How To Remodel The Outside of Your House

Here’s how you find the contractor you need and get the job you want.

Contracting and contractors intimidate people. They’re like auto repair shops. Most people wouldn’t know how to frame out a room or put on a roof any more than they’d know how to fix their own car.

Why would you know? That’s the reason for calling someone that does it for a living.

So people put it off and put it off. Here’s the problem. Who can you trust to do the work well, on time, and with minimum stress and inconvenience?

Know What You’re Looking For

Needing a contractor opens a can of worms, doesn’t it? But if you do some work and preparation, it can be far less aggravating, and reward no less worth it.

It helps to what you want done and to have a clear idea of the kind of company you want to deal with. In other words, not just what you want done, but the way you want it done. You’re paying good money, more than you would for just about any other product or service, except for certain medical services, such as an operation. You deserve value for the money spent.

Here are some essentials:

  • You want a company that will do the job the way it needs to be done and guarantees a quality job with a warranty on the work as well as the product.
  • You want a company that respects your time, property and person, one whose personnel are considerate when it comes to issues like parking, trash disposal and noise, cleans up every day without fail and forbids smoking on the premises.
  • You want a company that offers financing, if you don’t have ready cash or access to an immediate loan. Not everyone can just write a five-figure check. A good contracting company is aware of this and provides access to necessary lending.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

If you’re looking to remodel—inside or outside the house—and you want to ensure that project is successful, with minimum stress, it’s like anything else: the more time and effort you put into planning it, the more likely a successful outcome.

Pick up the phone and call just any number on a truck or yard sign and ten years later you might still be remembering how unpleasant it was.

First, what do you want or need to be done? Do you know anybody that’s had similar work—let’s say having their roof replaced—done recently? Do you have any idea what it might cost?

The last question is important because homeowners who get a price on a new roof or windows or kitchen frequently have to be revived with smelling salts. It’s not cheap but those prices are not arbitrary. They can seem arbitrary if you get an all-purpose number penciled onto the back of an envelope. But a contractor has to first know what it will cost him to build your job before he can figure out what to charge you to cover that and additional expenses. All those factors into the price you get: his costs to build it, the cost of running his business (i.e., fixed and variable overhead), and the profit that business needs to make to stay in business.

A professional operation will break the cost of building your job out on paper (the proposal you receive) and explain those costs one by one. For example, you might see a line that says: Dumpster: $650. That’s the charge to rent that container and dispose of its contents in a landfill when the job’s complete. It’s not free. Nothing is. But before getting a proposal, go online and find out what other people pay for the same work you’re planning to have done. It’s not hard to do anymore. Every year Remodeling, a popular trade publication for contractors, publishes a list of 20 or more projects, along with the average cost by upwards of 90 different regions in the country. You’d find, for instance, that in 2018 the average cost of replacing your roof in the Mid-Atlantic States was $21,976 and that we’re talking about a 30-square (3000 sq ft) roof with 235-pound fiberglass asphalt shingles.

These are approximations, obviously, because every house is different, has different components, wears differently, etc. But it’s well worth your while to have an idea what your job is going to cost, roughly, so that you can budget for it and figure out how to come up with the money. Will you take it from savings? Do you need a loan and how much do lenders on an unsecured loans charge? (Typically in double digits, with a four or five-year term.) It’s well worth your while to research that since rates (and terms) can vary quite a bit.

Who’s Your Contractor?

Good contractors aren’t easy to come by. People lucky enough to find one often end up using that company for years. It’s all about trust. Not because contractors are bad people but because most are fairly amateur when it comes to running a business. Building is what they do, and running a business operation is fairly far down on the list of things they know a lot about. One big advantage today, vs. say 20 years ago, is that you can go online and read reviews customers wrote about a contracting company. Web sites such as Google, Facebook, Yelp and Angie’s List invite comment from customers. Good contracting companies encourage customers to comment on the quality of their services.

You can get a pretty good idea of how a company operates from these reviews. Did the company communicate or fail to communicate? That’s a big one. If a lot of reviewers say a company doesn’t let them know by phone, text or email when the job will start, when and if materials have been ordered, that the crew’s arriving at such-and-such a time, etc. that probably means they have no organized system for delivering that information. It’s definitely not a good sign.

Read the reviews carefully. Pay particular attention to the bad reviews. Because whether or not a company responded to a negative review and how they handled that complaint, will tell you a lot more than all the kudos put together.

About Mike Damora

Mike Damora is vice president of sales and marketing at K&B Home Remodelers, in Randolph, N.J. You can follow him on Twitter @madamoracatch him on Drift.