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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

From the editor of ReNew Magazine - Joe Ross:

Make sure your contractor is a pro

"Everyone is talking about bargains in the remodeling world. The market is flooded with out-of-work (you fill in the blank) who will offer to remodel your home inexpensively. In certain cases, this would be a smart move. Conscientious professionals have lost their jobs or businesses and you’d be lucky to have them work in your home.

However, you wouldn’t feel so lucky if an unscrupulous lout found his way into your home without credentials and the abilities needed to do the job right. We all know better than to hire such a person or company, but it happens all of the time.

True professionals understand the expenses that go into providing a service, whether it is design, materials, labor, marketing or other items needed for a successful business. Those costs and a profit margin have to be covered when a contractor agrees to work in your home. In addition to being comfortable with your contractor’s personality (you might need to interview as many as three separate firms), you have to be comfortable with the cost. Know your budget and stick to it. And if a bid seems too low to be realistic, beware. It will likely cost you more than a legitimate bid in the long run.

Local professionals are dealing with the economic downturn in a variety of ways. One industry supplier has added additional product lines to keep contractors happy. A designer said her clients have scaled back the size of their projects, so she simply tries to take on more projects to make up the difference.

A few words of caution: As a friend and food expert always says, don’t visit a Mexican restaurant and order the French cuisine. Or, if the folks that keep your lawn manicured decide they are also plumbers, be careful. With the industry turned upside down, there are plenty of carpenters willing to try electrical work and vice versa. Don’t be fooled. Hire professionals and check their credentials, insurance and worker’s comp. If it was a jack-of-all-trades that you sought, you’d have hired your son-in-law to do the work.

And one last timely issue to consider: Make sure you have your own definition or at least expectation of “green remodeling” when you launch a project. All companies want to advertise the word green when they hang out their shingle. Most firms have moved toward more sustainable remodeling practices, and the trade associations offer classes and certifications now. However, if your idea of green is a zero carbon footprint, then you’d better outline that expectation upfront with your contractor. His or her idea of green or sustainable home improvement practices could differ from yours."

Joe Ross
Renew Associate Publisher, Editor

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