Finding The Best Home Improvement Contractor

So you finally decided to take on that home remodeling project. Good for you.

While I admit there is something about doing your own home remodeling, the first thing you need to ask yourself is whether you are truly up to the task. If, after doing some research and inner searching you decide that you need to have a true professional home improvement company do the job, there are a few things to do to get the job off the ground.

Figure Out Your Budget

Home improvement projects aren’t cheap. Even the smallest of laundry room could cost over one or two thousand dollars.

If you know anyone that has had a similar renovation recently completed, you can ask them how much the project costed if you feel comfortable doing so. Otherwise, the best idea is to search online.

There are many forums and other websites that people talk about their home improvement projects. However, you need to know that prices are relative to the area which you live. It is best to do a local search so you have a better idea what it will cost in your area.

My rule of thumb is to double whatever figure I first thought of. I recently had a local home improvement company completely renovate my laundry room. I was estimating it would be around $1,000. Well, the final price was $2,000 after a $300 addition to the project after the original estimate was completed.

Find Local Contractors

This isn’t the hardest task really. You can easily find a list of 30 to 50 contractor by using websites like Manta.com or the Yellowpages.com.

The problem is that much of the details on those sites are incorrect. After painstakingly building a database of contractors over an hours or two, there is nothing worse than finding out the information is incorrect. What a waste of time.

Of course you can do a simple search on Google for home improvement companies in your area, and that should get you a fine list. But the problem is that some of the best and most affordable company’s websites aren’t optimized for Google Searches. By using this method, you are finding the most internet marketing savvy companies, which usually means they charge the highest prices because they get the most calls.

Another option you have is to use a local website that partners in the with the top local home improvement companies. A site like this is PittsburghHomeImprovements.com. All you have to do is enter your information and they will provide it to their incredible database of the top home improvement companies in the area. All you have to do is sit back and let the companies call you.

Accepting A Bid

However you find your contractors and receive your bids, the next step is to accept a bid. While you might want to simply go with the lowest estimate, there are a few things that you might want review prior to accepting that bid.

First, how soon can each contractor start your project. If you are in a hurry, and the cheapest bid can’t start for a month or two, you might be forced to go with another bid. Also, how fast will the project be completed. Some companies will over promise and say a job can be completed quicker than they can actually do it.

If one company’s bid is quoted quite a bit quicker than all of the other contractors, you might want to either question that or go with another bid. I would always rather a contractor overestimate than underestimate the time needed to complete the job correctly.

Top Five Home Improvement Considerations

Before you start your next home improvement project, there are five major considerations you must take into account. These include budget, skills, labor, foundations, and design. So, prior to your first trip to the hardware store and long before you even pick up a hammer, go over in detail each of these five considerations one-by-one. Keep reading to learn how to evaluate the five critical home improvement project factors.

Budget

Before you begin planning, set out a budget for yourself. Once you have a set amount in your mind, then start generating ideas and getting price quotes. When you’re drawing up your final budget and cost estimates, always add at least 10-20%. This “slush” will cover most of your unexpected expenses including extra labor, weather delays and additional materials. Almost every project goes over budget, so it’s best to accept and plan for it from the start.

Skills

If you’re planning a do-it-yourself home improvement venture, take an honest inventory of your skills ahead of time. Make sure you understand what you’re doing and know the work involved. Little is worse on a home project than wasted materials and a job that has to be redone by a professional because a do-it-yourselfer got in over his head.

Labor

If you think the project is more involved than your level of competence, give serious consideration to hiring labor. Before bringing on a contractor or even a day laborer who is simply there to help you paint or pour concrete, check the person’s references. Also, conduct a brief interview to make sure you’re working with someone you can trust. When hiring labor, try to be on-site as much as possible. It keeps the work moving forward and makes you accessible to answer questions or solve problems. Your presence also provides additional motivation and accountability for the worker you hire.

Foundation

There is the actual foundation of your house, which for most homes is the underground, concrete foundation that holds your home in place. However, there are also foundational, or core, functions that go into a house – structural, plumbing, electrical and ventilation. When starting a major home renovation, that is a good time to look into revamping or updating those four areas. For example, while you’re ripping down walls anyway, consider this an opportunity to install better insulation and tight-seal windows.

Design

Before you begin a home improvement project, especially one that’s going to be done in stages, verify that all your pieces fit together. If you’re updating the kitchen in a modern and contemporary style, for example, check whether it will fit with your country barn plans for the living room. If you’re stuck for ideas, one option is to hire an interior designer for a consulting session and ask that individual to come in for an hour or two to provide ideas about the best way to use your space. Interior designers are not normally cheap, but in the end their expertise is well worth the cost.

Top 5 Home Improvement Ideas

One of the things that I am amazed at is how many people allow their homes to be in such a state of disrepair and weathered looking until it comes time to sell their home. I did this with the first home I lived in, and after getting the house ready for sale, I realized what a nice looking home we actually had. With just a few, low cost projects, you can not only enjoy the home you have now, but you can increase its value at the same time. Here are five ideas that you can start on this weekend.

The first tip is always the easiest and cheapest, which is paint. Take a walk through your home and look at the ceilings. I would imagine they need some fresh white paint to help brighten up the room and give your rooms a cleaner look. You may want to keep the walls the same color as they are now, or you may want to change the look all together with a new color. Another idea, especially in the kitchen, is to paint one wall a different color as an accent. Paint is always one of the best ways to make the biggest difference.

The second tip is to go outside and look at your landscaping (or lack thereof). Trim the bushes so they are not blocking the windows. Remove some bushes if it is highly overgrown, or add some bushes if it is bare. One thing I have done is to drive in some nicer neighborhoods and found one or two houses that I liked the landscaping, and then went home to try and replicate what they had done. Also, plant grass in the bare patches of your yard. Dirt yards are not attractive.

The third tip is also low cost and similar to the second. Most homes lack color outside. They could use flowers or other features to add color to the outside of their home. Or, their trees have such low hanging branches that the color is hidden. First, trim the low branches to raise the canopy of your tree. Second, add some color with shutters, flowers, garden flags, a colored front door, etc. The overall goal of tip two and three is to give your home better curb appeal.

The fourth tip is to go back indoors and look at your flooring. For less than $1,000 you can usually tear up the carpet and add a nice wood floor, or even replace the carpet with a high quality carpet. We have a carpet warehouse that still charges by the square yard. Beware of the popular home improvement stores that charge by the square foot. It makes it much more expensive. I was able to replace three bedroom carpets with high quality carpet for less than $1,000. New flooring modernizes your home in unimaginable ways.

The final tip is to do some tile work. Tile work is actually much easier than you might think. I removed the linoleum in the bathrooms and installed tile floors. I made the bathrooms look cleaner, more modern, and greatly improved the value of our home. I also added a tile back splash in our kitchen. Both were weekend projects. Each bathroom was less than $300 for the tile, grout, adhesive, and rental of the tile saw. The kitchen back splash was half that cost.

Almost all these tips can be done by yourself and are fairly inexpensive. It may be that you can do one of these projects ever three to six months. Within a short time you will have modernized many of the features of your home and made living in them more enjoyable. I can guarantee that your friends and neighbors will compliment your improvements and will inspire them to make the changes too.