Avoid Home Remodeling Disasters

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Whether it’s adding a second story or updating a bathroom, home remodeling is big business. According to the National Association of Home Builders, Americans will spend $233 billion on remodeling their homes in 2007, a 1.9 percent increase from 2006. For many homeowners, home remodeling isn’t just about making a home more enjoyable, it’s about investing and increasing the value of their single biggest asset.
With homeowners desperate to find contractors and projects

Whether it’s adding a second story or updating a bathroom, home remodeling is big business. According to the National Association of Home Builders, Americans will spend $233 billion on remodeling their homes in 2007, a 1.9 percent increase from 2006. For many homeowners, home remodeling isn’t just about making a home more enjoyable, it’s about investing and increasing the value of their single biggest asset.

With homeowners desperate to find contractors and projects running into the tens of thousands of dollars, there is never a shortage of unscrupulous companies and individuals looking for a piece of the action. In 2006, the Better Business Bureau received almost 6,500 complaints against residential construction and remodeling services. Between 2002 and 2006, the number of complaints increased 28 percent and the industry ranks 22nd in the number of complaints.

"Problems can range across the board from just having a very stressful experience to having the person run out on you. Most home remodeling disasters come from poor craftsmanship or being conned by a contractor,” said Gwen Biasi, director of communications for the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (http://www.nari.org).

Contractorsfromhell.com, a website that aims to educate the public on hiring contractors, chronicles a number of house remodeling nightmares (http://www.contractorsfromhell.com/horror_stories.html). In one case, a two-week bathroom home remodeling project turned into a three month job. After the homeowner filed complaints on nine serious violations, the home remodeling contractor then turned around and tried to sue the customer. In another instance, a homeowner found himself without a kitchen for six months while he wrangled with contractors to finish the job. Hiring a bad home remodeling contractor can make a homeowner’s life a living hell—contractors have been known to overcharge for materials, take far longer than what is stated in the contract and perform substandard work that later has to be repaired by the homeowner. Some home remodeling contractors have been arrested for fraud, theft and even worse.

Biasi said that the first thing a homeowner can do to prevent being burned by a home remodeling contractor is to hire the right one in the first place. Some tips on hiring a good home remodeling contractor include dealing only with licensed contractors, checking references, verifying the contractor’s insurance and his or her address and credit rating from suppliers. Finally, get everything in a detailed written contract but don’t sign until you understand the terms. In general, the more detailed a contract is, the more likely a contractor is going to live up to it.

Biasi recommends that homeowners start their search for a home remodeling contractor through family, friends and word-of-mouth recommendations. They should also look for the contractor’s history, references and insurance. The N.A.R.I. offers a free brochure (http://www.nari.org/selectremodpro.pdf) on selecting a remodeling professional. It includes tips on selecting a contractor, choosing a course of action, obtaining a well-written contract and working with professionals.

Dale Contant (http://www.atlantadesignbuild.com), a CR (certified remodeler) and president of the Atlanta chapter of the N.A.R.I., said that homeowners often fail to ask lots of questions of the contractors that give them bids. While homeowners are always looking for the lowest price, Contant says that low bids often come with sacrifices in quality and workmanship. While replacing a door or a small sheetrock patch may be suitable for a handyman, Contant says that homeowners should also take great care to match the home remodeling contractor to the job.

“If you’re tearing off a roof and adding another story or adding on rooms, I don’t think you need to be with a guy that is just working out of his truck. You need to match the contractor with the job,” said Contant.

According to a survey by Qualified Remodeler, 48 percent of homeowners would not hire their contractors again for another project. Roswell, Ga.-based certified remodeler Dan Weidmann (http://www.weidmannremodeling.com) gives consumer seminars on the contractor selection process and said that customers rarely interview contractors in enough detail to make a sound decision. Furthermore, homeowners often don’t define in enough detail the product their looking for when communicating with home remodeling contractors. In many cases, it’s a lack of communication that leads to problems with home remodeling projects.

“We’re a service-based business. The products we deliver are only part of the cost and job. Consumers should try to educate themselves on the home remodeling process and learn how to select the right contractor,” said Weidmann.

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