Here are some of the most common questions asked by our customers and their answers.
Q . . . HOW DO I CHOOSE THE BEST CONTRACTOR?
A . . . REPUTATION The following statements are excerpts from letters WRITTEN BY HOMEOWNERS for whom we’ve completed ROOM ADDITIONS/REMODELING:
Mr and Mrs. Yates wrote: “One hears horror stories about the remodeling industry. Tales of how the contractor promises the world, takes large sums of money, tears the house apart, goes on a six month cruise during the local rainy season, then delivers an end project that would make the ‘Mr. Blackwell’s List’ equivalent in architectural digest!!! We were impressed with Pete from our first meeting. His knowledge of how to accomplish what we wanted, suggestions to better the project, and honesty about what to expect were all refreshing and appreciated. Most important, HE DELIVERED!!! His staff and subcontractors did an outstanding job. We also felt comfortable in giving them access to our home in our absence, a situation not often encountered in our society.!!!”
Mr. and Mrs. Sauter wrote: “We thank you and your whole crew that was involved in our remodel. Your crew motivated a timely schedule with outstanding workmanship at all levels . . . All aspects of the project were handled very professionally.“
Q . . . HOW CAN I BE CERTAIN THAT I RECEIVE THE BEST VALUE FOR MY MONEY?
A . . . EXPERIENCE The following statements are excerpts from letters WRITTEN BY HOMEOWNERS for whom we’ve completed ROOM ADDITIONS/REMODELING:
Mr. and Mrs. Kitchen wrote: “A special thank you to Pete for the personal consideration and extra hours you gave us. Knowing we expect a job done right and our dollars worth, you went out of your way to assure us that our money was well spent!!!“
Mr. and Mrs. Jacobsen: “Every worker who came to the house was highly professional and pleasant to deal with….The finished project exceeded our expectations.”
Q . . . WHAT ABOUT INSURANCE?
A . . . WE ARE FULLY INSURED . . . General Liability and Workers Compensation. In California, contractors are not required to carry liability insurance, but they are required to notify you of the fact they don’t carry it, and if they do, they are to supply you with the name and phone number of their carrier. They must include in the written contract a form about liability insurance. The form includes five questions about general liability insurance you should ask your contractor and the answers you should get. Ask your contractor to see a copy of their certificate of insurance.
Q . . . WHAT ASSURANCE DO I HAVE THAT MY PROJECT WILL BE “LIEN FREE”?
A . . . WE ARE ONE OF THE FEW BUILDING CONTRACTORS THAT MAINTAIN STRICT SUPERVISORY CONTROL enabling us to control: QUALITY, COMPLETION TIME, and INSURE PAYMENT OF ALL LABOR AND MATERIAL. All contracts include a full payment schedule, including exact payment amounts at specific milestones. At the completion of those milestones an invoice is mailed to the client with unconditional labor and material releases. All releases are originals, executed by sub contractors and material suppliers for work completed to date. Bonding a job is another good way to protect yourself, but we feel that process is more reactive and has a cost associated with it. A bond protects you after a problem, requiring payments be made at the completion of tasks and receiving a release for that phase is the best protection.
Q . . . HOW DO I PAY FOR MY NEW ROOM ADDITION and/or KITCHEN/BATH REMODEL?
A . . . 100% FINANCING IS AVAILABLE TO YOU (on approved credit). However, we suggest you “shop your financing” with your bank or credit union and COMPARE.
Q . . . HOW DO I CONTROL MY REMODELING BUDGET?
A . . . KEEPING WITHIN YOUR BUDGET CAN SEEM IMPOSSIBLE AT TIMES. Going over budget can cause great strife between you and your contractor, leaving you with unexpected changes or worst case, an unfinished project. Require a full set of detailed plans and specifications from your designer/contractor prior to signing any contracts. Mr. and Mrs. Killian wrote: “…The planning and patience was all worth it. The results were better than we had imagined…..The organization with which this project was completed made it go smoothly, on time and within budget.”
Q . . . HOW MUCH MONEY DOWN DOES A CONTRACTOR TYPICALLY ASK FOR TO START A PROJECT?
