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Buyer Beware

I've heard that Lowes, Home Depot, etc. remodel kitchens and bathrooms. What is the difference between remodeling companies and the larger stores?

The biggest difference is service. You will have to know exactly what you want, pick it out at the store, and stay at home to supervise the project if you want to use a larger store. Typically, the quality of installation, and attention to detail is not what larger stores are good at. And if you need custom work then don't even bother. A lot of things can happen during a remodeling project. Unforeseen conditions are a daily occurrence. A remodeling company has the professionals to handle these types of situations. Remodeling companies have greater flexibility to get the job done right the first time. Usually, the larger stores do not have the high quality materials that people want. In fact, manufactures make lower quality products to sell to the larger chains. There are situations when it might be the right thing to use a larger store, and there are times when it is best to have a professional handle the complete job. Every situation is different, but be careful and compare estimates. Is it an apple to apple comparison? Usually not.

How many estimates should I get?

I'm sure you have heard to always get three estimates for any work you are going to have done. Well, that depends on a lot of factors. If a contractor has been recommended by a friend, you have seen his work and are satisfied with the quality, and you have met and talked with the contractor and are comfortable with him, then maybe you only need to get his estimate. If you feel his price is reasonable, I would say go for it. On the other hand, if you are getting bids from contractors that you have no personal experience with, get three bids. If the bids are within 10-15% of each other, then choose based on your comfort level with the contractor. If the three bids are really different, more investigation needs to be done. Either, a contractor forgot something and the bids are not "apples to apples" bids, or there might be something suspicious about a contractor with a "out of range" bid. Look closely.

I have three estimates, that vary in price greatly. Why?

Make sure every estimate being considered has the same scope of work, same quality materials with manufacture and model numbers spelled out when needed. If the estimate does not spell out these details then go back to the contractor for clarification and get it in writing. A verbal "it's included" over the phone will not do. If the written clarification is not satisfactory, then eliminate the contractor. The level of service a contractor provides will greatly affect cost. If the contractor allots time to pick-out materials, address every detail, complete the little extras and clean up their work areas each night, it will cost a little extra. An established professional contractor who carries all the proper insurance, workman's compensation certificate and provides benefits like paid holidays for his valued employees will cause his price to be higher. The quality of work (not obvious in the written estimate) is a huge cost factor, we pride ourselves in quality standards above the competition, which is why we rarely have to re-do something. The level of quality a contractor is able to provide needs to be confirmed by calling references or visiting completed jobs that the contractor has done in the past.

As a homeowner, what am I expected to do while my house is being remodeled?

Stay involved. As the project develops insuring that the project is completed as you planned or visioned.

Ask questions. If something looks wrong, or you think something different is being installed, then what you ordered, then ask!! There are no dumb questions, it's your money and home.

© 2010 Building Concepts Remodeling, Inc. 607 Shepherd Drive, Unit 6A, Cincinnati, OH 45215