sure that you understand who’s going to be working in your home. Are they employed tradesmen, or are they subcontractors? If they’re subcontractors, simply ask for their proof of insurances. Again, workman’s comp and liability insurance. 

The second reason is, you want to know about subcontractors or employed tradesman, is quality control and timeliness. An employee of a remodeling company, such as One Man and A Hammer, when they’re given a job, they’ve got nowhere else to go. They’re not going to start your job and go jump to that job, and go jump to job number three, and try to keep everybody happy. That bridge ends up collapsing at some point, and hopefully, you’re not under that bridge when it does collapse. And as far as quality control goes, again, employees of a remodeling company have learned the way it’s to be done for that employer, such as myself. My guys know that I’m a picky guy, so they’re going to make sure I don’t come over there and make them redo something. And quite frankly, luckily I don’t have to worry about that with my guys. 

Once in awhile, they make their mistakes like everybody does, but we correct them. The bottom line is, typically my people are employed, unless we get into a bigger project for like, plumbing or electrical, then we have to bring in subcontractors that we’ve worked with for years and years and years. So, you want to understand the relationship, also, between the contractor and the potential subcontractor. 

Number four, what do I have to put down? How much money should you give a contractor? Well, that varies. When you have custom windows for instance, going in, we ask for 50% down. Just in case something happens to the client between the time of ordering and the time of delivery, you know, at least the cost of the windows is covered; at least some of the cost of the windows is covered. Same thing with cabinetry in a kitchen or bath remodel. We like to get at least 25% down. Most of our jobs, we require 35% down. 

Then, we use progress payments, which once again, are very clearly spelled out in our proposal and on Co-Construct, again, our web-based portal. So, make sure that you do have a clear understanding of what’s to be put down and what’s to happen the moment you put that money down. How soon will cabinets be ordered or windows be ordered, for instance. You also want to make sure, as the job progresses, how will you be making payments? Is it just going to be when the contractor needs money for his mortgage, or his muffler falls off and needs to replace it? You hear all these… these heart string, these tales of woe from contractors. You want it scheduled, you want it written down. Upon completion of dry wall, you’re going to give me another 10%. Upon completion of tile, you’re going to give me 10%. That’s how One Man and A Hammer does it, that’s how most professionals do it. 

Next week, we’re going to go ahead and give you number five and number six. So come on back and we’ll see you then.

Top 10 Questions to ask a Remodeling Contractor – Pt.1

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If you’re going to remodel your home in the future we’re creating a five-part video series that will help you make a contractor decision.
Today, #1 and #2 of the top questions you should ask a home remodeling contractor to help you make your way through the selection process.

Transcription:

Hi everybody, Bob Gallese with One Man and a Hammer, and
Onemanandahammer.com. Thanks for joining me today. For the next five
weeks, we’re going to be answering the top 10 questions you should be
asking a home remodeling contractor. Number one, who will be in charge of
the job once it starts? You want to meet all the players, you want to know
who’s coming in and out of your home. Is there is field supervisor or a
job foreman, for instance, that will be there every single day? You also
want to ask about a pre-construction meeting, which ties into this number
one.
A pre-construction meeting, all the players should be there, so you get to
meet all the guys who are going to be there. Whether it’s employed
tradesmen, or it’s subcontractors, the job supervisor or job foreman,
whoever that is, make sure you understand who’s going to be coming in and
out of your home, and who’s in charge of all those people coming in and out
of your home.
Number two, can I get that in writing? It’s amazing to me that in this day
and age, with all the technology that we’re all surrounded with; I know
that some of us hate ‘em, some of us don’t. Bottom line is, it’s there.
Having things put in writing is so important in this industry, almost more
than any other industry in the world. Why? Because in many many contracts
or proposals, all you will see is we’re going to replace your faucet, we’re
going to replace your toilet, we’re going to replace your tile, we’re going
to replace your flooring.
It doesn’t really say an allowance for that flooring or faucet, or it
doesn’t say the brand, if you’ve already picked on out. Make sure it’s in
writing. One of the best ways to do that, that I have found, this is a
system that One Man and a Hammer uses, it’s called Coconstruct.
CoConstruct is a web-based portal that captures all this information. It
captures all correspondence via email or right through CoConstruct. It
captures all selections, it captures all expenses. If there’s change
orders the basic contract or the base contract, and then change orders, or
other things that you may have added as the job has continued. So, get it
in writing.
Get it spelled out. Make sure there’s some way that it’s all going to be
tracked, such as a program called CoConstruct, which you can easily see at
CoConstruct.com, if you’d like to view it and see how it works. So that’s
number one and two, and for the next week we’re going to into number three
and four, and I think you’re going to enjoy it. We’ll see you then
everybody.

A Blueprint for your Remodeling Project

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Thinking about remodeling your kitchen, bathroom, family room? Make sure estimates from contractors include materials that will be used; from cabinets to fixtures, from windows to doors, everything should be listed. If not, your project could in jeopardy before it even begins. In this week’s VLOG, Bob explains why.

