10 Tips to Plan for Home Improvement Projects

You have closed on your home and want to protect your investment. As a homeowner, repair and remodeling projects seem never ending. At times, the list of home repairs is overwhelming so having a plan can help reduce stress and minimize cost. Here are some helpful tips for planning and preparing for home improvement projects:

1. Keep a record of repairs. Start a binder or notebook to put copies of receipts for repairs. Make a note of the company you used, contact information (phone number and email address), the scope of the work done, the cost and the date the work was completed. This information will be a great resource the next time a repair is needed or when you decide to move.

2. Is digging part of your repair or project? Call 8-1-1 to have a local utility representative come and mark where the underground utilities are so you can avoid hitting electrical, gas, telephone and cable lines. Doing so could prevent an injury or costly damage.

3. Shutoff electricity, water and gas. Just as a contractor would turn off the appropriate utilities, you should as well before you start any work.

4. Paying for repairs and projects. All homes require preventive maintenance and will need repairs at some point. Putting aside 1-3% of the market value of your home each year will create a fund for these necessary expenses. If you know you will be doing a larger remodeling or renovation project, do research of costs early to start saving and/or reviewing different options for financing the home improvement.

5. Know what you are doing. This may seem obvious, but home improvement projects can take on a life of their own if you are not careful. It is well worth the effort to think through what the project is going to be (the scope), how long you want it to take (be realistic), what materials you are thinking of using and what your budget is. These details may be revised (many times) once you gather bids or begin putting pricing together yourself. That is ok. Some projects will be large enough that formal plans and specifications will be required to properly convey your project to a contractor.

6. Know who you are hiring. So many homeowners have grand ideas of the DIY way of getting home improvement projects done. The reality is that most do not have the time or the skills to properly do the work themselves. There is nothing wrong with this. It just means that part of the planning process for your project needs to include hiring someone to do the work that you can trust. This is where asking family, friends and colleagues for referrals can help. Once you have a list of recommendations, ask those contractors to provide references that you can contact to find out about quality of work, timeliness of completion and how the end cost compared to the initial bid. In addition, make sure that anyone you are considering hiring is licensed, bonded and insured. Also, searching for online reviews can be helpful to see what past customers are saying and if an issue is brought up repeatedly, you can address it with the contractor you are thinking of hiring. (If you are researching about a general contractor, you may want to ask about what subcontractors the general contractor uses typically and look at online reviews for those subcontractors.)

7. Obtain bids. Once you have a detailed plan for your project, it is time to contact those contractors that have been recommended or referred to you for bids. You want to provide the same information to each contractor to ensure you are comparing apples to apples. Also, be sure to ask them what is not included in the bid that will come up in a project such as yours. This will help you identify any details you may have overlooked in your planning as well as could provide insight into the thoroughness of one contractor over another. The goal is to get the best work at the lowest price, not just the lowest price.

8. Put it in writing. The only way to know what you are agreeing to with the contractor that you select is to put it in a contract. Once the project begins, there are going to be a lot of different people involved that need to work together to complete your project. Your plans and specifications will provide what the project is whereas a written contract will detail who is responsible for what tasks and how payments are to be handled, changes to the plan, hidden conditions, delays, construction quality, defective work, warranty issues and disputes. 

9. Document the big stuff. You have already painstakingly thought of every detail and consideration for your project and are anxiously awaiting your project to start, or so you thought. The reality is that you cannot think of or anticipate every possible situation that could come up. A key material that you really wanted used may be out of stock and will not be available for 6 weeks. Are you able to wait or do you need to pick another material and the only other one that you like costs more? Cost adjustments, design changes, issues on-site or even concerns about workmanship may arise so you need to be ready to work through these to keep the project on track. Not all items discussed need to be documented but those that are important to you (because of cost, material to be used or a change to the agreement) should be documented in writing.

10. A few words about subcontractors. Many contractors or construction companies use subcontractors to complete some or all of the work. The general contractor is responsible for hiring good subcontractors and managing them effectively to ensure quality workmanship. The general contractor also typically is responsible for paying the subcontractors, usually weekly. Make sure this is happening because you do not want a subcontractor putting a mechanics lien (in Georgia) on your property.

As an added bonus, here are some comments about another topic to consider when determining what your repair or home improvement project will entail.

11. Permits. Make sure to consult your local jurisdiction for permit requirements. You may not realize that a permit is required and do not want the local authority to discover work being done on your property without the proper permit to do so. For instance, click the link for Savannah Georgia Permit Requirements. If you do hire someone else to do the work for you, discuss with them who will be obtaining the permit, you or them.

Regardless of the size or scope of your project, repairs, preventive maintenance or remodeling projects are an excellent way to protect and even add value to your home. You can personalize your space and make it more comfortable for yourself. Get started today planning an enhancement you want to make to your home or creating that repair list to tackle.

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