Home renovation

6 ways to keep your Covid-19 home improvement project on solid footing – Forbes Advisor

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As millions of Americans work and go to school from home due to Covid-19, they are also looking to the spaces around them. Sure, your house might provide enough room most of the time, but with more people crammed in trying to get things done? Not really.

You have several options: You can buy a new house, but renovating this space is proving to be a popular decision.

In fact, Houzz saw a 58% increase in the number of projects for home professionals in June 2020. The online home design platform also found that high demand for home improvement projects has increased. continued into the fall, with its project backlog metric rising to 7.2 weeks, according to an October report, two weeks more than the same time last year.

If you’re planning on expanding that kitchen for all the meals you cook at home, adding this addition to give you more space, or adding another bathroom so your family doesn’t fight over the shower , you will need to find a contractor. Here’s what to consider to find a reputable company for the job, while also protecting your investment.

Take your time

Good contractors can be hard to find at the best of times. But when there’s a sudden demand for home renovations, like after a hurricane or during a global pandemic, bad actors come out of the woodwork.

Demand hasn’t reached the level of a hurricane recovery, says Tom Ashley, president of the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Council and partner at Expand Inc., a home improvement company in Denham Springs, Louisiana. Yet homeowners may see high demand and feel tempted to “just reach out and grab [someone].”

Instead, ask friends and family for recommendations and the good and bad experiences they’ve had. Was the job done well? On time? Did contractors quickly return calls? What did the contractor do when he discovered asbestos in the walls by surprise? Or when the oven for the kitchen renovation arrived three months late?

You can also find your chapter of the National Association of Home Builders and search for remodelers. Ashley says these contractors are more likely to be familiar with local municipal rules, regulations and requirements, especially regarding what is needed for permits and inspections.

Ask for references and call them

Even if you’re considering hiring a contractor based on a recommendation from a friend or family member, ask for more references, especially for those that match the type of project you have. on your mind.

And make sure you can see their work. Although Covid-19 may make it harder to see this work in person, taking a look via video call may give you a better idea than just seeing pictures.

David Dynega, CEO of Detail Renovations in Great Neck, New York, says the more referrals, the better. Dynega will provide a list of 100 customers “in order [potential customers] can choose who they want to talk to,” he says. It also details the list so potential clients can call past clients based on job type.

Check the license

Each state has its own contractor licensing board, so make sure the contractor you choose is legit (because yes, sometimes people lie). Where you can search for licenses depends on the state. For example, in New Jersey, it’s with the consumer affairs division; with Pennsylvania, it’s with the attorney general. Many state contractor boards have created their own searchable websites.

Not only will a license prove that a contractor has met the general requirements to operate in your state, but you can usually also see any outstanding complaints filed with your state.

Hiring a licensed contractor also gives you a layer of protection should anything go wrong. If necessary, you can report the contractor to the state licensing board, says Nat Nason, managing partner at Nason Yeager, a law firm based in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. “If a contractor here ignores the process or doesn’t follow it, the contractor can lose their license,” he says.

Your state also has a Contractor Recovery Fund (although the exact name may vary), which can compensate homeowners if a licensed contractor misses and doesn’t repair or complete a job.

Create a detailed plan

The more details you include in the plan from the start, the better, says Ashley. “People want to get to work first. The hardest part is figuring out exactly what you want and how much it’s going to cost.

Make sure your plan is detailed. For example, a contractor’s offer should not simply say “paint the room”. Instead, make sure it says something like this: “I’m going to paint two coats and we’re going to do the ceiling and the woodwork,” says Ashley.

It also helps to create a realistic schedule. “If decisions are made as the work progresses, the work gets longer and the schedule changes because not all the decisions have been made in advance,” explains Dynega. It could mean changes and a bloated budget too.

For a large job, Dynega often recommends that the owner hire a designer or architect. “I want them to take the time to really evaluate the process,” he says.

Also, make sure payments are on schedule and comply with your state’s regulations, Nason says. In Florida, for example, if a contractor takes more than 10% down payment, the contractor must apply for permits within 30 days of payment and begin work within 90 days of issuance of permits. In California, deposits are 10% of the total cost or $1,000, whichever is less.

You should also be wary of estimates that sound too good to be true or follow up with a home improvement TV program, for example. Ashley says part of her job sometimes is to re-educate people on what something really costs when a camera crew isn’t around.

Talk about Covid-19

Any plan should include safety discussions around Covid-19. Ask the contractor what precautions they plan to take, their personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements, and what the contractor expects of people living in the home. Should owners isolate themselves in specific rooms while workers are at home? Moving all together? Ask about the contractor’s action plan if an employee tests positive or if an owner the contractor works with does.

You should also consider whether now is a good time for a project that would bring a lot of people into the living space, especially if any of your family members are elderly, immunocompromised, or otherwise at risk of developing serious complications. of Covid-19. You may want to do a smaller project or just wait.

Be flexible, especially right now

Even with the most detailed planning, things happen, especially if you’re renovating an old house or expanding on it. Who knows, for example, what previous owners have done that may need to be toned down or undone?

Also keep in mind that the crush on contractors also affects the materials they need to do their jobs. Supply chains have been and will continue to be disrupted for a wide variety of building materials, from interior doors to electrical components. Dynega says it is still waiting for a valve it ordered for a customer more than eight months ago. This does not mean that his client cannot use the bathtub; instead, he installed a temporary faucet until the correct one arrived.

Still, you don’t have to accept all delays, but planning for such setbacks, especially if a specific item or material has been difficult to obtain during the pandemic, can help.