Communication Between You and Your Contractor

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One of the most important things to consider when you hire a contractor is communications. How are you going to communicate with him/her during the entire process? In this week’s VLOG Bob will tell you One Man and a Hammer stays connected with their clients and he’ll tell you why.

How to Find the Right Home Remodeling Contractor in Lake County

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Have you ever talked with a ‘contractor’ and they’ve said “I’ll cut you a deal if you pay in cash.” Or “You’ll have to pull all of the permits yourself.” Red flags for sure….In this week’s VLOG Bob answers the question “How do you as a homeowner find the right contractor in Northeast Ohio?”

Comparing Bathtubs and Shower Basins

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If you’re considering remodeling your bathroom you’ll need to think about the bathtub or shower basin. Tubs and showers are not all made from the same materials. There’s steel, there’s acrylic, fiberglass and cast iron. In this week’s VLOG Bob talks about what’s good and what’s not so good as he compares bathubs.

How Much Will Cabinetry Cost For Your Remodel?

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When it comes to budgeting for your kitchen or bathroom modeling project the cost of cabinets will be between 18-25% of your total budget. All cabinetry is not created equal no matter what the cost and in this VLOG Bob speaks to the quality of cabinetry and what you should be aware of.

Transcription:

Terrifying, scary, frightening and overwhelming, I’m not describing a
Halloween movie, I’m describing selecting kitchen cabinets or bathroom
cabinetry for your new kitchen or bathroom. Hi everybody, Bob Gallese with
One Man and a Hammer and onemanandahammer.com. You know as a professional
kitchen and bath contractor and a dealer for many, many lines of cabinetry
such as Medallion, Shiloh, Ultra craft, Birch and Legacy to name a few. I
understand the world of cabinetry pretty well.

I know it’s overwhelming and the cost varies widely throughout the
different brands for different reasons. Some manufacturers have certain
sizes of special cabinets, other manufacturers have specific accessories.
Some manufacturers build a drawer one way. Some manufacturers have
different colors. There’s many, many things to consider when you’re
looking at cabinetry.

This is why we guide our clients including those that are do it yourself-
ers or other contractors, possibly home investors that come to us and
purchase their cabinetry to make sure that we’re giving them the cabinet
that makes sense for the home. When you go out and look at cabinets all
oak or maple cabinets look the same sitting on a shelf, but they’re not all
necessarily made the same and you cannot typically get them modified. In
other words if you want a cabinet that was a quarter inch wider, an inch
wider, than some other one’s instead of just putting a filler there are
some manufacturers who will make that cabinet that half an inch or one inch
wider.

Most manufacturers won’t do that, but in your search, and if you have a
drawing done professionally, like One Man and a Hammer does for their
clients, we’ll know exactly what you need to put in that kitchen or
bathroom so you’re not placing fillers in there, or you’re placing very few
fillers or as few as possible. About 18-25% of the kitchen remodel project
is the cabinetry. So when you’re spending that kind of money on a kitchen
remodeling project you don’t want to make a wrong decision of course.

The variants of cost can be confusing so be sure you speak with a
professional. I don’t want to say a professional cabinet person but a
professional kitchen designer or a professional kitchen remodeler because
they do understand the cabinetry and they’ve done it many, many times. We
know what’s good and what’s not so good. As a lay person most clients,
most homeowners don’t know what to look for. Typically they walk into a
big box store, look at what’s up on the shelf and they say “Okay that color
looks good and that color looks good.” Meanwhile you haven’t checked the
drawer construction; you haven’t really checked the size. Is it just a
cheap vinyl veneer or is it a wood side?

The vinyl veneer will peel off in time. I have that problem. I bought my
cabinets twenty two years ago when I bought my home. Unfortunately I
didn’t think about the vinyl ends at that time, but you live and you learn.
So here we are twenty two years later and what I’m trying to convey to my
listeners is that when you’re buying cabinetry you don’t want to buy that
cabinetry again in two or three years, maybe five years. Cabinets should
be there as long as you need them to be or until you tear them out. Well
keep that in mind as you’re looking around, as you’re getting ready to do
the remodeling project.

Come and see a professional, come to One Man and a Hammer or any other
kitchen professional. Not necessarily the big box stores out there. I
don’t know how many professionals they have on staff when it comes to
kitchens, and they only have certain kitchens or cabinetry that they can
offer to their walk in customers. So thank you for listening. Remember to
join us every Saturday morning for the Home Tool Box at 8 am eastern on WINT 1330AM Integrity Radio.

Awards & Recognition

2011-Angies-Super-Service-AwardMulti-year Angie’s List Super Service Award Winner
2007 – 2011
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National Association of the Remodeling IndustryProud Recipients of the CotY Remodeler of the Year Award
2009, 2010, 2012
Remodeling 5502011 Remodeling 550: Full Service Remodelers List