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Remember: Your Contractor is the Most Important Piece of the Remodeling Puzzle


During the next several months, I will share some insight into what I have learned over the past 25 years as a remodeling and custom home builder. I have worked on some terrific projects and some real duds, and along the way I have made a bunch of mistakes — mistakes that I had to pay for.

My hope is to help you avoid some of the problems I have run into along the way.

Over my next few posts, I’ll share five things to keep in mind when remodeling your home. These are in no specific order — just some things to file away as a checklist to help you complete your project in the best possible way.

First: Your contractor is the most important piece in the remodeling puzzle.

(Architects will be part of a later post, so don’t worry.)

Their talent, communication skills, attitude and professionalism are the keys in getting what you want. It’s very important that you seek out the right people to manage and complete your project and establish a relationship built on total communication and understanding about your goals and expectations.

For many of us, this is how we run our professional lives, but seldom do those skills come into play when remodeling our homes. That is a mistake. I think part of the reason is the emotional tie to our homes, sometimes steer us in the wrong way. Our homes are places where we find comfort, raise our children, watch the big game, and gather family and friends. While all that is wonderful, your remodeling project is a business proposition, and your contractor is approaching it to make money. Always remember that!

Your contractor search should focus on the handful of quality professionals in every city or town. Those remodeling contractors will be members of organizations like the National Home Builder’s Association or the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

The problem with these contractors is that they are usually busy, even in these tough financial times.  The good ones know how to run a business and your challenge after you find them will be to wait — and try not to be so surprised when they say it will be at least six months before they can start.  While things may move a little faster these days, it is always better to wait once you find the right fit.

As for references, of course they’re important, but when you get those names, take the time to make the calls and find out about the experiences those clients had. In particular, ask for a project that was completed five years earlier. I am more interested in what they have to say about their job than the project that just wrapped up one year ago.