A . . . CALIFORNIA LAW LIMITS THE AMOUNT A CONTRACTOR CAN REQUIRE AS A DOWN PAYMENT for a home improvement contract to 10% of the contract amount (excluding finance charges), or $1,000.00, whichever is less. Furthermore, never let your payments get ahead of the contractor’s work. Arrange a clearly defined payment schedule with exact dollar amounts and measurable milestones. Require a 10% retention at the last phase of the project.
Q . . . THERE ARE SO MANY CONTRACTORS TO CHOOSE FROM. HOW DO I SELECT A REMODELING CONTRACTOR FOR MY PROJECT?
A . . . WE ARE LICENSED BY THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA WITH A “B” CLASSIFICATION GENERAL BUILDING CONTRACTOR (See “Licenses” for our other classifications), in excellent standing. There are 43 different types of contractor licenses in California, including general and specialty contractors. Specialty or subcontractors usually are hired to perform a single job. If your project is a specific task, like plumbing, you may want to hire a contractor that holds that specific license. If your project involves two or more trades, a licensed General Building Contractor would be appropriate for your project. Be sure to select a contractor licensed for your specific project. A license is required for anyone who contracts to perform work that is valued at $500.00 or more for labor and materials. Once you have determined how your contractor should be licensed, obtain referrals from family, friends, or referral sites like Angie’s List. No matter how you find your contractor, check his license status with the CSLB web site www.cslb.ca.gov, confirm when the license was issued, any complaints against the license, who the license is issued to, and license bond and workers compensation insurance status. After checking the license with the State, check consumer web sites such as Better Business Bureau www.bbbsouthland.org, or Trustlink www.trustlink.org. Don’t just take the referral, speak with other clients of the contractor, and see current projects of the same type as yours.
Q . . .WHILE I’M INTERVIEWING REMODELING CONTRACTORS, WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK?
A . . . HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN BUSINESS? Look for a company with an established business history in your area. Who will be assigned as a project supervisor for my project? Also ask whom you should contact if the supervisor is not available. What is the time frame for starting my project? Your contract should specify an approximate starting date and completion date. Your contract should read, “Begin approximately April 20 and end approximately April 30”, not “Complete the job in 10 days.” This eliminates the possibility that the contractor will take 10 days to finish the job but spread them out over and extended period of time. How early will your crew normally begin work? When will they normally quit for the day? Will they work on weekends? Will I be contacted about delays or changes in the schedule? By whom? What is your approach to a project of this scope? This will give you an idea of how the contractor works and what to expect during the project. Listen carefully to this answer. This is one of the big indicators of the company’s work ethic. Do you have design services available? If you are considering a large or involved project, you will need design services. If the contractor doesn’t have design/build capabilities, you should consider hiring an architect. Depending on the size and scope of the project, you may need an architect or structural engineer. May I have a list of references for projects you have completed which are similar to mine? You should also ask for professional references from suppliers, financial institutions, or subcontractors to verify sound business practices. How much value will my project add to my home? You may also visit Hanley-Wood’s Cost vs. Value Report at www.remodeling.hw.net/2008/costvsvalue/division/pacific/city/los-angeles–ca.aspx.
Q . . . IS THERE NATIONAL CERTIFICATIONS I SHOULD LOOK FOR?
A . . . THE NATIONAL KITCHEN AND BATH ASSOCIATION (NKBA) is a premiere association for kitchen and bath professionals. The hallmark for kitchen and bath professionals, NKBA Certification in kitchen and bath design is based on a stringent written examinations and extensive industry experience. If you choose to work with a design/build firm that provides both design and construction services under one roof, make sure that a qualified kitchen (CKD) or bath (CBD) designer is on staff and will be designing your space. Just as you wouldn’t want a designer building your kitchen or bath, you wouldn’t want a contractor designing it. The best choice for a contractor, select a firm that provides both services.
Q . . . HOW MUCH SHOULD MY REMODELING PROJECT COST?
