(612) 861-0188
Sylvestre Construction Inc.
Sylvestre Construction, Inc.
7708 5th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55423
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August 2015

Is Your Project Priced for Problems?

A remodeling industry observer has said many times that "Remodeling horror stories often start with a great price." Why?

Is your project estimate priced for problems?When purchasing a mass-produced product such as vacuum cleaner, you can shop by price alone using the model number. The items are identical to each other regardless of the price you pay. But comparing the prices of one home remodeling contractor to another is rarely the best indicator of what you will receive. A low-ball contract can look very similar to a reasonably priced contract that comes in higher. On the surface, they describe that same project, but the devil is in the details.

In order to present you with a lower price, a home remodeler can estimate based on using lower quality lumber, cabinets, flooring, windows, doors, plumbing fixtures and other materials. You won't know this until a few years later and things start to warp, fade, crack, jam, leak or squeak. They can skimp on things like the sub flooring, the actual amount of insulation they install, or the quality of the light fixtures they use.

"Allowances" for products you pick out after you sign the contract may have been based on the lowest cost products rather than those in line with the quality of your home or the quality you are expecting the home remodeler to provide. Then when you think you've selected a product covered in the estimate you learn that the allowance only covers a small portion of what you thought was already included in the price.

Comparison of different sinks.
What will you be getting for your "allowance"?

A well-run project requires more skill, planning, coordination, effort and cost than many low-priced remodelers allow for. A contractor using highly skilled carpenters, project managers, and specialty tradesmen in a well-trained and coordinated production team will deliver a better project that runs more smoothly than a contractor who uses low-cost, inexperienced labor and project managers.

It's certainly not illegal to estimate based on cheap materials or labor, but it can affect the price of a project 30% to 50% easily, sometimes more. And if a remodeler so under-prices a project that he can't finish it, you're stuck with a mess – literally.

Home remodeling contractors who do not carry workers' comp insurance for their workers open you up to potential liability for injuries and disabilities on the job. They may not carry general liability insurance or they may "save you money" by not pulling the required permits or getting inspections done. Some remodelers don't even bother to get the license required to be a remodeler.

Photo of damage

These short-cuts are illegal. Some home remodelers ask that you take the permit out in your own name to save money. The person named on the permit is legally responsible for whether the project meets code and your remodeler knows this. If the project fails to meet code and the remodeler disappears to avoid the cost of fixing the problem, YOU are on the hook. You want the professional you hire to take responsibility for the quality of their work or you'd be doing it yourself.

The way to protect yourself from a too-good-to-be-true estimate and costly short-cuts is to make sure you use a licensed, legitimate, reputable remodeler. Ask good questions of them and their references before you sign and remember an estimate that is too good to be true might be an estimate that is priced for problems.

Maintenance Tip: Check Driveway and Walkways for Cracks

Over time, wear and tear can create cracks in your walkways and driveway. Water can leak into cracks, causing further damage. If there are cracks, the area should be repaired and resealed before further damage occurs. Sealing an asphalt driveway needs to be done when the temperature will be above 50° with no precipitation for 24-36 hours, so doing it now will avoid the worry about what the overnight temperatures will be once autumn arrives.

Summer thunderstorm over the Plymouth County Fair in northwest Iowa

Summer thunderstorm over the Plymouth County Fair in northwest Iowa (taken by a friend).

What's the Story

This month's topic addresses the idea of "correctly" pricing a project which goes hand in hand with last month's story of how a few forgotten inexpensive details can lead to some expensive repairs. The last item in my July story was how you can be sure these important details are being completed as part of your project. As a homeowner, you really can't be expected to know construction language and details.

I have a presentation that I share at numerous locations called "Managing the Remodeling Process – Your Keys to Success". In this talk I share a number of tips that help homeowners choose a contractor so they will have a successful remodeling project and help them feel confident that the contractor they selected will do a good job for them.

Here are a few questions that you may want to ask:

Are you a licensed contractor or a handyman?
There is a big difference between these two entities and a place for both. It is illegal to operate in Minnesota without a contractor's license yet handymen sometimes sneak into projects that are beyond their skill level and scope. Contractors carry appropriate insurances, workers compensation and you have some recourse if you hire a licensed contractor. A handyman takes care of small repair jobs. Who would you want to do your kitchen remodeling?

Have you done this type of project before?
If the devil is in the details, experience is a great teacher. Having a history in this type of project can make sure that the project can be completed correctly

What will I be responsible for in the project?
Know what you will have to pay in addition to the contract fee. If it appears you are responsible for some things you are uncomfortable with, ask more questions and why the contractor is not including this in their contract.

Who obtains the building permit?
A building permit is required for most remodeling projects. Permits require the contractor to meet the "Minimum Standard" set forth in the building code. How familiar are you with the building code? If your contractor wants you to obtain the permit, I think that should raise a red flag.

What is your process?
A construction project requires organization and follows a path. Getting a sense of how your contractor would go about your project – from design to completion – should be a good indication of how well they will follow through on detailed work.

Talk to past customers
Ask all the above questions to the contractor's reference. As a final question, ask them if they would hire this contractor again. The answer you receive should be a good indicator that your contractor will follow through on the important details.

The rocky shore of Lake Superior. Summer Sunset on Madeline Island.
The rocky shore of Lake Superior. Summer Sunset on Madeline Island.

I was able to spend a week on Madeline Island with my family early this month. Cool weather but a beautiful and relaxing place. I hope you are all on some great summer adventures.

Keep me posted – I will share some of the photos in the September newsletter.

John Sylvestre

Until next month,

John Sylvestre

Phone: 612-861-0188

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