It has been well-documented (https://brick.com/homeowners-are-staying-put-longer-here-how-brick-can-future-proof-home) that over the past few years, homeowners have decided to stay in their current residence for longer than they used to. Because the ages, lifestyles and even the number of people (with multiple generations) living under the same roof can change over time, many homeowners have begun to update or renovate their homes to keep them functional.
Having supplied materials and expertise to the home construction industry for nearly 130 years, the experts at Acme Brick (brick.com) have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of home renovations. They know the “smart way” and also the common pitfalls (https://brick.com/ready-sell-your-home-here-are-12-remodeling-mistakes-will-cost-you-money-and-6-smart-moves-will) to renovating a home.
Here are 10 “smart” questions homeowners should consider when hiring a contractor to complete a renovation project.
Before the Contract is Signed and Work Begins
#1 How will external factors, such as effects from the coronavirus, affect the project?
Unfortunately, the “new normal” must include ramifications of the COVID - 19 pandemic. Renovation and new-build projects are no exception. According to this building trades article (https://www.constructconnect.com/blog/how-covid-19-is-affecting-construction-bidding-jobsite-activity),”Delays and disruptions are occurring due to a shortage of materials and equipment, craftworkers, government workers to issue permits, perform inspections, and award contracts. Almost 10 percent of contractors responded that they had disruptions due to an infected individual entering a jobsite and possible infecting it.”
As of early April 2020, most states deemed home construction projects as “essential.” However, before beginning a renovation project, it is critical to determine and itemize in the builder’s contract how all factors - delays, worker infections and mitigations - related to this epidemic should be treated. Using a construction material such as thinBRIK (https://brick.com/english-cottage-thinbrik-old-world-charm-combined-modern-style) which is made in the United States, can help to reduce these effects.
#2 What is the Reputation of the Contractor Being Considered?
As a Regional Manager in Little Rock, Arkansas, Logan Moss of Acme Brick (https://brick.com/littlerock) brings a unique perspective given his extensive experience in the home construction industry.
“One of the first questions to ask concerns the reputation of the contractor,” he said. “Homeowners should always ask for references from other projects and follow-up with each reference. It sounds simple, but many people, who might be spending six figures on a renovation project fail to do this.
“Get the addresses of homes that the contractor has completed and ask if it is possible to speak with the homeowner. If there is any hesitation on the part of the contractor, he or she is probably not the right person for the job.”
#3 Does the contractor have the appropriate licenses and bonding for the job?
Ask to see this documentation. If there is any push-back, this is a “red-flag” and additional interviews with other companies should take place.
There are times where a homeowner may be looking for the most cost-effective contractor however, compromising on the contractor’s qualifications can lead to expensive fixes and maintenance down the road.
#4 Does the contractor have experience with the type of project being considered?
Some homes have novel challenges. For example, homes that are designated as “historical” have unique characteristics that must be maintained and adhered to with any renovations. If this is not done, the homeowner will be liable for bringing back the historical elements that were disturbed. This tear-down and reconstruction can be extremely expensive.
Another example is a renovation project that involving a particular building material. “Some contractors do not have experience with brick and stone construction,” Moss said. “This is especially true when the project involves adding an outdoor entertainment area to the home. In all the communities that Acme Brick serves, we have databases of reputable contractors with brick and stone expertise and we are eager to share them with homeowners considering this type of job.”
#5 Has the permitting been properly executed for the job?
Every city and often individual neighborhoods within the city have different permitting regulations. According to this article (https://www.mansionglobal.com/articles/the-tell-tale-signs-of-a-home-flippers-hasty-renovation-210274), “A homeowner could run into an issue where a property has an open permit and this precludes them from obtaining financing. Before committing to a contractor, a homeowner should double-check that the property is using space in a way that is permitted, which could affect its value. It is also advisable to have it inspected by a professional building inspector.”
#6 What will be the cost of materials and labor?
Choosing to use thinBRIK in a renovation, instead of other materials such as high-end ceramic and porcelain tile options, could be much cheaper per square foot. This will allow for a greater return on investment, less maintenance and better resale.
#7 How disruptive will this renovation be?
Building a new closet or expanding a media room are usually minor inconveniences. However, renovation of an entire kitchen or great room is a much bigger project and might require the family to plan a little vacation or visit to grandma’s place
#8 Can the same contractor be used for indoor and outdoor projects?
Although this depends on the versatility of your contractor, adding an outside entertainment area (https://brick.com/everything-you-need-know-when-designing-your-outdoor-entertainment-spaces) is a very different job and can be one of the most challenging projects for contractors who have little or no experience with these additions.
“Brick is by far the most popular construction material for outside kitchens and entertainment areas and we have found the biggest challenge for homeowners is finding the right contractor,” Moss said. “Many contractors have no experience with this type of build and make mistakes, such as framing with wood, which is highly flammable and can cause dangerous fires. Plus, appliances such as grills (https://brick.com/grills-and-kitchens) and fire pits (https://brick.com/fire-features), which can come from big-box discount stores, are often unsafe and unreliable.
Once the Work is Completed, But Before the Final Approval is Given
#9 Has the completed project been inspected thoroughly?
According to this article (https://www.mansionglobal.com/articles/the-tell-tale-signs-of-a-home-flippers-hasty-renovation-210274) on avoiding shoddy renovations, “When it comes to inspecting the home, a good way for buyers to ensure they’ll spot potential defects or shoddy workmanship is to visit more than once. A person should see a space three times before final approval.”
It is often the small details where buyers will be able to identify the problems that indicate a less-than-thorough renovation. Hiring a professional inspector is critical.
“With remodeling projects, the most common (and potentially most expensive) problem has to do with water leaking in and collecting in the walls,” Moss noted. “If the flashing (https://inspectapedia.com/exterior/Flashing.php) is not done properly or waterproofing wrap improperly installed, water will seep behind the insulation and can cause mold. A reputable contractor is always looking for this problem and a professional inspection will show if this is likely to occur.”
- Cracks in the walls and ceiling.
- Doors that don’t easily open or close
- Plumbing issues such as water heaters and leaks
- Poor installation of cabinets or fixtures
#10 Is the project future-proof?
An earlier post highlighted the advantages of a home renovation being “future proof.” This includes such factors as:
- Floorplans that are nimble--both in real-time and over time. This means they can adjust accommodations for guests or revenue potential for either short-term stays, or for a lengthy "sandwich generation" experience of hosting parents or adult children for an extended stay.
- The renovation can be updated and upgraded as technology improves, without extensive structural work.
- There is durability where the enclosures stand up to climate and conditions, retaining aesthetic appeal throughout more extended homeownership tenure periods. If the home is in an area where tornadoes, hail and wind frequently occur, this can easily cause damage to vinyl siding and wood cladding. Not so with brick. It is also virtually immune to fire damage, resulting in lower annual insurance premiums for the homeowner.