A . . . THIS QUESTION CAN BEST BE ANSWERED BY, WHAT IS THE SCOPE OF YOUR PROJECT? The cost of any project cannot be accurately determined by a specific quantity, like price per foot. A price per foot is sometimes used by experienced contractors to give a rough estimate only, but not for the actual cost. The price is determined by the materials chosen, the size of the room, age of the infrastructure, and how the addition connects. Remember when you are comparing bids, you are comparing the exact scope and specifications from each contractor. If a price comes in that looks to good to be true, it probably is. The price of a design/build contractor that takes the time to select and detail every fixture and finish of your project prior to signing contracts, on the surface may seem higher than the rest, but because there are no allowances and all materials are included in his price, this fact will control any additional costs as a result of unwanted change orders and spiraling costs.
Q . . . I HAVE THREE DIFFERENT ESTIMATES, AND THE PRICES VARY GREATLY. WHY?
A . . . THERE ARE A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT FACTORS THAT GO INTO PRICING A REMODELING PROJECT. Be sure that every estimate has the exact scope of work. If the estimates are vague and you cannot interpret that information, go back to the contractor for clarification in writing. If you are unable to get adequate written clarification, it may be wise to eliminate that remodeling contractor from the bidding process.
Q . . . WHAT CAN I EXPECT TO DO WHILE A REMODELING PROJECT IS BEING DONE IN MY HOME?
A . . . MOST IMPORTANTLY. KEEP THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR CONTRACTOR AND THE WORK CREW. Ask questions. Let them know what your family schedule is and whether you have pets confined somewhere. It’s important to keep the work areas off limits to children and pets for their safety. With all remodeling projects there is a level of inconvenience, you may have a little extra dust and dirt in your house, so keeping the work area off limits will avoid them tracking the dust to other parts of the house.
Q . . . ARE BUILDING PERMITS REQUIRED FOR MY REMODELING PROJECT?
A . . . BUILDING PERMITS ARE REQUIRED FOR ANY STRUCTURAL, ELECTRICAL, PLUMBING, OR MECHANICAL CHANGE OR ALTERATION. This is very important. When a contractor obtains the required building permits, you know things will be done to “code”. Keep in mind that the building codes only set minimum safety standards for construction; they don’t protect you against poor quality workmanship. Also, many homeowners insurance policies require a permit on any major remodeling to keep your home properly covered. Not all contractors will do this. Many prefer not to obtain permits because of the time involved and the hassle with inspectors. Some contractors may ask you to obtain the permits. This could be a red flag that they are not able to obtain permits, or they may be unlicensed or working outside of their license class. Resist the request to obtain your own permits, this would make you responsible to the municipally for any code violations. A reputable contractor will permit every job where a permit is required.
Q . . . ARE GENERAL BUILDING CONTRACTORS REQUIRED TO WARRANTY THEIR WORK?
A . . . YES, CONTRACTORS ARE REQUIRED TO PROVIDE AN IMPLIED WARRANTY FOR ONE YEAR on certain fit and finish items. The reality is a warranty is only as good as the contractor that is providing it. It would be very important to do business with a contractor that has been in business for many years and well established in the community to insure the quality of your warranty. To assure you are protected, when meeting with the contractors past clients, ask them how their warranty items were addressed? Did they give as much attention to after completion service as they did during your project? Did the contractor stand on the one year time limit, or did they take care of a warranty issue, no matter the time?
Q . . . WHAT IF A PROBLEM OCCURS?
A . . . AFTER ALL YOUR HARD WORK AND DUE DILIGENCE A PROBLEM STILL MAY ARISE. First contact your contractor, always put complaints in writing, most complaints will be handled at this level. If for some reason your contractor is unwilling to resolve the issue, contact the CSLB. Complaints filed with the CSLB against a licensed or unlicensed contractor will be received by the Intake and Mediation center. The CSLB will confirm jurisdiction and will try to resolve the complaint. If it cannot be resolved at this level it may be assigned to an Enforcement Representative for further investigation. If after all the efforts to resolve the complaint, it still cannot be resolved, with specific qualifications it may be referred to binding mandatory or voluntary arbitration. Where appropriate, CSLB will take legal action against a contractor for violations of the Business and Professions Code. Check out full requirements and procedures at www.cslb.ca.gov.