Ask the Expert
Q: I have heard stories about remodeling projects costing considerably more than what was talked about in the beginning, and also the project taking longer than projected. How can I prevent this from happening?
Unfortunately, projects do go over budget and beyond schedule sometimes. Even a skilled and honest contractor (of which there are many) can’t see through walls or under the ground cover to identify all the problems that can exist in a structure. Occasionally there are framing defects, water damage issues or electrical and mechanical code issues. With that said, however, there are a handful of things a homeowner can do to control budget and scheduling.
1. Do some research on your contractor. Ask friends for referrals and/or have a thorough interview with prospective remodelers. Get proof of insurance and licenses. Look at pictures of similar past projects. Ask for references and contact them.
2. Take your time. It is much more cost effective to go slow during the planning phase and iron out the scope of work than it is to generate a pile of change orders. Also, in-house labor supplied by the contractor may be reliably available but every subcontractor rescheduled is an invitation for delay.
3. Communicate with your contractor. Have meetings on budgeting and progress, and inspect the work together. We, as contractors, want you happy and benefit from your input and suggestions. Projects stay on schedule and on budget when clients communicate with contractors to meet expectations on the first try.
4. Have a contingency fund. We typically recommend that homeowners design their projects to consume only 85-90 percent of their budget. If there are latent defects, there is less stress in paying for them. If there aren’t any, there is a little extra for upgraded countertops or that solid surface soaker tub.
5. Have a retainage payment at the end of the project. If there is 5-10 percent of the project cost withheld until all the punch list items are complete, your contractor will be more motivated to get them tied up quickly.