Why You Shouldn't Cut Corners When Remodeling

We have a great new article published in the March Issue of MR Residential (page 49).

Why You Shouldn't Cut Corners When Remodeling

Greg Norman, President/Founder, BathMasters

Remodeling can get pricey and often going with an unlicensed or semiskilled contractor may sound like your best bet. You'll save thousands of dollars, so what can go wrong? A lot. We've all heard the phrase, "You get what you pay for." That almost always applies when you are looking to do home renovations. Doing it the right way isn't always cheap; the national average cost to remodel a midrange bathroom is $18,546 and an upscale remodel averages $59,979.

Unlicensed contractors are excellent salesmen. They can knock those costs way down and will convince you that the work they are doing is in compliance with code so you won't have anything to fear if you resell your home.

But beware: unlicensed and uninsured contractors cannot pull permits. If you decide to sell your home, it's likely agents and prospective buyers will research whether there were permits pulled for the completed renovation. If there aren't any, they can ask for discounts because the work was never inspected and may have beeen done wrong. You would have to tear everything out in order for the permits to be pulled. Ultimately, you are at a loss and the value of your home has decreased.

I have done renovations for a certain high-rise condominium for 10 years. Four years ago, a condo owner wanted to open a wall to make a bar area between her kitchen and dining room. This is a common request and we do limited versions of this all the time, but in this instance there happened to be a column inside the wall that was structural and held up the 16-story building. The renovation could not safely be done. The homeowner decided to hire an unlicensed contractor who said it was "no problem," and without permits being pulled, he rented a jack hammer and began removing this 10" by 16" structural column, which sent shock waves through the entire building.

The fire department and police were there in moments and ordered the immediate evacuation of the entire 400-unit residential building with a high percentage of senior-citizen condo owners. The "contractor" was arrested and as soon as he made bail, fled the country.

The fire department kept the building closed until a rush team was hired to install jacks from the foundation in the underground parking area up through each kitchen, all the way to the 16th floor, which was an expensive rush project. Then the column itself, half removed by jack hammer, was repaired.

That was a learning process for the entire condo association. Since then, they enforce permits for every job and recommend only fully licensed building, plumbing and electrical contractors with experience.

The point is, my company has advertised directly to condo owners in that building for more than 12 years. So why did the condo owner not go with us? Probably to save money.

Choosing to go with a licensed contractor is only half the battle. We have done thousands of estimates, so we know customers are generally in fear when it comes to choosing a contractor. They don't know who to trust.

My recommendations for finding a reliable contractor are simple:

Start with referrals. Ask your condo association or friends who have had successful renovation projects similar to what you are planning to have done in an area you are planning to do it.

Check their license info, BBB, Angie's List, and other sources for information and reviews.

Demand all required permits be pulled. Do not pull a "homeowner's" permit, which alleviates the contractor of all legal and financial responsibility.

If the contractor says permits are not required, beware. Find your local building department and give them a call or visit to discuss your project and find out what, if any, permits are required.

Often people fail on these last few points. They meet a contractor who is licensed but talks them out of a permit, saying it is unneeded. Why? Permits are usually a small percentage of the entire project. They get expensive when the contractor doesn't do the work correctly, causing the inspector to come again and again to the job, for which they charge.

The cost of the job itself should also be an indicator of quality. If the price is way off the national average or much lower than other bids, chances are the quality will not be there and, worse case, the job will be left undone midway.

I can't stress enough how important it is to hire contracting companies that believe in continuing education for their workers and providing proper compensation. The cost of redoing a poorly put-together job takes many factors into account, including purchasing new products to replace unusable material that was installed, new tiles and repairs from faulty plumbing. Ultimately, you could end up paying for the entire remodel two times over.

Greg Norman, President/Founder
2260 Gulf to Bay Boulevard
Clearwater, FL 33765
Office: 727-333-7997 / Mobile: 703-205-0031