Consider this question …

What percentage of homeowners who rave about their remodeling project chose the contractor who gave them the lowest price?

Unfortunately we don’t have any research to provide a real answer to that question.  But you probably get the point.

Something done well is probably not done cheaply.  Your home is the single most significant investment you will ever make.  And while it may not provide the equity  return it did during the real estate boom years, it’s still important to protect that investment.

So, how do you determine value?  In the end, only you can answer that question.  By doing the work to interview several contractors and comparing them on all the features that we’ve discussed over the past 5 articles, you should have the information you need to make an informed choice.

Homeowners who are unhappy with their remodeling job probably feel they paid too much.  And they probably feel that way because the project didn’t turn out like they hoped or the contractor didn’t fulfill their obligations.  Their expectations were not met.

However, a homeowner who paid the exact same amount for the same project but who worked with a contractor who took the time to educate them, present them detailed plans, specifications and schedules, shop with them to make the best selections, most likely is thrilled with the results of the project.  Their expectations were met or possibly even exceeded.

When you decide to remodel your home, which contractor will you trust?  Which will guide you through the process, step by step?  Which will ultimately be the best value?






Renovating your home is a personal experience.  It’s your home and you want to make sure you are working with someone who will care for your home just as you would.  Trust is a huge factor.

How do you know you can trust your remodeler?

Well, there are lots of ways to know if your remodeler is trustworthy and the last few articles about what constitutes an appropriate estimate are some of the ways to judge.  Another way is to see how much time your remodeler takes to educate you on what you are buying and on how they separate themselves from other contractors.

Among other things, a good remodeler will talk to you about:

  • what to look for when hiring a contractor
  • the process of remodeling
  • the renovation schedule
  • payment plans
  • how they will protect your home
  • insurance requirements (both yours and theirs)
  • contractor qualifications

Remodeling is complicated and not all remodelers are tuned in to the details.  Make sure the one you hire is.


Next Article:  Determining Value


Once you have chosen the layout and design of your new space and seen what the space will look and feel like in 3-D, it’s time to make your selections.

Many remodelers will give you an “allowance” and send you off to the tile or flooring company to choose your colors.  If you’ve ever been to a showroom of a flooring distributor, you’ll know how overwhelming it can be.  And since most homeowners aren’t experts in carpet specifications, it will be almost impossible to make a choice.  And what happens if you choose tile in one store and need to match it to appliances or cabinets sold in another store.  This process alone could take weeks and cause a lot of unnecessary stress.

We know of one remodeler (us!) who takes their homeowners shopping.  We personally walk you through the selections you need to make, explaining the features and benefits of the options and helping you make the choices that will work with the budget.  What a relief!

In addition, a thorough remodeler will provide product recommendations and options for you to consider.  Based on your budget, you may have to prioritize where you want or need to spend more money and where you can save.

When it comes to seeing all these selections in the proposal, do not expect to see prices attributed to each item.  Think of how you buy a car.  The sticker on the window lists what’s included in that car:  heated seats, moon roof, the “sports package” or steel wheels for example.  The price quoted is for the total package, not an individual cost for each feature.  That’s how a remodeling estimate is presented.  It’s the entire package of the design, the selections you made and the cost of labor that determines the cost of your project.  The house is a system.  You can’t purchase siding without also buying caulk, j-channel, vapor barrier, etc., etc., etc…


Next Article:  What a Remodeler Should Teach You



We’re talking about what to look for in an estimate when you are considering a renovation of your home.  Last time we talked about design.  Now, let’s talk about how to “see” the design.

#2 – Make sure your new space is adequately demonstrated to you before your start tearing out walls.

A contractor cannot properly estimate the cost of your project without a proper design.  As you engage in discussion about what you want, need and hope to be able to afford, your remodeler will provide you with options on layout and materials.  These should be formulated into a formal design so you can see what your new space will be like.

An architectural drawing will show you where the cabinets and appliances are, where there will be outlets and light switches and how much floor space you will need to cover.  A plan like this is the basis for project “take-offs” which becomes a detailed list of the materials needed for the job.  Some architectural drawings are more complex than others, depending on the complexity of the project.

Your contractor may not provide this level of detail on more than one layout/design because there is a cost involved.  Expect to pay a design fee, which is not refundable, to the contractor to create these plans.

In addition to the 2-dimensional plan, a good remodeler will create the space on a computer program so you can see the area in 3-D.  The better programs make you feel like you are in the space itself and you can turn “physically” turn around and experience the room.  Not all remodelers have this virtual reality capability.  But if you are embarking on a big home renovation project, you should require it.


Next Article:  Detailed List of Materials for your Project




It’s not every day that we undertake a major renovation of our home.  So it’s natural that when we do need to replace a kitchen or bathroom, we have lots of questions about how to go about all the decisions that will ensure the success of the project.

Everyone says “get three estimates.”  Good advice.  But how do we know what to look for in those estimates and how do we differentiate one from another?

Over the next few weeks, we will focus on project proposals – what to look for, what to expect and what to avoid.

#1 – Estimates are based on a design, the materials used in the renovation, and labor.

Let’s talk about design first.

While many areas of your home cannot be modified when it comes to moving walls (internal and external), what you do within those walls can vary greatly.  In a kitchen, for example, the location of your sink, refrigerator and stove/oven should be located in a proximity to one another that is convenient and doesn’t require too many extra steps to move from one to another.  The location of the plumbing may determine the location of a sink and dishwasher but even that can be changed to achieve a better flow.

Kitchen cabinets come in all sizes.  Some have drawers, some only cabinets.  And some are a combination of both.  There are also special configurations that will maximize use of space in a corner, fill in a narrow area and take advantage of space over a refrigerator.

Cooking takes makes forms so your kitchen may require a single stove/oven appliance or it may accommodate a double oven and a separate cooktop.  And of course, there’s always the microwave.

And the area for cleaning – sink and dishwasher – provides another area for lots of decisions – single or double sink?  50/50 or 70/30 configuration?

When looking at your estimate, what is the design of your new kitchen?  How many alternatives and options is your remodeler giving you?  And how do these options affect the cost of your new kitchen?

Lastly, how is your remodeler demonstrating the design?

Next article:  “Walking” you through your new space.